Sunday, January 25, 2015

Home a month

It's been a month since we came home with Francesca.  I won't lie, because the point of this blog is to be honest.  It has been a bumpy ride.

First, I should start out by saying that there are lots of happy moments of playing and laughing.  Secondly, I should say that I do not expect for things to be going smoothly yet.  Finally, I want to write an open letter to everyone saying, "Dear Friends:  I do not routinely take pictures of our daughter when she is crying or inconsolable for hours on end.  Rather than grab my camera, I try to console her or cheer her up in those moments.  Therefore, she is not always happy as the blog or Facebook might imply.  Neither am I.  And, really, who is happy all the time, anyways?  And who wants to look at pictures of grumpy people?"  My hope is that this blog is a "real" medium for people to learn about our family, adoption, and thalassemia.  And I wouldn't want some "newbies" to stumble on here and think, "Wow, that Linguine Lady's kids are always happy from minute one!"  Because that's not how it really is.

All our kids are different and beautiful in their own ways, so I hate to compare them to each other.  But since comparisons are inevitable, Patrick and I are sure that Frannie has been the toughest of the nuts to crack.  I don't know if it is her age, or that she hates strangers (which we were repeatedly told), or if she just wants to exercise her prerogative to take her own sweet time to warm up to us.  But in any case, we are still waiting as patiently as possible for her to open her little heart to our love.

Other than running over to me and hugging my legs, Francesca does not offer any affection towards me.  She doesn't return hugs and squirms away from receiving them, and she turns her head away if I try to kiss her.  If either of us ask her if we can kiss or hug her, she looks away.  She will let us hold her and will relax briefly, but as soon as she feels herself relaxing, she will sit upright and squirm away.  She does not make eye contact with Patrick and I.  If I put my hand out and motion for her to put her hand in mine, she refuses, but if Emmie does the same thing, she plays along.  It takes quite a bit of work to get her to laugh or giggle at Patrick and I.  She is the happiest and smiliest around Emmie and Rosie, which is heartwarming to see.  She laughs with them and plays with them and seems very relaxed with them.  When she gets up in the morning and it's just her and I awake, I get no babbles, no smiles, and just sideways glances until Emmie or Rosie gets up.  Then the babbling, smiling, and playfulness starts.  I am happy about her comfort with her sisters, but I also look forward to the day when she is able to be comfortable with me.

While she is not generally affectionate with me, she does like to have me around and is very comforted by my presence.  She knows I feed her and take care of her, so she likes to have me nearby.  For instance, at the hospital, when I stepped away for a minute and left her with the girls and our Child Life friend, she started screaming for me the second I was out of her sight.  So, even though she was with her sisters who she favors, she knows I am her caretaker and protector and wants me close.  She knows that her sisters are not a replacement for me.  This is a good thing.

Francesca seems very comforted by food.  (Who isn't, right?)  She will sit and eat and eat and eat long after she must be full.  Sometimes as soon as she finishes a meal and I put her down, she starts crying and points to get back up.  Some of this might be that she is just a good eater (which she really is!), but some of it seems a bit extreme and as if she is using her time at the table as comfort.  She screams if she has to wait 15 seconds for her food to be ready, even if she's on her 3rd bowl of something and can't possibly be starving.  If I try to feed her while I am up and about the kitchen doing other things, she will scream and point to my chair, wanting me to sit down and feed her and give her my undivided attention.  This is when she seems to enjoy my attention the most.

She is not a good sleeper right now, despite the fact that she desperately needs her sleep.  I think this is because she hates her crib and does not like sleeping alone.  Even though she is sharing a room with Rosie, she still would prefer have me there.  But it's simply my presence and not my affection that she is looking for.  If I reach in the crib to hold her hand or comfort her, she turns away.  In the morning I bring her into my bed with me for some cuddle time.  Sometimes she just lays there stiffly and looks up at the ceiling.  Other times she'll cuddle a little bit, but she doesn't really relax or enjoy herself until Rosie gets up and climbs in bed with us.

All of this is hard on a mother's heart, but this is about Francesca, not about me.  I think the worst part is feeling like she is not truly happy in our home yet because I want so badly for her to be happy.  Patrick and I remark that she sometimes seems "lost" or just out of sorts.  That makes us feel sad.   I also feel sad that she is not enjoying our hugs and attempts at comfort because, let's face it, hugs should feel good and I want her to feel good!  I know in time she will lean into us instead of leaning away from our affection, but I want to be honest and say that it's hard being patient.  When you give, give, give and just get a frown or diverted eyes in return, it's hard not to take it personally.  And when you love your baby so very much, it's natural to want to hug them and kiss them and cuddle them without being pushed away.

While we wait for her world to settle down, we will continue to patiently work at it and love on her the very best we can.  At least I can look at Emmie and Rosie and know that this does get better, and that time is the only way for that to happen.  And we'll continue to enjoy and photograph those special smiling, happy moments we have together.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Life in the Cocoon

I think I sat down for 4 minutes tonight after dinner.  Patrick was upstairs getting the girls ready for bed so I quietly snuck a piece of Christmas chocolate.  Ahh...a moment to myself.  And then, "Mama! We have another poo-poo!" So I swallowed down my chocolate and went upstairs to scoop the poop into the last vial to be cultured for Frannie.  How timely.  Now it's in quadruple biohazard bags in the fridge next to my chicken that's brining.  Ah, the joys of returning home from China.

They are the real joys of returning home from China.

So, my initial assessment is that three little people is hard.  Especially three little people aged 5 and under.  Let's face it, little ones are needy.  SUPER needy.  And it's not as if all of a sudden Emmie and Rosie became totally independent overnight just because we brought home Francesca.  Of course it feels like everyone needs parental help at the same time.  So when Patrick is home, the two of us run around with our hair on fire to manage crisis after crisis--and by crisis I mean anything from a diaper blowout to needing more yogurt to getting a boo-boo to being stuck in your Frozen costume.  But most of the time, I'm the one here running around...alone.  Just me.  That's life in the cocoon.

Some people cocoon, some don't.  I'm no psychologist, and I'm not equipped to discus the merits of cocooning with any sort of authority.  I just know that at least on the surface, it makes total sense to us.  There's this new, confused, displaced person thrown into your family and your house.  She's trying to figure out where she is and who you are.  It stands to reason that the more people and places you throw into the mix, the more confusing it will be.  So, that's why we do it.  But it's hard.  Now is when I'm feeling the most out of sorts myself and like I could use a helping hand, but now is when I have to juggle it mostly on my own.  I said to my mother the other day that now I totally understand why people have their mothers come and live with them or visit every day when they bring home a new baby from the hospital.  There is nothing I'd like more than to have some help here.  But right now I'm trying so hard to convince Francesca that I'm the real deal and win her over.  ("Look at me cook!  Look at me braiding your sister's hair!  Look at me wipe your tushie!  Look at me feeding you!  Look at me playing with you! Look at me loving on all three of you!")  I just don't think it's a good idea to throw much more confusion or stimulation into the mix.  But staying the cocooning course is definitely the harder route.

Overall I feel like I'm in slow motion.  Even when Patrick's around, just getting out of the house is a challenge.  Frannie will wake us up at 4:30am and with that much of a [reluctant] head start, we're still just piling in the car by 11:30.  Getting to Target is a huge triumph.  Last weekend we miraculously made it to the North End!  (I'm still wondering if that really happened or if it was just a dream.)

OK.  It was real.  We made it to the North End for pizza.

At Modern Pastry.  Frannie loves to eat.  After I took this picture, she
started licking the display case.  Not joking.  This germophobe wanted
to Purell her tongue but thought better of it.

On Hanover Street.  We enjoyed all the treats the North End has to offer.
She's indoctrinated already.

Caffe Vittoria for a mocha.  For the grownups.  Kids had hot cocoa.
Although Frannie looks like she might have hit the espresso. 

I will also be the first to admit that at least part of the problem is on my end.  I mean, after Emmie and Rosie, I thought all kids started at the age of two.  I'm not used to someone who wrestles me during every diaper change and who is harder to dress than an octopus.  And strapping her into the car seat...don't get me started.  "Cooperation" is apparently not in the vocabulary of a 16-month old.

I know it's going to get better.  But right now I'm feeling like I'll never be on time for anything in my life again.  My house is messy, my definition of clean (hair, clothes, kids) is getting looser, and a "good night's sleep" is any night that doesn't involve a 2-hour interlude in the wee hours awake with Frannie. I consider myself to be a decent cook, and the other night was the first time since we've been home where something wasn't burnt or overcooked because I was running in 7 different directions at once.  ("Don't you like the toasted garlic flavor?" has become a common question around here.)  As long as no one goes missing, everyone gets the correct medications, and people have two shoes on when we leave the house (they don't have to match), I think I've had a good day.

So here's to all you moms with 3, 4, 7, 12 kids...whatever it is.  I don't know how you keep it together.  You look so lovely in your Lulu Lemon yoga pants and perfectly straightened hair.  I looked at my hair straightener this morning and wondered if I could use it to quickly remove wrinkles from the pants I've been wearing for 6 days in a row, or if it would just bake in all of the different foods Frannie has dropped on them over the past week.

And, for anyone who thinks I am exaggerating about my haggard existence, here is a real conversation I had the other day. Because I can't leave Frannie with anyone yet, I had her and Rosie in tow when I went to the doctor.  This was my waiting room conversation:

Some Guy:  Wow!  You have two little ones there, huh?
Me:  [Um, duh.  You can count to two.  Great.]  Yes!  They are 1 and 4!
Some Guy:  Wow!  That's two little ones!
Me:  [Oh, my goodness again with the "two".  I KNOW YOU CAN COUNT TO TWO.]  Well, actually there's another who is at Pre-K.  She's 5.
Some Guy:  Three of them!!! wonder you look so worn out!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Three Years

From terrified little girl...

01.09.2012 my little Mini-Mama...

Emmie has brought us more joy than we could have ever imagined.  She was the first of three best decisions my husband and I have ever made.  She is beautiful inside and out, has a perfect heart and is an old soul.  She is sensitive and compassionate, stubborn and silly.  She is smart as a whip, and has a bit of a temper.  Imaginative, brave, girly, and friendly...she tests us hard and loves us harder.

When I think about her rough beginnings as an orphan, and our humble beginnings as a family, my heart swells with such love, pride, and happiness that it almost stops my breath.  This amazing little girl--and all of our amazing little girls--have changed our lives in every way, and all for the better.  I don't know what I ever did to get so lucky, but I am forever thankful.

For her special day, Emmie wanted to go to Build-A-Bear
to get some new duds for her teddy.

So Happy Emmie Day, to the little girl who made me a mother for the first time.  I don't want to think about what my life would be like without you as my daughter.

Of course my girly-girl picked the frilliest dress she could find!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Santa came!

When we agreed to travel to China to pick up Francesca and return on Christmas day, we knew that there was no way Santa was going to be able to visit our house on schedule.  So we explained to Emmie and Rosie that sometimes Santa has to make a special trip to families who can't be somewhere where they can get their presents on Christmas at 38,000 feet on an airplane from China.  We promised them that our elf, Frosty, would watch our family carefully after we returned home so he could tell Santa when we were all healthy, over jet lag, and Frannie was reasonably settled in so he could make his trip back here.  Feeling like those criteria were met, Frosty gave the nod to Santa last night.

When we told the girls that Saturday was our Christmas Eve, they were so super didn't make one ounce of difference to them that Santa was coming a little late.  They understood that we had something more important to do on the "real" Christmas.  As if on cue, the snow started falling Saturday night.  Emmie and Rosie broke out into "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and insisted that Rudolph would really have to use that red nose to light Santa's way back to our house.  The girls got a plate of goodies ready for Santa and the reindeer and we read "The Night Before Christmas" because, for us, it was the night before Christmas.  As the five of us sat around our tree, for the zillionth time Patrick and I knew that we had made the right decision to get Francesca before Christmas.  Even though our holiday season was far from "normal", it was perfect in it's own way.

"Christmas Eve."  Frannie was so excited and she didn't even know what she was being excited about!
Maybe she just thought that huge cupcake from Mike's in the North End was for her.

The closest thing I could get to a photo of Frannie.  I'm not sure if she knew what
was going on, but she stayed very busy with all of her new toys.

Did they get Elsa and Anna dresses?  Of course they did.  But they spent most
of the day wearing their new firefighter outfits and putting out fires.  Love my gals!