Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dusting off the blog for a book recommendation

Well. It's been a while! But I wanted to share a great resource for waiting parents, or parents who are overwhelmed in the first weeks with their new child, or parents who are realizing that the way they parented their biological children isn't working for their newest adopted child . . .

So, yes -- it's a great read for most of us, wherever we are in our family's journey with adoption! It's a new book called Forever Mom: What to Expect When You're Adopting by Mary Ostyn. After the births of their four children, Mary and her husband went on to adopt six more children from Korea and Ethiopia.

This is a book I wish had been available while we were waiting for our daughters.  Mary is so warm and reassuring, and she shares candidly about parenting mistakes she made, and attachment struggles with some of her children.  The book is also filled with anecdotes from other families, and practical ideas about how to handle many different situation.

Especially important to me is the attention she pays to choosing an ethical adoption agency, and seeing the world through our traumatized kids' eyes after they're home. She is a Christian, and does a fantastic job of bringing the parenting conversation back to mercy, love, and second chances with our children, as well as finding grace and healing for ourselves as parents.

It's available right now for $10.74 on Amazon. I hope you will find it as helpful as I have.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Your last night as a two-year-old!

On this, your last night as a two-year-old, there are many things on my mind. I wish we hadn't missed out on so much of your life so far, even while I'm grateful for all the moments of the past 6 months. And I'm even more grateful that we get to spend this birthday with you! Here is a snapshot of life with you:

We love the way you have retained your accent: chicken is "cheek-un," sit down is "seet down," blueberry is "blue-budhee," sorry is "sah-dee," and tomorrow is "too-mahdow."  We are experiencing life in a fresh way as we see new things through your eyes: 4th of July sparklers, watering the garden, petting a dog, splashing in a lake, seeing a turtle, watching the garbage truck -- every little thing is exciting for you.

Since we met you in January, you've grown 2 full inches, and gained nearly 4 pounds (an increase of over 20% of your body weight). You were 21 pounds at your last weight check -- just a pound more than your brothers and sister weighed when they turned one! Your hair is longer, and your curls are extra fluffy in these humid months.

And so much is happening that is invisible. You are learning what a family is, the people who will be your constants.  You fall asleep beside your dad and me, and we are the first thing you see each morning. Your comfort strategies are slowly changing -- when you're overtired, you will occasionally still smack yourself on the head or rub your stomach.  But every day for several months, rubbing your Mama's neck is your biggest comfort.  You've also branched out this month and rubbed your Grandmas' necks, and on one notable occasion, laid between Daddy and me and rubbed both our necks at the same time.

Your first request every day is for "chocolate milk," your weight-gain elixir of whole milk and Carnation Breakfast Essentials. And you need all the fuel you can get!  You are non-stop action, Kavya -- and you are so strong, for someone so tiny! You do pull-ups on any playground bar, table top, or surface within your reach, and you can climb anything with handles and footholds. 

And you are FAST.  The sermon time at church is like an endurance test, as Daddy, me, Aaron, Anya or Nathan (or some combination thereof) chases you through the lobby and up the stairs to the offices.  If other people are sitting in the lobby, they usually spend the whole time chuckling at the way you keep us running. Right now, you can only stay in church during worship.  It is a delight to hold you and sing, and watch you recognize songs.  You know "Mazing Gace" (Amazing Grace) and your favorite is "Boy A Chu" (The Voice of Truth). 

Last week, during Peter's and my "babymoon" vacation with you in Madison, you prayed your first real prayer.  I was awake early with you, and you sat by the window and said, "Dear God, help Rowan, help Grandpa. Amen."  And your amen is always a joyful shout -- it reminds me of how I should pray.

Your favorite books are The Snowy Day, Kipper's Color and Number books, Who's Hiding in the Barnyard, the Priddy-Bicknell Baby book, Elmo's Puppy book and Police book, and the Wiggles song book with buttons you push to play music. You also love to pretend to read the big kids' books.

You love to color, especially tracing your hands.  You also like chalk.  You are a little bit obsessed with your buddies Rowan and Lochlan, and ask daily to see them.  But your absolute favorite thing of all is to be outside:  " 'Side? 'Side?" is a request we hear many, many times each day.  You love to scooter around the block, go for bike or wagon rides, and swing and slide in the backyard.

We will celebrate you tomorrow, and you will join in the tradition of being measured on the morning of you birthday.  As we mark your height next to your brothers' and sister's, we will remember last year's celebration, when we were still waiting for news of your court date in Bangalore.  And our minds and hearts will be full as we remember the young woman who gave you life three years ago.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Her first family trip

We spent last week in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. Our kids have taken day trips to the beaches there, Peter and I spent a few getaway weekends before we had children, and I've camped there with my sister. But this time was special, because the kids got to see some of the most beautiful parts of the Midwest -- and it was the first family trip we've taken with Kavya.

Our adventures included swimming, biking through Peninsula State Park, hiking through a nature preserve, mini-golfing at a place Peter's family went to every summer, and visiting three of the many lighthouses that help guide ships through Lake Michigan and Green Bay (the body of water, not the city).  One day, the boys went zip-lining in the woods, and another day, Anya and I visited a coffee place and a few shops for a girls-only date.  And by the end of the week, Kavya knew how to yell "Skeeto!" and clap her hands together to try and kill mosquitos.  :o) 

When a child joins a family through adoption, there are so many things that carry a greater weight than they might for our biological children.  Vacations and other new experiences definitely land in that territory.

We wondered how she would react to being away from home.  After working hard to keep her routine consistent since she came home in January, Peter and I were hoping that she wouldn't show any regression in her feelings of security, or show any of the adjustment behaviors we saw in her first weeks home.

 We were staying in a cozy condo with a kitchen, which helped. It definitely didn't feel like a hotel room, which might have brought back memories of those first frightening (for her) days with us.  And I'm certain that having our whole family there helped her feel secure -- no one just disappeared suddenly when we moved to this new location.

Kavya did wonderfully!  We brought our pack-and-play, which she's never slept in before.  We called it her "nap house," and she slept in it about 70% of the time.  We brought her favorite stuffed animals and blanket, so she would feel at home, along with a night light.  The novelty of the "nap house" was exciting, and she seemed to enjoy being in it.  Several nights, she would get cold by about 3:00 a.m., and sleep the rest of the night in our bed.  At home, she co-sleeps in a side-car crib next to our bed, so we were surprised how easily she adapted to the pack-and-play.  True to form, our tiny gymnast was able to climb in and out on her own -- she is the most physically agile climber I've ever seen!

Most days, we tried to come home for her nap.  On two days, we played around with her schedule and she napped in the bike trailer or the car.  We brought along some puzzles and toys for down time, and so that she would have some other familiar things.

We also made sure to bring along familiar food for her.  Many of our meals were in the condo, and we brought along staples in her current diet: whole milk with Carnation Breakfast Essentials, mandarin oranges, cheddar cheese, and a few other items that are on her (very short) list of acceptable foods.  To our surprise, she was way more adventurous about food on the trip than she has been at home.

I don't know if that was because she was in a new setting, or she was finally getting bored with her small selection of foods, or if she was feeling more secure and was just ready to branch out.  Whatever the cause, we're pretty happy about it!  Some new foods she tried are bacon, a few bites of veggie quesadilla, yogurt, and cheddar goldfish crackers.  She also took a bite of a hamburger, and licked an ice cream cone.  She still won't eat bites of ice cream from a spoon -- that much cold is sensory overload for her. At home this week, she also ate an entire small pancake.  We are thrilled that she is choosing to try some new things, and we hope it will help her gain some much-needed weight.

When we came home, she seemed delighted to discover that her house, the rest of her toys, and her familiar crib and booster seat were all still there.  She kept exclaiming "Kavya's house! Kavya's bed!" It was poignant to see her pleasure, and remember how our arrival in her world took her away from everything that was familiar. It is truly amazing how resilient she is, and how trusting she's had to be as she was thrust into a whole new life.  It's humbling to know that we were the agents of such a traumatic time, even though we understand that it's for her long-term good.

She settled easily back into normal home life.  It was such a fun week, and we were relieved that it didn't come at a high cost to our sweet little Kavya.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The other mothers

We don't have any photos of our girls' first mothers.  We will likely never have the chance to communicate with them either.  But we are so indebted to them for the gift of our daughters.  In the complex swirl of factors that cause a woman to make an agonizing, heart-rending choice, somehow we have ended up as the beneficiaries of their difficult or painful circumstances.
In a perfect world, adoption would not exist.  In a perfect world, women (and men) would have the resources, support, and ability to keep their children. But this world is far from perfect . . .
In our broken world, however, God is still at work.  In the darkest circumstances, God can weave something glorious and redemptive. The word "weave" is apt -- our lives are forever woven into a fabric that includes our daughters, their first parents, and the women who cared for them in orphanages. 
I grieve for the factors that led our daughter's first mothers to say goodbye to their babies.  I wonder how often they think of these sparkling black eyes and silky raven hair.  I wonder if there is a hole in their hearts that can never be filled.  I know that our delight in our girls came at a high cost to them.
I think of Pinki, the young ayah who cried as we prepared to take Anya Rashi away from the orphanage.  And of Sumi, the woman who asked us if we were going to change Kavya's name, whose eyes filled with tears as she said goodbye to the girl she'd held for 2 1/2 years.
Kavya and Sumi
And I think of the Sisters who shone the love of Christ on our daughter with such tenderness. And of Doctor Sister Gladys, who nursed our daughter through meningitis as an infant, and through surgery as a 6-month-old baby.

Sister Cynthia and Kavya
Sister Lucy and Kavya
These other mothers should be celebrated this weekend too.  I think of them so often, and I pray that somehow they could know the depth of gratitude I feel for all of them.  Happy Mother's Day to all of the women who carried my daughters, whether in their own bodies, or in their arms.  All of us carry them in our hearts.

Kavya's prayer and goodbye service.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Our days together

It feels as though we are arriving at a new "normal" as a family of six.  Our days with Kavya have a pattern, and things are humming along with Aaron, Nathan, and Anya as the school year and activities go on.  Certain times of the day feel a little crazy -- especially the after-school hours until Kavya's and Anya's bedtime, when there is homework, practices, dinner prep, and a two-year-old who is crazy about being outside.

Highlights of this month:

We've had a cold spring, but have managed to take many stroller walks, draw with chalk, swing and slide in the backyard, and go to the park near our house. 

Two weeks ago, we celebrated Nathan's birthday.  I can't believe he's 12 -- that suddenly seems so old.  And he is just a hair shorter than me at this point!  I didn't think that would happen in 6th grade . . . I thought I'd have until high school before my sons passed me up.  We celebrated with grandparents, and with our two local uncles.  This kid loves a party, and enjoyed choosing our dinner and asking for his favorite homemade ice cream cake for dessert.

Aaron and Nathan had their spring Boychoir concert last week, and will be singing Rutter's Mass of the Children this weekend.  Both of their voices are changing (Aaron's is already done changing), but they can still sing in falsetto -- and they love to sing, like their Dad.

Anya is blooming in first grade, and has grown about 4 inches during this school year!  She seems so big, and so grown-up to me.  My heart does a little squeeze each time I can see a glimpse of the lovely young woman she is going to be.

We are seeing a bit of a language explosion with Kavya.  She says some sentences: "Close the door," "One second, Daddy," and "Bella Anya's friend?"  I am amazed that she is using concepts like "friend" in a question already!  She also loves to sing the "Happy Birthday" song, and the alphabet song -- up until Q R S . . . then she gets a little lost, but is ready with the final words "Now I know my ABCs," which sounds like "No no no my ABCs."  So funny!

This is how she asks for a kiss. Who can resist?!

Kavya now has a favorite blankie (the flowered one from Autie Trina), and two favorite stuffed animals: the little puppy we got her in India, and a tiger from the boys' collection.  She is the happiest morning person of all our children -- she wakes up with a smile every single day, and after every nap.  She is still a bit of a picky eater, but has expanded her food preferences a little bit. Amazingly, she doesn't seem to like rice at all, even though it was a staple food at the orphanage.  She did eat a little bit with some homemade chicken makhani sauce (not a fan of the chicken, though).

We've been to the doctor a few more times with her, once for a weight check, and once to see an ENT for a preliminary check of her repaired cleft palate.  We will have to drive two hours to meet with a cleft palate team in another month or two.  They wanted to wait until she had a better grasp of English to assess her speech, and so that she could better follow instructions for other parts of the visit. 

And in one of the more hilarious parts of our lives, India requires some follow-up tests that require a urine sample.  So I've been attempting to get a urine sample in a sterile container from a non-potty-trained 2-year-old.  It's been going as well as you're probably picturing right now.  :o)  And we still do not have a sample.  Maybe it's time for some chocolate bribery.

* * * * *

Mother's Day means that I've been thinking often about our girls' first parents.  I'm certain we will have some conversations this weekend with Anya about her birth mother. Sometimes, I am the one to bring up the subject, and sometimes it's Anya.  Each year, she processes her life story a little bit differently, and I'm curious to see what this year will bring.

As for me, I feel a sense of obligation to parent our daughters well.  These girls are a gift we share with four people we've never met, and I pray that if we ever meet their first families, they will be pleased that Kavya and Anya are healthy, thriving, joyful, and utterly themselves.  I pray that somehow, we will be able to communicate with them someday . . . and I just pray for them in general, especially for the hole in the heart of any mother who has to say goodbye to the baby they carried.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spring break

The past week has been spring break for our three oldest kids.  They loved having the week off, even though we didn't do any "big" things.  They each had playdates with friends (though my big boys call it "hanging out" now!), and we saw grandparents, played board games, and went to the park on one of the two warm-enough days.  We also had some family friends over for a visit, which is still newer for Kavya.  Aaron, Nathan and Anya have been SO patient and understanding about having some restrictions on our activity level because of Kavya.

It is really hard to get a good photo of all four
kids for our post-placement reports!!

The other visitor we had this week was our social worker!  We had our second post-placement visit, which went well.  Mary has been such a blessing throughout both of our adoptions -- she is so down to earth, has a great sense of humor, and always puts us at ease (especially during the first visits, when we were very nervous).  She is an adoptive parent herself, and has worked with so many families that she usually has a whole list of possible answers for any questions or issues we might bring up.

And in yesterday's mail, we found another welcome step in the post-placement world: Kavya's Certificate of Citizenship!  Her little photo that we had taken in Delhi was affixed to it, and her expression looked so different than the animated ones we see every day now.  Her gaze is glazed over and dull, and she just looked like too many new things had been thrown at her in too short a time -- which is exactly what had happened, poor thing.  I looked at that little picture, and thought of the phrase "shell shock." 

Sometimes I can barely make sense of the enormity of what happens in adoption.  We ask so much of these little ones when we take them from their familiar worlds.  In the long-term, of course, they gain parents, siblings, an education, and everything that comes with being ensconced in a family.  But the losses of language, culture, first family, familiar scents and sounds and faces . . . those first days and weeks are so hard on them.  Seeing her picture on the Certificate of  Citizenship makes my heart ache for her, and reinforces the idea that adoption is always "plan B."  Even though it can be a redemptive, amazing thing, there's no denying the pain that is always part of adoption.

And I can't believe how resilient Kavya is.  She is a child who owns every room she enters.  With her vibrant, exuberant personality wrapped in such a tiny body, she will be a force to be reckoned with!  The idea that God entrusted her to us takes my breath away, and I hope we do her justice.  I think of her birth parents, and I pray that if we ever have the chance to communicate with them, they will be pleased with the way we are raising Kavya.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

How we're doing after two months

Yikes -- I haven't posted for a whole month!  I guess that tells you a little bit about how things are going . . . I feel like I rarely have two hands free to type on our laptop. 

Kavya really likes being held, so much of my life these days finds one arm occupied holding her.  Since we missed out on the first two and a half years of her life, we have a lot of cuddle time to make up for.  Since so much is happening, I think I'll write in categories.  I hope this helps people waiting to travel -- I remember having so many questions after returning with Anya, even after reading books and attending trainings.

We finally had a day warm enough to play outside.

I think we are doing pretty well.  There seemed to be a healthy emotional atmosphere at her orphanage; the nuns would tap their cheeks to ask for a kiss, and there was lots of smiling and affection, which is helping so much now that she's home.  She has always been comfortable with things like eye contact.

In our first weeks, we would notice that when she was sad or overwhelmed, she would look away, and her facial expression would go "blank," for lack of a better word.  That has been happening less and less, so it was really noticeable last Sunday when we saw her do it again.  My mom's side of the family has a winter get-together for the adults, and we decided to pop in to say hi for a brief time.  Kavya did well, and we kept her close to us -- holding her, or taking turns going into the hallway so she could run a little bit.  But then we noticed her "blank" look, so we knew we needed to leave.  She did not wake up crying in the night, though --which she did in the first three weeks, anytime we had to go somewhere new (such as the doctor's office).  So she's definitely more comfortable with us, feeling safer even in a new place.

Kavya shows affection to Peter and me, and loves to be held.   One favorite bonding activity is the "I love you/A bushel and a peck" song.  She initiates it when she wants to give some love, and asks to have us do it to her.  She wants everyone in our family to do it, and will go right through the list of all our names. She has also transferred one of her orphanage coping behaviors to include me.  She used to rub her own tummy, neck, or ear to fall asleep, or when she was tired, or overwhelmed by a new or noisy environment.  Now, she likes to rub my neck in those situations.  She still does rub her own, but often will use me first, or instead of, her old behavior.  She also likes to pucker up and lift her face, requesting to give kisses to me and Peter. She is quick to seek comfort from us when she's hurt (and is enjoying a new discovery: ice packs for owies!).

We hadn't been around many non-family people until the past week or so, but she's gone to the grocery store with me three times now.  She doesn't initiate conversation or interaction with other women -- being trapped in cart helps with that, though!  We hosted our Bible study this week for the first time, and she seemed excited to have people over who weren't her Grandmas and Grandpas.  I think she might be an extrovert . . . I had a bowl of Dove chocolates on the coffee table, and she went around handing them out to the seven guests.  She didn't ask to sit on anyone's lap, or reach out her arms to be held, which was a good sign.

Dry bathing -- everyone needs a hobby, right?

This continues to be one area of difficulty.  She is extremely picky about food, and still seems to be controlling all the newness by refusing lots of food.  Or she might just be a finicky eater -- we did notice at the orphanage that she left behind lots of food on her plate, and seemed to survive mostly on plain dhosas and plantains.  And biscuits and chocolate, of course!

Her weight has plateaued at 20 pounds (she weighed 17 pounds, 10 ounces at her medical appointment in Delhi).  Our doctor is hoping to see some more weight gain, and suggested switching to whole milk with Carnation Breakfast Essentials stirred in.  I always offer other foods first, and we do the milk last -- hopefully, she will be more likely to eat other foods if she's hungry. We have a weigh-in in 5 weeks to see if she has gained anything.  Meanwhile, I keep offering food that our family eats, plus a few staples I know she will eat:  Nutrigrain bars, medium cheddar cheese, oranges and peaches.

She did like two new things today.  I made beef stew, and she ate only the carrots (crazy baby!), and she ate some chocolate Cheerios.  She doesn't like many kid favorites, such as French fries.  But I did make some boxed macaroni & cheese last week, in my desperation to get calories in her -- and of course she liked that. :)

Bedtime and Naps
She is sleeping well at night in her sidecar crib next to us.  I always lie down with her and sing a few songs -- she usually requests songs with motions (Itsy Bitsy Spider, Jesus Loves Me w/sign language, Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes), but has a few other favorites, such as the ABC song and Baa Baa Black Sheep. Then I pretend I'm asleep so she knows it's time for her to sleep. 

She rolls around a lot to get comfy, and often likes to rub my neck and her own.  Then she will often pull a blanket over her face to fall asleep.  She makes little sucking sounds when she falls asleep -- I think she couldn't suck her thumb because of her cleft palate (kids are unable to produce suction with the opening), so she sucks/rubs her tongue against the front of the roof of her mouth instead.

About once a week, she has a night when she has a hard time settling down.  What's been helping is for me to sit up in bed and hold her and rock her until she's sleeping, then lay her down.  Sometimes she will get sleepy, then point to her crib.  Then I lay her down and stay with her until she's out.

It's so different than with Anya -- Anya did a TON of night waking.  I thought I was going to lose my mind in the first few months.  Kids are so different -- Anya was such a great eater -- I guess they all show their reactions to all the newness in different ways. 

Kavya LOVES playing dress-up, and Anya is happy
to show her the ropes. Even if the costumes are size 2.

She is picking up language amazingly quickly!  She has a few phrases with multiple words:  "close the door," "all done, Mama," and "bless you, Mama," after I sneeze.  She also has many combinations of nouns and verbs, such as "Daddy bye bye?"  She also knows how to ask for songs, usually using one word clues for me to pick up on.  She LOVES our bird feeder and the critters who eat there, and says "silly squirrel" in her accented toddler speak: "see-lee quirl-la." Our other kids love listening to her.  She also knows the word "adorable," because Anya says it several times a day about Kavya.  :o)

She also learned the phrase "happy birthday" this week. We have a wooden birthday cake toy with candles, and I sang the song for the first time.  Right away, we had to sing about everyone in our family, and Auntie, Grandmas and Grandpas.  Now she will sometimes say "happy birthday" in addition to "bye bye."  So cute!  I can't wait until we finally have a real birthday to celebrate so she can see what it's supposed to be about.

She grew 1/2 inch in the past month, and her blood work came back with good indicators. She is slightly low in iron and vitamin D, but barely.  Her cleft repair seems to be good -- she sometimes seems to have a little trouble swallowing liquids though.  We will see an ENT in April to have her surgery site checked out by an expert.

Toddler Behaviors
The past week or so, we've seen some normal toddler behaviors that we didn't see before.  I wonder if she is feeling more secure with us, and not as worried about being on her best behavior at all times?  If that's the case, she's definitely "relaxing" enough to try out some new things.  She's hit Anya a few times when she didn't get her way, necessitating the first attachment-style discipline (going to sit in a chair and being told she needs to have "soft" (gentle) hands, and that she needs to say sorry or give a kiss.  And she's also been telling Peter and I when we're talking too much by making a pterodactyl noise (!) and repeating to try and get us to pay attention to her instead.  She also did this a few times when I was singing goodnight songs to Anya.  Little stinker!

How I'm doing
I had a friend ask how I'm doing -- mostly, people ask how Kavya is doing!   I've felt a little isolated during this cocoon stage, even though I've made a point of having a few friends pop in during her nap.  It feels good to be leaving the house with her for simple things like grocery shopping -- Peter had been doing that for the first 6 weeks or so.  He has been SO helpful and awesome following our return home! 

And we have had a TON of help from family and church friends -- different people made a dinner for us each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the first 6 weeks.  I am so grateful for that -- the craziest time of day is the time after school until dinner is cleaned up. Kavya would love to be held more as the day goes on, and that's when homework, driving to activities, making the meal and doing dishes are all happening.

I feel stretched many days -- and I feel like Anya misses parts of our old life . . . the parts where I could sit still and read to her, or do a craft activity with her.  She is probably the most affected by our new addition.  I've taken her on two dates in these months, which I hope to continue doing.

As an introvert  who now has all the noise and activity (and fun!) of four kids, I sometimes find my nerves are a little frayed by days' end.  During the week, while the kids are at school, I have Kavya's nap to recharge.  I will often run around to throw laundry in, etc., so I can preserve some precious time to read a book.  She only naps for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, so that time is precious!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One month home

Last night was our one-month-iversary!  It feels good to know that Kavya has been with us long enough to begin understanding that this isn't just another hotel -- it is her home.

For the most part, our month has been very quiet.  The only times she's left our house are for doctor visits, to pick up the older kids at school, and two brief visits to the library (Aaron has a research project).  Today, I took her for a quick visit to a grocery store, just to get her used to the place before I attempt to do normal grocery shopping with her in a few more weeks.

We've had a few visitors to the house too. On Monday, an early intervention specialist through the Birth to 3 Program came to assess Kavya.  It was early for a visit, but because Kavya turns 3 this summer, she wanted to visit early enough so we could use their services if necessary.

She spent about an hour with us, observing Kavya's speech, non-verbal communication, and cognition.  She ended up having no concerns at this early stage of the game. Kavya used over 20 words during the visit, and showed a lot of receptive language comprehension.  

I continue to be struck by how different our homecoming has been than what we anticipated.  Because of a typographical error in Kavya's medical records, we thought we were bringing home a daughter with a "hearing defect" that was significant enough to be noticeable at 10 months old.  She was also hospitalized at 5-6 weeks old with meningitis, and was born with a cleft palate. We were prepared (as prepared as we could be) for the possibilities of cognitive delays because of the meningitis, and assumed a surgery was in our near future (her repair surgery at 6 months old was not noted in her medical records).

Any of those medical conditions might be the reason she was available for us to become her parents.  The fact that others may have turned her down because of her medical history gives me goosebumps -- it feels like a miracle that she is ours, and doesn't face surgeries, hearing aids or profound hearing loss, or cognitive delays.

I'm almost having a touch of "survivor's guilt," because so many of the surprises with adopted children aren't the good or easy kind. I feel so incredibly blessed by the way our first month has gone, and the way she is settling in. She is bright, funny, curious, affectionate, and so dear to our whole family already.  Every week so far, I've cried tears of gratitude and joy that she's with us, and that God has joined us together forever.

We are still seeing some orphanage behaviors occasionally. She has a few self-soothing behaviors that have changed slightly -- for example, instead of rubbing her own belly to fall asleep, she will sometimes reach over to me and rub my neck.  She still pulls on her eyelids, eyelashes and eyebrows when she's very tired -- but I haven't seen her rub her ears for over a week. Tonight, she was very tired (she only napped for an hour or so), and I saw the return of her hitting herself on the head to fall asleep.  She hasn't done that for about a week.  It's a good, though hard to watch, reminder that appearances can be deceiving . . . She's such a busy, chipper extrovert, but the move to a new country, with new foods, new sounds, new people -- it is a very traumatic thing for any 2-year-old.

We also saw some behaviors this weekend that we will keep an eye on -- we ended up having a surprise visit from Peter's sister Anne, her husband Nick, and their daughter Emma. Kavya went right to Anne and Emma, and wanted them to pick her up and play with her.  We will have to keep an eye on that, and make sure she isn't doing that with random people out in public or the first time we go to church with her.  I used a baby carrier at the library, so there was no chance for her to approach strangers. She didn't do it at the grocery store today, so maybe it was just that she felt secure enough in her own house to interact with them? Time will tell.

My sister Alicia also came to visit, along with my brother Matt.  It was the first time Kavya has seen Alicia since our trip to India, because she injured her knee while skiing and wasn't able to travel.  Her boyfriend was so sweet to drive her to us -- he's the one who rescued us when our flight out of Chicago was cancelled, so he's logged lots points with us! Kavya remembered Alicia, and was excited to see her again. She was a little more reserved with Matt -- she seems to be a little more shy with men -- but after a while, she was happy to be on his lap for a few moments.

Our month at home has also included 2-3 visits from both sets of grandparents.  They are thrilled that Kavya already recognizes them and call them "gwamma" -- ALL of them, even the "gwampas."

This week, she's started to combine words to make 2-word phrases.  She has said "no birdies," "night night, Daddy," "Anya, come on," and more!  It is so adorable to hear her pronunciations. The big kids find her chatter endlessly amusing.

The next month will likely be pretty similar to this one. Lots of play at home, a few trips outside our house, and not too much else. We are following the experts' advice, and keeping her world small.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Making gains

We had our first doctor appointment with Kavya on Tuesday, and were happy to see that she's gained nearly two pounds since we met her on January 9.  She was still hovering just under 20 pounds, but she's now at 7% on the US growth charts for both height and weight.

We will go back this week for a few more tests -- a repeated TB test (the one in-country wasn't injected correctly), and blood titers to see if her previous immunizations were effective.  We will also be testing for vitamin D levels, and some other nutritional things -- as long as we're have to draw blood, we will make the most of it.  I am so sad for Kavya, though -- she will also be getting two shots. That's a lot of pokes in one day.

She continues to settle in well, and has a such a great sense of humor. That seems like a funny thing to say, but it's true.  She loves to laugh, and loves to find funny things to do to make us laugh too.  She also discovered the piano this week, and loves to "play" her own compositions.


We have seen some signs that she's relaxing a little bit.  Last weekend, she was having a lot of fun with the whole family after dinner.  Anya and Nathan were pushing her around in a laundry basket, and she was having a ball . . . so when bedtime came, she wanted no part of it!  She kept pointing at the bedroom door, and had her first real 2-year-old tantrum.  While those aren't fun, we were relieved to see that she's feeling at home enough to 'let it all hang out' with us. 

Many families see grief behavior with their new children, and we have too -- the unusual thing for Kavya is that it only seems to happen in the night.  We've had five nights (she's been home 3 weeks now) where she's woken up crying. It is truly heartbreaking -- she is inconsolable when it happens.  It doesn't last long . . . usually less than 30 minutes.  Different things have helped her out of those moments -- just holding her and talking softly, taking her down to the basement (she loves going down by the laundry machines), and giving her hot chocolate have all helped bring her out of her sadness.

I wish she could tell us what brings on the grief.  I wonder if she's dreaming about the Sisters, Sumi or the orphanage, or if she's disoriented when she wakes up? It does seem to happen when something new is introduced -- for example, Peter and the boys had to go away for a retreat one weekend, and she woke up both nights crying.  And we had Anya's 1st grade winter concert last Thursday. We really wanted to go, and took separate vehicles so I could leave with Kavya after the kindergarteners and first graders finished -- but being inside the school in a tangle of people for even that short time was enough to make her have a hard time falling asleep, and then wake up at 11:00 p.m. crying.

It's a good reminder that, no matter how well she's doing by day, or how outgoing and funny she is, we must still keep her world small during these first weeks and months.  Our only visitors have been people bringing meals (and my friend Kathy bringing me Starbucks!).  We have been SO blessed by friends, family, and church family bringing us dinners three nights a week!  Kavya really loves to be held (REALLY loves it!), so I'm doing many things one-handed, and the help with meals has been a lifesaver.

Her grandparents have each stopped by twice for short visits.  They are just thrilled with her, and can't wait until we are out of the "cocoon" phase. Kavya is so smart -- she already remembers the words "grandma" and "grandpa."

Her language is coming along well too! New words this week are "good job," "okay," "monkey," "come on," "pencil" (pen-see), "bunny," "hop," "chicken," "cupcake" (cup-cup), and "thank you" (dank goo). 


We continue to be surprised by some things she knows or doesn't know. For example, it seems as though she's never been read to.  She would barely be interested in any book at first, and the only time I could read was when we waited for the kids after school in our van.  (She was strapped in her car seat, so she didn't have much choice in the matter!) She did enjoy one large book with pictures of babies and toddlers, and would kiss them.

Finally this week, she has a favorite book: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. She LOVES the rhythm of this book, and also likes The Lady With the Alligator Purse.  She also likes Elmo's Puppy Book (what is it about Elmo??).  As she understands more English, I'm sure she will gradually enjoy books more.

Meanwhile, we are hoping my sister can come visit soon. She hurt her knee skiing, and hasn't been able to make the 2-hour drive. We're hoping to see her next weekend -- it will be interesting to see how Kavya reacts to seeing her again.  She has talked to Alicia on the phone since our trip, but it will be great to have her here in person.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

One week home

We've spent one week at home together!  It seems both shorter (it's very new to have a toddler in our family again!), and longer (seems like she's always been part of our family) than that.

I continue to be amazed by how brave Kavya is.  She has such good humor and vitality when so many things have changed for her, in every part of her life.  Familiar faces, sounds, smells, sights, and tastes have been replaced by new ones.  She loves to look out the window into our backyard, and I wish she could tell us what she's thinking as she looks at our white, snow-covered world.

We've had some bumpy nights due to the time change -- on Tuesday, Kavya woke up at 2:00 a.m., ready for the day, and on Wednesday, she was up at 3:30 a.m.  The rest of the week has been a mixture of 5:00, 6:00 and one glorious 7:00 a.m. wake-up . . . hopefully she will continue to do that!

Kavya is a quick learner, and is repeating many sounds.  Sometimes she knows what she's saying, and sometimes she's just imitating us.  She says "socks" (sock-ohs) and is very fond of them, for some reason.  Anytime she plays with dolls, they need to wear socks.  She also says "spoon," (spoon-oo), "uh-oh," "oh no," "again," and has her own versions of the boys' names.  Nathan's name pronunciation varies, but she calls Aaron "noodle," for some reason -- too cute!

If she wants someone's attention, she will say (loudly and enthusiastically) "Yaay!!!"  She did this on the flights home, trying to get Peter's and my sister Alicia's attention, and she does it here too, especially for the boys.

She knows the word "coffee" (she says 'coppee') a little too well . . . it's been a survival tool for me in the early mornings!  When I made hot chocolate for Anya, Kavya said, "Anya coppee?"

While we stayed at the orphanage, we saw one funny thing in action -- thankfully, Sr. Lucy explained it to us, or we would be wondering what in the world Kavya was doing.  When I change clothes, Kavya wags her finger at me and says "Say, say say!" with a grin.  Sr. Lucy told us that she's saying "Shame, shame, shame!", and that they would say that to Kavya.  Now I'm wondering if they said that when kids took off their clothes at the wrong time, or took of their diapers or something . . . since the only time she says it is if I'm disrobed!

We also hear some Kannada words from her -- "akka" for sister, "anna" for brother . . . and, though this isn't on our list of Kannada phrases, she says "kaka" every time she has a stinky diaper, so we can figure out what that means!  She also calls her dolls "baboo."  She continues to do the Indian head bobble, which is fun to see.  And instead of nodding her head up and down for "yes," she does her own unique imperial nod -- just a single nod, like Jeannie in "I Dream of Jeannie," if anyone else remembers watching re-runs of that program.

One of the biggest joys this week has been watching the kids together.  When they're away at school, Kavya points toward the door, or points at their pictures and says their names.  She really likes having them around.

It's been fascinating to watch their personalities show up in how they interact with Kavya.  Aaron, our conscientious eldest child, is most concerned about her safety.  He is the one who tells us she's trying to stand up in her highchair, for example.  He likes to carry her and explain things to her, too.  Nathan, our social guy who loves small children, takes great delight in spinning her around while she laughs and laughs.  When we were in India using Facetime with them, he laughed hysterically as she tore up the hotel room.

Anya has some little games she plays with Kavya.  She draws circles in the air and says "Lolli-, lolli-, lolli-POP!", and snaps her fingers or claps. Kavya loves to join her doing this.  She's also joined Kavya in a lot of play with dolls and other things.  It's been fun to see how she's willing to jump in, and how she still exclaims over how cute Kavya is.  Today, she woke up with some wild, curly bed-head, and Anya just loved it.

Anya has had some jealousy of so much of my time being occupied with Kavya . . . I think future weekend nap times will involve some craft/art project time with Anya, or some dates.  She is missing time on my lap, and time with me reading chapter books aloud to her.  On the nights when Kavya has gone to bed around 7:30, we've had time to read together . . . but the later nights haven't worked out as well.  We will continue to iron out the glitches as time goes on.

The weekend was just us three girls.  Back when we thought we'd be travelling in the fall, Peter committed to being the speaker for our church's middle school retreat this weekend.  We never dreamed that he would be one week back from India at this time!!  Crazy.  So he and the boys spent the weekend in the far north, and the girls holed up here.  I didn't leave the house except to shovel during Kavya's nap on Saturday!  Anya was my lookout, in case she woke up unusually early.

Everything went pretty well, except that Kavya woke up once each night crying like her heart was breaking.  She cried for about 10 minutes, and I held her and talked to her, and she fell back asleep.  It seemed like either grieving, or night terrors -- she wasn't really awake either time.  Or it could've been a nightmare . . . two dear friends of ours from college were in town, and stopped by for an hour on Saturday. They brought their 8-month-old white terrier with them, and she is adorable . . . but Kavya was afraid of her.  Maybe she was stressed out?  We will see how the next few nights go -- the rest of the night, she slept well.  Who knows?

We are expecting some severe cold this week -- my kids are hoping for school to be cancelled Monday or Tuesday.  It would be kind of nice to have them home after the boys have been gone this weekend -- and I think Kavya would love having her people home during the week too!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Home, sweet home!

Friday was our last day in Delhi.  We stretched our legs a bit before our flights by visiting Humayan's Tomb;  he was an emperor and a significant historical figure.  His tomb is the building that the Taj Mahal was modeled after.

We visited in 2007, but wanted to return to see the results of a restoration project since then.  The tomb building was in significantly better shape than when we saw it last -- there were domes that had been rebuilt, and ceramic and paintwork that was 3D imaged and redone.  There was also an exhibit about how they conducted research and decided what to refurbish.  

The other portion of the grounds hadn't been restored, but the grounds and walkways and signage were much improved -- it was fun to compare to our memories.  And it was a great excuse to walk around before our 30 hours of travel to go home.

There was a wall around one portion of the grounds, accessible by very steep stone stairs.
Outside the wall, we saw wild peacocks:

We stopped at the embassy to pick up Kavya's visa, and headed to the airport.  In the interest of helping future travelers, I wanted to share that we had some issues with motion sickness.  Anya doesn't get carsick at home, and has been on many amusement park rides with no problem -- but the combination of fatigue, air pollution, and the stop-and-start, weaving nature of city traffic did her in.  

She was sick three times during the trip, (once on the plane, where fatigue was a huge factor).  Kavya got sick twice in the car.  I was SO glad that I had brought along little rolls of plastic bags (found in Target's baby section).  I was planning to use them for stinky diapers in our hotel room and on the planes, but they were a godsend for carsickness too!  If you have kids traveling with you, it might be a good idea to be prepared.  I only "missed" once -- the first time Kavya got sick, I thought she was just fussy or tired . . . but I was ready a few days later for the second one!  TMI, but I thought other families would like to know!!

What can we say about the trip home?  LONG.  Tiring.  But Kavya was such a trooper -- she only cried for about 15 minutes as we landed during one of the long flights.  I think her ears were hurting, and she didn't appreciate being seat-belted.  And our last jumper flight home was cancelled due to snow in Chicago . . . but my sister's boyfriend was picking her up, and kindly agreed to drive us to Milwaukee, where some dear friends picked us up and drove us the rest of the way HOME!  

We were missing our boys terribly, and the friends who had them for the weekend brought them home to us.  We spent 9:30-midnight watching them meet and play with Kavya -- she had slept for 2 hours on the drive home, and needed a little awake time before bedtime.  And we were all so happy to see each other, there was no way we were going to bed right away!  They love her so much, and can't believe how cute and funny she is. We spent all of Sunday at home together -- Peter's parents and our friends Todd and Tina cooked for us, which was so appreciated!  And my mom had vaccuumed and straightened up so we came home to a neat house.

Tina & Todd, and baby R -- our flight cancellation rescuers!
Their baby boy just turned 1, and outweighs Kavya by 4 pounds. 
Aaron and Nathan, with the dear H family, who helped care for our boys while we were gone.
Kathy knit the little cap Kavya wore home from Chicago. We were so happy to be back!

Kavya is sleeping in a "sidecar" crib (three-side crib pulled up next to our bed) in our room, which is working out well.  I can only imagine how confusing this all is for her -- 5 days in a hotel (which, for all she knew, was her new home), 30 hours of waking up in airplanes and airports, then this new place, with new boys.  She is such a brave little trooper, and is doing very well with all the changes.  

At first, she would only eat carbs -- rice, potatoes, idli, cous cous, crackers -- but finally today she tried chicken and oranges.  She's also a big fan of warm milk with a little Nesquick in it . . . I hope that helps her gain a little weight.  She's in the 8th percentile for height, and isn't on the charts at all for weight, so anything that helps her fatten up a little is a good thing.  

Her behavior is also very different here.  In the hotels and airports, and also in the orphanage playroom, she was very sensory-seeking.  She was extremely hyper and mobile, and I thought we were in for a little tornado!  But here, with many toys and new ways to exercise her fine motor skills, she is happily occupied.  It makes us want to purchase indoor toys for the orphanage -- but we don't know if we're allowed to do that while we complete our two years of post-placement reports.

On Sunday, our first full day home exploring toys and play, she didn't want to stop playing to nap.  I brought her into our room, and she didn't cry -- but she stood in the corner of the crib, pointing toward the door.  It was so funny -- her eyes were drooping closed while she stood there!  I got her to sit down, then lay down, and she conked out.  When she woke up, she was happy and excited to see that the toys were still there.

She is doing well with bonding and attachment, seeking comfort when she's hurt or tired from me especially, and looking to Peter for tickling and Daddy-style play.  She loves to snuggle on a shoulder, and is a little jealous if Anya climbs on my lap.  That is good to see so quickly -- we haven't even known her for two weeks yet.  She uses some self-comforting behaviors when she's tired or scared -- she rubs her bellybutton and her ears.  We've had to improvise with pajamas so she can reach her belly . . . most of her pajamas are one-piece fleece sleepers, so we're using lots of comfy two-piece clothing for her to sleep in.  We've also raised our thermostat to accommodate her warm-weather self.

We are settling in pretty well, all things considered.  Peter's and Anya's body clocks are a little messed up -- they were both awake at 3:00 a.m. today, so we didn't send Anya back to school today.  Hopefully, tonight goes a little better for them.  Thanks to all who have followed this final chapter in our adoption story . . . and welcome to the first chapter in our next "book" as a family of six!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday found us back at the doctor, to a negative TB result.  What a relief!  After our quick visit, we decided to make a quick stop at Safdarjung, a dwelling and tomb built by a son in honor of his father.  It was a very atmospheric place, but sadly in a state of disrepair.  There were some workers doing paving -- including women breaking rock by hand with hoes, then carrying piles of rock gravel on their heads to the pathway they were constructing.  This tomb and surrounding walls and buildings are noteworthy for being one of the latest examples of Mughal architecture in India.  It reminded us that the US is such a young country -- I wonder how people decide which places to preserve in a country that has centuries of history.

Anya and Kavya seemed tired, so we called it quits after our brief visit there.  On the way back to the hotel, we experienced a parenting milestone:  Kavya threw up on Nancy.  Our driver didn't seem as impressed by our milestone, however . . .

* * * * * * *

Thursday was our embassy appointment.  It is so different from our last visit -- much more efficient and structured than our visit 6 years ago.  Many modernized features have been added; last time, it seemed we sat in a series of rooms with little directional signs, and hoped for the best.  The video monitors and queue system were terrific, and the employees were really helpful.  Afterward, our phone was saying it didn't have coverage to call our driver, and a security guard let us use his phone.

With nothing else on our agenda, we headed back to the hotel for Kavya's nap.  While Peter was on Daddy duty for our napper, Alicia, Anya and I headed out to do a little shopping.  I wanted to find a tablecloth for each of our girls when they grow up, and we chose a few other gifts for people back home.  I'm not a huge shopper, and neither is Alicia -- but we wanted to make sure to have a few special items to remember the trip.

This afternoon (and one day earlier this week), we went to the hotel's outdoor hot tub -- or more appropriately, the warm tub.  As before, we were the only guests using the pool.  There are always a few employees on pool duty to keep the pigeons out of the pool, and you could tell they thought we were CRAZY for swimming in the winter.  Today was a little chilly (about 58 or 60 degrees), but when we were in the water it was fine.

Kavya was very subdued in the water on Monday, and sat quietly on Nancy's lap taking it all in.  But today she was a wild child!  She was splashing and squealing and having a grand time -- even the pool workers commented on how different she was.  Anya LOVED being in the water, and showed off her swimming skills for us.  It was definitely a treat for us, knowing that our hometown got 6-10 inches of snow yesterday!  

A lull in the action

We had no "official" business on Tuesday, so we decided to make a visit to one of New Delhi's newest  cultural sites.  Swaminarayan Akshardham is a museum/shrine/tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1731 - 1830 AD).  It celebrates the values, architectural forms, artisans' techniques, and Hindu heritage of India.

It is a complex of buildings that opened in 2005.  The centerpiece is the Akshardam Mandir building, constructed of pink stone and white marble.  It was built using traditional materials and techniques, using no steel at all.  The exterior contains relief sculptures of elephants, tells facts about elephants' social lives, and shares parables about elephants.

Inside, there is a shrine to Bhagwan Swaminarayan.  The shrine is magnificent, featuring an 11-foot-high gold-plated statue (murti) of him.  The entire room is gilded and encrusted with gems, and the ceiling and chandelier are beautiful.  Anya was enraptured by this room, since this was the closest thing to pirate/castle/fairy tale treasure that she's ever seen.

There is also an IMAX presentation (which we did not see, knowing that our 2-year-old would not last through the 50-minute film), and a Hall of Values (also 50 minutes) that includes films, robotic figures, and light/sound displays.  Instead, we chose the 15-minute boat ride, the Sanskruti Vihar.  It presents 10,000 years of Indian culture as though you're riding along the river Sarasvati.  Scenes of early bazaars, village life, and India's first university and inventions appear along the boat route.  Anya really enjoyed it, and Kavya was interested in the scenes as we floated by.

We had no idea before visiting that we would spend several hours there -- it really is an extensive experience, and there was another major section under construction that would've added more time.  It is worth visiting, however -- it's a contrast to the older historical sites we've visited, and it was interesting to see how modern India perceives this person/part of history, compared to the interpretations of ancient sites such as Qutab Minar.

* * * * *

We came back to leftovers for lunch from our hotel fridge, and spent the rest of the day quietly.  Kavya napped, and we played in our rooms.  Some dear friends kindly loaned us two Kindles, and they've been great to have on the trip -- we've read the first two Narnia books to Anya, and begun the third, and Peter has been reading Lincoln, the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin (especially when he wakes up early due to time zone issues!).

Bedtime was a little hairy -- I think we started a little too early, and she wanted to play longer.  It reminded us that she is still new to us, and still accustomed to her routine at the orphanage . . . we think she played until she dropped off to sleep in her tracks.  She tends to get kind of hyper when she begins to get tired, then she abruptly crashes into sleep.

We've been discovering so much about her personality this week, and we can't wait for Aaron and Nathan to meet her!  She is a bundle of energy, which we think is part of her personality -- and she's super expressive and animated and FUNNY.  But observing the kids at the orphanage, we also think she has some sensory-seeking behaviors due to her environment there.  The kids were very rough-and-tumble with each other, and climbed the handles of cabinets to get to the windows . . . and then they climbed the security bars on the windows!  It will take her some time to unlearn the playroom rules from there, and learn our house rules.  Hopefully, having brothers and a sister, and a mom and dad who spend time playing with her (not to mention toys), will satisfy her busy-bee nature and active little body.

She has a 1,000-watt smile and laugh, and is a typical 2-year-old who gets focused on  what she wants. Often, that is her toothbrush -- which has come in handy when she's upset or hurt (she slammed her hand in a drawer, for example, and it was the only thing that distracted her).  At bedtime, she kept pointing to her stringing beads, and had a plain old temper tantrum about not being able to play with them at bedtime.  It's good to see that she's feeling comfortable enough to show those kind of feelings with us already.

Kavya is already so much more settled with us -- it shows when she wakes up from sleeping.  The first few days, she was very confused and disoriented, and took a long time to wake up.  She was very cautious and quiet.  Now, she's begun to wake up with a smile, and reach for one of us when she wakes up.  When we go home, she will probably have a few more days waking up confused -- at this point, I'm sure she thinks we live at this hotel, and has no idea we will be going somewhere else.

She is such a little trooper!  What a generous child, to invite us into her heart already.  She already has certain things that consistently make her laugh -- "inside jokes" for us.  She also snuggles up to us at night, and prefers me, Peter, and Alicia to strangers already.  I'm sure some of that because she fears more new things, but it's a gift we don't take for granted.  We have Sumi and the other staff to thank for how well she is doing.  We are so grateful for the way they loved her.  What a blessing for us.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Doing the needful"

Sunday was spent traveling to Delhi and settling in at our final hotel. Monday morning was all about "doing the needful" (one of my favorite Indian expressions), with visits to a medical clinic and the CARA offices (the national/governmental department that oversees adoptions).

Our visit to the doctor confirmed that our girl is tiny!  At  2 1/2, she is 31 inches tall, and weighs 17 pounds, 10 ounces.  That's less than Anya weighed when we brought her home on her first birthday!  The doctor was kind, and asked a few more questions about her, then a nurse did the TB test. We have it read on Wednesday morning.

The dreaded TB test!

Then we headed over to the CARA office. Most families don't have to do this step, but we'd had some crossed wires about one piece of paperwork that the embassy needs from them. There was some confusion between our Kavya and a different Kavya placed with another US family, so the embassy hadn't received our Kavya's Article 23. After spending over an hour there, the confusion was cleared up, and they couriered our document to the embassy (and gave us a copy too). Anya was a trooper with our morning spent in waiting rooms.

After being cooped up, we decided to get some fresh air. We had snacks in the car for the girls, and we headed to a peaceful outdoor historical site, Qutab Minar. We visited last time, but due to a camera malfunction, all our photos were tinted purple!

We spent an hour or so in the sunshine seeing a magnificent stone tower -- construction began on it in 1193. It is also the site of India's first mosque.  The site is in amazing shape, with beautiful textures and different hues of stone. Everywhere you walk presents amazing views of arches, walls, foundations, and a blend of different architectural styles, all framing the tower from every angle.

The tower has been struck by lightning twice in its history.

Then we headed back to the hotel. We wanted to make sure that a lot of the day contains playtime and just being together in our rooms with Kavya. We ordered some excellent room service for dinner -- they offer a variety of cuisines, but the Indian dishes we've had have been wonderful. Anya's favorite dish at one of our hometown Indian restaurants was featured with a slightly different name, Tikka Murg Mahkni. Delicious!  For future traveling families: be warned that the spice levels here are a few notches higher than in the US!

We also talked to our boys Aaron and Nathan via FaceTime (a feature of Apple devices). It was so great to see their faces, and hear them laugh and laugh at the things Kavya was doing!  My mom was watching them that day, and got her first sighting of Kavya in action -- she was absolutely taken with her. We are just a few days away from going home, and we're really anticipating seeing our family again. *I promise I will add photos, but it's late and my blogging time has been greatly reduced by a certain active, energetic 2-year-old!

Alicia and Peter had a little field trip one day to this spot next to our hotel . . .