Friday, December 31, 2010

Driving Ms. S.

Once again JJ managed to impart wisdom during his visit. This is funny to me because, well, he's my kid. Back in September we were annoyed at him because he failed to make us aware of something very important. At the time I took full responsibility for dropping him on his head so often. I did not recall doing it, but it was the only logical explanation for his behavior. But even then he managed to leave us slack jawed with some of his observations.

The thing is that he is perhaps the only person who really gets us. Of course that comes from our little island of three (now of 4). It is sobering to listen to your child give sound, logical advice. And as much as I know I have screwed up as a parent, sometimes I think I probably got a thing or two right when we have those talks. And one thing JJ is sure about is that we must remain true to our commitment to SS, to protecting her story, to be as truthful as possible when we write to her about how she came to us, and how we deal with not only the big things, but the daily minutia. It is about us as a family, and as we have written ad naseum what started as a letter to SS has evolved into a letter to SS and JJ. They are the only thing on our minds when we spill our guts. JJ is confident that SS will enjoy reading through our twisted thoughts in the future as much as he enjoys it now. That is good enough for us, because of JJ the blog will survive the stroke of midnight.

SS's hair is getting so long, it looks like we need to start considering a trim again. As labor intensive as those morning knots are we are not ready to let go of her beautiful hair. SS also claims to like her hair long, once she changes her mind we will of course reconsider.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A (post) Christmas miracle.

SS returned to school this morning, because no way was she going to leave home while JJ was here. She had a really rough morning because she was already having JJ withdrawals, and those are not pretty. But by the time we arrived at school SS reverted to her mute persona. When we entered the free play area SS reached for a truck that was on the floor. A little girl shouted "NO! It's mine, I was playing with it." Undeterred SS picked up the truck and I asked her to put it down. Big mistake on my part because the teachers should be the ones handling discipline once she crosses their threshold. At the same time the little girl shouted at SS again. Honestly, if SS had throttled her, it was well deserved.

That's when it happened. I am an expert at predicting a Mount SS eruption even when there are no outward signs to others. The selfish mother in me was silently urging SS to go ahead and react. I then saw it, not the famous C scowl (that leads to anger and petulance), but the quivering lip, the scrunching of the button nose, and then the tear dam burst. SS let out a wail, a loud plaintive wail. At that moment SS managed to bring the place to a complete halt, everyone just stopped, including the children. It was obvious that they were not exaggerating about SS never crying or making any type of noise. The shouter just stared at SS like she had seen her for the first time. Ms. Cookie (she is the cook, but plays with the kids in the morning and just adores SS) dropped what she was doing and rushed to SS's side. But my girl did not want to have anything to do with them, she wanted her Mama.

I did not pick her up, but knelt down and held SS, who quickly buried her face on my neck, while she cried and shook. The teachers were just in shock, even the teachers from the baby room came out to witness the meltdown. When SS calmed down some I allowed Ms. L to comfort her. Ms. L remembered the rules and patted SS's back while soothingly talking to her. Ms. L turned to me and said that they had never seen SS cry, really wanted me to know that. Yeah, that was quite obvious. I asked Ms. L to call me if SS did not calm down. It really tore me apart to leave, but SS was in good hands and I felt it was a good learning experience for SS and those around her.

As horrible as it sounds I am glad it happened. It was good for them to see that SS is a real girl, with real feelings, and real needs. My daughter is not Pinocchio people, she is a real child. I called P as soon as I left and to my relief he said "Good, about time they see that she is a real child." Like me, P was worried about the picture of a mute, emotionless SS. Because that is not who she is, there is so much more to our child. She is a delightfully complex creature, she is a joy to have around.

When I returned four hours later Ms. L informed me that SS calmed down about 10 minutes after I left. Upon enrollment we had agreed that 15 minutes was the max before they called first P, and then me. Ms. L reiterated how surprised everyone was that morning. Welcome to our world, because that is how we felt upon finding out how SS behaves at school. We also hope that maybe this incident served as an ice breaker and that SS's true personality slowly emerges. We hope that SS little by little learns to let go and be her fabulous self. We hope that SS becomes secure enough to realize that she does not have to be perfect to be cared for and appreciated. That is a lot of hoping but when it comes to our kids we are eternal optimists.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The kids are alright.

A week ago we finally got around to watch The Kids are Alright. It was a movie we wanted to see because of the topic, and because we read that it was handled in an intelligent manner. The kids are indeed alright, but the poor souls have really whacked out bio parents. The premise of the movie is a lesbian couple who each have a child by the same sperm donor, whom they had not met. When the daughter is 18, her 15 year old brother talks her into contacting their bio father. Initially the sister is not interested but relents. What started as a situation that was seemingly headed in the right direction turned into a horrible mess for the people involved.

The movie was surprisingly funny, even though I could have done without the whole messy are you now straight part, or the cheating. We agreed that the movie should have a subtitle The Kids are Alright (but the parents are REALLY f*cked up). The women are so messed up they named their son Laser. Who the heck names their child Laser? We are always interested in how non traditional families handle sensitive topics. We both grew up in non traditional ways, then decided to top our upbringing by creating an even more complicated family dynamic. And that is quite an accomplishment when you combine our backgrounds. :)

We have heard on many occasions people spouting how they could not have a child unless it is "their own." That deep need to have a biological tie to a child. YAWN. One thing the movie drove home to us is how neither one of us could ever considered such a setup. When there is a bio parent out there that is known, the probability of your life being upended increases exponentially. In a particularly (to us) funny part Nic, the uptight, control freak, snob, highly intelligent, physician mother almost chokes on her food when she realizes the guy who was studying International Relations in college dropped out. Uh, uh, her kids had half stupid genes. Worse, he works "in the food service industry." Actually he owned a seemingly successful restaurant. Like I said, she is a snob. That is the lesson on putting so much emphasis on DNA and what you seem to think you know about your artificially inseminated offspring's parent. Our fly by the seat of our pants parenting is clearly influenced by our complete lack of interest about SS's genetic makeup.

What we do know is more important, there is a very minimal likelihood of a bio parent gate crashing our lives and blindsiding us. We are in control of when and how our daughter seeks her roots. That is so much more important than boasting what we think we know. And although the daughter, Joni, was eighteen, legally an adult and able to search for her donor, she was clearly unprepared emotionally. I should know, I had a child at that age, but I would not consider myself mature then. So there on our screen was one of our biggest fears, an interloper screwing with our family. It was quite sobering.*

Another interesting aspect was how these accomplished, intelligent and obviously very caring women had obviously not talked to their kids about the donor. Something along the lines of... "how about a heads up when you feel the need to know about the other half of your genetic makeup?" Like many parents they frequently repeated the "you know you can tell me anything" mantra. But like many parents what it really meant was "you know you can tell me anything as long as it is what I want to hear." And while many people think it is overkill, it is why we talk about China, about the SWI and how we waited to bring SS home, in age appropriate language. As SS gets older we will discuss with her more details about her story. Because at 15 or 18 years old it is not the time to figure out how we feel about her birth parents, or the circumstances that brought us the greatest gift we have ever received.

A poignant scene between Nic and Jules resulted in a late night talk. Nic is being a condescending b*tch insinuating that she must carry the financial load alone, while her wife, Jules, stayed home. Jules challenges Nic's history revision and points out that the nannies were never good enough, the jobs she had were not good enough. She did an amazing job of holding a mirror up to her wife by telling her that she used the stay at home with my kids excuse as a form of control. That led to a 3:00 a.m. talk for us. One thing I will always give P is that he is able to talk about the dark parts of his soul (at least with me) most of us would never share . Whether it is his now freakishly humorous dislike for infants and bratty children in general, to admitting that he has been selfish at times.

P felt ashamed that he saw himself in Nic, he expressed his guilt about "pushing" me to stay home. Anyone that knows me is aware that I pretty much do what I feel I need to do, even when it is to my own detriment. I made up my mind at age 7 that I was going to have a Chinese daughter and I made it happen. OK, P and the Chinese government helped me a heck of a lot. But no one was going to get in the way of my dream (other than the abrupt halt in International adoption). Another instance where my utter lack of interest in DNA has been a blessing. I was very surprised that P felt such guilt. He expressed that he might have sabotaged my efforts to return to work. Nah, unless he was responsible for my diverticulatis, surgery and G0d awful recovery, nope, don't think so.

But he is right about the control, and not control over me. When we decided to adopt we knew that we would be giving up a lot of control. To this day P does not know how I survived the process, because unlike him, I am openly a control freak. My view of the situation is that P's surprising needs and decisions regarding SS began on Family Day. When he saw SS, when he realized how much was out of his control and the consequences, he decided to take control. P could not do a darn thing about those almost 16 months, but he sure as hell was going to be in control from that day on. Somehow that need to protect SS manifested itself into his lack of trust of anyone else as a caretaker.

And that is where his guilt comes from, misguided guilt, but such a sweet gesture. I do not deny that if I could return to my former job and salary tomorrow I would jump at the opportunity, dump SS at school full time and never look back. I am also grateful for each and every moment I have spent with SS. So what if she can't pronounce properly because she is imitating my speech? At least we have fun being unintelligible together.

It was both sweet and funny to hear P describe himself as a shrew. But I am glad he was able to open up and discuss how he felt. By the time he left for work two hours later we had both cleared the air. Guilt weights a heck of a lot, and this time, it was an unnecessary burden. I think we should stick to comedies from now on.

*On the other hand, if we determine that SS has the emotional maturity to seek her biological parents before age 18, we would do everything we can to make it happen.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pictures and videos.

Tracking Santa on NORAD on Christmas eve.

We do not think JJ ever envisioned spending Christmas at his age playing Toy Story Memory.

This is what a Christmas hang over looks like.

Proof that we have viciously maligned our daughter. SS is not lazy, she takes her responsibilities seriously, like playing with her Christmas toys, even if she has to lay down to complete her duties.

When the authorities come to place SS in protective custody this blog is going to be their best evidence.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

We Buzz Lightyeared her out.

Christmas morning caught us uncharacteristically with our Santa pants down. SS was up and ready to roll, but one gift was still boxed in the garage (same box where we brought it home 5 years ago) and one gift was half way assembled. Once again JJ got busy and finished the assembly in record time, anything for his little sister. The boxed gift was thankfully fully assembled, but it took some work to get it out and to dispose of the protective foam around it.

The plan was to Buzz Lightyear SS out and I think we succeeded. While we cut down significantly, there was still more than she needed. We decided to leave a few gifts for Dia de Reyes. It looks like SS received more than JJ, but balancing them out (JJ could not care less) is tricky. JJ gets less gifts but they are more expensive. We just do not want him to feel left out, since we have a hell of a lot of experience in that department. SS is now a pro at opening gifts and it was a lot of fun watching her rip gift wrap away. She seemed pleased with her loot and we are sure she does not even remember about Dia de Reyes. I recently read something neat in a blog about a family's philosophy of Christmas gift giving and might give it a try next year. The kids receive four gifts, something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. SS received some money from relatives and we are going to use that for her wardrobe.

We had a lazy day and had our traditional prime rib dinner, this year with arroz con gandules and fresh green beans. Having three ethnicities under one roof makes for interesting traditions. The best gift for P, SS and I is that we have JJ until Monday. On one of his visits we are going to kidnap him and stuff him in SS's closet. Shhhh, don't tell him or he won't return. We are just not a complete freak show without him, not many people get us.

Hope everyone had an amazing Christmas filled with loot, merriment, love and peace.

This Buzz fleece blanket is huge, longer than P and very warm. I see SS dumping her home made Snoopy blanket tonight.

Yeah, Toy Story 3 from Grandpa.

A book of stories of the Toy Story trilogy for bedtime reading.

A Diego and Dora cooking book from the grandmothers. But in SS's world that translates into a Diego cooking book.

One of the three remaining gifts bought years before she came home. SS has so many phones that we decided to wait one more year for this one.

Three TS books with a mini projector with slides from the stories.

SS already had a fancy Memory game, but we could not resist indulging her TS obsession.

JJ is a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy. P once gave him an awesome replica of the Delorean in the movie, JJ's dream car. Oh wait, that is the blu ray version and JJ dos not have a blu ray player. OOPS.

JJ does a lot of heavy duty things in his desktop and netbook and had been looking into a 1 terabyte portable drive. I do not know how much that is but probably more space than our desktop and netbooks combined. JJ is planning to dump his desktop hard drive into this one.

We think he liked his blu ray DVD player.

Best gift ever.

A little girl and her Buzz, such a beautiful thing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Noche Buena y comida Mejicana.

For a while now I had been thinking about making piñon. SS loves plantains and her love for crunchy tacos has provided a way to get protein into her skinny frame. A piñon is basically a plantain lasagna and it has green beans, one of SS's favorites. Why I decided that yesterday was the day to cook a Puerto Rican dish (something I suck at) is beyond me. We had gifts to wrap, a toy to assemble and were eagerly awaiting JJ's arrival. While we were searching for the right platanos, P asked me an obvious question. He wanted to know if I had made the dish before, because it never made it into our menu in fifteen years. Maybe yesterday was not the right time to try a new recipe. As I was distractedly choosing produce I said of course, I made it when I was pregnant with JJ.

During the drive home the ridiculous nature of my statement hit me hard. Have faith in me, I made this dish 28 years ago, piece of cake, what can go wrong? I sometimes wonder what keeps P from having me committed to a psych ward. But Sunshine was supportive and I am sure he was going over backup plans for dinner in his mind. But it went well, everyone enjoyed it, and the Puerto Rican in SS came through for us. She is a plantain eating machine, and was upset that she could not swipe more while we assembled the dish.

In Spanish speaking countries Christmas Eve is called Noche Buena. It literally translates into Good Night, my people are not exactly the most creative. I fully blame them for my lack of creativity. To keep up with the Hispanic food theme we made carnitas for dinner tonight. I found an easy recipe on a blog where the author cooks almost everyday with her slow cooker. P loves carnitas and we had yet to introduce JJ to his new food obsession. So we had a Noche Buena con comida Mejicana.

Since we did not have a tree last year we decided to allow SS to decorate her tree. Her first year home she did not know what was going on, but now she is getting Christmas a bit more. P was bummed because he could not find the monstrous tree stand or the fancy LED lights he bought two years ago. JJ came to the rescue and found the stand in a corner of our garage. It really pays off to have the kid around. No luck with the lights, but I reminded P that SS does not care about fancy lights, the old ones would do just fine. What really matters is that we are home together. When SS looks at the pictures in this post years from now, she is not going to bemoan the fact that LED lights did not grace her tree, she won't worry about the things we fret about. What SS is going to focus on is that we gave her free rein with the tree, that yesterday her Mama cooked to please her palate, and that JJ was home.

Turns out that SS is her mother's daughter, lazy as hell. She played with the ornaments, she placed some at the bottom of the tree, then decided that was good enough. Just like with the gingerbread house she lost steam and walked away. We are hoping this is not going to be a life long pattern. Then again we could argue that SS is a minimalist.

I had forgotten how much this stand weights. My brilliant plan to maximize space was to place the tree on top of SS's train table and cleared it for that purpose. The stand weights almost 20 pounds, no way was I going to risk destroying SS beloved metropolis.

Gingerbread house fun.

Last night I coaxed P to go to bed early, dude was beyond exhausted. I think the only reason he went along is that JJ was home. When it was just the three of us SS climbed on my lap, straddled me and laid her head against my chest. As I thought she was going to fall asleep, he eyes became wide open and she said "I want to be your baby." SS then changed position, laid on my lap and snuggled up to me. Sure, your sleep, you choose how to go into that sleep. But SS repeated that she wanted to be my baby three times. Then I had a silly thought and went with it. I told SS that she would always be my baby, just like her brother is my baby. I told her that when she starts using the potty she will still be my baby, when she moves to the 4 year old class she will still be my baby, no matter how old she is she will be my baby, even when she is as tall as Baba (SS has a sudden fascination with growing tall). SS smiled, kissed me and five seconds later she was out. When I told P later that night he said that it was just what SS wanted to hear. I hope he is right.

This morning we finally got around to introduce SS to the magical world of gingerbread house decorating. I grew up in a different culture and this was a foreign concept for me. Never did one and neither did JJ. P then informed me that he never did one either. Great, who is going to be chief decorator? P simply told me that he did not care so the onus was on artistically handicapped me. But P did have plenty of "technical advise", I am not the only control freak here.

Icing the house was a pain in the rear end. After watching me fail miserably JJ took over. Like P, he could not have cared less about the darn thing, but he wanted to do it for SS. I am just not an artsy mom. SS then got down to decorating her house. I opened the candy, laid them out in front of her and told her to decorate away. SS used the picture on the box as a guideline and did a decent job for a first timer. But she ran out of creative steam before she finished the front of the house. SS was not invested in finishing the house and decided why put all the candy up just to eat it, total waste of her valuable time. SS just started eating the candy, then moved on to licking the icing out of the candy already on the house. As long as she was having fun we did not care. SS also surprised us by eating breakfast, scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and a biscuit. She would have had more bacon but P cooked the second batch and he likes his bacon almost uncooked. SS needs her crispy fix.

Later in the afternoon we watched Salt. Not the best movie out there, but I am a sucker for chicks kicking ass. Like Jodi Foster in Panic Room (loved the mother-daughter dynamic) and The Brave One. SS was almost falling asleep and had her head on my chest, totally oblivious to the movie. Just our luck than SS turned around just in time to see the beginning of a blood bath. I asked P to pause the movie and there was a funny scramble to get the remote. While we are scrambling to make sure SS did not witness more, JJ turns to her and says "and that is what happens when you do not eat your vegetables." I could have decked him, but must admit the guy is witty. One of those moments when being smart a$$ parents bites you in the rear end. SS went on to watch Nick Jr. upstairs while we finished our movie.

A few hours ago P noted that it was already Christmas in China. That led to one of those moments when SS's birth parents came to mind. I hope they are at peace and wish they knew that she is happy, healthy, loved beyond measure and warm. Have no idea why the warm part invaded my thoughts, but there it is. Merry Christmas China.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas arrived early.

Although I was feeling lousy, the stupid in me decided to brave the crowds yesterday, instead of waiting for a very tired JJ or P to come home. Only the insane or the procrastinator would set foot in a store this time of the year. But as horrible as I was feeling, JJ's impending arrival gave me the push I needed. When we arrived at Costco SS gave me a good laugh. At the entrance was a young man giving out coupons. He was very young and I had not seen him before (our Costco has a scary turn over rate). SS reached out her arms to him, flashing her million dollar smile, and of course the young man responded in kind. Then SS squealed with delight "YEAH ALCOHOL!" The look on the guy's face was priceless. SS really wanted her coupons so she could get her drink on. After all 'tis the season. He had his hand half way through then pulled it back, much to SS's annoyance. Dude did not know what to do after SS's outburst. I smiled at him and reassured him "It's OK, she is a heck of a lot older than she looks."

Laughing is something that hurts these days but I could not help but do just that. It got worse when I called P to congratulate him on being the father of a three year old alcoholic. BTW, P asked me where SS got the alcohol part from. The lady that was handing out the coupons last week said "alcohol?" as she offered them. Things got better when we passed the booze aisle as SS quickly recognized the blue gin bottle and begged "Mama please, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese, that one, let's get that one." We got a lot of looks. Since I was on a roll I told SS that she darn well knows we are not gin drinkers, we are whiskey drinkers.

If SS was not enough to keep my hands full, P was doing his darndest to get to the top of the naughty list. Silly guy, he should know by now that he eternally holds the number one spot. P knows how much I hate crowds, and also knows that my current discomfort has shortened my already short fuse. I am making SS walk more because I can't pick her up all the time like she wants. This is very difficult for me, because I feel that she is being punished for something she can't understand. P is doing his part to keep me smiling by sending me inappropriate text messages. He managed to top himself yesterday.

When we finally made it home JJ had just arrived. Oh joy! Christmas arrived early for SS in the form of her brother. She stuck by his side like a barnacle on a whale's ass, a privilege usually reserved for her Mama. We took advantage of the extra pair of hands and got busy in the kitchen. It was so good to get around our business without a tiny person underfoot. The sound of SS's laughter and JJ's presence really made our day. We have been in such a funk, we really needed the family time. So Christmas arrived early for us as well.

When we realized that we needed a few items for dinner we asked JJ to stay with SS. SS wanted to join us but we said she was going to stay home with her brother. That is when SS cracked us up by immediately turning to her brother and saying "Bye JJ!" The little traitor dropped him like a bad habit. SS did stay home and had a great time with her brother.

Towards the end of the video SS actually threatened to "take" JJ's finger off. She is small but terrifyingly violent.

2010 Christmas card.

We knew this picture would be on our Christmas card the moment it was taken. It is one of our favorite pictures of SS. As we were stuffing envelopes the other night P pointed out that for those who do not read the blog, or the majority of the recipients, the picture is deceptive. It looks like we left SS alone in the middle of the water and near rocks no less. That is the first time I thought about it, but how true. Obviously SS was flanked by JJ and Uncle R, but the picture sure as heck does not show them. It really looks reckless, and in P's eyes this makes it an even better picture. He is Sunshine for a darn good reason.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mute children say the darnest things.

We frequently talk to SS about how perfect she is just the way she came into the world. We want her to be comfortable in her own skin, and hope that when some jerk makes a stupid comment about her ethnicity and looks, SS will simply laugh and have an awfully funny (and hopefully biting) come back. I was in the middle of one of those silly talks, stating how much I love her amazing eyes, lustrous hair, dark skin, small feet, etc. SS asked if I loved her neck, and I answered that I not only love her neck but also love her neck rolls. SS went on to mention other body parts and I answered that I loved them all. Then SS very matter of fact asked "Mama, do you love my gina?" P gave me his annoying look and smirk that screams "better you than me." We do not have a problem using proper terminology and also do want SS to think that talking about her body in the privacy of her own home is wrong. But after the I want alcohol incident it is obvious that something so innocent can be misconstrued. My answer was "Baby I love everything about you." That satisfied SS, and she hugged me before continuing her questions. As I hugged SS P smiled at me and sincerely said "Nice save Baby."

We are watching the CBS special A Home for the Holidays and their focus is on adoption. Such a beautiful thing when people do not let a silly thing like DNA get in the way of forming or expanding a family. Ricky Martin was just announced and SS screamed his name as though she was a long time groupie. She does love his song Living la Vida Loca, and that is exactly what SS is doing.

The school director took this picture and it was part of SS's Christmas gift to us, along with her first made at school ornament. Director D definitely has the picture setting and taking down. Sweet picture.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our little Jekyll and Hyde.

Last Friday I talked to SS's teachers and got a heck of a surprise. The good news is that they both find SS "extremely well behaved." HUH? Are we talking about our very own Tasmanian Devil? The same child that we can't leave alone for long for fear that she'll burn the house down? The same child who terrorizes not only her parents but her adult brother? Apparently that same child is pulling the ultimate stunt at school. They could not stop gushing about she is the best behaved kid that they have taught. Excuse me while I scream... WTF? Most parents would be beaming after such disgusting praise, but with SS's history this is not good. She is simply blending into the background and not rocking the boat. This is the fastest way to fall between the cracks.

The bad news is that our chatter box is a mute at school. The teachers were discussing how SS listens, has had to be redirected just once (the day she whacked what we are sure was a well deserving child), began following the routine within days of enrollment and is just a freaking dream (puke). The next logical question was other than the $^*%$#@ potty training issue what is keeping SS from moving on to the next class. That is when I really was blown away by the response, look how long it has taken me to be able to write about it. According to the teachers, SS does NOT have a "vocab." First, if I am relying on you to help my child learn and speak, how about using the appropriate words. Her teachers stated that SS has not spoken more than five words in the three months she has been there. Plus, those words were coaxed out of her, she did not spontaneously speak. My first though was where the hell have they been when SS greeted me by screaming "Mama you came back!" Well, that is four words after all.

Next question was how in hell they communicate with our daughter if she does not speak. Since SS is a model student, knows her routine, listens and is freaking complaint, there is not much need to talk to her. In other words, we have been shelling out money for preschool, but SS is simply dumped into daycare. That hurt big time. Also, when SS was so anxious about us returning for her, did anyone bother to reassure her that her parents always return? The funny thing is that the day before P and I were discussing how to advocate for moving SS and what solutions we could offer to help. P said that they would not willingly let her go based on his observations when he drooped by unannounced. I really thought the dude was kidding. Who knew he had hit the nail on the head.

We are not deaf and our love for our children does not blind us to their reality. P got a crash course when he foolishly insisted on co-parenting a special needs child with me. Advocating for JJ was hell on wheels and I won't lie when I say that P's help was an amazing relief. He was young, but he had a way of commanding attention and respect. Also let's face it, it did help that he is white. This is not my sole observation, P learned this quickly as well. Angry white dude received immediate attention, rational Hispanic woman was made to wait indefinitely.

I made the mistake of calling P as soon as I got SS buckled up. Really huge mistake, because once again P took this a lot harder than I expected. He was and is still devastated. Again, we know that SS is very difficult to understand, but the girl really only began to speak this summer. SS did not qualify for Early Intervention Services (County program) and that did not surprise us at all. EI was a thorn on my side when I advocated for children who really needed their help. A child must have a 20% delay in three areas to qualify. That day SS did things with Crayons and markers that we had not see her do before and have not seen since. They do have limited resources that are better spent on the parents on government aid, and not on someone whose parents are on the ball. Such is life, and now SS is too old for EI (age limit is 3).

That brings up the public school district again. It was one of my greatest fears and we are not unfamiliar with how they work. As soon as the Holidays are over we need to schedule a speech evaluation for SS. Yippee!!!!! I am afraid that my child will be labeled and once that label is in writing it is difficult to shake. We will not be accepting the teachers' suggestion that the evaluation be done at school. No freaking way that is happening. We want it done at home where SS is comfortable. At least we might be able to get more than five freaking words out of her.

After a very depressing lunch later that day, where I shot the funniest video of SS not talking, I reached out to my early childhood development specialist. Michelle has 17 years of experience with the preschool crowd (no idea how she survived). My request was simple, should we be freaking out, and we did NOT want to be reassured that all would be OK with time, we wanted brutal honesty.

It seems that it is not unusual for children to play the mute card for months at school. She also understands our concerns about SS getting lost in the shuffle. It also does not make sense to leave a "delayed child" (how I hate that label) among non verbal two year olds. If SS can handle the classroom structure and discipline in the junior room she should be there. BTW, we are still standing behind our choice of preschool. If SS was attending SJ (2nd choice) we are sure it would have taken even longer for us to be made aware of her mute status. Michelle, again, thanks for taking the time to review our posted videos and for your support. As you know we don't trust just anyone with JJ and SS.

What now? We wait, we wait and we stew, because it sucks. When JJ was evaluated on his third birthday, it was done to prove that he had a severe intellectual delay. They simply though he was mentally retarded (the term used then). I was stunned when IQ testing placed JJ in the top 3% of the population. Trust me, neither his bio father nor I had a thing to do with his IQ. It had to be Mami and Papi. Still a high IQ does not equate educational success. We have always stated that we prefer a hard worker over a intellectually superior child. At the end of the day you get what you put into your education. JJ has yet to reach a point when he wants a degree, and we hope he gets there soon.

But this is about SS now, although we have a lot of battle scars from our days of advocating for JJ. Except that we now have the opposite problem, our child is too well behaved for her own good. JJ started school in September of 1986, at three years and six months of age. SS started preschool just one month behind her brother. At the time JJ's program was a full day program, a heck of a lot for a child that young, and with attention span issues. We are not willing to do the same with SS at this time. Should we be grateful that SS is well behaved? I don't think so.

We are not worried about SS testing as intellectually delayed; a speech delay, certainly, it was expected. Most of SS's enunciation mishaps come from being fed by the gravity method. It is one of the many problems we expected to encounter with a post institutionalized child. We read, we researched, we talked, we thought we prepared. But nothing really prepares you to hear bad news. We'll roll with the punches as we have done before. Then there is SS's ever growing fear about the potty, so angry at whatever happened at the SWI.

Last but not least is the elephant in the room, I am the common denominator between my children (at the same age). Allow me to introduce myself, I am K and I mess up children. For what is worth, JJ really was playing mute. He could not care less about speaking, and when he did I wished I had never had him evaluated.

Because Holidays are the best time to received bad news, I am struggling with Bowel Hell again. Pain, fever, puking, more pain, more fever and even more puking. YUCK.

This video was taken Friday as we were waiting for P. I was obviously distracted because I did not notice SS grabbing the coupons from the nice lady at the entrance. Only when SS made a very specific request did I snap back into reality and started filming.

This morning, we are biased, but we heard more than five words.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Are you smarter than a preschooler?

P and I enjoyed watching Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, because, well, more often than not we weren't. But watching others fail as miserably as we did was a heck of a lot of fun. It's really amazing the things we have "learned" and forgotten. Obviously SS is very concerned about my intellectual capabilities. Let's face it, the girl has yet to see me doing anything remotely requiring an IQ in the double digits since we met. I am not going to deny the obvious and lash out in anger, she sees what she sees and has decided to enlighten her lame brained Mama. Baba does not need retraining as he makes a living in a line of work that requires thinking.

While I have resigned myself to my fate, it hurts a little when SS starts her daily drilling. Let me tell you that payback is a bitter b*tch. SS drills me on letters, numbers, animal names, and the biggest insult to date, Spanish. Do I hear an "Oh no she didn't?" The little stinker drilled me on body parts in Spanish. I was aware that I was in need of intellectual stimulation, but that last blow was an eye opener. But wait, it gets better. SS was holding three of her hats, her fedora, her pink cap and her Chicago Zoo hat. I thought she was mulling over which one to wear. SS walks in front of me, holds them up and asks "Mama, are these the same or different?" I did not know whether to be highly offended or highly amused. The latter won out, but only because she's so darn cute. I swear if she was ugly we would have exchanged words.

I spent several years doing forensic interviewing of minors who were suspected victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It was the most rewarding job I have ever done. Regardless of the age, every interview begins by qualifying the minor in an age appropriate manner. One thing I learned is how much more young children know and notice than the adults around them think. Another thing I learned is how terrible teenagers are with the concept of time, even with every electronic gadget available to them. Teenagers are also notoriously terrible at correctly reading facial expressions. Seriously, I read a scientific article where teens and adults were shown pictures of people making rather obvious facial expressions. It was baffling the amount of times the teens were wrong. Not all of them are sociopaths when they calmly sit like nothing is wrong, while a parent is about to self- combust from anger. It's a brain development phenomenon, not that it made me feel better when JJ experienced it, and it won't make me feel better when it's SS's turn.

SS's same and different question made me realize that it was not a preschool thing, it was a Mama is bat sh*t crazy thing. While responsible parents focus on their kids learning their ABCs and 123s, SS has spent more time than children her age on other topics. I use SS's cars to gauge whether she gets under/over, inside/out, in front/behind... I think I was distressed that she was not getting her colors right before age 3 out of a misguided sense as well. The same or different question is one of the first ones SS nailed. And before anyone thinks I had my daughter in a cold room, sitting on a wooden chair, deprived of food and water with a flood light over her, relax. When we really want to impart punishment we simply waterboard her. It was all done while playing, in a very non invasive manner. I seriously doubt SS will remember it in the future. SS and I have played a LOT since coming home, and somewhere along the way my way of qualifying children made it into our play. It is what I'm comfortable doing.

At that moment, when she turned into a mini me, things fell into place. She perfectly mirrored what I have been doing with her. The way she made sure she was at eye level with me by using her step stool (I was sitting on the sofa). She slightly hunched just so, like she has seen me done endless times out of habit, the way she smiled while asking her brain twisting question, the soft tone of her voice and her slow pronunciation. It was one of the few times when I forgot about everything I have done and will do wrong, and just enjoyed the moment. It kinda made my day. Yuck, she's right, I do need intellectual stimulation, it is the only thing that will help me progress from this preschool quizzing hell.

SS, you got one thing wrong, you give a correct choice, an incorrect choice, and then ask "or something else." Always give the kid an out. I think you are going to do better at interviewing than your Mama. I am so proud of you.

SS enjoying her extra crispy bacon. The girl was not born to become a Seven Day Adventist.

What to do when you can't decide which hat to wear? You go SS style and wear them all. We were so relieved that we did not have to go out in public that afternoon.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Preschool party peppiness.

SS woke up full of preschool party peppiness (PPP), getting her showered, dressed and out the door was not a problem. As usual, I was the problem. The kids had a gift exchange and parents were asked to bring a wrapped gift, for the same gender and age as their child. Again, why the gender segregation people? I shot myself on the foot when I selected between two items, a D*sney princess hair set, neatly packed in a perfect square box, and a duck backpack with a duck sponge and duck bath mitten inside. The smart move was the obviously girly gift, but my stubbornness knows no boundaries and I opted for the less gender specific gift. The shape of the gift mattered because I royally suck at gift wrapping. The girly gift was easy to wrap, instead, I struggled and broke a sweat trying to wrap the gift this morning.

But since SS had a grave case of PPP we managed to get out of the house in one piece, with SS happily clutching "Santa's gift" and singing about her "big girl school party." Today was not SS's usual school day, so we were to stay for about an hour, and thank G0d because that is as much as I can take of screaming two year olds these days. I was much better pre SS. I finally figured out where SS's new crying fits come from. She is surrounded by a pack of constantly crying two year olds. The thing is that at school she does not cry. Instead, I quietly watched my girl, and it hurt me to see how bewildered she was when the kids were wailing. In the past SS has mostly been sympathetic to kids crying. Only during the flight to Chicago did she seem mad by the three girls crying in front of us. This morning it was different, it was painful to watch SS's expression. The kids were behaving like kids their age should. SS is almost twice their age, while they are almost twice her size. She fits right in size wise, but developmentally is not a good fit. It appears that SS is doing what she can to get through the morning, then she falls apart when she comes home. It made us wonder if it reminds her of her time in the SWI, the only time she was exposed to a gaggle of crying kids. Given the way she reacts to a potty chair, if that is the case, it is not good for SS's emotional well being. We really need her to be with kids her own age.

I also realized that our daughter is a grifter. Our bad apple did not fall far from her parents' rotten tree. SS is drinking from a regular cup just fine. I knew this, because her clothes are not stained. However, at home SS keeps managing to spill when drinking out of regular cups. Then my fruit and vegetable crazy child won't touch those items at school. WTF? She went straight for the cookie and chips. That's fine by us, it was a party, but SS has yet to come across a grape she has not devoured. According to her teachers this is what she always does at school. They call her a carb girl. On the positive side I also realized that she knows the routine well, sits and listens, and requires little direction from her teachers. That is a big deal because a lot of the older kids were redirected a heck of a lot while I was there. SS has come a long way since the Halloween party, it's really comforting.

When it was time for the class to meet with Santa I thought about another down side to the Santa myth. SS had her picture taken with Santa just yesterday afternoon. That Santa was a lot heavier and a lot older than school Santa (the director's son). In an attempt to compromise with P I had decided to go along, BUT if SS asked any questions I would answer honestly. I think our daughter can enjoy Christmas without us building a relationship based on lies.* I should not have worried, because when it comes to getting a gift and having fun, SS is as willing to compromise her beliefs as we are.

After opening gifts it was time for the part time kids to go home and SS was not pleased. She gripped the door and would not let go. That led to a bit of a tantrum, but nothing I can't handle. Then as we neared the van, the stupid dogs on the house it was parked in front of attempted to jump the very low fence while barking aggressively. I had never seen dogs there before and was startled, but somehow felt they would not jump the fence (since they didn't on their first attempt). That's a big deal for me because I am terrified of dogs, ALL dogs. The things you forget when you have a child to look after. SS was already running on low and simply lost it. Her carseat was on the side closest to the house and she dug her face on my neck, screamed and was shaking. I had to place her on the front seat, but entering through the driver's side, drive down the road, hug her and then get her buckled up. P came through for us again and did a great job helping a teary SS calm down. I am really glad that although SS seems to be more attached to me, when she is at her lowest, she is deep down a Baba's girl, and her Baba always takes the time to make it better.

Full of PPP and on her way to meet her friends.

One of SS's OCD quirkiness, she (and we) will only enter the school using the handicapped ramp. When I get out of the car and when I pick her up she always reminds me to "go the right way Mama." Can't wait to see what this will turn into.

We are going to be seeing this expression a lot during her teen years.

SS's dress was a gift from her So Cal grandmothers back in July. We love the way she looks in it, and kept her warm this morning (28 degrees). This was before the chain crying began.

Our well trained girl disposing of her snack plate.

I laughed when I realized that they placed SS at the front. All kids have their names on their assigned spaces.

On her way to her classroom where the gift opening was to occur.

SS did not need help unwrapping her gift.

SS posed for the required I love my gift picture, dumped the doll with me, and went after the boys who received cars as gifts. How I love this child.

* I am of course referring to OUR specific situation, our need to build trust with SS. Like it or not it becomes an issue later in life, and we need her to know that we have been truthful about how she came home.