I know where I was exactly eight years ago…on a beach that was a bit more than chilly with a bundled up 5-month old waiting for her sisters to cross their portion of the Shamrock Marathon. It was a gorgeous sunshiny day in Virginia Beach. I don’t know where Jack was. I’m not sure if he was already here or preparing for his spectacular entrance into the world. I remember what I was thinking that day as Arleigh and Hanan ran together across a finish line. I was thinking I was tired but I couldn’t imagine Bria growing up to run across the finish line by herself. Eight years ago I was still a few weeks away from being pregnant with Jessa. I had grand ideas of what our family was supposed to look like and how things would go. 

Obviously my heart still pines for the sister we lost but I also know that Bria is totally okay actually more than okay with running a race by herself with all of us standing by to cheer her on. It’s days like today that I stop and think about what ifs and thens. My now is so much different than I ever thought it would be. My now still has one empty spot that is glaringly empty but my now is pretty great. When Jack came to live in the orphanage he was about the same age Bria was when I was wagging her up and down that beach. What would that have been like? To be asked to leave her, to think that was better for her, to walk away? I can’t imagine the pain except on some level, I ache knowing Jessa isn’t with us in our day to day tasks. So today is one of those days that I think about some other someone on the other side of the world and the pain she must have knowing he isn’t with her. I know on those anniversary days the pain is even more pronounced. I feel for her.

Today I’ll stop and wonder about Jack. I think about his birth parents, especially his mother. I’ll be honest and say for a little while, especially considering the institutional damage that’s been done to him I was pretty angry with them, with China and with all that he was forced to endure for three and half years. Now, my heart aches for them. I wonder if they wonder about him. I wonder if they’ve looked for him. I would like to be able to tell them he’s okay. In fact, I would like to be able to tell them he’s better than okay…He is so loved. 

Instead of sitting here misty eyed, I’ll tell you 8 great things about my newest 8-year old. (I do have two of them.)

  1. Jack is currently working on inference with his speech therapist. It’s a fun time to watch him grow. His world is literally growing exponentially in front of him. We get a front row seat. In some ways, he really is like a four-year old. In other way, he’s an eight-year old just like his sister. It’s an adventure that all get to go on with him and it’s changing all of us for the better.
  2. Currently Jack says that when he grows up he wants to be a builder and build things with his Dad, like towers. I joke that I’m not sure Ray even knows what he wants to be when he grows up and leaves the navy but now he has something to shoot for!
  3. Jack loves Avengers, Infinity and Legos. Put all three together and we have one happy boy! 
  4. Jack still has problems expressing himself. When he is really frustrated he says, “Can you pack Mom? We need to get out of here.” When I ask where we are going to go he says, “Back to Hawaii.” We commiserate a lot. 
  5. Jack may want to go back to Hawaii but he loves the trampoline and swings in the back yard. He just hasn’t learned that he really needs shoes even in the freezing weather. I often catch him and have to ask him to please at least put socks on those poor frozen feet. I swear, people would think I’m being cruel.
  6. Jack is working on math at and ABOVE grade level. Woo hoo! Because of his language and speech delays, reading comprehension is still not where we want it but it loves to read, especially about Avengers and Legos. 
  7. Jack’s favorite foods are currently pizza and macaroni and cheese. He asked for both for dinner tonight. He still hates mashed potatoes. He gags when he eats them but will pretend to like them just to please us. 
  8. I’ll leave you with this video Arleigh took. Jack was pretty excited to sing Happy Birthday to himself and blow out candles on his very own cake. It’s a tad different than the pictures we have of him alone with a cake we sent to him on his third birthday.

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We love you Jack Jack and we’re so glad we get to do life with you. It’s such a great blessing to get to be your Mom.