Archive for January, 2011

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Ps and Qs

January 31, 2011

Even when in baby mode, Mara is all about letters right now. We have to read her alphabet book several times each day.

What’s fascinating to me, though, is the extent to which she’s making the same mistakes that I’ve made when learning other languages. She has trouble with some of the letters that sound alike (D and B, which also look alike, being the most common repeat offenders) and she currently insists that every letter on the page with her initial should be called by that initial and the requisite “M for Mara!” that goes with it. A lot of her letters come with place-holder words that she uses as mnemonics, “X-ray, X!” and so on. She briefly called giraffes Gs because she couldn’t remember the animal name but knew which letter stood next to it in her alphabet books.

More than that, though, she confuses “cheek” and “chin,” though I think she’s over that particular one, because she learned them from me in the first week or so she was with us, back when all she did was count on her fingers and touch our faces to say the few body parts she knew. Wow, she’s come a long way! But anyway, yes, “cheek” and “chin” are mostly good now, and “eyebrows” have found their rightful place. “Upstairs” and “downstairs” are still problems, though. Most opposite pairs are somewhat inconsistent, and honestly there’s not a whole lot of internal logic a kid can grasp when someone “turns on a light” versus when it’s “turned off.” And since she’s neither allowed to “close” nor “open” doors much (or at least not to close doors inside the house until she learns to turn the doorknobs to open them) it shouldn’t be a surprise that she sometimes has a hard time with those.

During her number phase, she was occasionally stymied by 8 and 3, which (understandably!) looked similar to her. I haven’t noticed as much of this with letters and we’ve been talking about how their shapes differ. So F is like E but with another line at the bottom. I’ll sometimes hear her murmuring this to herself as she plays with her letters on the fridge. (And even when she’s not playing with physical letters, she’s often pretending to be Super WHY‘s Princess Presto and writing letters in the air with her imaginary magic wand. “What sounds Sssssss Ssssss Sssss? Ess! A little snake!”)

She’s also decided that since M is for Mommy, W (“What sounds wuh? wuh? wuh?”) must be for Mama, which she knows isn’t phonologically true but somehow suits her desire for order and also cracks us up. I’m throwing that in here because Lee thinks any talk about how Mara’s the best in her class with letters or anything like that is showing off and that I think she’s going to be some kind of superkid. (And she is the best! Yay, Mara! She not only can identify the letter for her name but “S for Shauna” and a few other favored classmates show up in the lineup as we go through the letters.) Mostly, though, I’m just fascinated by watching her little brain work, see how she learns new things and forgets things and then comes back to them, how she’ll chirp up with something from the back seat that we adults had long since forgotten about.

I couldn’t understand her request for mittens a few weeks ago and she finally sighed, “Mommy, like gloves!” Lee claims that when she can’t understand Mara, Mara usually just sighs and gives up in a huff. Mara’s persistent, though, and as a bit of a perfectionist she likes to make sure we know exactly what she’s trying to say. So we know her little songs and little chants (like “kicking… a door,” which she claims is from Super WHY but I think she must have misheard) and even her favorite baffahabba nonsense sound. I’m so grateful that we have this time with her and that we get to see her growing like this. What a fantastic age, exhausting as it can be!

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regression

January 31, 2011

I have to fill out our paperwork tonight: three months with Mara behind us now. This last week was one of the hardest we’ve had in a long time.

I don’t know if it’s related to the medical debacle or what, but Mara was clearly having a rough time. She was up with bad dreams on and off through the night after that and has been a more restless sleeper than usual, though that seems to be abating. She’s wanted to spend a lot of time pretending to be a baby while I rock or swaddle her. She’s just wanted me to hold her a lot, period. She’s started putting non-food items in her mouth again, though I’ve been able to catch her at this and make her spit them out. This weekend, which was the hardest bit from my perspective, even saw her drooling again when we hadn’t seen that in a long time.

And she’s having meltdowns. It started when I picked her up from school on Thursday night and she wouldn’t put on her coat. Since we’d just come from therapy, I tried turning my attention to something else to ignore her as the therapist would have suggested. Her shrieks and sobs got immediately worse in a way that made me think it was breaking her heart. Eventually I got her out of there and down to the car, where she burst into shrieking again. I stood holding her, coatless, in the cold for almost 45 minutes before she was willing to get in her car seat. Eventually my soft singing got her to quiet down, but until then she was clinging to me with all her strength and shrieking, “No, go away, I don’t wanna!” while she cried.

I haven’t kept count of how many little meltdowns there have been since then, though they got more shrill and started to involve more squirming while she’s holding on for dear life. She finally did one while Lee was around and taking a nap and Lee came racing down the stairs, thinking Mara must have been terribly hurt. No, though, she was just hanging on me and screaming and screaming and crying. I’ve had more tears on my shirts this weekend than maybe in the rest of the three months combined.

Our counselor is very taken with the idea that Mara has been on her good behavior, a “honeymoon” in foster/adoption speak, and that she’s going to test us soon to see if we’ll reject her and whether we’ll hold to our boundaries. I’m not so sure that that’s what’s going on, but Mara’s certainly having a certain amount of inner pain and trying to figure things out. She’s fantastic much of the rest of the time, and we had a great time making muffins together and reading books and letting her play in the bath, which she now loves. I don’t want to jump to conclusions at all about what Mara’s thinking or feeling.

Part of the problem, I’m sure, is that Lee and I have both been backsliding into bad habits, too. Lee’s been spending way too much time outside the home for recreational reasons, which means I’m spending too much time one-on-one with Mara rather than taking care of my own needs. These are both things we wanted to curb as we became parents, and it’s not working and instead we were getting on each other’s nerves a lot. We’ve talked and I think things are heading in the right direction, especially once the hot water heater gets fixed tonight and I can take a long, hot bath myself.

It’s only one more month before I go to the Orlando moms’ retreat and I’d sort of been feeling like I was cheating in going since I’m not dealing with a difficult kid (unless you mean Lee, in which case I totally deserve the break!) but even easygoing Mara has her moments of intensity that are hard to parent. And I think counseling has me second-guessing myself even more than I would have before, made worse because Lee’s so sure everything we’re being told in counseling is bogus and I don’t want to be in the middle of that fight particularly. Anyway, the point is that I do need a break. We’re going to have our first date, just the two of us, for my birthday in two weeks. And then the morning after that I’m going to pack Mara into the car and drive several hours alone because Lee can’t commit to doing something I find meaningful when she’d rather have that time for herself to do what she calls “selfish” things, and it never ends.

In those three months, we’ve only used a babysitter once, and we need to do more. We’ve only used the house cleaner once and she’ll definitely be coming back. I may not be dealing with a difficult kid in the scheme of things, but all three-year-olds are intense and difficult, and I have a particularly heavy one to carry around! Add that to all the messy emotional processing I’d been doing all week and a significant amount of physical pain and you’ve got me being pretty much cranky and miserable.

None of this is just plain easy on any of us. We’ve all had our routines shaken up and recreated, our comforts suddenly taken away from us. (I’m not saying any of this to minimize Mara’s pain or loss; certainly her losses are greater and more meaningful than ours. I just mean it’s easy to focus on the changes she’s been through and forget how our relationship and home changed completely in the week between the night we met her and the night she moved in.) And we’re all working to find equilibrium and to do it in a loving way, even if that does sometimes involve weeping or wanting two mutually exclusive things at once.

As I was doing dishes last night and listening to Mara play upstairs over the baby monitor, I heard her saying, “I got it! I got it!” in an especially boisterous way that let me know she was playing with a balloon. She then said to the empty room, “Look, Mama! Look, Mommy! I have balloon!” Knowing that she brags to us and looks to us for praise even when we’re not there meant so much to me. And when Lee asked her this morning what they should do tonight after school, she very seriously replied, “with Mommy!” Even if it’s tough sometimes, “with Mara” and “with Lee” are what I want too.

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Vacation!

January 28, 2011

What does it say about me that when I have certain types of more negative posts, I feel a need to post something new that will bump them down the page?

At any rate, this post is to say that next month the three of us are headed to Laguna Beach, California so Lee can attend a conference and Mara and I can enjoy ourselves. On the off chance I have any readers in the area who’d like to meet in the flesh, I thought I’d just throw this out here. Feel free to email me at motherissues at gmail dot com and we can eventually figure out a meeting plan. There’s a lot of time before then, but Mara’s summer-y shoes arrived in the mail today and so her first-ever airplane trip is on my mind.

(As an update to the last post, the woman who cleaned our house did a great job and it will definitely make our weekend easier and thus decrease potential relationship tension. And in counseling, Lee was the one who was skeptical for a change because she thinks overpraising good behavior and ignoring bad is the way you train a dog and thus inappropriate for use in a child. I will post about this but try not to trash how she did in fact “train” her dog later. Ah, ourpoor pup Pocky, who’s beloved by Mara and doing pretty well at having Mara be the primary focus of attention!)

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not as brave

January 27, 2011

I’m having a slightly hard time with things now. I think this is my fourth week back to work. The first wasn’t too bad because things were slow at the office and I was so excited Mara was doing well in school. The second, I ran the office and so I didn’t have time to worry about anything. Now, though, work is hectic and things at home are hectic and I’m not finding my balance or getting the rest I need. As a result, I don’t think Lee is particularly enjoying living with me, though our relationship is getting better after the hit it took from parenting.

And then there’s the medical thing. Because I’m a survivor of sexual assault, I’m very big on bodily integrity. If there’s something sexual/romantic that Lee doesn’t want to do, it’s just not going to happen no matter how much I may want it because I just can’t feel comfortable with anything that isn’t a freely chosen yes for her. This issue of full consent is probably my one biggest non-negotiable. And with Mara, that’s meant that I respect her when she says she doesn’t want to be tickled or doesn’t want to be kissed. Lee doesn’t, and while the results are typically good, I’m just not okay with that and I’ve been talking to Lee about it a lot and I think we’re finding a balance there.

I don’t go overboard with letting Mara decide what she wants. I mean, she’s getting wiped when she needs to get wiped. We made her take baths regularly even when she didn’t want to. All but her most recent hair-washing have required me to restrain her. I’ve restrained her when she got shots or had blood drawn, too, and if we don’t conquer that by next year’s vaccine time we’re going to need four nurses to help me out because the three nurses this year had their strength maxed out. And when I say “restrain,” this isn’t anything terrible, nothing outside the ordinary of what mothers of totally healthy children who are biologically theirs and raised since birth do. I have to cradle Mara, soothe her and talk to her so she understands what’s going on, and she does understand and I can tell that this helps her get through it. If it’s something she needs to get through, it’s worth it to put myself in a situation I don’t like.

This week’s medical test feels different, though. Holding Mara while she was undressed and there was a doctor she didn’t want near her examining her and touching her body in ways that weren’t what we were told would happen has really set me off, though. I know I was doing it with the right intentions and that I did everything I could to make it tolerable for Mara, but I’ve just felt icky and queasy and weepy ever since. I know this is about me more than about the situation, but it’s set me off and I’m feeling mopey and low.

Mara doesn’t seem to be upset about it anymore, but I am. I guess I should be thinking about what autonomy means and what my concepts of parenting are and so on, but mostly I want to just curl up and get some rest and cry and relax a bit. I’m sure there’s a lot more going on than just this, and part of it is that it’s hard to get the whole household up and running and then work a full day and then come home and manage dinner and get things tidied before bedtime. I’m tired because my life is tiring, but I’m also uncomfortable and I want to examine (privately, not on-blog) why I do feel so uncomfortable and what I can do about it.

Maybe relatedly, Lee and I are having our long parent session for the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy where we’ll learn the techniques we’re supposed to be using to improve our relationship with Mara and increase our skills as parents. (The therapeutic goal is to increase attachment and work on a couple of situations she seems to find triggering, but basically it’s about helping us just be more attentive and set healthy boundaries.) Today’s also the first time we’ve had someone who’s not us clean our house. A friend of a friend who cleans was looking for more work and we figured that we’re not doing our part to keep things as clean as they could be, so we’ll see if paying money to have a clean house is more satisfying than sniping at each other and doing a job at a time when we feel up to it. So there are structures in place to help things get better, at least in theory. I just have to do my part of the work too, I guess.

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hair restrictions

January 26, 2011

Because I feel conflicted and sort of unhappy about the last post, I’m going to throw something else up to replace it!

I cut Mara’s hair six or seven weeks ago, so she’s had lots of time for growth since then and it’s noticeable both on the longer one-length parts and the sort parts that used to be bald spots. We have had some breakage, though, when twice she managed to pull off a small chunk of hair when pulling out a hair snap and probably when I saw her tugging the ends of her loose hair. Unfortunately, I’d moved to just hair snaps instead of snaps and beads because I’m fairly sure she ate a bead after pulling it out of her hair back when she was starting school and nervously eating things she shouldn’t to deal with the stress. So now Mara’s on hair restriction from styles that tempt damage until I think she’s ready to handle that and I’m being careful to do styles she can’t really mess with.

Mara's hairstyle for the current week

I’m still learning what Mara and her hair like, but the style above is what she’s sporting this week. The front is in flat twists too, and I can easily redo one in the morning if it’s gotten too messy or loose. I then gathered those flat twists with some loose two-strand rope twists (left from the back style the week before) into little twist/twist-out puffs. And the back is a spiral.

Mara’s hair is maybe three inches long now at the longest and is very, very coily/curly, so there’s a lot of shrinkage. I’m not very good at cornrowing but also cornrows seem to get dry and itchy pretty fast for her. With the flat rope twists I did in this style, I’m not sure if it’s that the hair is not pulled as tightly as in a braid or that there’s more hair up off her scalp or what, but moisturizing the scalp and hair seems much more successful. I’ve also always thought of twists as more feminine than braids, and these styles look very cute.

As style advice, I really like rope twists better than regular twists. In a rope twist, you’re taking each strand of the twist and twisting it (I always go clockwise/right) and then twisting the two twisted strands over one another in the opposite direction. In a two-strand flat rope twist like the spiral Mara’s sporting, I twist my two starting strands clockwise, bring the right/bottom piece left/up over the other, add a piece of loose hair, twist that new hair clockwise together with the twist, then move that twist to my other hand or a different finger so I can grab the strand I didn’t deal with and repeat the process. It’s gotten much easier with time, and I think these hold better than regular twists (where you’re just wrapping the strands around each other without the competing initial twist) and have a rounder look that I like.

My other tip for people wanting to do things like the spiral is that I don’t start with the full twist. With that, I parted each section one at a time, so worked across the bottom, then parted to go up the edge on the left, then parted to go across the top, and so on. I also did a regular one-strand twist, just taking hair and adding pieces to it and twisting the whole thing rather than having two strands going one over the other. This left me with a loose, puffy look but it delineated where I was going to twist. It was so loose that I didn’t have to undo it from the end and could just use my fingers to pull loose the hair for each section as I wanted to put it into the flat rope twists.

Mara looks adorable no matter what we do and she never weighs in much on how her hair looks. I don’t know whether it bothers her that she doesn’t have long hair like the other girls in her class. We just talk about how good hers looks and don’t draw attention to other people. She’s gotten very good about sitting still while I work on her hair, I think because she trusts me not to cause her pain. The other magic there is that she now watches Miyazaki movies (right now, either My Neighbor Totoro or Ponyo) and those keep her absolutely fascinated. Then in the morning as she’s still waking up, I use whatever I’m using to moisturize her hair, a spritz or some hair lotion with jojoba oil or just coconut oil, and then I retwist any sections that need it. The spiral hasn’t needed anything until today, when the smallest part at the center came loose because it’s just a two-strand rope twist where I’d pulled the end through the twist below it. Rather than go through that again, I put two tiny butterfly clips on, one on each side, and sent her off to school like that.

I think the twist styles are sort of a challenge for Lee to accept, the same way she’s had a hard time coming to terms with her locs at times. She wants her daughter to be wearing ponytails with braids or twists because that’s what she wore as a little girl. Once Mara has the hair for it, I’m sure we’ll do that, but now it’s just not an option. And because of the kind of hair she has, she may end up preferring styles like the one she’s got now. I’m sure there’s a class component to this. Many of the other kids in Mara’s class are the children of students and eligible for things like free and reduced lunch (which Mara would be, too, while she’s in foster care). Lee and I are still talking about how we navigate class and race with her, but I don’t mind if she’s wearing styles that are more like her classmates’ than some of the other black kids with white moms that we know, who get to wear their curls loose and free or just in plain ponytails. As I write this, I’m not able to find the words for what I’m trying to say, so I’ll just stop.

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brave girl

January 26, 2011

We’ve long told Mara — mostly in medical contexts, I admit — that being brave means doing the right thing even when you don’t want to do it. This means that even though being in a doctor’s office sends her into a meltdown with hysterical crying and sometimes hyperventilating, she knows what she’s supposed to do and we trust her to be able to do as much as she can. In general, this has been working and we celebrate her for being brave as she does get a little better at managing each time we see the doctor.

Last night was her little test procedure, which didn’t work out at all as we’d been told it would. Instead of a female doctor, we got a male doctor from exactly the demographic that scares Mara even on top of doctors frightening Mara. She was completely freaked out, screaming and shaking. I had to hold her for the whole examination while Lee cowered in her chair. It wasn’t pleasant for any of us, and I don’t think we even particularly enjoyed the celebratory ice cream after. Mara was snifflingly satisfied when she was able to say “All done!” and we did indeed remind her how brave she was to go through with it. She didn’t sleep too well, a lot of talking in her dreams, and was extra cuddly when she woke up, but it’s done, all done.

Lee has often told Mara, “Mommy and I never want to hurt you!” I’m really opposed to that because, well, I don’t want Mara to throw it back in my face when I’m using tweezers to dig a splinter out of her hand or what have you. I mean, I don’t want her to think that we want to hurt her and I don’t believe she does, but I also don’t want to promise we can keep her from harm (which is what Lee wants to do, and I understand why, though I’ve made her tone her statements down to the one I quoted) when we know that there are lots of things in the world that are painful and unpleasant and many of them do have to be lived through.

Mara’s already had a lot of pain in her life, but I don’t think our job is to keep her from more pain. When she hated baths, we still made her keep taking baths until finally one day she realized she could have fun in them. Now she’s cool with the bath thing, but washing hair is still a huge challenge, one that also comes with my restraining her while she has what seems to be a panic attack. And yet she still has her hair washed every two weeks, and like with our regular doctor visits, it gets a little easier every time.

Our differences of opinion are not anything I’m going to argue with Lee about at this point, but I’m thinking about them now. We make a big deal about Mara being brave because it lets her reframe her experience in a way that marks her successes and not her failures. We don’t say, “Sheesh, kid, you screamed so loudly they could hear you in the lobby!” even when that’s true. Instead we say, “Hey, you were scared and you cried but you got through it and I’m proud you did!” and I particularly don’t care if that would make Amy Chua weep. Still, we need to be thinking about how we’re framing our own experiences as parents and how that influences what we do.

It’s hard to be brave when our little girl is hurting, but we can do the right thing even when we don’t want to. And since yesterday’s doctor didn’t find any evidence that anything’s wrong, we can hope and push for no repeats of this test or at least not under the same circumstances. It could have been worse, but while we can’t keep Mara from pain or unpleasantness, we can definitely advocate to make things better for her. We’re all still learning. Maybe that never stops.

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all my children

January 25, 2011

Okay, my life is definitely not a soap opera, but it feels right now like there are a lot of storylines winding slowly through my world.

Mara is finally saying her full first name consistently, and it’s absolutely adorable! She’s fascinated by letters and letter sounds right now, has to spell out practically every word she sees. I was a very early reader, but I never expected to parent one because I never really imagined we’d have such a young child, and it seems like I’d better get used to more “Mommy, what says guh-guh-guh? G!” for the time being. That’s really not a sacrifice!

We talked to Rowan last week. I called because I wanted to make sure his Christmas package (sent after Christmas because I couldn’t keep up before) had arrived, which it had. It turned out I was calling on the day of his parents’ Termination of Parental Rights hearing. No one who’d been in court had gotten around to calling him yet with the results, but since both parents have now been found guilty of abusing him (one in a trial, one by plea) it’s not as if there’s any controversy about what the outcome will be. He was still feeling very glum about it, though, and obviously unmoored by the idea of not belonging to any family. I expressed my sympathies, but he didn’t want to talk about it much, which I understand. He called back later in the weekend to talk to Lee about sports, but didn’t call back again later when she’d be home. I need to make sure we talk to him soon.

Lee is very careful to say, “Bye! We love you! Take care!” really fast at the end of her conversations with him so that the “love you” doesn’t seem forced or pushy. He generally responds now that he loves us too, and has brought it out unprompted a few times. He now always asks about Mara and he had a story for me about how a girl in one of his classes reminded him of someone and he finally realized it was me. I just keep thinking about how hard I had to push a year ago to stay in touch with him once he went back to the RTC and how Lee sort of scorned my efforts. Now, though, it seems comfortable for all of us to check in when we have a spare minute. It helps that we know he’s safe and cared for, and I think it helps him to know that he can call with something frivolous or something important and get attention and input from us. That means we’re family, I think, regardless of what the law says.

Colton is slowly and quietly making his presence known, too. First he contacted me through a facebook message and since then he’s done a little more there. It’s not much, nothing terribly direct, but he’s signalling that he’s heard us too about our interest in being part of his life, hearing about his growth. In some ways, that’s more rewarding than our relationship with Rowan, because I worked pretty hard to make things with Rowan work. But with Colton, I did what I could to let him know how we felt and that we’d let him have his space and I knew that he might eventually cut us away forever. I didn’t push, didn’t keep calling week after week, just waited. And now that’s paid off too! There are these fantastic young men who are not our sons but are still part of our lives, and I love that.

And Mara’s former caretaker, Samara, never called back when she’d said she would to set up a time to meet. I’d sort of expected that, though Lee was shocked. Since we hadn’t been planning to meet over the weekend, that worked out fine for us. We’ll try again in a few weeks, because Lee has talked to Mara’s family social worker and does feel comfortable that this connection could be healthy and won’t be harmful. So we spent the chilly weekend as just our little family, and in fact I let Mara stay with my parents for a few hours, the first time we’ve left her with a babysitter. She was fantastic for them (no surprise, since she adores Grandma and Grandpa) and then we all got to eat the dinner my dad had been cooking, so it was a huge success on all fronts from my perspective.

I’ve stopped counting every Saturday how many it’s been since Mara came to us. I finally got to meet her prior foster family’s social worker, the one who was instrumental in moving her to us expeditiously. I dropped off my medical forms at the office on Friday and brought Mara along with me. That family’s worker and our foster family worker both came out to see her, and the worker who hadn’t seen her since October was amazed at how she’s grown physically, verbally, just as a not-so-tiny person. She charmed them. She charms everyone, though not in a false or calculating way. She’s just a sweet, smart, caring, polite, curious girl and it’s a joy to be around her. I know Lee and I are still thrilled and completely smitten.

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a middle path

January 19, 2011

Lee and I are still talking about what we should do about contact. We’re each trying to see the other’s perspective and loosen up a little about it.

At this point, our first priority is to let Lee talk to Samara. I think it was talking to her that made me feel comfortable reaching out to her. The second, though, is that we’re going to tell her that this weekend is not a good time to meet. (Although there’s another game at the college and I wonder if we went there who we’d see….)

Mara’s procedure will be early next week and part of looking to see whether there’s been any damage will involve asking her if she remembers anyone ever hurting her in a way that could cause damage. Given how negatively she responds to anything doctor-related (though she’s getting better! And after the fact, we told her that the speech therapist she’d seen was a doctor and praised her for doing so well at the speech doctor’s!) we really want to have this test happen on the best possible footing. That means we don’t want Mara to be processing her visit with her little sibling and Samara and any resultant worry that we’re not going to keep taking care of her. We want her to be as relaxed as she can be, and we think that relaying this to Samara (who asked if this complaint had gotten better, so she’s sensitive to Mara’s needs here) will make sense to her.

From there, we’re going to play it by ear. We still haven’t heard anything from Mara’s family worker about any of this, and our own worker just said that we can make the best judgments and she’ll support us in whatever we choose to do. I still think there’s no reason for Mara to not be seeing these people. She saw them fine when she was with her other foster family and stopped in large part because the foster family found visits inconvenient, not because they had a negative impact on her. (Lee hadn’t thought about that side of things and it seems to have been a deciding factor in cutting down on her fear that contact will harm Mara.)

I’m still figuring out how to write about this, but an online friend suggested that Lee’s sudden fear of Mara’s family may be connected to her qualms about her connections with her own birth family. I’m working on a post that touches on this without co-opting either experience, but it’s hard. I do think that Lee wants to protect Mara from some of the heartache she had as a child, but I disagree that the way to do it is to keep Mara from family; I think the pain was not just that it was hard to see her seemingly non-maternal mother Leah but that she’d heard the adoptive parent she loved being negative about Leah for most of the year and then for a few days would have to be in the same room with both of them. We can make our behavior such that we’re not putting Mara in that position. Her family members have to make their own choices about how to behave and we’ll respond accordingly, but at this point we can show her that we approach them with love and open hearts to the extent we’re able. It’s all we have.

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updating recent posts

January 18, 2011

Mara had a good time at her speech evaluation and now tests in the average range! They’re still going to recommend speech therapy for her because she has some sounds that are problems and her verb tenses aren’t very sophisticated, but this is a concrete sign that she’s made real progress. (Not that we needed that since it’s obvious to us, but I know how often the files we’ve read of other kids in foster care are full of bad evaluations that lead to nothing else and I’m glad hers will show how well she’s doing with this!) There seem to be waiting lists everywhere to actually start the speech therapy, and I’m sure she’ll be talking better by the time she gets to it, but she’s on some lists now and we’ll start when we can.

The other thing is that Lee wants to back out of meeting anyone from Mara’s life until after adoption. She’s just too afraid of what might happen — that Mara’s dad might be violent, though he never has been in the past, that there might be something sinister going on even though it was clearly a chance encounter that brought us into contact — and I’m really annoyed about this and probably not being fair to her. (But while I’m not being fair, well, hey, it would be a lot easier to know what she thought if she spent as much time talking to me about it as she apparently did with the coworkers who encouraged her fears!)

I’m annoyed, very annoyed. I don’t see how it could do anything but make Mara’s family feel like we have something to hide or think we’re too good for them or something if at this point we basically say, “You know, I know I said we wanted her to spend time with her siblings, but we don’t trust you enough to actually do it. But I promise we will later, once we have the legal rights to make decisions about what she does and you have nothing!” Seriously, what the fuck? I know she’s talking through her fear, but I also know that if she’s not willing to support contact, there’s probably not much I can do to make it happen. Well, except being mad that she’s not talking to me enough and not doing other things enough, but I sort of did that already this weekend and all that happened was that we were both prickly and grouchy.

At any rate, I had emailed our social workers (the one for Mara’s family and the one who works directly with our family) about the chance meeting and our plans for contact and to ask their thoughts about it. I’ve now emailed again to give our worker an update on the speech stuff and to let her know that Lee needs to talk to one of the social workers involved with this case and not just her coworker who was a social worker 30+ years ago to make sure she’s got the facts she needs to make her decision.

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January 18, 2011

Mara’s at her speech evaluation right now with Lee and since Lee hasn’t called to get any information from me, I assume it’s going well. We’ve been so proud of how well Mara’s talking has become, but I’m still expecting her to get a recommendation for more therapy. I’m sure she’s going to be nowhere near the single-digit percentile she scored at in the month before she moved in with us, though. And the really good news is that the therapist should be able to just come to school and work with her there, so we won’t even have to worry about driving Mara to another appointment, since scheduling the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy meetings has been a bit of a challenge at times.

One funny Mara story I haven’t shared is another that comes from her earliest days with us. When she would watch Babies, Lee and I would point out how often baby Hattie had hiccups. Mara quickly started having attacks of Fake Hiccups herself. She’ll sit there and say “Hup! Hup!” and then grin. It’s adorable and I’d laugh and say, “Oh my! Mara has the Fake Hiccups!” and she’d laugh too. Following on the heels of that one, though, was the Fake Burp. It generally happens during meals and is absolutely unlike the sound of a real burp, but she’ll say, “App! Escuse me!” We still can’t get her to say an unprompted “excuse me” on the rare occasions she actually does burp, but I’m sure we’ll get there eventually since her fastidious play manners will have to carry over, right?

The story I was planning to tell here is from last night. I had a grumpy weekend for a lot of reasons. By the time I was taking Mara to an African drumming workshop yesterday afternoon (as a single parent WHY when both of us were home all weekend??? Grumpy!!) I was not at my best attitude-wise, though I was trying not to let Mara know I was hoping to get home to curl up and cry. The two of us stopped for dinner afterward at the cheesy but close-to-home pseudo-Mexican chain restaurant on the river and enjoyed some chips and cheese. After she pressed me for it, I gave her some pennies to throw in the fountain in the middle of the restaurant so she could make wishes. Mostly I was glad that she could wander safely across the restaurant and back a few times without bothering me or anyone else before her food arrived. When she got back, though, she surprised me. “Mommy, I wish! I wish!” and she seemed so excited about it that time that I asked what she’d wished for. “Mommy, I wish I hold you!” So yeah, I gave her a big hug and a squeeze and suddenly didn’t feel like such a big grouch anymore.

(“Hold you” is Mara-speak for being carried. I asked her early on if she wanted to walk “or do you want me to hold you?” and of course her reply was, “Hold you!” So now she’ll reach up with her arms and if she just makes noise and we ask for words, we get, “Hold you!” That and “give me me” and “I want to” for “I want” and a few others are her little sayings from early on in her speech development that have stuck with her. I know they won’t be around forever, but they make me smile.)

We’re starting the week now and I hope we’re starting it well. Mara was a bit more restless than usual in the night, talking in her sleep. She woke happy, as usual, though, and ate her breakfast and took off with Lee to see the speech therapist. I’m so proud of this girl and all she’s done and all she keeps pushing herself to do. And I’ll gladly hold her as long as she’ll let me.

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