Monday, February 20, 2017

Steps to Wholeness

It is the night before...the night before Kenny and I leave for Chicago for yet another hard week ahead with another surgery to face.  How I hate this!  Over and over again, our kids have to deal with so much, and though I know it has formed each of them into the beautiful, strong human beings they are, no mom wants to see their children suffer.

Right now, though there is no pain, Angela is yet again dealing with dental issues as a prior root canal is infected and she needs to have it treated for a month with antibiotics then have the root canal redone.  This poor kid has had 3 root canals and crowns, along with I've-stopped-counting cavities.  Poor dental hygiene and malnutrition to a real number on children's teeth.  She never complains, and I don't know too many kids who graciously thank their parents for root canals and crowns while also apologizing for the cost.

Kenny's surgery this week is a doozy, with a surgical palate expansion that will basically detach and split his upper jaw, and then just for fun they are throwing in the extraction of nine teeth, five of which are wisdom teeth, and four toward the front.  The swelling and bruising are expected to be considerable, and yet he is SO happy he doesn't have to face having the extractions at the dental office.  His early years still cause a great amount of anxiety around dental work, and this would be enough to cause anxiety in anyone!  The expansion will be step one toward getting his top and bottom jaws to align, it will also lead to a temporary large gap between his two front teeth until braces close that gap again.  Right now he has a very large, newly installed metal palate expander in the roof of his mouth, making his speech pretty difficult to understand.

Where the red lines are is where Kenny's jaw will be cut.

I am usually pretty steady during emergencies or experiences such as this, but for some reason, this time I am less so and I am not sure why.  He will be fine, and he will be getting the best care possible.  Sometimes I just wish we were on the other side of this, and we still have one more major jaw surgery after this one.  Kenny has had such a challenging life, and has a better attitude than anyone I have ever met.  Constantly he astounds me with how accepting he is of hard truths, of how grateful he is for the life he has, and how diligent he is under really terrible circumstances.  He has spent the past 4 days or so working on school work every single hour until late at night, trying to get work done before he goes so he doesn't have to face as much when he returns.  School is harder for him than for many kids, it takes a lot more effort, he makes a lot more mistakes, and he has to redo work often...and he does so without complaint.  Honestly, I could never continue to have the attitude he has if I walked in his shoes.

The rest of the family will manage without us, each of the kids is taking a day to make dinner, and tons of school work has been assigned.  They'll be fine, but I will really miss them all.  Thankfully, my best friend Candi is flying out to be with us, as Kenny will need constant care and with his FASD and being on drugs I don't dare leave him alone!!  I am incredibly grateful to have that kind of support, as being so far from home often makes these surgeries even harder on mom.  Funny how it doesn't matter whether they are 8 or 18, they are still our babies, just in larger packages.

So, Thursday morning at 6:00 AM we take yet another step toward helping Kenny move toward wholeness.  Every day for each one of our kids, we continue to strive to heal old wounds, both physical and emotional.  Some steps are easier to take, others are painful and very, very hard.  May this step be a little less difficult than we anticipate, and may Kenny heal quickly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Seven Years of Valentine's

Seven Years.

Oh, how much has changed in seven years!

I knew at this very moment pictured above, upon seeing you two together in person for the first time, that you were our daughters.  I will never, ever forget the force of the emotions that washed over me, the yearning I had to be your mother in a circumstance which appeared hopeless, both financially and legally.  

Thankfully, a true Angel of God stepped in and helped make it possible for you to join our family.  Waiting for years, patiently, your family received photos of you and we saw you mature right before our eyes.  It felt as if time was slipping away from all of us as we dealt with delay after delay.  Looking back, it is easy to understand all the reasons why we all waited as long as we did, and none of us would have it any other way, but it was torture going through it.

Your brothers were as anxious as we were, as pinks suddenly became a part of our life during the long wait.

Three boys needing two girls to join them!

Modeling Hello Kitty and all kinds of pink attire!

We had a girl sized whole in our family's heart, and we all couldn't wait to finally have you home.

Our arrival without warning after five long years of waiting was a total shock, understandably so, but honesty and vulnerability helped us all break through the walls that were quite sturdy, and we found ourselves becoming a family, ever so gently, ever so tenderly.

In the orphanage, final days in uniform.

Our first Christmas as the final version of Team LaJoy, still in Kazakhstan for another month and a half!

Waiting for Dad to return to Kazakhstan while we remained there.

First personal PJ's, finally in mom's arms.
The laughter a sign of things to come!

Fun times visiting while in Kazakhstan.

In seven years you have grown from pre-teens to young women.  We have worked through issues around trauma, neglect, guilt, and much more.  We have ALL learned how to love more fully, forgive more easily, and walk more faithfully.

There is no way to ever really put into words what the past seven years has been like.  There was such peace in my heart to finally have you home, to feel as if our family was finally complete and no one was missing...for a part of my heart was always missing until you were under our roof, safe and loved.

The relationship I have with each of you is better than I ever could have imagined it to be.  I didn't need "daughters", what I needed was each of you and only you.  

Olesya, your constant kindness and gentle spirit extends its love to every person in our family.  With little notes at surprising moments, we each feel cared for and nurtured by you.  

Angela, you possess a sense of awareness few have, and you share your feelings so openly.  You have a soul that fights for the underdog in any situation, and you "see" people others don't, making them feel special and noticed.

The two of you are a formidable pair, forged by your past into strong, capable woman and shaped by your family so the rough edges were smoothed and the safety you felt cultivated your deep, sensitive sides and allowed them to shine.

I have learned so much from you both, and my time as your mother, far too brief in my own opinion, has brought me nothing but absolute joy.  I have discovered a softer side of myself, and it blossoms when I am with you.  I feel freer to explore my more feminine side, something that was missing as the mother of all boys (adored though they may be!).  I have also never had such amazing cheerleaders!!

I have had my heart feel like it would burst as I have watched the five of you interact so beautifully, so lovingly with one another, reflecting a joy of relationship I wish all siblings were lucky enough to experience.  You help one another succeed, you cover for each other's disabilities with such thoughtfulness, and you are there so firmly alongside your parents as well.  No one would ever be able to tell we haven't been together since the first moment of your lives!

Valentine's Day is about love, and not just romantic love but a celebration of love in all it's beautiful forms.  On this day, the anniversary of your homecoming, we celebrate you, two of the greatest loves of our lives.  Olesya and Angela, never will a mom love her children as deeply, cherish them as tenderly, or love them as passionately as I love you.  Few have yearned for them as long as I yearned for you two, knowing without a doubt you were ours.

May you each always know love for the remainder of your lives.  May you walk in the knowledge that you were desperately desired and eagerly prayed for, and joyfully embraced in the loving arms of your entire family and you will never, ever be alone again as long as there is a breath in any of the five of us.

Keep that joy!

Live playfully!

Love fully!

You are loved...

Oh, so loved!

Here we were, knowing we were missing you two, needing you to round us out.

And here we were...finally a complete family.

You are all so beautiful to Valentines.

And my very first Valentine ;-)

Thank you for choosing to bring your love to our family.  You have changed us for the better in so many ways.

Much love,

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sweetness in the Midst

Sipping from the warm mug Joshua brought me from his secret stash of "Dove Hot Chocolate Mix" that was a Christmas gift and in limited supply, I feel more filled up than I have been in a very long time.  This gray, overcast day could lead one toward a sense of somber dispiritedness, but here in this sacred place, our home, I feel so very much warmth, so much shared by everyone who inhabits this place.

I am here at my desk, reading and writing, remarkable in the fact that I have had the entire day to relax and had no agenda.  This happens so seldom that it brings me up short, as if I don't quite know what to do with myself when I don't have a huge list of "to do's" awaiting me.

This peace I feel today has been a long time coming.  As I drifted in and out of a bleak and difficult year this past year, I sensed I was losing a part of joy.  Heavy topics hovered overhead as new realizations were grasped about Kenny's future and decreasing functioning, as the girls and Josh all struggled mightily in the face of emotional turmoil that was unsteadying for them, and as our concerns around our church served to press inward on my soul.  It was, in many ways, a time for grieving, and that needed to be respected and allowed the space and time it needed so that I could learn and grow from it.  

The life of the LaJoy Family is one filled with taking leaps of faith, both big and small, that others might not take for themselves.  Moving to Colorado with no jobs, jumping into 4 businesses in a period of twenty years, adopting five kids from orphanages overseas, homeschooling, and much more all seem normal to us despite being choices others would shy away from.  The single thread through it all has been that each individual choice felt Spirit led, we were really only saying "yes".  

Saying "yes" as often as possible has brought us a life of deep satisfaction and contentment.  Speaking with a prospective adoptive mom this week on the phone and sharing a bit of our story as it relates to her own journey, I realized that if I had looked at my life through a lens twenty years ago and saw the challenges ahead, I would have laughed and said , "No way!".  Listing some of the disabilities we have among our five, it was still hard not to have my heart swell with incredible love, which I hope she heard in my voice, as I described so much that initially would have scared me to death early on, and yet are now part of our family's story of Overcoming.  We have much more ahead, I know, as I am not naive, but also because I hope we all always have the courage to say "yes", to do things differently, to be as counter cultural as we feel called to be, for it is the sweet spot where risk and reward collide.

These five young people are our very heart.  Dominick and I are truly the luckiest parents on the planet, and we say it often.  As the girls and Josh helped me make meatloaf in the kitchen this afternoon, Matt was busying himself working on training to do some of our business accounting work.  Kenny is at the liquor store with Dominick today, stocking and doing his very best, too.  We work side by side, all of us, in such harmony!!  We learn together, side by side, with so much laughter and depth!! We play together, side by side, with such openness and joy!!

We are living a life so rich in love that I never would have dared dream of it in my younger years. 

I am grateful for every trial this family has walked through, for it has molded us and shaped us into a different sort of model.  Others might not like that model if they walked by it, but we sure do.

As my fingers walk across these keys, struggling to find just the right words to express the deep, deep sense of gratitude I am experiencing today, I know this kind of sweetness is impossible to replicate with mere words.  It is only possible to find in the hushed conversation I had with Matt this morning as I sat on the edge of his bed rubbing his sore back.

It is only possible to find in the heartfelt conversation I had with Angela on the couch one evening this week as we analyzed our hearts and delved into emotional territory only a deeply connected mom and daughter can walk through.  

This gratitude is only possible when Joshua,  now towering over me I(and tippy toeing at times to increase that height!), slings his arm over my shoulders and rests his head burrowed in my neck. 

It is possible only in the sideways glance Dominick offers me during an unusual situation that brings to mind another moment thirty years old and we wordlessly gauge how we will respond.  

Replicating this gratitude in language can't come close to seeing the delight in Kenny's eyes as he returns from his first Masonic Lodge meeting filled with a newfound hope and budding sense of belonging he so desperately needs.  

Explaining this soul deep gratitude is only possible when reading Olesya's message to me about wanting to pay for part of a cooking class we just enrolled her in because "I want to be proud of this class, and feel like I worked for it, therefore I really do want to pitch in. It will give me a sense of ownership, in a way." 

Oh, how much sweetness there is in the midst of the chaos of the world!  How much sweetness there is in the midst of maturing and growing and tentatively spreading wings ever so gradually!  Thank you, God, for helping us all work together to create a home that is truly a Sanctuary for each of us, where we feel safe, accepted nurtured and seen.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Sanctuary People

Driving through the arid, wide open spaces between Montrose and Grand Junction, Western Colorado can appear to be pretty desolate.  The landscape stretches out before you with nary a tree in sight, offering little in the form of shelter for wildlife.  Your eyes eventually begin to thirst for anything verdant, anything green.  The ground is layered as you look off into the distance, with plateaus forming table tops that have no place settings to welcome anyone.

Just as you think this might be what the next several hours are going to look like, you round the curved highway that snakes next to a rocky outcropping and drops you into Delta, Colorado.  Suddenly, irrigation has transformed the high mountain desert into an oasis.  Lifting your head to see beyond the little valley, there before you is the most magnificent and majestic snow capped mountain range beckoning you spanning your entire windshield. It is far off in the distance, but it slakes your soul's thirst like nothing else. 

After twenty years of residing here, I still feel filled up when my adopted hometown comes within view.  Being born and raised in Southern California, where wide open spaces are few and far between and everywhere you look there are wall to wall cars, billboards screaming at you, and smog hovering over it all, I had no idea how something inside me yearned for space, for vistas, for connection, for home.

From the very first moments we drove into town, Montrose has been my "Holy Place".  It saved me, it wrapped itself around me with its warm and welcoming people, its small town country charm, and its authenticity.  There is little "Keeping up with the Jones' " around here where most everyone is simply doing their best to raise their families, keep their heads financially above water, and live life on their terms.

It was on this very drive last week when I was paid the highest compliment I have ever received as a mom.  

The minivan was full, and chatter ensued as always.  Conversation turned toward the ways in which we find peace, and I spoke of that feeling I had the very first time I crossed the desert to arrive in Montrose twenty years ago, how it felt that I had come home for the first time, and that God made it clear there was something awaiting me in this new land.  

Kenny, sitting beside me in the co-pilot seat, got quiet, and then began to speak quietly.  

"I know what that feels like, Mom.  Sometimes, when my brain is so scrambled and I can't figure anything out at all, you are my place of peace.  I think people can be a sanctuary for others, and I see you being that for a lot of people, but especially for me."

"Oh, really, Kenny?  What a sweet thing for you to say! I am glad you feel that way.  I can see why you might feel that way, I am not sure others do, though," I responded.

Then, from the back seat I also hear from Matthew a surprising statement, "Kenny's right, you are my sanctuary, too, Mom."

Fighting back the tears, I didn't even know what to say.  What does one say to something like that?  

You parent through so much, and we have all been through a heck of a lot together.  You discipline, you nurture, you beg and plead about cleaning up dirty rooms, you step on the ten thousandth Lego, you watch them grow, you talk late into the night, you listen to fears and dreams, you play taxi driver 5, 6 or 7 times a day.  You just do your Mom Thing, being there teaching, loving, nagging, growing right alongside them.  The world doesn't see you nor hold you in high esteem, you are "just" a homeschooling mom, you have no career to claim, no worldly success to point to, and some days you wonder if your existence matters much at all.

Then your teenage sons proclaim without hesitation that you are their sanctuary.

Suddenly, you view the past 17 years through a different lens.  It all matters, every single moment spent in role modeling, in deep conversation, in nudging, in watching silently waiting for just the right moment to bring something up, it all matters.  You create a home as best you can, fill it with love and hope, faith and light, all with the heartfelt desire that your kids will fondly recall that their childhood home was a sanctuary from the world, a place to hide from the storms of life, a place that embraces them and felt safe.

We don't often think of people as sanctuaries, and yet we have all had them.  For the blessed ones, it was their parents, for those less fortunate, it was those who came along and filled in the holes, stepping in to offer sacred places for our hearts to be held.

You know something?  You are a sanctuary for someone, too.  We all are.  Now, maybe your kids would never use language like that, but it doesn't mean you aren't really that place of refuge for them.  Maybe you've never had children, but you've regularly offered yourself to friends and they seek you out to lay their burdens down for just a little while.

Right now, as talk of "Sanctuary Cities" and "Sanctuary Campuses" fills our Facebook feeds and news web sites, I can't help but wonder if what we really need is not a "safe place", but for each of us to step up and be Sanctuary People for others.  I can see the value in creating safe locations for people in a time of such great turmoil, but where it really starts is individually with you and with me.  What the world needs this very moment is to move beyond symbolic gestures; we need every single one of us to hold one another tenderly, to care for one another as brothers and sisters, and to move beyond the "otherizing", name calling, and finger pointing.

Yes, what we need is to be Sanctuary People for those whose paths we cross...not just those we know and already care about, but the stranger in our midst, the ones we might not find as likable, the ones who disagree with us.  Man, is that hard!

We also need to be especially kind with those closest with us, our loved ones and friends we hold dear.  As the world screams at us from frantic headlines about the antics of politicians on left and right, as fears escalate, we need to be gentle with our language, we need to be careful where and how we spill it out, we need to be respectful and thoughtful in our interactions, realizing that though we may need a sanctuary, the person across from one may be in desperate need as well.  We need to respond to anger with calm, we need to stop expecting everyone to view the world the way we do, or to be in the emotional place we are.  We don't need to be the ones to intensify emotions, that is being done enough through our media.

I will likely never forget that afternoon, the one when my sons equated me with being their sacred place.  If that is all I have been able to accomplish in this world, to provide a deep sense of security and to offer myself as a haven for our cherished children, than I doubt there is anything else I could ever accomplish that would measure up to that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Life and School, or LifeSchool!

The past couple of weeks we have been getting back in our homeschooling routine, which these days seems to have no real routine at all!  I say that, and yet we always seem to accomplish way more than it feels like in the moment.  We have learners who are eager, incredibly responsible and self-motivated, which makes my job far easier than it otherwise would be.  We are actually far more rigorous than most would realize, and probably more rigorous in most areas than our local public schools are if our test results are any indicator.  Though I find it hard not to constantly doubt myself, our kids are learning, and in some cases, performing far above what we were told to ever expect!

One advantage of homeschooling is that our kids are able to fit in electives and volunteer opportunities that might otherwise be too difficult to do with a traditional school schedule.  Right now, the girls are beginning online art lessons via Skype with a wonderfully talented artist and very kind friend from Salt Lake City, Raynola Dominguez.  You have to check out her artwork here:  Raynola Dominguez Portfolio  We are SO blessed to have her working with the girls, who were incredibly excited about this opportunity.  God continues to show up for us in all kinds of ways, and this was one of them, for sure.  Here are pictures from their first lesson:

The subjects I teach directly to the kids are literature, with our long time co-teacher and dear friend Miss Mary coming in a couple mornings a week to work on book studies while I work with an anthology textbook.  I also teach writing, and my best friend Candi is Skyping in to also help so we can have lots of one on one assistance which is really needed with the learning disabilities in the mix as well as the English Language Learner component.  I teach history, Contemporary Living (Life Skills, Marriage, Family, Relationships) and though we don't have a credit course titled for it, we also have a Spirituality/Character Development class every year which we explore in a variety of ways.  Right now we are reading the Tao Te Ching, working our way through it slowly and having ongoing conversations with our friends, Beth and Bob.  We have read The Road to Character and really chewed on that one, we have also studied world religions, and I use a variety of news articles to pull from for topics to discuss.  This year we are also doing a review of grammar one last time (Oh puuuuhlllleasssssse let it be the last time!).  I am using videos and worksheets from a variety of sources to teach science this year, and am discovering that science topics illustrated in video form are helping with retention, so we may look at that again in the future.  We are just getting ready to use a another of The Great Courses (We LOVE these!) to learn about engineering during the Greek and Roman era, taught by a professor at West Point.

Often though, I am merely the facilitator, finding resources, outside courses, and people who have areas of special knowledge to share with our kids.  We have been particularly blessed in that area, and I will forever be grateful for the influence and knowledge shared by a wide variety of folks, almost all of whom have donated their time to be with our kids.  It has made a tremendous difference for our little Academy.

Right now, Joshie has totally, TOTALLY kicked it in math!  No, I am NOT teaching it, they are all well beyond my skill level.  Josh is in 8th grade, and finished Algebra 2 in one semester this fall, and is doubling up on math at his request, taking Geometry and, get this, College Algebra online.  If he completes the course with a 70% or above, he will have earned college credit in 8th grade.  Watching how Josh has matured this past year has been a little astonishing.  At times I have to remind myself that he is only 14 years old, as he is such a self-directed and responsible young man.  Honestly, "boy" doesn't come close to fitting anymore.  Every morning for months he has awakened of us own accord at 6:00 AM, goes to the garage to work out, then comes in and does a couple extra math lessons before school begins, that is how he finished the course in one semester.

Basketball is Josh's passion for the second year in a row.  He is enjoying it so much and has shown a lot of improvement over last year!  However, as he himself admits, he is never going to be all that good at it, and yet his attitude is wonderful and he has said it doesn't matter at all, that his job is to try hard and be a strong encourager to others.  That he goes out there not able to really meet the skill level of many others, and yet give it 100% every game and care so much is a testament to his sweet spirit.  It is that very sweet spirit that is probably keeping him from being as good as others on the court, as we giggle all the time about how he is pretty tall compared to others but he simply doesn't have the heart to get in there and scramble for the ball, afraid he will push others around :-)  A fighter, he is not, and super competitive would never describe him.

Go Joshie!!

Larry, Mo and Curly are here checking out dining room chairs we desperately need but can't quite afford:

This may sound odd to many parents, but we really appreciate the kids' input when we go shopping for major purchases, and we use it as teaching moments for "Life Skills" about looking for value and quality, sticking to a budget, and purchasing right the first time.  We have explained that the wiser one is in spending their money, the less pressure there is to earn more to make up for mistakes in spending.  Buy once, buy right.  I can't even count the number of times they have talked us out of a purchase, or pointed to wiser options.

Matt has been doing an exemplary job of showing us just how he intends to handle the next few years of his education.  Electing to self-study and craft his own post-high school course of study in computer technology and business, he couldn't be working harder to prove to us that our trust in him is well placed.  He, too, finished an entire year of Trigonometry in one semester, while concurrently taking Pre-Calculus, which he intends to complete in the next couple of months, then move on to Calculus.  This kid has worked at a fevered pace (Well, Matt never, ever looks like he is working at a fevered pace, instead appearing to be slow and methodical but somehow getting an extraordinary amount done.) and has committed to finishing a three year textbook course for World History in one year, and thus far is half way through the second textbook.  He also took a step outside high school and into his post-high school career work and received his first COMP-TIA certification for computer fundamentals.  He had to test at Colorado Mesa University's testing center for proctoring and passed handily!  For those unfamiliar, COMP TIA provides internationally recognized vendor neutral certification for a wide variety of computer technology skills.  It is these sorts of certifications that Tech Departments are looking for in hiring folks for IT positions.  So I guess you might say we now have a true certifiable nerd in the family! Haha!  Actually, having an in-house "IT Guy" is coming in handy in many ways.

Then there is Kenny, who has had a rough few weeks, well heck, a rough year as you all know, and yet some successes as well!  We needed one after an experience this week which was unsettling and difficult, and yet necessary.  I recently contacted our local transportation company about training Kenny to use the local bus system.  We live in a small rural town with essentially two main streets.  Our thinking was that we could provide Kenny with more independence if we could get him using the city bus.

This past Thursday was our first training day, and I went along for the two hours along with a Trainer to show Kenny how he could ride the bus from our liquor store to Walmart and back.  Kenny was handed a map, and had the signs explained to him, and within 10 minutes it was clear to me he was confused.  I tried telling him to look out the window for familiar landmarks, rather than at the map, thinking that might help.  We did the route, he had to transfer buses once, and then we ended two hours later.

Quietly we got into the car, and then I turned to him and said, "Sooooo...what do you think?", and he was very quiet.  I knew what I had to say, someone had to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

"Kenny, you can feel safe to say this feels too hard for you.  It may be that it is too hard for you right now and later it will be easier, it may be that you are scared to attempt it by yourself, even if the drivers are super helpful, or it may be that you really can't do this, but you need to share your feelings so we can be on the same page."

Kindly, he looked at me and said, "Mom, I don't want to let you down.  I know you want a break from driving me places."

"No, honey!  That is not what this is about at ALL!  I want you to have the independence you are ready for and not feel held back by us making assumptions.  I will never mind driving you, and would much rather you feel safe and confident!"

Then, with great courage, he looked at me and responded, "Well, I learned something really important today.  I really, really can never drive.  I really am unable to pay attention even on a bus and figure out where I am, let alone where to get off, and now I know more than ever I should never, ever drive...I will kill someone, but we've always known that.  And also, mom, it is really scary to me and I don't feel ready.  I know I am 18 and I should be, but it was a lot more confusing to me than I expected, and it bothers me a lot that something as simple as riding the bus is something I honestly can't really do."

I explained that his Dysmaturity (the technical term for a person with mixed maturity...maybe 6 years old in some areas of development and 12 years old on another.  In Kenny's case, it is hard, because we really would put him at 10 or 11 years old in some areas of development, and 40 years old in others!) means that his younger developmental self may need a few more years to gain confidence and be able to try such things, that he understood he was younger in many ways and if his younger self was scared that was just fine, there was no rush ever.  Watching the relaxation of his entire body made me feel so quietly heartbroken for him.  FASD is profoundly handicapping, and yet is invisible.  Kenny can not form a mental map, and he can't remember streets he has been on two or three times a day for ten years. The issue of riding the bus was set aside for now, and probably for a couple of years.  He isn't ready and there is no sense pretending he is.

As often happens though, God intercedes and offers up other opportunities when doors close.  Due, in large part, to his care at Shriner's Hospital, Kenny has been interested in Shriner's and the Freemasons.  I have long hoped that Kenny, in particular, might find something to be interested in that would offer him the sort of growth experiences that Civil Air Patrol has for Matthew.  Having something with levels to work toward or accomplishments to point to, an arena all of his own to succeed in has been missing for Kenny.  Knowing that the Masons have levels to work toward, teachings that involve Scripture and history, experiences speaking in public and leadership, as well as a flair for the ceremonial, I felt all of this would be a perfect fit for Kenny's gifts and interests.  When we were in Massachusetts in the fall, he begged us to stop at an Open House for the Masonic Lodge at Lexington and Concord, where he was shown around and talked to several Masons who explained a lot to him.  He came away hooked!

In December, Kenny was introduced to the local Lodge after I reached out via email to a few folks and explained Kenny's circumstances.  The whole family was invited to dinner and shown around the Lodge, and the gentlemen were all very warm and receptive to Kenny, who was so eager and engaged, it was clear we may have found "his thing".  After being interviewed by 3 Lodge members last week, Kenny was notified he was accepted into the Lodge, and that they already have permission to offer adapted versions of their work which will mean far less memorization for Kenny, making it possible for him it perhaps succeed.  He will begin right before he leaves for surgery in February, and wants to be a Shriner and be a clown to help raise funds for the hospitals.

Giving Kenny a sense of purpose has been a real challenge and an obvious need the past year or so.  Over time, we are all seeing he may never be able to hold a full time job, and any part time job will have to be limited and well supervised.  He has an unusual combination of a higher than  normal intellect with FASD, and a true-to-form lack of executive functioning skills and memory that is typically found in worse FASD cases.  We are also looking at various post high school courses, perhaps even college courses one at a time, and at times I am very concerned about helping him steer towards a meaningful future.  We are extremely hopeful that his experiences with the Lodge may help him find confidence and success, as well as see that his life has value and worth regardless of how disabled he is.

To say he is excited would be an understatement, he immediately encased his acceptance letter in plastic and hung it above his desk, a sign that he, too, can do important things in the world.  After the shock of a far more complex surgery than anticipated, and the painful realization and acceptance of how much damage there is to his brain that the bus ride brought forth, this was desperately needed affirmation, and something to look forward to during healing time for him.

So there you have it, a catch up post that is mostly school oriented, but since this is my only "scrapbooking and journal" place, you all have to suffer reading it so I have it recorded somewhere and eliminate mommy guilt! Haha!  Life and School, it's all the same and it is messy and miraculous all at the same time!