Three months ago today we stepped off the plane and onto U.S. soil as a family of three. We were extremely bleary-eyed, but felt that the world was our oyster. We had the rest of our lives ahead of us to be together. We answered the call and God delivered. I have never felt closer to Him than that moment.
(For some reason my airport picture isn’t showing up here. boo.)
So much has happened in our 3 short months together. Our dear Odette has made more progress than I dreamed she could make in twice the time. She is truly the fairy tale of adoption stories. I really don’t think she could be doing any better than what she is. We prepared for the worst, but were blessed with the best!
Now it’s my chance to brag about my little girl.
- While we were still in DRC we started a list of medical concerns to discuss with the doctor at home. On it we wrote “uneasy walker”. That uneasy walker now runs, jumps, somersaults, twists, twirls, and is just plain rambunctious. Turns out all she needed was a play to run, jump and be a kid.
- When Odette first came home she would need to literally lay on top of me to sleep. Then she progressed to just needing to constantly touch us while sleeping. Just this week we have transitioned her to falling asleep on her own after prayers, books, and songs. She might get out of bed 3-4 times before actually falling asleep for the night, but baby steps people.
- Once we were home from Congo and Odette noticed that food was plentiful she asked to eat about every two hours. Her feet would barely touch the bottom stair and a warm breakfast would be served, followed by string cheese, bananas, mandarin oranges, and anything else we had around that she considered palatable. Food was part of her healing and helped us to build trust with her. These days we have to beg her to eat breakfast and she rarely snacks between meals. She does still ask for her beloved soso (chicken).
- Two months ago if I asked Odette to put on an outfit that she didn’t want to wear we would have a full-fledged tantrum meltdown. I’m talking crocodile tears, nearly hyperventilating, and shrieking. While I do think part of that was just due to the overwhelming transition and inability to share her thoughts, the meltdowns almost every single time stemmed from a wardrobe issue. She most definitely still has her preferred outfits and would wear them every 3 days if I let her, but she will now put on whatever I ask her to.
- When we first met Odette she knew no English. We had to teach her mommy and daddy even. We read blogs of others saying not the stress the language factor, that their kid just learning English through immersion, and that by month X they were able to communicate well. I remember thinking that it seemed so far off. How in the world do you survive that long without being able to communicate? In the beginning it was so very hard. I will tell you, just like everyone I heard from, it happens. It happens slowly, but easily. We didn’t use Rosetta Stone, or flashcards, or English lessons. We simply lived life and talked to Odette nonstop. She now sings over a dozen preschool songs (sure she mumbles a lot of the words, but hey so do a lot of 3 year olds), identifies over 20 animals, counts to 15, recites the alphabet with about 50% accuracy, expresses her feelings using feeling words (like last night when she told me that the big stuffed bear in her room scared her), speaks in 5 word sentences, tells sequential stories, and is really starting to carry on conversations.
- The little girl who lived in an orphanage and had no concept of a family thanks Jesus for her family every night and points to other families when out and about and asks if they are a family. Not to mention that on one of our final summer days together, Odette was role-playing with her dolls and said “Mommy and daddy are coming. You adopted. You family. Yes, yes, yes!” She knows family. She has a family. She also will tell us that she loves us big and will name others that she loves little or even medium.
- As I alluded to above and have written about many times, Odette had some health issues when we picked her up. She was coughing, wheezing, sneezing, fighting nasty intestinal parasites and ringworm, but never once acting uncomfortable. She took everything in stride as if it was all she had ever known. Odette is now a true American and has learned the magic of a bandaid. A tiny little scrap and she is asking for one. I kiss boo boos better, too. I was reminded how far she has come when her teacher told me that Odette told her that her tummy hurt. That is big people. She has learned that she will be comforted and cared for. She isn’t left to fend for herself.
- I will never forget that after about 24 hours with Odette I told Jeff that I just wished she could be her own person. I wished she would know that she doesn’t have to do everything we ask. She was as sweet as could be and was almost like a living puppet. I wanted her to be confident in herself and have a shining personality. To be in our family she needs to stand strong. She needs to be silly, goofy, crazy, sassy, and opinionated. I didn’t want to raise a push over. As I said the words I knew I would later eat them. Odette is quickly developing likes and dislikes and making her thoughts well-known. She understands that she has an opinion and that it will be respected. She isn’t too keen on not always getting her way, but what kid is?
So there you have it. Those are some of celebrations I can think of tonight. Can you believe it? I sure can’t.
She is one mighty awesome gift God.
And wow do you all know how to make a mom feel good! The comments of encouragement and suggestions for how to handle the preschool situation rock. Honestly, what means the most to me is that knowing that I am allowed to feel the way I do and that I can share my ventings with you.
Anyone else out there feeling as happy about tomorrow being Friday as me?