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Monday, May 26, 2014

First Week Home!

What a whirlwind! 
"Yami" (my mom) has been such a help!!! This week she has helped me with the girls so I could call insurance and add Katie and confirm coverage for all the tests, ultrasounds, imaging, evaluations, etc. I also officially dropped off the letter to request a child study team to the Board of Education for our town last week, so we've scheduled a meeting. We are getting the ball rolling in all areas, educationally and medically.
Katie went to the pediatrician and had blood work and ISN'T anemic anymore, yay!!!

We NOTICE her needs...
I wanted to share a moment that really moved me. Friday, I put a cute halter sundress on Katie that had a scratchy tag on her back. She kept itching her back until she had big scratches on her back. (I noticed the scratches and figured it out). I simply went and got out a Band-Aid and she watched me closely as I unwrapped it, not knowing my intention with it. I placed it over the tag on the inside, eliminating the itchy-ness immediately. She looked up at me and SMILED, then giggled, then skipped around. Someone had not ignored her for once. Someone had seen she had a need, observed it, and then moved into action on her behalf to meet that need and eliminate a grievance she was experiencing. She was delighted that someone NOTICED her. I'll never forget that moment.

We have many moments like that, like on Adoption Day, when she dropped a package of food under the breakfast table and she immediately frowned and sulked. I handed it back to her and she looked totally surprised and her whole face lit up in a huge smile. In an orphanage, it's "finder's keepers". You drop a toy or food, and you can forget it, it's someone else's now. But she's in a loving family and we CARE about her now. She also LIGHTS UP when I put a pretty dress/ outfit on her, and sticks out her head eagerly for me to put her bow on. Then she waits silently for me to lift her up and show her her beautiful reflection in the mirror. You ARE beautiful, my babydoll!

ready to go to Park's Lake beach for the first time!

Katie has been growing and blossoming as she explores her world!

first cheerios and (lactose free) milk

swing with Yami

first finger painting and stamps

in Daddy's shoes!

Kate is "kicking butt and taking names" with puzzles right now. I don't think she had EVER seen a puzzle until six days ago (even though we sent one to her foster family. Hmmm.) She loves the set of 6 of them we have. She's showing Yami her skills here.  She is RAVENOUS with her puzzles and blocks and creative play!

One of the FIRST times she let me "read / sign" a book to her!!! Signing "cat".

Sliding down with Aunt Krista and Mama

Can you tell she's happy when Daddy comes home!?!?

Also, GUESS who has signed, not only "Daddy" four times, and "eat" twice, but has now SAID "Ma-ma" four times now, and THIS MORNING signed "more" for the first time! 
(After she potties, I wash her hands and then help move her hands to sign "chocolate" and I give her one chocolate chip. Then I move her hands together to sign "more" and I give her another one. Today, after the first chocolate chip, she signed "more" by herself!) YAY!

Yami said it best, "It's like when she wakes up, she realizes her dream is still coming true, she still has a family!" We feel the same way about waking up to her! One week home and she's getting much more bonded to Cara (and used to her constant tickles and affection). She laughs and coos immediately when Sister hugs her every morning!

Celebrating Daddy's birthday!

Thank you for reading and caring about our miracle girl!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quick first days home update! Will do more in a couple days!

Where have I been? BUSY! Lol, and sleep deprived but joyful!

My Facebook status from an hour ago  (My mom came yesterday for eight days! Yay!)
"Sometimes you just need your mom. My sleep deprivation had caused migraines and more weight loss (It's impossible to have an appetite on an average of 3-4 hours sleep for the past 7 days of travel and toddlers on opposite jet lagged sleep schedules). My mom got here, had me eat half a gluten free pizza for lunch ("Ah Pizz" in Denville is wonderful, even if they have a strange name), lol, sooo good! And suggested I take 2 Unisom, just for one night, I really avoid those (Melatonin or an occassional Z-Quil only worked for a couple hours but I had been waking up constantly.) We knew the girls would sleep through the night and they did again. I slept NINE HOURS STRAIGHT. I'm a new woman. Thank you Lord, for my mama. 
My girls are so resilient and absolute joys! The sleep issue has really been the only difficulty for me. Cara has had almost no jealousy at all, and has been incredibly gracious to K and (you can ask my mom), goes up to K to kiss her, hug her, tickle her, say she loves her several times an hour. (K smiles at first but eventually pushes her off her, lol). The adjustment with Kate has been nothing short of a miracle. SHE is a miracle. To understand her heartbreaking background then to spend an hour with her, brings people who "get it" to tears. She's so curious, inquisitive, creative, delighted, and finds JOY in the fact that she KNOWS she has a family now and she is LOVED, even adored. She has a long road, but by God's grace, we are doing wonderfully!"

She still loves apples! (skinned)

Guess what?!? This child is now almost re-potty trained! Her Pull-ups have been totally dry and clean since coming home. I just showed her a picture of her on her old bucket potty in China and sat her down. She giggled at the picture and went! Easy peasy! I put her on it every 3 hours, give her the big foam book, and sign "potty", and give her two chocolate chips right afterwards. She's awesome!

It was so fun introducing her to our church family. Everyone was so gracious and careful with her and she had fun! She especially came alive as Daddy held her by the loud speakers and Mommy signed the worship song where she could see. She loved it and was laughing. 

First corn on the cob, she LOVES it!

A quiet picnic with my babies! How I adore them!!!

They were ready to pick Yami up at the airport!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Day 16 & 17: coming HOME! :)

Thursday, 5:30am China time,  we began our 30 hour mega itinerary home! We drove a few hours to Hong Kong. The cuties at the airport:

On the 12 hour international flight to California, Cara slept 5 hours, but Katie only TWO and each of us, only one. As soon as we landed, Katie became an American citizen automatically! YAY!

We were so exhausted, I almost fell asleep. with Katie strapped to me, walking through customs...
The flight from San Francisco to NJ was much better. Katie fell asleep a bit before it and slept the whole time: SEVEN hours straight. Cara slept 5 hours. Doug and I each got a tiny nap. 

Our family was SO excited to meet Kate. The girls received a wonderful surprise: this was our princess chariot limo last night, the Becker family never disappoints!  Seriously, Jenny and Michael and Mom, we are still all talking about how awesome our homecoming was, (from the sunglasses to feather boas to the bracelets and crowns, the balloons from you all, the champagne, the stuffed animals, the plethora of new matching dresses from Grandma)... it was just SO wonderfully Becker!  I know Opo would have LOVED it too, and would probably have sported a boa before the cameras could catch it! lol. We feel so loved, and we had so much fun. THANK YOU!!!!!

 Katie and her Auny Jenny

We came home to a sparkling home filled with gifts, groceries, meals, and the sweetest banner from Kristy and signed by our church family. Katie knows this is home and she loves it! She's been giggling and happily cooing. The girls are bathed and Cara just rocked Kate to sleep. "I love my baby", she said. Me too! Both of them! Home!!! It is soo surreal, I said the first night, and yet, the MOST real it has felt. This is our home, and she was actually snoring next to me in OUR bed. So real, no one can take her away now!!!

I will post pics of there first days home soon! It's bedtime (again) at 4:30am! :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Day 15: Packing up, a garden walk, and the Pearl River dinner cruise!

What a GREAT family day, our last in China!
The pictures say it all!!! :)
She's got spunk! lol

Our Pearl River dinner cruise... everything is more affordable in China! :) We loved seeing the gorgeous sights of Guangzhou, is was a perfect, breezy warm night for it!

Excited for it to start!

Looking at the old opera tower that lights up and changes colors!

*** A tearful Thank You!....Goodbye for now!  "See you" in Jersey! Pray for a safe and manageable trip (30 hours from door to door, from here to Hong Kong to San Francisco to Jersey) with these silly two! 

THANK YOU for journeying with us, I never felt alone. Your support and prayers carried us through. I said to Doug, this trip was SO much easier, better, more magnificent than I could have ever imagined! Thank you LORD for your grace and mercy! We are still pinching ourselves, it's SOOO unbelievable to us that we came to this country 16 long days ago as a family of 3 and we are leaving as a family of 4. We really didn't get too many souvenirs, we just don't need them. We are coming home with the best gift EVER, a daughter, she's REAL and we already could not imagine our family without her, even for a minute. She's our lifelong dream come true! To know Katie Grace is to love her and I hope many of you will get the opportunity to know her!  Watch out America, here she comes!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

As we prepare to come home...

(Make sure to read the paragraphs in bold at the bottom of the post). I have literally dreaded writing this blogpost for the full twenty-two months since we knew we were adopting. It's necessary but it's so un-natural to me to ask people for physical space. Okay, so if you know me, I'm a very open person. I am very social. I'm a hugger. I love to include people. I have a hard time saying "no". Some of these things will have to shift, slightly, in a way, when we first get home.

What in the world do I mean? Well, I'll still hug you! But there's some guidelines that the adoption attachment experts REALLY strongly suggest we follow...
FIRST, the philosophy behind it. Katie is in a normal state of confusion and transition... EVERYTHING she has ever known and EVERYONE she has ever known are now gone and she is attempting to re-write her story and understanding of everything from eating utensils (chopsticks to spoons), to toilets (split pants and bucket to Western toilet-- but for now, diapers again), to family (people who cuddle her and give her loads of attention and nurture her). At this delicate time, our family is choosing to focus on her healthy attachment and bonding to us. Most newly adopted children are very behind developmentally, and if you watched my orphanage videos, you would see why. As well-intentioned as an orphanage is, especially when they are low-staffed, they simply cannot meet the social, emotional, and developmental needs of each child. An orphanage can never replace a family. I am so grateful that Katie got to be in a foster family for awhile but the damage of 2 1/2 years in an institution with metal bars being her surrounding for the majority of the day has taken it's toll on our baby. In addition to that, there's a huge piece of it that she is deaf and was never given ANY language. This dramatically reduced her social development as well as her understanding of the value of eye contact and social relationships.

This said, SHE IS IMPROVING dramatically, in leaps and bounds, everyday. On the first two days, she gave little to no eye contact. I don't think she ever perceived a reward for eye contact, and no one attempted to communicate anything to her besides food, potty, and punishment. In the past week, she is really, really improving and will lock eyes with us, look at us when we sign "Mommy, Daddy, Cara, eat, banana, potty, bath, poop, shoes, no, funny, brush teeth, rice, water, please, I love you, again, more, book." Those are the signs we currently use regularly that she even notices.... (I have about a 700 word ASL vocab right now, so it's not for lack of knowledge, it's just difficult to get her attention, and we don't want to overwhelm her.) She HAS signed Daddy 4 times, has voiced Ma-ma to me twice, and definitely, definitely understands and responds to the sign "no", and "eat". She reaches for us, wants to be held, lights up when we scoop her up, cuddles with us, holds our hands, prefers us over strangers, comes to us to be comforted, and really all those things mentioned are things that some adopted children take a year or more to accomplish within a family. They are all considered aspects of "attachment".

We have a long road, but face it with faith and joy knowing the Lord has great plans for her and since we see such an improvement in 9 days, we know in 9 months she'll be a different person altogether. She's blossoming, by God's grace and we know she has a wonderful future ahead of her!

Because of her developmental deficits, we are following the advice of adoption experts and the practice of all international adoptive families we know, and we are "going backwards" WITH Katie, before we push her forward. She never had a mama to rub her back and cuddle her, she never had the true baby stage. She wants to suck her thumb, she wants to sleep next to us, she wants to be held a lot. We totally allow her. Developmentally, there are many ways that she is like a non-verbal 18 month old baby. We let her be. We aren't about to tell her, "You're 4 1/2 year old child! Sit up straight!" Nope. Not going to happen. Those around us may judge us, but that's ok. We DO sign "no" to her, lol, probably 75 times a day, because like a tiny toddler, she is into EVERYTHING. We have to watch her constantly, she's super curious and mischievous, we have to keep all chokeable objects away from her, electronics: Doug found her jumping on his Mac laptop! lol.

We never did co-sleeping with Cara, with Katie, we will. We tried to not let Cara suck her thumb, and she only got a pacifier until she was 3 months, with Katie, we will not force her to stop, that was her only comfort for years. With Cara, we let other people from church, and friends, hold her and hug her, and even kiss her chubby cheeks. At our church, Cara is everyone's baby. Not with Katie...

It's extremely important that Katie learns who her family is, and who provides for her, who is Mommy and Daddy and her protectors, and who she should be affectionate with. For an undetermined amount of time after we are home, at least a couple months, maybe SEVERAL months, we ask a couple things from our friends, church, and community: All of these things were taught to us in adoption training, by adoption attachment experts, and by friends with adopted children:
1. Please do not scoop up Katie, even if she's standing with us and reaches her arms out to you. You can let us know that she looks like she wants to be held. If you meet her, please don't rush up to her and shake her hand. (Imagine so many strangers rushing up to you and grabbing at you, even with smiles, it would be scary.)
2. Please don't hug her or kiss her or tickle her, she really needs to learn appropriate affection boundaries and what should be kept for family.
3. Please do not feed her anything, or hand a present directly to her. (This was hard for me to understand at first, but apparently a newly adopted child is very confused when everyone else feeds her and offers toys and gifts. Any toys or gifts should be given to us, and we will hand it to her... I know, it seems odd, and it's hard for me to ask). BUT, especially FOOD!, Katie will eat until she throws up, literally. Children in orphanages are often fed too little and not often enough, and feel powerless with food, so when they have access to an unlimited supply, they overeat and they can even hide it in their pockets, etc. When we feed her, know that we've figured out what a good amount is, and we are not trying to deprive her but help her find appropriate food boundaries.
4. We need a bit of physical space. So many friends have said, so kindly, that they want to meet Katie. Hear me out: I LOVE THAT YOU LOVE OUR BABY! I love that you cheer for us and for her. I love that you say that you just can't wait to meet her. 
FOR HER SAKE, though, in the first days, those that drop off meals are really "dropping them off", in our stairwell, not upstairs in our home... we have to introduce her to our home, and remind her that our home means our family only for now. We will have Grandma over and we will go to visit our other family in the first few days, but we aren't doing playdates for awhile or probably not church the first week (Doug will preach this Sunday). We may pick the most deserted playgrounds when we are getting the wiggle worms. We are her parents and are trying to do what we have been advised is best for her, and it is subject to change. We look forward to introducing her to our family, and slowly to our friends, and eventually to our community.
Please remember that we do love you so much, we appreciate your prayers and support more than we can say, but we have to prioritize meeting the needs of a child who never had all her needs met. We are making social sacrifices and making decisions for Katie's sake, because we love her and want to see her feel secure, protected, and loved.  She deserves it! 

Thank you SO much for making it through this blogpost! Thank you in advance for your compassionate understanding! Family and friends: we love you! :), Jamie & Doug Becker

Day 14: U.S. Consulate appointment and Thai Celebration Dinner

This morning we girls got dressed in our traditional Chinese silk dresses and we all went to the U.S. Consulate to give our oath, about the veracity of our U.S. Visa application for Katie. We now wait 24 more hours for the Visa to be placed in her passport, before we can fly into the U.S. with her. The moment we land in California on Thursday, she becomes a U.S. citizen! :)

Just look at Katie-bug in this picture!

My two princesses were GLOWING in their dresses!

I love how her eyes turn into charming moons when she belly laughs!!!
Can you tell she's happy to be a Becker?!?

We went to the pearl market to hand pick a couple freshwater pink pearls that they then made into an earring and pendant keepsake set in front of us...

We relaxed at the hotel in the afternoon, Duggy even watched the girls so I could take a nap, I've been sooo hungry in these past two days since I am feeling better, that all I could dream about was guacamole! Lol... I see a trip to Chipotle in my future!
In the evening, we went out to our first restaurant in days, to a Thai restaurant. With our guide translating and checking and double checking and triple checking with the cook, we enjoyed AMAZING coconut and duck curry (without the usual wheat flour they add). The girls were so cute, pretending to eat dinner before the food came!

Tomorrow is our last day and though I am excited to introduce our baby girl to our families, I just want to hold on to our memories and these first family moments! I'm so glad I did make time to blog, I'll always have those thoughts that I was feeling at the time and pictures to reminisce! I can't help but wonder, will we be back one day?