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(Thank you for your grace with my constant hosting posting.  I have so many posts about other topics rattling through my brain that I can’t wait to bounce around with you…but right now I’m smitten with an eight-year-old and soaking up each moment.  I know, I know, if I keep this up, I’ll have to change the name of my blog to “Expected.”)

That’s A– feeding a giraffe.  We took her to the zoo, then the Wild Animal Safari, and after we do the aquarium, she’ll have seen every animal Georgia has to offer.

She yells over and over, “Mel-ah-NEE-ah!  Look!  Mel-ah-NEE-ah!  C’mon!”

We took the canoe out in the lake and she alternated between panicked cries and excited laughs.  When we got to the middle, she hopped over the side and had so much fun swimming that she didn’t want to leave.  She caught tadpoles at the shoreline, floated around in her lifejacket, and the translucent girl we picked up at the airport is sporting a golden tan (I’m using a high SPF, nobody panic.).

When I asked what I should do with an eight-year-old girl, I heard a resounding CRAFTS in reply.  We’ve been melting tiny beads into ornaments and coasters and stringing letters into bracelets and necklaces.  She made me a bracelet with all our names on it, and my favorite thing about it is that she spelled my name starting with our alphabet and ending in cyrillic.  Oh, and the “M” is upside-down.  “W-E-L-A-H-E.”  Some call me “Wee-lah!”  (That was an extremely obscure reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “Some call me…Tim.”  If you got that, we should sooooo grab a fourth-base date sometime.  Nerd.)

This week we are settling into a routine.

The routine is every day the kids try to drown me in the pool.  Elliott grabs one leg, A– grabs the other, and down I go.  She also loves running full-out and jumping at me.  I may not survive this hosting period, but dear world, I depart you happy and content.

You know that saying “fat and happy?”  Apparently that’s true.  Stepping on the scale this morning, I stared agape at the numbers.  Six new pounds.  In one week?  Super.  The Happiness Diet.

She’s picking up English fast, whereas I have only learned one Russian word: rusalka=mermaid.  And when language fails, we play a quick game of charades.  Best charading moment so far: when she wanted to watch a movie and pretended to pour something on her hands, slap both hands to her cheeks, and scream, “Ahh!”  Home Alone.  Classic.

Elliott and Evie constantly vie for her attention and who gets to sit next to her, and Elliott keeps slinging his arm around her shoulders in a cross between protectiveness and camaraderie.  Evie’s warming to her as A– feeds her like a baby, picks her up, and helps her wheel her tricycle into the garage.

This week, I’ve started to see her relax and be a kid.

That means whining.  That means begging.  That means trying to bargain with me for more of whatever she wants.  I don’t love whining, but I do love seeing her feel comfortable enough with us to be herself, to share her desires.  I say yes to as much as I can, and she’s testing and learning my nos.

We’re moving out of that first week vacation mode and a little bit deeper into our relationship.  I love it.  It means testing, but it also means trusting.

Yesterday after flinging some fairly large pouty lips my way, we ended the evening snuggled up on the couch together watching Kevin fight robbers with Christmas ornaments, paint cans, and a tarantula.

Whenever she sees me, she gives me a big hug.  I never know if she’s going to squeeze me like she’s rescuing my windpipe from a grape or let me kiss the top of her head.  She likes to keep me guessing.  I always kiss her forehead, and tonight, she reached up on her tippy toes and kissed mine.

One of my favorite parts of the day is bedtime.  Um, so right there I must be completely off my rocker and just lost all credibility as a mom.  I’m exhausted, on the home stretch, a horse seeing the barn of lights out, but no matter how late it is, she presents me with a pile of books.  I read through them with her, pointing words to pictures, and she repeats them.  She’s learned the alphabet, counting to ten, and many animals and colors.  I do all the voices in the stories and I love hearing her laugh and repeat the words with the same funny voices. (Pout-Pout Fish, blub, bluuuub, bluuuuuuub.  Do you know this book?  Do you love this book?)  My kids love sharing the books they love with our sweet new girl, and I love kids and words together.  (Pete the Cat!  I mean, don’t you just adore his cat shoes and rockin’ attitude?!?)

Yawn.  Bed.  I can already hear the cries of “Mel-ah-NEE-ah!  Pleeeease!  Please, Mel-ah-NEE-ah!”