Thursday, July 31, 2008

My work here is done.

Last night we were all sitting on the couch watching "The Daily Show." The theme song had hardly finished and the camera barely stopped zooming when Molly started chanting "'Bama! Obama!"

P.S. The first story that night was about... Obama.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Feliz cumpleanos a mi

Tomorrow's my birthday. Today seemed like the time to ask a few important questions.

1. Why does it feel like summer's over even though there's still a month left?
2. Now that Molly's in daycare, why is it still impossible for me to clean the bathrooms?
3. How do I keep a toddler from sticking her hands in the toilet bowl?
4. How do I get a 10-year-old boy to take showers on a regular basis?
5. How can ordering Bat Mitzvah invitations take up so much energy?
6. How did I end up with a 13 year old daughter, anyway?

Adriana, my girlfriend from Brazil, emailed me yesterday. I still feel like I'm 16 and rockin' the caipirinhas with her at a samba club in Sao Paulo. How did I ever get to be 41?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maternal guilt and other certainties

Big doings at the Cibula household. Well, not really, but we did set up the kiddie pool and the slip 'n' slide in the backyard. Everyone had a grand old time, although Sammy's still perfecting the art of slip and sliding--he goes down the track on his knees.

Yesterday we bought Sammy a brand-new bike for his birthday. This was especially exciting because Sam is only now learning to ride a bike. He'd hate me for printing this for all the world to see. But he takes after his athletically challenged mother's side of the family. We never really saw the point in all of this "exercise" and "locomotion." Until recently, Sammy has had no interest in learning to ride. But out of the blue last week, he announced that his goal this summer is to learn to ride a bike. So it's a really big deal for him. We got him a beautiful new blue Trek bike as an early birthday present (after mean mommy rejected the yellow and gold "Low-rider" that Sam and his dad found :-( ) and I'm happy to say that Sam's doing just great, thank you.

Last weekend, Sam lit up the stage as the Third Knight in the Children's Theater of Madison production of "Once Upon a Mattress." He was bitterly disappointed at not getting a bigger role, til he learned he had a line. Such a diva. He also got to write and perform an original monologue in one of the shows where he explained his character's back story (he informed us all that he was "Sir Juan the Disgruntled O'Mayhem" and the rightful heir to the Irish throne). He had a totally fantastic time, and much to his chagrin he apparently became the mascot/pet of all the middle and high school girls in the show. They liked to "hoist" him and carry him around. Unfortunately, if he wants to continue in theater he'll have to get used to that. Emma's doing a class at the Four Seasons Theatre and she's performing a musical dance/singing dealy this week. As part of her class, they brought in professionals from different aspects of theater so she not only learned how to slam someone's head into a chair, but she also got made up like a geisha. Take a look.

Emma as a geisha. She had a wig on, too, but they took that off before the picture was taken.

In other major news, Molly started her new daycare this week, which has led to much guilt, angst, and consternation for, well, me. As I've said before, I believe that the entire daycare/preschool process is fraught with peril. The preschool Molly attended last year was fabulous, but I knew that because both Em and Sam went there, and the teachers haven't changed since they were there, which is rare enough in itself. But last year, when I was searching for a spot for Molly, I visited some places that were pretty damn depressing. Last year, Molly did a daycare hybrid. She spent 3 days a week at the old preschool and 2 days first with her dad and then with our friends and their little boy. Which worked out really well. But our friends just brought home their second little boy from Ethiopia and needless to say, they're a little busy. And we wanted to send Molly to the same place every day. The old preschool didn't have a 5 day spot, so we had to find something new. Originally, my plan was that we wouldn't have to start a new daycare til the fall. After all, what's the point of being a teacher if you can't spend the summer with your own kids? But best laid plans, blah blah. The daycare that we chose had a guaranteed opening in July or not at all, so last week I loaded her up and sent her off.

There are some really nice things about this new place. They feed the kids lunch, which means we don't have to pack it, and the food is actually really nice; homemade scones and pasta and ratatouille and lots of fresh fruit. An astonishing amount of meat, but they have a vegetarian option every day, so Molly's taken care of. They sell fair trade coffee to the parents, which is a bonus. They have music and Spanish classes for the kids every week. It's cheaper than the old school and drop-off time is earlier, which is a bonus since Matt and I both work on the other side of town and I have to be at work at 7:30 :-(. That's a.m. I think if we get ourselves organized Matt and I can actually carpool to work this year (which we couldn't last year because the preschool opened too late) and save a buttload on gas.

And to be very honest about it, although I love hanging out with Molly, I think she was getting pretty bored with her mama. Don't get me wrong, I think she likes me fine, but 6 hours a day going up and down the stairs gets old. The park is fun, but my tolerance for swinging isn't nearly as large as hers. And my tried-and-true strategy of getting her to nap by setting her on my tummy and putting on a Lifetime movie to bore her to sleep may be effective, but probably isn't in Dr. Brazleton's book of childrearing tips. When we visited the school, I kept my eagle-eyes peeled for signs that they beat the children or subcontracted them out to soccer ball factories, but so far no evidence of any wrongdoing. And Molly, who spent so many of her early months surrounded by peers (not to mention the last year while I was working) loves all the stimulation, different things to do, and the little toddler-size sink where she can wash her hands 150 times a day. Drop-off time is still hairy. After about Day 2, she figured out that I might leave, so although she trots happily into her classroom, once we get there she tries to make sure that I stay there with her. Good news is that, since it's summer, I have more time to spend detangling myself from her, and hopefully by Sept. it won't be an issue anymore. I have to sneak out while she's washing her hands for the sixth time in order to avoid major problems, which makes me sad, but the day I tried to make a big production about saying goodbye it was way worse. When we pick her up at the end of the day, she's showing no signs of PTS or trauma. Usually she's just riding a Big Wheel. So I think all will be well. Her Lifetime network viewing has dropped substantially. On the other hand, Emma's seen the light and the joys of the Lifetime "Moment of Truth" movie. When one door closes, another opens.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Then and now.

Molly Fanaye at the guest house in Addis Ababa a day or so after we took custody of her, July 2007.

Molly now, July 2008

It's been a year. A whole year since we traveled to Ethiopia to bring Molly home. And a crazy year, with my new job and a whole lot of adjusting--Sammy had to adjust to being a big brother, Emma had to adjust to being a mini-mommy, and we all had to adjust to having a baby-now-toddler in the house again!

I'm writing this as Molly sits in her high chair--an increasingly rare occurrence as she'd much rather be sitting up at a big chair at the table--and eats some peanut butter on bread. She's nodding her head, her crazy/beautiful curls are everywhere, and she's looking at me with a very serious expression, nodding her head, and yelling "No, no, Abe!" Abe is our cat, and he hears "no" a lot.

I've been trying to figure out how to write this post without it devolving into triteness and cliché. It's going to be hard.

People ask us about the adoption, and what it was like, how Molly's adjusted, and all that. And I tell them, it was the most wonderful, amazing, and life-changing experience. But it's something that I also feel like I can't adequately explain to people without resorting to words like "wonderful, amazing, and life-changing." It's really a case of "you had to be there."

I can't imagine not having this little girl in our lives. She is gorgeous, smart, funny, and kind. She's a whirl of energy; she never ever ever stops moving. And she's stubborn and strong-willed and she knows what she wants. She is no pushover. She loves bubbles, and Teletubbies, and Elmo, and kitties, and dancing, and music, and splashing in puddles. And cheese. I feel like we're the luckiest family in the world, with the most wonderful children. Sometimes still, a year after she came home, I still look at her and I'm overcome by how much I love her, how incredible she is, how amazing. I still can’t believe I get to be her mother.

Molly turned 19 months old on July 7th, which was the anniversary of the day we first met her. (As Sammy likes to point out, we met Molly on her 7-month birthday: 7-7-07.) The whole family—Matt, me, Sam, Emma, my mom and stepdad, and Molly’s cousins, Belle, and Nicholas—celebrated “gotcha day” with an ice cream cake and a song for Molly. The first day we met Molly she was so scared and passive. She didn't cry, just stayed really still, staring with her big beautiful eyes. She did smile and laugh for her nannies at the care center but she was very wisely wary of us, these strange people who kept talking to her and wanting to pick her up. The first morning we met her I held her for hours but she wouldn't sleep, just sat tensely in my lap. Finally, Emma held her and after a long long while she drifted off. I didn't really see her smile much for us that whole first week in Addis.

What a difference in a year. Today, our Molly Fanaye is a joyful and vivacious little girl. So happy and ready to laugh. She is friendly but wisely wary of new people, although she warms up quickly. She loves her mama and daddy, adores her Emma and Sammy. When we brought Molly home at 7 months, she wasn't crawling or sitting up. But she sat up within a couple of weeks, crawled within a month and a half, and got up and started walking, as if on cue at 13 months. At her first checkup, she didn't even show up on the growth charts. But at her checkup on Wednesday she was 45th percentile for height and 30th for weight--within 2 months she popped right up on the growth-curve parabola and she's grown beautifully ever since. She's hitting all her milestones, she's so smart and funny and so beautiful.

Before we brought Molly home, and in those early days, I don't think we knew what we could expect. Whenever you have a new child, you don't know how they're going to develop, what issues you're going to face. Since Molly's first months were spent away from us, and since her earliest months became so traumatic, leaving her first family, I didn't know what kinds of issues we might face with bonding, attachment, development, lingering effects of nutrition--who knew? But if we could have ordered up a baby, we couldn't have had a more perfect little person to add to our family than Molly Fanaye. I just feel so lucky that I didn't get pregnant back when we were looking to have a third child. I can't imagine not having Molly in our family.

And at the same time, I think about Molly's birth mom every day. Especially now that we're celebrating our one-year famiversary. I have an unbreakable bond with a woman I met only once, and may or may not ever be able to see, talk to, write to, or hear from ever again. An amazing woman, to produce such an amazing girl. I don’t think there’s any way for us to express what a gift she gave to us, and although it’s a gift I would never wish she had to give away, I am beyond words with gratitude, respect, and love for her.

I wish that Molly's birth mom could see her now, and see how smart and beautiful she is. I know she wanted her to be smart and healthy and happy. I hope she would be happy with the job we are doing for her little girl. I know she would be so so very proud of her daughter.

We're not allowed to have direct contact with Molly's birth family. The reports that we send go to an office in Mudula, the town where Molly was born. Her birth mother can look at the reports and photos that we send, but we have no way of knowing if she knows that the reports are there, or has the resources to get to the office to see them. I hope that she does and that she can see what a gorgeous little person her daughter is. I wish I knew for sure.

In the courtyard of the care center on the first day we met Molly Fanaye. L to R: Emma, Molly Fanaye, me, Sam. Mom and Dennis are in the back. Molly was so tense, as you can see in her expression. When Molly was stressed sucked on her tongue--it's a calming reflex, like sucking her thumb. As you can see, she was sucking it hard that day. She still sucks her tongue when she's tired.

Fanaye, still in Addis, a couple of days later at the guest house.

Molly Fanaye now--a big 19 month old girl.

"You have got to be out of your freakin' minds."

Molly and her mama.

Sam, Molly, and Emma. Although Sammy looks like he has the mumps, he's really just eating a tortilla.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hair Update

Molly has dancer's legs. They're sturdy and strong. She's got these ridiculous calves that are completely well-defined and strong. And she's got my feet. A gajillion years ago when I took ballet, the one good thing that anyone ever said to me about my dancing prowess was that I had dancer's feet. They're basically rectangular, so the big toe and the little toe are almost on the same plane. It makes for a nice, stable dancing base and it's the best for toe shoes. Pity those folks with long feet and big toes that are much higher than their little toes--toe shoes are a nightmare. Molly's got my feet. They're adorable and square and they'll make a great base for dancing. I think she'll start with ballet but she'll decide it's too fussy. My bet: in the end she'll go a bit more avant: more Twyla Tharp or Alvin Ailey or Hubbard Street.

Right now she's doing a line dance with the Teletubbies.

We have to file a one-year post placement report for Ethiopia. Hard to believe that we've had Molly for a whole year already. It's amazing how much happened. A year ago today we were on a plane heading for Paris, to spend four days before we went to Addis. Or maybe we were already in Paris, sleeping off jetlag.

So in the service of listing Molly's accomplishments for the Powers that Be in ET, I counted over 30 words that Molly will say independently: from "all done" and "eat" to "sheep." She says "juice" (j00-eece) and "cookie" and "yogurt" (yo-yo). And she pooped in the potty last week. Of course, since then she's had no interest in trying again. Instead, she plays with the fab new Elmo potty seat we got her and says "Elmo poop." Which I'm sure he does, although I've never thought about it before.

Here're a few new pictures of Molly. In the winter and spring, after a few days, her hair straightened out into kinda wispy soft flyaways. But now that it's summer in Wisconsin (read: 100 percent humidity) she's always got this head full of crazy curls. They're still not the tight little curls--they're big fat soft curls that corkscrew out all over her head.

Molly is "hiding."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A shocking epiphany

You know how you're in the grocery store and you hear a song like "Runaround Sue" or "California Girls" piped in over the PA and you think to yourself, "they're playing oldies to appeal to my mom and all the other middle aged people who shop here, so they'll be all nostalgic for their youth and buy more frozen asparagus or whatever"? You know how you get to feel all superior because get to avoid that kind of musical manipulation because the grocery store isn't really targeting your demographic because you're not old enough?

So yesterday I was at Whole Foods reaching for a can of tomato paste, and "Please Do Not Go" by the Violent Femmes comes on over the loudspeaker. And I start singing along. And then I stop dead. Because I suddenly realize that my beloved Violent Femmes are now the Beach Boys and "Please Do Not Go" is now "California Girls." And I'm the demographic that Whole Foods is trying to ply with warm fuzzy nostalgia so I buy more frozen asparagus.

When did I get so old?