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!