Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas from Michigan!

We're leaving Michigan tomorrow with Scott's folks for the very long drive back to Florida but wanted to share a few pics before we leave. It has been a wonderful holiday despite Kate having a cold and there being no snow in Lake Fenton. Actually, there are a few flurries falling as I write this, so I'm hoping there will be just enough for Kate to see before going to bed tonight.

Thus far, Kate seems less than impressed with the cold weather -- especially having to wear a bulky coat. Christmas and all its trimmings, on the other hand, have made our little monkey very, very happy. So, was she impressed by the new Tickle Me Elmo, the dress-me Dora, the books, cd's, clothes, etc.? Nope, not really. What she really liked the most, and in this order:

1. Unwrapping the gifts (hers and anyone else who would let her help) and she was as serious about it as a bomb squad defusing a big one.

2. Candy!!!! (the pic with the bag of M&M's shows her making the sign for "candy" -- which she has repeated every time we sit down for a meal. It's all she wants, unless there are cookies nearby.)

3. The 8-pack of crayons, which she insisted on taking to bed (we took the crayons out first, which she fussed about but eventually accepted).

Enjoy the pics and say a prayer for a safe and uneventful (well, as uneventful as anything can be with my father-in-law involved) trip to Florida.

We're looking forward to celebrating Christmas with Oma and Opa (Melissa's dad and his wife) when we return and have already celebrated with the Florida grandparents (Melissa's mom and stepdad). Kate has been truly spoiled, and she's likes to remind us on a daily basis that she expects us to keep up the royal treatment. Wait until she gets back home and discovers that we've replaced her beloved crib with the toddler bed. We're blaming Santa.

The Lucky Ones
Scott, Melissa & Kate

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One Year Later, Luckier Than Ever....

Then and Now

Hello Sweet Friends,

Was it only a year ago that we were at the aptly named Lottery Hotel to meet our Kate-the-Great for the first time? I remember how it felt as the girls were marched in, held with such sad tenderness by the nannies. I remember fearing that I wouldn’t recognize Kate and, thus, wouldn’t deserve to be her mother. The rush of relief when I spotted her in the green outfit that is still too big for her was the best feeling ever.

Well, not the best feeling ever. The best feeling ever is that daily swell of pride and gratitude in knowing that Kate is our daughter, through and through – on the good days, the bad days and the utterly awful days. (And – yikes – we do have our share of those….)

Kate HaiYang is a hoot and a surefire hit wherever we go. She is a charmer who adores blowing kisses to babies, any male, and puppies. Her affectionate nature and love of life is simply contagious. She loves books, balloons, flowers, The Wiggles, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, books, music, butterflies and did I say books? Books are, by far, her favorite “toy.” Fantastic, you think. Um, yeah – but it’s a bit of an addiction with her. Better than crack, though, so we won’t complain.

Preschool has been a great experience thus far, freeing Melissa up to do her educational consultant job and Kate loves it. She attends three mornings a week and it has really helped her to develop independence, physical and social skills. There are three other kids in class and two adults in the room. It’s just awesome and they love our little girl as much as we could hope for.

Some of you might not remember that, when we met her, Kate could not get into a sitting position without pulling herself up, couldn’t stand or walk, wouldn’t even hold her own bottle, and only had three words in Chinese, etc. She is five inches taller and five pounds heavier, but the bigger changes are shown in her independence, curiosity, and bravery in trying new things. She is the best swimmer I’ve seen (well, for her age anyway) and loves to swim 8 – 10 feet while underwater, eyes open and everything. She’s a regular fish and we’re grateful that we live in Florida where we can spend more time outdoors.

We do face our share of challenges with Kate and we’re especially interested to hear if anyone else has experienced the same. Kate is in speech therapy and physical therapy currently and is awaiting an occupational therapy consult. Although her receptive language is above age level, her expressive language is minimal and sticks to one-syllable words (actually, the beginning sound of the syllable, typically). Her frustration at not being able to communicate what she wants results in plenty of meltdowns and a few acts of aggression. We’re working on incorporating more sign language to minimize the frustration while we work on the speech issue.

The physical therapy is to address her low muscle tone, which is considered fairly minor, except in her face (in my opinion). The drooling continues although she’s 28 months old and she’s working so hard at keeping her mouth closed (not easy when your facial muscles are so weak). She will probably wrap up with physical therapy in a couple of months, but speech therapy is expected to be long-term.

Mealtimes are typically the toughest times of the day. Kate continues to either refuse to feed herself (recently getting better), or stuffs her mouth so full that she chokes / gags. It is SO frustrating! Kate has been trying to feed herself lately, which is a HUGE accomplishment, and we are so, so, so proud of her. It has made us feel more encouraged, and so we approach mealtime with a better attitude.

We haven't been blogging lately, and although part of that was due to Melissa being so busy with work, that wasn't the whole story. We have been stressed. Stressed isn't the word to even cover it, quite honestly. For the longest time, we've been feeling that we were missing something as parents -- that maybe everyone else had been let in on some great secret which is why their children were talking, eating, not drooling through five shirts a day, etc. Finally, Melissa said to Kate's speech therapist, "something is wrong with my daughter and I've finally decided that it's not that I'm a bad mother." The speech therapist indicated that she, too, is frustrated by Kate's slow progress and that there might be a speech disorder rather than a speech delay. Kate's social worker confirmed that Kate is not like most kids, that she is what Melissa calls "more": in need of more attention, more one-on-one, more persistence, more focused intervention, just more. Both of them have commented that it's not an issue of intelligence, just skill.

We are addressing the issues, but to be honest, some days are just so hard. And even the most well-meaning people say, "Of course she's behind, she's adopted." But we know the truth: Kate is much more behind than her adopted peers and the gap in language has widened instead of narrowed. Her resulting temper tantrums have increased, despite time outs and other well-executed behavior modification programs. The only real reason we're sharing all this is so that other parents might spend less time beating themselves up and more time enjoying what is and working towards what could be.

Luckily, even the hard days are filled with laughter, hugs and love. Kate is clearly a smart girl who is just trapped a little bit in her lack of skills and a possible speech disorder. We are so very grateful that China chose us to be her parents, as we have the patience (well, most days), persistence and sense of humor to deal with whatever comes our way. And her issues are not big ones – just ones that require a lot of time and persistence to overcome. I hate to think of what would have happened to her had she not been chosen for us, had she remained in China.

We celebrated Gotcha Day by going out to dinner at a local hot dog joint that has family night. Kate delighted us by saying “hi” and “bye” to every single person and by eating a ton: clam chowder soup, French fries, fish and a big ol’ cookie. We gave her the Fisher Price A – Z Learning Zoo, as she adores animals and knows her entire alphabet and its sounds (just not how to put the sounds together!!!). It wasn’t a fancy day, but it was a perfect family day. We are blessed beyond belief. And very, very happy.

Lots of love from our home to yours….

The Lucky Ones….
Scott, Melissa & Kate

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Unlike the Great Pumpkin, the Prodigal Blogger Makes an Appearance, FINALLY!

Yes, yes, I know. I mixed my metaphors, randomly blending the Bible with Charlie Brown, but you get the gist. More to follow in the next few days as I post our photos and thoughts of our 1 year anniversary with Kate. For now, enjoy our pumpkin patch kid, stylin' and sweet. Many thanks to the Double Happiness Blog for starting the Family FotoFun Weekly Challenge that inspired me to get my butt moving on the blog again!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Letter from Kate's Foster Parents

Above is a surprise letter we received from Kate's foster family. A few months ago, a friend of ours went to Guilin to adopt their daughter, Sophie. I sent letters, pictures and gifts to Kate's orphanage and foster family. I included our address so that the foster family could contact us directly if so desired.

A couple of weeks ago, we got a letter from her foster family. Most of it expresses appreciation and happiness that Kate is doing well. I need to get a written translation, but that's the gist. What a wonderful surprise to receive the letter. I think I'll send them a disposable camera and return postage so that they can send some pictures of themselves.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Sending you birthday hugs and kisses! (Now, will you send me some of your birthday cake?)
Can't wait to see you and show you all the things I know how to do now. I know lots of my letters (a, b, c, d, g, h, k, p, s, t, v, w, z), can go down a slide all by myself, am working hard on being able to snap my fingers, and more. Come see for yourself. I love you and miss you. Oh, and hugs to Grandma, too.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

First Day of Preschool

What happened to my baby?

Kate loves, loves, loves preschool! More details later, when I have time to write. For now, I will tell you that she is one happy chick and that the last thing her teacher says to her each day is, "Kate, you need to put the book away now. Your mommy is here." Kate and her books....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kissing Cousins

Hi, I'm Sebastian. Aren't I adorable?
This is Kate making her move on me. I'm just going to play it cool. Hard to get always works, you know....

What? You really want to kiss me? You're going to hug me, too? Wait a minute -- I might be in over my head here.
We're a little young for all of this. Let's just hold hands.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

What a Happy Kid!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Quick Trip to the Park!

The Fourth of July weekend has brought us dreary, very humid, on-again, off-again stormy weather. Before the rains found us yesterday, I took Miss Priss to the park in the hopes that she would burn up some energy and finally sleep through the night (she woke up once -- not bad for her lately).

As I look at these photos (especially the last one), I can't help but ask, what happened to my baby? Where did this little girl come from all of the sudden?

What do you mean, "It's time to go."?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Kate-the-Great Turns Two!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Father's Day & More

Kissing Papa through the window -- she loves her daddy!!!

Hanging with her number one man....

New swimsuit!


Look who learned to climb -- Ta-da!!!

I had placed her basket of books on the "table" behind the coffee table so I could start cleaning up Little Miss Kate's mess. She didn't let that stop her, though! I wish we had the camera a few seconds earlier. She had her head stuck under the lamp shade and her rear up in the air. Very funny! Of course, our attempt at parenting has probably gone awry as we rushed for the camera, made her smile and THEN told her not to do it again. Can you say "mixed message"?

Finally asleep after screaming for two hours. What's up with those feet, kid?