Tuesday, September 12, 2017

She's ours... FOREVER!!!

So many of you have followed our story throughout our long, difficult adoption process. You rejoiced with us when we were finally matched with our little girl, and again the day we met her, and again when we took custody in Thailand, and then we ALL celebrated when we brought her home in December! But what you probably didn't know, is that our journey was far from over that day.

Our sweet girl wasn't truly OURS yet - even after she came home. We were simply her custodial guardians. The Thai Adoption Board requires a 6 month post-placement period where you must complete medical requirements, have a social worker visit your home multiple times, and send photos and reports back to Thailand. After that you are allowed to legally finalize your adoption - but only when the court has availability (which for us, was not until September). During this period of time when our adoption was not yet final we could not share public photos of our family, our daughter retained her birth name, and our adoption agency retained the rights to our child. The paperwork we were required to sign in Thailand actually stated that our agency could "report against the adoption" and either place our child with a different family OR send her back to Thailand if they chose to. While I knew that situation was highly unlikely (and that this contingency only exists to protect adopted children placed in an unhealthy/unsafe home) it was a terrifying thing to have in the back of my mind all these months. To know that someone else held that power over our family was frightening. To know that we completely adored this child, and would absolutely lay our lives down for her - but she wasn't legally OURS - was an excruciating thing. And I was reminded of that reality at every doctor's appointment (when they called out her birth name, instead of "Kate Jackson").


But today friends... today EVERYTHING changed! After a chaotic few days where we thought Hurricane Irma might knock out power in Birmingham and delay our court date by 4-5 more months, we finally stood before a judge TODAY with our precious girl (and her bunny) in our arms! 


After a few more hiccups that had our hearts racing (it wouldn't be our adoption case without them! Ha!) Judge Sherri Friday finally signed our Final Decree of Adoption - which made this little darling OURS FOREVER!!!


After all these years of hoping and praying and #waitingforKate, she is finally 100% mine to love! Once the paperwork was signed and the photos were taken with Judge Friday, I promptly burst into tears and hugged her. I'm not sure if that's proper protocol in a court room, but at that moment I didn't care! It's been almost 6 years since we first felt the call to start the adoption process, and today Kate is finally our daughter. I still can't believe it. I keep wanting to pinch myself just in case I'm dreaming!





Even though Hurricane Irma gave us a good scare (and caused me several sleepless nights worrying about our court date being cancelled) - the "silver lining" (to the hurricane clouds) was that Irma brought my brother and sister in law to town! Jaron & Michelle had to evacuate since they live in Florida. So even though we thought my parents would be the only family close enough to attend, "Uncle Jaron & Auntie Shell" just happened to be in Alabama on the perfect day! Kate was thrilled!!! (and so were we - especially once we heard their home was left unscathed in Florida, and that all our friends - and theirs - survived the hurricane with minimal damage to their property too. We're so thankful!)


We're also thankful for our sweet friend Alison of Alison Wilkey Photography who took these beautiful photos. It's hard for us to get pictures of our family when we're always the ones behind the camera. But Alison generously gifted us this session, and it was such a blessing to have someone else "worrying" about the photos! I loved having her there with us, and I still can't believe she got so many great shots of our wiggly girl!



Today #myThaidarling officially became Kate Suwichada Jackson. As her special adoption gift, we gave her a custom locket with a family photo inside. The inside is engraved with her Thai birthname and her Thai nickname, and the back is engraved with her new initials. We wanted something to symbolize that she will always and forever be ALL of these names. Who she was for 4 years did not disappear today. Her identity is forever linked to her birth family, the wonderful caregivers she had in the orphanage, and now to us - her forever family! We want to always honor every part of who she is and where she has come from, and we hope this gift becomes an heirloom she will cherish for years to come.




Sweet Kate, today you are ours FOREVER. We promise to protect you, provide for you, and to do everything we can to help you accomplish your dreams! We promise to accept you no matter what you do, how you feel, or who you become. We promise to help you find ways to honor your past and embrace your present. We promise to always celebrate your birth country and culture, and to help you understand and appreciate it however we can. We promise to always have your back, and to give you every bit of support we have to give. We promise that we will always be your BIGGEST fans! But most of all, darling girl, we promise to LOVE you. Forever and ever. You are our greatest gift! 💜

Thursday, August 24, 2017

1 Second Everyday (Jan - June)

Hello friends and followers! I'm so sorry I've been MIA. I promise we're still alive over here! ;) We just had a really tough 6 weeks in May and June that caused a lot of stress and anxiety (for us all) and some major regression for Kate. Three out of state trips (work trips for Rusty that we went along for to minimize separation), a major water leak, our car breaking down twice (and ultimately having to be replaced), plus a handful of other smaller stressors in a 6 week window was just too much for our sweet girl. July looked like a lot of time at home - all trying to recuperate, refocus, and reconnect. So needless to say, I'm behind on my blog (and everything else in my life too)! But I am happy to say that this month has been much better. Our attachment is growing in leaps and bounds, our sweet girl seems more settled, AND I have been keeping up with "notes" from each month - so you can expect a fun recap blog for month 6, 7, and 8 coming soon!

In the meantime though, I wanted to share a little project with you! At the beginning of this year, we committed to try to capture at least one second of video of our sweet girl during each day of 2017 (her first full year home). So far we've done pretty well, only missing 3 days in 6 months! And using the incredible "1 Second Everyday" app, we've been able to merge those seconds into the sweetest little monthly videos. I'm really proud of us for keeping up with this - because I already cherish these short clips so, so much! I get all teary watching them. I love seeing how much Kate has grown and changed, and I really love hearing her sweet little voice speaking so much Thai those first few months home. I am grateful to have a happy moment from every day that we'll be able to look back on for years to come - and I can't wait to see (and share) our FULL video from the year on New Year's Eve!

For now though, friends and family with our password can view our first 6 months home with Kate in 30 second videos from January through June. Check them out below!


JANUARY



FEBRUARY

1SE :: February from Rusty Jackson on Vimeo.





JUNE



- - - - - - - - - - - 


I hope you enjoyed these as much as we have! Keep checking back in for blog updates in the weeks to come! They'll be backdated for the appropriate month, so you'll have to look behind this blog to read our updates from May, June, and July. Thanks for following along on our journey, and please continue to keep us in your prayers!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Mother's Day Story (+ interview)

Mother's Day has come and gone... but I'm still thinking about last weekend and counting my blessings. After spending the last 5 Mother's Days #waitingforKate with empty arms and an aching heart - I sure was grateful to have my daughter in my arms this year! We still can't share photos of her beautiful face, but I love this sweet shot from the day. One of my favorite things to do right now is to lean over and whisper in her ear, "You make me HAPPY!" The way she giggles and smiles when she hears my "secret" is the sweetest thing.

We are still working through this huge transition with Kate, and walking through plenty of grief. We still have lots of hard days, and plenty of tears. To lose everything you've known for 4 years is not an easy thing... but we are grateful we get to be the ones to comfort her and the ones who will now be here FOREVER for her. I'm truly in awe of our daughter's courage, strength, kindness and compassion. She is such a precious child. Even in the midst of brokenness - this little darling has brought so much joy and beauty to our lives. Hearing her call me "Mama" is the greatest gift! 💕


A few days before Mother's Day I was invited to share my story on WDJC in Birmingham (thanks to my friend Stephanie who is their awesome drive time DJ!) It was really emotional to walk back through the past 5 years and to remember all we've been through. I shared some very personal things - including an extraordinary part of our adoption story that we've never shared publicly before! So I am excited to post the interview here too!

When you have a few minutes, I hope you'll pour yourself a cup of tea and take a listen. You'll hear a recap of our 5 year journey, and some encouragement for those of you still walking through your own adoption journeys. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, someone will listen to our story and be moved to adopt too!

Part 1: The Calling & Confirmation



Part 2: The Obstacles



Part 3: Cutting The Red Tape



Part 4: A Message For Waiting Mothers




-------------------------------------

Thanks friends, for reading and listening! (And thanks Stephanie for the opportunity to share - and for your patience when my 4-5 minute segments turned into 6+ minutes. Oops!) If you're ever curious about other parts of our process - feel free to leave a question in the comments! And if you're thinking about adopting, let me say it one more time: these children are worth the work and worth the wait! 💕

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Five Months In Our Arms

Once again I'm late with this recap... but better late than never! April 29th marked 5 months since we took custody of Kate. So here's a recap from our very busy, very fun, and (unfortunately) very hard month #5!


FIRSTS

This month held so many "firsts" for Kate! April 13-15 we celebrated her first Songkran home, which is the Thai New Year. We took photos in our traditional Thai outfits (that I will cherish forever! Sneak peek below... I hope to share more on another blog soon!), and we took Kate to meet our Thai friends who run our favorite Thai restaurant in Birmingham for a special lunch out. We also celebrated with a big water fight in the front yard with all the neighbor kids, and shared some special Thai snacks!


Right after Songkran came Easter... and we did lots of fun things to celebrate that holiday too! Kate went on her first Easter Egg Hunt (at least the first one we know of), met the Easter Bunny for the first time (she loved him but definitely did not want to sit in his lap! Until we got in the car and started home... then she wanted to go back to see him. Haha!), dyed Easter eggs (including special ones for her best friend and caregivers from Thailand), and she got her first Easter basket from the Easter bunny!

She loved all her goodies... especially the baby bunny in her basket! Mama and Papa sent her a bunny just like this to Thailand - but he got broken and thrown away. She was so excited that the Easter Bunny went to Thailand, found him, fixed him, and brought him home! ;) When you squeeze him our voices are recorded telling Kate "Mama loves you" and "Papa loves you" in Thai and English. 


Kate also loved our matching Easter outfits... even if she didn't make it through the whole Easter service before getting restless and telling us "home!" We went to the Whistlestop Cafe for Easter lunch and she loved watching the trains, and dancing around the restaurant between bites (haha).  But the memory this Mama will cherish most from Easter Sunday is the moment she gave me my very first kiss on the lips! What a priceless gift! 


A few more fun "firsts" include her first time meeting her Auntie Beth, her first playdate with her friend Gia from Korea, her first time playing "Pooh Sticks", her first time in a fire truck thanks to a birthday party at the fire station (she LOVED it!), her first time seeing Mama sing a solo on stage (she wanted me to get on the stage at church all morning and was so excited when it was my turn!), and her first trip to Yaai and Dtah's church! She did surprisingly well with everyone so excited to meet her - as long as she was in Dtah's arms. We went to hear him sing for a special Easter music service... and she waved to him and yelled from the balcony, "Ma nee Dtah! Come here!" Haha!

Some not so fun firsts included her first stomach bug (that we know of - poor baby!) and Papa's first night away from her. I'm so thankful my parents came to help distract her while Rusty was out of town shooting a wedding! 


One of our most special "firsts" this month though, was our first anniversary of our "matching day"! One year ago on April 25th we opened up the most important email of our lives and saw our Thai darling's face for the very first time! In that moment we fell absolutely, completely, irrevocably, head-over-heels in love with her! We celebrated our "matching day" with a special night out together for Thai food and ice cream, and a trip to the fountain to teach our little "wish come true" how to throw in a penny and make a wish! 


ATTACHMENT

It's been a hard, hard month full of high highs and low lows with attachment and bonding. We realized this month that the main reason Kate has been doing SO well so far - is because we've continued to keep her world small and steady for months since she came home. We've been home a lot, with not too many visitors, and we've tried to get her set into a pretty steady schedule. We haven't taken any trips away from her - or away from home. But Rusty has been working more and more away from home, and the end of last month held multiple (long) grandparent visits - right on top of me (Mama) being really sick with a fever virus and bronchitis. For an entire week I barely left the couch, and the week after that I couldn't function without constant coughing. It seriously threw her for a loop. She would yell "NO!" when I coughed and seemed so worried about me. I realized after a few days that she has probably NEVER seen an adult get sick before. Most likely, her caregivers stayed home when they were sick (because she was in a very well-run orphanage!) Can you imagine how frightening it must have been to see her Mama (who she'd just started to *really* bond with) so sick all of a sudden? I had to remind her constantly that I would be okay, and that my doctor and my medicine would help me. I even let her "help me" take my medicine every day. Unfortunately all that change and fear caused a major round of regression and grief.

Learning to play "Pooh Sticks" with Mama!

I know that regression is a normal part of the attachment "dance" - but that doesn't make it any easier. This round felt like we'd taken 10 steps backwards. The road to attachment and healing is hard and long... and to have a major setback was really discouraging (and incredibly heartbreaking). I hated seeing Kate lose some of the independence she'd gained (it took months of constantly working to make her feel safe to get to where she'd been). I really hated seeing her wake up with grief fits again at night and seeing renewed grief/fear/anger in the daytime. But of course the hardest part was watching her pull away from me again - after months of working to earn her trust and love!

We had a terribly rough 10 days at the start of the month... followed by a good week... and then Rusty left for his first night (ever) away from Kate since she got home. That, coupled with us visiting her school (which is a bit of a scary thing) set off another week of regression and grief. This month she started talking about her best friend from the orphanage (Meow is her nickname), and grieving that loss almost daily. Every time she meets a new friend, it makes her miss her old (best) friend. She comes home and talks about Meow after every play date or school visit, and it absolutely breaks my heart. But I do all I know to do... I talk about her with Kate, we watch videos of them playing together, and we give Meow's picture kisses on especially hard days! She's asked to go back to Thailand and see her, and we've promised to make that happen sometime in the next 3 years. Meow has found a very special place in our hearts, and we are honestly grieving Kate's loss alongside her. (Someday I'll share a longer blog about sweet Meow, but for now would you join us in praying for her? She is such a precious girl!)

Despite intense grief and serious regression this month, we also had a lot of growth! After the 2nd round of regression passed, Kate started finally giving out affection to me (Mama) regularly! I'm getting hugs, kisses, and snuggles so much more than ever before, and I'm so, so grateful for it! 

These days she wants kisses for every little boo boo (she didn't always let us comfort her in the beginning) and even gives kisses for our boo boos too. She'll tell us to "be caw-ful" with her and with each other too! She has gotten to the point where she insists on us matching EVERY DAY - and while sometimes stressful, it's also pretty adorable. She is obsessed with blue jeans (it's all she wants to wear every. single. day.) and wants me to wear blue jeans with her (no matter how hot it is!) She also likes for our shirts to match, our jewelry to match (she went and put on her gold star olympic medal "necklace" because I had on a gold star necklace one day! HA!), and even wants us to have the same food, snacks, gum, and drinks! So if you see any cute mother/daughter matching outfits - please let me know about them! 

My little firefighter...
(and our matching outfits she insisted on this day!)


LANGUAGE

We are seeing her language growing with each passing day. This month she is putting together even more phrases. She's also going through a "parrot" stage, where she repeats almost everything we say! She's singing more this month (which I love) and still chatters constantly to herself, her toys, and us - though it's still a mix of Thai, English, and baby talk right now.

Those tiny little hands love holding little bugs!

She's telling more elaborate stories about her imaginary "tigers" these days. She still says she sees purple tigers everywhere, and it's become the funniest little game! One day she grabbed Rusty's hands before he left for work and said as seriously as she could, "Papa. BE CAREFUL! Tigahs outside. BIG tigahs. Purple tigahs. Bite you. WING PAPA! (run!) BE CAREFUL, oh-tay?" The look on her face was one of utmost concern. It. was. adorable.


Her favorite words these days are TOGETHER? (she always, always wants the three of us to be "together"! It's so hard to leave her for any reason!) and "I forgot!" (which she now says all of the time in the cutest little tone!). She also tells us - be caw-ful, wight dewr (right there), come wight back, huuurwy!!, hold my hand (so sweet), Mama! Look at nee! (look at this!) and "mai work today?" (no work today? She hates it when either of us has to go work! Which these days is mostly just Papa... because she just isn't ready for school or a babysitter yet.) She also called Rusty "Daddy" for the first time this month! (I'm not sure how much longer "Papa" will last!)


A few more things about Kate...


Our little one loves going to the park, and will ask to go see a "new park today!" - so I'm pretty sure we've been to almost every park in Birmingham. She really likes the parks with swings next to each other, and will ask to "hold my hand" as we swing side by side. She loves to go to the doctor, and has even said multiple times she needs to go when she doesn't (ohmy!) She loves to play doctor too, and even told me once that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up! She also let us know this month that her favorite color is PURPLE! That is so interesting to me... because purple is her birth color in Thailand (they have birth colors for the day of the week you were born on. So neat!)


She loves going to play at Yaai & Dtah's house (my parents) where she catches frogs and bugs, explores the woods, and loves wading in the creek and throwing rocks in the waterfall! She can walk and dribble a basketball with one and/or both hands (our little athlete!) She likes pretending to be a puppy, loves to paint (watercolors and finger paints), and has become a great little helper. She'll even tell me, "Kate HELP Mama!" 

Kate loves wearing overalls like her Dtah!

She's eating pretty well again, and has become obsessed with white bread. She wants to eat it all the time (I guess because that's not something she had in Thailand? They really don't eat much bread there!) and will ask me to make "bread cubes" - which is something my dad did for me as a kid. She is also still obsessed with chewing gum, and figured out this month that you can blow bubbles with it. She'll sit forever and beg me for bubbles... watching and waiting as I blow them for her to pop. She thinks it is hilarious and will giggle and beg, "eek nung!" (one more!) again and again!

Visiting Kate's school, where Papa told her new friends about Thailand!

Kate is starting to play by herself better these days. (I know it was a huge adjustment to being an only child after years in an orphanage with constant playmates!) I love watching her little imagination in action when I catch her talking to her stuffed animals. She had a hearing exam this month (all healthy!), started visiting her school with Mama in the classroom (we're trying to work up to attending Mom's Day Out 2 mornings a week this summer), and had her 2nd post placement visit with our social worker (we got a great report on how well she's attaching and developing). 

Kate learning about seeds with Ms. Amy!

She still LOVES watching "family movie" snuggled on the couch together, and we try to watch about 15 minutes of something that way almost every night before bed. Bed time is becoming sweeter and sweeter as she's participating more in prayer time. She is excited to pray each night for "Baby Mae in E-opi-uh" (Ethiopia - our across the street neighbors are adopting!) We've also started praying for Meow in Thailand each night. As she is missing her more and more, it seemed like a good way to let her know we haven't forgotten her. It's a really special thing to pray for Meow together as a family (and sometimes we all give her picture goodnight kisses too!) She actually lets me snuggle her some on the nights we lay down together, and on the nights Rusty puts her to bed she's started yelling, "I LOVE YOU MAMA!" over and over again as I walk out from kissing her goodnight. It is pure sweetness, and my favorite way to end the day!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Four Months In Our Arms

Confession: I am writing this blog very late and back-dating it. The past two months have been busy and hard and I just keep falling behind... but I don't want to forget any of these details from our first year home with Kate! March 29th marked 4 months with our darling little girl in our arms... so here's a recap from month #4! 

FIRSTS

Believe it or not, we're still enjoying LOTS of firsts with Kate! On March 5th she took her very first trip to my alma mater, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried holding her in my arms as we took our first steps onto campus at Toomer's Corner! She took her very first photo at the Auburn sign in front of Samford Hall, and I thought my heart might burst while I watched her playing with one of my dear college friend's little girls on Samford Lawn. She made the funniest face when she tried Toomer's Lemonade for the first time (she is not a fan of sour things!) but she loved all the tigers she saw everywhere! 


Kate also attended her first AU Singers Show. Tears sprung to my eyes again when I watched my baby hop up on the front row and try to mimic the dance moves during the show! She saw her mama perform for the very first time when I joined the choir to close the show with "What Would I Do Without My Music" and even tried to sing along. It was precious! Maybe someday she'll be an AU Singer too! ;)


My little helper got a chance to make her very first "Fireball Cherry Pie" (video above) which is a family tradition that I loved sharing with her! I only wish my MeMaw was here to taste it... she would adore our little brown eyed girl and Kate would love singing and dancing (and cooking) with her! Kate went to Oxford to visit her Yaai and Dtah at work for the first time this month - and did surprisingly well being introduced to lots of new people. She loved surprising Yaai with flowers on her birthday and singing to her in her office!


This month Kate celebrated her very first St. Patrick's Day home... and we couldn't resist snapping a few photos to commemorate the holiday. (She looked like the cutest little Thai Rainbow Brite in those leggings ya'll!) She has so much fun "modeling" for these shoots. Like a true diva she wore her first vintage fur collar (to match Mama) one cold Sunday this month. She also watched Beauty and the Beast for the very first time and LOVED it! She now regularly talks about "Da Beast!"


We had an incredible afternoon in the park this month where Kate got to pet baby ducks for the first time ever. We just happened to come across the sweetest, tamest Mama duck who let us pet her (and her fluffy ducklings) for a while. Kate was in heaven (and I loved it too!) while Rusty almost had a heart attack because he was so worried the Mama duck was going to attack us. Haha! (For those with our password, you can watch the hilarious video from that day above!)



LANGUAGE

We are still making progress with our language... slow but steady! Our little chatterbox wants to be able to *really* talk to us so badly... and I hate the fact that we still can't really communicate with her. She is trying to tell more and more stories these days in an effort to connect with us. Most of them are still in a kind of gibberish/baby talk - but sometimes we can pick out enough English/Thai words to get an idea of what she's trying to say. I celebrated the day she was finally able to tell me what she had for breakfast without me giving her prompts. Whoo hoo! It may not seem like a big deal, but it is to me! (God bless my precious husband who feeds her breakfast every day and lets Mama sleep just a little bit more! I love having her climb up in bed and tell me, "Namfon eggs... milk... chocolate milk... All gone!" with the biggest smile!)  


Kate points and asks to know more and more words with every passing day. She has learned to say "Bing!" when she wants us to buy something (she's mimicking the sound of the item being scanned at the checkout! Haha!) She still LOVES presents - but doesn't know what to do with the fact that so many people give her gifts for no reason! So she asks, "Happy Birthday Namfon?" every time someone brings a present. It is the cutest thing! She still sings the "Happy Birthday" song to her stuffed animals often during playtime, and LOVED attending 2 birthday parties for her friends Lydia and Karis this month! 

She has started talking about Meow (her best friend from the orphanage) and Pa (the adoption director at the orphanage) more this month. Anytime we say "everyone" when we're teaching her (for example - that's your bellybutton! Everyone has a bellybutton!) she will list off her family members (Mama? Papa? Dtah? Yaai? Tutu? - yes! We all have bellybuttons!) followed now by Meow and Pa (yes, they have bellybuttons too!)  It is sweet and sad at the same time. They were like family to her and I know she misses them! I'm just glad she's finally started talking about them a bit with us, so that maybe we can help her work through her grief.



ATTACHMENT

Despite 2+ weeks of sickness (a fever virus for both me and Kate, followed by a bad bout of bronchitis for me, followed by bad allergies for all 3 of us!) we have made major progress with attachment the past few weeks. 90% of the time this month I've been allowed to kiss and touch Kate without her getting upset or pulling away! Praises!!! I was also finally able to touch and kiss her a few times at night (when we transition her to our bed) - which was a HUGE deal. In the past that would have made her very upset (she feels so vulnerable when she's sleepy). She even wanted to snuggle with me a few nights out of this month (which made for a very sleep-deprived, but very happy Mama!)

Working on Yaai's computer... 

We have convinced her that she has 2 cheeks because one is for Mama to kiss and one is for Papa to kiss! It's become a sweet new game, and she loves being "smushed" between us for kisses. She will then turn and point to Rusty's face and say, "Mama's cheek - Kate's cheek" and we'll give him kisses... followed by my turn ("Papa's cheek - Kate's cheek") which is the sweetest thing!

Being silly with Dtah!

We have been working on teaching Kate the names for her emotions the past few weeks, and she is finally picking up on that (which I think is helping with her grief, fear, and attachment). She can understand and name "Happy", "Sad", and "Angry" these days. I've been telling her that her kisses make me HAPPY - and now she'll look at my face after she gives me kisses, smile, and say with a sense of accomplishment - "Mama HAPPY!" It is adorable. (And as you can see from the photos in this section, she is also very attached to her Yaai and Dtah - my parents. They have so much fun together!)



A few more things about Kate...


This month Kate started blocking doorways with her arms and telling us it's "locked" when we want to get through. We tried looking for "keys" or tickling her to get through - and then I turned it into a game that required kisses (and the person needing to get through has to figure out WHERE the kiss is needed to unlock the door!) It has been the best, most fun way for Mama to get and give lots of kisses! Sometimes I have to kiss both cheeks, her forehead, her chin, her nose, and both hands before she says, "OPEN!" while giggling!


She loves, loves, loves her Lincoln Logs her Dtah bought her, and makes "Puppy houses" out of them (for her toy puppy) with Rusty multiple times a day. Listening to them playing together in her room is the sweetest sound. She's getting really creative and she's so proud of what she makes! She got another beautiful quilt this month from our dear friend Kathy Hindes (photo above) and she loved playing with her babies on it (in her Belle dress of course) too. 

Her Tutu (Rusty's Mom) came to visit during Spring Break and Kate loved spending time with her. Unfortunately that was the week I was sick on the couch with bronchitis (which was really hard on all of us), but Kate enjoyed a trip to the Zoo (where she got to feed the lorikeets!), feeding the ducks at the Park, and lots of time playing outside with Tutu! Tutu also snuck her a little bit of lipstick (which I guess is another "first") and her Papa didn't like it one bit! Haha! What are grandmother's for... right? ;) Both of Kate's grandmothers sure are enjoying spoiling her!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Three Months In Our Arms

Since there wasn't a "February 29th" this year, March 1st marked 3 months since we took custody of Kate. We have one quarter of a year behind us, and I can barely believe it! Here's a recap of the last month with our little girl...

FIRSTS

Believe it or not, we are still celebrating plenty of "firsts" with our little girl. This month she enjoyed her first trip to visit her grandparents' house in Oxford, and her first trip up to the waterfall on our family's land. She LOVED exploring in the woods and throwing rocks in the water! She also had her first trip to her Aunt Tammy & Uncle Grant's new house, where she picked her first flower for Mama (a daffodil). She took her first ride in her Dtah's (grandfather's) convertible too (just down the driveway) and now she wants to ride in it all the time.


She held her first newborn baby (Violet Knowles) and kissed her first boy (Mason Knowles) on the cheek! Her daddy was not too thrilled. Haha! (I'm sure she might have smooched a boy or two before she came home... but for record keeping purposes, we'll give this honor to sweet Mason!)

After weeks of riding her little pink tricycle, and begging for a BIG bike like the other girls on the street, Kate also got her first real princess bicycle (with training wheels). It even has a seat for her bunny to ride (it is the cutest thing!) She also chewed her first bubble gum (that we know of) and played with her first bit of bubble wrap. When she popped all the bubbles in it, we had to go to the store and get her more! She also went to The McWane Center for the first time, and subsequently ended up with her first "sick day" since she got home. (Taking her to such a "hands on place" in cold and flu season was definitely a "rookie mom" move! Oops!) Unrelated to her sick day, she had her first big doctor's visit (since she got home) at the International Adoption Clinic this month too. She was amazing! She had 8 vials of blood taken with NO tears! WHAT?! WOW! We have such a brave girl!


She enjoyed her first Valentine's Day with us, where she was spoiled with chocolates and flowers from her Papa. She also tried cotton candy for the first time (to our knowledge) and got her first Princess Dress from her Yaai (grandmother) - a Belle dress of course! She wants to wear it every day!


ATTACHMENT

Kate has made significant progress this month with bonding and attachment, and major progress with controlling her emotions. The first couple of months we spent with her, she was a lot more volatile and angry at times, which was most likely because she was grieving the loss of her friends/caregivers, frustrated with the language barrier, and because she felt out of control in this huge transition. (Which is ALL completely understandable of course! I would be an emotional wreck if I'd been through what she's experienced!) So we've been really encouraged to see her be more calm, less angry and whiny, and less anxious the past few weeks. We were also excited to see her using brighter colors when she paints or draws (she'd been using a lot of black since we came home) and coloring in the lines for the very first time since she came home (instead of just scribbling!) We've been proud too of how she's been controlling herself and making good decisions even when she gets upset. She LOVES to chew gum, and we decided this month that gum privileges are lost if she hits/hurts Mama. It's been encouraging to see those instances drop significantly! (We have had hardly any time outs this month!) And if she slips up she is quick to apologize sincerely. She really is such a compassionate and tender-hearted child!


I feel like we've made some great progress with her bonding with me too. She pushes me away less, prefers me occasionally, and has even snuggled with me a few times this month. Unfortunately, it's not linear. We still have unexpected bad days or even weeks with our relationships. We had a few GREAT days this month, that were suddenly followed by 10 days where I wasn't allowed to give her any kisses. It broke my Mama heart. But even on some of those tough days, she decided she wanted to start holding my hand in bed at night as she's falling asleep - and that was a new, precious thing to me!


This month we've seen some great progress with how she shares and plays with her friends, and she has been more affectionate with her friends too. It is so sweet to look down and see her lovingly stroking the face or head of a friend, holding their hands, or giving them goodbye hugs and kisses! She even told our next door neighbor kids "I love you!" this month! Unfortunately we have also seen some "territorial" times with her too. When she came home she was so used to everything being "community property" like it was in the orphanage. I think now it's sinking in that some things are HERS! And so naturally, she is more protective of some of her things at times (which again, is understandable!) She is especially protective of her Bunny!


These days we are seeing MAJOR tears over tiny hurts, which is a sign that she trusts us to meet her needs and give her the attention she craves (all good things!) She is actually a really tough kid, but it's so sweet to see her come to us to show us tiny scratches and ask for kisses or a princess bandaid. She can be quite the drama queen when she wants to be. Ha!

Kate still loves "Family Movie Time" and requests it often. She regularly says, "Love you!" to Mama and Papa now. A few times last month we gave her multiple kisses on her face for bedtime, and these days she requests at least a half a dozen kisses from Papa every time he leaves the house and every night at bedtime! She has to have one on each cheek, her forehead, her nose, her chin, her neck, the back of her head (why? no idea!) and her lips! Mama rarely got to give kisses this month, but sometimes Kate gave them to me in multiple places (my forehead, cheeks, and nose!)



SLEEP & FOOD

Bedtime and mealtimes have been more of a challenge this month. We went through a couple of weeks where Kate would barely nap (it took maybe 20-30 minutes to get her down and then she'd only nap for 30 minutes!) and she was having a hard time sleeping too. One night she got up 8 times between 8pm and midnight. Whew! So we made the hard choice to drop her naps. She was grumpy for a few days around nap time (and still will take a 15 minute catnap every now and then), but she sleeps SO much better at night. We really, really miss the days when she would nap for 1-2 hours in the afternoons (we could actually get some things done then!) - but it's worth it to have her sleeping better at night. She has learned to stay in her bed from 8ish until about midnight - when we go get her, take her to potty, and then put her in our bed (where she co-sleeps between us for the rest of the night). So far it's working well.

Planting flowers with Mama!

Mealtimes however, are getting more challenging with each passing week! She drags them out so. long. every. meal. She wants to be fed... she wants to sit in one of our laps... then she changes her mind... then she doesn't want her food... then we have to zoom it like an airplane... then she closes her mouth and says no... *sigh. I thought maybe it was just because she didn't like a lot of the new food she's eating (and that may be part of it), but she acts the same way even for familiar foods and even for meals she requests. So I have a hunch that she just really enjoys all the attention she gets as we're begging her to eat and both focused 100% on her. It is tough to deal with but we are trying to be patient. I try to remind myself that we're just "catching up" on all the difficult feedings we would have done when she was a baby and a toddler if she'd been home! I also keep reminding myself that she probably misses her friends (she ate in the cafeteria at the orphanage every day) and is still adjusting to not eating on as strict of a schedule. But I'm hoping as she learns more language and can articulate what she likes or doesn't like, mealtime will get better! Luckily she does eat pretty healthy food, and will try most things. This month we realized she really likes salad (caesar or with thousand island dressing), so that's been a fun (and healthy) addition to meal times!


LANGUAGE

Our friends and family keep telling us Kate has made a LOT of progress with language lately. It's harder for us to see since we are with her every day, but I'm encouraged by their feedback. Lately we've been a little worried because she isn't making as much progress as we expected. We had so many friends who told us their kids were speaking in full sentences by 2 months home! But their kids were 2 years old (or younger) when they were adopted. It's very different for a 4 year old who was fluently speaking Thai when she came home!

She has definitely been more verbal this month though. For the first few weeks with us we would ask her questions and she would not respond, or just shake her head yes or no. That slowly transitioned to her saying "MAI!" a lot (no in Thai)... but it was hard to get her to say YES (in Thai or English). This month she's been a lot more responsive and says, "Yeah" and "No" most of the time when we talk to her! She also responds with "please", "thank you", and "yuh wawcom" (it is so cute!) regularly. When she gets in trouble for something, I usually reprimand her by saying, "No ma'am!" - and this month she's taken to mimicking me in the EXACT tone I use! It took me so off guard the first time she did it that I burst out laughing (it was crazy to hear my voice mirrored back to me!), and now I can't help but laugh every time! (I probably shouldn't encourage it but it's just too funny to me!) Kate wants to be able to REALLY talk to us so badly... so this month she's started to pretend we're having lengthly conversations by rambling in mostly baby talk/made up words and sounds - with a Thai word or English word here and there.


This month she also started working on flash cards for a few minutes a few days each week, and she's doing well with those. She's also been learning a lot of animal names, and learning the characters on Sesame Street! She points out our garbage man and mailman every day, and LOVES big trucks. She will literally yell "Mama! Mama! MAMA!!!" over and over until I turn around (while we're in the car) and then "BIG TRUCK!!!" every time we see an 18 wheeler, dump truck, cement truck, moving truck, etc. (literally every. single. time. Road trips are fun these days. Haha!) She also points out every bus she sees and tries to sing the song, "Wheels on the Bus" - which includes her cute little change of "all truuu muh town!" (She sang a rousing rendition of this song at the TOP of her lungs on Valentine's Night at Olive Garden. Sorry to all the people who had to hear it while trying to enjoy a romantic dinner! Haha!)


We're continuing to work on colors and numbers in English. She knows them well in Thai but gets confused sometimes in English... and bless her sweet heart, she thinks ZERO is ZEBRA! (It's too cute!) Her pronouns have been giving her trouble this month too. She says, "for YOU!" instead of "for me" and it's the cutest thing. She also says, "My turn!" for everyone's turns.

She tells me every morning, "Get up Mama!" and when chatting with us she'll add, "Mmmkay?"  to almost every sentence. When she finds something she's looking for she says, "HaHA!" instead of "Aha!" And she has this lilting sign when she sees something cute or snuggles something or someone that sounds like a Disney princess come to life. (It is adorable!) Her new favorite word? "TOGETHER!" (And she always wants us all 3 to be "together"!)

She is definitely thinking more in English lately, because she is saying "No" instead of "Mai" (even in the middle of the night when she's half asleep, and even when she's upset) and "Ow" when something hurts (which is actually the word for "want" in Thai). Meanwhile, my brain has flipped to Thai and every time I hurt myself these days, "Jep" comes out before "Ow!"


Last month when I would try to teach her new words (which I try to do CONSTANTLY) she would often yell, "Noooo!!!" and disengage. This month she is pointing to lots of things and wants to know new words often. I feel a bit like Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller's teacher) these days. (No disrespect, I think Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller are both incredible!) - but I have a child who literally grunts and whines, or yells, "Nee!" (this!) and points at things allll day every day - sometimes because she wants them and doesn't have the words - sometimes because she wants to learn the word. It can wear on my nerves at times, but I am trying to just focus on the positive part of how much she's learning. So all day, every day I am pointing and teaching and trying to give her the words she so desperately needs! We still speak some Thai and play a lot of "charades" in our house though to figure things out.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this language update though, is that on February 11th our daughter started calling herself "Kate Jackson!" She still refers to herself as Namfon (her Thai nickname) a LOT (and we call her that too plenty of the time), but when you ask, "What is your name?" she will now proudly tell you, "Kate Jackson!" I love it!


A few more things about Kate...


This month we found out that our little girl LOVES sunsets, painting (water colors and temper paints), having her toenails and fingernails painted (at all times!), having her hair curled, and wearing her princess dress. She learned "this little piggy" from her grandmother and she thinks it's so much fun! She took her umbrella and galoshes out to play in the rain a few weeks back and had a ball. Now she wants to wear her purple galoshes every day!


Kate still loves pretending there are TIGERS around, and being tickled every day. She still adores her Bunny, and the past few weeks she's been sending him on trips with Papa to work, to the store, etc (it is so cute ya'll!) She likes the Sneaky Squirrel board game, and is learning about "taking turns" playing it with Mama and Papa. She also loves to clean and wants to help us with whatever we're doing (making the bed, cooking meals, etc). And these days, she sings all the time!

Speaking of singing... I have often wondered what she is singing when I catch Thai words here and there. I've wished so hard that I could tell what song it might be... perhaps a lullaby from a nanny at the orphanage? Well, one day this month she took a stick from her bunny balloon, attached a valentine's card at the end (to make it look like a flag), and was singing away in the sunroom. When I tried to talk to her she told me to "shhh!" and "Stand up Mama!" as she held up her little flag. Then she showed me to put my hands by my side and stand at attention. That's when it clicked! The Thai National Anthem is sung twice a day all over Thailand (it's played in loudspeakers in every restaurant, mall, market, etc - at 8am and 6pm). I'm betting they did it twice a day at the orphanage too! Could that be what she was singing?


I stood up with her, grabbed my phone, and quickly pulled up the Thai National Anthem on youtube. She instantly held her "flag" higher and started singing along! That was it!!! I'd figured it out! She was so excited (and so was I!) She smiled and told me, "thank you Mama!" We listened to it half a dozen times before showing her Papa and grandparents later that day. She was SO PROUD to hold up her little "flag" and have us all stand at attention while she sang. 

There is so much we don't know about Kate's life in Thailand, and so much of her that we are STILL missing even though she's home - because we just don't have enough language to communicate deeply. So being able to figure out what the little song is she's been singing, showing her that I knew a small part of her daily routine from Thailand, and connecting with her over her National Anthem was so special to me! I can't wait to see what the next month holds for our little girl and our little family!