Your Support

Have I mentioned that I remember everything? Well, I don’t remember how to do Algebra or to get eggs and milk from the store but I remember life events like I’ve just watched a movie. It’s a blessing. I hold on to things like dinner at Gus’s. 

This happened to be in my Facebook feed today but I remember… It’s also hard to forget most dinners that involved my brother, especially with Bria. 

So when I post things like how four years ago we adopted Jack, I’m flooded with memories both good and bad. The process to Jack was hard. It was long. It was painful. It was longer than we ever imagined. (It was oh so worth it.) The point is, I remember every trip to 201 Poplar. (If you’re catching up on the blog, you encourage you to read that post about the bowels of hell.) I remember the support we got when we shared our big news with friends. I remember that lack of support too. I remember how excited people were or weren’t. I remember… 

So when I posted about Jack being home four years. I called a friend who is a foster parent. We’ve talked before about people who are also Christians who are supportive and people that are well…not. People that say things like you haven’t thought about what you’ll do to your kids. I promise I have. They wondered why on earth we would have three, much less four. They told us how hard it would be. It is. Let me also say all of my kids are hard for 1,000 different individual reasons. So my first thought because, in case you didn’t remember…I do was not a reaction I’m proud of. I wanted to say, “Where were you when I was in the bowels of hell? Where were you when we said we were considering adoption? Where were you…” Please know I’m not calling anyone out here but myself. Then I realized Jack has changed so many people’s minds. Well, not just their minds, he’s changed their hearts. 

Jack is proof that it can be happy through the hard. He is teaching his sisters and his parents probably more than we are teaching him. 

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And my kids… They’re pretty okay. He’s also been able to do some pretty amazing things in the last four years. I think we’ve played catch up pretty well. How many kids have held a giant ball of snow on a hot beach?

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20131015-222434.jpg IMG_0799Jack provides us with tons of giggles and some awesome awkward family pictures. He’s survived eye surgery and arm splints. He goes through life like a trooper. 

Instead of being aggravated at people who changed their tune in the last five years. My heart is happy because Jack and God did some big things with their hearts. 

We are thankful, super grateful for every single ounce of support we’ve gotten at any time on this journey. I’m certain I’ll be saying thank you again for your support, your love, your prayers. I wish I could reach you through screen and hug a long, long list of names. I hope you know who you are. Mahalo from the bottom of my heart. I’m sending love and aloha today and always. 

 

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Four Years Complete

It’s hard to believe but four years ago today, I was standing in China, signing papers, meeting my son. Oh to read that now. How naive I was. How I thought I was making it real but  he wasn’t really talking. We found out later that he was parroting everything. He only repeated us for over a year. He didn’t walk far, only a few steps before he would fall. 

And now… four years later… Well, yesterday Ray made some popcorn to eat while he was watching football. Jack came flying up the stairs saying, “I smell popcorn! I smelled it downstairs. Who has popcorn?” If only you could read the inflection…or hear Arleigh imitate him. 

Four years ago, rain made Jack scream. This morning we walked to the bus stop in the rain. His only reaction was to tell me to put the umbrella over him or the rain would ruin his hair. 

We’ve gone from this…

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This was the picture from his finding ad. It’s almost unrecognizable now that this is Jack… 

to his last birthday by himself. I wonder if he actually ate any of that cake.

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He finally, reluctantly met us

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And here is Sept 19, 2011…

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Let’s be honest. Our boy still gives us our fair share of this, especially if we tell him that was enough Xbox.

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But mostly we get this…

img_5380.jpg IMG_4150 IMG_3864 IMG_3742 He is one of the happiest most joyful people I’ve ever been around. He mostly goes with the flow. He loves swimming and video games. He loves to be included by Bria and her buddies and happily follows her around. He loves his swing and trampoline. He is hanging out at the cross country races, swim meets, soccer games, football games and band competitions without complaining. He loves going to speech. His favorite subject at school is math. He makes sure his homework is done without me ever having to ask. I certainly can’t say that about his sisters. 

It’s hard to believe about three and half years ago, I wondered if Jack would ever speak, much less read. That boy can put together a full set of legos without batting and eye. He has to show me what to do. His buddy Charles just opened up a whole new world of video games for him. I won’t lie, I worry. I wonder what the next 9 years have in store as we navigate our public school systems. I have to say, we are finding hope. Life would certainly not be the same without him. 

We love you Jack and we’re so happy to have you in our little ohana. I can’t wait to see the big things God has store for you. I’m so blessed I get to watch. 

 

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My Secret Confession

So, today I revealed a dirty little secret that I’d like to share with you. Our adoption agency lists us as a source to call with questions about the adoption experience, particularly those of special needs children. The person on the other end of the phone was a little horrified. She’s been in an orphan hosting program and is choosing to adopt a child from that program. They don’t have any children. She confessed that she was worried because at first it was awkward and she wasn’t sure she even liked him. She asked if there were times when I was frustrated or annoyed with Jack or if we liked having him from the start. 

I laughed. This is what I told her. I’ve told all four of my children that I love them. I love them fiercely. I will love them past my last breath. There are times though that I really don’t like them. My kids are great. Arleigh has my dry sense of humor. Now that she’s older, she’s fun to just hang out with. Hanan is a constant melody singing, humming tune, piece of art, making my world a more beautiful place. Bria is my kindred spirit. She’s a warrior ready to take on the world. Jack keeps me laughing. He’s happy and fun. They are all too many great things to write about and then there are moments. There are tantrums. There are fights. There are tears. There is work, hard work. There are embarrassing moments and frustrating moments and moments when I seriously close my door and cry because parenting is hard. To borrow from The Talking Dead, parenting can be one big bucket of suck. 

Here’s the thing. My kids are human and humans are kind of messed up. There are moments when they don’t like me very much either. I push them. I frustrate them. I discipline them. I make them cry. They still love me though. They know that behind the push and the frustration and the discipline and the tears is a big heart that loves them fiercely. They know that on the other side of all those things are laughter and love and a safe place to fall. It takes both. 

My kids have the potential to be little Tasmanian devils wrapped in a tornado of mess leaving a trail of dirt, dust and dog hair. They can yell. They can slam doors. They lie, not often but it happens. They talk constantly. There is very little peace in my house. My agenda is shot because their world comes first. Their schedule, their school, their hunger, their tired are all put ahead of my own. Sometimes I’m selfish and I don’t want to give up that. Sometimes they are selfish little leeches and I’m sure at the breaking point being bled dry by my own creation. 

The short answer to her question is this. Yes, there are times that I don’t like Jack, Bria, Hanan or Arleigh BUT I always love them. Sometimes, in fact most of the time I get the bonus of loving to be with them too. 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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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