1:15 PM

Year in review - 2012 the year of Elora

I have been answering these same questions about the new year for 16 years now. Ya, some of the questions sound like something a teen would ask... I considered looking for a new list, but my love of tradition and consistency won out and voila, this year's year in review:

1.What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?

I adopted a daughter. Back in 2011 I thought I knew what parenting was all about. I had a kick ass little guy, I had been doing the gig for 2 and a half years. Then came Elora, and I really understood love for the first time, I really understood heart break for the first time. Joy came at a whole new level and I was amazed at how fast a child can grow, emotionally, physically, developmentally. I was just blessed to be along for the journey that she is, to be schooled by her.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don’t think I resolved to live more in the moment, more just wished I could have. I know last year I failed at that, but it was what it was and no waiting mother can expect any peace of mind or heart. I have however lived, soaked in every second of 2012, I have not wished a single day away, well maybe a few in January and February. It feels amazing, but it not because I achieved an inner zen, I just got all my dreams to come true.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes they did and I got a nephew too. In addition two other special babies came home from China and I was able to greet them at the airport!!!

*** News flash: I am now offering a volunteer paparazzi service for any new families arriving home with their little ones via Toronto Pearson Airport. I have photographed 3 families so far and it is an amazing experience for me! So rewarding!! So if you are coming through YYZ even just as a connecting flight send me an email and I will see you at the gates!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Scarlett’s baby brother and Maelyn’s older sister did. I never got to meet either of these two babies, that part is the worst, like a dream for so many just left unrealized. Death was close to home this year, in the worst way possible. What is it about the death of such a young child that makes it so much worse, not that you can measure grief… it just scared the heck out of me. Reality is that Elora survived to be in my arms by the narrowest of chances, too many life and death chances in her short life. Even though I have her now, that thought coupled with the harsh realities of these losses so close to home were just too much at times. I see the world differently now. You are going to hear that a lot from me in this yearly review, I am not who I once was.  I want you to know I remeber them, love them.

5. What countries did you visit?

China and KV, New York!

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

Last year I wished for peace. Peace in my heart, patience and an end to the soul sucking waiting.  That is a direct quote. Yep, “soul sucking waiting”, truer words have never been written. Good news is that I got peace and my soul back!! I really can’t imagine having a better year next year. I am pretty sure this is as good as it gets. I would like to travel to a new place in 2013.

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 5, 2012, 9 am, I walked up dark stairs, one flight, once I saw that the door in front of us was “the door” I grabbed for Jeremy’s hand, one last squeeze before that door opened. A squeeze for luck, for comfort, for excitement? It felt like a squeeze you would give your BFF before you run together off that really high cliff, a run and jump together into the cool lake below. Eyes wide, heart pumping, mouth in a perma-grin. There she was sitting and crawling on a board room table, 3 adults sitting in large office chairs at one end of the table. Of all the situations I imagined to be on the other side of that door that was not one of them, a baby on a table. It only struck me odd for a moment though because in the next instant I was trying to catch her eye, to see everything there was to see. Wearing a fashionable outfit I would have chosen myself, she was bigger than we had imagined, although most of that was just clothing, layers and layers of clothing. She looked at us suspiciously and then went back to fingering a cookie in its package. I asked to hold her. Picked her up from the table, noticed the heft of her, the solid realness of her. They told her we were Mama and Baba. I turned to Jeremy, saw in his face what must have been in mine. That was the beginning.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I think my biggest achievements this year came in parenting.

9. What was your biggest failure?

On the flip side my biggest failures were also in parenting. I have learned a lot this year, and I am a work in progress, but I do want to give myself some credit in the fact that I have learned from these failures and for that I will say that I had some real major achievements too.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

We did have that hell of a cold/flu thing in China, but that was only so bad because of the 2 days of no sleep that accompanied it. Over all we have been a lot healthier this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My new camera. I am so happy I got it, it has really helped me to document/photograph Elora. I have got to say for any other albinism parents out there, if photos of your kids are important to you this is a must have. A point and shoot just can’t capture our kids’ beauty, you need the heft of a SLR and the low light/no flash abilities that it can bring you. I got a new lens for Christmas this year and I am really seeing what a difference that can make as well, photos of her are only going to get better. Wish I had had it earlier, I really wish I had rented one for our trip as I had considered doing but then wrote off as frivolous.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

This year I would like to celebrate the work of many nonprofits that are near and dear to me for the work they do in China to promote orphan care, human rights, gender equality and family preservation.

All Girls Allowed

Love without Boundaries

Half the Sky

The makers and girls in the documentary Somewhere Between.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Russia’s recent decision to end international adoption to the US is pretty low. Especially for the 24 families who have already held their children but now will never be able to bring them home along with the countless others who have invested in a Russian adoption who will also have to live with an ended dream. Having a failed adoption is one of the least understood or recognized forms of grieving. I hope this story is not over and some accommodation can be made for the families in process.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Adoption, although I would like to say that we were dept free by the end of the summer. If you think adoption is not for you because of costs, I would like to respectfully disagree. It is possible, with some sacrifices, planning and lifestyle adjustments, if you want this, it is within your reach. Email me if you want ideas/details on how we achieved it.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

You know what, this is going to sound like an exaggeration, but literally every day this year there has been something to celebrate. Watching my family grow and bloom has been really, really exciting. The first kiss from Elora, and her first “luv you” are biggies as is last night when I was chatting away on the phone and absentmindedly rubbing Emery’s tummy when all of a sudden he said “You are the best mommy in the world”. Seriously these kids are my world, so amazing.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. Wasn’t this the 2012 waiting mama’s anthem?!? Can I get an amen sisters?!? I wonder if Christina Perri knows that her twilight love song for teeny bobbers moved a mountain of mothers in waiting.

I played it on repeat sitting in her empty nursery, I played it on repeat with my earphones on in China as baby girl grieved for hours on end, it plays every night now on her lullaby play list as she lies safe in her bed.

Watching you stand alone, all my doubt goes away somehow, one step closer, I have died every day waiting for you, darling don’t be afraid I have loved you for a thousand years, I’ll love you for a thousand more. Time stands still, beauty in all she is, I will be brave, I will not let anything take away what is standing in front of me, every breath, every hour has come to this, one step closer. All along I believed I would find you, and time has brought your heart to me.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder? Happier

ii. thinner or fatter? Maybe slightly slimmer?

iii. richer or poorer? Same

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Nothing really it was a pretty jam packed year, I guess I would have liked to be more active, work out, dance and such. Next year, that was just not realistic this year.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Potty training, I mean seriously how long does this take?? And I still have one more kid to start!?! I have never really hated a parenting duty, even the late night feedings, the teething all those doozies that people complain about did not faze me much, but this potty training thing has whooped my a$$, I HATE it. I did not foresee all the annoying parts of it, the grossness of it, ick. Hoping that by next year’s review it will be done for one and all.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

We milked the Christmas season, took in every sight, festival, tradition and joy possible. It was amazing, from start to finish. The kids are at such an amazing age, every little thing is magical to them. I have not had such an amazing holiday since I was a child, or maybe even ever.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?

I fell in love with my Elora.

23. How many one-night stands?

Zero, that was so 2001. See what I mean about the irrelevant questions :)

24. What was your favorite TV program?

Downton Abby. Really fun show, so witty and period clothing to boot!!

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

I hate that douche bag politician who coined the phrase “legitimate rape”. Really?? I did the world a favor and forgot who said it. I hope the rest of the world forgets him too and all he is ever remembered for is his complete and total ignorance and douche baggery.

26. What was the best book you read?

Not much time for reading this year but I did get about 2 books read and one of them was the new John Irving, he never disappoints and In One Person is a goodie. A really good story and interesting insight into gender and transgender characters.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I am rediscovering some of the music I liked in my teens, stuck on cassette tapes they did not follow me into the digital age, so have not been heard in a long while. Recently I downloaded some of the “oldies” and I am enjoying the memory lane trip that appears in shuffle every now and again.

28. What did you want and get?

Camera hobby and the photos of our life/precious memories this hobby brings me. A piece of jewelry that has all my family represented in birthstones.

29. What did you want and not get?

Just some work related stuff…

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN!!!! What you have not seen it yet? It is coming out on DVD this year, maybe even this month I think, see it!

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

33 years old. Gee I am old, I kinda think I am still just 30, I had to think about that number. I have heard of people who don’t count past a certain age, and I never meant to be one of them. I am vain but not that vain, now oops I sort of did stop counting. Well let’s just call that early dementia and not vanity? Any who… this birthday we went bike riding from one winery to another partaking is tastings at each one. Heavenly, simply heavenly. I must say there is no better way to drink, outside in all that natural beauty, a little bit of exercise that feels so floaty and easy because of the wine, and then MORE wine!!

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably satisfying?

This year was immeasurably satisfying. Full stop.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Dressed, mostly showered and on special occasions in matching out fits to the kids. Yes I am very Sound of Music that way. A highlight was the day Elora and I wore our matching gold skinny jeans, and then had a photo shoot to document the occasion of gold jeans.

34. What kept you sane?

Stacy!! Shout out girl!!! You are my hero, countless times this year. From the coffee rendezvous to the text book page scans emailed to me in China, resources, phone numbers, sob fests, play dates, cupcakes. Thank you girl!

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I am fancying Khaleesi from Game of Thrones, not to be confused with the actress who plays Khaleesi, just Khaleesi as is.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

US Election, by the way, thank you America.

37. Who did you miss?

Not so much who but more like a feeling… This year has been all about mothering, I am looking forward to returning to me the mother/pole dancer/fundraiser/advocate/wife/friend me. I miss her, she is fun. She was retired this year, but she is coming back soon.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

New bloggy friends, hi new readers! And FOI friends, Hi Alicia, Hi Tara!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:

Anything is possible. The power of the possible is the most inspiring thing I have ever learned.

Happy New Year!!!

3:29 PM

How far we have come

It has been a long while since I did an update post.  I guess things just got good and I started to look towards other adoption issues that interest me and have not really updated on Elora's progress.  I know quite a few readers are looking to see a snapshot of toddler adoption, so here is little report card, nine months out.

I feel that her attachment is very strong to every one in her family at this point.  She remembers all the aunts, uncles and grandparents as well as close family friends who we see often and they get different level of lovin' then a stranger but less than Mommy and Daddy.  Some strangers can still get a smile or giggle from her but she is having a much more normal interaction.  I don't see the mommy shopping happening at all any more.

Sibling Rivalry 
This one is our main issue right now although I think it would happen with any two toddlers in one house but I think Elora has an extra need for attention from us because of her anxiety from my return to work and just over all her love quota is just that much higher then an average child her age.

Motor Skills
Her gross and fine motor skills are now at or above age level.  This does mean that her daredevil attitude has lead her to climb and tumble off of things my other child never would have dreamed of doing.  I am counting my self lucky that she has yet to escape her crib and we have not had a trip to the ER yet.  She is feeding her self and eating properly now, drinking from a cup and can even use threading toys.  We continue vision therapy bi-weekly for good measure though.

Her language continues to amaze me.  She has gone from no words to a huge vocabulary and now is stringing together 3 and 4 word sentences.  She needs some coaching still to calm down and use her words and improve her pronunciation but over all she is making leaps and bounds, every day she gets about 2-3 new words.  She is at age level now in speech too.

I think at about 6 months home we had most issues well on their way to being resolved.  Mommy's life made a big turn once they had just one nap a day and both at the same time!!  Headbanging has gone all together.  We used sucking as a replacement comforter, first with a bottle of milk, then water and now finally a soother.  Yes, I could not be more excited that I have taught my two year old to use a soother.  At the age when most parents are trying to get rid of them we were working towards her accepting them.  It has made a world of difference for her and she can ask for her susu time and self sooth.  She only needs it for a few minutes and then tosses it aside, so I am thinking this will not be with us for too long either.
I have returned to work part time.  We tried our best to help Elora get accustomed to day care, it was really hard on her and she got very clingy for weeks after our attempt.  I am sure she could have got though it if we had persevered but luckily my mom offered to be the nanny and come to our house to watch them.  It has been a much more seamless transition for her.  We can work on being left with other people outside the family again in a few more months.

So there you are, this is our experience.  I always sum it up by saying she was fast and furious when she joined our family.  She really grieved and it was really hard, BUT because she was so determined to let us know just how mad she was, we got to address her feelings and move forward very quickly.  I am not saying she is over it by any means but she now has a really great set of tools and skills that allow her to communicate feelings in a positive way, ask for help, and learn to trust.  I am so surprised that we are here now.  I always knew that here would come some day, but here is now!  Fast and furious, and definitely unstoppable, that's my amazing girl!

9:21 AM

We have been enjoying the holiday season.  Nearly every day I sit back and revel at how happy I am.  Even in the day to day trenches of potty training, meal time frustrations, bath time regression, sibling rivalries, the WHY? stage, a stressful return to work, a job that I may no have for very much longer.... Somehow I leave every day just thinking about how lucky and happy I am.
I know this is because I am measuring this Christmas to last year.  Last year we were waiting, and I was just going through the motions of the holiday.  I can see it on my face in every holiday photo last year.  That smile up there was not around.  This year is the happiest holiday I have ever had.  Elora is just amazing me with her joy as she takes it all in.  Loves Santa, the tree, the parade, our tradition of driving around town to look at the lights (she saw them!! and loved them!).  This year I began to teach my oldest about the joy of giving and watched as he carefully thought out gifts for his family.  When Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas he proudly listed off the gifts he choose for his sister and Daddy. They proceeded to have a conversation about how fun it is to give.  The kids sing carols together, the sweetest duet I ever could have dreamed of.  We made cookies together, we snuggled and watched the nutcracker then the kids did an amazing interpretive dance version of their very own.  I pinch my self in these moments, did I fall into a Normal Rockwell painting?
The power of love.

2:26 PM

Match Day Anniversary

10:52 PM

Adoption Awareness Month - Gratitude

November is adoption awareness month.  The aim is to share the voices of adoption, all the voices, maybe and hopefully the voices that are less heard will be sought out by popular media for their chance to be heard.

I have always thought that our adoption story was one not often heard.  At the beginning that mattered a lot to me, now it hardly does at all.  I guess we are less of a statistic now and simply a family.  I found the community that I desperately needed for my self and my daughter, I am beginning to feel less like the rookie and more like the elder.  That is the first thing I am grateful for, but really just the tip of the iceberg.  The challenge was to write one thing per day that I am thankful for in regards to adoption.  I am going to put it all in one post just to save time, not because I don't have 30+ things to tell you I am thankful for.  I would love to shout out how thankful I am 1000 days in a row if I thought that it would come close to summing up how lucky I really am or if it could reach the ears of the ones who I so desperately need to tell.  I am sure that no matter how long it takes me to craft this post I will never feel like I am doing my feelings justice.  Let's try though :)

  1. Of course I am thankful for my daughter
  2. To China and her first family, I am still having a slew of emotions regarding her first family and country, but never think that gratitude is not at the forefront of them all.
  3. I am thankful to have learned the true meaning of resiliance and transformation, taught to me by the most incredible girl in the whole world.  I will keep these lessons learned with me in every way and every day.
  4. I am thankful for my friends and family that have welcomed her, loved her and opened them selves up to experience the true miracle she is and the gifts she gives to those who love her.
  5. I am thankful for her older brother, who has taken to the role with maturity, compassion and pride.
  6. Thankful for the way the world has opened up to me, I feel more a citizen of the planet and have enjoyed continuing to understand new language, culture, histories, traditions and heart aches.
  7. I am thankful for the adopted children from China that have come before my girl.
  8. I continue to be in awe of my husband who took our entire journey in stride and is the absolute best father that any one could ask for.  We all joke that he is a bit of a robot, all logic and not much emotion, yet he can read our daughter's emotions as easily as a calculus book :)  Trust me that is easy for him!
  9. I am thankful for a daughter who loves shoes and shopping and pretties yet can hold her own in a wrestling match.  A girl after my own heart.
  10. I am thankful for all the material things in my life.
  11. I am grateful and proud to live in Canada, land of free health care, specialist and aids for my daughter all free
  12. I am grateful for the adoption tax credit even though it is tiny compared to the US one
  13. and the other tax credits offered to a parent of a child with a disability
  14. I am grateful to our Mandarin tutor who will help me fulfill a grandparents dream of restoring an ancestral language to the family 3 generations after it was lost.
  15. I am thankful for our adoption agency, the match makers :)
  16. Selfishly I am thankful for all the choices, twists and turns though most of them caused every one involved considerable pain, because they brought us together.
  17. I am thankful for every single kiss and hug from Elora, they were hard won, and I do not take them for granted, I revel in them.
  18. The sweet is never as sweet with out the sour, so I am also thankful for the sour.
  19. I am thankful to be in a place now to embrace the sour with serenity.
  20. I am thankful for that glorious head of white hair that I stroke endlessly, I still can hardly believe it is finally under my hand.
  21. I am thankful for a full heart
  22. For two siblings who love each other and the joy and mischief they bring out in one another
  23. I am thankful to my mother who has swooped in at the last minute to be a nanny for the kids, a safe place for Elora to avoid increased anxiety.  I am so lucky to have this option, to be able to return to work with a peace of mind.
  24. My new camera and photography hobby that has let me document Elora in all her glory and lead me to some new friends and opportunities.
  25. I am thankful for adoption reform, to all the people in all the counties who are fighting for openness, transparency and ethics.
  26. Google translate
  27. All the simple things that most take for granted, like a baby photo of my daughter
  28. The many great nonprofits and organizations that are bringing reform and resources to the orphanages in China.  Many thanks to them, I got a child who was a kind of healthy that was unheard of even five years ago.
  29. To Elora's nannies and orphanage who saw her potential chose to invest in her
  30. The faces of the children left behind, I am thankful because you will never leave me and you make me do my best, try my hardest and simply never forget.

6:47 PM

Happy Halloween

I worried that Elora would not take to Halloween.  Too much noise and newness.  Too much clothes, hates hats. 
Well was I ever wrong.  As soon as she discovered there was food involved she was in it to win!  We would aporach a door and she would yell "NAK!" (snack) "Thank you, HAPPY!" (short for happy halloween).
I was thrilled that took to my favourite holiday.  Here we are as Under the Sea.

11:07 PM

Somewhere Between

I am sure you have all been hearing the buzz about the movie Somewhere Between. I was so happy to see it was just aired on our PBS station and even better it was released on their website in full so I can watch it over and over.  It is so living up to the hype.  I loved it, I sobbed through it, I was so proud of it, I am so happy it exists and it says things that need to be said.  Thing our own community can't even talk about openly.  I would give it 10 Oscars just for the brave girls who share their stories.  It gave me hope for a brighter future for my daughter because of the girls who are travelling this road ahead of her.  I am comforted to know she will have them all when the time comes, their strength is astounding.  I am calling it now, these girls will play a part in bringing down a government, they will make change.

 Enough of my blabbering here is the link:


5:50 PM

A daughter's cry heard around the world

They told me that the pain of waiting would disappear when Elora came home.  Although the pain has disappeared the memory of the wait is still very vivid.  It stayed with me and it changed me, or maybe it was the whole process of adoption, what I have seen and learned and the people I have met that changed me.  It is hard to nail it down exactly the only thing I know is that I was meant for this and I was not complete until the moment that she was in my arms.

I have known my baby daughter would be from China from about the age of 11.  Many things changed in my life, my career dreams, my life partners, my self identity, my priorities.  All along the only constant I ever had was a dream about a daughter named Elora.  She was my first child.  The dream of her was so long it simply became a part of me, I was an adoptive mother to be.  Then I became a biological mother, but I was still a mom in waiting.

As it turns out the month she was conceived in her birth mother's womb was the same time she became very real to us as well, it was when we started our adoption journey.  When she was born we started our home study to send to China, our dream was also born, taking form, leading us to her.  When she entered the orphanage I began to wake in the night because I though I could hear her crying.  These wakings continued and intensified until the day she was placed in my arms.  When she cried her very unique yowl I recognized it immediately from my countless sleepless nights.

Her absence was felt by me so strongly.  There was just a hole in me where she was supposed to be.  Nothing could fill that space not even the cutest most lovable little son in the world.  There were times I thought I might be crazy.  I could not understand why I was not like other moms.  I loved him but he just was not her, and I needed her.  I worried that I would never be able to fill the hole, that countless children would still leave me wanting, that I would wait forever for the next only to discover that it was not enough either.  I worried this hole was a sign that I was damaged permanently and I was just confusing it with a need for my daughter.

I feared I would never get to her.  I feared she would be ill or die, that China would reject us, that something in our life would change and prevent us from completing the adoption, that the program would close or that we would never get a match and we would be in the waiting limbo for years.  I lived in constant fear especially after I saw her face for the first time.

Then she was in my arms.  There was instant feeling of relief, it was like I let out a breath I had been holding for years.  Then she cried and I recognized her, my daughter.  Just like that, the hole filled, gone with out a trace, only a memory.  I am an atheist, a skeptic and a realist.  I don't believe in fate and destiny and I certainly don't believe that my child was meant to have so much loss in her life just so that she could be mine.  Adoption has challenged every thing I believe about the universe.  As much as I am a skeptic I can tell you though with out a doubt that I found the only daughter for me, the only one who could fill that hole.  I feel incredibly, astronomically lucky.  Of all the children in all the world I found her, and that alone is enough to change your core.  She has rocked my world.  She has brought me an inner peace I have never before known.  This is the absolute best thing I have ever done.  I am incredibly proud of my self and my determination and confidence along the very long journey.  I would never have reached my full potential as a human with out her.

9:12 AM

Life book - for toddlers

It was pretty clear to me from the start that Elora is very emotionally in tune.  She has found a way to express to us her feelings even when there was a language barrier.  She was fully aware of the permanence involved when Nanny brought her to us.  She had seen her other friends leave her room never to come back and when her turn came she knew full well that her big day had arrived.  In many ways she was very prepared for that big change, not happy about it, but prepared. 

I mentioned one of the big things that helped her to form her attachment to me was to watch the video of the first time we met.  Nanny is speaking in the back ground telling her we are her mama and baba forever now and that she has to go.  Hearing Nanny confirm that we are hers is comforting to her, so we watched it over and over and over.  On bad days we would sit for hours or more replaying the six minute clip.  She misses Nanny and wanted to hear her but I think she also needed to hear the story of what was happening to her from some one she trusted.  This was the first clue that I had better hurry up and get that life book made.

Back at the beginning when things were hard I would rock Elora for hours stroking her hair trying to comfort her and I would sing Baby Mine.  It is a lullaby I sang every night to my son, sometimes during the wait I would sing it to him in the dark with tears streaming down my face longing to sing it to the daughter who was still not home.  This is our song, the one that will forever belong to my children and I. 
Baby mine dry your eyes, baby mine don't you cry.  
All those same people who scold you, what they'd give just for the right to hold you.  
If they knew all about you, they'd end up loving you too.
I sang her this song until I lost my voice.  She would howl and scream and I would just sing, to keep my sanity, to keep my breath coming and even.  After those hard months had past, I stopped singing that song.  Honestly I needed a new theme song.  It was more bitter than sweet to me at that moment.  So it took me very much  by surprise when Elora began "singing" the song to me.  It had been months since she heard the song, she did not have any words yet but the tune was near perfect.  We figured out when she would sing to me it was her cue that she needed some mommy time so again we would sit and rock and sing.  Sometimes these moments would lead to a little grieving.  I was amazed that she was able to seek out these moments from me so that she could find a safe place to let out some emotions.  Second big clue that we needed to get that book done.

I struggled with that darn book.  At this stage it is what they call the three photo story.  It's not even the real and truly life book.  But I struggled and I am not too sure why.  It just seemed so hard to put into words, hard to get the exact words and really hard that I didn't know all the facts my self.  In the end I just used the exact words from the book Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child.  It is simple but effective.  She brings me her book to read to her several times a day.  It is her treasure.  The only thing in our whole house that she refuses to share with her brother, rightly so, although he is very interested as well.  It is really helping.  It is helping her to feel grounded and safe.  It is easing the night terrors.  It is helping her to understand what happened to her.

Last night the most beautiful thing happened.  She lay in my lap stroked my hair and she sang to me "be mine, mama, dada"  Yes, little miss, always.  We belong together.

9:41 AM

Proceeding ahead with caution

This has been weighing heavily on me since the photo stealing incident, but I have decided to keep blogging.  I am proceeding with my eyes wide open.  The main reason I have chosen to continue is because I need the community still.  I need a venue to express and connect because we have one more big adoption hurdle to cross.  A birth parent search.  I have been working on searching for months already, but we have come up empty handed so there was not much to talk about here.  Just the act in of it's self though is INCREDIBLY emotional.  I want to connect with others through this part of the journey.
Some other things I took into consideration is the awareness and positive that come from having Elora's photo shared so much (it's been shared over 20,000 times and counting at this point).  As scary as that is to have her photo out of my control, I am monitoring it and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  I know this is not been the case for other Bai parents who had their images stolen, and that is something that is my biggest fear about continuing forward.  Another point that I am taking into consideration is if a photo of my son was shared and talked about this many times, I would be nothing but proud (we are considering letting him be a model/actor).  This was food for thought was I laying my own "baggage" about how people stare at her on to the situation?  I am hoping that if I model my reaction to this event Elora will see that embracing her gawkers and choosing to see the positive of the situation is the way to rise above and be the bigger person.  She will always be stunning and she will always turn heads.  I understand that she never signed up to be a poster child for albinism awareness, but the way I see it this will just always exist so I better find a way to help her rise up and overcome it with confidence.  With that being said this blog will disappear when she enters school, to protect her privacy from her peers.

Although it is absolutely impossible to prevent your photos from being re-posted I have taken some steps to make it a bit harder.  Here is a tutorial on how to prevent your photos from being downloadable:
Thanks for that Gem!

And here is a tutuorial for how to monitor where your photos are being used on the web. 
http://www.kevinandamanda.com/whatsnew/tutorials/how-to-see-if-your-photos-are-being-used-on-another-site.htmlThis was facinating, apperently you can do a google search by image and it will find your image on other peoples pages. I tried it, it works!

I will not be sharing as much about my photography hobby.  I was told that the better your photos the more likely you are to have it stolen and shared.  So buddies new and old if you want to see more of us and want to take our friendship to the next level :) send me an email at angelika22@hotmail.com and we can be facebook friends.

2:02 PM

Happy Birthday Baby

It is Elora's second birthday.  I am awash with emotion.

More about my emotional rollercoaster, but first I want to tell you about her birthday party.

You may be one of those parents who read the adoption books and got to the part about the loss that an infant experiences and how it can imprint them for the rest of their lives.  You might have rolled your eyes, because they are just babies.  Babies can not have complex emotions like fear, loss or anxiety and if they did it would promptly be forgotten.  This was my initial reaction.  Do you remember the part in the book where they said that a child's birthday and adoption days could trigger in them profound feelings of loss and anziety because these days were full of triggers, smells, events, activities, sights, sounds that reminded them on a conscious or unconscious level of a previous trauma?  Well apparently Elora read the text book because this is what played out starting the eve of her birthday party and the day of her party to. the. letter.

About two days before the party we started talking about it a lot, she had been to other children's parties so she had some idea what to expect.  We practised singing happy birthday and blowing for the candle.  We talked about the friends who would come and the fun presents she would receive and the cake she would eat.  She seemed excited and really liked the song in particular.  Then the night before the party she woke with her first ever night terror.  Even when we went in to sooth her she still cried in our arms, I took her to bed with us.  It was so nice to have her warm sleepy little body snuggled so close, something I don't get much of from her any more, she is always on the go.  This night terror was a blessing in disguise since I was feeling so sad about how fast she was growing up.  The next morning she was still off, then when daddy left the house to get the party ready she melted down.  She grieved and cried for 3 hours.

People some times ask me how do you know she is grieving and not just crying.  Before Elora I wondered that too, how will I know?  Although some situations are more questionable in regards to the source of the problem, when she cries this way there is no mistaking it.  I knew it instantly the first time I heard it.  It sounds a lot like the adult version of grief, that cry that comes right from the gut and sounds like the person is dying right along with their broken heart.  If you try to distract them from the grief you will be met with disgust and anger, imagine trying to placate a new widow with a rattle and you will get the idea.  This cry turned me into a believer, the text book was 100% right and I was super glad we had read it even though at the time I might have thought it was over the top.

So it was her party and she would grieve if she wanted to.  I wondered what the trigger could be?  Was she wishing that nanny could be with her with the rest of her friends and family who had joined to love on her?  We tried all the things we do when she is missing nanny, we looked at pictures, we watched the adoption day video we looked at her orphanage room.  It did not help.  Then we talked about the big change that happened, this is how we talk about her adoption at this age (also straight from the text book).  Bingo.  She was scared that this birthday/party was going to trigger another big change and she would be taken from us too. I still don't know what the trigger was.  Maybe the last time all her loved ones and friends gathered was the day before she was given to us.  Did she have a good bye party that had cake and presents?  I know she was given a gift and a new outfit the day she left the orphanage, likely this was the one and only time she ever got either of those luxuries, so perhaps it was the idea of presents that scared her. Was she thinking of the day that she turned one and left the infant room and every thing she had just come to understand to move to the toddler room with every thing new?  All I do know is that she is much more emotionally complex then I ever would have given a 2 year old credit for.  She has real emotional memories from her life experiences.  The most amazing part to me is how she is able among all this sadness to be able to open her self up and love.  To love nanny, and us and her extended family and friends.  She loves big, and she lets you know that you are among her loved ones.  Being loved by her is nothing short of magical.  She is truly a privilege to know.

Now for the sappy stuff.

P.S. I so wish I could share with you a darling photo of her all dressed up for her party, she was cute as can be.  I am still trying to work through a plan to keep blogging and keep her privacy, so until then, no photos.  I am as bummed about this as you are :(

11:40 AM

Is it awareness or just plain creepy?

Yesterday another albinism mom notified me that a photo of my daughter had been taken from this blog and posted on a photo sharing site.  It has since been re blogged over 4000 times.  This was mind boggling to me.  To this date my daughter's face is appearing on 4000 websites and growing every day.  In the small blessings category all of the comments have been about how stunning and cute she is.  I still am feeling violated.

I know she is amazing to look at and adorable and memorable, but the fact that photos of my son who is just as cute are still only on this one site make me feel uncomfortable.  This is not about being a cute baby, it's that she is a "sight" and "oddity" an extremely cute one, yet still something people feel the need to single out because of her difference.  There were also a lot of comments about how they had "never seen such a thing", "did not know this existed".  Part of me was thinking how amazing it is that all these people now know a tiny bit more about the face of albinism.  A bigger part of me wanted to take my baby, hide in a closet and delete this blog.  I feel like I have really opened her up to a global level of scrutiny that I did not anticipate.  I thought we would only be found by people who were thinking about special needs adoption and who would be happy and thankful to learn about my girl, people who would be respectful and a part of our community.  I am so naive.  I just did not think my little blog of 18 followers could fall into the wrong hands.  But it has.

So here is the issue, according to google analytics about 21 blog hits have come from people who want to know more about albinism adoption.  That is a pretty small portion of the total hits.  In the past I thought that it was a great number.  What if just 10 of those folks decided they could manage this special need because of our story?  That would be fantastic!  Now though I wonder is are those little amount of people finding us worth violating my daughter's privacy?

In China every where we went Elora was oogled at.  I am not sure I really talked about it in detail at the time.  It was really hard.  It's a cultural difference, but they were invading her personal space, wanting to touch her hair, pointing and poking, taking her hat off.  Most of the time she was in the carrier and we were able to keep the on lookers at bay, but once when she was ridding in the stroller at the zoo, she got swarmed by a huge crowd all taking her photo at the same time.  People took her photo every single step we took, sometimes they would ask some times they would be sneaky about it.  I am pretty sure those photos are circulating the web too.  Once we were home our small town folk mostly just think she is Caucasian and though her hair gets many compliments it seems more normal to me.  Emery was a flirt of a baby and also was stopped daily for being so cute.  I had come to feel like that feeling of being stalked and being a spectacle was behind us.  Turns out western culture has the same base interest as the Asian.  The difference being that in public westerners will feel it is impolite to stare or draw attention.  All of that politeness melts away in the anonymity of the internet.

Lesson learned.  I feel like I have new empathy for Suri Cruise.  This really feels crappy to not be able to control who sees your child and even worse what they want to say about her.  The result is that this blog may be coming to an end.  I am going to take some time to think about it.  To think of the ethics and weigh the benefits and risks.  The one thing that keeps weighing on me is that finding an albinism blog was a MAJOR factor that helped us as a family choose this need.  With out these other bloggers in my community I can say for certain that Elora would not be in our life.  That is a heavy thought, and I feel the need to pay it forward very strongly.

4:20 PM

Sunday Snapshot - Puppy Love

Elora and our dog Sissy. 
Sissy was my baby girl, the one I dressed up, who's hair I brushed and accessorized, she even has Mary Jane shoes.  Yes I was THAT dog person.
Then came Elora and Sissy lost her spot as the cutest girl in the house.  I know she feels displaced. She is only 2.4 pounds so a house of toddlers is not her favourite place to be any more either.  She may look like a puppy but she is really a senior citizen with a ripe old age of 11, her birthday is this week.  Despite all of this she and Elora have developed a sweet relationship.  Elora gives her gold fish, Sissy gives her kisses.  Sissy was one of Elora's first words.  She calls "Zizzy Ca He!" (Sissy come here!) and slaps her leg and makes the kissy sound.  Sissy opens one sleepy senior eye and rolls over to show her tiny pink belly, and they compromise, Elora pets the belly instead.
So you will understand why we just could not resist when we saw this outfit with a Sissy dog on it who was wearing Elora's favourite sunglasses.  We just HAD to have it.  Then we HAD to have a photo shoot to document this special friendship.

Ni Hao Yall

9:27 PM

Siblings - Sunday Snapshot

This is my favourite photos possibly of all time.  Not because it shows my growth as a photographer but because it documents the growth in the love of two siblings.  My baby dolls.  An older brother who used to be just tolerant has come to enjoy his little sister's company and she is just completely radiant when he chooses to shine his attention on to her.  See how she holds him to her self when he is hugging her, she wants to make him stay there. 
It's beautiful to watch.  The best part of my day every day is when they play together instead of separately.  Double the fun, and a million giggles a minute.  I find it laughable when I get asked daily if they are twins.  I mean really... but it is kind of fun to dress them up the same.  Since Elora's big growth spurt this summer they are wearing the same size currently.  This photo does really play on their similarities (and so can I).  She copies every thing he does, I made him laugh big for this photo, she did not get the joke, but she could not be left out so we got a copycat smile :)  Photographing them together is less like herding kittens now and more like just herding cats on the difficulty scale.  We did go out this month and try out some new camera skills on things that don't move, i.e. plants.  It was a lot of fun, I got some cute ones of the kids and Emery had fun using his little camera too.  We will definitely do some more of this real soon, I think I am going to post some of his lens vs my lens shots.  Stay tuned :)

Ni Hao Yall

3:44 PM

Toddler and baby albinism tips and tricks

We are nearly at the 6 month home mark and I have to say I am already starting to feel like an albinism expert ;).  At the start although I knew the facts I was having a lot of trouble doing simple things like keeping sunglasses on an uncooperative toddler and how much sunscreen we really needed.  In the end it was not that hard to accomidate at all it was mostly just adjustment for her and new mom worries on my part.  I am happy to share with you some things I have learned to make life easy:

Homemade sunglass straps:
There are a few brands of sunglasses out there that have a special band instead of the firm arms.  I was not a fan of these.  They are expensive, not too cute, and just did not give our girl enough coverage.  Her cheeks are bigger then her nose and her ears are bent down and floppy so regular sunglasses would not stay on either.  Even when she stopped grabbing at them they still came off when she was playing.  So I fiddled around and came up with my own invention.  Best of all it only costs a few pennies and I was able to add it to any sunglasses.  We are fashionistas after all.

Materials needed:

  • any pair of children's sunglasses, we love heart shaped and big round ones for maximum coverage
  • 1 pack of tiny clear hair elastics
  • embroidery thread (optional) 
First step take one hair elastic and thread it through it's self around one arm of the glasses where the arm hinge is.  Repeat on the other side.  Continue making a looped chain of elastics to the desired length.  Tie the two ends together at the back.  It should look like this:
You can choose to stop at this point but you may find that the elastics pull at the baby's hair or messes up a hair do.  If this is the case for you you can use embroidery thread to and wrap the elastic using a friendship bracelet technique.  This makes it cute and still allows it to be stretchy.  You can find a tutorial on making the knots here:  http://www.how-to-make-jewelry.com/friendship-necklace.html
This is the after shot.  Sometimes depending on the size and fit of the glasses we put the strap either above her ear or below.

Sun Shades
Even with sunglasses on Elora still finds the sun bothersome especially in the car and stroller since she is strapped down and can not avoid it.  We invested in this great double jogging stroller with two completely adjustable shades and it has the wheels to handle our off road life style.  It can be really hard to find a double stroller that has separate and versatile shades, they can make a full half circle unlike some who are attached to the seat backs.  Very rare to find this at such a low price point.  We love this stroller.
I don't know why every single infant seat comes with a built in shade but the toddler seats do not.  I found this one to fit our toddler car seat and it works pretty well.  There is still an area at the front where the sun comes from the windshield her but it is flexible enough that she will just pull it down over her eyes if it is really bugging her.  I was not a fan of the pull down shades that stick to your window because they blocked my blind spot and never seemed to give enough coverage.  The one thing about this shade is that the price point is pretty high in my opinion, so for our second car we re-purposed the sun shade from our old single stroller and that works just fine.  This one is very adjustable and does not impact the drivers visability.

We have found over all that Elora's photophobia is a larger issue for us than worries about getting a burn.  Every child is diffrent and our climate lends it's self well to kids with albinism, we find that we rarely need to go extreme with the suncreen.  We use a lot of work arounds like time of day, hats (with elastic bands sewn on) and UV clothing to keep the need for sunscreen at a minimum.  She really hated it at the begining, although it is better now we just got in the habit of using these other solutions.  When we do need to be out in the sun between 11-3 this summer we have used a spray sun screen that is "powder finish" waterproof with a 60 UPF, I have tried a few major brands and even a no name version and found they all do a good job.  The spray is nice and quick and the powder finish feel does not leave that feeling of cream that Elora really hated, especially if it mixed with sand it just drove her nuts.  Now that it is the end of summer I have bought a few UV suits on sale for next summer because they are also pretty pricey.  I even got to fuffill my dream of seeing her in a tinny tiny bikini when we go swiming or to the splash pad in the evenings.  I am really loving the beach at that time it's so pretty, we have the place to our selves and I am also enjoying having less heat.  It's been a real scorcher this summer it was great to do more of our things in the long bright cool evenings.
At the beach in the UV suit

Late night splash pad

Sun set bathing

Early morning play

4:25 PM

Meal Time Victories

We have been having feeding issues that span the spectrum.  My eldest would eat nothing and my youngest every thing.  They are each extreme examples of nothing and everything.  One I worried would starve to death the other choke to death.  The good news is that for the first time we have two good eaters.  This has been a long time comming for Emery he who would not breast feed, or eat more then a teaspoon and became picky to boot.  He now asks of his own accord to eat veggies at every meal.  Not to be out done Elora has learned to bite, chew and swallow food!! 
Elora was a pretty simple solution, I gave her utensils.  She was slow and sloppy with them but determined to be "grown up" so she stuck with them even though they slowed her down.  The slow down helped her be more mindful of each bite and voila! perfect eater!

Emery's eating issues have been ingrained in him from the start so we have been working on this for about 3 years now.  Maybe the magical number 3 did the trick, or maybe our newest plot got the better of him.  I can tell you that unsolicited advice, family magazine articles about fussy eaters, food that looks fun, food that he grows, food that he picks at the store him self, sending him to bed hungry, letting him graze, yelling, praising, stuffing and begging were not successful for us.  I had a stint of veggie hiding that was keeping me sane and letting me sleep at night. I worried though that his poor eating habits were going to wear off on his sister who was currently a veggie lover and chomper.  So we tried a new tactic and we revisited some old ones and then we mixed them all together and got success!  

Step one was finding a suitable bribe.  In the past Emery did not have an thing that he valued enough to motivate him to do as we asked.  This is the kid who would turn down most candy and cake, we had to fake strategically place the icing on his first birthday cake to get the charming messy face photos.  Recently he got a real appreciation for chocolate ice cream, and I took that opportunity to manipulate him!  We instituted the right to earn ice cream.  At each meal he is asked if he would like to earn some ice cream, he can decline and sometimes does, yet always changes his mind when his sister gets to have her earnings.  The volume of ice cream is equal to the volume of veggies you eat ,I set a minimum amount too, no mousy nibbles as we say, and you must eat the entire meal that is in front of you too.  It's working like a charm.  Another part that helped was serving him crunchy veggies, and we make a contest to see who can crunch the loudest.  Up until now I didn't think he could handle a raw carrot, but the change in texture seems to be major for him.  He also can choose one of three veggies that we now keep on hand.  We also watched at nauseam the Ni Hao Kai Lan episode, Kai Lan goes to China, in preparation for us going to China but the real moral of the story is "try it you might like it".  This lesson hit home with him and we can get him to try any thing now by simply reminding him of this lesson from his toddler hero.  By the way if you are not a Kai Lan fan already go itunes her up NOW!  She got my kid to share, stop hitting, use your words and try veggies, she deserves an Oscar, and is slightly less annoying then Dora.

Dinner time is no longer a battle and I can not tell you what a joy that is.  It seems like it happened just like that, the flick of a switch.  I am not saying this will work for you.  See above regarding unhelpful unsolicited advice and articles about making kids eat.  I only want to be a beacon of hope if you are out there in the mama universe begging your child to eat and dreading meal times and looking on with envy at that child who opens it's mouth when a spoon comes near it.  We were there, and now we are here, and I hope some day soon you and your toddler will also turn this corner and join us on the other side.

10:40 PM

I'll answer the question you didn't want to ask

I love them exactly the same.

Emery - 3 months home

The first I grew, the second I did not, but my love for my kids is identical.  In my first I see my husband looking back at me, with my second she is a bit of a mystery, but one thing is the same, the love.  One has been with me from the first spark.  We mourn that we missed the first 18 months for our other. 

Elora - 3 months home
I am not a love at first sight kinda mom.  I did not have that movie moment in the delivery room where the mom wells with tears as she is swept with all encompassing love. I didn't get it when I first saw Elora's photo. I did not get the youtube moment in all the adoption videos where the mom is awash with emotion. I guess it can happen, but not for me. It did come, that sweeping love.  For what ever reason it just does not happen for me instantly.  It took about the same amount of time for me with both kids.  Some time between the first and third month, it can sneak up on you, so I can't pin point an exact moment or tipping point.  I didn't love one faster than the other.  In every way I love them the same.

I parent them very differently. Mainly because they could not be more different.  One is quiet, sensitive, thoughtful, delicate and dainty.  The other one is Elora, a fearless tornado.  The only thing they have in common is that they are both very happy children with easy smiles.  I never really had to set boundaries with Emery.  You simply told him the rules and he followed.  He was heart broken if he made a mistake and scolding him would send him into sobs of sorrow.  To say he is an easy kid is an understatement.  He practically raises himself.  His love of rules and structure also lend him to be an amazing big brother to a baby tornado.  He is the worlds best tattle tale and I have come to rely on him as my secret weapon, almost as good as actually having eyes in the back of my head.
I do sit back and ponder how these diffrences will be interpreted by them in future.  Will Elora be convinced I love her less because I raise my voice with her more?  Will Emery be convinced that he was the one less loved because I spent all my energy on taming his sister?

Right now I think all is well and both kids feel loved and special.  Right now I am home with them 24 hours a day every day.  What does the future hold when I have to toss work into the mix?  When the terrible twos hit or as some say the worst is really three, in which case I still have to get each of them through that stage. 

One day, Emery and Elora, if you are reading this, please know, there is no difference in my love for you.  You have both taught me so much about love and I would have only been half of the person I am today if it were not for the both of you.  I love you each in the way you need me.  It may appear different but it my heart it was always the same.

1:25 PM

Elora at 22 months (4 months home)

I just wanted to document where we are now.  Elora is like a childhood on fast forward.  She is different every day.  I remember saying that with Emery too, but if that was fast forward this is turbo speed.  In this short time with us she has become so incredibly mobile and independent.  Gone are the days of wanting and needing to be carried.  She wants to give me grey hair by WALKING up and down the stairs with out help.  Turns out she was refusing food from me because she wants to only feed her self.  Regretfully she can not be trusted to do that safely either but we are practising and it is getting much better.  She wants a plate and utensils and every thing grown up.  She is not a cling on appendage any more either.  As long as I can answer her "Mama?" she is content to be on a different floor than me, or she will just take her self up the stairs to find me.  Her language is getting better every day and now grandma and daddy can understand her too, most of the time.  She now has some words that are more than just one syllable.  She wants to have a conversation with you so any question you ask she will reply "ya!".  It is the cutest thing ever.  I need to get it on film before "no!" arrives.  She has started singing and will do a little rocking dance while she sings, Baby Mine is her favourite song to sing and usually wants mama to sing along.  She used to look at a toy with confusion or simply bang at it.  Now she will ride her truck and caterpillar, play dolly and kitchen games.  She used to destroy a book in record time, delighting in ripping them to shreds, even a board book was no match for her.  Now a dozen times a day she brings me a book to read to her.  She has grown 3 clothing sizes in four months and 3 shoe sizes too.  (Oh poor us, more shoe shopping to do!)  Her hair has grown about 2 inches too.  Hair washing is the last thing about the water she still hates. Baths, rain puddles, splash pads, swimming and water tables are all happy places now.  The grieving cry, the yowling, heart breaking cry has been replaced with a frustrated toddler cry.  She used to delight in understanding me and showing me she could do exactly as I asked, just to get my praise.  The novelty of that has worn off and now she giggles and runs the other direction, just because she can.  Why, yes, that is still driving me nuts.

Yep, turbo speed.  It makes me proud and amazed but also sad to see how fast it all disappears.  She is loosing any baby things that remain each day.  I lift up a footie sleeper she wore just last month and sigh "remember when she was this small".  It's not fair, I already missed so much of her babyhood and now the last scraps of it are flying out the window every day.  She is unstoppable.  If I could only use one word to describe her, yep it would be, unstoppable.

9:34 AM

Having fun with my camera - Sunday snapshot

I had a really hard time choosing a photo this week.  We have had a busy month and my camera got out of the bag more than usual.  This first photo won the treasured spot for me not because it was technical or perfect but just because I love it.  I love the subject, my 3 year old on his birthday.

I also took this one at his dino party.  It got a lot of "likehttp://nihaoyall.com/2012/07/sunday-snapshot-the-little-white-church.htmls" from my friends, and I love it too.  It was more technical, better focus.  But I love what I love and I can't really be objective even when one is a better photo because my mama's heart sees something no one else does I guess.
This one also got a lot of attention from friends and I love it too, but since I was not the photographer, just the editor, I didn't feel I could enter this one in a contest.
This is another favourite of mine, but it got no attention from any one else.  The colour, the angles, the fact that I got out of the auto mode for this shot.  All these reasons endear this photo to me.
 Interesting what appeals to us as photographers versus viewers.  I think that must be the most difficult part of making a job out of something so creative and personal.  I definitely am learning to have greater appreciation for people who do this craft well.  Happy shooting!

Ni Hao Yall

P.S. I am still debating if I posted the "wrong" photo for the contest.  Tell me what you would have chose and why in the comments.

5:13 PM

It can feel lonley

There have been a few unexpected things that have come up since we became adoptive parents and not simply parents.  I was so sure that it would not be that different.  In a lot of ways it's not, or it's different because they are day and night.  It still kinda took me by surprise to find out that parenting Elora can have lonely moments.  Despite the fact that I really enjoy being a stay at home mom, I really enjoy her and I have an awesome network and support system.  I only really notice it when I am hanging out with only other adoptive moms.  Then the absence of being different makes me realize that the feeling of being different is there, a lot.
In many ways Elora "matches" our family, so we don't get as much attention from strangers as the typical multi-racial family.  Caucasians especially just assume she is just another blondie I birthed, we even get asked often if they are twins (!!!!).  When I tell them they are 14 months apart I guess they just assume we were gettin' busy a lot when we Em was 3 months old.  Actually we were attending our first adoption meetings, but I digress.  Asian people are the only ones who have guessed and asked me "why does she look so Chinese?"  So on the day to day we don't feel different because we look like a different family.  It is the other little things about how the world sees my baby in comparison to how I see her.

The world sees a neerly two year old who is still wobbly on her feet who only has words her mama can understand.  They think she is slow, they give her looks of pity.

I see an amazing,  smart, determined achiever. If only they knew how fast she has come from "autistic behaviours" to "with in age appropriate".  She is going to whoop life in the butt, I never worry about her in this department.

The world sees a baby who climbs into a stranger's lap with a big hug and they think she is so sweet and out going.

I see my child "mommy shopping", and worry about what I should have done, can do, to foster a better attachment to me.  I am not proud, I am ashamed and worried I have failed her.

The world sees my daughter holding your child's face to hers, pressing her forehead against his.  You worry about your child's safety.

I see a visually impaired child taking a good look at her new friend.

You see a child throughing a temper tantrum in public.

I see my daughter has "lost" me even though I am only 3 feet away because it is loud and she can't see me or hear me.  Or the light that you have not even noticed is blinding her.

You see a mother yelling at the top of her lungs at her child.  You think, how rude/mean.

I am a mother who can't use the mommy-means-business-look or any other non verbal cue because she can't see me.  I have no choice but to use my voice and I hate it just as much as you do.  It works, but it is not how I would choose to discipline my child.

So you can feel lonely.  Others are worried about things that you are proud about and your worries are pooh poohed.  I am so blessed to have a great adoption community both on line and in my life. I want to kiss the person who first heard me complaining about this feeling, they gave me the very wise advice to get out there and get my self a community.  She knew what I didn't, so now I am telling you, if this is the path you are taking get your self a community!  You may not even realize how alone you feel until you are walking the path with some one else who just gets it.

5:39 PM

We have been busy regressing...

Did you miss me??  Haha.  Well I have been keeping up with all of you but we have been on the down low a bit because little Miss E had a 2 week long regression.  I didn't know what to say about it.  She would not sleep, she was banging, She was battling me, she had moments of spitting out every thing I gave her, that was oddest of all.  I was screaming, she was testing, her language regressed, I was pulling my hair out.  I still do not know what that was all about but it tested us both.  It was incredibly frustrating to see my happy well adjusted, obedient, smart, daughter turn into this hot mess.  Honestly, I only had about one ounce of sympathy for her, because I KNEW full well she was capable of so much better.  I knew all along that no patience was not ideal but I had trouble summoning any thing but a consistent firm lead back to the normal we were all missing.  I waffled and I wondered, grief or terrible twos?
On the other side now I can say that I think it was a big ol' case of the terrible twos.  She was trying to assert her independence.  Unlike with my son though there was always a big question mark hanging over each temper tantrum.  Parenting her is different that way (more on that to come soon).  I parent firmly, I don't budge on rules much, good behaviour and manners are first and foremost lessons that we focus on.  There were times when I thought about giving an inch last week but I just know this girl's personality would have resulted in her taking a mile.  I did try to balance out our hourly disagreements with cuddles, kisses, and nursing her, and she resisted.  Regardless the week took a toll on us both and she disengaged from me and would not reciprocate the affection.
Slowly over a few days as her behaviour improved I found ways to praise her in an over the top way and now after 3 days of solid gold behaviour she is finally loving on me again.  BIG SIGH of RELIEF.  This is tricky.  Learning each other plus the language barrier between us it can all add up to some stormy seas.  I know bad times are part of every experience, but I want to learn how to bring us through them faster and with a little more grace.  She and I are both very stubborn, we will have a delicate dance as warring alpha females for the rest of our days :)  Elora is in good company though she comes from a long line of alpha women, you would think that would make me understand her better, but unfortunately when I the stubborn alpha gets challenged I just digs in my heals.  It's only in the aftermath that I can see baby girl was only being just like me.  My oh my.  She is a blessing.  Her father had the ability to make me grow into a better person, and now she will mould me too.  That is one thing I never knew about parenting, how much your children would improve you.

11:47 AM

How are things going?

Well since a bunch of you have asked here is the answer: pretty darn great.
Here's the details:

Sibling Rivalry
Month one was no play together, and Elora hitting her brother.  Month two was some play together and Emery hitting or being rough with his sister.  Month three is a lot of play together and a lot of competition for resources (affection and food).  Elora is determined to have every thing her brother has, just because he has it.  If that means sitting on the book at story time to get a more prime spot on daddy's knee so be it.  If that means choking on your cookie because you gobbled yours so fast in order to fit the one you stole from your brother in your mouth too before mama can reach you, well that's a small price to pay.  If one gets carried up the stairs the other will climb your leg to get the same ride.  Well that's what you get when with two kids so close in age, something tells me we have only begun to scratch the surface of this sibling dance.

I know you're thinking "does this woman ever stop talking about naps?!?".  Well no, they kinda rule my life right now.  I tried to switch Elora from two naps down to one since she was frequently skipping the afternoon nap and that made her a holy terror by about 5pm every day.  Well the only thing we managed to do was mess up everything and she has been meltdown city all week long.  It seriously felt like we had rewound about 2 months of progress.  She was spitting out food, she has never done this, usually not a scrap will go uneaten of any thing edible.  She was over tired, Bed time was a war zone, she had a few days of head banging and just over all behaviours that had been dormant for a very long time surfaced with vengeance.  I am still trying to undo the damage from that failed experiment, yet the original problem still exists she will not sleep for more then 1.5 hours at a time and she just can't survive on that little in a day.  This week I am going to try an afternoon nap closer to dinner time.  I will report back... yep there is more nap talk coming your way.

Her language is coming in well with a new word every other day.  We are doing so well that the speech therapist does not recommend we do any thing more then check in on her every 6 month or so.  They are very impressed with her progress and even got some scores exactly on target for her age.  Mostly speech therapy helped me because I learned some valuable things.  Going into the appointment I felt that although the language was coming along well she seemed to be really struggling with her pronunciation and could not manage words that were more than one syllable.  I could see that she was smart but I felt sure she needed a lot of help.  Turns out what needed help was my expectations.  I was comparing her to her brother, not so much how he was at her age, but how he began to speak.  In true Emery form, he did not really say any thing that was not perfect.  He is a do it right or don't do it at all kinda guy, from day one.  They showed us a chart regarding age appropriate sounds and Elora scored at a 2 year old level (!), my 3 year old scored at a 7 year old level!!!!!!!!!  Light bulb moment.  I never realized what high a bar I was accidentally measuring her against. 
So that is how we got kicked out of speech therapy, I guess you could say we graduated, but it's kinda fun to say we got kicked out, and I could not be any prouder.
We are still doing bi-weekly vision therapy and we are consulting with a developmental therapist regarding the moderate sensory seeking we are seeing.  By the way she also feels that our feeding issues are all tied in to that same package.  That was also a revelation, and we are glad to have found some one to help us in this specialized area.

Elora calls her nanny mama.  She cried for mama a lot at the beginning, slowly the word melted away.  This week she started asking me if I was her mama.  She raises her little eyebrows and says "mama?" and I say yes, I am your mama. Other times she sits on my lap and points to me and says "mama?" yes I answer, or she will point to my photo and say "mama?".  She said baba right from the get go, and then that soon became daddy, you will note he never got a question mark after his name (nanny is mama also with no question mark at the end).  He just simply was her one and only beloved daddy.  Our relationship is much more complex to her.  I am just one of many mamas who have loved her.  She has at last decided to try the title out on me.  Now that she has she likes to ask for me about 1000 times a day.  Mama? yes. Mama? I'm right here. Mama? yes? Mama? What do you want? Mama?... I will spare you the rest of the soundtrack of my typical day, its that on repeat.  It's a big milestone for us, so I smile even on the 1008th mama? of the day.

So that is life at 3.5 months together, so much better and so much faster then I ever would have predicted.