Meet the Teacher Night

Tonight was our local elementary Meet the Teacher night.

Even though we met last Thursday with special services, we didn’t hear back from them until tonight when we were emailed a half hour before it started, with special services telling us Mary would not be enrolled or assigned to a class.

She was heartbroken.

We clarified with her that the confusion is not about her, but about them learning how to help Deaf children, and not to worry because it will all get figured out just fine.

(Note: these issues are not about the state Deaf school or Wright, but we cannot clarify what is going on or comment publicly until the issue is settled.)

To encourage her, we surprised the children with t-shirts as a show of support, and a way to include her as part of the team.

She went with us, as did Kyrie, to see inside the school and learn her way around.

We had to check in at the office first, and cautioned the children that it was not the time or place to discuss Mary’s story, and that no matter what, we are kind and good and polite and respectful.

Even when a child is still waiting to tell her story.

The children had a blast meeting their teachers and settling in!  It was so exciting!

Alex’s teacher was super soft and sweet, and patient with all his questions and seeking her out but also able to set limits to help him chillax.  I was relieved.

Kirk’s teacher was cherry and bright, and seemed a perfect match for him!

Barrett has met his match, too, with a good teacher who listened attentively to his story  but also redirected him back on task already.  Go teacher!

And Anber nearly met her teacher, but wasn’t having any of that – kudos to her teacher for not pushing it, but good luck to them both on Thursday.

She was excited about having a locker, though!

They were super excited to see the library, where Kyrie was busy yelling back at all the animals:

And they were even more excited about the gym!

We found what maybe is the Speech room, which was lovely but so ironic and made me cry:

Mary said:

But Mama! This means they want to be kind, they really do.  They just don’t know how, and we will help teach them.  

But it also means that intended or not, the experience is teaching Mary hard things about life and systems and the way the world works.
And how much it hurts when it doesn’t work well, or as promised.

She said:

There is only one other brown kid here, besides me and Anber, and they already don’t want me because I am Deaf.

They say I am welcome.  

But it doesn’t feel like welcome.  

We will teach them, Mama.

We will teach them like Ruby Bridges did.

I love this girl, and I am really proud of her.

I am also proud of all six children, who were so good and patient while we were at the school for hours.  Meeting so many teachers takes ages!  But everyone was patient and waited their turn.  We were there for several hours, and the children were so amazing sitting in the hall and reading and waiting so long just so that I could have the individual experience with each child.   

Nathan did a great job keeping them together in the hallways, and carrying our Keeping Kyrie book to give to the teachers.  

Kyrie played all over each classroom, and was the only almost-naughty one, so we will see how long it takes her to get sick or if she can maintain all the way until Cincinnati, even with school starting.

I love our family, and we are doing our best, and I am so glad we were able to experience this evening together – and so touched by how the other children supported and encouraged Mary.  It was really lovely.  The plan of happiness, I say, even when life feels hard.

Alex’s Talk

Yesterday Mary was sick, so Alex gave a substitute talk for her in primary:

 

When I feel the Holy Ghost I feel warm inside.

It makes me feel happy, and glad.

Sometimes he also wants me to feel sad, like if I made a bad choice.

I feel the Spirit when I help someone carry heavy boxes, or when I comfort someone who fell down or who got a blister.

I read my scriptures and say my prayers every day, and come to church on Sundays, and that helps me to feel the Spirit.

Yesterday our family went to the temple. It’s the house of God.

I’ve been inside the temple to be sealed, but now I can’t go inside again until I’m twelve.

But I still feel the Spirit when I walk around outside.

It makes me feel reverent.

When I make a bad choice, like when I’m not kind to Grandma and Granddad, or when I’m not following directions, I don’t feel as close to the Spirit.

When I make good choices, there are some consequences that are easy to see. Yesterday I made good choices and got my own bottle of pop.

It can be harder than that to notice the Spirit sometimes. When I’m acting silly, I may not be thinking about whether I am feeling the Spirit.

But I have been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, so when I’m making good choices, the Spirit can always be with me.

Yesterday at the playground, my little sister Kyrie fell off a ladder and the Holy Ghost told me to go help her.

I am grateful for the church and the temple. I am grateful for how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. I love him.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Clothesing

This was my weekend off, and I needed it!  Excepting there was no resting, not when school starts this week and it’s time to check for school clothes.  

But that’s a lot, the bi-annual changeout of clothes for six children!

My plan was simple.  We spent last week just bringing the boxes in from the garage.  Then we spent the week washing everything again, and just making a giant pile in the living room.  Then we sorted it into girls and boys and sizes.   That way, we were ready this weekend, to go through everything.


I spread out the legos to keep them all occupied.  Then two at a time brought me all their hanging up clothes from the closet and tried on everything in their pile.  We passed on what was too little, got rid of anything worn out, and celebrated anything too small for Barrett or Kyrie because it meant we could get rid of it all together.


Anber was the most excited, because she finally reached size 6.  She had been dying for this because she knows when Mary was 6 was when we also had little Rose the same size, so Anber inherited whatever they grew out of – and has been waiting for it for three years.  They remember this kind of thing!


Alex, on the other hand, who struggles with clothing comfort because of autism, tries really hard to make his favorite clothes last as long as possible.


Mary tries every year to fit into my old junior high sweatshirts from the oversized 80’s.


Barrett had plenty because he gets double hand me downs from Alex and Kirk, and Kirk has whatever fits him plus what Alex has grown out of, so he is set.

And everyone has enough for school to start while it is still hot.

But Mary and Alex have no winter clothes at all (size 10/12), so tell us if you see any good deals or have anything you are passing on!  I think we are set otherwise, for the most part, even with shoes.

It’s a relief to have that done, even if we know their closets won’t always look this nice:


School supplies, check!

Backpacks, check!

School clothes, check!

Now, we just need haircuts for the boys and braids and beads for the girls.

And an interpreter for Mary.

(And holding our breath for Kirk’s new glasses to get here.)

We are almost ready!

Temple Adventures

We drive to Oklahoma City today, so that we could go to the temple one more time before it closes for remodeling (next month we will go to Kirtland and Nauvoo).


Temple worship is part of our faith tradition as Latter-day Saints, and in addition to our regular Sunday meetings locally.

It is because of temple ordinances, and the priesthood power by which they are done, that we are able to continue as a family even after death – instead of just “until death do us part” as civil ceremonies say.

We love each other, and don’t want death to be the end of us.

The temple is also a place for prayer, and pondering, and progressing in holiness through the covenants we make there and then practice keeping when we leave and go back home.

When I found a quiet place to sit by myself today, I opened the scriptures to find something – but accidentally Rilke-dipped myself right into this scripture as the pages fell open:


I love these verses!  This was in Doctrine and Covenants, a book of revelations from this restoration period in our history, but it is quoting Matthew 6 and Luke 12.  These are some of my favorites, and how I needed reminding of this today!


While we have seen this true in a hundred ways, the most obvious example is Kyrie.  When we adopted her, we promised we were capable of providing for her.  We didn’t know that day that she would rack up almost two million dollars of medical expenses in less than two years!  We have fought and appealed the limits of insurance, and witnessed the miracles as our community made up the rest – I don’t know how families without any insurance at all do it.

Well, sometimes those babies don’t make it.

Sometimes those families pay medical bills long after their little one has passed.

Even little things, like all the glasses Kirk goes through, or new braces on all of their feet, or another round of haircuts after Barrett chopped his bangs off with his new school scissors… it’s going to be okay.


Through all of that, we have had sufficient for our needs.

We were warned in a blessing, and when I was called to Chaplaincy, that it would be a hard year or so, and it has been.  Almost impossible.  Except the experience has strengthened our faith, drawn us closer together, and proven His promises to be true.

And we have been happy, in spite of it all.


Even when we experience normal first world problems, like knowing braces on teeth are about to be added to all the braces on legs around here.


Isn’t she beautiful?

Clothing six little ones, or feeding all eight of us, much less coming up with medical expenses or making up the money from time off work for all the hospitalizations – it is scary, sometimes, because we are weak and can’t see the answers – but we know they will come.

I read that today, too, the next verses that quote my patriarchal blessing:


Angels are sometimes those who have gone before us, and sometimes those who haven’t yet been born.

But most often, they are you and me, for each other.

Know what angels give my children?

Hugs. 

And lessons in grace, and mercy, and love.

Safe environments in which to play freely.

Social skills, lessons in conquering challenges, and natural consequences.

Like lessons in why we don’t kiss the skunks that live at the temple.


Angels are helping to raise my girls into strong women with fierce spirits and good boundaries, but hearts full of compassion and gratitude.

Angels are helping to raise my boys into wise and thoughtful young men, who are both strong and gentle, who are kind to others, and who serve others before themselves.


Angels surround us, temporally and spiritually, cheering us on as we experience the atonement increase our capacity to do good and grow closer to our Heavenly Father and each other.


 And the temple reminds us we are not alone.

We have each other.

And that’s the whole point.

Happiness.

Delightsome Days

I loved today.  And yesterday, for that matter.

Kirk got new braces this morning:

I got to cook for them all day,  and had plenty of helpers:


We got to sort and pack school supplies while Kyrie had her nap:

They are so excited!  I can’t believe how fast they are growing.  We have three third graders:

And two kindergarteners:

And one Cat in the Hat:

It is a relief to have all their school supplies, and have them all enrolled and ready to go.

Alex even got to see his PreK teacher!

We’ve had other surprises, like getting to use a gift card for pizza yesterday:

There’s a lot we don’t know, that would be easy to be anxious about.

We don’t know if the children will really all get to go to school together, because of special services programming.

We don’t know how we will come up with travel money for another surgery week all the way in Cincinnati, or pay bills for being off work again, or cover all the extra expenses while not being able to work.

We don’t know if I will get to keep my job for being off work again for Kyrie, and then also having to be in Utah to speak at the end of next month.

We don’t know where we will host the “bake sale” fundraiser a friend wants to throw us the evening of the 18th, or if anyone will come, or if anyone will participate.

We don’t know how Kyrie will do in surgery.

We don’t know what Kirk did with four pairs of new glasses.

We don’t know how to write eighty thousand books while running nonprofit group homes while having day jobs while caring for the children.

We do know, though, that we love each other.  We know our family is a source of happiness, even on days full of chaos and excitement.  We know we will miss the children when they go to school, but that it will be a glorious send off into the practice of mortality – even a necessary step of development.

We know who our Father is, and that He is our God, and that He will help us accomplish what He has asked us to do.

We know our power comes from the atonement, and from keeping temple covenants, and that our little efforts will be blessed beyond measure.

We know that this season of challenges has been used as seeds for a myriad of purposes, all of which are part of His design and so consecrated even though brought to pass through our small and simple efforts.

We know that the priesthood is real, and we know the words of our blessings are continuing to unfold, and we know we have been promised angels who will help and provide and protect and comfort us – and we know you are those angels.

I loved this day, and yesterday, my time with my family and time to rest and time to love.

I know every moment counts, and I am glad I haven’t missed a second of it.

Of that, I can be sure.

Today was delightful, and I was happy.

Back to School

It’s all happening before I am ready.

My house has very nearly jumped straight from being full of preschoolers to being full of pre-teens.

The boys who came to me with little faces still full of baby traces now stare into mirrors for hours, fixing their hair over and over again, do a new sulking thing when they are angry, and are somehow a whole head taller than they were when summer began.

My girls, my tiny sweet girls, are so tall and slim and active and strong.  Their adorable sass has shifted into a shocking sass that demands things go the way they want them to, and – unlike the boys – they don’t come back to apologize when they are over it.

But my girls reflect more than my impulsive boys, and the boys who used to never notice me now treat me like a queen… the way Nathan does.  The girls have done the same thing, gone from always wanting to be climbing on me to now always wanting to snuggle with him… the way I always do.

They are watching, and learning, as they always have, but now they are becoming, without me.

We have clung to each other through foster care, through the hard work of bonding via adoption, through emergencies and crisis between my cancer and the baby-who-is-now-a-toddler, and now rejoiced together as we all start to breathe with relief again.

We have, all of us, held our breath for so long!

And now, after the sucker punches of the last five years, suddenly there is an exhale.

It came slowly, and subtly, and I only just realized what was happening today.

It’s a breathing out, a letting go, a normalizing, a settling into safety with a new baseline of love.

Other Mamas hold their babies the day they are born, chase them through toddler-hood, play with them through preschool, and then cry when they go to kindergarten.

We have stumbled into each others’ lives so late, but not too late.

We have bumbled our way through adjusting to a large family, growing from strangers to friends to favorites, and finding our way through individual relationships newly discovered but eternally committed.

We have fallen in love with each other, held on for dear life, and laughed and cried and yelled and apologized and tried again just like any other family.

But together, it seems we have always been together.

The children were in public school, of course, in the beginning.  It wasn’t until Kyrie came, too sick for them to stay in school, that we began homeschooling.  Then we tried again when she was better, and it was lovely until she wasn’t.

People say Nathan and I have sacrificed for these children, and there are days it feels like we have given up everything – because we knew it was worth it.

Nothing we have done, or sacrificed, or any love we have tried to give the children, though, even compares for the love they have for each other.

They are siblings now, and their is a spiritual bond we cannot explain or describe, but that we witness every day.  They squabble like any large sibling set, and argue like all brothers and sisters do, and even hurt each other once in a while (“accidentally”, of course) – and maybe even say mean things sometimes.  But nobody, nobody, nobody else can interfere with any of them without the others noticing, and they protect each other fiercely the way only siblings can.   They have taught each other to love.

And oh!  My love is full for them!  Even while I type this, tears are pouring down my face in an ugly cry, because they are so embedded in my heart.  I hate every moment away from them, and ignore everything else when I can be with them.  I let go of things that used to seem important, and do things I never thought of, all because nothing is more important to me than my relationships with those children.

Those screaming loud children.  Those singing loud children.  Though cackling laughing children.  The ones with the legos left on the floor, the ones who put the books back on the bookshelf upside down, the ones who hide their clean clothes in the dirty clothes hamper, the ones who break their hangers, the ones who break our cleanout pipe by playing Beaver Family, the ones who drop dishes and rip holes in their pants and go through their shoes faster than I can buy them, and the ones who break their glasses faster than I can keep them on their face.

I want nothing more than to spend every moment with those little rug rats.

Except they aren’t babies anymore.

They ride bikes on the side walk for hours.  They draw on their beds, and read on bean bags, and can even cook bits of food without me.  They get dressed on their own, brush their teeth on their own, and fix their own hair.  They even wear deodorant!

They aren’t babies anymore.

And then, and then!  The doctor says they think Kyrie is strong enough, even though she has more surgery coming up, that she is strong enough that maybe they could go back to public school if they want to go.  What?!

Of course they are going to want to go!

I am so delighted for them!

But also I cry, in a Mama kind of way, in a selfish kind of way, because I am so going to miss them!  I have spent everyday with them since finishing chaplaincy, all day long, until going to work in the evenings, and now they will be going back to school.

I was not emotionally prepared for this.

I know it is good.  I know it is right – pending content taught in school, and impact of their various disabilities and what services they receive, and if they maintain functioning and are still happy… this school is going to have to prove itself to this Mama Bear!  Oh, my babies!  I miss them so much already, but I know they are going to be so excited and so happy.  I am afraid for them, and scared for them, and worried for them… but know they have to try, want to try, need to try.

This isn’t premortality.

They are so innocent, and so good, and I love that about their sweet little spirits.

But they are also punks, and they won’t learn to choose the good if we don’t expose them to the choices that await them.

It’s so hard to let go!   It’s so hard to miss them!

But suddenly it is here, time for school, and they get to go again (at least until winter), and they are going to absolutely freak out when we tell them.

I can’t tell them until we find enough backpacks.

Oh, backpacks!  School supplies!  What?

And five sets of homework everyday.  Five!  I will have three third graders and two kindergartners!

Oh, man, you guys.  Kyrie is going to be so mad!   She is not going to be happy about them going to school without her!

But it’s going to be so good for everyone, to leave home and create their own worlds!

That’s the whole point!

Oh, I am melted and so excited and grieving and so thrilled all at once!

I don’t know how we will come up with school supplies or school shirts in such a short amount of time, or keep up with five sets of homework for the first time ever.  

I don’t know if their teachers will know how special they are, or believe in them the way I do.  

I don’t know if they will find friends who are kind and help them choose the right.

I don’t even know if we will make it all year because of Kyrie, and I feel bad we already know we have to pull them out of school in September before her next surgery.

But I know it is their life to lead, and it’s their turn to try again.

And we will keep doing our curriculum on Saturdays, and on days off like holidays or the week in Cincinnati, just in case.  

We will just take it a day at a time, whether the school likes it or not.

I will probably get passive aggressive with teachers who don’t know we have their student times five plus one, and anxious out of my skin about everything being signed and returned back to school, and really not want to know what my child actually eats or does on the playground.

But we can try.

And I can cry now, while they are sleeping, and then be happy tomorrow when they find out and start getting ready as best we can.

Because I will wipe my tears and shake off my growing-up-kids grief and tell you in my most serious mean mom voice with a finger shaking in your face: if I have to spend seven hours filling out five sets of enrollment forms, you can be sure as lobsters that you will march yourself into that school, or else.

Now.  Let’s be happy about it, shall we?