5:40 PM

5ish days of the yard

I wanted to play along with Nancy as we work together to learn more about photography and practice our skills.  The goal of this exercise is to repeatedly photograph a subject day after day to find new and exciting ways to interpret, force your self to be creative.  Its about the bare bones of composition so the only tools are my iphone and instagram app.  I originally wanted to focus on a theme of "together" in the end although we got some nice together shots, the garden was clearly taking the starring role in my photographs. 

6:53 PM

The meaning of my life, Wrapped in you, Next to me

Our adoption video.

5:05 PM

Sunday snapshot newbie

Four years ago when I moved into our current house the back hill was covered in purple wild flowers.  I had never seen such a sight, but I knew it was my home, the one of my dreams.  I always said the number one criteria for my dream house would be that it looked like faeries would be happy living there.  Back then Elora, in fact any idea of kids period, where nothing more then a far away dream... but... that hill inspired me.  I thought to myself in that moment, one day I will take amazing photos of my kids on that hill dressed as faeries.  Now here we are, the 5th summer my hill has turned violet.  One summer, I posed pregnant on that hill, another summer I just looked longingly at it dreaming of my baby girl, other summers I tried to make this photo dream come true but did not get the affect I wanted with the point and shoot.  I finally saved enough pennies to buy my first DSLR camera.  I have only had it for 3 days, have not read the manual yet but had to move fast before the violet disappeared for yet another year.  Here it is.  The photo of my dreams, the girl of my dreams, the life I always wanted.  Do you know how amazing that feels?  To see these little dreams I've had with me for so long, all of them coming true one by one, day by day.  I treasure every day but I also can't wait to see the other days I dreamt for my kids, and see the new dreams I am making.

Here are some other photos I am excited about from the past weekend.  Looking forward to growing my skills and exploring this new hobby.
Ice cream happy face and riding a dino or two through the park.

7:24 PM

Odds and ends

I made a common mistake most parents of only one child does.  I assumed that raising children is exactly like raising my child.  Once I said that I bathe my son only once a week to save time and keep it novel and interesting for him.  I am sure now that some of you were very grossed out by that statement, honestly I thought you were a germaphobe.  Now I understand why it may have turned your stomach.  Apparently I had the worlds' cleanest child in my first born.  Elora is a totally different story.  She drools so much for some one who has all her teeth and she has a fountain of snot at all times but more so when she eats or cries.  She is a messy eater and sweats constantly.  Strange things of a dirt colour seem to collect in her cute folds.  She uses her snow white hair as a handy built in dish cloth to wipe her dirty hands on.  This child could be bathed twice a day and you would still look at her and say "That woman only baths her child weekly, look at that hot mess of a child, what is she thinking?!?!"
The worst part is that she still (or I guess I should say again) hates baths.  I am trying to compromise between bathing her twice daily (mommy wishes) and never (Elora wishes).  I once again dread the thought of a beach or pool outing, but can not imagine a summer with out them.  Any one have tips on getting our kids to like things they hate??  I am wondering if repeat daily exposure is the way to go, can you really be mad at a bath every day??  I am also trying to keep her in until she calms down as to end on a good note, maybe we should try the fast dunk instead?

On the topic of how my kids could not be more different from one another... eating.  I know food is a hot topic for adopted kids.  I know what I am seeing with Elora stems from the fact that she did not get enough food at some point in her past.  I know the why, but again I am a bit stumped with the how to fix part.  In regards to food we have a few main issues.  Firstly she does not chew, she literally inhales noodles and other food whole in one large gulp.  I have tried to give her things that are obviously too big to fit in her mouth and let her play with it in the hopes she will try nibbling it.  Nope.  She rams the whole thing in her mouth and then makes this mad/pathetic face and whimpers.  She will not remove it, she will bite you if you try to remove it, but it is clearly gagging her and prohibiting her from closing her mouth, her jaw is wedged open to it's fullest extension.  The other day I had to scoop some food out with a chopstick to save her and my finger.  It is the most hilarious/discussing/sad thing you will ever see.  I also try to feed her a large item such as a sandwich by putting it near her mouth but she just opens wider and wider she will not close down on the food I am placing in her mouth until the entire object is in.  If some part of it is still in my hand she just patiently waits with a full open mouth for me to surrender it. 
The other big food problem we have is mooching.  She is very attached to us and keeps appropriate boundaries between family, friends and strangers and understands the different relationships, except if food is involved.  A stranger with food, even if they are not offering it to her, will get her very cutest tricks and smiles as she mimes for their food.  I can see that she is well versed in this survival skill, clearly that is one of the reasons why we got such a hefty baby from the orphanage.  Any tips on stopping this?  She does it even when I am offering food because she wants to make sure that the other food is not better or maybe to increase her chances of getting fed by sucking up to other feeders.  We don't let people outside of the family feed her, but other than that we don't have any real strategy in place.

We have had some exciting success in getting her to nap at friends' houses in a play pen.  That has been nice because it lets us travel and be a bit more mobile while still respecting the routine.  Things continue to grow in leaps and bounds, it is like I have a new baby each week.  She is starting to pick up some english words and she says them with the cutest Chinese accent, it is ADORABLE.  Her comprehension is up as well and she will even let me occasionally leave her sight to get her food or run to the bathroom. She loves shoes and dill pickles just like her mommy and big brother, it's the little things that are so amazing when you think about it, just a million little things that are transforming her every day.  It makes me sad some times because she is like a childhood on fast forward, each step and milestone is there for only a blink.  I am mostly just grateful for each one we get to experience with her, so many firsts that we are lucky to share.

11:39 AM

Mother's Day

Just bliss.

11:52 AM

Forgivness - Step one

I was angry with Elora's first mom.  I want to clarify that anger is not hate.  I just was angry, I never lost sight of her or wanting her in our life either symbolical or actually.  I struggle with my feelings, as I am sure my daughter will some day too.  I got a great tip from a friend who has been there and done that and more when it comes to birth parents.  She told me out right to stop making so many assumptions.
You can see documented here any in my life my journey to Elora.  However Elora's journey to us has more questions than answers.  This is just how China adoption is right now.  I realize now that I was trying to fill those holes with my imagination and assumptions.  Simply because not knowing is very hard.  It is painful to have to tell doctors, friends, family, I don't know.  It feels embarrassing for me, as her mother, to not know critical things about my daughter.  I feel like every time I say "I don't know", that a silent judgment happens between me and the one who asked, or sometimes they just seem to not believe that there is so very much that I do not know, so they ask me again in a slightly different way and I still have to say, "I don't know".  I feel like saying, "...but I wish I did." I have to get better at living with not knowing.  Elora will ask me a thousand questions that I will not know the answer to.  I understand how "I don't know" will never be a good enough answer for her but it gives me some solace to be able to also say, "I will help you look for the answers".
I have come to accept that I really do not know, and it has helped me to forgive her first family.  There are a million possibilities for a million moments and choices that brought my baby girl into my arms to grow and blossom.  I don't know if there is anything at all for me to be angry at them for, because I just don't know anything about her time before us. 
She is just an angel baby these past few weeks.  A joy, a bundle of snuggles, smiles, discovery.  She is walking like a pro now, climbing stairs and play sets, it nearly impossible to believe that she has any visual impairment, I have never once seen any evidence of it.  She is fully embedded deep in my heart.  The child I waited so long for, who I loved for years before she was even born, finally home in my arms and life could not be sweeter.  Living the sweet life has also helped me to forgive.  It is entirely selfish but I love her so fiercely that I don't care as much about what brought her here, I only care that she is here and she is mine.  I am just so thankful for her.  I would never have been complete without her.  I feel pity for any one who does not know her, because she is just a powerful, inspirational gift to every one she touches.  I am so lucky she is mine and I get to be her mom.

3:50 PM

I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow

An amazing thing happened today.  Elora and I were snuggling.  She has become so snuggly in the past few days and I love it.  I was kissing on her, she was kissing on me, we were exchanging bear hugs, giggling and today for fun instead of saying "Mommy loves you", I said "wo ai ni" (mandarin for I love you).  She gave me her sign for more, I said it again, wo ai ni, and she replied MORE!  She was asking me for more loving!  Of course I obliged, and my heart burst into a million bits. 
It was not the first time I had told her wo ai ni, in fact in China I said it a few times.  We thought that she did not have very much mandarin comprehension, well nothing we were telling her, although she seemed to be perfectly clear on what her nanny was telling her.  I guess some where along the way I dropped off using any of my very limited amount of Chinese with the exception of her name.  Now we've hit some amazing communication cross roads where she can understand and also reply, but more phenomenally she knows the word love in Chinese.  That means some one showed her love, she has experienced love, some one else whispered those words in her ears too.  My girl has been loved.  It should not come as a surprise since she is so very lovable, we are not the first adults to fall for her hook, line and sinker and we won't be the last.  It is just SO reassuring to know, to be positive.  It has lead me to wonder what other mandarin words she knows, we are pretty sure she is not speaking any of them but I am guessing she understands a lot more then we gave her credit for.  I am going to work on testing that out soon, I just discovered google translate has a spoken option, I will try using it to see if she can follow simple directions.

Here are a few more things that have been working, I like this topic and think I am going to keep listing things I won't say weekly, but how about regularly?

Hidden veggies
I have the world's pickiest eater, my son.  Not only we he only consume about 4 meals, but he will only eat a few spoonfuls of even his favourite meal that he asked for.  Yes, I did say I will never be a short order cook to my children, I am eating my words, but vow that this madness will some day end, just not today.  In the mean time what's working is hiding veggies in favourite foods.  My son likes pasta, particularly mac and cheese in either orange or white varieties.  Thankfully pasta sauce, even the kind that comes out of a little chemical filled packet, is perfect for hiding pureed veggies in.  I use sweet potato or carrot in the orange sauce and cauliflower in the white.  I am trying to work him up to a rose sauce with "spices" the spices actually being tiny chopped spinach and broccoli.  Also we tried spinach hidden in brownies, although he is not much on sweets so this did not sway him.  The adults ate them and we swear you can not taste it at all.  Don't bother getting the expensive book with these hidden veggie recipes, they are completely googleable, or just cheat and add your spinach to a box mix, it worked perfectly.  Don't have time to blend the veggies and freeze them into ice cube trays?  It really is not that hard, but no worries, I know some of us are kitchen challenged, check your freezer aisle and baby food aisle you can find most of what you need there already pureed.

Watching the video of the first time we met
Elora is still having times of grieving, mostly it seems to arise after a nap.  She just sits on my lap and cries broken hearted tears.  These last some times as much as a few hours.  Nothing I could do seemed to help her come through the tears any faster or smoother.  I was pretty much resigned to just waiting them out when I got the idea to show her the video of our first moments together.  We were very lucky that her nanny was with us for the pass off that day.  Although the video is of us, you can hear nanny say (in Chinese) this is your mama and your baba, she goes on to tell Elora she is going to live with us and verbally walks her through this scary transition.  It worked!  Nothing else on the planet has ever worked, but mid ear piersing sob she stoped dead at the sound of nanny's voice.  She listened, we played it again, we looked at pictures of nanny and mama and Elora together smiling. The episode was over. Just like that.  What a great relife it was to both of us that I could show her I knew why she was sad and that I could help her remember.  We are using this regularly now, each time with a great success. Technology is such an amazing thing.  At the time we could only choose to film or photograph our first meeting, because we use our camera as a camcorder.  I decided on film since I worried about the flash bugging her.  So glad we did, this is such an invaluble thing to have, her nanny's voice right there on demand full of love and reashuring when ever we need it.  So thankful for this. 
p.s. we just took screen shots of the HD video that are the photos you have seen on this blog of that day.  A small compromise is the photo quality, but well worth it.

Just a cute photo, look I have pigtails!!