Monday, May 30, 2016

Pearl's Been Home for 1 Month! How Our New Normal is Going...

Tonight we went to a park.
We had a picnic, played on the playground, took a walk and rode bikes.  All normal things that other families do.  Except that we had a super special reason to celebrate our family time together.
One month ago today, we stepped off an airplane and began our new normal as a family of five.
As you may have already read or seen from my posts on Facebook, things are really, truly, going surprisingly well so far. Pearl has adjusted. Grace and Gloria have adjusted. We have adjusted.
We have a list a mile long of things we are grateful for, things we (& others) have prayed specifically for that God, in His kindness and generosity, have answered.
But...according to some adoption "experts" and others who've adopted (i.e. Jen Hatmaker), we are still in the honeymoon stage, basking in all the newness, but with a (possible) harsh reality around the corner.
If be it.
But tonight, I wanted to chronicle just how well the past month has been going.
I'll start with the most popular question we've gotten: "How are things with Pearl and Derek?"
Let me just tell you how stinkin' excited I am to say, "SO much better!"  
Bless him.  He has had to work really, really hard to gain her trust and frankly, get her to like him.  Sometimes he said he felt like Adam Sandler's character relating to Drew Barrymore's character in the movie, "50 First Dates". He and Pearl would be best buds by bedtime, but unfortunately would have to start from scratch the very next day.  But his pursuit of her has definitely paid off and perseverance, persistence, and love have won.
The two of them go for nightly walks outside. He reads to her. He pretty much does the whole bedtime routine and just today, held her during the entire church service. Pearl returns his love with big kisses, high-five's and "knuckles" constantly.
One of my favorite things she likes to do with Derek is to play "Copycat", a game she initiates all on her own. She moves in a certain way (shrugs her shoulder, claps her hands, folds her arms, etc.) and he copies her.  It's really amazing to watch her come up with so many different things and even more hilarious to watch Derek mimic her movements. This type of play keeps her engaged with him and is pure entertainment for the rest of us.
Overall, she is sleeping really well; honestly we can't complain.  She sleeps about 10 hours in the Pack 'n Play next to our bed in the evenings.  She may stir a couple of times during the night, cry out, but then quickly works herself back to sleep, without us having to get up to tend to her. 
During the day, she takes naps in her crib in her bedroom.  While she's gotten better with the routine of going to sleep in her crib, her naps have only averaged about a half hour each this past week. Thirty minutes is not enough for her...or me. But an after-church miracle occurred today when she slept two hours.  Oh, how I'm praying this will be her new routine!  Eventually, our goal will be to transition her to her crib in the evenings.  But for now, this is working and we don't want to throw too much at her, too quickly.
One of the things we are most thankful for is how well she has taken to the variety of foods we eat here.  We were pretty worried when we first came home a month ago, but certainly have no worries now. Our pediatrician was correct. She does want to eat whatever we are eating, especially whatever Grace and Gloria are eating. Positive peer pressure is a wonderful thing! 
Whereas she was a vegan before, she is most certainly an omnivore now.  Each meal she seems to try, and like, something new.  Recently, we've added cucumbers, carrots, grapes and hot dogs to her list. So far, her most favorite foods are sweet potato pancakes, oatmeal, protein smoothies, bananas, dates, pineapple, apples, strawberries, blueberries, cereal, goldfish, string cheese, yogurt, peanut butter sandwiches, black bean/cheese quesadillas, rice, quinoa, spaghetti, hamburgers, pizza, French fries, any kind of bread or dessert (like us all...) & of course, Chick-fil-A nuggets.
Slap some red, white and blue on our girl and call her an American!
It's been so cool watching all that her little brain has been soaking up--all she's seen and heard the past month.  Her level of comprehension is super high; now her vocabulary is attempting to catch up.  She LOVES music and LOVES to dance (especially to Toby Mac).  She also gets in the groove whenever we play some Bollywood for her. She loves when we sing to her.  The song she tries to sing by herself the most is the "ABC song".  Basically she just keeps repeating "A-B-C...A-B-C...A-B-C...", so one of us always has to step in and help girlfriend out with the other 23 letters in the alphabet!
Pearl loves riding in the car, in the stroller, in the wagon, and sitting in her high chair.  All things we were concerned she'd hate when we were back in India.  Bath time is improving, too.  Last night was the first night in a very long time when she didn't cry when the water was turned on and when she sat down in the tub.  This is a very good thing.  Not only for bath time, but also for our upcoming trips to the pool. We're all pretty curious as to how she'll do in a huge "tub" of water; maybe somebody could invite us to come swim so we can find out? :)  Good news is that she has a darling new swimsuit we can't wait for her to wear.  At the very least, she'll look adorable if she decides to throw a ballistic fit.
Her interest in toys has grown the last month as well.  Basically, we've had to teach her "how to play" from the get-go.  We're not sure how she spent her time in the orphanage all day, but thanks to her big sisters, she is learning how to play with baby dolls, Barbie's, and stuffed animals (which she's still not a fan of).  She is easily entertained with any toys with music and/or buttons that play music, so we're relieved to know she's a typical two-year old in that sense.
Pearl loves both of her sisters very much and squeals whenever she is reunited with one of them, even if it's only been a super short time since she saw them last. As anyone might have guessed, Grace is basically a second mama to her, loves to play with her, thinks whatever she does is adorable, and actually enjoys changing her diapers. Gloria is her playmate, but also her competition. The two of them play wonderfully together, but can also butt heads. Gloria comes up with some of the greatest games for them to play, but can also aggravate her little sister a bit, too. We think she seems to be enjoying her new role as a big sis, and all the privileges (and power ;) ) that come with it. Both Grace and Gloria are amazing helpers to us and Pearl.  We have been completely blown away at their fierce love for Pearl and how they constantly care for her.  We are SO proud of them!
And thanks to them, to Derek's new relationship with her, and to "blanket/towel time", I am finding some freedom and a little of my personal space back.  Whereas Pearl has been my shadow (um...leech) the past month, signs of great growth and security in her and in her relationship with the other members of the family are completely evident now.  I love that I am able to spread a towel or blanket in the kitchen while I prepare food, upstairs next to the desk while I work on the computer, or in my bedroom while I get dressed, place some toys on the towel, tell her to sit down and she will play contentedly a few feet away from me while I accomplish what I need to accomplish.  It's like a miracle. A super awesome miracle! (Thanks to my friend, Kelly, for reminding me of this tip, which I'd totally forgotten over the years.)
The past month has been filled with way too many emotions to record here, but my favorite by far, is joy.  We have laughed more the past month than honestly, I thought we would, especially this early in the game. 
I knew adoption was hard work.
I knew going back to the toddler years would be hard work. 
I knew language acquisition would be hard work. 
I knew that making sure my bio girls were okay, felt loved and acknowledged would be hard work. 
I knew staying connected to my husband would be hard work. 
I knew learning to care for a new little person in our home would be hard work. 
But I didn't know, or consider, or make room for, the tiniest, spontaneous, light-hearted, unexpected joy-filled moments along the way, even when I had actually prayed for them.  Shame on me for that.
One month into this new normal and we all have far more to be grateful for than to belly-ache about.  We still shake our heads in wonder and awe at how God orchestrated this entire thing. 
How he would draw us to the country of India, break our hearts for the mistreatment of girls in India, call us to adopt a little girl from India, provide for us to get to go to India, then match us with our daughter, whom no one would ever suspect, or guess, or believe, was born in India, but instead, actually looks a whole lot like us. Crazy.
Only a creative God could write a story like that. We are so humbled we are a part of that story. For His purpose. For His glory. For Pearl's present and for her future. 
"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which He is to be praised,
according to all the LORD has done for us--
yes, the many good things He has done for the house of Israel (Fort),
according to His compassion and many kindnesses." Isaiah 63:7
Looking ahead and looking forward to all the awesome works He will perform for, and in, our family.  Here's to month two and beyond!


Monday, May 2, 2016

Home Sweet Home...update! (originally posted on Facebook)

Fort Family of 5! 
Airport reunion--after nearly two weeks in India, the whole family is now together!
There's no place like home!
We've been home 3 days now and are settling into our "new normal" pretty well so far. 
Both Derek and I are still recuperating from the BIGGEST, most STRESSFUL, yet most EXHILARATING thing we've ever done in our lives and are feeling like we can begin to breathe again. 
I have adapted back to Georgia time much more easily than Derek, mostly because I hardly ever slept in India. Derek is suffering from some jet lag; SO grateful he has this week off to rest and also to be a part of the cocooning stage--trying to keep Pearl's world small as she learns to live with us as her new family. 

Cabin fever got the best of us tonight though, so we ventured out for a quick drive to the library to return some books. Short and simple, but at least Pearl got to take her first trip in our van and in her new car seat. She did fabulously well! Good thing...because we have to take her out again tomorrow for her first doctor's appt. 

Speaking of Pearl, we think she is totally rockin' it! With the numerous changes in her little life, she is demonstrating overwhelming resiliency to it all. Of course we've had some trying moments, but honestly, we can't complain. In so many ways, her merging with us has been so much better than so many cases we've heard/read about. As we suspected she would, she LOVES her sisters--easily entertained by them and learning so much from them. She has said both of their names already, which Grace and Gloria love. She is always reaching for their hands and is very interested in what they are doing.

Derek and Pearl are making positive strides in their relationship also. He has been taking her out for walks in the evenings and is still feeding her for the most part. She loves for him to do, "This little piggy" with her feet. Cracks us up how she will voluntarily lift up her feet to him so he can "wee, wee, wee all the way home." She also loves to give him high fives. Those are their special things right now. 

Through all the struggles Derek has experienced with gaining Pearl's trust and love, God has been painting a pristinely clear picture of His abundant, never-ceasing, always patient, always pursuing love for us. Sometimes I'm speechless when I watch how Derek models Jesus to Pearl. She will more than likely never understand the magnitude or the extent Derek (and I) went to to get her, the sacrifices, all the work. But it doesn't matter. Christ did all He did for us and we will never fully "get" all He did either. 
We continuously choose and constantly prefer so many other interests other than Him, even though He is always present and ready to extend His love to us. We will never fully comprehend all He did to save us, ransom us and make a way for us to be adopted into His family. 

Though her reactions are not always consistent, Pearl still turns away from Derek sometimes and doesn't like to be taken from me or be away from me. She prefers that I pick her up, be there when she wakes up, and console her when she's upset. She's still sleeping with us--part of that trust-based parenting and attachment necessary for her well-being right now. I have to be honest though...I will be very glad when she transitions to her crib. Hope that doesn't sound bad--just would love to have the extra space back in our bed!

The first two days we were home, we struggled to get Pearl to eat. In India, she developed quite the sweet tooth. For example, one of the main dishes she ate was white rice, whole milk and sugar. Yep. She also likes just about any kind of bread and dessert. We went with it there in India because we were just in survival mode, but have been trying to rectify her diet since we've been home. I was pretty worried about her lack of nutrition last night and sent a message out to my fabulous India group here on FB. They came back with some various options--some which I'd already thought to try. I'm happy to say, we had some great success today! And I couldn't have done it without my Ninja blender! It helped me be sneaky with our little one's meals. 

Whatever weight Derek and I lost in India (and we did lose quite a few pounds), we are gaining back in spades because of all the meals coming our way each evening. We are so richly blessed to have such amazing friends/family who are bringing us dinner, who have cut our grass, filled our fridge with groceries, placed fresh flowers around the house, made a welcome banner, put a huge pink bow on our mailbox (which has all our neighbors perplexed) given gift cards, purchased precious new outfits for Pearl, took amazing care of and loved on our girls while we were gone, and so on, and so on. We can't say enough about the abundant generosity that has been shown to us. We are just so incredibly grateful and in awe of all the love and prayers!! THANK YOU!

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