Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Special Lady

My cousin Mary Jeannine with her mom ,my Aunt Jeannine (not to be confused with my sister Jeannine who comments on the blog)  I know it is a lot of Jeannine's in the family!
I loved this picture of my Aunt J because it shows her high cheek bones and her gorgeous green eyes.   

My Aunt Jeannine died unexpectedly this week, she is my grandma's youngest sister.   I am so saddened by her passing.   She is going to leave a legacy behind her.    She was incredibly intelligent, well read and educated.  I think of her as fearless, and tenacious without being a bulldog.    My Aunt J graduated with a degree in Social Work from Loyola University and received her Masters degree from University of Illinois Chicago.  All after raising 5 children.   Her gift was that she was the world's best listener.  She actively listened and always asked interesting and probing questions.  She always made you feel that you were the only person in the room.  She never was distracted by others conversation her total focus was always on who ever she was speaking with.   It truly is a lost art...the art of listening.   She traveled the world over and had interesting and funny stories.   She has been one of the most supportive people of our adoptions.  She would cut out articles about China or Chinese adoptions and send them to me to read.   She worked as an adoption social worker in the Chicago area, so she understood the industry well. 

There is definitely a hole in our family without her and it has only been a day.   My Aunt was my Grandmother's youngest sister.   Both of my grandma's sisters had children more in the age range of us.  So we spent a lot of fun times with my grandma and her sisters with all of their kids.   They were more like our first cousins, rather than our second cousins.   My grandma and her two sisters taught all of us what family loyalty was about without being exclusive of others.   They shared, they loved, they laughed and they cried together because they were sisters and they were family.   The three of them were such an incredibly strong role model to us all.  

My grandma and her sisters established our family dynamic where cousins, aunts and uncles celebrate every Christian holiday together in addition to Halloween, New Years and Birthdays.  Not because it is an obligation but because we all support, love and enjoy one another.   No generation is excluded and my family goes to great length to make sure everyone get's to the party.    It is a family dynamic that most people would be envious of.     Aunt Jeannine is going to be missed dearly by all of us, because of her authenticity, compassion and wonderful stories.    She built a legacy that will continue past her time here on earth.   Rest in Peace Aunt loved and you were loved!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Every Child Deserves a Mrs. R

Waiting for the parade to start is serious business for these fella's!

Last year, I received a much needed gift from someone in an area of my life that I didn't even realize that I needed help until time had passed.   I was so caught up into my day to day life of therapies, Dr. appointments, fighting the school district that I was unaware of the importance of what was being given to me.   Let me start off this story by saying that Bei has been gracious and kind beyond words in how he has allowed me to focus on Kai these past 2.5 years.  However, there has been a price that Bei has paid because of it.   Bei had unaddressed educational needs that I wasn't really aware of until he started Kindergarten.   I am going to back you into how the gift came into my life by sharing a little history about Bei.  

Back when Bei had his mandatory pre-school screening at age 3 he didn't pass...he failed!   I was shocked!!!  What???   Didn't this woman testing him notice his "high forehead"????   For those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning remember all the Asians who came up to me and said "Very smart boy...high forehead".   To refresh your memory here is the Link.  Plus, my own experience told me that this little guy is VERY smart!   But nope, he didn't pass and he was to be evaluated for an IEP.   I was having none of it.   I called the woman's supervisor and we spoke about the test and he was retested.  A second woman tested him and said she had to do a lot more for him than other kids his age, but she passed him.   As I was leaving she suggested that I take him to an Occupational Therapist.   WHAT????   I pointed to Bei's forehead and gave her "the look", geeeeezzzz, she must not know what a Chinese genius looks like!   And therapy???? that is for people that have "real problems", not my perfect little boy with the "high forehead".   (God must have been giggling pretty hard at this point, considering all the therapy that laid ahead of us with Kai). 

Once Bei was enrolled in preschool, the teacher and I concentrated on Bei's emotional needs and dealt with his severe separation anxiety, rather than his academic needs.  He had the high forehead so  I didn't need to worry about the academics.   All of the children's work from preschool was collected each day and put in a book and given to the parents at the end of the year.  When I received Bei's portfolio of work after a year of attending preschool I couldn't wait to see all the work he had done.   I excitedly opened it,  but it was a filled with blank page after blank page.  He had never even traced one letter of the alphabet...gulp!   Uh oh...this little boy is going into kindergarten not able to write any of his letters or numbers.  We spent the summer prior to kindergarten learning how to write the ABC's, and I found out really quickly that writing is hard for Bei.   I see now what I didn't even see then, Bei has fine motor delay...he needs Occupational Therapy...she says while eating crow.

 Let me preface that Bei entered kindergarten with several strikes against him;
  • I was still in denial that he was anything but a genius,
  • I chose half day kindergarten over the full day program, 
  • Kai was in the throws of screaming all night long and I was physically and emotionally drained.
  • I was beginning my fight with the public school district over their denials of Kai's education. 

I didn't have a lot of extra in my tank to give to Bei.  This is where the gift part comes in.  Fortunately for us, God led us to the perfect school for Bei.   It had a small class size of 17 kids and a close knit community of parents and teachers.   Most importantly, God brought an angel into Bei's life to teach him and guide him, her name was Mrs. Redmond.   Mrs. R is one of those teachers that changes the course of a child's life.   She was able to see Bei's strengths, that he was smart but he was significantly behind the other children in reading and writing.  She was able to secure an English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher to work with him on a weekly basis.  He needed it!!!   She also convinced me that he needed to be at school full day.  That was a hard one for me to let go of him.  But it was also a mistake on my part not to have done it sooner.  The thing that really stood out for me regarding Mrs. R is not only the passion she had for all the children in her room, but the joy and sense of accomplishment she saw in their progress.   I loved how she saw Bei's strengths and emphasized those but didn't shrink away from the fact that he needed additional help.   She did something that I know will be hard to find again with his future teachers...she fought for him.   She committed to closing the academic gap and advocated for him when I didn't have the energy and knowledge to do it.   She also handled Bei's separation anxiety with the compassion and firmness that both Bei and I needed.   When people fight for what is right it is a beautiful thing, but someone fighting for your child because she cares about his education is a REMARKABLE gift.  She changed the course of his life by stepping in and going above and beyond.  My mind sometimes goes to that place of "what if?"...what if Bei would have had another teacher that didn't work so hard to close the achievement gap?   Perhaps he would have been held back because they didn't have the commitment that Mrs. R had?   What if he fell further and further behind in reading?   Let me just say that I am forever grateful to this special woman that came into my son's life when I wasn't able to be the best for him.   I don't believe it was an accident...I believe it was all orchestrated by His hand.   Thank you Mrs. Redmond!!!!!!!!!!!!   I will be eternally grateful! You have raised the bar high for all of us.   

This year, I am able to go fight the fight for my little guy.   I am pushing him because I believe that he can close that achievement gap.   I work with Bei on a daily basis and he is making great strides in his reading and writing skills.  He also is being evaluated by an Occupational Therapist for his fine motor skills and we will get him any help that he needs to gain the skills that he needs.  Currently, he has the hand writing skills of a doctor...hmmm...I know he would make a great doctor because have I mentioned his forehead? is huge!!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Then and Now

 Bei waiting for his Forever Family to come and pick him up in China
 He could never imagine what was in store for him and how much we would love him.
 He was 27 months old when we picked him up in May 2008 and weighed 16 lbs.   The little girl next to him is Sarah who was adopted by an Ohio family. 
 I went to China with fear of the unknown enveloping every cell of my body.  I had never parented before and had no idea what was about to happen to my life.
 Love happened!  This little police officer has redefined love for me.  
 I never knew you could love someone so much. 
Bei is everything I ever wanted in a child...minus the whining...but you get what I mean.