Dearest little Bugs,
November has passed, and with it the fourth anniversary of the day the Ladybug entered our family.
As has been our tradition, we celebrated this “Forever Family Day”* with a family night out at the Imperial Chinese Restaurant, which is one of the few places in Rapid City that can serve a traditional Chinese-style group dinner. They also (and this is of particular importance to the Ladybug) serve an egg drop soup that seems to be more egg than soup. There, we spent the evening regaling the Ladybug with stories about when she was little, whilst simultaneously trying to stop the Butterfly from eating her sister’s presents.
* As an aside, I’ve mentioned before that the Ladybug’s Forever Family Day coincides with the Queen B’s birthday, so my eldest daughter is not the only one to get presents that day. Given her great affection for the movie, I got the B a pair of tickets to see the Broadway version of Grease, which was showing in town the following weekend. When the Queen went to work the following day, she had the following conversation with a coworker:
Co-worker: So how was your birthday?
Queen B: Great. My husband got us two tickets to Grease.
Co-worker: OH! MY! GOD! When are you leaving?
Queen B: The play, not the country.
For the briefest of moments, in the eyes of someone I’d never met, I was the most awesome husband on the planet.
Of course, the Ladybug is anything but that scared little babe any more. She’s a sassy, self-appointed “rock star” whose continuing growth spurts suggest that her long and lanky frame is made less out of flesh and blood than saltwater taffy. She’s also very much a girl girl anymore: she ogles at make-up and dreams of jewelry and would happily spend all day browsing at Claire’s if I let her. (And let’s be clear here: she’s asked to do this. Repeatedly.) In particular, she’s always asking about how soon she’s going to be a TEENAGER, partly because she knows teenagers can wear make-up and pierce their ears, but mostly because she likes the way that question gives me a minor heart attack each time she asks it.
The Ladybug’s current girlishness is particularly, or more correctly, follicularly, focused. That little girl will spend upwards of an hour styling her hair in the morning (or until I drag to the truck by her ponytail, whichever comes first). This isn’t to say she’s particularly good at styling her hair, of course. Usually after fifteen minutes of combing and spraying and tying and braiding, she’ll emerge from the bathroom with most of her uncomfortably jammed into a single pony tail sticking out at a rakish angle behind her right ear. (Then again, I’m the one who, after four years of trying, still cannot figure out how to pull hair into two pigtails that lie on the same latitude of a girl’s skull, so who am I to judge?)
Paradoxically, even as the Ladybug becomes ever more like a living Bratz doll, she’s also becoming ever more of a nerd, which I suppose balances things out, cosmically speaking. For example, although she’s excited about playing with Polly Pockets and Barbies, the toy she was most thrilled about this month was her miniature paleontological dig, which she bought for several hundred thousand tickets at Chuck E. Cheese. It’s a pretty cool toy, actually. It consists of a wooden chisel, a brush, and a sandstone block in which the plastic bones of dinosaur were fossilized. For several hours one afternoon this month, she carefully carved and cleaved her way through the block, eventually breaking it up into largish chunks in which bits of plastic bone were embedded.
Then, equally carefully, she brushed away the layers of sandy stone until each segment of skeleton could be removed from its rocky perch:
Once all the bones were excavated, the Ladybug had to then surmise how to assemble them into a dinosaur:
After a little trial and error, her prism of rock became… a stegosaurus.
What does this, aside from its obvious science content, have to do with her being a nerd? When she finally stared at her creation, the Ladybug sighed and said, “Aw man… I was hoping for pachycephalosaurus.”
As another example of nerdiness, the Ladybug has spontaneously developed a tendency to pepper conversations with lines of movie dialogue. This amuses the hell out of me, since it’s more or less precisely how I spoke all the way through grad school; her mother finds it less amusing, as talking with her daughter is sometimes less a conversation another human than with a sentient Netflix queue. So let’s see… the Ladybug is (a) fascinated with science and (b) is a cartoon/movie quote machine. Couple that with the fact that she’s the Asian daughter of two math teachers, and I’m pretty confident she’ll hit the NERD milestone long before she gets to the TEENAGER one.
When I look at what an amazing kid the Ladybug is, I’m amazed to think that it was only four years ago, in a plush hotel room in China, that we held her for the first time, handed to us by her foster mother. It was a special, magical moment when the Queen B and I suddenly became parents. It was also brief and personal, in rather stark contrast to day four months ago when we first held the Butterfly, which took place in a cramped office building with another family and was almost as memorable for its chaotically haphazard paperwork sessions as it was for being our first moments with our new daughter.
Nevertheless, despite the differences in their two adoptions and their lives before the Komplexify clan, no one can now deny that these two little girls are sisters:
I’m admittedly a bit flabbergasted at how much the little Butterfly looks like the Ladybug did when she was a one-year-old. In some ways this should be unsurprising, I suppose, as both girls were born in the same province of China, and much of the Butterfly’s wardrobe has been handed down from the Ladybug: there can be only so many permutations of little Guizhou girls in Elmo tee-shirts. Both little girls have deep brown eyes and light brown hair and ridiculously small button noses. They also have the same crooked smile, with their jaws cocked off the the right side in what appears to be an endearing indication of early onset TMJ. But what really drove the comparison home was that this month the Butterfly’s hair was finally long enough to pull into pig tails, and the first time we did that it was like living in a temporal loop. Behold the Ladybug and the Butterfly at one year of age:
Also like her older sister at her age, the Butterfly has a healthy appetite. She continues to be a voracious eater, and the sheer volume of food she’s prepared to eat is exceeded only by the gusto with which she’s willing to eat it. Whereas last month we spent most of our time feeding her, this month we’ve let the Butterfly handle the edible-intake process herself, and the results are invariably the same:
- She attempts to put food and fork together, through whatever means necessary. Typically this means scooping up or stabbing the food, but, failing that, she then pushes the fork flat against the food with enough pressure so as to bond it to the utensil at a molecular level.
- She repeats this process once or twice for praise from parents.
- At first moment when both our attentions are elsewhere directed, she squishes all food in a single malleable heap that she subsequently attempts to relocate into her stomach all at once by cramming it into her mouth, although, admittedly, any orifice in her skull will do in a pinch.
However, unlike her older sister, the Butterfly is far more flexible about where she draws line between foods and nonfoods, which is a more diplomatic way of saying she’ll stuff just about any damn thing into her mouth. I often find little pieces of impromptu papier-mache hidden about the house, the undigested remnants of junk mail and magazines the Butterfly has eaten. This month has been even worse, because (a) the Ladybug has figured out that food is sometimes tossed out in the kitchen trashcan and (b) she’s now tall enough to reach into said trashcan. If you have not yet deduced the obvious logical consequence, let’s just say the Butterfly is taking dumpster diving to an unprecedented culinary level.
Of course, the Butterfly is her own little person with her own big personality, and this month we’re seeing more and more of it develop. For example, she continues to become more expressive, both in signs and in speech. She’s picked up some new signs like shoes and book and noodle and hot, often after only one exposure to them. Of course, she often only uses these signs to answer my panicked question What do you have in your mouth? after the fact, so I’m not sure if this expanding digital dictionary attests more to her intelligence or her hunger.
The Butterfly is also a lot more vocally expressive too. She continues mimicking sounds and tying them to objects and signs at an impressive rate, although if I had to summarize the most important word in her current working vocabulary, it would be Ta-da, which initially referred to any of her soft polyester blankets or dolls (called “Taggies,” whence the phonemes). As I’ve mentioned before, the Butterfly’s peace of mind pretty much requires her to carry one of these things around with her at any given time, so Ta-da is pretty much the first thing she asks for when she gets up, followed by Dit-der (sister) and then Mmmmmuh (milk), in precisely that order. The little girl has a system.
Interestingly, over the month Ta-da has evolved to encompass anything made of soft fabric, including throw pillows, fleece blankets, chinchillas, and like. It is impressive to me to watch the Butterfly making such mental connections, solving new communication problems with the limited tools at her disposal, which is a testament to her intellect. Unfortunately, the phrase Ta-da often comes out like Da-da, so it can be hard to distinguish between a request for a warm blanket from an observation that her father is home, and the consequences of misinterpreting the former for the latter (say, by picking her up for a big hug instead of handing her a blanket just out of reach) typically involve tears streaming from her eyes and blood streaming from my ears. So to summarize: brains, check; patience, not so much.*
* An expected consequence of the Butterfly’s spicy temperament is that she finds herself in time-out… well… all the time. At the beginning of the month, we’d put her in her crib for a few minutes to cool off, but rather quickly we found the the Ladybug, once placed in her crib with her many blankets and dolls and other Taggie toys, would suddenly become happy as a clam about serving her prison time there. Unfortunately, the idea of rewarding bad behavior is decidedly not the purpose of time-out, and so this month we’ve experimented with other methods. The Queen B tried using a time-out chair in the corner, but the Butterfly, unfamiliar with the concept, would repeatedly simply stand up and walk away from it, and so she and the Queen B would spend a half-hour at a time locked in a little power struggle, with the Queen B setting the Butterfly in the chair, and the Butterfly almost immediately escaping from it. My solution to the problem is to seat the Butterfly in the Ladybug’s old kiddie lawn chair, which like an upholstered Venus fly trap immediately folds up on Butterfly should she try to scramble out of it, making escape from it nearly impossible. Cruel and unusual? Possibly. Effective. Certainly. Funny as hell? Totally.
Speaking of plush fabrics, jackets have become important this month, as it is beyond any doubt that it is now winter in the midwest. Temperatures plummeted into single digits this month, with gusty wind chills further dropping them so much that they went past negative numbers into purely imaginary ones. We had for first big snowfall this month, which dumped about three inches of snow on the ground. For the Ladybug, this was winter heaven. She threw on her snow boots, snow pants, and snow jacket and promptly threw herself face first into the snow banks to make snow angels and eat snow balls and experience hypothermia.
The Butterfly, on the other hand, having spent the first three-fourths of her life in the humid climate of Guizhou, was completely unprepared for the blanket of cold white stuff that unexpectedly turned up in our yard one morning. She watched with amusement as the Ladybug made snow angels or, more accurately, snow belly-flops, but the minute I set her down into the stuff (which, given her diminutive stature, went up to her knees) the amusement on her face was immediately replaced with a look of concern and incredulity that might be best described by W…T…F….
Fortunately, over the subsequent few days the Butterfly has, if not embraced winter exactly, learned to begrudgingly accept it. Indeed, what with the new snow hat she got from her Nana and Papa Shoo and the snow jacket she got from Sears and the big sister doting on her every need, sometimes the Butterfly actually seems to like it.
Happy wintering, little bugs. I love you two!
— Ba ba