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Saturday, July 21, 2012

The GIRLS (A glimpse into my past)

When we were in Yakima, we had a chance to visit with Luke's biological sisters J and A.  It had been just about a year since the last time they saw each other.  I always feel so privileged to watch the reunion between them, as if to thank them for letting me witness their "moment".  
If you have ever had any question or doubt about whether biological siblings will remember anything about each other if they are separated, I can assure you THEY DO!  It is as if, in an instant there is a bond between the three of them that cannot be undone.  I always watch in amazement as they "assume" their "birth order" roles.  Which Luke being the "oldest" in our home, automatically becomes the "youngest" in the sibling group.  And what is even more AMAZING is he lets them tell him what to do!  (That NEVER happens in our home.)  The bond between them is sweet and beautiful.  I love to watch them love each other.  And while my heart breaks that the visits don't last forever, I am thankful for their family who recognizes and understands the importance of seeing each other.  

The "girls" hold a VERY special place in my heart.  They were MY babies for a few months.  I rocked, and held and hugged and kissed and cared for them.  I turned a bedroom into a princess castle.  A, had all the matching purple furniture and J, had all the matching pink furniture.  When A and J and Luke lived with us all together at the same time, I had a 3 year old, 2 year old and 1 year old all with VERY special needs.   I can remember the schedule like it was yesterday...A had special preschool 4 days a week, J had special preschool 2 days a week, plus physical therapy and speech therapy, Luke had physical therapy, and lots of doctors appointments.  All three had parent visits throughout the week, and all three had ear tubes, all three in diapers.  Both A and J were being looked at by a developmental pediatrician.  They would cling onto my legs, begging to be held, crying, saying "up mommy".  I didn't have enough arms.  

(I will always and forever remember J and A this way. This is how I see them in my mind!)

Ultimately we decided (DCFS and Mark and I) that they needed to separate the children so that their needs could be met.  Some would argue that we did the wrong thing.  Truthfully, seeing the 3 of them together now, I feel pains of guilt knowing that I could have changed their destiny.  I also am 33 years old now and have trained as a special educator.  I was 24 at the time the 3 kiddos lived in our home.  I have matured a bit :) 

I am the one now that gets to answer the tough questions like "why don't I live with my sisters?"  and help him work through the crying when he misses them.  With adoption, you can never erase the past, wipe it clean, make a fresh start.  We can look at the past, learn from it, and move forward.  As much as this mama would like to erase the hurt, and tears, and medical issues to make everything wonderful for my baby boy....I.CAN'T.  So I tell him the TRUTH, that all 3 of them had special needs, and all the adults that cared for him in his life decided that we all needed more help.  That is when they found a forever home for A and J.  A nice couple that didn't have any children.  The GIRLS became everything to them!  And another family was made!  
All 3 kiddos were adopted on the same day, together in their families!  It was very special.  

Playing jacks with my other cuties!

I love the tenderness between A and Luke.  She must have said 10 times we were there "I love you Luke!"  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why I LOVE Disneyland....

In a few days our family will visit "The Happiest Place on Earth" courtesy of a Jet Blue Vacation Package. I always feel so giddy about getting to visit no matter how many times I have been there. The kids are "over the moon" excited to go. I think the anticipation is one of the best parts. Talking over dinner and sharing about our favorite rides, treats and places to eat is a fun way to look forward to the "adventure". They are especially excited to see Aunt Katie and Uncle D's dog Kehei! This is a MUST do this trip!

I also think it reminds me of growing up, of the protection of my family and how happy our childhood was. Disneyland also reminds me of my dad. Sometimes just standing in spot where he once stood, gives me a peace and allows me to feel close.

So in honor of our upcoming trip...I wanted to *re post* one of my favorite blog posts about Disneyland (with updated pictures).

For me Disneyland will never lose it sense of awe and wonder. It will always evoke deep emotion when driving down Harbor Blvd., where the huge Disneyland Sign use to be for the first time of a trip. I will never lose the urge to jump up and down when I am eagerly awaiting my first entrance into the park.
It is forever a "magical world" that is apart of the make-up of who I am. When I go to Disneyland, it is like going home to some extent. I can remember my earliest of trips made to Walt's Kingdom in the great "green van". Us cousins (and parents of course) would get up early and drive from my grandparents home in Lancaster, California. I recall all the sprinkled donuts and tiny boxes of milk with striped straws (except for Ryan who did not like milk. It was juice for him) that would magically appear an hour or so into the trip. The moms would have us start looking for the top of Matterhorn Mountain long before I am certain it should have been there, in an attempt to control the mass kayos in the last two rows of the van. We would spend the day riding the attractions and of course eating. You think my favorite restaurant would be the Blue Bayou, but for me it will always be the "Mexican Place." We would eat our tacos and beans and rice, while watching train after train make the turn back into the station. Then of course we would always ride it after eating our meal.
Based on the year, I can recall the way in which we "attacked" the park. First.... Star Tours was the "it" ride. We would wait for hours to ride the simulator attraction. This was the best because growing up each of us cousins had our assigned "Star Wars Role". I, of course, being the oldest was Princess Leia. My cousin Bobby was always Luke Skywalker and David was Darth Vader, no surprise there. Although he always said he was "Dark Vader". I have to admit, it wasn't until Phantom Menace came out that I realized all those years it was "Darth" and not "Dark". He he. My cousin Sarah being another girl, I had to make up a role for her because there weren't any cool girl characters. So I assigned her the role of "Princess Leia's little sister." In my recollection Ryan's role would change from time to time. He might be Chewbacca one day and Han Solo the next. Ryan loved to build things and was very logical. I think he enjoyed his trucks and trains more than our silly pretend games. Oh the good ole days.(Grace on Pirates...Daddy on one side, Uncle D on the other)

Then... when Splash Mountain debuted, it was all about the log flume ride. That put Star Tours on the back burner because then we were on the other side of the park. I will never, ever, ever, forget RUNNING to Splash Mountain the first trip we made when it was open. I couldn't believe we were running through Disneyland, but what was even more amazing was that we loaded nine people (yes NINE people) into one log.

OK, to tell the story correctly, we have to back up to before we actually entered the ride. My POOR brother. He wasn't so brave back in the day. He did NOT want to go on the ride. Truth be told he was horrified. So... we had just huffed it on over from the entrance of the park to Critter Country, and were almost to the boarding area. Poor David was deathly afraid. He started clinging onto every rung of the side rails that led the line to the log. My dad was pulling him off one rail and he would immediately lock onto the next. I am sure CPS would not have approved. And it wasn't that he was just clinging on for dear life, he was screaming in high pitched shrill sounding cries! The cast members must of felt sorry for David and offered to watch him while the family rode. NOPE. David was riding and gosh darn it, he was going to like it. I am sure my dad made some statement, and then bribed him to go on the ride. As I recall my brother made $20 dollars when my dad decided it was time for David to experience an upside down roller coaster. (That is another story). Anyway back to the NINE of us in the log. We sat... Sarah, Ryan, Me, Bobby, David, My dad, My mom, Aunt Mary, Uncle Bobby. The log barley floated. I took on most of the water since Sarah ducked under the log and Ryan was so little. It was great. (I just want to take a moment to mention Disney doesn't allow running through the park anymore, and the logs have been updated so that 9 people, not matter how small, are never allowed). Again, the good ole days.

When I think of Disneyland I also think of my dad. It was the last place he took me on vacation. In the early years of our marriage, Mark worked so much and for weeks at a time. So in spring 2000, a year before they opened California Adventure, the four of us (dad, mom, David and myself) went on a cruise and stopped at Disney for a couple of days. We climbed up the ladders to look at the construction of the new California Adventure. My dad was very excited to visit the new park, but he never made it. I did show him pictures of our trip in 2001. I have a picture of my dad and I sitting by each other at the Mexican restaurant. And a sweet picture of my mom and dad on the Tea Cups with Matterhorn Mountain in the background. My dad and I would love to ride Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain. WE loved those rides. He loved the Haunted Mansion because at one point the "doom buggy" you are riding will turns backward and drops you. He always said it popped his back. Then for weeks after going to Disneyland he would talk in his version of "Pirate Talk". He would do it out of the blue and it would be so off the wall! We would all laugh not because it made and sense, but because he was hilarious. I WISH my dad could see Disneyland today. I WISH we could of had one last trip. I WISH he could have pushed our stroller (I know how much he hated being ran over by them). I mostly WISH for his company while being there. I WISH him to know his grand kids. To see the joy on their faces as they "find a love" for the Happiest Place on Earth. So many WISHES...

Disneyland is woven into my makeup. My parents believed in Disney (as did my whole family). It means so much more than just an overpriced theme park. I have been to Disneyland with of course my family, my youth group, youth pastors, concert choir, my husband and now my children. It is my childhood, my memories and my dreams. My dream is that my children would realize the MAGIC that Disneyland unlocks every time you set foot inside. So maybe I am a little crazy to not be able to tell you how many times I have been ( I know at least 30 times). For me....EVERY visit holds the magic of my very first trip.

(Family...that is what it is ALL about!)

Monday, July 9, 2012


At the end of June, Auntie Katie and Uncle D came for a much anticipated visit!  To say my children were excited would be an understatement....they were THRILLED!!!  Grace couldn't even sleep the night before they were set to arrive.  I think she finally drifted off around 11pm.  We picked them up at the airport and the fun began!!  We drove right to mom's work and she showed everyone around her office.  Then we picked up Subway and walked to the river.  It was a beautiful day!

 The next day we met up with Aunt Katie and Uncle D for some bowling and arcade games at Big Al's!  Luke and Grace LOVE to go bowling.  They had so much fun.  Miss B...not so much.  She is in the "I scared..." and insert anything after and she is pretty much scared of it. 
 Miss B did however enjoy Auntie Katie's phone with all the cool movies and shows.  Uncle D enjoyed them too :)
 (Bonding over the movie).  We then went out to dinner at Red Robin and finally we went to see Brave.  The kids were over the moon happy.  Miss B lasted 30 minutes into the movie and was done.  I took her out to the van where she passed out.  The kids came home and feel right to sleep.  So much fun for 1 day!
 On Sunday we went to Oak's Park.  It is the cutest little theme park (if you can call it that).  Uncle D bought the kids some ride tickets and everyone a round of miniature golf (including Bella).
Luke and Grace enjoyed the slide and we all took a ride on the little train.

 Miniature golfing was lots of fun...even for the 2 year old!  I love the salt water sandal picture! 
 Uncle D and Aunt Katie were competing to see who would be the best golfer.  I think Uncle D won by 2 points.  I love the picture with the river in the background.
 Golfing with 3 kids is CRAZY!
Aunt Katie and Grace enjoyed a ride on the tilt-a-whirl while Uncle D and Luke played at the shooting gallery. 

After our time at Oaks Park, we went back to Mimi and Papa's for a BBQ.  It was so nice to have dinner together as a family.  I so miss them around the holidays.  Aunt Katie brought some special prizes for the girls.  She brought Grace one of her favorite tu-tu's from when she was in ballet and brought Bella all of her childhood My Little Ponies in a cute Ariel suitcase.  Those ponies have been so played with the last couple of weeks.  It was incredibly thoughtful and those things will be treasured.  Luke was given a Nerf gun (which is perfect for him).  He spent the evening seeing what things the Nerf darts would stick to. :) Love him!

Thank you Aunt Katie and Uncle D for the great memories and for coming to visit.  We look forward to visiting you in a couple of weeks!  Love you both!
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