Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gotcha Day

A year ago yesterday I met my daughter for the first time.  I still remember the warmth of the room, the nervousness in our hearts, the catch in our breaths as we opened the door to our daughter.

I remember wondering if I would love her from the first moment.  I remember worrying that I wouldn't find the right balance between releasing my pent up enthusiasm and anticipation and respecting First Mama's last hours as her mama.  I remember imagining what it would be like to finally have her in my arms.  And then, she was.

Surreal is still the only word I have for the experience.

I recently came across a notebook as I was cleaning out some piles that had accumulated in our closet.  In an urge to purge, I nearly threw it away without looking at it.  I'm so glad I didn't, because it was the notebook in which I had scribbled notes during our first three hours with Faith and her Mama and Baba.  Those pages are a treasure I would have been devastated to lose.  Let this be a lesson - never throw anything away!  (Just kidding - we have a hoarding sickness in our house between the Husband's sentimentality and my laziness/frugalness. What if I need this someday?)

Those notes brought me back to how much we didn't know about our daughter.  I wrote down things like how often she ate and how to tell if she was tired.  I wrote down random things like "wears Huggies." (Why did the kind of diapers she wore matter to me?  I don't know.)  And I wrote down pieces of information that I only dared hope we would have back when I was praying my Impossible Prayers.  Things like where in China her family is from and how her birth parents met.

It was comforting to compare those notes to the mental notes I now have as her Mommy.  It was comforting to realize that now it's me who knows the most about her.  I know which cries can be ignored and which ones require immediate action.  I know the look on her face when she poops.  I know the food she likes and the ones she'll spit back out.  I know how to scan a room and pick up things she'll eat or things she can reach to pull down on herself.  I know that she loves things that make noises and isn't really interested in books other than to eat them.

For so long I questioned myself, wondering how First Mama would respond in a situation.  Now I just react on instinct.  I know her.  I'm her mommy.  But I still think about First Mama constantly.  We have her picture up several places in our house and we show her picture to Faith.  I think about her when Faith is sick and wonder what sort of remedies she would have to soothe and comfort.  I think about her when Faith hits a milestone and wish I could see the pride and delight on her face.  I think about her when I'm losing my cool and wonder if she would find the same things frustrating.  I think about her when I'm watching Faith and Lila play and imagine what it would be like to not have any of your children with you.

Today I was reminiscing this morning about March 27, 2013 and remembering how terrified I was to buckle her into our car and drive away from the person who knew everything about her.  What if she cried the whole way home?  What if I couldn't figure out how to comfort her?  What if something came up that I didn't think to ask First Mama about?  What if I didn't feel like her mom?  What if she was scared of us?  It was all so overwhelming just as it was delightful and exciting.

And now, today, March 27, 2014 we have hit the one-year mark.  Faith has been ours for a full trip around the sun.  And today I am in the throes of motherhood.  Faith woke up with a fever and has been a miserable and weepy mess.  But today, I am grateful that I am the one to caress her warm forehead, administer the Tylenol and rock her to sleep.

In some ways it feels like yesterday that we were introducing her to the world.  In other ways, it feels like she's been ours forever.  Either way, I am grateful - grateful beyond words - that she is my daughter.

Happy Gotcha Day, Faith-baby!  You are, as your shirt says in that picture, SO LOVED.

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Down Syndrome Day

Today, March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day.  Down syndrome is caused by a complete or partial third copy of the 21st chromosome which is why today - 3/21 - has been designated to celebrate the wonderful people in the world who were created with a bonus 21st chromosome.

So today we are celebrating our own little awesome kid and thanking God for his creativity in design and the blessing of Faith in our lives.

She's a spitfire, that one.  We had to switch physical therapists recently because of some scheduling changes and her new therapist commented that she is stubborn and then said, "We can work with stubborn!" Ha.  Let's hope so!

I love that Faith-baby so much it hurts me.

I did a quick Google search for "down syndrome" and the video I shared yesterday came up.  What made me sad was that a lot of the descriptions of the video made a reference to people "suffering" with Down syndrome.  Which was, I thought, the EXACT OPPOSITE point the video made.  Down syndrome is not something that Faith suffers through.  I suppose you could say she suffers through it the way I suffer through my inability to be on time or my self-criticism.  There are ways that we are all wired that make certain things harder for us than for others.  And on the flip side, we each have been given gifts and abilities that are unique to us.  Faith is no exception.

As I said yesterday, my deepest hope is that Faith's life re-teaches the world that Down syndrome is no tragedy.  Sure, there are things about it that make life more challenging, but in the words of one of the wise men in the video, "isn't that true of everyone?"

Spend one day, one hour, one minute with Faith and the last word on your lips will be suffering.  She is joyful and happy.  She is creative and persistent.  She is beautiful and smart.  She is perfectly and wonderfully made.

She is my daughter.  And I would choose her again and again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dear Future Mom and Sevenly

I love this.  For obvious reasons.  I hope Faith's life and our choice to add her to ours communicates our deep belief that Down syndrome is not a tragedy.  It is a gift.  Faith is a gift.  And I am so very proud that I get to be Faith's mom.

This week, Sevenly is giving $7 of every purchase to the International Down Syndrome Coalition - an organization that is working to make adoption affordable for families wanting to adopt children with Down syndrome.  We might be a little excited about such a fantastic cause!

Check out these cute tees and consider supporting Sevenly and the International Down Syndrome Coalition!

Monday, March 17, 2014

the cutest

I've totally forgiven Faith for her late night shenanigans.  Mostly because how can you stay mad at someone this totally awesome?

Faith loves to swing.  We walked to the park by my parents' house today and she was in heaven.

Big sis was also in heaven.  That girl loves to be outside.  We have learned that one 60 degree day does not mean that it won't snow the next so we have made it a point to play outside any day in which the temperature goes above 40 degrees!

Spring, please come to stay!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Faith and I are in a fight

Let me tell you something about myself: I'm not a nice person when I'm tired.  Or hungry for that matter, but that's not really relevant to this story.

What is relevant is that I act like a pre-schooler when I'm tired.  I know because I have a pre-schooler and I am often horrified at how much my behavior mirrors hers when I'm desperate for sleep.  Today, she threw herself on the ground and cried when she saw that I had cut her face and Faith's face out of a picture so I could put them in the locket the Husband gave me as an anniversary gift.

I told her that we had another copy of the picture.  I told her that I wanted to have her picture with me in my necklace so I could show people my beautiful girls.  This did nothing to mollify her. "You broke the picture!" she yelled between sobs,  "I wanted two of that one!  I'm frustrated that you cut that one!"  And then she threw it on the ground dramatically.  And then Dr. Mommy prescribed a nap as a remedy for irrational tantrums.

It's not pretty when a four-year-old loses her mind over something completely innocuous.  It's far uglier when a 30-year-old mommy does the same thing.  This is something I've learned.

Anyway, back to the fight I'm in with Faith.  Why am I in a fight with my 17-month-old?  Well, I'll tell you.

She was awake from 1:30-4:30am this morning for no discernible reason.  It's one thing when a child wakes up in the middle of the night and either through scientific experiment (putting my hand on their head to check for a fever) or through blind trial-and-error (new diaper, offer a drink, pat the back, wipe the nose, sing a song) I can figure out what's going on and fix the problem.  It's quite another when a child is awake and hollering and no solution emerges and eventually after all the bumbled trouble-shooting the child is then too stimulated to settle back to sleep even if the initial problem had been remedied.  Such was our reality last night.

The Husband and I took turns trying to soothe and pacify the Yeller, but to no avail.  She shoved the bottle away in angry defiance.  She flopped around in our arms when we tried rocking her.  Thinking she might be teething, we tried Tylenol which she slurped up and then went right back to her screaming.  Afraid she would wake up Lila, I brought her into our room and put her in the pack-n-play thinking maybe she just needed to be in the same room as we were.  That...didn't work.  At all.

Around 3:30am - after enduring two hours of noises of objection that ranged from fussing to all-out screaming - I was starting to have those thoughts that set off warning bells in your head and tell you to stay away from your children lest you rip their arms off in a Hulk-like explosion of sleep-deprived anger.  When I expressed such thoughts to the Husband, he wisely took over sole placating duties and took her for a car ride which calmed her down enough to finally go back to sleep.

And more importantly, I got to go to sleep.

This morning, I woke up still a little bit angry.  Because, you know, the whole I'm-really-mean-when-I'm-tired thing.  The Husband was already up getting the kids breakfast because...I really did marry the very best one.  And so when I emerged from my room, Faith was happily shoving blueberries in her mouth and she looked up at me and grinned.

Didn't she know we were in a fight??!!

Apparently not.

So I sighed and I kissed her on her forehead and said, "I don't feel like I love you right now, but loving you is a choice I'm making today."

And she said, "A-ba-da-ba-da-ba."  Which means, "I'm so sorry I kept you up last night Mommy.  I'll never ever do it again."

At least I hope that's what it means.
She certainly looks sorry, doesn't she?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The 8th Anniversary is the Lice Anniversary

This post is full of whiny complaining so I'm gonna go ahead and throw in some random pictures from the last month to brighten the tone a little bit.

You may have noticed that I took an unintentional break from blogging in February.  The reason?  Two words: snow and illness.

Like much of the rest of the country, we were buried under several feet of snow for too many days - so many I lost count.  The first few days it was fun to stay in and snuggle in our warm house while the flakes piled high forming caps on our cars and covering every blade of grass.  But things got desperate when the Husband came down with a capital C Cold - the sort that really should have another name because it was much more than the sniffles and a sore throat (I know because I also had the privilege of experiencing it) - and then we proceeded to spread it to every member of the family.

That sucker did not leave quietly nor quickly.  So after three weeks of being homebound, after three weeks of my extroverted daughter begging me every day to have a friend come over, after three weeks of poor sleep from either being sick ourselves or up with sick kids, after three weeks of fevers and snot and coughs and general misery, I was done.  I wanted a sick day.  I was longing for the reality of my life in 2008 before children when I could take a sick day and sleep and watch The Price is Right and I Love Lucy.  I just wanted to revisit those glorious pre-children days and then hop right back into this wonderful life I've been given.  You know, after a good nap.

When we hit 48 hours with no one having a fever I started to get hopeful that we were through the worst of it.  And I think we were.  But Lila threw up in the car today so...there's that.*  I'm kind of in denial that we might be entering into round 8 of sickness in our house.  *Well it was "today" when I wrote this on Thursday.  Now it's Saturday** and I'm thankful to report that the car vomit seems to have been an isolated incident. **And now it's Tuesday and I am finally getting around to finishing this post.

I woke up yesterday morning with the resolve to catch up on the laundry and dishes and to try to purge the house of any hibernating cold and flu bugs.  I spent the day scrubbing the bathrooms and folding laundry and was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments, albeit a bit worn out, when the Husband came home.  After dinner I hopped in the shower and had just gotten out when the Husband knocked on the door.  "We have a problem," he said solemnly and held out a squirming speck with six legs in between his fingers.  "I just pulled this out of Lila's hair."

Lice.  Lice.  

I couldn't believe it.  This is not happening my brain insisted.  And then my brain started wondering if we all had lice.  Did Faith have lice?  The Husband and I probably have them since Lila's been migrating to our bed in the middle of the night the last few days.  They're probably lurking on every possible surface.  Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?  The Husband's voice broke into my flurry of panicked thoughts,  "Should we give her a bath?  Should I wash her sheets?" he asked helpfully.  We briefly debated the merits of washing her sheets when her hair was still full of lice and nits.  In the meantime Lila was interrupting with incessant questions, "What's lice?  Why is my head itchy?  Is that a bug?  Why was the bug in my hair?  How did it get there?"

Finally I hit my limit and said "Let's just put her to bed and deal with it in the morning."  Then I proceeded to dream that I had lice and that they had settled in my ear.  I woke up frantically wiggling my finger around in my right ear to relieve the subconscious itch.

In the morning I woke up with my brain already running in circles trying to figure out how I was going to get all of the bedsheets and pillows and stuffed animals and coats and clothes and furniture and children's heads deloused.  I woke up swimming in panic and exhaustion from a long day before that had come on the heels of a painfully long month.  I begged the Husband to not abandon me (you know, to go to his job where he works really hard to bring home the bacon - not, like, to go do something fun) to deal with this by myself.  "I can't do it.  I can't," I told him with legitimate tears in my eyes.  And because he is a) an awesome Husband and b) a smart man who knows his wife's pre-breakdown warning signs and c) an awesome Husband, he called his job to say he'd be in late and stayed home to help me figure out how to delouse our daughter.  Make that daughters.  Because guess who else had lice?

Then I texted my friend, "Lila has lice.  I don't know how we didn't know we had them before now.  There are SO many.  I don't want this to be my life right now."

Five seconds later my friend was calling me, "Do you want me to come over and help you do laundry?  We just went through that at our house - it was going around my daughter's school.  I have shampoo and the special comb and spray for the furniture.  I can come over right now!"  I have great friends, man.  Just saying.

"That's so kind.  We are still formulating our plan - I'll let you know if I need help.  Thanks for the offer."

"Well if there are a lot of them and you feel overwhelmed, you could try one of those professional delousing places," she said as we hung up.

I had no idea such places existed.  I sort of wish I still lived in that blissfully ignorant lice-free la-la land in which such knowledge is unnecessary.  But since I now hold residency in the disgustingly lice-infested boo-hoo land, I googled "Lice removal Kansas City" and then proceeded to call each listing to get the details of their services.

In less than an hour, the kids were loaded in the car and we were heading to the cheapest of the lice removal salons.  I looked over at the Husband and said, "Thank you for coming with me."

To which he responded, "Happy Anniversary."

And it was at that moment that I remembered that today is our 8th anniversary.

Happy Anniversary, Husband.  Thank you for walking beside me in every season of my life - even the ones that include human parasites.

P.S. Both Faith and Lila had lice.  The Husband and I were clear, miraculously.  It took the lady two hours to pick through Lila's hair and remove all the nits and lice.  It was worth every penny to know that it was done correctly and that I wasn't the one to force Lila to sit still for two hours while I combed through her hair.  Here's hoping we've seen the last of those nasty bugs.