Wednesday, July 25, 2018

One Month Post-Gotcha Day

This time last month I was on my way - in a van - running late - to meet Cate for the very first time.  I still can't believe its been a whole month.  I remember feeling frozen with fear, nerves, anticipation, excitement, anxiety - yet at the same time I was filled with overwhelming hope.    

I will never forget that moment when her nannies picked her up and put her in my lap after I had been kneeling beside her talking to her for a few minutes - saying "this is your Mama - this is your Mama". At first she was slightly rigid - I was holding my breath - and after looking at my face for a minute - she let out a breath and sunk back into my chest - molding her little body into mine.  (I am crying just writing this.)  

I had dreamed of this moment since I first let myself become hopeful while staring at her picture.  Would she scream? Would she pull away?  Would we have to wrestle her away from her caregivers?  Would they force her to come to us?  Would she slap, hit, kick, bite? Would she feel like we were kidnapping her?  Would she be stoic and brave? Would she just be silent and limp?  Would she refuse to look at us, but accept her fate?  Never in my wildest dreams did I dare let myself think there would be comfort - dare I say - acceptance - in those first few moments?

When I look at the pictures now - especially of her gotcha day and the visit back to her orphanage - I can see sadness that I didn't see in the moments when we were there.  I definitely see some uncertainty and grief - and some days - we are still experiencing those things.  I am able to recognize these emotions a little bit better now than I was when we were still in China.  I think part of me was just so thankful she didn't bite me and completely push me away - that it made every little thing she did feel like she was accepting me.  We see a lot of the uncertainty return around bedtime or naptime - which continues to be the time we struggle the most.  Part of this we believe - she more than likely has never been in a room alone before maybe even during the day - - and even though she is sleeping in a room not completely alone - its not the same as a room full of her friends.  Part of this could be because she was used to the sound of babies crying all around her - or, truthfully, she may never have had the option of falling asleep - she might have very well been medicated to go to sleep each night.  The truth is we really don't know.  The truth is also - nothing brings out the selfishness in this momma like a baby up past 8 p.m.  It has always been my time and I have been able to catch up on work, TV shows that I want to watch, reading - or just sleep in general.  Truthfully, I am so thankful she loves her daddy [almost] just as much as me now - and he is able to help in this area - so (1) I can finally go to the bathroom by myself and (2) we can tag-team bedtime now because it takes a long time - a LONG time.  

But speaking of not knowing - one of the things that has caught me off guard over the last month is how frustrating and sad it is to not know.  The first major doctor appointment we had outside of our regular pediatrician (who thankfully has been super understanding and has gone completely above and beyond during our transition) asked a hundred thousand questions.  Even after I explained our situation - and tried to make it clear that filling out all the paperwork ahead of time had already upset me - I finally had to say - listen - we really just DO NOT KNOW.  We don't know if she had a traumatic birth, we don't know how much she weighed, we don't know if she has had shots, or history of this and that - we don't know if her mom used this or that while she was pregnant -we don't know if she is allergic to anything - we don't know!  I'll have to do this multiple times over the next months - and it is going to just have to be okay that we don't know.  

God has answered so many of our very specific prayer requests regarding this first month with her -including our prayers about quick bonding with siblings.  I was so worried about Wyatt.  Almost sick to my stomach.  He has been our rowdy one - quick to temper and difficult to calm down.  He has been the baby for so long - and while he verbalized his excitement and had a million questions about her coming home - I was fearful he really had no idea what he was getting by having a younger sibling.  He hasn't missed a beat.  He loves her with a full-boar-pedal-to-the-metal kind of love that can only be slowed down momentarily if Cate rejects him with a true slap in the face.  Even then,  he will not be deterred when it comes to giving her constant hugs and kisses.  I can't count the amount of times I have had to say "please let your sister up, please let her breathe, please give her at least 6 inches of space, put her down, be careful when you squeeze her....." Mercy. This is what I prayed for though.  I am certain the day will come when he completely is annoyed with her - but so far - other than typical sibling spats - he just can't help himself when it comes to loving her.   Skylar has been a second mom - which I am certain doesn't surprise anyone who knows her.  In China, the babies call anyone who takes care of them "Ma" and Skylar is always having to remind Cate - "I'm Skylar - Jie Jie (sister)".  Skylar has been patient and kind and extremely happy to be sharing a room and space with Cate.  We are very very thankful for how everyone has bonded so far.

One of the biggest questions we have gotten is "how's her English?"  We have been shocked with how quickly she has picked up and seems to understand the majority of what we are saying.  Even in China after just a day or two we would say "go get your shoes - are you ready to go - come on - where is _____ - do you want ____" and she would communicate with us by pointing, babbling, yes, no.  We were on the elevator with another Chinese couple at a hotel during our last week in China and they looked at us and Cate - clearly surveying the situation - and looked at her and said "Ni Hao" (hello)  to which she replied "Hi".  We all got a good laugh.  Now that we have been home she has learned a ton of words and expressions very quickly.  Hi, Bye, See Ya, Good morning, Night night, Mama, Dada, Wy-it, Jie Jie (Skylar), Come on, Banana, Eat, Thank you, Watermelon, Sorry, Want more, Snack, [You're] welcome, outside, up, help, down, please, shoes, diaper and probably some I am forgetting.  Communication was one of our biggest fears going over there - and we are so thankful that she has been so receptive and her language seems to be blossoming.  She also attempts to repeat 99 percent of what we say - which can truly be hilarious.

Cate so far has loved everything that that we have given her to eat.  The only thing we really had trouble getting her to try was PB&J, surprisingly.  Skylar and Wyatt both had one and she was sitting between them and Skylar was able to talk her into trying a bite - she liked it! Hoping this continues since both of my other two can live off of PB&J and it sure makes a trip to the pool or beach so much easier!

We are sort-of in a good groove - and Cate seems to not mind much of anything we do.  She has visited family, the pool, the zoo, church, several friends and even been out to eat a few times - she is probably our most go-with-the-flow child - as long as she is fed she is usually very content.  

She has also totally warmed up to Nate - she says "Good mor'nan" each time she sees him in the morning and is very excited when he walks in the door before dinner (we are all very excited then).  Ha!


All in all - the past month as been so much smoother than we expected.  Yes, there have been hard moments - moments where communication was difficult, we couldn't soothe or calm her down and had no idea why she was upset, moments where exhaustion overpowered any other emotion and moments where the chaos of three felt overwhelming -- but the good, sweet, laughter-filled moments have far far far outweighed the other.  I have cried more tears in the last month than I have in years probably - happy, sad, frustrated, thankful tears.  ALL the tears.  But mostly just truly grateful-to-God tears.

I think my  biggest surprise at this point is how badly the kids are already begging us to adopt again.  They are so burdened for babies without mamas and daddies that it breaks my heart.  Skylar seems to have new questions everyday about Cate's birth mama - and how a mom could ever be in a situation where they would have to chose between taking care of their baby and leaving them for someone else.  We have tried to gently explain - with the limited information that we have - that we just assume she did not have access to the medical care that she knew Cate needed - and there came a time around 6 months old - that leaving Cate where she knew someone would find her and be able to take care of her - was a better option for Cate.  Cate's birth-momma didn't leave her because she didn't love her - her momma loved her so very much that she wanted her to have help that she couldn't give her.  Is this true? We don't know.  There are a hundred scenarios - but for now, this one seems logical based on the information we have and also seems the most tender to explain to a 6 year old.  

Still, Skylar feels terrible - but so thankful.  She says things like "I am so sad her mom had to do that.  But I'm so glad she is here"  which is EXACTLY how I feel. 

She also says things like:  "If everybody would just adopt somebody - the orphanages wouldn't have any more babies."  And that is enough to stop me in my tracks.  I digested this statement over breakfast through tears one morning as the kids were discussing how many babies we should have in our family.   I know that not everyone is called to adopt - or at least to do the adopting - but I feel like after this experience - even just a month in - I have never been more convicted that we are all able to do something.  Our pastor, Joby, said something shortly after starting the process that made it so much easier for me to pursue fundraising and to accept the help that was offered to our family.  He said there are three types of people (regarding mission trips - but in our case it easily translated to adoption) - there are the pray-ers (those who pray without ceasing, meet other needs), the pay-ers (those with financial means to support someone) and the players (the ones doing the adopting).  We can all fall into one of these categories.  We have had so many people who have supported us with cards, notes, reminders they are praying, meals, things for Skylar and Wyatt, diapers, hand-me-downs - many more bought t-shirts, sponsored envelopes and gave generously. All of us can do something for somebody so that there will be one less orphan.   

I know that Cate has been a blessing to not just our family - but so many - and I am so thankful that we fought against our fear and said yes.  I am praying that our family's story will help encourage just one more person to step out and say yes to adoption.  

I mean - we could have missed this......

Today, on our one month celebration of Cate joining our family - she sang part of the song Good Good Father in her sweet little baby voice.  

One month ago she was in an orphanage.  One month ago she had no concept of a father.  One month ago she had never heard the name of Jesus.  

Yet here she is - singing about her Heavenly Father.  Here she is feeling loved, knowing love, being loved.  It's just who He is and it's just who she is.  We are so thankful for the gift of adoption and we are so thankful that our Heavenly Father has gifted us with Cate.

Cate Sings

Friday, July 13, 2018


Today Cate and I took the jogging stroller out for a little spin - something I have missed doing! Since the big kids were at VBS - we went and parked and I decided to take the scenic route to see how she did.  She seemed to really enjoy it - although, truthfully she didn't sleep well so she might have been too tired to fight it.  We tried the park afterwards - but she had zero interest in the swing - and I didn't realize how little core strength she has until I put her in it and she immediately slumped forward.  I pushed her a couple times - but she kept saying "up" reaching out for me and signing please.  It was just as well because it gave me time to shower before picking up Skylar and Wyatt - which is what she really wanted to do.  As soon as we got back in the car she pointed to the car seats and started babbling and saying "Wy-it" "Jie Jie".  I think it is really safe to say she loves her siblings. 

I finally got a good picture of Wyatt and Cate this morning - suprisingly when I looked back at the 10  or so that I snapped  - this was the first one.  Which makes sense because I told him - just look at me and smile for two seconds and then you can look at her.  HA!  That's exactly what happened.

Look at my cute little stair steps!  

Sweet girl has already learned what to do when she sees me hold up my phone in her direction "cheeeeeeessee".

Bedtime tonight was exhausting.  We actually tried giving her warm milk to calm her before bed - which I think she really enjoyed - and just as she was about to get to sleep - our bedroom door barged open - Wyatt was "coming to check on Cate" -- which completely messed her up.  (Lucky he is cute and really was upset he upset her.)  She cried and cried (and cried and cried) after that.  To say I was frustrated would probably be an understatement.  I am really struggling in the area of knowing whether I am being worked over (which my gut tells me I am - because she wants to sleep on top of me) or whether she really just needs extra patience at bedtime right now. We haven't been home very long at all and this is all so very very new - to all of us! Thankfully, Nate relieved me after a while - and she let him pick her up and hug her but immediately wanted to be put right back down in the bed beside ours and went right to sleep. (See, I think she has my number.)  Maybe next time Nate will do bedtime. 

This will be our first weekend (where we aren't completely sleep walking) as a family of five!  So excited!

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Cate finally tried one of the muffins she made on Monday.  I tried to get her to eat one yesterday - but she refused and only wanted her egg.  Of course, with the encouragement of Skylar and Wyatt she was more than happy to try one. I think her smile says it all.  Delish!

Pre-VBS Photoshoot made me realize how difficult it is to get "good" smile and three kids looking in the same general direction in the same picture.  Also, I might never get a good picture of Cate and Wyatt smiling because he is always "kithing her fathe".  

On the way to VBS this morning he said "Isn't it so cool that we get to keep Cate forever?"  Yes, yes it really is.

Skylar:  "Mom! Look how sweet we all are back here holding hands - take our picture!"

I'm going to enjoy this before the new wears off and the sibling arguing starts going three ways.

We introduced Cate to Moes after VBS let out since Nate goes back to work tomorrow we figured one more family lunch was needed.  Cate ate half of a burrito bowl, chips and queso and most of oatmeal raisin cookie.  I'm so shocked at the amount she can put into her tiny body!

We saw the pediatrician this morning and she was very impressed with her language skills and general health.  We are so very thankful for a good report.  Lots of questions still exist - and may always exist, truthfully - based on what we don't know about her past.  There are several specialists we will be seeing over the next few weeks to try to get more information about her long-term health conditions and diagnosis.  We are so thankful for how well she is doing - and I really couldn't be more thankful that the Lord has given us such a peace about her medical "stuff" even before we knew her.  We will share once we have more definite answers - and as we feel necessary - but we are so thankful for the amount of love and support we have received this week alone.  I don't think I have been out of the house once that I haven't seen someone who has hugged my neck (only because they are attempting to hug Cate who I'm wearing - I'm sure! HA!) and said something encouraging to us.  We have been blown away by the amount of love this girl is receiving and we are so so SOOO thankful that we are able to share her story - and our families call to adopt with whoever is willing to listen. 

Terrific Tuesday!

We have decided since Cate is doing so well - and we know she will have doctor's appointments in the near future that Nate will want to attend - that he will go back to work sooner than we anticipated.  This makes me a little sad (oh my word, three to one ratio! Yikes!) but also a little happy (because - no offense, dad - but Momma needs a schedule and routine!)  I think it will be good for us to find our new groove - whatever that looks like.  

Cate woke up sad this morning for whatever reason.  She wouldn't let me touch her, hold her and she couldn't even look at me.  Part of me panicked thinking - the honeymoon is over - this is what we were prepared for and were expecting - lots and lots of grief - which would be totally normal.  Just as soon as it started and I gave her some space - she perked up and was happy to see everyone downstairs at breakfast.  

After Nate took the kids to VBS they spent some time playing together - seeing her walk around with this sideways hat had us both laughing. Also, Knox, begging for her love.  HA!

These girls read books after nap - and then we had to prepare to introduce Cate to our family tradition - Chick-fil-a Cow Appreciation Day!  The kids painted their faces last year - and apparently it was also expected this year.  Thank goodness I found an eyeliner pencil buried in a makeup bag because I wasn't savvy enough this year to remember to save any Halloween face paint.  

I had been dying to see her in this dress - only I forgot how small it was - we almost had to cut it off - WORTH IT! :)  When she saw me painting Skylar's face she sat right down - scooted over - pointed to her nose and signed "please" as fast as she could.  (This is a small victory - even just last week in China I thought she would never say or sign anything remotely close to manners as she was not required to do anything but bark orders and scream to get her way as the 'princess' in her orphanage.)   

The car dance parties are already more entertaining - and no, Wyatt isn't mad - this is his serious dance face.  Kills me.

First Cow Day as a family of F-I-V-E!

We were dying for a dinner that consisted of other adults - even it had to be outside of our house.  We are keeping visitors at our house limited right now - until Cate understands that we are definitely her people and the only ones that live here (it's called cocooning - I'll write more on this later).  She did so good at dinner - and even wanted to hug several people who she saw hug me - at first this makes me so anxious (we adoptive mommas worry about another thing called indiscriminate affection) - but I also want her to feel free to love the people she feels like loving and not feel pressure to love or not love anyone because of my preferences. :) Girlfriend ate a large fry and then some - tried the chicken but was not impressed (sorry to the cows) and enjoyed a tiny bit of ice cream but isn't too keen on cold foods.  She did have a blast though playing peek a boo, high-fiving the cow mascot and being the center of attention. 

The glare on my giant five-head is not flattering at all - but how cute are these other girls?!?  

Bedtime has continued to become harder and harder since getting home - not sure if its a security thing - or she is realizing that crying gets our attention. Still - she has adjusted so well and is so happy during the day that I try to remember that when the nighttime struggles come.  This is just the season we are in - and let's face it - bedtime with little people can take hours - adopted or not! 

Does it get any sweeter than a sleeping baby though?  
Besides a sleeping baby that actually stays asleep?  
I think not.