I figured that I'd do something a bit different and answer a few questions. These are a few that I've been asked, so I'm taking the answers public. Enjoy! If you have additional questions, post them and perhaps I'll have another round later.
1. How are you doing? Are you okay? It sounds like a lot - how do you handle the stress?
For all my complaining, I really ought to set the record straight here. We're doing very well. I bitch and moan because, well, I'm human and this is hard. At worst, I'm completely overwhelmed and I feel like things will never improve and I'm scared to death of not being able to keep up. Then I think about how far we've already come, and how early in the game it really is, and I know this moment isn't all there is. Then I think about how amazing God is and how faithful He is to His servants and I remember that this was really His idea and I find hope again. Then my daughter does something new, or says my name, or giggles and plays with me, or just sits in my lap and I smell her hair (you have to have kids to understand that last part) and I'm so very glad we are doing this. It's very hard, but it's completely rewarding. I'm stealing this from someone else, but "it's the hardest thing I've ever loved doing."
As for the stress, I hate to admit it but I eat my stress. I dig through the house and find anything chocolate or chocolate flavored or chocolate scented and eat the hell out of it.
2. How's your marriage and the other kids holding up?
Our marriage is as strong as ever. I don't mean to boast, but.... oh hell, I'm boasting. I love the crap out of my husband and he feels the same about me. We have always had a very strong marriage, with our greatest strengths being our communication, compassion, teamwork and commitment. Our openness allows us to air grievances or just voice how hard it is without fear. When something needs doing, there isn't an argument over whose job it is, because this family is OUR job and whoever sees the need just takes care of it instead of haggling over who should be the stuckee. We lean on each other for support and encouragement, and at the end of the day we always end up hanging out together, even if it's just him catching up on work while I blog.
TJ and Mera are doing pretty well. TJ is a little starved for attention at times, so we have pushed his bedtime as far back as we dare in order to give him the time he needs after the two girls are asleep. We make sure to help him with schoolwork, read him a story, and say prayers each night. We make a concerted effort for at least one of us to play with him alone for at least a few minutes each day. Mera is largely oblivious to the split of attention, except for when she's feeling clingy. This is normal for her, just harder to manage with two clingy girls in the house. Her only real problem with adjusting to the new sister is that she wants so badly to touch her but her sister cannot tolerate it at all. She wants to hug her and kiss her and play with her hair but all of those things make her sister scream and freak out. Oh, and she's terrible at sharing. This problem doesn't show when you have a boy and girl with a 3 year age difference - they don't want the same toys most of the time. Now that we basically have twin girls, this is a challenge.
3. Are you nursing your new daughter?
No, I'm not, for two reasons. One, I'm no longer in production. Mera weaned (by her own choice) about 9 months before Geri came home. The only thing left in there now is powdered milk. Two, Geri is four years old and was never nursed as an infant. If I stuck my boob in her face it would confuse and frighten her because she has no reference for it.
4. What is your new daughter like? How's her temperament? What's her personality like?
From an ages-and-stages approach, our daughter can best be described as a one-year-old in a four-year-old body. She is able to cruise and walk with assistance, but she cannot walk independently. She babbles and has a few words, but does not speak. When she's calm, she plays with toys appropriately. She's a bit below the 1 year mark for social or family skills, and some of the standard developmental milestones don't apply because of her vision impairment. Of course, that's a really lame answer because developmental milestones aren't personality.
Her personality is sort of hard to describe right now because it remains to be seen. There are just too many coping behaviors standing in her way at this point. Sometimes I think I see glimpses of it, and I can say that she is very sweet and curious and a bit stubborn.
Her temperament is something else entirely. Our little girl is adrift in a sea of change and helplessness, and she struggles daily for some sense of control. She responds with tantrums when told "no." She swings between completely shutting down (in public) and revving up (at home) and her revving behaviors toggle abruptly between manically happy and fits of anger/frustration. She has no ability to modulate her feelings, so a mild frustration or disappointment is the end of the world and anything even a little pleasant is met with over-the-top laughter. Sometimes I feel like I spend my day on a tightrope between tantrums. Still, there's hope. She is becoming more and more capable of finding a calm-alert state and is staying there for longer stretches all the time. She is becoming more resilient to disappointment, sometimes tantrum-ing only briefly before accepting the "no" and finding something else to do. Most important, she throws her tantrum and then comes to us for comfort and relief. Often she comes thinking she'll get what she wants this time, only to be disappointed, but it's good that she comes back. On some level, I still think she sees us more as minions to do her bidding than as adults in control of the home. Nick thinks that it's because we are so available to her that she is confused. Since we sometimes give her what she wants that makes her think she's in charge. Then we assert our authority and she is left feeling helpless again. She's not used to the dance that is a normal parent-child relationship, the give-and-take of a caregiver who has all the control but often decides to give the child something they want because it is a small concession that brings joy.
Her institutional behaviors are diminishing, although the recent surgery brought back some of the tooth grinding and auto-agression. When she gets frustrated enough she hits herself in the mouth or bites her hand and wrist. Of course, the rocking has never fully gone away but it is more evident lately. Bedtime is getting a lot easier. We were at a point where she would just cuddle into my arms and let me rock her and, although the eye surgery has put her back a bit, bedtime isn't a marathon of frustration anymore. She's better able to relax into sleep, and that's very nice.
So there you have it. The top four questions, in no particular order, and their very long answers. :) Hope you enjoyed it. Again, if there's something you wonder about that I didn't answer, please feel free to ask.
Happy new year!