Saturday, February 18, 2017

Kate's Homecoming (Video)

Exactly 2 months ago today, we came home with Kate! On December 18th, we finally landed in the Birmingham airport with our little girl. I wrote in detail about our trip and what our homecoming meant to me when I shared some of the pictures here, but today our video is finally ready to be shared!

Rusty and I have dreamed of our homecoming moment with Kate for 5 years. While we waited, we celebrated (and shot video for) 4 other friends who brought their babies home - Gia from Korea, Esther from Ethiopia, Tawan from Thailand, and Eliana from China! Homecomings are such emotional times for adoptive families. It's a mix of so many feelings - JOY and EXCITEMENT (for your child to meet your/their extended family and friends for the first time), PRIDE (it is so special to finally show your little one off to the people you love!), some anxiety (just wondering how your child will do - will she cry? be afraid?), and a whole lot of RELIEF that you are finally home with your little one! I have felt all those emotions alongside my adoptive mama friends as they brought their babies home - and we were so honored to film for each of them... but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't an ache in my heart each time we went to another homecoming too. I have longed for the day that Rusty and I would get to be the ones coming down that escalator with a beautiful little girl in our arms - tearfully running to hug our parents (amidst a cheering crowd of our closest friends). And this was our day. And it was beautiful, and special, and so full of JOY!

Thank you to everyone who came to the airport to welcome Kate home! Thank you for sharing our JOY and helping make our homecoming a memory that we will cherish! We love you all!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Two Months In Our Arms

Goodness - will I ever catch up with my blog? (With an active 4 year old at home, I'm thinking probably not... but I'm still going to try!) In the 8+ weeks since we got custody of Kate we went to a bunch of important meetings/appointments for our adoption, spent almost 3 weeks together in Thailand, moved hotels 3 times, flew around the world, unpacked from our huge trip, decorated for Christmas, celebrated Christmas, celebrated my birthday, and celebrated Kate's birthday (including hosting her first birthday party)! Whew! Add in meeting friends and family, fulfilling more adoption requirements once home (with post placement visits, reports due, and a big doctor's appt) and the really difficult adjustment of being new parents to a 4 year old - and you can see why I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and behind. While it was incredibly special to have her home for all those BIG moments (like Christmas and both of our birthdays!) I am hoping now that those are behind us - I might be able to stay caught up just a bit better.  January 29th marked 2 official months with our beautiful girl in our arms, so here's my (late) post recapping it all! 


Over the past month Kate has enjoyed a lot of new "firsts" with us! These include her first trip to Target, first trip to Chick-Fil-A, first sweet tea, first picnic (on an unexpectedly warm January day), first carousel ride (at the zoo), first green smoothie (another favorite!) and first chocolate milk (which she now wants every day. Haha!) She's also had her first official playdate with her friend Karis! Karis' mom is a good friend of mine, and when we looked up and saw our girls holding hands (completely unprompted by us!) I think we both melted into a puddle. They are both so sassy - but also so sweet!

On January 7th Kate enjoyed her first SNOW! It may have just been an inch or so (and really was mostly ice) but she loved it. We were so surprised! She rarely complains about being cold - but we weren't sure how our tropical beach baby would do actually playing in the ice and snow. But we bundled her up and she had a ball! She loved sledding with Papa, and having snowball fights with the neighborhood kids!

Kate giggled and squealed throughout her first bubble bath (which she enjoyed on her 4th birthday). We were thrilled to celebrate her first birthday home, host her first birthday party (you can read more about that here!) - and take her first real photo shoot (in her birthday tutu! She did great - she's such a ham in front of the camera!) Between Baby Jesus' birthday on Christmas, my birthday the 15th of January, and her birthday the 19th - she now thinks every day is someone's birthday! She is always singing Happy Birthday to herself, me, or one of her toys. Ha! (You can hear a clip of her sweet voice singing it here!) And anytime she gets something (for example, Rusty handed her a bag of tangerines after a trip to the grocery store) she smiles and exclaims, "Happy Birthday Namfon!" (as if it is another birthday gift! Haha!)

She had her first outing with her grandparents on January 27th - just to Chick-Fil-A (5 minutes from our house). We were so afraid she would cry or panic, but she had so much fun! (Mama may or may not have cried a little though! It is so hard to be away from your child for the very first time, no matter how old they are!) Rusty and I stayed home just in case they had to rush back... we wanted her to see us home no matter when she returned. But she had a blast playing, ate great, and even wanted to go to Wal-Mart after dinner to do a little shopping. She came home with lots of yummy snacks, and flowers for me - which she presented with a flourish and a, "Happy Birthday Mama!" (2 weeks after my birthday - Ha!) We are SO glad she's bonding with her Yaai and Dtah (my parents) as well as she is, and grateful for a little bit of a break. It's difficult impossible to get any alone time with a newly adopted 4 year old. We definitely can't leave her with a babysitter, but at least we can get a short break if my parents are in town now! That's a relief!

We celebrated our 2nd month-iversary (on January 29th) with her first Sunday at our church! We thought we might just stay through worship and then leave if she got loud - but she was an ANGEL! She wanted to be on the front row to hear the music (she loves music!), and somehow we ended up sitting on the front row for the rest of the service (at her request - that was certainly not the plan!) We had a lot of little toys, play dough, coloring books, and snacks to keep her occupied, and they worked well! She even understood that she had to be quiet. She only got loud once, when she let out an emphatic "WOW" (at the perfect time in the sermon believe it or not! Haha! She was "wowing" something she just drew, but it sounded so planned! The whole church cracked up!) 

She started getting restless during the last prayer so we headed to the back - but she ran back to the front when the music started up again. I didn't want to upset her, so I followed along to see what she would do. She marched right up to the stage and put one hand in the air (just like she had seen me do earlier) to worship. It was precious! It was so special to be there with her - especially when we got to walk past the sign above (with our immigrant daughter). I'm thankful we attend a church that is welcoming to our daughter and supportive of the work we do around the world!


We feel like attachment is going well. While we haven't had to worry about intense cocooning (not too many people try to pick up or feed a 4 year old, and Kate has never reached for a stranger) - we are still keeping her world very small. We aren't taking any trips, and we spend most of our time at home these days. We try not to overwhelm her with a lot of new people - and when she does meet new people it's usually at our house (in her comfort zone). She did get a bit overwhelmed at the end of our trip back to church (she buried herself in Rusty's shoulder, then pointed to the door and said "BI!" (GO!) after meeting a few people) so that was a good reminder we still need to keep her close to home!

The general rule of cocooning is that no one meets her needs except myself and Rusty. These days she still wants us to feed her often (even though she can totally feed herself), and help her in the bathroom (again, she can mostly potty by herself) - but we are continuing to help with those things as long as she'll let us because they are good for bonding.

It is also important during the first few months home that only the parents comfort a newly adopted child - and this month we saw the reason why! Along with the long list of "firsts" above, Kate got her first skinned knee (since we took custody) this month. Rusty was watching her play, and he instantly ran and scooped her up when she fell. I heard her crying outside - and ran to comfort her as well. Then we both brought her in and I doctored up her knee. Apparently this was a HUGE deal to our daughter, because after it happened - she re-told us the story of how we took care of her 2-3 times a day for at least week! I'm sure in the orphanage she was taken care of when she hurt herself... but it was still an orphanage (albeit a good one!) so she certainly didn't have 2 caregivers rush to her side to scoop her up and kiss her the second she got hurt. Our attentiveness and response to her pain made such an impact on her little heart. It has been so sweet to see her tell us again and again with bright eyes how Papa picked her up when she cried, and Mama ran to her and doctored her knee! We can tell it made her feel so loved and special! 

If you're following our updates on Facebook and Instagram, then you know Kate bonding with me has been a challenge. We have seen some great progress with our relationship this month, though there are still plenty of times she pushes me away, refuses my affection, and takes out her frustration/grief on me. I haven't written about that a lot here (though I plan to share more in a later blog) but I would appreciate your prayers for her heart to bond to mine! Having been bonded to female caregivers in the orphanage (that she then lost), we've been told this response to "Mama" is completely normal, but it's still so difficult! We had our first post-placement visit this month from our adoption agency, and our social worker assured us we are doing all the right things and it will just take time. So I'm celebrating the progress and trying to have patience on the hard days! This month she has started letting me kiss her more often, and is giving out a lot of kisses to me - which I love. (It's still not anywhere near the amount of affection she gives Rusty - but again, I'll take what I can get!) In the picture above, she was supposed to be smiling for the camera - but instead of smiling she pulled me in and covered me with kisses! It was so unexpected and so good for my heart!


The honeymoon phase is definitely over, and our "amazing" sleeper and eater isn't quite as amazing these days. We've had some challenging mealtimes and nighttimes lately - which is really just a sign she's getting even more comfortable with us. We try not to fight over food or force it, and for the most part she's still eating really well... but as we introduce more and more new foods some have been hit and miss. 

For bedtime we both tuck her in and do prayer time as a family. Then we take turns on who lays with her until she falls asleep, alternating each night. She was sleeping through the night in Thailand... and then only waking up once early on here (sometimes not at all) and again after midnight - when she would just come get in our bed. But these days she's been waking up at least twice between when we put her to bed and when we go to bed ourselves, and sometimes more than that. We may have to drop naps soon (which will be so hard on us!) We are still co-sleeping from sometime after midnight until the morning. She usually sleeps well during that time (when she's in bed with us) - which we're grateful for! 


Kate has added a lot of new words in the last month! The ones I can think of at the moment are: football (she loves watching and playing football with Papa!), outside, no thank you, CHOCOLATE, love you, book, Jesus, “LET’S DANCE” (exclaimed while she dances along to the final scene of Footloose! Haha!), help, please, WAR EAGLE HEY! (said with an Auburn shaker in her hand! Yes!), sucker, shower, umbrella, rain, sit, uhm, huh?, chicken, sleeping, Big Bird, “Prayer Time!”, and home. Her most used word these days though, is "WOW!!!" 

While she's still not speaking a ton of English, she does understand a lot more than she speaks. She can follow most directions given in English, and my parents didn't have any issues communicating with her on their little outing (which is encouraging!)

A few more things about Kate...

She still LOVES baths, but also enjoys a shower with Rusty (in his swimsuit) every now and then. I walked in to find her shampooing his hair and giggling away a few days ago! It was so sweet! These days she gets really excited about friends coming over and going outside to play with the neighbors. A lot of the time she is just playing by herself outside (around the other children, but not with them). The language barrier is still tough at her age. But she's become more engaged with her new friends this month than she was the first few weeks home. Every time she sees or hears the neighbor kids outside she yells, “PHEUXN!” (which means FRIENDS! in Thai!) and starts begging to go outside!

We see more and more of her personality the longer we're with her. It's so great to see more of who she is (as she gets more comfortable with us)! We've now enjoyed several elaborate story times in Thai (I so wish we knew what she was saying!) and some hilarious dance performances when music comes on! She has started enjoying TV and movies more, and will actually watch most of a program sometimes (she wouldn't watch anything for 5 minutes the first month we had her!) She really loves Sesame Street lately and usually watches it after nap. 

She is such a compassionate kid, which just makes my heart swell. I got a bad bruise when I wrecked while sledding in the snow ice, and she checked on it every single day until it healed to ask me if it hurt (and even gently put lotion on it for me one day). She also checks on my parents a lot (my mom had back surgery in December) to see if they are hurting by pointing and asking in Thai, "Jep mai?", and if my dad says his knee hurts she will let someone else carry her. She loves to play "doctor" and fix you up if you're hurting too!

Kate is very bonded with her stuffed Bunny these days. He is her very best friend (with Pooh and Belle as close seconds). It's so sweet to see her giving him kisses and snuggling him, and playing "mama" to him. She puts him in her stroller to go for walks, and will tell him to be careful because the cars will hurt him - and not to be afraid of the neighborhood dogs (just like we tell her!) It's so cute! Lately Bunny has been going EVERYWHERE with her. I'm so afraid he'll get ruined - but I just can't tell her no. (So I ordered 2 backups to have on hand just in case! Haha!)

She loves playing with balloons (with or without helium) and can blow them up herself! Her favorite thing to wear these days is bluejeans - and she insists on them almost every day. She still LOVES to be tickled every single day, and loves to play with the wire head massager we got in Thailand (it tickles her so much - and she erupts into giggles every time we get it out!) She also has a blast playing hide-and-seek. One of us will hide, and she will work with the other parent to find the one hiding! (We've found out that Papa has exceptional hiding skills! We've almost been unable to find him twice - and in our tiny house that is surprising!) Kate has also started singing more this month. She surprised me when she joined me singing "There's Just Something About That Name" one night at bedtime, and has since added "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to her repertoire (and it is adorable!) 

Kate loves animals, especially if she gets to feed them. We've gone multiple times to feed the ducks and geese at the park, and she had so much fun! We also went to meet some baby goats at a local store, and she got to pet and feed those too (here's a cute clip!) I thought we'd never get her to leave! Eventually we will have to get her a pet of some sort (once we're all more settled). 

This month we've seen Kate's imagination come to life. She loves to play pretend. She will roll up her rug and pretend it's a boat and her carpet is the ocean full of fish (and then fall off the boat and have to be rescued!) She will pretend it's raining inside, open her umbrella, and pull Rusty and me under it so we don't get wet. But her FAVORITE pretend game right now is "TIGERS!" She has a toy tiger her Tutu (Rusty's mom) gave her. She got it out one day and started pretending it was attacking people! Now she will attack someone with it, yell "TIGER!", rescue them (she grabs the tiger and throws and stomps him!), and then will doctor them up. Occasionally she'll be the one attacked (complete with highly dramatic fake crying!) and then we have to rescue her and doctor her up. (Those with our password can see a clip of Dtah getting attacked and then rescued below!)

The most adorable thing Kate does these days though, is our family chant. One day out of nowhere Rusty started talking to her about how we were "Team Jackson". I joined the conversation and had us all put our hands in the middle to do a "TEAAAAMMM JACKSON!" chant (where we throw our hands in the air). Now it's become our little family bit, and you guys, it is the cutest thing! She will come up and say, "Team Jackson" with her little accent, hold out her hand, and wait for us to join. She just loves being reminded that we are a family, and we love having her in "Team Jackson!"