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!


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 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!


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!

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!


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! 


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!)


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!