An Update on Jack

DSCF0322I think I’m glad I didn’t write this last night. I needed to sleep and to run and to pray and find some serious perspective. I’ve done all three but I have no real answers.

Let me take a step back, well a couple of steps back and explain…

This summer was long. Moving from place to place was hard on Jack. He didn’t really understand what was happening. He was regressing quickly until we didn’t get our stuff and had to go to Grandma’s for a visit. That was familiar and the regression seemed to stop or at least slow down. We got our stuff, moved into the house and there was so much happening, Jack really wasn’t finding stability. It’s obvious that the boy needs a schedule and to know what comes next. More than once I found myself saying, “Jack REALLY needs for school to start.” After almost 14 weeks and a couple of shots, that was about the happen. 

The new school had an Open House to drop off school supplies and meet the teachers. I walked into Jack’s room and froze. There were 26 desks in a normal classroom. I introduced myself and after a long chat found out that Jack had been placed in an inclusion classroom for language delays. Jack would have two teachers, one regular teacher and one special education teacher that are always together in the same room teaching together. There would also be an aid that floats in and out of the classroom. This is a little different from the very small class and special attention Jack had at Alvah Scott. He was only with other kids for things like recess, P.E., music, computers, library, Hawaiiana… you get the picture. I won’t lie. I probably had a look of sheer terror in my eyes.

I went home and immediately called my mother. She calmly told me that this was great news for Jack. She thought being around other normal kids is just what he needs. Um, Mom…he is around Bria 24/7. She explained how this could be a huge step for him. I began to get excited. Someone else was pretty excited to be getting on a bus by himself with his sister.

So I explained to both teachers how Jack is a great kid. He can read and he can do math and his test scores look okay but when you are around him you’ll understand more the struggles he has. I told them I was excited for the opportunity and I have big expectations for Jack. I received an email from his gen ed teacher saying he is sweet and seemed to be doing well. Oh my word! I honestly thought things were getting better.

Then it happened. Last night was back to school night. We arrived. We saw Bria’s work outside her class. Then we saw Jack’s. There were a mix of emotions. There was a little “Look what he can do!” and a little, “His work isn’t meeting the mark.” 

Outside the classroom he was supposed to fill in math facts about himself. 

IMG_9775Jack didn’t know his birthday. He is usually a great artist, especially with self portraits and that field was left blank. He’s lost more teeth than I can remember since the first one was lost on the Big Island during our spring break trip. His family math doesn’t add up. There was so much to be sad about looking at this sheet. Then I got to his desk.

IMG_9776This letter to me looked like a lot of the other letters kids wrote. He does already love Mrs. Ahlers. He talks about recess and math. It gave me a little hope. 

I listened to the teachers explain the class structure. It was intimidating but I was thinking about all the things that I would do to help Jack.  I was thinking about how this inclusion class might be the thing that did it. It might be what helps him make the connections that he’s not making. I was getting excited. 

That’s when I hit the brick wall. The special ed teacher pulled me aside. Jack isn’t doing as well as I thought. In fact, this class is not where he is meant to be. Mrs. Tampio was very kind but she let me know that in Virginia and most places just saying that Jack has a developmental delay won’t allow him to have services. They need a diagnosis. There are lots of key words thrown around. There are words that I don’t want kid to carry around as a label but the reality is, for him to get the help he needs a doctor to say there is more wrong with him than the fact that he was an orphan. Mrs. Tampio said they will continue to assess Jack. They have 30 days to work on his transitional IEP. I’m not sure what happens in the meantime. 

So I came home and cried. I cried because things shouldn’t be this hard for my little guy. I cried because I don’t want him to carry a label. I cried because I thought somehow he would be totally healed and this would be a testament to God’s miraculous power. I cried because I worried that I haven’t done enough. I cried because I heard 1,000 people who told us adoption was a bad idea saying “I told you so.” I cried because this burden that I happily carry around for Jack may be passed to his sisters if something happens to me. 

That’s it. For everyone who’s asked about his transition to this school or his adjustment to the area. Jack is happy. Jack is loved and we are going to find a way to do whatever we need to do for him. I’m off to call Tricare for our referral appointments. Prayers are appreciated that there is a reason we are here and someone will find some way to help little Jack. If you asked Jack, he doesn’t really need help. He’s pretty happy with how things are. It’s just his crazy worrying Mama that’s off her rocker…




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Jack Jack’s Time Hop

So I have that Timehop app on my phone. It lets me see what I posted on a certain day years before. Yesterday after an excruciatingly long homework session with Jack that had me a bit down I opened the app. I saw a picture of Jack standing on the bridge of a playground at the girls’ elementary school in Tennessee. I remember that day well. Jack walked up the steps by himself, stood on the bridge and actually smiled. 

Sure. This wouldn’t be a big thing for most of you. What you might not know is that Jack had been with us for about 6 months. After an icy winter, our friends would want to meet us at different parks to play. This was a problem for me. Arleigh and Hanan were in school. I had to chase Bria to keep her from breaking her neck. The sight of the playground terrified Jack. I had a hard time spotting Bria when Jack was screaming his fool head off. If we put him in even a baby swing, you could see his white knuckles as he clung to the chains. His eyes would be sealed shut so he wouldn’t have to look. Eventually he would start to yell or scream. Jack had given up on crying real tears a long time ago. We tried to put him on baby slides, holding him to slide or any variation. There was abject terror. He would scream at the top of his lungs like I had stabbed him. Fun playdates. 

I started taking Bria and Jack on long walks. We would stop for even a few minutes at empty parks. Jack would watch Bria swing, slide and monkey bar her way across the playground. I’m a firm believer in pushing Jack. If I don’t push a little, he won’t try. I would let him sit at the bottom of the slide. The next trip I would set him a little further up. Talk about a mad little boy. Months and months of just wanting to watch Bria and Jack play together like siblings. I can’t describe it. I read all the books. I knew there would be challenges but I thought in my heart that we would bring him home and he would fine. I had no idea how emotionally draining it would make me at the time. 

This was the picture I posted yesterday. 

Jack lost his fear of playgrounds a long time ago. It has still taken him time to learn how to play with other kids. Can you see the difference? Jack loves to go to the park across the street from our house. He gets a little flustered when new kids arrive that don’t understand him, but he rocks every contraption on that thing, even the pole. 

Yesterday was a bloody nose mad at Mr. Arnie yelled at my kumu couldn’t understand number order made my mom completely crazy I don’t know if I should be sad frustrated or mad kind of day for Mr. Jack. (Jack’s kumu is his Hawaiiana teacher.) This gave me a high blood pressure frustrated try and fail at not raising my voice afternoon. That little Timehop app on my phone was a blessing. I needed to stop for a second and remember just how far Jack has come in a little over three years. 

I’m not telling you all this for praise or a pat on the back. This was not my doing. This is between Jack and God. I’m just blessed enough to be the witness and try my best not to mess it up. I hope that by telling the story, more people will understand that it’s hard but oh so worth it to provide homes and families for these kids. If I can encourage even one family, it’s worth all the time it took to share these few words. 

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Jack’s “Special Friend” Book

Jack’s mainstream teacher has been a big old blessing to us this year. She takes time for Jack, has big expectations for him, pushes him and loves him so much. There are a couple of kids from Jack’s special needs group that get slightly mainstreamed with her. She takes a week and works them into her teaching plan.

I got a brief note saying that Jack would be the “Special Friend” if the week. She asked if we could send in some family pictures. I picked a few from this year’s adoption report since it was fresh on my mind and then made two pages that showed Jack’s like in China and the few days we were there and coming home. I sent Ms. Kosaki a note that I wasn’t sure what she was after and to feel free to use whatever she needed at her discretion.

Jack still doesn’t give us details about his school day. His communication skills are so much better but details just aren’t there. I hear that he went to PE or speech and that’s about it. So I packed the pictures up and sent them in with him. The project was exclusive to Jack’s class so Bria didn’t even have an idea of what was going onto fill me in on the details.

This week Jack came home with this.

Be still my heart!

IMG_5893.JPGInside we found that Jack was interviewed. It was pretty funny too. Anyone who knows Jack knows that he hates mashed potatoes. The texture makes him gag. During his interview he said mashed potatoes are his favorite. He also claimed to hate macaroni which really is his favorite. Go team! I was also surprised to see that “Let it Go” is his favorited song. Last night I caught him singing We’re Not Gonna Take It. As a side note he was also butt naked in the bathroom getting ready for his bath. His aim as he tried to pee was a little off because you must head bang if you’re singing Twisted Sister. I love that boy! I digress. His current favorite song is Uptown Funk. Don’t judge. It his highly rated by lots of Stiffs because I dare you to listen to that song and not shake your groove thang. 









The inside of this book had pictures each of his classmates drew and letters written just for him. I read them and it was nearly impossible not to tear up.

There were lots of letters like this one wondering why on earth Jack would be in an “orfange.” Some asked about his China family. Most of them said things like, “Jack, I like you. You make me laugh.” We feel the exact same way!

Kemani is one of Bria’s best buddies. I love that boy! He’s always smiling and one of the few people that gives Bria a run for her money. Did I mention that I love Kemani? It has nothing to do with his letter…


I’ll be getting Mr. Kemani a sweet Valentine’s gift this year. Anybody who says I’m pretty… He knows how to work it.

We’ve all poured over the letters more than once. I still catch the big girls thumbing threw it. Jack carries it around with him. I’m going to have to find a special place to keep it. 

I sent Ms. Kosaki a note to say thank you. I also offered to come in and answer some of the questions the kids had. Some of those sweet girls sounded super concerned about our little Jack Jack. So tomorrow, I’m going to share one of our favorite adoption books and talk to the class about why we chose to adopt Jack, why he’s delayed and why he might have been abandoned. Yes, we’ll talk openly about the fact that Jack was abandoned. If his 7-year old sister knows you can bet his friends know. Every family approaches things differently. We feel like honesty in the best policy and it will contain an explanation of China’s one-child policy.  Jack doesn’t really understand any of it and he won’t be in the classroom when I answer their questions. If you think about it, I would appreciate a prayer that I can manage to answer their questions and convey the right message. Guess what. It’s Hawaii, so I can also tell them about James 1:27. To say I’m a little anxious doesn’t quite cover it. 



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Pictures Planes and Plans

When we were flying to China I was filled with nervous excitement. I think part of it was because I just knew we would be one of those families so moved by all the children, we would be back as soon as we had settled to life in Hawaii. Um… in Hawaii. Maybe I’m still settling? Actually, we got to China, and as you’ve heard me say, Jack was clearly all I could concentrate on. I thought I would be picking up an active toddler. He at least seemed active in the few pictures we had. Instead, I met a boy with no muscle tone, tired and hungry and scared. He didn’t know how to chew. He could barely walk. Running induced falling. And the talking… well he can still parrot like nobody’s business but trying to get across what he needs to say still doesn’t happen. He is a bit better every day though. This is nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s just the reality. I’m also not as patient as I thought I was. Imagine that. Point is. Jack has changed us for the better but I can’t imagine at this point having the time or the energy to take on more. Would I feel obligated to try for his particular SWI again? Since bringing Jack home I felt knocked off course and well, a lack of purpose I guess. It’s hard to explain. When I heard from kiddos from Jack’s orphanage that were stuck on the shared list, I thought the least I could do is advocate a bit and pray a lot.

God is good and He answers prayers. Doesn’t it feel good when that fact is tangible and you can see it in front of you? The first little boy that I mentioned after bringing Jack home broke my heart. He reminded me of Jack. I couldn’t imagine leaving him there. Then over a few weeks we heard there was a family pursuing him. Iker Didi is going home in January! You can view his original post here. That makes three children, one is the son of a good friend coming home this month!!! I seriously have been somewhere between grinning from ear to ear and wanting to cry.

My friend Sharon is leaving TOMORROW to get her sweet son Paine and his sister Evie. That’s right I said and his sister. Check out Sharon’s family here. She’s already been to China three times to pick up sweet little ones. She has three older daughters too. I am constantly amazed by her strength, grace and courage. She is such an encouragement to me just when I need her and while I have spoken with her on the phone, I’ve never met her face to face. Once again, she stepped right up to help me even while packing to go get two more children to add to her family.

I mentioned that LWB asked that we try to get a photo album of Jack back to the orphanage as an encouragement that older boys (Is 3 and a half really older?) get added to the list of children available for adoption. Let me say that even with Jack’s delays, even with an upcoming surgery, even with the problems and frustrations, I can tell you we’ve chatted. If we knew then what we know now about Jack… we would do it the same way all over again. Jack is a blessing. If we can help any other family find their blessing, we’ll jump through hoops to do it. I’m so blessed to have a friends like Sharon who feels the same way. I had days with holidays thrown in to get her pictures. They arrived TODAY. Nothing like last minute. I’m thought and prayed about what to send in a letter. I’m sure Sharon didn’t realize I’m such a procrastinator. I sent it this morning to be stashed in the letter.

I’ve already received these pictures…

I’m so excited at the prospect of what this will do for the other children that we left behind. When we picked up Jack, he was one of only a handful of adoptions that had ever happened from this particular orphanage. I now know 3 families traveling in January. God is good. Please join me in praying that more of these kids can find their way into homes of forever families.

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Breaking News!

Recently my friend Andrea posted this video on her blog. It stayed with me.

Then, I was contacted by a friend at Love Without Boundaries. Sweet little Rosalinda who you helped me sponsor has been adopted!!! Huge praise!!! We will now be sponsoring a little boy from Jack’s orphanage, as soon as I receive his information, I’ll share it with you. And there is bigger news. Another family is traveling to China in under 2 weeks to pick up another precious child. So now, I’m in contact with two families traveling to Jack’s orphanage in under two weeks. Rosalinda is home. Three more children in a short period of time. When we traveled Jack was one of the first children to leave for adoption. We know of a few others. The orphanage has seen the good that working with LWB does. More and more kids are getting their paperwork sent in to make them available for adoption. Blessings upon blessings. My friend from LWB asked that we send pictures of Jack over the last year with one of these families along with a note. It would be an encouragement for them to see a child after they leave.

Holy cow! Living in Hawaii, getting things off this island with the holidays… it’s um…not always easy. I contacted my sweet friend Sharon, can you help? She is getting ready to travel to China to pick up TWO children. I didn’t want to burden her with anything else right now. Of course, she even volunteered to print pictures that I emailed. She is always willing to help anyone. I ordered pictures and sent them to her. She is putting them in an album with a message that we’ll be crafting later.

The orphanage is concentrating their efforts on younger children. Sharon’s son is Jack’s age. These boys are huge blessings… not to say it doesn’t come at a cost, but huge blessings indeed. It’s my hope that the orphanage director will see the change in Jack and give some of the other children a fighting chance at finding families. If the paperwork isn’t processed, they are not available for adoption. I was so encouraged last night and this morning to hear all the changes the orphanage has made over the past year. So encouraged. An institution is still not the best place for a child to grow up. Could I ask you to join me in praying that even more changes are made… until they all come home.

If you want to follow Sharon you can find her blog here. I can’t wait to see the pictures the day Payne is in her arms! A few days later, she’ll have Evie Claire too!!!

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Cognitive Tests… Make it hard to come with a title

My afternoon yesterday was most likely your night…since I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific ocean.  I read through Facebook posts and tweets about the Cardinals losing, Monday night football, Dancing With the Stars and some pretty nasty comments about the presidential debate. My mind was on other things. I was googling “mental retardation.” I engrossed myself in stigmas and causes. defines it this way, “Mental retardation: The condition of having an IQ measured as below 70 to 75 and significant delays or lacks in at least two areas of adaptive skills. Mental retardation is present from childhood.”

I read about studies done in orphanages in Budapest. Some said that for each month a child spends in an orphanage up to age three, their IQ score goes down 1/2 point. I read about stigmas of each name. How retard has become a dirty word. I know, I used it on just about everything growing up in the ’80s. Now, the politically correct phrase is developmentally delayed. Huh? That’s Jack’s special need according to all his paperwork.

Why am I bringing all this up now? I just left Jack’s cognitive assessment. I won’t have the results for several weeks, but I know the test the psychiatrist was using needed to be changed to fit his level more than once over the three hours we spent in that little room. Jack was awesome. I think in the same situation I would have been irritated with someone asking me the same question in a sing song voice repeatedly. I didn’t do so awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t lost my composure. Here’s the thing. It’s a standardized test and Jack, well, Jack’s not standard. We call those little wax things colors. Dolls are babies. I’m Mama, not Mommy. Grandpa is a bear. Things like that tend to skew a test. I can’t think of a time I’ve said, “Jack give me the _____.” I say, “Can I have ____?” or “Hand me the _____.” “Get your shoes.” “Find your cup.” I wanted to yell, “You aren’t asking the right way!” I did finally say, “In our house those are (and then I spelled out) B-A-B-I-E-S.” That’s when I got the standard rules for standardized test speech.

Jack can count higher than half the kids on Bria’s class but he won’t answer if you say, “Jack, how old are you?” He just learned to say “Mama and Daddy” not that long ago. Jack parrots our behavior. Matching something is an abstract concept for him. He shares. He tries to do what we ask. Today I was overwhelmed leaving the test when he patted my shoulder and said, “Woook! Is a train!” He is getting it, ever so slowly. The fact is for whatever reason he is delayed.

I heard all about the orphanage delay. I had delusions of grander. Apparently what I heard loudest was, “he will catch up.” Instead of that, can’t speak, low muscle tone, missing fine motor skills points. I heard he’ll be like everyone else. He’s not. Neither is Arleigh, or Hanan or Bria. We all come with our own set of kinks and quirks. Low IQ was off my radar. I thought this would be, show him a car, say car, he’ll learn car sort of deal. It’s not. I’m mad right now because I hear some people saying, “I told her so.” I hear the naysayers in my head saying, “Do you know what’s going to happen to your family?” or “Did you really count the cost.” When I am overwhelmed with Jack’s delay I’m reminded that there were people along the way of our paper chase who wanted to tell me it would be too hard. When I’m struggling, sometimes I wonder what they are thinking now.

This is what I would say to myself of almost two years ago when we were just getting Jack’s file…

Dear Self,

If you think the paperwork is scary now, you don’t know what scary is. Wait until they take him back for an MRI to look for brain damage. It is going to get a whole lot worse. It’s not blue skies and rainbows and sisters loving on brother the second you get off the plane. It’s hard. He’s going to get mad because he can’t tell you how he feels. You are going to get mad because all you want is a day at the beach and the beach is going to be the most terrifying place on earth the first few times he goes.

During this paper chase there is something about it. You are broken and want your boy home but you also feel like you are part of something bigger. You somehow really see your place in God’s plan. It’s easy now to shirk off naysayers. It’s a bit harder when Jack is in your arms and you want him to act like a normal little boy and he’s not. When you are holding him and he is tremoring like a seizure is coming on just because something is new and people are giving both you and Jack funny looks, try to remember that Wonder Woman feeling you have right now. It’s a bit harder to hold on to these days but it’s still there. Remind yourself that you are still part of God’s plan. You are helping the world see God’s love in a little boy.

Don’t quit. Jack will teach you so much about yourself. Some good, some bad. Jack is going to show you and those little girls a bigger world. He is going to win EVERYONE over even though he doesn’t talk much. The random guy at the school will come to love him. He will make people laugh out loud on a regular basis and you get to watch as he touches their hearts. Jack is going to open up compassion in Arleigh, Hanan and Bria like you’ve never seen. Bria will walk away from her little sister role to become a champion to her brother. You’re going to cry over all the tests. It’s going to be hard to watch him fail. Hard isn’t impossible. In his failing, he just gives himself more room to grow.

Jack isn’t going to be what you thought. He won’t be perfect. He’s going to be better. He may be with you until he’s 18 or forever. Either way it’s okay because you’re going to learn that when he’s around, you’re better. Delays are hard to swallow. It’s just one more mountain to climb. God wouldn’t have sent Jack to you if He thought you couldn’t do it. Somedays you may think you can’t. Remember that with God, you can.

Don’t quit! Sincerely,


If you are thinking about adoption, go with your eyes wide open. I realize now that  my expectations had been lower in some ways and higher in others. You don’t know until you go through it. If you want a good dose of reality, talk to another adoptive parent. In the end, they will tell you it’s worth the cost.


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