Tomorrow is a BIG day, a HUGE day, and I am SOOOO not ready for it. All summer, Katie had several evaluations by the school district: occupational, physical, social, and they used her medical test from June as well to come up with an educational plan for her. Last week, we finally had her IEP meeting (Individualized Education Plan) at Lake Drive School for the Deaf in Mountain Lakes...
This is my synopsis from that evening: "We're still processing all the good news... They are supplying Kate with MUCH MORE--"abundantly more than all we could ask or imagine" for her education and interventions. First of all, I want to reiterate that when we were considering WHICH special need to narrow our search down to as we were in the initial stages of adoption, and considering all the precious children waiting for families, we had heard the praises of Lake Drive School for Deaf in Mountain Lakes as one of the top deaf schools in NJ. We decided that, given that resource, we could best provide a great future for a deaf child, and started considering the deaf waiting children. Today was a wonderful affirmation of that decision. They are welcoming Katie into the deaf school's full day preschool (8:45am-2:45pm), 5 days a week (this was a surprise to us- we thought it was only mornings). The classroom is amazing and uses both speech and sign language, and has 4 teachers and 9 students. Transportation is provided, as well as daily speech therapy and occupational therapy there. The HUGEST part... I LOVE their staff. The administration advocated that Katie needs an Individual Para all day for her. Did you hear me? I nearly fainted... I didn't even dream they would provide one. That's a ONE-on-ONE person assigned to only Katie all day, signing and speaking to her, engaging her into every activity, and helping her adjust to a classroom setting. Doug and I are speechless. That's more attention than I can even provide her, all day long. I am trying to process it all-- I feel like I'll barely see my baby but she needs this and I believe that it's so good for her. She starts next Wednesday. We are absolutely THRILLED for what this means for her education, for her foundational skills, and for her future success. We are so very thankful to the Lord for allowing us to live in a country that can provide this for our child. AND I can't help but think of the moment I explained to her orphanage staff that day in May that she would have an excellent education. They were incredulous that one day she could have a job. The sky's the limit for Katie Grace. Thank you, Lord!"
Wow... she starts tomorrow morning. I'm overcome with emotion. Do you know what Katie's Chinese name means... She's "Katie Grace Xiatong Becker". Xiatong means "Summer Pathway" or "Summer Journey" in Mandarin... WHAT A JOURNEY this summer has been. I thought it would be- I expected it would be a journey for HER. What I did NOT expect, I just truly could not have imagined or prepared myself for-- what an incredible journey it's been for ME. Loving Katie is one of the easiest and hardest things at times I've ever done. Motherhood is hard for every mother. But special needs children's moms know-- it can be a particularly exhausting and trying experience for us. I have to work hard at "entering Katie's world", to cross over the walls that Neglect built, and meet her where she's at, and invite her into our world- a world that she has come SO much further in understanding this summer. I can promise you- this summer- mothering her has brought me to the best AND worst parts of me.
I've reflected on this summer of fourteen hours a day FULL of Katie. This is how has Katie ALREADY forever changed my heart:
1. I give grace and compassion to all mothers more freely now. Are you having a day that you are "losing your cool"? Been there, done that, more times than ever this summer-- especially during one of Katie's brutal insomnia episodes- once to twice a week she is wide awake from 3:00-6:30am. Yes, A.M. I'm not a nice mommy sometimes at that hour- and there were times I felt I was being pushed to the edge of my sanity and woke up Doug to take over Katie-watching-duty. I do not judge a mom who starts losing her patience in public, instead I pray that she'll get the encouragement and rest she needs. There's no room for judgement in a very humbled heart.
Katie sleeping in late after one of her insomnia nights-- she'll sleep through anything- even me vacuuming the room!
2. I notice opportunities to cuddle and draw Katie in. She comes to me more and more for companionship, but I usually still initiate. Only through hours daily of me attempting to engage with her, she is now made HUGE strides in the past few months in eye contact and now is even watching me sign. She understands now that I can actually communicate some useful information to her. She usually needs some prompting for signing, and regularly only signs about ten signs, but she is definitely understanding more verbal commands as well. She's a different child than four months ago.
Two of our eye contact sessions:
Another milestone for her:
(While it may be a sad picture, I promise you, it's GOOD in Katie's journey to attachment. Daddy came home from work and decided to run a quick errand. Cara got her shoes on and left with him. Katie brought me her shoes and I said no, since they had just left (K watched out the window)... And then she came and laid down next to her shoes and cried. Why is this good? Because she CARES! She wants to be a part of us. I promise, this is a good sign. We've got two Daddy's girls.)
3. I don't take time with Doug for granted. We are almost never alone and I love the chance to invest in our marriage and enjoy his company.
My wonderful date to friends' wedding-- we had such a great time!
4. I really understand, more than ever before, the hymn: "I need Thee, Oh, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee."
While I know that I'm always still Katie's mommy, it's very hard for me to wrap my mind around tomorrow. She'll be gone until 3pm everyday. Our home will never have felt so empty. (Cara is starting preschool 3 mornings a week but I know she'll still miss Katie terribly). I seriously feel like I'm sending my 4 month old off to full-day kindergarten. I KNOW it will be so good for her and I know it will be positive for me too, as I will be more rested and able to have energy to parent her better each evening. It's just such a big transition for my role in her day.
All ready for school in their new backpacks!
Would you please pray for her tomorrow as she has her first day? I know she won't understand that we are coming back for her (I'm driving the first few days, before they arrange transportation). School feels like a institutional setting and Katie may think I'm not coming back. I'm making a photo-sequencing album for her today to show her pictures of her at home, her in the preschool classroom, her with Miss Franklin (we took those pictures last week), and then her home with us again.
...now to prepare myself for tomorrow. Y'all, there's no way around it-- I'm going to be a wreck. This little 26 pound girl has turned our world upside down and I wouldn't have it any other way. "Katie" means "pure". Katie Grace Xiatong Becker... I have needed "pure grace" to make it through our "summer journey" but I have GREAT HOPE that this school year you will start to grow up and blossom more and more. You'll always be my baby. I love you so much.
Lord, help me "let go" and let You use this educational opportunity to brighten Katie's future. Thank You for using her this summer to change me. It's not been an easy journey at all, but