Sasha very quickly became the center of all of our lives- in the most positive way possible. I don't even know where to begin in describing Sasha. She is amazingly smart and observant, hilarious and goofy all around, and really, we haven't had any issues at all integrating her into our family. From the very beginning (well, almost) it's like she'd been in our family forever- and I know she felt that way too. We were completely the perfect fit for each other.
Aside from the first few days we met her, she hasn't been the least bit shy about displaying her very, VERY strong personality. She had us all wrapped around her little finger right away; she made it known that she was the queen- but was very intelligent in her methods of getting what she wanted (we've had almost no fussing, crying, or tantrums from her, which I'll talk more about later.) When she wants to go somewhere, she needs to hold the hands of two people. One does not suffice. If my mom is there, one hand has to be hers; the other will be whichever hand she chooses. If I reach out my hand to her, and she has the firm idea in her head that Kristian will be her hand-holding buddy, she pushes mine away and holds hers out to Kristian, even if he's across the room. Then she pulls us to where she wants to go, and if we don't come, she pulls harder. If she wants something, she fully expects us to get it for her. If she eyes something on the other side of the room, she'll sit and point to it until someone gets it for her; if we get her the wrong thing, she takes it and throws it and points again to what she wants. Likewise with eating/drinking, and drinking is the funniest. She'll open her little mouth absolutely as wide as it can go, waiting for someone to put what she wants in it. We call this her "Milk Face" or "Water Face" or "Juice Face" depending on what she's drinking. This goes for all drinks- she opens her mouth wide for her mom's wine (of course we don't give in to this one), or my soda, or one of the boys' glasses of chocolate milk, even if she spots it from several yards away. She's kind of a picky eater, but is very particular about whose plate and fork the food is coming from. In Dubai, my mom and I had a plate of cake, but Sasha only wanted mine, even though they were the exact same thing. She's very headstong in other ways too- especially when it comes to shoes. The first full day we had custody of her, we were changing her clothes and put new shoes on her. As we replaced her beloved, one-size-too-small pink sandals with her brand-new ones, she pushed our hands away, took off the new shoes almost by herself, walked across the room to where the old shoes were, and pretty much put them back on without help. We were totally shocked, both by her strong shoe preference and the fact that, at 17 months, she could put her own shoes on (we don't think, because of this, that she's older; we think she learned this at the care center.)
Also, as we realized later, she's extremely observant and can pick things up right away. It also seems that she has a very acute memory. She constantly exhibits actions and little games and habits that we know she must have picked up at the care center. I mentioned before that she stuck her tongue out at herself in the mirror; also, when we showed her the photo album we sent to her before back at our hotel, she hugged and kissed each picture, which we're sure the nannies showed her how to do. When my mom was showing her Patty Cake, she already seemed to know it. Yesterday, when we were outside, she played this weird little game where she would pretend to take something from my mom, run across the yard a little ways, clap, run back, and repeat it. She's also done strange little things like pretend to pick up imaginary objects on the stairs, stopping, picking it up, going down a few more stairs, and picking up something else. We don't know where this comes from but we think that something must have reminded her of something that she did or saw someone do at the care center.
She picks things up very quickly at home too. One day, she was outside with my mom and I waved to them from my room on the second floor- this probably lasted no more than a few seconds. The next day, as I was walking outside with her, she stopped right under my window and waved up at it, even though there was no one there. Yesterday, Carsten said his finger hurt and my mom looked at it; Sasha grabbed his finger from her and began to examine it herself. When my mom did it again to Carsten later, to see if she remembered, she did; she began to examine his finger again. My mom was telling me a funny story about the way Sasha shivered in the bath and demonstrated it for me, and Sasha, noticing this, pretended to shiver again. We also noticed on the first evening at dinner that she was wiping her mouth by herself and refused help. We have so many examples of this kind of behavior; I think that her mind is just very quick and her memory very sharp, not that she's a baby genius (although these qualities in her aren't bad for getting her into Harvard!)
Sasha is seriously the funniest kid I've ever seen. As one of my brothers claimed yesterday, she's like a Walking Funniest Home Video. Kristian has wanted to keep the video camera on at all times, wanting to submit a funny video of her to get a trip to Los Angeles and $10,000. I wouldn't be surprised if his dream came true, since she does funny things ALL the time. A lot of this stems from her observation, since she tries to do everything we do; Kristian was doing a funny dance yesterday and she copied it almost exactly. She also does really random, unexplained things; yesterday, she tried to feed me paper clips, and when I wouldn't open my mouth, she demonstrated with her own like parents do to babies when they want them to eat. She does so many funny things that I really can't think of them all now, but I will just say that her smile (which she releases VERY often, and sometimes for no reason, the one with her eyes closed and beautiful teeth showing next to my profile to the right) is absolutely contagious, as is her laugh. She begins to scream and laugh hysterically when she sees someone from the family approach her unexpectedly, like when she and my parents picked me up at my SAT class today. She also has a game with my dad that she has to play every evening, where my dad approaches her slowly and she runs away, shrieking with laughter, into my mom's legs. It makes it so much cuter that she yells "Papa!" when she wants him to play, the only word that we're 100% sure she knows (she says Mama, although we're not totally sure she connects that to her mom, and attempts to say kitty and peekaboo though they don't sound totally like the actual words. She also repeats sounds we make and the way we say them; my mom, the other day, yelled out for Kristian outside, and she repeated it in the same way, although she doesn't connect the name to her brother.) We're working on the talking, but given her otherwise strong areas of intelligence, we're sure she'll catch on.
The best part is that she absolutely is attached to us- all of us. She knows that her Mama is the primary caregiver and naturally turns most to her if she's there, but if she's not, she's completely happy with my dad, me, or even one of the boys holding her or taking her by the hand. Today, for example, when my mom was out and my dad was working from home, Sasha woke up from her nap- way too early- and I went in to get her. She wanted me to hold her right away, even though she resisted my trying to get her back to sleep. I took her downstairs, sans tears, and held her hand as she walked around the house before deciding to take her on a walk. She was fine in the stroller as I walked her around the neighboring streets, and when we went inside to watch Teletubbies (which she loves, unless she's particularly restless and eager to move around, which she often is) she leaned her head on my shoulder. She likes to sit on my lap and play with me, but she'll only let me exclusively take care of her if my mom's not there (if she is, she wants us to play with her together.) She absolutely lives in the attention we give her 24/7, and when she sits, she wants to be in the middle of two people (once, my mom was sitting next to her and I was sitting next to my mom, and she pushed my mom away and, in the space she left, pointed at the seat and looked directly at me.) We fear a little that she might be a bit too spoiled sometimes; she came up with a new idea that if she doesn't get what she wants, she'll throw herself on the floor and just lie there (better than kicking and screaming, I guess!) She's also very well-behaved. She does hit people/the cats sometimes, but only when she's excited; this is followed by a fit of giggles. She never does it to be mean, and it's never as a result of her anger. Of course, we tell her no, but when she shows us that gorgeous smile, it's hard to keep a straight face. Still, she understands that it's wrong. She laughs to see how we'll react, but if we don't laugh with her, she stops right away. Sometimes she even shakes her finger in a "no" gesture; we saw nannies at the care center do this to kids when they did something wrong, and we know that she remembers this and is reprimanding herself for what she did.
Sasha has been absolutely amazing; she's perfect all around. Already I can't imagine our life before her!