Driven to the End

On our third morning in Miloli’i, we woke late and enjoyed a slow morning of packing and cleaning the rental house. We had until 11:00AM for check out and were in no hurry to get anywhere fast. We had a few things on our want-to-do list, so if they happened, well GREAT! If not, life would continue. We were clearly adopting the island attitude.

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Emma, Allen and me at Ka Lae (South Point), Hawaii

We set out on Highway 11 toward the south end of Hawaii for a spot referred to as Ka Lae (South Point). I was surprised that we were able to drive right up to the parking
area with ease; I’d expected a hike over rough terrain. We watched fishermen brave the crushing waves with their heavy, large poles and noticed a few whales offshore before we headed out of the parking lot. Taking a right, we made our way to Green Sand Beach, just a short drive from Ka Lae.

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Ka Lae (South Point), Hawaii

I assumed that the “walk” to Green Sand

would be similar to what we’d just experienced at Ka Lae, so we grabbed my camera and a bottle of water each and set out in the direction we noticed most of the visitors walking. As we reached the first red dirt mound summit, we sighed seeing several more we’d need to traverse, but pushed on. Occasionally, a jeep or other off-road vehicle came bouncing past us carrying tourists and one or two stopped to ask if we’d like a ride. We graciously replied no and kept to our original plan. For 30 more minutes.

Then came Dave. Dave put his little truck in park and got out. He had 3 cold bottles of water in his hands and asked if we’d like a ride. We looked at our empty bottles and back at his sweating, fresh bottles of liquid refreshment and I asked, “How much?”

“Ten dollars each,” he said with determination. I thought about how much cash I had in my wallet back in the rental car and replied that I wasn’t sure what I had (because I really didn’t). He said not to worry, he’d accept whatever amount I could pay him and opened the door for me.

Green Sand Beach Hawaii

As we bounced along in Dave’s truck, Emma leaned to me and commented that whatever I’d read on the internet was not accurate. This would not have been an easy hike. We were all taking a liking to Dave and his little truck, obviously. Dave’s other two passengers had just arrived on the island that morning and were confused by what they were seeing offshore. “What IS that out there blowing water?” Allen, Emma and I rolled our eyes at one another and explained they were migrating humpback whales. The passengers seemed shocked, so Dave offered to take them out on his boat the following day. Of course Dave had a boat for whale watching. After riding twice with Dave (out to Green Sand and back) in his little truck that broke down several times, I couldn’t see myself on a boat with him, but I wished the passengers a good time with him at the end of our journey.

Green Sand Beach Hawaii

Reaching Green Sand, Dave led us down the natural rock stairway and said we would head back when we were all ready as a group. The climb down into the cinder cone, which was once an extension of Mauna Loa, wasn’t as difficult as I’d read and we marveled over the rich green colors in the sand. Green Sand Beach gets its color from olivine, a silicate with magnesium and iron. It was beautiful. Simply beautiful and very much worth the $30 I fished out of my wallet back at the rental car for Dave.

Reaching Highway 11, we took a right toward Volcano National Park where we’d be staying for the next 4 days at KMC (Kilauea Military Camp). We stopped at Punalu’u Bake Shop for delicious deli sandwiches while we waited for a rain storm to pass and bought a loaf of bread and cinnamon rolls for breakfast the next day.

Before leaving the little town of Punalu’u, we found the famous black sand beach and spent about an hour in search of the sea turtles. Several buses of tourists were in the parking lot, so we steered clear of the crowds and took advantage of the tidepooling opportunities. It was a favorite activity in Alaska and second nature to us water loving people. As we searched for sea creatures, Emma spotted a sea turtle struggling against a wave near the rocks, but we didn’t find any on the beach.

Back on Highway 11, we headed East to KMC and the National Park. Our entrance was free, with our military IDs, and we found the KMC office to check into our cabin. Entering the military building felt so familiar. Regardless of where we’ve stayed across this country, CONUS and OCONUS (continuous united states and out of continuous united states for the non-military folks), military lodging has a similar theme. Military resorts, like Hale Koa and Shades of Green, are definitely an upscale version and not included in this description, but most logding is simple. Simple, thin carpet, very firm couches, standard coffee tables, firm chairs, basic items. They’re also accompanied with an extremely basic and fair price.

Our 1 bedroom cabin was literally steps away from the active volcano, Kilauea. Unfortunately, the rain had brought fog and we were unable to see the lava show that night. It was nice and chilly, so we stopped in at the store and

KMC cabin evening smore's

KMC cabin evening smore’s

purchased wood and smore’s ingredients before retiring to our cabin for the evening. It had been a memorable and adventurous day. It had also been the first day we had not heard from Jessi.

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Sinking heart

Our second day in Miloli’i began with a slight wind and warm sun. Taking advantage of sleeping children, I set up my mobile office on the beach house deck overlooking the ocean with hopes of seeing a whale or two. Immediately, my phone rang. It was Jessi’s birth grandmother, someone she was now referring to as “Tutu,” letting me know the plans for the day.

“Her dad and sister are coming to get her to show where he works and lives and other things like that. OK? So, they’re on their way.” Jess had just appeared with her bedhead and pjs and I passed the message. She ran to get dressed and reappeared asking if it was appropriate to wear a ruffled skirt with a ruffled shirt. Since when did she care about her appearance? Later, I found the pile of clothes that she had tried on. It was as though she was a teenager going on her first date.

She hopped into their vehicle with an air of royalty and expectation of their submission and off they went. Whether or not I’d see her again that day weighed on my mind. Would she want to come back to our house for the security concerns she expressed the evening before?makalawena beach

Allen, Emma and I gathered our things and headed out for a day of discovery. My first objective was to put the top down on the convertible Camaro. The universe, however, decided it was not to be. We discovered the reason we couldn’t enjoy this tropical island riding in open air – a broken top storage canvas bar. In the newer vehicles, a canvas piece must be pulled out and set into place before the car will allow it’s top to fold into the compartment. Apparently, these newer vehicles are quite smart and able to ignore mere human attempts to fool it’s sensors. Frustrated, I decided to drive north toward the airport and rental car center for assistance.

“Funny thing about our top, ” I tell the rental agent.

“Funny thing indeed,” the rental agent snorts. He handed me an incident report form and aranged a second convertible Camaro. It was white, not red, and smelled of smoke. Hoping to dispel the nasty air, I put the top down and we headed back onto the highway going north. My backseat passenger was unapproving of this decision and voiced her thought bubbles. You know, those thoughts you really should keep to yourself, especially when your mom is looking for peace, relaxation and the tropical breeze blowing past her ears to drown out all sound?

About 2 miles north of the airport, I turned left onto a dirt road. I’d read about this “secret” beach on several blogs and knew the road might give us a challenege. Challenge would be an understatement.

We began our journey to Makalawena Beach with the other caravaning rental sports cars all without high clearance. The road traversed an old lava field and as we spent the next 20-25 minutes bumping along slowly over large stones and boulders, my backseat passenger becoming more vocal. Unfortunately, there was no high speed breeze to drown out her complaints.makalawena beach

Hawaii may be the only state in the US where rental cars are expected to be taken off road. It was certainly the first time I’d seen so many tourists willing to add injury to their rental vehicle in rapid succession. Through a lava field no less. About 3/4 of the way, several of my caravaning hoaloha turned around, possibly fearing their contract stipulations where extra insurance had been declined.

We, however, pressed on to discover a filled parking lot of locals and tourists alike. Two of us gathered our things as one of us was being stubborn and refusing to exit the car. I silently threatened to sacrifice her when I found the ancient temple later in the week. I’ll spare you the rest of the ohana drama, but will tell you this drive was worth the bumps, tight fists and occasional gasps as the bottom of the car ground against a boulder.

I’d read the beach at the end of the road was very nice, but I’d also read to follow the sand to the right, past the red barn with goats (no goats the day we visited) and over the lava field to one of the most gorgeous white sand beaches you’d ever see. At least that’s what was promised. We brought more than enough water this time, having learned how arrid the environment is on the Big Island and set off through the lava field. It ended abruptly. Shade trees surrounded by fine white sand greeted us before revealing Makalawena’s beauty. The surf was too vicious to snorkel, but Allen and I were treated to a show of breaching whales offshore.hawaii rainbow

The hike back to our car, encouraged by a storm moving in, was long and hot. Tempers were high and moods unsavory. I tried to imagine spending the next week in this small car with my disagreeable backseat passenger, who would be sharing space with large suitcases when I wanted the top down. Keeping this vision in my head after jostling and bumping my way back to the higway and I as turned to head south, I made the executive decision to make a stop at the rental car center. Explaining they might just save a teenager’s life, I asked for a THIRD rental car. The agent laughed and found an SUV that she could rent us for the same price. All was good again for our ohana of 3 and we drove south back to Miloli’i in the rain for the evening.

We received a phone call from Jess around 8:00PM as we drove into our subdivision telling us she was staying with her new family for the night. I asked about her previous concerns about their house and she informed me she was fine. She also shared their activities of the day, which consisted of many people buying her clothes, food and whatever she wanted.

My heart sank…… Perhaps the amount of time I’d spent preparing her for this journey was playing a role and she knew enough about them ahead of time to make this decision to attach to them so quickly. Perhaps they were all nice people who were doing everything they could to help her feel comfortable and attach to them. Perhaps it was a day of her being in control of many adults and watching their height achieved when she said jump that made her decision easier, but it made my stomach turn. There would be no perfect solution to this situation. She was there to make a connection and I was there to supervise from a distance.

And wait for the fallout.

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Night marching like the natives

After spending time with Jess as she met her paternal birth family, Allen, Emma and I headed to our beach house rental in a little subdivison in Miloli’i, the last fishing village in Hawaii. The wind was strong that afternoon and it was obvious we wouldn’t be getting in the water, so we headed out to find Honomalino Bay. Directions were easy to find on the internet and I’d made myself familiar with the area online before arriving.

The bay is at the end of the road past the subdivison and through an older residential section. We had rented a red convertible Camaro, so we drove along the paved, narrow path with top down and Imagine Dragons blaring. I’m surprised we weren’t jumped.

Miloli’i isn’t frequented by tourists often, so the appearance of a couple of haoles (describes a white person; can be an insult or just a fact) was obvious. The haoles found the little yellow church at the end of the road across from the pavilion; both landmarks given as reference on various sites and books. Finding the start of the trail to the bay was tricky initially, because it passes along several private properties. As we began our walk, a group of locals were coming toward us. We smiled and greeted them, but only received cold stares. Had they heard our haole music as we pulled up? Were they unfriendly to us visitors, because this was their spot? I suppose I would respond similarily if I had a gorgeous beach in my backyard, too.

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We had been warned to bring water, but we didn’t believe the precaution. It was listed as a 20 minute walk. Surely, we’d be fine with one bottle of liquid refreshment. The arid environment taught us otherwise and we consumed the single serving rapidly as we climbed over trees and stumps paying careful attention to avoiding the numerous maraes. Maraes, or consecrated spots, were built as a ritual during travel to assure safe passage in the form of rock piles that were a deity offering or representations personified to remember their loved ones. Hawaiians continue to make offerings as they pass by and we saw a marae that not only was built of stones, but had tennis balls on top.

Finding Honomalino Bay was like finding a memory for us. It’s dark black sand reminded us of Kodiak and as well all removed our shoes and buried our toes, Emma commented it was like going home. The bay was deserted and the setting sun became a beautiful display of Mother Nature. We sat on the rocks and listened as the waves forced water through the inner cravices. We marveled as the water energy was forced into rock openings, resembling volcanoes. It was too stunning to leave and we soon found ourselves heading back to our car on a dark path. As my Hawaiian friend described it, we “night marched like the natives.”20130323-083120.jpg

I could say it was peaceful and serene, but in fact I became a bit neurotic. My big city instincts kicked in and I was convinced someone in our party would be harmed. It was the perfect picking grounds for a criminal. Hushing the children at one point, I was told I needed to relax.

We found our way back to our car, which had not touched by anyone and we night marched ourselves back to our rental. While we didn’t feel welcomed that evening in Miloli’i, we were respected. For that, I say mahalo to the people of Miloli’i.

Honomalino Bay Hawaii Honomalino Bay Hawaii

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Picking through the pieces

Arriving in Hawaii felt familiar for 3 of us. The 4th didn’t remember her first visits to the islands and certainly didn’t recall the biological family members she’d be meeting in a few days. To help with the adjustment from the daily routine to the big reveal for this trip, a weekend on Oahu was fitting. Sunshine on the skin, coral and sea creatures to be discovered and sand between the toes helped with the transition.

West of Home South of Sanity

Jessi was going to spend time with her birth father and his family and her grandmother, a woman who asked to be called “Tutu”, eagerly awaited at a local Denny’s restaurant soon after we landed in Kona. We knew what she looked like from her online videos and CDs; she’s a famous Hawaiian performer. She tried to hug Jess immediately and I watched as my RADling’s entire body stiffened. On the flight from Honolulu, Jess had nervously twitched in between attempts to follow my deep breathing instructions. She wasn’t sure what to expect.

As we all ate a mid-day meal together, my teens and I marveled at the genetic similarities. Not only in the physical features, but in the mental processing and behaviors. We had proof, sitting across the table from us, that your genes play a significant role in your life, regardless of how and where you are raised. However, this isn’t to say you can’t find strategies to manage the traits you deem not positive.

Jess was slowly introduced to the rest of her paternal birth family during a small, outdoor wedding reception at a local park after our meal. As people joined the group, we played little ID games trying to determine who was her father, her sisters, etc. At times, she was in her own world and didn’t seem to care why anyone was there. She was being greeted by all of these strangers who would place authentic leis on her neck before trying to hug her. They all wanted to meet her and ask questions about her life. She was the center of attention. Not a good place for a RADling to be for long.

Her body language changed over the next hour from the girl we have worked so hard to help for the past 8 years to the girl we like to avoid. She was no longer using social cues to manage her behavior, but was feeding off the power she was receiving. If someone approached and said, “Aloha!”, she put her nose in the air and asked them if they knew she’d been to Disney World. She wasn’t interested in learning their names or anything about them, she only wanted to talk about herself and her experiences.

There is no manual for how to reconnect your RADling to their birth family. There certainly isn’t a manual for how to explain your RADling to their birth family. So, I did what I needed to in order to stay sane. I put Jess in their capable hands and my teens and I headed to our beach house rental, which was a short 4 minute drive to where Jess would be for the evening. Parenting her in that situation would have been futile and I wasn’t up to the task, whatever that may have entailed.

On the way to our rental, we drove past the family’s beach house. The property is held in legal limbo and the family is unable to do anything to the structure except for minor repairs. I knew when Jess laid eyes on this house, I’d get a phone call asking to be with us. Around 8PM, that phone call came. We drove over to pick her up and I asked why she wanted to be with us for the night. She said it wasn’t what she was expecting and that someone staying in the house smoked and it made her uncomfortable. When we told her about the cemetery behind the house and the outhouse usage, she declared she would never stay there and sighed relief when she walked into our rental. She had paid attention to her feelings and acted accordingly to her internal safety levels – whatever attention she had received that day from these strangers couldn’t make her risk her security. As I sent her to bed, I was satisfied that our hard work for 8 years had made a difference in this little girl’s life. I had hope that as a teenager she might not put herself in unsavory predicaments in pursuit of attention. I had hope that we had turned a corner in this RADling’s life.

West of Home South of Sanity

I was wrong………

to be continued

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Yesterday, I hesitated. Today, I booked the tickets.

When the idea comes to you, you search for the avenues of possibility. You also waste time trying to convince yourself of why you SHOULDN’T take action on your idea.

We might need the money for an emergency, for a project, for…… I’d need to rearrange schedules first. What if a client gets upset?……. How will I find care for the boys while I’m away? What about Michael’s calendar?…… What if….. What if…. What if…….

My idea centers around Jess and reconnecting her with her paternal birth family in Hawaii. She’s at an age where she asks questions and wants real answers given. She’s at an age where her classmates are making fun of her Hawaiian appearance and where she wants to change her looks to fit in more. She’s at an age where her heritage should be tangible and experienced up close. She’s at an age where that experience will be remembered.

Yesterday, I hesitated with following through on this idea. I allowed the gremlins to cloud what our family knows Jess needs right now in her life. Yesterday, I hesitated with purchasing tickets to fly myself and my oldest 2 children and Jess to Hawaii to visit with her birth family and immerse her in all things tropical.

Today, as I watched the horror of the Connecticut school shootings, I booked the tickets. Screw the mind gremlins. Life is too short.

I am taking my children to Hawaii to help Jess discover who she truly is and where she came from. No more hesitation.

ALOHA!

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Ho Ho Hugs

We completed our family evening outing last night with a trip to Barnes & Noble. As Allen tweeted, “Only in my family would the kids ask to stop at the book store…” As we entered the store, we passed a grumpy looking man standing outside. Nick didn’t miss a step and launched himself toward the man with open arms and saying, “Oh, LOVE!” None of us immediately moved to block the encounter, but we did pull Nick off the man while apologizing. I watched the man’s face as we walked away and saw a twitch in his lips.

Maybe Nick knew the grumpy man needed a hug. And maybe we knew Nick would be able to touch this man’s heart. 

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The Definition of Outrageous

A few weeks ago I was reading to my older kids from Brene Brown’s latest book Daring Greatly and shared with them something Brene had said at her book launch I attended here in Houston: She always asks her family’s permission before sharing their story.

insert imaginary light bulbs over my kids’ heads

“Wait! Back up! She aassssskkkkssss for permission first? Gee, mom. Maybe you need to take a page from her book.” Crap! I clearly didn’t think that one through first. I understand both sides (me wanting to share the story vs my children NOT wanting me to share their story) and am wading amongst the mucky waters of good parenting while being a good story teller. My compromise has been to furiously write down Allen and She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named’s stories and try to ask them for permission when we’re maybe shopping… or at Disney…. or when they want to go out with friends…. Or when the memory of the blog-worth event has faded and the emotions aren’t as raw. I, however, am not extending this compromise to the younger kids for several reasons with the biggest being they won’t understand what it is I’m asking.

Speaking of not understanding, I have a Jessi story to share. At the beginning of school, we warned her teachers she might tell outrageous stories to gain attention. Tall tales during an assignment are usually her favorite, because she can get the wide-eyed expressions (adult reaction) while keeping the attention on her (especially when her tall tale involves her being a victim) while simultaneously getting out of her work (her goal). What I neglected to tell the teachers was our definition of outrageous.

The first email we received simply asked, “What does your husband do for a living?”

Hello Mrs. M,

Thank you for asking what my husband does for a living. He’s active duty Coast Guard and is currently a vessel inspector. This past year he was in LA on a small cutter that rescued boaters and did fisheries law enforcement. Before that he was in TX on a large cutter that rescued migrants and tried to catch drug runners.

I suppose that COULD sound a little far fetched coming from a child who has been labeled an outrageous storyteller. I continued to type a list of REAL events and elements that accurately describe our family, which went a little like this:

  1. She was born in Alaska, but is part Hawaiian and her birth father sends her a box of macadamia nuts every Christmas.
  2. She lived on an island in Alaska and frequently saw bears, whales, sea lions, puffins and eagles. The eagles would sit in the trees outside of our house and emit their screams when we’d get in the truck.
  3. She’s flown on C-130s to Anchorage where we’d go to restaurants and shopping at the mall. She saw a volcano erupt during one of those flights.
  4. She’s been to Hawaii and hula danced on the beach. She also listens to her birth grandmother’s music CDs at night to keep her Hawaiian culture alive.
  5. She has 2 brothers who are deaf.
  6. She has 1 brother with magnets in his head and he can hear with little computers on his ears.
  7. She has a brother who has a button that mom hooks a tube to and pours milk into his stomach.
  8. She has a brother whose head is really small and will never get bigger; even as his body grows, his head will always be small. Mom calls him “Little Head”.
  9. She has a grandmother who is a veterinarian and she’s helped with surgeries and isn’t too scared of the blood.
  10. Her house flooded 2X .
  11. She has a Kodiak grizzly bear on the wall at home.
  12. She once caught a halibut while whales were breeching around the boat.
  13. She went with her family to Alaska to adopt a little boy, but he had to go back, because his RAD was more intense than hers.
  14. She fished for salmon all the time in Alaska and caught one with her bare hands.

I have no doubt that poor teacher was wide-eyed and wondering where in her job description were statements related to having a RAD student, especially one with the adventures like Jess. In the end, it was easier to ask the teachers to email if they felt a story needed validation. I want them to be able to teach their classes rather than spending too much time verbally fact checking a RADling.

Video for teachers on RAD

None of this, by the way, is told to you when they place that precious little toddler with the ringlet curls in your arms. There is no Magic 8 Ball to predict the future, but if there was one 8 years ago and it was accurate, I imagine it would have said, “Buy wine NOW”.

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She’s not a fish

I’ve struggled with writing this post for several weeks. Then I decided to wait for an update before publishing. Then I needed a week to mull over my thoughts and recover emotionally after the update before I published. I found my “happy place” after an exhausting week with Nick at Children’s…. Sitting in a dark EEG room and long, traffic-ridden drives give the brain plenty of time to think things through.

Before the twins could begin school this year, we had to participate in a transfer admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) meeting with a committee that consisted of school representatives, teachers, audiologists, deaf co-op administrators and a speech therapist. I’ll spare you the major details, but towards the end, I felt unheard and misunderstood. I had repeated over and over the twins’ background, their intimate story, in the hope that everyone present would comprehend and feel to their core, as our family does, how important the boys are and how hard we’ve all worked to get them to the successful level they demonstrate today. I laid out what felt like every single piece of my heart on that conference table and when I didn’t get the response I was anticipating, I began to cry. My breakdown was clearly uncomfortable for many at the table, but one (yes, one) angel reached for a box of tissues. Everyone else either glanced down at their paperwork or wouldn’t meet my eyes. I felt as though my trust in this committee that would ultimately determine my children’s fate had been betrayed. And it hurt. It took me several days to regain my footing after the first ARD.

A month later, we have the 30-day ARD for both boys to review an encyclopedia’s worth of testing and determine best placements. I wrote my opening speech and spent days practicing. However, as soon as we entered the room, I lost my urge to help these strangers see our life and fully understand it. I lost the desire to share our story, because your story is shared with those who deserve to hear it. Entering that room, which had more in attendance than the first ARD, had me leaving our story in the lobby.

At one point, I did make an abbreviated statement as follows:

Parenting is a shame minefield. For all of us, but especially for those of us who were called upon and chosen to adopt a child with special needs. Someone thought our family would do a pretty darn good job putting these kids on the right path, so when we screw up, we feel as though the critics not only come out from under their rocks, but they’re also renting planes with huge banners that read, “These parents failed big time! Don’t be them!”

I imagine none of you have been on this side of the table, but I’ve been on your side. Guess which side cuts you off at the knees and leaves you open and exposed? Guess which side takes DAYS to recover from? This side.

I want to address my mental breakdown at the first ARD. I felt unheard, even though I repeated my story several times. I still honor my emotions, but I’ve shifted my trust from this committee back to those invested: my family. I’m putting trust in these little boys, who are happy. They may be frustrated at times and a bit confused, but at the end of the day, they are happy. THAT is all we care about – their happiness.

They love going to school. So, I thank all of you here. My family thanks you, too. Whatever is decided in this meeting I know in my heart and soul is right, because of the time, energy and effort everyone has put into these boys. Our family will not just jump in with both feet, we’ll cannonball into this.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised that none of this was entered into the meeting’s notes under parent comments. What WAS entered were my concerns of the behavioral approach used in one classroom, which was fine for one child, towards the other child and how he would respond. My comments and beliefs were not accepted well by the principal in attendance, understandably, but what followed was like a punch in the chest that literally knocked the wind out of me. She informed me that if having the twins in the same classroom was disruptive to the other students’ learning environment, she would move one child to a completely different school. I attempted to explain how a new school would do NOTHING to improve behavior and would be devastating for a child who had a long history of trauma and abuse. Her words, “I am not saying that is what will happen. I am simply letting you know ahead of time.”

I choked back the bile rising in my throat and the tears forming in my panicking eyes and said, “I am simply letting you know ahead of time that I will NEVER allow that to happen. I will homeschool them again before I allow them to be traumatized again.” I sat back, firmly, and crossed my arms, like a 5 year old. I suppose I did it as a body language message that I would not budge on my belief of protecting these kids at all costs. How could she NOT see how her statements made no sense for the child’s well-being? How could she NOT see how her statements of threatening trauma affliction to my family would cripple me as an adoptive special needs parent? I would have recovered from the chest punch quicker.

What I’ve realized this week is that there’s NO WAY she could see the effect of her statements. Because she’s not a fish (watch this brilliant TED Talk by Seth Godin for an explanation). Essentially, she’s not an adoptive special needs parent who has spent 7 years trying to right wrongs and doing everything you can, 24/7, to make life brighter and better for a kid who can only thank you in hugs. She’s not us, she’s not invested. She’s simply a school principal. So, I discarded my dislike of her for making such a crass threat. I will say, however, that as a fish who has swam through all but 2 of the 7 seas, she’s missing out on a great life adventure.

Truth: Michael has sailed 5 of the 7 seas

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First Point

As I watched Jessi close the garage door while tossing something in her mouth, I ran through the scenario, hoping I could navigate past the anger I was feeling and not screw this up. I stood silently as she entered the house and waited for her to realize what I’d seen. Her body language, stiff back with the apathetic expression, told me she was ready for the usual battle.

“What were you doing in the garage?” Mistake #1: Never ask a RADish “what were”, because you won’t get a straight answer and it’s a waste of your time and theirs. They wait for you to answer your own question, because they want to use YOUR brain. I get silence and that RADish cold stare. So, I move on to mistake #2 and ask what was in her mouth.

“Gum”, she says stoically. “Dad said I can have some.” I question whether he gave her permission to enter the garage when he’s not home and take the gum whenever she pleases. “Yes, he did.” So, I repeat my question and her shoulders drop inward as she quietly whispered, “No”.

I stood still as I clicked through the new strategy I’d read the day before and shifted from anger, which was what she wanted to see from me, and started celebrating. “Woo hoo! Oh yeah! Uh huh!” I shouted while dancing across the kitchen to grab an orange (nice, bright color) dry erase marker. Matt didn’t know why I was shouting, but he liked the idea and joined me. As I drew a cupcake on the board, Allen joined us and happily thanked Jess for giving us our first point.

“Sweet, Jess! Now we only need 9 more to get our cupcakes! Thank you for lying! We got our first point!” We all danced and I added a thick, purposefully large “1″. Jessi was in shock. She literally froze in her spot, unsure of what just happened. She certainly wasn’t getting the reaction she wanted AND her lying was giving us something WE wanted. It was BEAUTIFUL.

Last summer, we dealt with targeted tormenting and found hope in Ten Weird Things that Help RAD Kids Get Healthy. This summer, we (as in me, Michael, Allen and Emma) learned this handy little strategy of earning points for lying from 99 Ways to Drive Your Child Sane. Word of caution: DO NOT USE THIS WITH MENTALLY HEALTHY CHILDREN. Having 3 other people in the home helping me implement this technique has been helpful, because when you’re the sole disciplinarian, it’s exhausting. With a cupcake reward, I have THREE other brains actively luring Jess into situations where she’d normally deny involvement. It is BEAUTIFUL.

I am happy to report that in 2 weeks, we have earned just the one point. Our RADish is on top of her game and not interested in seeing us eat cupcakes without her. She’s realized that lying isn’t worth her energy when we whoop it up and dance rather than get angry. That feeling of whooping and dancing? It is BEAUTIFUL!

west of home south of sanity

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how does it work?

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Our little chunky monkey

Wonder how Nick’s feedings are going? Amazingly well, thank you very much! His port, or Mickey, has a clear plastic plug to protect the opening that can be removed with one hand. His Pediasure 1.5 is poured into the tubing and flows straight to his stomach. We connect the tubing, wait for the air to bubble through the milk before the flow begins. It usually only takes a few minutes to get one can in, which is world’s apart from the struggles we faced for the past 6 years trying to get him to drink the 12 ounces.

After the feeding, the tubing is washed and it’s ready to go for the next use. The process is very similar to caring for a bottle-fed infant – when we leave home, we carry cans of Pediasure and tubing. We stick to his schedule of 3-4 cans per day and if he needs to be fed in public, most people don’t even notice, because the process is not a big production.

I had Matt assist me with video this week to show everyone just how easy Nick’s tube feedings are, so watch below and ignore the occasional camera shake from my budding videographer.

Nick’s Feeding Tube taken by Matt from Carey Vorholt on Vimeo.

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