11:03 AM

What's working

Claudia over at my fascinating life asked what's working for you?  I liked that question so much I want to answer it again!  It's a good question because it is helpful to yourself to focus on the positives and give your self some credit and it was great to hear other ideas of things that are working in other houses.

Making my own Starbucks Tazo Chai Lattes from scratch!

My Grocery store stopped selling Tazo Chai tea concentrate.  First I looked high and low in my town and the neighbouring town and I scowled and pouted at the shelf stokers and even considered writing a long letter of complaint to any one and every one when thankfully I found this recipe, now I can make a copycat version at home and save money, haha on you Starbucks and grocery store!  Also please let this serve as a general warning to all people who's job it is to provide a mother with her caffeine, DON'T mess with it, or you will feel her wrath.  I promise you this is no harder than making a pot of tea, next time I will double it though since it keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks.  It cost about $1 for 7 servings, and that is music to my accountant husband's ears since the pay for being a stay at home mom is not optimal we are penny pinching.  You should be able to find every thing you need at a bulk food store near you.

The 3 S
You may have heard your grandmother (or that guy who wrote a best selling book) tell you about the 3 S secret for putting a newborn to sleep?  Swaddle, shhhhh and sway?  Turns out back to the sleep basics works for a toddler too.  Sleep is going pretty darn good in this house our routine is only about 15 min and we are getting good long stretches for naps and all night long.  About 50% of our success is just her make up, she is built to be a good sleeper IF you set the stage right.  Black out shades (or a blanket over the stroller). We use the sleep sac even at nap time to act as the swaddle factor, and on bad days we swaddle her with a big felt afghan.  We turn on her lullaby CD and sway or rock in the dark while I do long shhh in her ear until her breath matches my deep inhales.  Then she is in the play pen (we are still to scared to let her near the wood of her crib) and if she is fussing I stand outside the door and shhh loudly at her through the closed door.  We devised this plan since getting up and leaving her once she drifted off woke and aggravated her so now I stay outside the door instead to make my escape more seamless.  This is where we are now with sleep but it has come a long way, very gradually shifting from our bed to the play pen and then to her own room.  Next step crib.  I think we need to get on that as she discovered that if she rocked hard enough she could move the play pen across the room, yesterday she made it to the door and had jammed it against the play pen preventing the door from being able to open.  Oh right this is about what works... ignore that part...

Thou shall not skip a nap .... EVER!!
Okay I admit that I break this rule from time to time, but then I always regret it.  Now it takes an awful tempting adventure to lure me into missing nap time.  My kids are just so much more lovable when they have napped and when I had quiet time to myself to be fresh and ready to love.  The kids don't always want to follow this rule either but I have a bag of tricks when all else fails.  The other day I put them in the car and drove the rolly hills and back country roads just north of my house.  With no stop and go traffic, the oldies on the radio, we all had a great time and once they drift off I will do drive through for a hot apple pie and milkshake or stop for an ice cream at the small town corner store.  Once in my sleep deprived state I did run a stop sign but since we had not seen a single car in more than a half hour I didn't feel too bad about it.
Living in mess
Since we are not having overlapping naps and the little one wont allow me out of her sight and I pulled muscles in my back from lifting her so the carrier is not an option until I heal, I am not cleaning much at all.  Honestly the most gets done by grandma during her weekly visit and the bare minimum each night by daddy.  I don't know if you have ever felt this way, but when the house was clean and the kids wrecked it .5 seconds later I felt frustrated and angry with the kids.  But when the house is a mess and they simply add to it I don't blame them and I don't get mad. Until we have two kids who nap together and we are all better adjusted to life as a family of four, I guess we will just be a hot mess, but we will be happy.

10:08 PM

unexpected anger

I am mad at you.  You are her mother, how did you do this to her.  You hurt her in a way I may never be able to heal.  She remembers when you left her, I see it in her every day.  It's your fault she learned not to trust parents.  You taught her what hunger is so that now she never believes me when I tell her more food will come.

Did you know as soon as she could articulate it she cried for you, asked for you.  Mama she says over and over and over and over to any one who will listen.  But it's not me who is the mama she cries for, not yet any ways.  She misses you in such a primal way.  It breaks my heart because I love her and she is hurting so bad and you set into motion this hurt. 

I need hear your story, although I am not sure how it will ever convince me.  Yes, you gave me this gift, but first the gift was given to you and you did not value it enough.  She deserves to have you, she deserves to be loved by you, adored by you, protected by you.  I know you think you did not have any choice, but right now it feels like you should have tried harder, done more.  Why didn't you do more, we both want to know!  I am trying to look at this through your lens, before she was mine I could step back and have empathy, have compassion.  From the time I first heard her cry in those first minutes in my arms it changed.  Didn't you hear that same cry as you walked away.  Our little tiger cub yowling for you, like only she can, how did you do it?  I heard her crying an ocean away every night in my dreams, do you hear her now too? 

We are going to look for you, will you let us find you?  Are you ashamed, do you have regrets, will you put them all aside to let her know you?  Because you owe it to her, because you will show her you care by being there now, even though you failed her before.  Can you teach her now what it means to make amends?  I will learn to forgive you.  I will teach her to forgive you too.  Together we have a hope of making our girl whole again, I can't do this with out your help.  Together we can give her the world, the love, the confidence and the faith she needs to thrive.... if we could find you. 

Right now I am too angry to start looking, although I know I should.  We did little things but it feels like nothing more then a message in a bottle sent into a vast ocean.  Time is ticking, clues can be vanishing right now, but I am just too mad.  This is a big thing I need to do, big in every way.  It's asking a lot of me, right now, as her mother, to start this, what I know needs to be done now, what I know will help us all, what I am committed to do, but I am just too mad.

11:26 AM

So in love with these baby blues

I have had a bit of an obsession trying to capture the true beauty of my baby girls eyes. They are so very magical. The above photos are mostly not even taken by me, I am saving to upgrade my camera, but I still wanted to share.

I know many of you considering adopting an albinism child may wonder about the eyes and the vision component. The most important thing to know is that there is an incredibly broad spectrum when it comes to the vision of these kids and no two patients are alike. There are a few key elements that impact vision; the nystigmus - the vibrating of the eyes as they try to focus, the alignment of the eyes, the light sensitivity all compound to impact the vision. Some of these factors are correctable, some are not, but most are able to be improved.

In observing Elora I thought that her nystigmus was pretty mild compared to videos I had seen online, and also observed that she was not bringing things close to inspect. She did seem to have trouble making eye contact with us when we were on the other side of the room. At her check up yesterday we got good news. Although she is still too young to have an official acuity prescription, our doctor thinks that her vision is top notch as far as albnio eyes go. She is set to be rechecked in six months time, but for now we just need to keep up with the regular store bought sunglasses and the early intervention therapy. Did you know that seeing better is something children can learn? Amazing I know. We were prepared for much more sever vision so we are over the moon with the prognosis so far, I never dared to hope for this.

Everything else in our life is also going very well, with the two naps in full swing we have a girl so happy we can hardly go any were with out getting comments about the sheer joy she glows. She showed us that she was a joyful baby right from the start but this is just beyond measure now. It came as such a surprise since in all of her referral and update photos there were hardly even hints of this smile. Now I am not sure I could get a photo of her NOT smiling. We are over two weeks now since we have had a bad head banging incident. We have managed to get out to play too as she will take a nap in the car or stroller so even though between my two kids we have 6 separate hours of napping.... I feel like I am constantly announcing that it is some ones nap time or be quiet your sister/brother is sleeping. I know this is not forever, she will transition to one nap soon. I also expect we are not out of the woods when it comes to the banging, she is still doing it in a mild way several times a day. It just seems now that I am better prepared to manage it, the swaddle is working for those bad bad times and I have more confidence in her and I and our relationship now so I worry less about my choices in those hard times. I also know her better now and fear less about what it all means and if it will escalate beyond my control. It is easier now to really believe that it's all temporary, I know you all told me it would be, but in the moment I had my doubts, and I for sure thought we might be at this stage for months or even a year.

10:37 AM

Turned a big corner

This past week has been amazing for Elora. She is doing new things every day, but the difference is she is embracing and enjoying new things. Holidays with two families in two days could stress out any toddler, but she handled it like a champ, it was so amazing to be able to share our girl with the family that waited so long for her too. Another amazing part of Easter was to see her hunting for eggs. This is a new idea for her and we did it outside so I had no hope that she would find any due to the light's impact on her vision and her experienced big brother there to swipe them all up. But she got the idea right away and managed to find 3 eggs on her own! I was so impressed.

Yesterday she had her developmental assessment and she also did very well there. She was only scored as delayed in two areas (things that are because of her history not her potential). We are happy to know that we will be able to get a development coordinator to start visiting us next month to help her catch up. During the assessment the tester asked if she could do certain things and I said no, but with in seconds the tester showed her what she was looking for and Elora did it! I was amazed again... are you seeing a theme here, I am just amazed by this girl, she is just changing, growing, loving in leaps and bounds.

Next amazing thing she had a bath last night with no tears!!!!!! This was an amazing breakthrough previously she was having hour long fits surrounding bath time, then last week we had a mini breakthrough when she, Emery and I all got in the tub together and she stopped crying for about 30 seconds, then last night a whole bath with no tears at all. I think having her big brother with her helped a lot. We were unable to do it earlier though since giardia spreads easily in a shared bath so we needed the clean bill of health first before we could try it.

There were times as little as a few days ago when I was thinking to the summer ahead with sadness about all the things we would have to sit out for Elora's benefit. Water and the outdoors in general stressed her out so much I thought we would never get to go to the beach or pool or splash pad. Any thing seems possible now. She doesn't do any thing small. She grieved big and now she is adapting in a big way too. I will say it again, amazing!

Another thing we have tried is switching her from one nap to two. The orphanage reported that she was napping for 2 hours at noon, but since we got over jet lag this has not been the case, she was only staying down for about 1 hour max and then waking up screaming and then being upset the rest of the day. She was clearly not sleeping enough, so I googled "how do I know if my baby needs one nap or two?", found a handy check list and ah ha two naps were needed indeed. So now she is doing a total of 3 hours a day in two bits one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Her mood is greatly improved. I wish we had tried it sooner but I really was trying to mimic the orphanage schedule for consistency and then I had to rule out many other factors before we tried the nap flip. A tip for any newbies out there these two things have always been true for every baby I know:
1. Sleep begets sleep, meaning an over tired baby sleeps less. I know that is not logical when we think of how we as adults sleep, but it is always true for babies.
2. Don't declare failure until 3 days have passed. Don't ask me why it's 3 days, but you need to give it at least 3 before you can rule your new change as a success or failure. It's easy to get into serious problem solving mode and try something new every hour even, but to officially scratch it off your list give it 3 tries. Also only try one new thing at a time when ever possible, makes it easier to pin point what worked and what didn't.

I have to laugh at my self because I know these golden rules, I live by them, but I still doubted the nap change would make any difference and we were having such struggles with naps I dreaded adding another bedtime schedule to my day since it was such a fight every time. A well rested Yoyo is a different girl and her head banging has not been violent since the switch and bedtimes are all easier. So things are good here. A lot is working and I am so very hopeful for each passing day.

10:41 PM

the eve of one month

So it has been one month together already! It seems like hardly any time at all since we were living in hotel rooms in China with our girl. I feel like I should report all the amazing things that we and she have accomplished in this short month. I am sure there are lots, like how she gives kisses to mainly daddy but some times me, and how she says uh-oh and how she loves to copy everything her brother does. There is lots that we have done and seen, but this month just flew by and it seems a bit premature for a retrospective :) I am still just mostly happy that I am home and that none of us have jet lag or giardia.

In the past month we have been developing her inner diva and fashion style:

In other news we have lots of exciting things in the next week, Easter - meeting all the family, Elora's developmental screening and the first step in getting her help for vision and perhaps some OT as well, her first eye doctor's appointment so curious to hear from them what exactly she is or is not seeing, the delivery of our new double stroller and then we all start strollersize class (!!!) and also a princess birthday party for a little friend of ours. I hope we don't overwhelm her. Things have been going very well with the outings and today she even played for the first time at the park, she worked up her courage and began to enjoy the slide. This was about her 10th visit but the first that she enjoyed. We have had a few play dates with success in our own house and then one at a new environment all with great success. Our girl sometimes even tolerates a car ride with no fuss. So things are getting much better when it comes to being out in this strange new world. I am pretty confident about the week ahead, with the exception of the eye doctor, that may be hard for her, I hope she cooperates.