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 gets taken away if she hits/hurts Mama. It's been so 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!

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