Friday, November 24, 2017

One Year Later...

A year ago today, in an orphanage in Thailand, we met our beautiful daughter. After 1,748 days of waiting we finally held her in our arms, and our lives have never been the same! 💜

A very special family photo at the memorial for King Bhumibol Aduledej 
with two of Kate's beloved caregivers - P. Lam & Khun Toy!

For those who aren't familiar with our story, we decided to spend a month together in Thailand for our adoption trip - because we love our daughter's birth country, and we hoped that time together there (in a place where the language, food, and people were familiar) might help her adjust a little bit easier. We made so many beautiful memories together in those first few weeks as a family of three... and we've been waiting a whole year to share this very special video with Kate (and with all of you!)

For years now, I've known that Kate's special song would be "Mine to Love" (by Dave Barnes). I knew it the moment I heard live for the very first time, and burst into tears in a crowded club. As I stood there with my husband, surrounded by strangers, I closed my eyes. As I listened to Dave sing these words I could see the moment I would meet my daughter, and the days to come as we took our first steps as a family. That vision (that I saw every time I heard this song in the years to come) kept me going... and now that vision has become a reality as I watched these precious moments from our life set to that perfect song (and a couple of other special songs too!)


To our darling girl... my goodness what a year it has been. The day we met, you were so scared, overwhelmed, and unsure... but you were also the bravest, strongest little girl we had ever seen! This year you have experienced so much. You've learned to love and trust us - even though we started out as strangers. Day by day and moment by moment, God has knit us together as a family. As we've cried together, grieved together, laughed together, celebrated together, and learned together - we have continually been amazed at how brave, strong, smart, kind, and compassionate you are. You, my darling, have the biggest heart of anyone I know. This has been a hard road for us all, but we are so proud of you. And the years of hard and heartbreaking moments were worth it all to call you mine! We thank God for the gift of YOU! You have brought so much beauty, laughter and JOY into our lives. I am so glad you're "mine to love"! We're grateful you're ours FOREVER, and we hope you'll cherish this video as much as we do.

God has given us rainbows as a reminder of His promises 
on some very hard days during our adoption journey. 
Today however - on a completely clear day - this one was an extraordinary gift! 
This perfect rainbow was in the sky directly over our house (like a smile from heaven!) 
I guess God is celebrating our "Family Day" in a special way too!


Mine to Love

You might wanna close your eyes
It’ll take some time adjustin’
Welcome to your life
You’re everything you’ll someday be
There’s a weight off my shoulder
There’s laughter in the air
You are the answer to every midnight prayer

You’re mine to love
We have all been waitin’ on you
You’re mine to love
Come into these open arms
It took some time to wait it out
But I see it now, you’re worth all the dreaming of
You’re mine to love
You’re mine to love

You might wanna take your time
Take in all this technicolor, yeah
We’re on your side
Let us be the one you need
There’s a life on my shoulder
Laughter in the air
You are the answer to all those midnight prayers

You’re mine to love
We have all been waitin’ on you
You’re mine to love
Come into these open arms
It took some time to wait it out
But I see it now, you’re worth all the dreaming
You’re mine to love
You’re mine to love

Every time that my heart was broken
Every time that I’ve lost my way
I forget when I look into your face

You’re mine to love
We have all been waitin’ on you
You’re mine to love
Come into these open arms
‘Cause I’m right here
It took some time to wait it out
But I see it now, you’re worth the dreaming of
You’re mine to love
You’re mine to love
You’re mine to love
You’re mine to love
So you might wanna close your eyes... 💜

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!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Seven Months in Our Arms

June 29th marked 7 months with our sweet Kate in our arms! Here's our 7 month #KateUpdate (written in November, but backdated to June! I'm so glad I took enough notes to remember these milestones!) 



FIRSTS

We had a busy, busy month in June - full of trips and events! Our 3 out of town trips were all work trips for Rusty... but we decided that (although it would still be stressful) it would be easier on Kate to go with us than to be separated from her Papa for that many days and nights.

We started the month with a trip to Arkansas to Tutu and Pappy's house! Rusty was shooting a wedding video in Mississippi - but luckily the venue was only an hour away from his hometown. So Kate got to spend some time with her Tutu, meeting Tutu's friends, and playing with her kitty cat, Rocky! (Though I'm not sure Rocky enjoyed it as much as Kate did... just look at the shot below of our mischievous girl to see what I mean! Haha!)


(For those wondering - I managed to stop her right before she stepped on his tail! But now you'll understand why this kitty decided to hide up, up, up in a tree in the video below! Poor Rocky. Kate sure does love him! She followed him everywhere.)



Unfortunately our trip lasted a day longer than expected when we had major car issues (including a tow and extensive repairs). It was a pretty stressful experience on Kate's first BIG trip away from home (more than one night).

To try to make the trip a little easier though, she got her first scooter (since her bike was too big to bring along). She LOVED scooting around! Within the first few minutes of having it she was already balancing incredibly well and going down ramps! She loved riding it through the halls of Tutu's school too (just one of the perks of having a Principal for a grandmother!) She also had fun playing in Tutu's office, meeting our dear friends the Flemings, and eating her first cheeseburger at Ray's! (It was the first time we heard her say "delicious" in English! Haha!)

Playing in Tutu's office!

This month Kate also had her first night away from us with her Yaai and Dtah. They decided to try to keep Kate overnight in a hotel (closeby) to give us a little break. Of course we were a worried wreck all night, so it ended up not being much of a break! (We didn't expect to spend our first night away from her missing her so much and so worried about how she'd do!) She surprisingly lasted all night with them (she's SO brave!) but really struggled in the following days. It was a little too much too fast - with it coming right after her longest trip out of town.

Next up for Kate was her very first Miss Alabama Pageant week! She didn't make it to the pageant (I don't think she's quite ready for that yet) but she did come to the luncheon. I was SO excited to introduce her to my Miss Alabama family!


This group of people mean so much to me... and they have prayed for Kate for years while we worked and waited to bring her home. It was extremely special to finally hold her on stage and introduce her as my little girl! (And it was very special to have Auntie Beth there with us! After all, the Miss Alabama Pageant is what brought us together too!)


What we never expected though, was the show she put on! We actually thought she'd be afraid of the crowd (she still doesn't do well around strangers). But as soon as she saw the stage and microphone, she was ready to perform! She pushed her way over to the mic and instantly launched into a rousing rendition of Jesus Loves Me (that didn't stop - even after we pried the microphone out of her hand and put her down! Haha! 😂) But ultimately she did help me present our scholarship winner with her special rose and plaque.


You can see the video of her introduction and her debut Miss Alabama Luncheon performance above (so cute!), but I wish I had video of what happened next - because it was the most extraordinary thing! Kate got shy as soon as the cameras came out and hid her face for the award photos. So the Miss Alabama contestants and volunteers began to sing (the whole room, together!) "Jesus Loves Me" back to Kate! The look on her face was one I won't forget (nor will I forget all those sweet voices lifted up together in an effort to put our little girl at ease!) It was incredibly touching!

We are pictured here with the 2017 winner of our 
Miss Alabama IMPACT Award, Chandler Shields!
Kate isn't smiling because she has just joined the crowd 
in singing "Jesus Loves Me" again! It was so sweet!

Next up for our little family was a trip to the beach! This was once again for work, and we had to drive down separately (which was really tough on Kate). But once we got there, we had a great time with Uncle Jaron & Auntie Shell!

The moment she realized Uncle Jaron keeps gummy bears in his pocket!

Swimming in the "big water" with Uncle Jaron & Auntie Shell!

One last pic before we left... these two spoiled Kate rotten the whole trip!

Kate LOVED the "big sand" and "big water". She remembered the quick 5 minute stop we took to the beach in Pattaya (before we had to leave for Bangkok) and asked about the "lots of boats" last time (which was the case at the beach in Thailand!) We asked her if she'd ever been to play at the beach before though, and she told us no. I guess I'd never really thought of how difficult (and dangerous) it would be to take a group of children from the orphanage to the beach. I always referred to her as my "beach baby" - but the truth is that despite being born in a beach town and spending her whole life 1.2 miles away from the beach - she'd never seen it before we adopted her! That realization is still completely shocking to me. There is so much she's never done or seen!







(You're not a Southern woman unless you have family beach photos taken all in white. Haha! We took our photography gear to the beach, and I'm so thankful my brother was willing to snap a few pics for us! The trouble with being photographers is that we're always behind the camera - and never get shots of all three of us together. But these turned out so sweet!)

During our trip Kate also saw what we believe was her first rainbow! I know there are rainbows in Thailand... but she was only outside during scheduled times each day, and I guess no one ever thought to point one out to her (if there even was one in the sky during her outdoor playtime!) The wonder in her eyes was incredible... that's another "first" I'm glad I got to witness!


Kate's 1st Beach Trip! from Rusty Jackson on Vimeo. [Password protected - for friends & family only.]



She may have hated the drive down (12 hours is tough!) but Kate really loved playing at Uncle Jaron and Auntie Shell's house, chasing waves with Mama, playing in the sand, and dancing with Papa at the tiki bar we'd go to for dinner! She was pretty afraid of the ocean at first, but Uncle Jaron and Auntie Shell finally got her to go underwater on our last day! She also flew her first kite (though she lost interest after about 30 seconds) and got her first "bikini" on this trip (she's been BEGGING for a purple bikini since seeing my 2 piece swimsuit last month!) She was pretty excited about it, and hearing her say the word "bikini" had us all giggling!

Our last night at the beach... we stayed and played until it was completely dark!

We ended our beach trip with Rusty's first Father's Day with Kate home... and a stop by Ocala to see Pappy's new little Florida house (and to give him his Father's Day gifts too!) We gave Dtah his Father's Day gifts early. It wasn't a very relaxing Father's Day since it was a travel day - but it was still a special one for Rusty!

A few of my favorite shots of our favorite "Papa" and his little girl!

We're so glad we were in Florida and could see Pappy on Father's Day!

My favorite little sequence of Kate and her Dtah - they love their matching overalls!

The day after we returned from the beach I had a princess event. It's been more than a year since I've done an event as Princess Beauty, but our local Chick-Fil-A made me an offer I couldn't refuse, so I pulled my yellow dress out again! (Why yes, I will be a princess for your event if you pay me in cash and CFA giftcards! Haha! Guess where we'll be eating 3 times a week for the next few months?! 😉)


Photo credit & copyright: RJackson Media

I had a wonderful time at their "Daddy Daughter Date Night", and Kate came at the end dressed up just like Mama! We got to take the last carriage ride of the evening, which was another pretty magical "first" for her too! (Video above) She loved seeing Mama as "Belle" (and being "Belle" herself too!) And she really loved the horsey, "Casanova"!



As if that wasn't enough excitement for our month, we ended June with a trip to the mountains! For those who don't know, in addition to our work with The Sound of Hope, we also shoot video and photography to supplement our income. (Check out our business page here: RJacksonMedia.com.) So the last weekend in June we headed off to Cashiers, North Carolina so Rusty could shoot another wedding.


Playing with Papa under her first waterfall!


This was another big first for Kate, as she's never been to the mountains OR seen a waterfall before! We had an amazing time exploring with her and with my parents (who came along to help us out, and to make it an even better family trip). Rusty's work schedule was more stressful this trip, but we tried to make the best of it. We even got to feed some goats! (I seriously think that was her favorite part. This baby loves any chance to be with animals!)


Hiking to "Dry Falls" together! (Spoiler alert: They aren't dry!)


On the way out of town we stopped to let Kate go "gem mining"! She found some great gems, and we had one particularly beautiful amethyst cut into a necklace for her (since purple is her favorite color, and also her "birth color" in Thai culture!)



ATTACHMENT

If you're reading everything above and thinking we're crazy - then you're right. We didn't plan to put that many out of town trips into the same month... but when extra job opportunities came our way we had to take them (especially after dialing everything back for the past few months in what we'd call a modified maternity/paternity leave, because Kate needed so much attention during this difficult adjustment).

But that many trips definitely "cost" us when it came to Kate's well-being emotionally. In addition to all our trips, we ended up having to tow our car twice this month, and ultimately scrap it and buy another vehicle completely unexpectedly. (Kate and I both cried over the loss of our beloved "Pippa"... the sweet little car we brought her home from the airport in, and planned to drive for several more years!) The stress of all of that - on us, and on Kate - was absolutely too much. By the end of June she was in a very fragile place. Her fear and anxiety went through the roof - and most days it felt like we'd just brought her home again. THIS is why adopted families are encouraged to "cocoon" for at least 3-6 months after they come home... and then to re-enter "normal life" slowly. (Which of course was our plan... but sometimes plans have to change for financial reasons.)

For those who aren't familiar - cocooning is the name adoptive families use for the season where we focus on keeping our adopted kids' world small (like a tiny cocoon holding a butterfly!) Of course with the life-cycle of a butterfly... if what happens in the cocoon is skipped, they can never fly. Their time in their cocoon is vital for their future health. The same is true for adopted children. If they never have time to adjust to their new life/language/culture... if they never learn to feel safe at home... if they never learn what "home" is... if they never attach to their families - then they cannot "fly" in the great wide world! We'd been cocooning SO much for 6 months, and we hoped Kate could handle more time away this month. But our trips each held a level of stress we hadn't anticipated (and the car issues put us all over the edge!) It was way too much too soon for our sweet girl. Next month we're going to have to dial back (majorly) to help Kate re-set.

 Love these shots from our beach trip! We ALWAYS stop to smell the flowers!

I'm so lucky to have a wonderful photographer for a husband!

Photo credit & copyright: RJackson Media


LANGUAGE

In the midst of all the regression, we're thankful that her language is continuing to progress! This month Kate began putting together more phrases, and even some sentences in English! She's also finally started to like books again, and has actually enjoyed me reading to her. We've heard her praying by herself often while she's playing... with a mix of English and Thai words (but again, more and more English phrases) as she talks to God. It's the most precious thing! She often prays for Meow (her best friend in Thailand), Bpa and P. Lam (her caregivers), and also for Baby Mae in Ethiopia (the little girl our neighbors are in the process to adopt!)

With her language progression, she's started talking more about Thailand too. She can tell me so many things in detail that I never expected her to remember from our time there. This month she even recognized the song we played the very first night she spent with us ("When Love Takes You In") and told me it was from Thailand, and "Kate sad" (which was very true. Our poor girl was very sad and scared the first night she spent with us!) She also talked often this month about how much she missed Meow.


A few more things about Kate...

This month Kate got more updated vaccines, and we found out she's recently grown more than 2 inches AND gained a couple of pounds too! (No wonder her pants are getting shorter!) She also had her first trip to the ophthalmologist (who said she has perfect vision!), and an appointment with the geneticist - because of a little health scare. Thankfully the (very serious) concern was ruled out. We are extremely grateful she's healthy!

These days Kate is in LOVE with Daniel Tiger (the cartoon version of Mr. Rogers!) It's so much fun to watch her loving the characters I grew up with, and singing songs that are so familiar to me. It's been a wonderful teaching tool - and we've incorporated lots of the little songs into our daily life!


On the few days we were home this month we spent more time outside under our pretty purple tree. It's always been a favorite of mine, but I love this little tree even more now that our little girl is home - and her favorite color is purple! It's so sweet to watch her play beneath those blooms. And of course she's still excited every single time she finds a "wormy" or "roly poly" outside! (If you don't believe me, check out the little "roly poly" dance she's does below with her Auntie Beth! Haha! We love you Auntie Beth! 💕)


This month also held a huge adoption milestone... our last social worker visit! Since Kate came home, we've had to complete reports, see a doctor, and have a social worker visit our home every 2 months - to be sure we were a "good fit" as her family before we were allowed to finalize our adoption (and become her parents legally). Even though we LOVE our social worker (and we know this is just a formality to make sure children are placed in safe, healthy homes) - it's still a bit nerve-wracking to feel you have someone constantly looking over your shoulder as a parent. It was a wonderful feeling to know we'd met all our post adoption requirements at the start of this month! Now we can meet with a lawyer, and file for a court date to finalize our adoption!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Six Months In Our Arms

Well… I just thought I was “behind” on all those other monthly updates! I’m writing this update from May in November (oops!) and just back-dating it, but better late than never! I’m proud I at least was able to write notes down each month to later turn into a blog. And now that we’re finalized – I can share photos of our sweet girl’s face! May 29th marked 6 months with Kate in our arms. Here’s our #kateupdate!


FIRSTS

Kate had SO many "firsts" again this month! She had her first overnight trip away from home (since coming home from Thailand in December) with Mama and Papa. We took an unexpected trip to Nashville in May to meet up with another Thailand adoptive family who came all the way from Indiana. So Kate had her first Thai friend playdate too! It was so great to meet up with Jandie and Aaron (who are also photographers and videographers) and to watch Kate playing with their two adorable kids, Ty and Mia!

Two mischievous Thai babies! They loved playing together!

We ended the night with Thai food, and then headed back to our little AirBnB cottage. Before heading home the next day we went to the Rainforest Cafe for lunch - and oh how she LOVED all the animatronic animals! She asked questions often throughout the 2 days about where we were going, and when we were going home... but with lots of reassurance and explanations Kate ended up loving her first little "family trip"!

The Jacksons & The Waggoners - with all our Thai babies!

Kate attended (and helped host) her first Block Party this month! Every year our street hosts a huge neighborhood block party (started by my husband!) This was our 4th annual party, and it's become something our neighbors (and all their children) look forward to so much! We have live music, games, lots of food and tons of fun! Kate stayed up super late, and even took her first turn at the microphone singing for the crowd that night (I couldn't believe it!) She sang the ABC song and ended it with, "Bye people! I love you!" hahaha!

She also had her first little trip to the Alabama Theater to watch her friend Evie's dance recital. She loved cheering for Evie, and was quick to tell me that she wanted to dance on that stage too! So between that declaration and her singing into the microphone at the block party, we're pretty sure we have a little performer on our hands!

Kate with some of her besties from our street!

My parents have been cutting timber on their land, and this month held Kate's first ride on a skidder! (I still can't believe she got into such a massive piece of equipment without me! She LOVED IT!) Some less exciting "firsts" included her first vaccines since she's been home (she was so brave and tough! She doesn't cry for shots or bloodwork!), her first trip to the audiologist (who said her hearing was great!), and her first video work trip to Albertville with Mom & Dad (only possible because her incredible Auntie Beth was able to babysit at the facility where we were shooting - thank you Auntie Beth!) 

Our first family photo on Mother's Day!

By far the very best "first" this month though, was having Kate home for Mother's Day! We snuck away to the lake for the weekend with my parents (Kate's first full weekend away from home!) and she did great! She really enjoyed being in a condo with her parents AND grandparents - and seeing her Uncle Jaron and Auntie Shell (who were in town for a wedding!) She even let them hold her - which was a huge step forward in those relationships! 


Kate made her Yaai and Tutu these sweet paintings for Mother's Day, and I had so much fun watching her enjoy herself while "crafting"! (I see lots of fun craft times in our future!) We played in the pool, went for walks by the lake, and took pictures in the woods. I still can't believe that after 5 Mother's Days with empty arms, she was finally here to hold and hug and kiss! It was a very special day!

With my mom and my baby girl on Mother's Day!

We ended the month with another very special experience. On Memorial Day we created a little "memorial" of our own. Since that day marked 6 months since we took custody of Kate, we decided it was the perfect day to plant some special trees in her honor.

Planting Kate's special trees at Yaai and Dtah's house...

On our family land (where my father's family has lived for 4 generations) we planted 5 beautiful pink cherry blossom trees - one to represent each year that we waited for Kate!

Helping Papa dig the first hole!

We all worked together in the beginning... but when the sky opened up and it started pouring rain Kate and her Yaai went inside. Rusty and I couldn't help but laugh as we shoveled mud with my dad... of course we'd be doing this in a rainstorm after all the crazy things that happened during our adoption process! And considering Kate's Thai nickname means rainwater, it seemed strangely fitting! We are looking forward to seeing these little trees grow up with our little girl... and anxiously awaiting the beauty they will bring each Spring!



We can't wait to see these beautiful trees grow!


ATTACHMENT

Attachment this month has definitely been a dance... two steps forward and one step back.... one step forward and two steps back! Our plan was to have Kate ready to start daycare by the end of the month (just two mornings a week). We've been visiting once a week starting in April with Mama in the classroom... just helping her adjust and get comfortable a little at a time. This month we thought she was ready to try a few hours in the classroom without me. We did everything we could to prepare her... but the visit did not go well. I barely got her to agree to go in without me --- and only got her to finally agree because I let her hold my car keys (so she knew I wouldn't leave) and because the teacher promised she'd let her come to me in the hall anytime she asked. We really thought she'd come out a couple of times, see I was still there, trust I'd stay - and then enjoy herself in the class. But that was not the case.

Our sweet girl came out to see me 7 times in 55 minutes, and was totally panicked by the time we got home. She struggled to sleep at night for weeks, and we saw major regression and anxiety because of that visit. At times, it felt like she'd regressed back to how she was in January... just so anxious and fearful. The school setting looks too much like an orphanage to her - with a room full of children and no parents. Being there triggered memories of all the trauma she's endured. And her greatest fear is that we will leave her - so for me to try to convince her to stay somewhere without me brought those fears back to life. It is taking lots of time for her to recover (and of course we canceled our plans for daycare this summer! It was very clear that she wasn't ready!)

Kate still loves to stop and smell the flowers. She was so happy these "woke up"!

Despite her regression over school, she is still attaching to us more each month. These days she plays the "locked" game more often in our doorways, and gives (and gets) lots of kisses that way (you must give kisses to open the door!) She's also been giving kisses to me more and more just on her own (which I'm THRILLED by!) She even spent 2 hours strapped to my chest in our Lillebaby carrier one day this month, just wandering around looking at flowers with me at Home Depot. (I loved it!) She tells us often these days, "I need kisses!" and "I need hugs!" and we are more than happy to meet her demands! She must have alllll the kisses and hugs before either of us leave (she needs kisses on her forehead, nose, chin, lips, and each cheek. It's so cute!)

We are so lucky to have these cuties as next-door neighbors!

Kate and I have also started having a special "popsicle time" together. On hot days we each get a popsicle, sit together on our screened porch, and listen to music together on my phone until long after our popsicles are gone. (Usually it's some version of Jesus Loves Me, or some other little kid songs!) It's just the two of us, and we have lots of snuggles and eye contact! It's definitely helping with bonding, and it makes me smile when she asks for "popsicle time"!

We've been telling her for weeks and weeks now, "Mama and Papa ALWAYS come back." These days she will tell us before she leaves to go somewhere with the other parent (or her grandparents), "Always come back! Don't be scared!" as if to reassure us. It is the sweetest thing!



LANGUAGE

Her language is continuing to come along! I didn't do a great job of writing down her new words/phrases from this month - but I can tell you that "BLOCK PARTY!" was one of them! Haha! She talked about the Block Party for days and days (before and after it happened!) She's also been saying, "See you later! Bye! I love you!" to literally EVERYONE she sees (including strangers in the grocery store! Ha!) No doubt she's heard us say that to family and close friends, and is just copying it (without realizing who to apply it to). But it has touched quite a few sweet strangers when she's told them!

She asks these days if everything is from Thailand - or tells me certain things are from Thailand (and often she's right!) Multiple times a day she'll point to something and say, "From Thailand?" and wait for me to respond. I think she's just trying to connect the dots.

Kate loved our matching outfits for the Block Party!

Speaking of Thailand, she sadly no longer calls herself "Namfon" (her Thai nickname). She constantly referred to herself in third person when she came home, and would point to her things and name them too (Namfon!) as if to say, "that's mine!" These days though she fully answers to Kate, calls herself Kate, and introduces herself as Kate. As sweet as it is to finally have our "Kate" - we're sad to see her little nickname wiped away (despite us continuing to use it sometimes!)

We realized this month that she's struggling with the classification of things. For example, we've worked on teaching her animal names, but when a little girl at school asked, "What's your favorite animal?" she couldn't answer. (She knows tiger and bunny and puppy and kitty and lion and penguin and zebra - etc - but she doesn't know they are "animals"! Whoops!) We also realized she didn't know what "favorite" meant (she can tell you what she likes and dislikes but "favorite" is a bit harder to explain with limited language!) So those are two things we've been working on!

Riding the choo choo on our family trip to Nashville!

She is still not interested in books - which tells me her language/vocabulary still has a long way to go. But she did let me read a handful of books to her this month, which is at least a step in the right direction! (She's been completely avoiding them for quite a while because without knowing the language, they just aren't enjoyable.)

She does ask often for me to sing songs to her still, and has learned "Jesus Loves Me" which is adorable! I'm so glad our sweet girl loves music like her mama!



A few more things about Kate….

She is currently obsessed with the movie "Homeward Bound" from my childhood. She loves "Shadow, Sassy, and Champ" (and I'm not ashamed to say I cried the first time I re-watched it with her!) She begs to watch the "thuppies and kitty cat!" every day. We're realizing she is very athletic, and she can dribble a basketball with either hand while walking! She's also completely obsessed with footie pajamas, and wants to wear them every single night, no matter how hot it is! Her little toes have busted through her favorite pair of pink polka dot fox pajamas (which she's very sad about!)

A picnic at the park with some of our friends! We love playdates with the Kimes!

She's loving playdates with friends, picnics, wearing overalls with her Dtah, spending time with her neighbor-friends on our street, planting flowers with mama, watching honeybees in our purple tree, and finding "roly polys, wormies, and beetle bugs!" Auntie Beth has been amazing at finding "roly polys" during her visits and we've had cups and "critter catchers" full of them for weeks now. It is so sweet to see how gentle Kate is with little bugs, and how fascinated she is watching them and holding them!


She is still deeply attached to her bunnies - who are now an entire family. She has her big gray bunny she got when she came home (Bunny), her little gray bunny (she calls Baby Bunny) who was in her Easter basket, and she's since added a little white bunny that was a gift from a friend to the "Bunny family". Big bunny is still the favorite though, and she was really excited to get him a pair of blue jeans from Build a Bear (since she's also still pretty obsessed with wearing blue jeans every day!)

Kate LOVES Baby Violet, Karis, and Mason (not pictured).

Her little imagination is continuing to blossom with every passing week. Lately she's been pretending to go to work with "Kali" (a friend Rusty shoots wedding videos with), or pretending to call Meow or to go to Thailand and visit Meow. She's always sure to give us goodbye hugs and kisses before she goes though, and always promises to come back!