Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Happy Birthday Kate!

On January 19th, our darling little girl turned 4 years old. We still can't believe it! We're so grateful that Kate was HOME for this special day!

We started the morning of her birthday with chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a candle. She told me she was si bpi (4 years old) and so was Pooh, Belle, and Bunny (so they each got a happy birthday song too!) She LOVED the 4 balloons we tied on her chair (I'm not sure if she's ever had a balloon before?) She called them "baboons" and played with them for more than an hour... pulling them around the house, giggling and clapping her hands!  (Friends and family with our password - you can watch the video of our morning below!)

The plan for the day was simple - to say "YES" as much as possible and to give Kate all of our attention. We thought we might take her to feed the ducks, get ice cream, and ride the train at the zoo - but it rained ALL day, and she was honestly happy to stay at home as long as she got to play with both of us. She sat at the window and watched the rain fall several times throughout the day, exclaiming "Fon!" (Rain!) again and again. Most kids would be sad that it rained on their birthday, but our little raindrop (Namfon) loves the rain!

We played playdough for at least an hour that morning, played with her balloons, and then coaxed her out for lunch at Surin (she was so happy to eat Thai food again! She loves Pad See Ew!) Bunny came with us to lunch, and she was SO excited when she got her own wearable baby carrier (just like ours) to put him in!

When we got home we watched Enchanted (one of her favorite movies), played playdough for another hour or two, and then Uncle Brent came for a surprise visit. Then it was time for "rockabye bunny" and reading books to her bunnies. We surprised her at the end of the night with her very first bubble bath, and she giggled all the way through it!

The night ended with one of our many beautiful Nancy Tillman books, lots of kisses from Papa, Kate singing "There's Just Something About That Name" with me, and finally falling asleep on my chest.

It was such a simple, sweet day - but it filled my heart to overflowing. We adore this beautiful, smart, funny, brave, silly, kind, compassionate little girl, and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to get to be her Mama!

On Saturday we had the sweetest little birthday party full of precious friends for our beautiful little girl! I still can't believe I was able to throw it together after only a month home with Kate (especially when that month also included Christmas and my birthday! Whew!) - but your baby's first birthday party is too special to skip (even if it's for her 4th birthday). ✨

When we got matched with Kate at 3 years old, I grieved the lost years with her hard (and still do at times). I was heartbroken to know she'd experienced so many years (and 3 birthdays) without a family. I prayed hard for God to help us get her home before she turned 4, and dreamed of a party with 4 little cakes to represent and re-celebrate each birthday we missed. I'm so grateful that Carrie Faucher Allen (a very talented baker here in Birmingham) could fit us in to make these gorgeous cakes without much notice. Aren't they just darling!? Those delicate, gilded ruffles were almost too pretty to eat!

We kept the party short and simple. Just cake and punch with us, my parents, and the handful of neighbor kids she plays with regularly in attendance. She gasped when she saw the decorations, and spent all morning telling me in Thai that her friends were coming and that it was her birthday! Kate loved the attention, and happily stood on her chair in her tutu as everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to her 4 times! (For family and friends with the password, you can watch the video below!) I know she missed her friends from Thailand on this day (she asked for her best friend first thing that morning) and that broke my heart for her. But I'm so grateful for her new friends here who came to celebrate her! 

Kate dug into her smash cake (she may be 4, but we gave her cake #1 all for herself just like we would have on her first birthday) and it was adorable! She also let her friends help her open her presents (she is so great at sharing!) Her favorites were definitely her baby carrier, stroller, and pink umbrella!

She would not take off her birthday tutu for the rest of the day - and she was just the cutest thing wearing it around! She went outside after her party to play with her new toys in the (unexpectedly warm) January sunshine. She blew bubbles with her new bubble wand from Auntie Shell & Uncle Jaron, and pushed bunny around in her new stroller for hours. She had so much fun playing "Mama" to him!

I wish I could show you all the photos from Kate's beautiful birthday shoot, but we cannot share her face publicly (as we are still meeting our post placement requirements and waiting to finalize our adoption). She was such a little ham though! She had so much fun modeling for us! We were thrilled for the opportunity to finally do a professional shoot with her, and we're completely in love with how the images turned out. After taking pictures of families here in Birmingham through RJackson Media, and children around the world for The Sound of Hope - it sure was special to photograph our own little girl on her special day!

(Playing peek-a-boo with Mama during her first photo shoot!)

Happy birthday darling! We loved celebrating you this year, 
and we look forward to many more years of singing Happy Birthday to YOU! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kate's 1st Christmas Home

We finally have Kate's Christmas video finished (just in time to share - right before we post about her birthday AND our 2 month anniversary of meeting her! Goodness how time flies! Maybe someday I'll get caught up on this blog of mine. ;) For our friends and family with the password - simply enter it below for a short video recap of Kate's 1st Christmas HOME!

We were so grateful to be HOME for Christmas with our little Thai darling... but we were also jet-lagged and in the midst of a huge transition for Kate, so we kept things pretty low key this year (while still making precious family memories!) Despite our jet-lag, we managed to get the tree up on the 20th (with minimal decorations), and our mantle greenery, stockings, and one nativity scene up. We let go of a lot of fun Christmas traditions, but made time for decorating Christmas cookies (they may have just been the break apart kind, but our little one still had fun with the icing and sprinkles!) and managed to make a small (out of the box) red velvet birthday cake for Jesus (a precious family tradition from when I was a child).

There are cookies somewhere under all those sprinkles! ;)

Beyond that, we spent our days in our PJ's, snuggled up at home. Kate really, really liked our matching Christmas jammies, and insisted we wear them almost every day the week of Christmas (she would literally go find them in the hamper and bring them back to me and Rusty if we dared to take them off! Haha!) We spent a lot of time resting, attempting to unpack, playing with her, snuggling, and watching Christmas movies (which included watching Kate's choice of "Santa Buddies" at least 10 times a day!) We went out once to show her the Christmas lights at the zoo and to ride the train there. It was a short but sweet outing (she loved it! And she especially loved the snow machine we found on the way out of the zoo!) and I'm glad we gave it a try. We limited visits to close family so we didn't overwhelm her, and we tried to keep those visits short and spaced out. She did well though, and had some really sweet times with her Yaai & Dtah (my parents) and her Tutu (Rusty's mom, who came from Arkansas for a couple of days!)

Kate liked her little nativity, and loved to point out Baby Jesus!

Christmas morning was absolutely precious. For those of you who are family and close friends, I'm so glad you'll be able to see her face in the video above - she was ecstatic when she saw her gifts! We tried to limit the presents, but it's difficult to reign yourself in when you've waited 4 Christmases to spoil a child. So Santa brought her a kitchen set, small trampoline, Belle doll, some movies, and a few other small gifts.

She also got a traditional Thai outfit, a book about Thailand, and a beautiful vintage Thai Barbie (she liked playing with her - but not as much as she liked brushing our hair with her tiny brush! Haha!) Her favorite gift though, was a toy bunny that wiggles his ears and hops around!

Our Thai darling with her Thai Barbie!

There are so many memories from this holiday that I will cherish, but my favorite moments were when we were all snuggled up on the couch at night with popcorn for "movie time" together. Last Christmas Eve, Rusty held me on that couch as I cried because I missed Kate so badly. We spent so many nights snuggled up there, year after year, waiting on our girl. We would take all the cushions off so we'd both fit, and watch our favorite shows, and dream of how our life would look different once Kate was home.

"Do you think she'll fit on the couch with us?" I'd ask. "Do you think she'll like to snuggle?" The answer to both questions is YES. After a few nights of this tradition, Kate began to jump on the couch after dinner, pat the spot beside her, call us both over, and then point for each light to be turned off (except the tree). It meant so much to me that our family snuggle time has become one of her favorite things!

Merry Christmas darling! We're so glad you're HOME! We can't wait to make even more beautiful Christmas memories with you year after year! ❤️

Saturday, January 7, 2017

One Month In Our Arms

Christmas Eve marked one month since we met our beautiful doll... and December 29th was the one month anniversary of the day we got custody of her! One month of hugs and kisses. One month of sass and sweetness - sugar and spice! One month of hairbows, sparkly shoes, and princess songs. One month of tucking our little darling into bed each night and waking up to her smile each morning. One month of snuggles and giggles and beautiful memories together! This post will recap all of her "firsts" with us so far, and some of our favorite things about Kate - but for now let me just say - I have experienced more JOY in the past month with her than I ever imagined possible! At bedtime on our 1 month-iversary" when I said "I love you", she repeated it back to me three times before I turned off the light. I thought my heart might burst! 💗

I've had friends ask if every day with Kate is magical... and the truth is, most days are more comfortable than they are magical (and there is a sweetness in the "comfortable" too!) Most of the time, it honestly feels like she's been with us forever! She fits so beautifully into our family, and she's doing so well that we have to remind ourselves that we've only had her for a month! But every now and then, the magic sneaks up and surprises me. Suddenly an ordinary moment will feel so extraordinary - because the reality that she is HERE and she is OURS will set in anew. When I get to sing her to sleep.... it's magic. Seeing her play in her room for the first time had me crying happy tears in the corner. Watching her dance to Christmas music while I make breakfast, and seeing her sitting beneath our Christmas tree at night makes my heart swell! And while opening Christmas cards addressed to "The Jackson Family of THREE" or "Rusty, Ericka, & Kate Jackson" I could not hold back the tears. There are plenty of difficult times that we are still experiencing as we adjust to life together - but then there are these moments when our life with her feels so completely picturesque... like watching my daughter play with my Dad for the first time, and hearing the song "Cinderella"come on my Pandora app at that exact moment. Suddenly my Dad and I were singing Kate the song we danced to on my wedding day, while she giggled. I wanted time to stand still!

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We missed so many of Kate's "firsts" while we waited on her the past few years - first smile, first words, first steps... but we sure are enjoying the "firsts" we get to experience together! In the past month, Kate has enjoyed:

Her first tuk tuk ride in Chiang Mai (she would ride them all day every day if we’d let her! She LOVES tuk tuks!), first paddle boat ride in Bangkok (Swan Boats in Lumpini Park), first train ride at the Birmingham Zoo (for Zoo Light Safari), and her first airplane ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand! (Followed by the long trip home – Chiang Mai to Seoul to Atlanta to Bham!)

Kate also had what we believe was her first trip to the beach in Pattaya (it was just a few minutes in the carrier on our first day after custody - but we'll say it counts!), the aquarium in Bangkok (she loved the penguins, otters, sea turtles, and sea horses), and the Zoo in Chiang Mai (she loved the elephant, birds, and tiny monkeys!)

We've taken our little girl on her first shopping trips too – to the mall in Chiang Mai for her first (shiny silver) tennis shoes (she never wants to take them off now!), and to the night bazaar (she picked out a bracelet and a coin purse).

And of course our most favorite "first" so far, was having Kate here for her first Christmas HOME with her family!!! It's taking me longer than expected to update my blog (personal time is few and far between these days) - but I hope to have a recap of Christmas (and a video) to share here with you all soon!

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A few more things about Kate...


I prayed so hard that I would have a good little sleeper… while literally EVERYONE told me to kiss sleep goodbye. Luckily, God knew just what I needed! Kate sleeps anywhere from 9-12 hours a night (she even pulled a 14 hour night our first 2 nights home after travel!) She also takes a 1-2 hour nap most days. She is fully potty trained and only had one nighttime accident the first month with us. She loves bathtime before bed (she had never had a warm bath before... only cold showers at the orphanage due to the heat), putting on her PJs, and brushing her teeth. (One night she brushed them 8 times in a row!) We have only had 3 nights of “grief” that came either before or after a big move/transition (the first night of custody, then the night before the trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and the night after we traveled from Chiang Mai home to America). She is a bit of a night owl and fights sleep at times (melatonin helps with that), but once she’s down – she is a sound sleeper! When she wakes up in the morning - she is a happy girl, who likes to stay in bed and snuggle a bit with Papa before eating breakfast. We loved co-sleeping with her in Thailand and our first few days home, but she decided on her own that she wanted to start sleeping in her own bed Christmas Eve Eve! (And her Mama cried! I wasn't ready for that yet!) She ends up in our bed sometime in the middle of the night still (each night), but I'm proud of how brave she is wanting to sleep in her own bed.


She is a GREAT eater. She has eaten almost everything we’ve offered – at least while we were in Thailand (though we usually were offering familiar Thai food). She has been more picky now that we’re home, but we’ve tried to keep rice, noodles, and spaghetti (all her favorites) in rotation often. She has no food issues as far as we can tell – she does not hoard or overeat. She will even share snacks happily with Mama and Papa, and with her friends too! Her favorite "treats" are gummy bears, gingerale, sprite, and anything chocolate!


We have definitely slowed down her English acquisition with the fact that we speak basic Thai... but it's just been so much easier to actually be able to explain things in a way she can understand (instead of forcing English on her). We primarily spoke Thai to her in Thailand, but are working on more English now that we're home. Her English vocabulary right now consists of, "Mama, Papa, Baby, Puppy, Bunny, Pooh, Belle, Airplane, Yup, No, Yucky, Yummy, Banana, Apple, Medicine, Potty, Bath, Uh Oh, WOW, Please, and OTAY!" (okay) - plus some people's names (friends and family) - which I think is pretty good for only 2 weeks of English immersion. She will repeat other things, but these are words she uses on her own. She can also sing "Happy Birthday" in English (I think she learned that at the orphanage), and every time she sees a candle she thinks it's time to sing "Happy Birthday" and blow it out! Haha! (Her birthday is going to be so much fun!) She can also do a few of her ABC's and 123's (which is something she was learning at the orphanage in her English classes!)


These are a few of Kate's favorite things (right now anyway!) After not really being interested in stuffed animals the first 1-2 weeks with us, she now loves her Pooh Bear, Belle doll, and Bunny. She is constantly watching “Tigger lah Pooh” (My friends Tigger and Pooh) and watching the videos (in Thai) of the songs "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes", “How Does She Know”, and "The Farang Song"! She loves being tickled, dancing, and GOING! Whether it's in the car (she hasn't cried once getting into her carseat), a train, tuk tuk, or an airplane. She loves to watch the airplanes that come over our house too! 

Now that we're home she likes her baby dolls (she takes their clothes off and on a million times)... but during our hotel stays she loved playing “elevator" (our closet was her pretend elevator), playing with rolls of toilet paper (she would make herself clothes out of them! Haha! She looked like a mummy!), and playing with the phone in the hotel room (we had to detach the phone line so she wouldn't call other rooms!) She also loves the water – whether she’s swimming, taking a bath, or just playing in the faucet. Sometimes she’ll wash her hands a half dozen times just so she can continue to play! 

Kate loves animals, and is OBSESSED with "puppies" right now. She has watched the movie "Santa Buddies" (the one with the golden retriever characters) at least a hundred times since we got home! I don't think she's ever been around animals, and now she squeals every time she sees a dog. I am grateful that we have so many "puppies" on our street (a bulldog, german shepherd, corgi, golden doodle, and 2 labs) and for our sweet neighbors who patiently let her look at them and pet them all the time! 

At least once a day we play a little game we've made up called "Mai Sabai". Rusty asks Kate in Thai, "Sabaidee Mai?" (Are you well?) and if she wants to be tickled, she responds, "Mai Sabai!" (I am not well!) Then she gets tickled until she yells, "Sabaidee Mak Mak!" (I'm very, very good!) Her giggle is the new soundtrack to our lives! 

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In the midst of our brutally long wait to be matched with a child, I remember having an emotional conversation with a fellow adoptive mom one afternoon. I don't remember the details about what we said that day, but I do remember one thing she told me, "You cannot miss your child." She reminded me that God knew exactly who our daughter was, and that no matter how much time passed or how many errors we dealt with in our case, we couldn't possibly "miss" her. I wanted desperately to believe my friend, but at that time I thought, "How crazy. We could be matched with any number of kids, and the truth is - we'll love any child we are matched with." And while that might be true - after meeting Kate - there is not a doubt in my mind that she is specifically ours! It is no mistake she's in our family. All that waiting wasn't for "any child" - it was specifically for HER. She was handpicked from heaven for us, and it's so evident that she is OURS!

Kate is definitely Rusty’s child because she loves sweeping with her broom, and she always wants everything (including her) to be clean. If a single piece of spaghetti falls on the table she wants it wiped up on the spot! And if her hands and face get messy, she begs for a wet wipe! She also likes to take photos and videos (just like her photographer/videographer Papa). She has so much fun with her wooden toy camera – telling us where to stand and how to pose. And she has taken no less than 10,000 selfies and photos on our iPhones (usually pretty bad ones blocked by her little thumb. Haha!) She is also athletic like Papa, and can pitch and hit a foam ball with her foam bat, and catch and throw a football surprisingly well. And then there is the most special "sign" that she is Rusty's child... on our 2nd visit we realized that Kate has a birthmark on the back of her right hand – exactly like Rusty had when he was her age! Isn't that amazing?

She is definitely my child because – she is for sure a girly girl! Kate loves to have bows in her hair and at least once a day she'll put her hand on her hip, cock her head to the side and ask, "Soi mai kha?" (Am I pretty? YES you are baby girl!!!) She also loves to pose for photos just like her modeling Mama! Kate likes lotion, anything you can spray that smells good (perfume, hairspray, febreeze, essential oils, etc), and pretending to put on makeup. She LOVES shoes – and her first few days home she would rather change my shoes for me 15 times (I wore dress shoes with pajamas a lot those days!) than play with her toys! She also loves princess songs, princess dolls, and crowns. She got a Princess Sophia doll as a Christmas gift, and within 10 seconds of having her out of the box she’d taken her crown off to put it on herself! Haha! That’s my girl! (She was certainly named appropriately! ;) She likes to sing and dance – and loves to have music playing. She has already figured out how to work her toy microphone at home (thanks Aunt Kristian!) and in our hotel room in Chiang Mai she would pull the coffee table up to the bed to create a “stage” for herself to dance on! She also loves bunnies – which makes me smile! 

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There are so many other memories I wish I could record, but for now I want to write down a few more things I don’t want to forget about Kate at this age... like the smell of her sweet little head, how soft her skin is, and how her precious little voice sounds saying “Mama!”. The first time she kissed me, what she looks like when she's sleeping, and how her tiny hand fits into mine. Hearing her try to sing along to my worship music, hearing her read to herself in “toddler Thai”, and the sound of her giggle (it is the best sound in the world!) The first time she saw a photo of me dressed as Belle (she gasped and smiled!), her bragging to the other kids about how pretty her mama is (we were told she did this every day after our visits to the orphanage! So sweet!), seeing her mimic me and pretend to put on makeup in my lap, and the very first time she said, “Love you Mama!” 

If you're still reading this long post, and you're considering adoption (or even if you're not) - please say YES! Start the process NOW! Every child is precious, and every child deserves a family. Kate has been the biggest blessing we've ever received! There is no way I could ever love a biological child more than I love this little girl. I can't believe that we could've missed her if we had said "no" to adoption - or if we'd given up when things got hard. My worst day with her is so much better than my best day without her. She was absolutely worth the wait! 💗