Purpled Up

Kids to school on time: Check

Kids wearing purple for school: Check

Appropriate footwear for field practice: Check

Lunches: Check

Mom resembling Barney in her purple outfit: Double Check 

Praying that there really aren’t Purple People Eaters…Wait. Were they purple and ate people or did they eat purple people? I give up.

Take a picture of everyone wearing purple: I’ve got nothing. 

April is designated the month of the military child. I have some pretty great ones to hang out with around here. These kids are awesome. They step up to the challenge and roll with the punches EVERY SINGLE TIME. In support of their friends all over the world we put on our purple yesterday. 

Bria was so excited when we got to school. I was thinking on the way over there. My kids are pretty privileged compared to most of the local kids. In fact, we’ve been talking to one child about entitlement and her attitude while consoling another when her friend lashes out because she sees my child as having more. (Parenting is hard. I need a parent’s award. Kids need awards just for surviving each other in middle school. Another blog…I know.) Anyway, I was thinking that it wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t many local kids wearing purple. As I made my right turn, Bria was squealing. There was purple everywhere. I will admit tears welled up in my eyes. 

It just so happened that we were chatting with Grandma that morning on our drive in to school. I was telling Mom how much it touched me and may have mentioned that I think Bria is the only white child, maybe only military kid in her class. Bria stopped me right there. “No, Mom! There is only one brown kid in my class. Everybody is white. There’s …and she lists off the names.” Oh my word that made me laugh. Bria is the only while child in her class. Every name she listed is either Hawaiian or Asian. I wonder what color she thinks pasty mainland kids are. 

I read an online news feed about military spouses called Spouse Buzz occasionally. A week or so ago I lost my mind. A friend posted an article that I missed in honor of The Month Of The Military Child. It listed 13 ways the Obama girls are like military children. The comparisons were stretched so thin you could see right through them. One of my favorites is that their Dad’s job is dangerous. Um. Yes. He also has a security force surrounding him sworn to protect him at all costs at all times. I don’t think it’s exactly the same when you’re In Country. I was irritated with some of the comparisons but even more irritated when I read it was written by a spouse. I’m sure President Obama’s daughters make huge sacrifices, their privacy is top of the list but they really aren’t the same. We are currently in really nice military housing but it’s not the dang white house and there isn’t a maid. If there is, she needs to be fired which would also be fine with me because does that mean more beach time for me if I’m fired? Anyway why compare the two?

As I pulled into the school I was wondering why on earth we were celebrating my super privileged compared to some of their peers kids. Then I remembered. They give up everything and move a world away from our families. They set up shop in new places and learn to make friends quickly. They are helpers and learn to step up when the military member is away. They savor every moment they get with their grandparents because they know it might be a very long time before they see them again. There are too many things to mention.

I should’ve learned my lesson. There is no comparison between my kids and civilian kids. Each make various sacrifices. I’m totally okay with celebrating mine for all they do. 

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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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A Trip To The Aquarium

Today was Jack’s trip to the aquarium. Someone in this house was not very happy. Bria missed her field trip 2 weeks ago. She spent the morning voicing her feelings on the matter. There will be more on that later… We were off to learn about the reef and animal adaptions but really, isn’t it always about the bus ride?

Do you want to know about the 7 month old turtles? I could tell you about the peppermint fish. There is only one on display in the world, only 14 ever found and we got to see it. I could tell you about the lauwilinukunukuoioi fish. Try to say that three times fast. No really. Try. The haole’s just call it a butterfly fish. I could tell you that there are only about 1100 monk seals left in the world. I’ve seen two at the aquarium and been lucky enough to encounter more than a few in their natural habitat. Those boogers can dive 1800 feet. Subs have seen them! They can hold their breath for 20 minutes at a time. I didn’t know sea horses could look in two directions at the same time or that the male tilapia holds eggs and babies in his mouth. There is a lot to be told after a trip to the aquarium but none of those things are on my mind, maybe laid open in my heart right now. 

As Arleigh would say, I’ve had too many “feels” today. I love the kids at Alvah Scott. Some of them, I’ve been around for the last three years. Kimani and Jayden to name a couple… I was wondering this morning if my kids would remember their time here. Don’t get me wrong. I had a FABULOUS childhood. My memories include everything from shucking much more corn than I ever thought necessary to sucking on honeysuckle and running away through fields barefoot. I climbed an old willow tree and swung from the branches without much fear. I could walk to my grandparents’ house and had two sets of grandparents at my disposal. My childhood of riding in my Dee’s truck to my uncle’s horse shows and begging to ride the riding lawn mower was in my mind one of legend. Still, I think in another life, I must’ve lived here. My kids run barefoot through the neighborhood just like I did. They climb trees, granted here they are mostly plumeria or banyan and see how high their little legs will pump to get their swing up. Arleigh rarely has shoes on her skateboard. Bria thinks she knows how to surf but she is actually a master on a body board. Hanan makes glorious fairy houses and plays games until well past dusk with her friends. It is a charmed life they lead and they have no idea. Most of these things wouldn’t be happening unsupervised on the mainland. 

And all these things running through my mind are not the reason for all my “feels.” This picture sums it up.

All day long, when we lined up, Will made sure Jack kept up. If he wasn’t, Will quietly grabbed his hands and made a train. As the day ended and Jack was falling a bit more behind, Will tried to give him a piggy back ride. All the kids here, love Jack. They rally around him. They encourage him. They push him to do better, even if he gets frustrated and yells. One little boy gave him a tract today about God because he just really wants Jack to understand God and since the website on the tract had a Mandarin option, he thought that might work better. Bless him. Jack played duck duck goose today like a normal kid. (It became turtle, turtle sea lion but that’s another story.) He didn’t always understand but his friends kindly made sure he was never left behind and that he was having a good time. 

As we climbed the bus for the ride back to the school I couldn’t help but wonder what it will be like for Jack when we move. I can’t imagine children being this kind and this compassionate anywhere else. Don’t get me wrong. There are mean kids in middle school but my heavens there was a higher percentage of mean kids in elementary school in TN. Most of these kids don’t have much but they have love and they freely share it. It’s truly the spirit of aloha and it’s filled my eyes with freakin’ buckets of tears all day long to wonder what it will be like to go back to a land of entitled kids who maybe aren’t mean but are super concerned with their own well being and don’t think much about anyone else and heaven help me I don’t want my kids to be like that. I’d rather park my butt in the land of aloha. 

I’m prayerfully hoping that our next duty station will be just as wonderful but my expectations are sure low today. This is where we needed to be for the time we were here and it was pretty apparent to me today. (Look, more feels. Sigh…) Jack learned to speak here. He started to communicate here. We found a wonderful eye doctor who fixed his pitiful little googly eyes. Jack is asserting his independence here. He’s boosting his confidence here. He is growing in aloha. 

It’s not just Jack. Remember Bria. Yeah, she was sad. She missed her field trip because she was unfortunately enough yacking up a disgusting amount of stomach contents that I didn’t want to share with her classmates or the fish at the aquarium. Never mind we went to the aquarium as a family over spring break. My child decided she had a rash while I was gone. She went to see the nurse. Miss Burke heard that Bria was out of sorts and let her hang out for a bit since no one was there. She talked to her, loved on her and sent her back to class. Then there was lunch and Bria came back with a tummy ache. Miss Burke again knew Bria’s problem wasn’t exactly her tummy. She left messages for me and Ray just before I arrived back at the school. I went to see my girl, gave her a hug and all was right with the world again. Her teacher fussed over her little broken heart all day. Miss Burke did too. I wonder if everyone that works at our new school will be as patient with the persistence my daughter has? Heaven knows I’m not always.

Hanan’s teacher has recognized her effort this year. She’s buoyed her up and pushed her to be better and told her she’s writing a letter for her record before we leave. Arleigh’s band teacher has offered to contact her high school band and do whatever is necessary for the her. The best thing that happened today was from Mr. Arnie. He’s Jack’s aid. He loves Jack and Jack loves him and it sort of spreads over our whole little family. Mr. Arnie handed me a box at school today. He said he didn’t know when our pack out would start. He hand made four bowls for the kids’ cereal and 2 coffee cups for us. He made sure they were green so we could remember Aiea. Shoot! Those darn feels are puddling again. I know how many days we have left. I know that I will cherish all these special people forever and darn it, I don’t want to give it up for any of us. 

And yet, we’re obviously needed somewhere else. There are other memories to be made and someday I’ll know the reason we have to leave. Until then, I plan on soaking up every last drop of aloha that I can get so that maybe we can spread it around on the mainland. 

I’m off to deal with the darn feels. Sending you aloha my friends. 

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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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