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




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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!