The Monster I Created

I may have whined about the fact that mentioned we’re moving. Preparations have begun. The house search has commenced. We think we have one and that is HUGE right now since we have to turn our dates  yesterday pretty soon. The logistics of moving from an island in the Pacific to the east coast with four kids and two animals are, well let’s just say daunting. Plus, there are 6 different opinions about what our summer should look like. There is an upcoming concert that the big girls don’t want to miss. Transportation alone makes my brain hurt…badly. Buying and selling vehicles, which one, when what gets shipped are all questions I have to answer. And the animals… Haole needs a crate. They both need a check up. How do I travel until we have a house with four kids and 2 dogs? Sigh…

One of the happy little bonuses I have about any move is creating a new space for our little family. This time, I will have lots of furniture coming out of storage. There are things like a bedroom suit, kitchen table, etc. that will need to find a place. The big girls have very definitive ideas about their rooms. Bria is pretty go with the flow as long as she is allowed to keep developing her hoarding skills. Then there is Jack. Jack who rarely asks for anything because

  • He has no idea what to ask for.
  • He has little expectations of receiving anything.
  • He has trouble communicating when he does want something.

Poor little Jack has a bed that I bought at a pack out sale. Granted it’s a Lightening McQueen bed and that was his hero when I purchased it. He had been sleeping a toddler bed that Ray made for him before his race car bed. Jack never thinks to ask for much. We’ve been talking about the move. I have no intention of moving Lightening McQueen with us. I asked him what kind of room he wanted. Jack, the boy who never speaks has created a list. 

  1. A superhero room.
  2. A green bed like the hulk.
  3. Superhero sheets (preferably marvel heros…how he knew to ask for marvel is anyone’s guess but I’m thinking it’s Arleigh.)
  4. A desk for homework. 

Well, I to say I freaked out became concerned with his green bed request might be a little bit of an understatement. I have to say, after thinking about it and looking at bedding options and considering the number of beds we have in the house to work with, I think we can make it work. Arleigh and Hanan are tired of their bunk beds. Hanan wants an antique bedroom suit that was my Mammaw’s and is currently in storage. Arleigh wants a new full bed but one her Daddy can build. I was going to sell the bunk beds. Since I already have the mattresses for the bunk beds, I think we’ll paint it green. These are the sheets Mr. Jack has in mind. 

Are you paying attention Grandma? Someone has a birthday next month and he needs 2 sets…hint hint. 

He found this bed with a little help from his mother and his sisters. He’s in love.

I think I may try to mod page comics to the white chair. I can only take so much Hulk. Jack has already mentioned a pillow…

I think I’ve created a decor monster. I’m not sure if it’s me or Jack. Arleigh, where’s your desk chair?

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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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Mr. Jack And The IEP

First let me say that I have been on both ends of an IEP… for the gifted child and for the special ed child. Maybe it’s just me but there is nothing like an IEP either way to make me feel like a bad mother. Seriously, Arleigh’s IEP in Tennessee left me feeling almost evil. There is no IEP process for the GT program in Hawaii. I’m almost thankful. Here the teachers look at tests and decide based on classroom experience and test scores whether or not a student can handle the program. Parents are informed, they can choose to participate or not. If the parent wants them in GT against what the teachers suggest, there’s a discussion that has the potential to go either way with the counselors and registrar. Again, been on both sides… I honestly liked the non-formal approach SO MUCH BETTER. It could be aloha spirit and now I get to wonder all day long if that’s screwing my kids up to.

Years ago, when my Arleigh was first starting school we prayerfully considered what to do. Public school was the answer for our family. Multiple moves, multiple states, some with better education reputations than others and I still say public school is working well for us for many reasons and on many levels. I understand it might not work for everyone. 

Anywho… Back to this guy.

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He’s pretty cute. I just had to throw a picture in there. 

Jack is progressing. The only thing I like about the IEP process, other than chatting with his speech therapist and teacher is that I’m given the opportunity to reflect. Two years ago, Jack started preschool in Hawaii. He was assessed as having the vocabulary of a 9 month old. Basically, he didn’t talk. He couldn’t communicate much beyond pointing… including his immediate needs. That was after being home for a year. Talk to other adoptive families and most of the time a child has caught up pretty well. Yet, here we were excited that he could walk and was starting to really run. 

Yesterday I got to hear that Jack is reading on a first grade level. READING ON A FIRST GRADE LEVEL!!! His sight words are almost up to date. He is blending sounds. The sounds of his speech are mostly great. His math is on an average first grade level. Hallelujah and amen!!! His progress is such a blessing. Really. Such a blessing. I need to remind myself of that.

Yesterday was the easiest IEP ever. We all agree on where Jack is, where we need to get him to and how to do it. I love his teachers. I love his speech therapist. And yet… I left knowing I should be excited about his progress but was very concerned about his future. Am I doing it right? There are 4 kids in this house. Am I enough? What if I did this? Should we push him to do that? I don’t really understand the data from all the testing they’ve done. Why can he read and write and still not understand any abstract concept? Sigh. 

Isn’t that what we do with all of our kids? Am I reigning Bria in enough or should I let her be the bossy pants she was born to be? Is Arleigh hitting her real potential or is she too shy? Hanan is really coming into her own here and where about to pull her out of a school where she is excelling. Am I on top of school work? Should I supplement more? How can we possibly supplement more? Are we letting them just be kids? That part… the letting them just be kids seems to be easier for me here. Sure, run, play, meet your friends at the park… Can I really do that on the mainland? Won’t I have to stalk them there? Will they just have to be home? Will they be able to find their independence if they are stuck with me? Soon we’ll be discussing cars and colleges and can time please just stand still for a second?

Well, I guess it’s true. Blogging is cheaper then therapy. Bottom line is… Jack is a rock star. His progress is evident. We just need to keep it up!

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Find Your Aloha

Have I mentioned that I love it here? One of the things I love most is the spirit of Aloha. I think when we moved here I thought you said Aloha for hello and goodbye. It really means so much more. I joke about finding my aloha like I need to find my happy place but really I’m talking about so much more. That’s why I really appreciated a little project Jack brought home from school.

Jack came home with a little green bag. Inside the bag we found Aloha Bear. He was a total haole. (I can say that because I’m haole but at this point, I’d like to think I’m hapa. That’s another blog post.) Aloha bear is a little white bear dressed up in a black suit, clearly from the mainland with a giant handmade lei. He came with a book called Aloha Bear And The Meaning of Aloha. The book was well worn and dogeared with notes from past first graders scribbled on the inside cover. It also oozed aloha. Jack’s assignment was to read the book and discuss with his family what our meaning of aloha is then write about it and draw a picture. I can’t tell you how much I LOVED this little assignment.

We read the book. Aloha means hello, good-bye and love but that is not all… Bria lost her aloha for a second when she realized it was Jack’s assignment and not hers. I told her she could make her own aloha picture anytime she wanted and better yet, help Jack. Bria’s definition is the one Jack used, “Aloha means to love, to share, to care and to be kind to others.” I just love that kid! I think everyone should be filled with a little aloha spirit.

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Granted, the laid back atmosphere and views like the one above does seem to make it easier for us to play nice.

It’s easy to find aloha here…
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I told someone yesterday that yes I like to take surf lessons but no I don’t consider myself to be a fabulous surfer. After everything that has gone on in my life in the last couple of years, I love that for a couple of hours all I have to think about it is paddle out, wait for the wave and then where do my hands and feet go. I don’t have to worry about anything…except maybe the crushing wave or the occasional shark. When you go out with friends… well, there’s not much better. It is like having my very own recharge button.

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I kid Ray all the time. I tell him if he actually insists that we leave. (I’m very aware the insistence is the US Navy but Ray is an easier target.) I’m going to tattoo the islands on my wrist with Be The Aloha at the bottom. I need to take the reminder with me.

Aloha isn’t just no cares. It’s love and kindness and doing the right thing for the people around you whether you want to or not even when it’s hard. Ray and I toss around James 4:17 a lot. “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Kind of hits you over the head doesn’t it? The thing about having an aloha spirit is that you don’t need to be reminded of James 4:17, you are always ready to show love, kindness and compassion without any expectations of return. The greatest thing is, the aloha spirit is contagious! If you share aloha with someone, you can bet they will spread it to someone else.

If you are spreading aloha… everything else is nicer and happier and less stressful…kind of like these two…
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There are times that I talk to people that are so busy, so wrapped up in everything going on that they can’t possibly share aloha because they have none. There are times when I stop and look around and think maybe I’m only sharing aloha with my little family because I think that’s all I can muster. That’s when I need that recharge button because once you start going, it’s easier and easier. Making other people happy has a tendency to make me happy too. Weird huh?

If you are interested in reading Jack’s book, I saw a used copy on Amazon.

I’m off to see where I can spread some aloha today…

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Tears and Grace

I saw a sign recently. It said, “I laughed so hard tears ran down my leg.” At 40, there are days that I can relate. It usually involves a sneeze instead of a laugh but whatever. Last night, I thought about that sign except it wasn’t a tear. It was more like someone tapped a warm keg in my lap. It wasn’t warm beer or my own urine either… Let me back up.

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to our Sunday evening worship service at church. Bria was melting down. She didn’t want to go. Honestly, an hour long worship service for the six-year old can be a bit of a snooze fest especially if you’ve spent the afternoon in the pool and you’re exhausted. Adding insult to injury, as we pull out of the neighborhood all you see is the kids’ friends soaking up the late hours of a summer day and summer is almost over. Then there’s Jack. He was in trouble after our morning service. He wasn’t looking his usual chipper self. Ray left early because the night before a very rare storm led to lightening striking and the routers at the church were fried. He needed to fix them. So, I decided to fake it until I make it and packed all my grumpy people in the mom mobile and off we went.

Services started and I had to separate Jack and Hanan. Hanan has a tendency to get Jack wound up and noisy by teasing him. I guess it’s her form of entertainment when she doesn’t want to listen to a sermon. Quick reprimand and shuffle and I’m settling back in noticing Jack is upset. It wasn’t his fault so I put him in my lap to try and cheer him up. It was about this  time that he started to smile and then his nervous laughter started. I was hugging on him, trying to make him smile and the nervous laughter got much worse. Then I felt it. There was a warm puddle forming in my lap. 

Mama wasn’t happy. It’s not my first rodeo with Jack. You might remember that getting him home from Hong Kong, I smelled like pee on a very long flight. If you missed it you can read about it here. Ray has had diapers leak all over his back which is bad but I must say that when a six-year old looks you straight in the eye with the ability to ask to go to the bathroom and proceeds to pee in your lap… Let’s just say it didn’t matter that I was sitting in a worship service and I proceeded to lose all form of grace. Yes, Mom I remember peeing my pants and embarrassing you horribly when I was much older than 6. I’ve never claimed perfection.

I have a hard time disciplining Jack. Corporal punishment is apparently not supposed to be used on a no longer orphan. Jack can ask to potty. Jack can go to the potty by himself without asking. We’re back to accidents because he chooses not to ask or go. Call me horrible if you want but I stick him in the shower to clean him up with cool water. He’s not a fan. It worked for a bit. Last night, as I sat him back down in wet pants wondering what to do until our services were over, he looked at me and said, “I need a cold shower.” Yep. Parent of the year over here. Good grief. 

So it’s Monday. I have more on my to do list than I care to think about it. Jack and I have both showered and we’re looking for a do over. Here’s hoping I remember to have grace today. 

 

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There Is No Picture…

I’m going to tell you a story. It was a hot night in July… (Just kidding Grandma. That is an inside family joke meant to make her smile.) It was, however, a very hot Hawaiian afternoon in July. We dropped our guests off at the airport yesterday and headed straight to the soccer field to watch the last half hour or so of Arleigh and Hanan’s soccer camp scrimmage. Ray parked in the shade since we didn’t have chairs. Bria and Jack were playing around in the back of the van when I hear, “Oh no! It was itchy Mom!” from Jack. 

Oh no was right. Bria says, “His nose is bleeding.” This is unfortunately a regular occurrence for Mr. Jack. If I know he’s getting dry, I can pretreat but the poor kid just gets bloody noses. 

We have been all over creation. I had nothing in the back of the van because it had moments before been filled to the brim with suitcases and backpacks. I used all the wipes while we traversed the island with our guests. Hanan had been through my stash of tissues. Thankfully it wasn’t so bad yet. I grabbed Jack and laid him down. My mom-mobile is equipped with lots of little hidden compartments. Ray started digging hoping to find a napkin or anything to stop the bleeding. He found a stash of just in case tampons. A friend who’s son suffers with the same affliction had recently told me that was what she used. 

Yes. Yes I did. Don’t judge me. I had on a white shirt and the boy can bleed profusely. I opened that sucker up and stuck it in the bloody nostril as gently as I could. It did the trick. As I reached for my phone, Ray said, “No pictures.” I guess he thinks Jack has enough going against him without his mother posting a picture of a tampon shoved up his nose on her blog. It was funny though. He also didn’t seem to mind since his nose was no longer bleeding all over his favorite Monster’s Inc. shirt. 

We hung out for a little bit. He stopped bleeding and went to playing. No trash can in sight. I laid the grody thing down until I could find a rubbish bin. 

All is well right…Haven’t you learned by now that the Stiff’s can never do anything the easy way?

Cut to 8 p.m. last night and I’m giving Jack a bath. He was playing around, sticking his face in the water. Apparently the tampon just caused the blood to form some sort of alien looking booger blot clot that slipped out of his nose as he got a little water in it. Gross doesn’t describe it. I cleaned him up and immediately went to tell Ray all about it. I can’t keep anything gross to myself in case you didn’t notice.

As I’m telling him that apparently tampons cause gross bloody boogers, Arleigh walks into the room and only hears the words tampons, bloody and boogers. She has a look of true horror on her face. 

I explain that Jack had a bloody nose, I felt like MacGyver and I was as her British soccer coaches like to say, “BRILLIANT!”

Arleigh was disgusted. What if Joe saw? Oh yeah… Joe. He is one of the British soccer coaches. He’s the one that came over and asked for a ride. He’s the one that was in the car with the bloody tampon lying right there in the cup holder. Sweet! 

I always say I haven’t done my job as a mother for the day unless I’ve completely embarrassed my children at least once over the course of the day. I’m thinking yesterday it was a job well done. 

(So you know Grandma, I’m pretty sure Joe never witnessed any of my mess.)

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