Fun, laughs, and dare I say, I fear a few more grays…life as we knew it is over and a new reality has been given to us.
I have hesitated to update the blog because I feared that people only wanted to hear the rosy stuff and not the nitty-gritty of reality…but a good friend reminded me today that the nitty-gritty is really what life is all about.
When we were able to spend the wonderful few days with Apple back in Sept, we caught a little glimpse of her personality, bull-headedness, and adorable sense of humor. We also were able to get a heads up on a few of her med issues. But how much can you really get in 3 rushed days together? We took as many notes as possible to try to come home and re-group and be as prepared as possible for any curve balls that may be coming our way, but it appears that, as in life, all the prep in the world doesn’t substitute for reality and actually being with our amazing daughter 24/7.
When I finally brought Apple home to the hotel from the orphanage, I could barely allow myself to believe that it was real and she really was ours forever, I just tried to enjoy every moment possible. I learned that the head thrashing she did in Sept was still present, the ear infections (despite the hotel Dr and the Embassy Visa medical appt saying she just had a bit of wax buildup and inflammation) were still raging and she actually had a perforated eardrum, and that she was just as stubborn as I am!
As expected, she pushed and tested every boundary possible to see if Mom was just another caretaker or if I was actually going to be around for the long-haul and whether I actually had any authority. She learned quickly that although I couldn’t let her run our worlds, that Mom really does love her and it was like watching a switch move and a light illuminate…shortly thereafter, she allowed herself to really bond, hugging and kissing me back, laughing from the deepest part of her being, sharing her food with me and allowing herself to just relax. It was amazing to experience!
Due to the last not-so-pleasant trip to the ENT on court day, I was expecting a fight when it came time for the TB test, and boy was I right. She did her typical “zone-out” coping throughout the medical exam, not speaking a word and staring off into space but when she saw the nurse was holding a syringe she immediately began to whimper and squirm. She was not having any part of whatever they had planned and they needed to know that right now! As she speaks only Telugu, and no one in the office spoke Telugu, there wasn’t much consoling other than Mom’s calm voice, loving hold, and me trying to tell her it would be ok. I pinched my arm, showed her where they would put it, she mimicked my actions and tried her best to be ok with what was coming…until the nurse actually came bedside. She started screaming, kicking, and clawing, trying to get away (not that I blame her, I’m not a fan of needles either and even my 11 year old has a mini-breakdown every time he has to get a shot). As it was a requirement and we needed it done correctly so she didn’t get hurt and didn’t get stuck having to repeat the test, they called in 4 male nurses to hold her down (2 at first, then they realized just how strong she really is…guess they didn’t believe me till they saw it for themselves) she was being pinned down to the bed by the nurses so tightly I was worried it was only causing more emotional trauma and was worried she’d have bruises up and down her arms (fortunately, she didn’t), and just as soon as it was over, she ran right into my arms, hugged me, sobbed, and nuzzled into my neck. She actually did so much better than I expected as it took so much longer than that for her to recover from the ear exam last time! She amazes me everyday! Fortunately, the test read negative two days later and a Visa was speedily issued a day later, which we were very thankful for.
And, despite a last minute trip to the ER due to massive amounts of pus and blood pouring out of her ear (yep, again, and worse than last time), she did amazingly well even on the flights back home! She is the perfect world traveler actually! She slept when we asked her to rest, she awoke and ate when we asked her to do so, never complaining once, never getting restless or tyrannical (unlike many of the other children on our flights). I am still so amazed by how she surprises me everyday! She recognized Daddy right away at the airport and hugged him, recognized Brother but played shy, and would only wave at Uncle Jon. But once home, and once my Mom, brother and his girlfriend left (although she was sad to see them go), she has actually really gotten close to Brother and Daddy and now goes to them freely for help, or to follow them and help them too. Love it!
And then there’s the flip side…she’s a typical older, newly adopted kiddo in that she’s set in her ways, isn’t afraid to argue with me and tell me “no,” and seems to have learned that her adorable smile can bend people to her will. She’s a bit less than pleased that the smile, winks, and eyebrow lifting don’t have the intended effect upon Mom.
Now that we are home, I’m starting to see her true self come out and blossom. She’s so funny, loves to smile, loves to dance (a square dance type move for every pop song is her favorite – so cute to watch how truly happy she is when she dances!), loves horse-play, wants to help out whenever possible, loves to do any and everything anyone else is doing, and she’s actually pretty shy for anyone outside of Momma, Daddy, and Brother (she can’t say Tristan…comes out something like “sisten” so she prefers to just call him Brother).
She’s not a big fan of our dogs thanks to our furry Rasta deciding to run into her room before we could get her back up on the bed (she was sliding down the bed’s slide over and over and happened to be down when he was super excited to say Hi). She started screaming bloody murder, clawing Brother and Uncle Jon (my brother) to get up off the floor, and then there was our poor Rasta who had no idea what he’d done and immediately fell to the floor, rolled over, and closed his eyes hoping someone would love on him and tell him it would all be ok. Little Miss was looking for the same thing, of course, and it has taken us until today to get her to a level of comfort that she doesn’t run from the couch to the chair to a big person, just in case the white fluffy monster is around. Now though, she says “Happy Puppies” and will actually pet them, and walk, timidly yes, but solo, around the house.
Bedtime at first was a huge challenge as she would scream at the top of her lungs and sob whenever she was in her room, and don’t even think about asking her to play in the room, let alone sleep there. As we are the mean parents that don’t allow co-sleeping in our bed (never mind the fact that Gabe has a weird schedule making it next to impossible for peaceful sleep), I was prepared that I would need to be staying in her room till she was fast asleep…however, the bull-headed kiddo of mine can totally outlast me! When I tried to get her to sleep in her bed, you would’ve thought I had just placed her on hot coals…my first clue to the sensory issues (more on that later). Eventually we settled for a makeshift bed on the floor in front of the bed, which she promptly needed Brother and Momma to be in as well in order to be comfy…the last two nights, however, she’s able to go to bed solo and actually sleep. However, since she’s still thrashing her head back and forth in the night, she’s actually getting road rash on her chin, poor baby! I’ve asked the Doctor about the thrashing and as we thought, the best guess is that it is a combo of ear/sinus pain issues coupled with emotional stress/trauma/memory…going to be staying on top of that one! She’s got a ton of blood tests to be run tomorrow and vaccines on Friday, so she’s still got a fun road ahead. Fingers crossed for smooth appointments.
Despite the frustrations from her pushing back over everything from drinking fluids, to food, to socks, to which pink shirt to wear (even though we always find a common ground), she’s still adjusting amazingly well for only being home less than a week! Just have to keep reminding myself of that fact and to just breathe, be patient and understanding.
On a much lighter note, she’s actually VERY smart and can understand most anything I say!! She will rarely speak, English or Telugu, and when she does, she whispers it, but to see her level of understanding when she’s asked to do something is just breath-taking. One day she just starting randomly speaking English and pointing to everything in the room and saying every item correctly…that was my first clue for just how much she really knows! I have determined that since she’s so small (the size of a 4 year old), that she has been treated as a 4 year old and not the 7 year old she really is…thus explaining some of the behavioral issues we are working through. 😉 I keep reminding myself, Mr G and Tristan that she’s 7 and is able-bodied despite being a bit smaller than others…and we aren’t helping her if we don’t show her that she can do anything she wants to set her mind to do, she just may need a little accommodation (yep, she loves her little red stool and carries it all over the house!). I’ve already noticed a difference in her responses by expecting a bit more rather than less, she’s just truly amazing!
And before I quit rambling, I have to share a few of my favorite moments with her so far…
1). At the hotel in Delhi on the last night before returning home, Apple, my mother, and I were trying to keep ourselves occupied as we waited to be able to leave for the airport (we had a 4am flight). We decided it would be fun to let her dictate what we should write…little did we know just how seriously she’s take her role as teacher! She turned into a Telugu rambling dictator! She gave my mom and I instructions in Telugu and told us to write words or numbers on a piece of paper. After playing for quite some time, mom was getting tired of writing the same thing over and over (and being the funny lady she is), so she decided to write the numbers Apple asked for, but did so in a square shape around the paper and handed it to Apple for review. Apple, being the strong willed child she is, took one look at it, wrote a HUGE “X” across the paper and sternly told my mother “You fail school!! Seeerrrooo (aka zero) Nana, you fail!” She was so serious and so disappointed that my mom had done something so against what she had been asked to do, and all my mom and I could do was roll on the bed in complete astonishment and uncontrollable laughter for about 20 minutes….fortunately for us, she let the stern teacher persona go and my adorable daughter was back, laughing right alongside us!
2). We learned the other night that she loves to dance! I have tried on several occasions, since our family loves music so much, to get her to let loose and dance with me, only to be met with a funny look of “um, yeah, Momma, as if!” However, I had Pandora running on my phone last night and a song came on (Grape Vine, I think) which caught her fancy and she started bobbing her head more than before until the bobbing hit her arms, then belly, then legs till she was in full redneckery square dancing gyrations! She grabbed my phone, placed it to her good ear, and started gyrating all of the living room with the biggest grin you’ve ever seen, and grabbed Momma to dance, chased Daddy and Brother and insisted they join in! Nothing like seeing how happy she was moving and bouncing and getting everyone else to do so too!! I only wish I had my camera to share the moment as I’m sure you all would light up and roll on the floor laughing (then secretly try to mimic her cool moves!!).
3). And lastly, tonight we finally put up the Christmas tree. Watching Tristan and Apple decorate it with such clear intent for each strand of garland, ornament, and candy cane was just priceless. Decorating the tree has always been a fun tradition and now to have his little sister finally here too was just wonderful.
So, we are moving forward taking the good and the not-so-fun as each day gives it to us, exploring the new little pieces we each discover of each other and just trying to enjoy every minute. And yes, I’m sure there will be more new and interesting things to come, and yep, more gray hairs too! But I’m just thankful to have my children, my hubby, and my wonderful friends and family, and I’m just going to try to hold each a little tighter this holiday season.
We wish you guys the very best during these holidays and hope that the New Year brings amazing new adventures and new kiddos for many of you very soon!