Thursday, March 13, 2014

4 Months Home...Anyone for Patty-Cake?

Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker's man.  Bake me a cake as fast as you can.  Roll it and pat it and mark it with an "N", and put it in the oven for Nora and me!

Yep, at 4 months home, this rhyme/song is a favorite of Nora's.  Her face lights up when she climbs on our laps and we grab her hands for the first clap.  She loves it so much so that she is often even doing it to herself without our help or to her babies.  She adores it.

Even though by the fifth time in a row I'm rolling my eyes as she delightfully says "Again!!!" there is still a part of me that is smiling inside.  You see, on our first trip to meet Nora when she was just 2 months old, Micah and I would have been found on a bed in a guest house saying this very rhyme with our new daughter.  Here, see for yourself...

Maybe the nannies also spent time doing "Patty-Cake" with her during her two years of life in the orphanage, but for me, I'm elated at the possibility she is enjoying this so much because of a recessed memory she has done this before...a long time ago...with a woman who showed up for a few days and called herself "Mama".  I know it's not likely true, but for me, it has been a tender memory and connection I will hold dearly because memories with Nora that young are too few.  Any connection made now that is not something "new" but something "remembered" between the two of us is priceless.  Here you can enjoy Nora doing her own version of Patty-Cake...

Beyond Patty-Cake, life is cruising along with our littlest Thieszen.  For starters, Nora's vocabulary is BOOMING!  Not sure what all happened in her brain between month 3 and 4, but she is now saying several word sentences, single words galore, and even telling us her own opinions.  It has been a breath of fresh air for me.  I was about to pull my hair out with every repeated phrase she said to me.  I love watching people be themselves and that includes Nora.  I do not want a robot child, thank you.

For example, this week I was getting lunch prepared for my two youngest darlings and I had enough left-over spaghetti for one meal, but not two.  I decided to give Nora the spaghetti and Quinn the PB&J since I know that is his fav-or-ite food to eat and I knew Nora seemed to also love spaghetti every time we've made it for dinner.  I was getting out the bread and Nora, who must always be right at the counter any time food is being prepared, said "Mommy!  Nora bread?  Nora eat bread?"  I answered her that the bread was for Quinn and that she would be having the spaghetti.  After her face went from elated to deflated, she began shaking her head and said clearly, "No, Mommy, no.  I not like that.  I not like that."  After my shock wore off that she just communicated something to me, I said to her, "No, Nora, you do like spaghetti.  Every time you have eaten spaghetti, you have said it was yummy!"  To which she replied through a very sad and tearing up face, "No, Mommy, no.  I not want that.  I not want that.  Nora please bread?"  Wow!  Just wow.  Not only had she not repeated me word-for-word, she corrected her verb from "like" to "want", and also added in a polite way what she actually DID want.  I was so impressed and overjoyed that my little girl let me know exactly what she desired in that moment.  It was a breakthrough moment for us both and I treasured it...and gave her the PB&J just like she wanted.  Now, catering to Nora's every desire won't always happen here, but that was probably one of the first moments when she clearly and politely asked for something different.  Reward indeed for that, Baby Girl!

Now that she has discovered she has a voice and can use it to let others know what she is thinking/feeling/wanting, she is starting to become even more vocal.  This is both wonderful and frustrating.  You see, it opens things up for a whole new level of learning.  A learning that sometimes we can get what we want or do what we want and sometimes we just can't even if we said it.  Our strong-personality daughter isn't exactly fond of the later.  So, we are working with her on more learning curves as she tries her best to throw poutings or fits when she doesn't get what she wants or has to do something she doesn't want to.  Just this morning I grabbed the spray bottle to put some moisture back in her curls (which we do at least every morning if not twice a day) and Nora stuck her arm straight out against the bottle and said, "No, Mommy, no.  I not want that!"  I moved her hand away and began to tell her in a 2 year old way that some things, like moisturizing her hair daily, are good for her and even though she doesn't want it, Mommy was going to do it anyway.  She shot me a glaring look, crossed her arms in front of her, and then proceeded to let out a big "ROAR!" directly at my face.  Like a lion.  Seriously.  Well, it was clear to me she was not happy with Mommy's decision to still spray her hair today, but she didn't fight me doing it so I guess that's a win for me.  It will be a balancing act for a while as she figures out how to use her own voice and share her own desires while also still learning that she really isn't the only boss of herself.  She certainly has her moments of whining, crying, or all out tantruming like the best of 2 year olds when she doesn't get her way, but for the most part, she gets over things as quickly as she begins them when she sees we don't cave to her fits.  With every few steps forward there seems to be a step backwards, but in the end we are always heading in the right direction and that is good.

She is also finally starting to play more on her own.  YAY!!!!!  For the most part, since she has come home she has simply followed us around the house observing whatever everyone is doing but not really focusing her attention long enough to do anything herself.  When we would get books out to read with her she would flip through it in 30 seconds or less and throw it on the ground to run for another one without ever letting us actually read the words in it to her.  Or she would touch a button on one of the toddler computer toys that says the letters of the alphabet and run away from it before she could even hear the letter being said.  She would talk about her babies, but never do anything with them except an occasional rock in the rocking chair before dropping them on the ground to follow me into the other room.  Now, at 4 months home, she has really enjoyed sitting on our laps to have us read an entire book to her, has often been found sitting on the couch pushing the buttons on the toddler computer while saying "B.  Bumble Bee.  Mommy, I see Bumble Bee!", and is daily playing with her babies.  I think her favorite part about toys is playing with the babies.  She likes to strap them into their high chairs or sit them on their potties, feed them, wrap them in blankets, and put them in their beds for nigh-night time.  It is very sweet to see her care for them--you can tell she is comfortable and used to being surrounded by other babies smaller than her from the orphanage.  Having her play with all these toys is wonderful because it assures me she is feeling comfortable and assured that if I'm not in her sight, she is still okay and simply free to be a kid.  For me, it is refreshing to look back at my heels and have to actually wonder where Nora is, only to find her simply being that kid with her toys.

Health wise Nora continues to grow.  She has grown over 2 inches and is up over 4 pounds in these last 4 months.  Her beautiful head of curls has doubled in length.  Her perpetual cough and running nose had left, but unfortunately she has caught a cold and is back to her husky cough and need for kleenex.  Instead of walking or even running through the house she is often found jumping her way from room to room.  She is FULL of energy!  We hope to finally be over the parasites she came home with and are now dealing with the effects of those nasty guys being in her system as she seems to not be tolerating milk well.  We have recently switched her over to almond milk and this has made a world of difference.  Being lactose intolerant or at least having some lactose sensitivities seems to be common for many children for a period of time after having parasites so our hope is this is all it will amount to being.  I can definitely feel a difference when holding her through church or carrying her around--she's growing well!

Eating habits seem to be the area of struggle still for Nora to move past.  She is getting better, but it is a struggle for her.  We have found if we watch her like a hawk she does better, but if we allow her the space to eat "on her own" then she resorts back to old habits from the orphanage.  Currently, what this looks like is one of the following scenarios...1) She will eat HUGE bites of food.  She is worse if she decides her utensil is not shoving the food in fast enough and uses her hands.  We are talking entire mouth-full bites.  For example, normally a person would just take a bite of a sandwich, but Nora will start to put a bit of the sandwich in her mouth and then open it more and put more in and then do it again.  I have literally seen her put a fourth of a sandwich into her mouth at one time.  She then tries to chew everything while it's in her mouth, but either gags on it, ends up letting some come back out of her mouth, or swallows things whole in order to move on to the remaining food.  Any of the above situations can cause serious problems so we are constantly saying to her "Small bites, Nora, small bites."  She typically repeats this phrase regularly now and if she stays focused enough to think about that she does great, but if not...the uphill battle continues.  2) She two-fists her food.  She will grab her sandwich in one hand and have 3 carrots in the other.  She'll try to gulp down a bite of sandwich while also trying to shove all 3 carrots in her mouth at the same time when the sandwich bite is not even fully swallowed.  For this situation we are constantly saying, "One hand, Nora, one hand at a time.  Keep the rest of your food on the plate until your bite is swallowed."  She will, again, repeat "One hand, Nora" and put the rest of the food down...that is unless we walk away or stop paying attention to her.  That's when she picks everything back up again and we repeat everything again once she is "caught".  3)  When we have cut everything into small bites for her to try to avoid the first situation of huge bites, she tends to shove multiple small bites into her mouth as quickly as possible and then tries to chew things just as explained in the first example.  In this situation, we often say "Slow down, Nora, and eat small bites."  She'll repeat it and then take a little more time between each bite.  If we are sitting right next to her watching her every bite she will even chew an entire piece of food and swallow it before getting the next piece in her mouth--it's quite an accomplishment!  4) Lastly, she rarely chews her food enough.  Either she eats smaller bites with maybe one time of using her teeth or she eats larger bites that get chewed maybe 3 times and then swallowed.  It's a bad habit that will only be stopped over time, I think though, because it is very hard to get a 2 1/2 year old to understand how to chew her food more/better.  We still say "Chew it more, Nora", while fake-chewing food in our own mouth directly in front of her face, but she will simply chew it for the 3 times, swallow it, and then continue to chew nothing in her mouth with a big smile like she's proud of herself for doing what we were asking her to do.  Oye!  That one, as well as the rest I guess, will get better with time and age.  It will be a dream when we can serve her a meal and not have to be directly beside her coaching her every bite.

Lastly, we finally got her Certificate of Citizenship in the mail so we have begun the much easier process of re-adopting Nora here in the US.  This will be the last of the "process" of adoption and we will be so glad to see it completed.  We would not need to do this step, but by doing so we can legally change her name and get her a US (foreign born) birth certificate noting Micah and I as her parents.  This will come in handy later on in life when she needs an original birth certificate for anything.  If we do not re-adopt her here and need that birth certificate, we would have to petition Haiti for one and who knows how long that would take or how much we would have to pay to get it.  It will be much easier in the long run to have her birth certificate be on this side of the pond.  We have our own lawyer here drawing up these papers for us and we will head to court sometime in April or May to have that completed.

I am not sure if you find all this information interesting or not, but I enjoy journaling these things out for more than just my friends at this point.  It seems that life with 4 children 7 years and younger does not give a mom as much time to write things down and record the everyday life of our family.  Writing this blog is a way for me to have some of these thoughts/experiences recorded for Nora to read through some day and for my brain to even remember.  My secondary hope is for anyone going through adoption to find comfort, hope, or even just a realistic view of what life is like once these beauties are home.  For those reading through this who are not adopting, I hope you will enjoy catching the glimpse of our everyday life--battles and all--and maybe it will help in knowing how to best support Nora or our family during this transition.

All in all, this past month has been much less stressful than the previous ones as Nora continues to communicate better with us, Micah and I have gotten out for regular breaks away from the kids, and we have all had more time to adjust to this "new normal".  We still consider life to be going miraculously smooth and are so thankful God brought Nora into our lives.  Just the other morning Lily was cuddling in my bed with me and said very out-of-the-blue, "Mom, I'm so glad we adopted Nora."  I just smiled at the beauty of such a simple and yet profound statement.  I am too.  Enjoy some updated photos from the last month...

Nora and Adella getting ready for their first ice skating experience

Nora & Daddy skating away!  Yep, she LOVED it!

Mommy, Nora, and Lily making our way around the rink

Nora LOVING lots of snow!

Sledding Fun

What we thought might be the last nice snow day (4 big snows ago!)

Nora and her bling

Lily at her gymnastics class

Nora trying to be a part of Lily's gymnastics class

Nora and Toby wrestling/tickling

Nora doing pushups with her "Fight Club" Daddy

One of the many twist styles I've tried in Nora's hair to make it look like braids--
she's just too squirmy still for actual braids.
Nora isn't the only one getting her hair done up in pretty designs these days

Silly girls

Love these young ladies


Storytime with Daddy

Nora with her favorite friend right now...Karis!

Babysitting Group at our place...we're at 10 kids and counting!

Nora enjoying her Jo Jo's Pretzel on Mommy's birthday

Birthday game time

Love these well as Toby who wasn't in this picture

Family birthday game time

Sharing a scrumptious root beer float with the love of my life

The Thieszen crew! (Gotta love Quinn's orneriness.  Yes, he's purposefully
making that face-ha!)