The Obligatory Children Update

Since I haven’t been updating and our trip to Kentucky was so ever loving short over the Christmas break, I’m interrupting my newly found string of adventure posts with updates on the spawn children. So you’ve been warned. My family has made it clear they want to know. Here comes the proud mom post… Feel free to ignore it if you must.

The oldest…

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Arleigh is a typical teen with a phone glued to her hand. She has added instrument number 4 to her repertoire. Crazy since I can’t read music. Seriously, I told you this would be the proud mom post…She was just recommended for a writing course that we’re pretty excited about. She’s decided to she wants to find a way to write for her career and she’s really, really good at it. Maybe she should take over this lame proud mom post. 

The second…

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Hanan is preparing for high school. Sigh. This is the week her course application was due. She’s joined a recreational cheer squad which has helped her find her aloha and that means this mama is closer to finding hers. Life has been an adjustment for all of us. She is at a large school and was happy to receive a supporting role in a new theater production. So basically, the kid is busy. She keeps me on my toes all the time and I’m happy to say that she’s turning into quite the responsible young lady. The social aspects of middle school are hard. No, really, really HARD. I’m constantly amazed at what she has to navigate. 

It’s hard to find pictures of Hanan by herself. She’s at a stage where she constantly hides from a camera if I’m taking the picture. Funny how I see selfies all over her Instagram but I can’t take pictures. She’s also at the age that she’s forbidden me from speaking about all sorts of things. Here’s a list…

  1. Boys.
  2. Accomplishments.
  3. School.
  4. The social ramifications of knowing who was suspended for what. (Scary.) 
  5. Basically all things Hanan.

So I’ve broken a few rules but again, proud mom post and all.

Number 3…

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Have mercy. This child! She is so so fun and so so aggravating. Clearly, she doesn’t love the metro at all. When she is not busy irritating the living tarnation out of her sisters she has taken over as Jack’s body guard, instructor, tutor, boss, playmate, aggravation, and most recently roommate. It’s helping her finally sleep through most nights though so I’m good with it. She’s found a her passion in playing soccer, even the crazy fast indoor soccer. During her first game, one of her teammates left for a trip to the ER and needed stitches on her face. Pray for me. Did I mention that after four years of asking, Santa finally caved and brought drums. I thought, there’s a basement with a door. It will be fine… There is a constant state of saxophone, piano, guitar, and two kinds of drums happening in this house almost every afternoon. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it’s noise. Just pass the Tylenol…please. 

Number 4…

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Mr. Jack… He genuinely likes life on the mainland especially with so many firsts, like Build-A-Bear. (Thank you Uncle Jim and Aunt Carolyn!) He still asks when we’re going back to Hawaii. In fact, when the metro drove by Reagan National Airport, he was sure that’s what was happening in spite of the fact that I hadn’t packed a darn thing. It’s not all sunshine and roses over here. He’s doing great but we had a rough morning. It happens. He loves going to a new speech therapist after school. Legos for Christmas are still a favorite. His favorite is a new helicopter from Uncle Mike and Aunt Sharon. He has such a sweet disposition, he puts up with all his bossy sisters really well. Except this morning… boy howdy. When it’s rough around here, it’s rough. Of course it doesn’t help that he now feels the need to tell me his eyes are freezing every time we leave for school. None of us enjoy the cold anymore particularly at a bus stop. 

In case you’re wondering about the adults, we’re good. It’s a busy season at work for Ray. The kids make it a busy season for me here. We do occasionally enjoy a night out by ourselves…when he can get away from work. I even enjoy the nights out when they’re for work. 

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That was taken at his Christmas party. We had a really good time and won a wine opener that for the life of me, I can’t find. (Not that I’m looking at 9 in the morning.) 

We’ve all jumped on the rat race that is Northern Virginia and are finding the aloha in our mainland adventures. If I haven’t heard from you, it’s your turn. Let me know how things are please.

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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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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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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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First Day of School

On Sunday we were visiting another church. (I promise I’m not just bragging about my kids. This story has a point.) The children’s minister looked for me between classes. She told me that she briefly met Arleigh and Hanan and how she was amazed by their spirit of adventure. Apparently she asked them about things they would love to do. She wanted to know about Jack. Then she said, “Do you know you have a very bold daughter?” Yeah… sort of aware. This could be good or bad but I just smiled and waited to see where she was going. It was Bria’s first time attending this children’s ministry. They do a few things in an age appropriate class then all the grades gather for a small worship service. She is in second grade. She volunteered to read the morning scripture. She stood in front of the large group and read without nerves or jitters. Then she sat down. I wish I was there to see it but we were in our own class. The sweet lady told me how she’s not used to visitors behaving like that. Funny thing is, military kids don’t always know how to be visitors. 

Yesterday Hanan went to school number five. That’s not even counting the two different preschools she attended. She got on the bus with a neighborhood friend. She knows. Find your crowd fast. I’m super proud of her. 

Arleigh started high school. How is that even possible? School number five for her in nine years. 

Not going to lie. This has not been easy. With the start of band camp we had some pretty nasty days. It’s amazing to see her confidence grow. She walks around a huge campus, finding her way without problems. I remember being all nerves going to high school. Sure there were people there I didn’t know but there also almost 40 that I had been with since kindergarten. At parent orientation, I watched as kids who had been in this school district forever melted down. My kid found her way without breaking a sweat.

These two hooligans started second grade at their second school.

First bus experience. New school. Bria was slightly offended at the bus stop when a very little boy asked if she was going into kindergarten. Later a mom asked if she was in 3rd or 4th so all is right with the world again. They rocked their day. They made it home and are ready to go again this morning. 

The thing about military kids that amazes me is this…

That is the hardest part. The good-byes. I’ve been there. There are moments when you think you don’t want to open yourself up to a new relationship because that means there will be a goodbye. My kids are brave and fearless and they have no idea. They solidify relationships quickly because they don’t know how long they have. 

I’m happy to report that all four rocked their first day. There were a few hiccups and a couple of sad parts but for the most part everyone is happy and ready to go back today. Thinking about our other moves, that is nothing short of amazing and worry of a prayer of thanks. Yep. Totally bragging but my kids are rock stars and so are their military kid friends. 

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The Nana and Papa Chronicles

We’ve been enjoying Nana and Papa’s company for a bit now. We actually made it out of the house into town on Monday to the Air & Space Museum.

I’m not sure exactly when Bria and Jack decided to get so tall. Good grief! I won’t mention the fact that my oldest is trying to look taller. (I see that Arleigh Grace!) 

We watched an IMAX movie about the Hubble Space telescope. They decided to play IZ at the beginning of the movie. Everyone waited for my reaction. (I may still pine for our island life a little.) Then in the middle of the movie they mentioned how beautiful Hawaii is from space. Seriously, it’s beautiful from any vantage point. I really am trying to embrace D.C. living. I promise. In other news, Bria and Jack are both considering being astronauts for Halloween now. The choice is between astronaut and wolf for Bria, Hulk, TMNT and astronaut for Jack. 

All four kids acted like kids and had a great time. 

After minor disappointment that it wasn’t like the Science Museum in Huntsville, they found the interactive room and LOVED it! 

It’s nice to get out and let them learn and have fun. I’m sure the teens didn’t think it was possible but we managed. 

It was a short day because Arleigh’s band practice is ongoing until school starts. We’ve just enjoyed having Nana and Papa around this week in between all of our many school functions. It’s Friday and that means FOOTBALL. Arleigh has her first public performance with the marching band and we’re all pretty excited to see it, especially Nana and Papa. We’re off to soak up the rest of our time with them. Have a great weekend!

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