Christmas was extra sweet this year. After four Christmas of saying that we were adopting "soon," at long last, Phoebe is with us. I am acutely aware of what miracle this thing called adoption is, and how lucky we are to have her as our daughter.
Christmas was just wonderful. We drove seven plus hours to Pennsylvania, where my parents had been preparing for a solid month to host a big Christmas celebration. The house was full of Christmas trees and lights, and every meal was a gourmet feast. Both my siblings were there, too, with their combined five kids. Gabe falls right between Miranda and Phoebe in the line-up of grandchildren, and those three little ones played and played hard! The girls just loved being fussed over by their Grammy and Opa. On the way home we had to field Miranda's question about five times, "Why we have to go home?"
A few days before Christmas, the Early Intervention team returned to our house with their bags of puzzles and mind twisters for tots to give Phoebe her second full evaluation. Six months ago, she took a peg in her little fist and tried with all her might to get it in the hole, but just couldn't do it. This time, plunk, plunk, plunk, she gently placed all six pegs in their holes, with extra points for finishing in under 30 seconds. She eagerly whizzed through all their tests, and in the end scored a full four months ahead of her biologic age. Six months ago, she scored two months behind. That adds up to a full year of developmental progress in the last six months. They circled "ineligible for services" on the bottom of the page, and invited her to continue coming to their weekly group sessions, now as a "community kid" with no more special needs.
Phoebe, it ends up, is one smart little cookie who loves to learn. The holidays were full of comments like "Ohhhh! Lights! Pretty!" After playing with a line-up of kid-size chairs for an hour or so the night before, Phoebe woke up the next morning singing "chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga CHOO CHOO." She quickly learned the names of her cousins and grandparents, and is constantly announcing new words (whale, tights, loud, elephant). She's now putting two and even three words together, surprising me every time I hear things like "I see you!", "I got it!" "Oh no, (what) happened?" and "More cookie, please." Her manners are quite refined, with spontaneous pleases and thank yous sprinkled about. Mark is particularly fond her of enthusiastic "Welcome!" when she places something in his hands. As we left Grammy Kate and Opa's house after four wonderful days in Pennsylvania, she yelled out "Thank you!" She can do "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with all the movements. On the long drive home there was a beautiful moment during a rousing verse of "If You're Happy and You Know It" when both girls shouted "Hooray!" with perfect synchronization and gusto.
Miranda continues to be a great big sister. During a little Phoebe meltdown on the trip to Pennsylvania, she put her fingers in her ears and quietly said, "That's too loud. Don't cry Phoebe. It's alright." When Phoebe drifted off to sleep, her fingers came out of the her ears and she said, "That's better." I had to laugh today when little Miranda was making what for her was a loud joyful noise, and Phoebe pointed an accusing finger at her and shouted-- in a voice three times as loud as Miranda can dream of making-- "Loud!" Miranda is starting to be a conversationalist now. She listens to lyrics of songs and asks questions ("Why he throw the television out the window?") and remembers the next day stories we tell that weren't necessarily directed at her ("Your truck got stuck in the mud?").
For my friends and followers, thank your traveling with us this year. My wish for you is a healthy, happy, joy-filled 2010.