Thursday, July 14, 2011

Girl of a Thousand Faces

It has been brought to my attention (thanks Sheldon & Hilary) that I have not posted much about how Lizzie is transitioning.  It's true that I have posted more about Seth, who has clearly been having a hard time adjusting.  Thankfully, it seems as if things are getting a little bit easier for him...and me.

That enables me to think, and write, a bit more about my daughter (I still love to say that!).

When I think of Lizzie, the first thing I think of is her namesake, my sister Elizabeth.  Like my sister when we were young, Lizzie is fiery, hot tempered, dramatic, intelligent, and funny.  In short, she is quite something!  I can hardly wait until her English is fluent, because I think she is going to be hilarious.  I frequently think of Lizzie as a girl of a thousand faces, because every emotion that passes through her ends up on her face.  Her countless facial expressions are hilarious to watch, as they flit from anger to mischievousness to sadness to joy...all in the space of seconds.  She models the proverbial expression of wearing her heart on her sleeve.  She is quite charismatic, and draws people to her with an open smile that reaches all the way up to her twinkly eyes.

She loves to be the centre of attention, and generally assumes that others will do her bidding...the title of princess would not be amiss here!  She marches around, knowing that all eyes are on her, and she loves it.  She has her brothers and her cousins wrapped around her little finger; and if they don't do what she wants, she freely snubs them until they conform.  It's quite funny to watch.  Just this morning, when Lizzie had thrown herself down onto the floor, shrieking about some thing or another, and before I could reach her to see what was going on, both of her brothers had dropped to the floor beside her, flanking her; and they were both already offering her things that might amuse her.   It was priceless!

The princess label also describes well her desire to be carried instead of to use her own two legs to move herself around - and if she is not picked up instantly when she demands it, she throws herself down onto the floor (regardless of how public and dirty that floor is), tucks her limbs and her head in, and screams with outrage.  It's hard not to smile at times, as I look down at her.  But because we are still very much in attachment mode, I will invariably pick her up in this state (assuming she'll let me!), so that she knows that I'm there in good times and bad.

Whereas Seth's grief and rage have been more obvious to us, Lizzie is a bit harder to define, from my perspective.  I find it hard to distinguish between her own grief/loss issues and the fairly normal antics and behaviours of a three-year-old.  She melts down immediately over anything and everything that doesn't go her way, but to me that is very age-understandable behaviour.  I tentatively think that her grief issues might come a little later...and in a way, I'm glad about this because of how intense our work with Seth has had to be.

Lizzie has seemed to attach fairly well right from the outset, and is very (very) cuddly and affectionate with both Geoff and me.  She happily and freely reaches for us, usually prefers us to strangers, and seems to know that we are the ones who will care for her.  She snuggles happily into that little place between shoulder and neck, and always wants to be "up pease."  She often frowns at strangers, or even growls at them if they look at her for too long.  On Friday, my heart melted when, after telling her that I loved her, she said to me (for the first time, and accompanied by a big wet kiss):  "I lub ooo."  All of those things are positive signs that she is attaching to us (well, I'd probably prefer if she didn't growl at people, but oh well).

But we still have a long ways to go.  She can't yet bear to be parted from the parent who is with her, even for a second - if I ever want just a measly minute of privacy in the bathroom, she (along with Seth) wails on the other side of the door until I reappear.  She really can't be left alone, even for the few seconds it might take to run to another room to grab something.  In addition, last week at one of Matthew's swimming lessons, she approached three perfect strangers and held her arms up to them so that they might pick her up.  I was a little surprised by this because she's been increasingly stranger-averse of late, but I was glad to witness it so that I could figure out that we had some work to do.  When two of the strangers did pick her up (before I could get there), I had to politely ask them to pass her over to me.  This incident led us to implement a new rule (for now) about no one picking her up except for family.  I am thankful that friends so far have been very respectful of this, because I see it as being important in her attachment maturation.

I love putting her to bed at night.  It's a very different experience than with either Matthew or Seth.  She is just so cuddly!!   From our first night together over a month ago, she won't lie down until she has tucked me in.  She ensures that I get enough blanket to cover my legs and chest, and only then will she lie down, too, and let me cover her with the blanket.  If Matthew ever comes to lie down with us for a while, she tucks him in, too...and ever single time that happens, Matthew gets this big dopey smile of adoration all over his face - he's totally loving her!  She's starting to like playing with her "babies" (dolls), too, and she now tucks them in at night as well...always pulling the blanket up to their chins!  When she falls asleep (which happens very quickly, as she no longer naps in the daytime), she does so with her head nestled into my neck/shoulder area, and with her little body all schooched up against mine; one of her hands is invariably resting on my cheek, as mine is on hers.  It's really quite beautiful, and most of it has been initiated by her.

It is normal that children regress when they have been adopted.  Lizzie is no exception.  Though she is almost four years old, she acts like a child who is about eighteen months younger than that.  There have been clear signs of regression: wearing diapers at night again; wanting to be fed and dressed by a parent (a stark difference from a month ago, when she was fierce and independent about feeding and dressing herself, and did so meticulously); wanting to be a "baby" with me by being rocked; wanting to be held; etc etc.  All of these things seem completely natural to me, given that she has missed out on a lot; we're happy to accommodate her and simply wait for her to 'catch up.'

Oddly, some of her other behaviours are very mature.  For example, when she first arrived, her table manners were, frankly, impeccable:  She used a fork and/or spoon with the proficiency of an adult; never made a mess; used napkins religiously to wipe up any drops that might land on her or the table.  This behaviour has also somewhat regressed (other than the obsessive napkin use!) but for her age, we're very impressed with her ability to stick-handle her cutlery and plateful of food.  She's also very adept at dressing herself: tucking things in if needed; turning things right side out; putting on belts; buttoning things up; etc etc.  She also has this very adult-looking way of washing her face, scooping water into her hands and splashing it on her face, and then running her hands down her face to wipe away excess water - and while she does this, she slurps up any excess drops!  I laugh when she does this face-washing thing, though I've had to stop her at times because she makes an absolute mess by splashing the water onto her face (she reminds me of those old Noxema commercials where a woman would apply the product to her face, and then - in slow motion - splash water onto her smiling face).   She has quick, competent and efficient little fingers that she puts to good use!

I'm doing nothing with her hair yet, other than basic maintenance, but she doesn't seem fussy about this at all, so I'm not worrying about it yet.  She does like to stare at herself in the mirror, though, and regularly ask if she is "congo"/pretty...and sometimes she asks this with a deliberate flutter of her eyelashes!  She has just moved into size 3 clothing, which is great because it's clear that she's growing (in all directions!).  She's got a tiny, butterball body with curves everywhere, and she's simply lovely!

Many, many internationally-adopted children come home with food issues:  Eating to wild excesses; hunting through garbage for food; panicking if there's not immediate access to food; lactose intolerance; etc.  Our kids have proven interesting:  They don't seem to have these issues to any extreme, at least not yet.  Focusing on Lizzie, I'd say that she definitely likes to eat, and she eats quite a lot for a girl her size.  She doesn't like veggies (darn), but loves most proteins, breads, milk products, and fruit.  Unlike her fussier brothers, she will try virtually anything...and will eat almost anything to completion if she knows she can then have more of her favourite thing thereafter.  I have been extremely consistent in providing a routine of food available to them: breakfast; snack; lunch; snack; dinner; sometimes snack.  This has really, really helped.  After the first ten or so days at home, the kids seemed to learn that they could  depend on the routine of food being available (pretty much every other hour!) and they stopped eating excessively, and started pushing their plates away while there was still food on them.  They now regularly tell me if they are "hungry" or "no hungry," which helps, too.

I hope this gives you a glimmer into what Lizzie is like and how she's adapting.  It's definitely different having a little girl around, and I'm really starting to get into it.  You should see me matching clothes together - I'm trying green and pink combinations; purple and orange...for a woman historically encased in a lot of black clothing, I think it's fair to say that I'm a new woman...especially when it comes to dressing my not-quite-as-intimidating-anymore daughter!

Last week, while I was helping Lizzie put her dolls to bed, we had this conversation:

Lizzie (pointing to a doll):  "Mommy, Lizzie Senait's baby?"

Me:  "Yes, that's Lizzie Senait's baby."


Lizzie: "Mommy, Lizzie Senait Mommy's baby?"

Me (with a big smile!):  "Yes, darlin' Lizzie is definitely Mommy's baby!!"

How could one not love this girl??

From yesterday evening.

(below) makeup on me for this one...hindsight is always 20/20!


  1. Love! Great post! I really feel like I know little Lizzie so much more. What you've described in her development/ attachment all seems very normal, so that's great. She's adapting beautifully!

    Love the pictures too!

  2. Love! Great post! I really feel like I know little Lizzie so much more. What you've described in her development/ attachment all seems very normal, so that's great. She's adapting beautifully!

    Love the pictures too!

  3. Great post! The picture of you two is gorgeous. It will be very special for Lizzie to look back years from now and see pictures of the two of you together. Oh, and just wait till she starts asking you to wear dresses!

  4. So beautiful!! I love reading about your children, they are amazing!! xx

  5. She is lovely! Great photos too.

  6. Love this post Ruth- Lizzie sounds like such a little character. What a sweetheart. Interesting that she is starting to "make strange" towards people. I'm guessing that this is probably a good sign of healthy attachment to you (similar to how it occurs with young infants).

  7. Awww Lizzie is sooo cutie! I love the picture of you and Lizzie.
    My 10 year old daughters name is Elizabeth, we call her Libby and her Papa calls her Lizzie.
    Great name for sure :0)

    Kelly #59