We are HOME with our beautiful daughter.
We are finally home with her in our arms... and it still feels completely surreal!
We left Chiang Mai, Thailand around midnight on Saturday night, December 17th - which was hard on our little girl who loves to sleep! Kate usually gets anywhere from 9-12 hours of sleep a night. Our first 5 hour flight was a rough one - with it being in the middle of the night, we had a very sleepy, fussy girl on our hands. She cried hysterically for the last hour - and we were so afraid the rest of the travel day would look the same way! But as soon as we got her out of the plane to play in the Seoul airport, she was our happy girl again! We ran around with her a LOT there, boarded our 13 hour flight to Atlanta, and she slept peacefully for 6-7 hours! She finished the flight by playing with the kiddos in front of us (they shared stickers back and forth through the seats for an hour. She is such a good sharer!) She even hugged them goodbye - it was precious!
When we landed in Atlanta, I started getting emotional. After the traumatic 5 year process we have been through - I could barely believe we were finally on US soil with our daughter!!! I got teary when we saw the US Immigration sign, and cried when we hit the customs line. Our adoption still won't be completely final for another 1-2 years (we still have to do post placement reports, finalization in the US, and finalization with the Thai consulate) - but having her here in America is such a HUGE step!!! She was fantastic through customs (we have such a great kid ya'll!), and was excited to let me change her into her cute Christmas PJ's before our final flight HOME!
I was not prepared for how emotional that last flight would be. Many of you who have been following our story on Instagram and Facebook know that Kate has been pushing me away a lot - sometimes all day, every day. It's been hard and heartbreaking. But it has slowly gotten better and better - and on our travel days we finally turned a corner! She finally started asking for me again - wanting to sit in my lap sometimes, and rarely pushed my hand away when I reached out to comfort her. She started the final flight on Rusty's lap, but once we took off she decided she wanted to sit with me!
What happened next felt like a dream. She got out my phone because she wanted to listen to music (this little girl loves music, loves to hear Mama sing, and has already started dancing and trying to sing along when she hears us play songs in English!) She especially loves worship songs. I turned on my playlist for our trip - which includes the song "Mine To Love" - our song for Kate's adoption. Every time I have heard this song for the past 4 years - I have seen our little girl in my mind. A mini video would play in my head and heart each time I heard those words... of us meeting her for the first time... hugging and kissing her for the first time... hearing her giggle and seeing her smile... and of course, us coming home with her. Well, imagine my surprise when she took out the earbuds we'd given her, put one in my ear so that I could hear too, and happened to "skip" to the song, "Mine to Love". It came on just as we started our descent to Birmingham, and I could not hold back the tears. (Luckily, she was focused on the phone and couldn't see me crying!)
More than anything, I wanted to walk into our Airport Homecoming with my daughter in my arms. I've dreamed of that moment for years... but with her preferring Rusty so strongly, I just knew it wasn't going to happen. There have been a lot of times in this process that I felt like God was distant... but on this day, I was reminded that He is very present, and He is still a God of detail. Kate wanted Mama after the flight - and that's what she got! We rushed through the airport with butterflies in our stomachs, hearts beating faster than ever, and the biggest smiles on our faces! Kate hopped on the escalator holding Mama's hand (she wanted to ride it with her Pooh Bear!), and my darling little girl was in my arms when we ran into our parents' arms!
I am crying again as I type this blog and see these photos. More than anything I wanted to sit down and sob in that airport - tears of relief, JOY, and thanksgiving! But Kate has never seen me cry - and I didn't want to scare her when she was doing so well! So I let myself cry a little (as you can see in the photos below - I couldn't help but cry the moment I had my baby girl in my arms, and I had made it back to my mama's arms!), but I tried to hold back the tears (until I came home and truly let them go once I saw her playing happily in her beautiful room!)
[Introducing Kate to her Yaai and Dtah! (my parents)]
and was able to be at the airport to meet her first grandchild! I couldn't hold back the tears!!!]
[Kate meeting some of her soon to be best friends - Piper, Karis, and Evie - as all her grandparents look on!]
She was a total HAM at the airport - LOVING the attention, and putting on a show for everyone! Every time we counted "nung, song, sam!" (one, two, three!) for a photo she would throw her hand into the air and yell - "YAY!!!" It was hilarious! She loved meeting her family and friends (those who could make it) - just as long as she was in Mama or Papa's arms (which shows great attachment! We were really pleased to see that!) Towards the end when the crowd thinned out, she would run back and forth to me and Rusty and jump into our arms to be spun around. (I told ya'll - she loves to put on a show! Haha!) She is just so much fun!!!
[Kate with her Yaai & Dtah]
[Kate with her Tutu and Pappy]
[Kate meeting all her new friends! These babies have helped pray her home, and they were all SO excited!]
December 18th will always be a special day in this family! To everyone who came to welcome us at the airport (and to Heather who took these beautiful photos - and Kali who shot the video that we'll share here soon) - we can't thank you enough! We know this is a busy time of year, but it meant the world to us to see your smiling faces (and special signs!) when we came down that escalator! You gave us such a beautiful homecoming, and it is a memory that we will never forget. Thank you for being there to welcome Kate home at last!
And now, our "Happily Ever After" begins... ♥♥♥
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I apologize that this update was delayed a few days, but our first few days home we were both deliriously happy - and delirious from exhaustion. Haha! A 26 hour travel day + jet lag with a 3 year old will really wear you out! Luckily we have an awesome little sleeper - she got 14 hours the first two nights home, and 9 hours the next two nights. These days we are sleeping when she sleeps though - because she insists we go to bed together (we are co-sleeping) which means we aren't getting much of anything done, but that's okay! We go to bed early, wake up early, and play with her all day every day. Our bags are still mostly packed, we have up minimal Christmas decorations (a barely decorated tree + stockings is it this year!), and we can't leave the house without her getting extremely upset (there is still fear that we won't come back!) - so our 2 trips out have had to be as a family of three. This is why "cocooning" is so important! She is still learning what it means to have a family!
These first few days home we've been focused primarily on giving Kate as much attention as she wants. This is another big transition for her, and she's in a house with walls between us (she can't see us if she's in another room here - versus our time in Thailand where we were in studio style hotel rooms!) So we play a lot together wherever she wants to be, and we come running every time we hear "Mama! Papa!" so that she knows we're there!
She is getting to know the neighborhood children and loving having playmates again! Right now she is outside riding her little pink tricycle with "Papa" and our neighbor friends - so I was able to sneak away and post this blog. Stay tuned for more updates (just as soon as I can slip away and write them!) We have so much we want to share about our beautiful little girl!