Our New Normal

I’ve been avoiding the keyboard. My fingers were getting twitchy. So, I thought I’d take a brief moment and catch you up on our new normal.

Our new normal includes pumpkin spiced everything. It includes a 10 mile race…literal race that I haven’t prepared for. That’s a lie. The only thing I’ve done to prepare is purchase a new pair of shoes to replace the ones with the giant hole in the side. Our new normal includes lots of mixed emotions from all six of us about our mainland adventures. Our new normal is attending a church with well, a different format than we are used to but we are all pretty excited about it. Our new normal is lots of things. It’s also an autism diagnosis. 

Four years ago, one of our four greatest blessings came about like this.

He was tiny. He was incredibly stinky. He was scared. He could barely walk. I remember writing that as we peeled away the layers of clothes Jack felt hollow like a baby bird. The biggest deal…he couldn’t communicate. He didn’t say anything in any language. If you are new, you can read a little bit about his adoption day here

I just looked through some of the posts I wrote in China. I’m slightly horrified now about what a state of denial I was in there. I mentioned that he said “Mama” and “Baba.” If he did, it was only repeating it. I would be months before he understood the concept of names. 

Through this blog we’ve talked about Jack’s struggle to communicate, his frustrations with not being able to express himself. We’ve had lots of things checked in an effort to help him. Through it all, he’s kept us laughing.

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He has changed so much in the last four years. On Monday I took him to a new specialist. She is a pediatric developmental specialist. Jack was put through a series of evaluations but at the end of the appointment with all the questions, I felt like I was the one being evaluated. 

At the end of the appointment I was told Jack really doesn’t seem to be on the autism spectrum. We needed to start looking at other things like his IQ and learning disabilities. I left a little relieved and very worried. Very scary things were mentioned. I knew we were just starting. 

The next morning, the doctor called me at home. She said that as she wrote the report, looked at her notes and went over some of Jack’s behavior she was rethinking her first diagnosis. So, just before the bus stop for about 45 minutes we went over the parameters again. Jack has high functioning autism. She believes that the cause of his autism was lack of stimulation, poor nutrition and basically his institutionalization. 

In all honesty, it’s a bit of relief to have a name but it’s like the gate of the road has just been opened. We all have lots of evaluations to trudge through. We have a list of therapies to try. I have a meeting at his school in the morning to decide how we can best use this information to get some of their testing started, and see what we can do to help him at school. 

I have a very dear friend who’s son was diagnosed a long time ago. This year, he’s off at an excellent university all by himself. She told me that she heard about an autism cure. She asked her son if he would want it. He said he wouldn’t because he wouldn’t be the same person without autism. I apparently need to fly right off to his college to love on him…even though he would absolutely hate me for it. 

So I’ve been engulfed in research. I’ve been chatting with old friends that have walked this road before me. I’ve prayed. We’re ready. We would still appreciate your prayers, especially tomorrow as we try to get a new IEP. It’s going to be a marathon. It’s time to train. 


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Student Of The Week

Bria was selected to be Student of the Week in her class this week. She is super excited about it. She brought a poster home on Thursday and worked all weekend to color it and fill it out. This kid cracks me up.    

I would love to show you the entire poster but she gave entirely too much information to put out on the open internet. She carefully chose how she would fill out each question. At first she thought she would write that she has two dogs, Haole and Tucker as one of her interesting facts. Then she thought better of it. She needed facts that would bring questions. She also wanted facts that no one else would have. There is a reason Ray calls her little b. Haole and Tucker were promptly added to her family list. 


Here’s what she came up with:

  1. I am the only kid in my family that was born in the United States.
  2. I walked across a volcano and into a lava tube.
  3. I swam with sting rays and fed them.

If you notice her picture, she wanted to go ahead a cover that she also swam with dolphins. The picture freed up more space for fun facts. 

Other fun things we learned about Bria include her favorite food being apples with peanut butter. She also likes school and loves soccer but we knew that already. My favorite is that she wants to be in the military and a teacher. She says if she teaches the military she’ll get both bases covered. 

Today she shares a favorite book with her class. It was tough for her to pick but her favorite is currently The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. I must admit, it’s a favorite of mine too. I may have died a little when I got to peach crayon’s complaint. (Spoiler alert: He’s naked.) See, now you’ll buy the book just to see what I’m talking about. You people are shameful.

Tomorrow Bria can share a picture and an object and tell her class why they are special. Again, it’s a problem. Does she take in the Coke bottle with her name or her favorite stuffed animal? 

Thursday all the kids will write Bria letters that will go in a book. I just love these. Jack received one in Hawaii that I will treasure forever. 

On Friday she gets to bring the book home. I can’t wait.

It’s a big week for our little britches. She is busy soaking it all up. 

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USA Band Competition 

On Saturday I hitched a ride with two other moms and headed to Annapolis to the Navy and Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the USA Bands Competition.


I never thought my first time seeing that field would be for Arleigh. It was a bit surreal to walk into the stadium…even with Ray’s favorite Dancing Goat.


I can’t wait to go back for a football game. And of course, my beloved Hawaii is never far from my mind. I sat across from the Pearl Harbor sign.


I’ve never been to a band competition. I had no idea what to expect. As a new band parent, I certainly have an appreciation of the work it takes to compete. These kids and some of the parent volunteers have really done an amazing thing to prepare for these events this year.

Honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know music. I knew Arleigh’s high school looked awesome but so did all of the other schools performing. Before the awards were announced we enjoyed a great performance from IUP. They were AMAZING. 

Here’s Arleigh’s band. 


She’s the third sax from the left, behind the “N” in Navy. (I think. It’s hard to see on the computer screen.)

She was so great. Marching is completely new for her and I’m amazed at the choreography. I think that was clearly my word for the day… and impressed. 

They were one of the larger bands and in the last group to perform. We waited with baited breath watching them watch from an upper deck. 


I’m happy to report a big fat WIN!!!! I’m so happy for the seniors. What a great way to start off their freshman year. It was such a great and tiring day. 


I’m also happy to report Bria has a win and scored several goals for her team. It was a great weekend to be a Stiff. 

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Picture Day

Today is picture day for these two.

This morning I trimmed Jack’s hair, busted out the iron for their little shirts and even the curling iron for Bria’s hot mess hair. There is nothing like picture day at a new school to put fear into the heart of this mama…especially when I didn’t realize it was picture day until 5 minutes before they went to bed. Bria has already complained that I am not fixing her hair like the other girls. I’ve been warned about what to wear. Sigh. We really are back in the south even if it doesn’t feel like it. 

So here they are. Thank you Carrie for Bria’s cute saved my morning outfit! We made it! Now I’m off to double check the calendar so that hopefully I won’t always be a day late and a dollar short. Wish me luck.

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Finding Our Aloha

Yesterday I picked a child up from school. She was sobbing, “I miss Hawaii. I fit in there. It was all just easier.” Amen, sister. (I didn’t really say that.) I told her about all the great friends she’s already made and all the great activities and opportunities we have here.

Facebook was left open on Big Mac and Bria saw a picture of her sweet friend standing by the water. Her response was sucking in her breath and saying, “Oh Katey… Mama, I didn’t know I missed the beach so much and Katey.” I miss seeing this…

My miniature surfer is turning into an east coast girl quick. She still throws a shaka in every picture though. 

The reality is, my kids didn’t love Hawaii’s schools for the first month or so. If you asked Arleigh, she would say she didn’t love it the first year. The reality was it took her sixth months to find her groove. Even if you couldn’t find your groove during the week, we had the weekend and this…

(Photo credit Clark Little Photography)

The difference is we’ve entered the rat race. This weekend is crazy too and there is no aloha beach to escape to. 

Maybe I’m in a mood because I have an appointment at the doctor today because I’m turning into a crazy old lady with mood swings and a few other problems that I won’t embarrass my children by mentioning here. 

I need a job to start saving for our Hawaiian vacations. We all need to find ourselves a little aloha soon. 

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What’s Happening Around Here…In Other News

It’s pajama day for this kid… 

 Who knew that it would be so hard to choose pajamas? Everyone needed to know she was in pajamas because it was a reward for her class. No one could know she was in pajamas because the older kids would tease her, especially on the bus. Second grade isn’t supposed to be this hard!

There is a giant bean weed growing in my window. 


We have officially started the third week of school. That’s week two of the science project. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long year.

I have a child on electronics restriction, including phone. Why does it feel like I’m punishing myself when I show my kids there are consequences for their actions? 

Tomorrow night I’ll need to pick Ray up from the metro somewhere between soccer, marching band, cross country, dinner and homework. Wednesdays are pretty much the devil around here…or more like it I’m the devil trying to keep up with our crazy schedule.

This dog…

has been in heat. Heaven help me. Someone get her to the vet. Did I mention this lovely house has white carpet? Ugh!

Thankfully today is our off day for math homework. (Thank you block schedule!!!) We have no activities planned outside of a brief drama meeting. The only thing on my schedule is my kids and that makes me one happy Mama! 

In other news I’ve submitted my package to Fairfax County to be a substitute teacher. Yikes! I may have lost my mind but it’s also a great way for me to earn some extra cash for all these kids around here. 

I think that briefly catches you up on the crazy happening around here. We are one hot mess but we seem to function better like that.

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