Willy Wonka the Backyard Musical

Last week we celebrated an event that will go down as an epic night at our house. It will be remembered as the night that our backyard became a theater.

Starting at the beginning of summer 2020, these two girls started spending a lot of time together through virtual sleepovers while our family was still shut down pretty tightly due to COVID. They formed a precious friendship. During these sleepovers they began talking about putting on a play.

They spent MONTHS adapting a script for Willy Wonka. After finishing the script they made fliers and placed them in the mailboxes of our neighbors, as well as recruiting friends.

They were able to get enough interested kids, so they conducted virtual auditions and began having rehearsals every weekend through Zoom.

After an entire YEAR, they were vaccinated, the world looked a little brighter, and we began hosting rehearsals in our backyard, while still masked initially.

It was almost like starting over when in person, but the kids quickly got into the swing of being together, and worked diligently on putting this production together.

It was such a coordination of talents with shirts being made, dances being choreographed, and songs being written.

They played theater games, they ran lines with each other, and they created the sets (with some background support from some siblings).

It was a tough final week, with multiple rehearsals and lots of experimenting.

Finally, it was time. We turned our back deck into the stage, complete with stage lighting.

The kids decided to charge $5 per ticket, and voted on the charity that they wanted to donate the proceeds to. They decided they wanted to donate to a charity that befitted families and children who were experiencing homelessness. They decided on Nicholas House in Atlanta. https://nicholashouse.org/

The show went on, and it was FANTASTIC!

My dad made a good point that someday their kids will ask them what they did during COVID. These kids will be able to have such a great answer! I hope they will be able to tell this story with a great feeling of pride and accomplishment. I know my heart was full to bursting. It was a night to treasure for sure.

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Back to School- For Real

Well, after 17 months without going back into a school building, all 5 kids returned to in-person school (3rd, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 11th grades).

Kai and Hannah started back first. It was a VERY difficult decision to send them back to in-person school. Because they both have serious health needs, we have kept them in a very tight bubble while dealing with the pandemic. Although they handled it very well, there were many many days that were hard for them. When it came down to it, we had to make the decision to either send them back to school in person, or lose our spots at their school where they are doing Mandarin immersion taught by teachers from their birth country.

I think that emotionally they both needed to return to school. They both desperately WANTED to return to school. Still, if I had a choice that wouldn’t have resulted in losing our school, I would have kept them home a bit longer. Now I send them back with lots of prayers!

Kaitlyn went back to school next. It was strange and sad for her to be going into her school without any siblings, but she has jumped right in and is loving every day.

These guys were the last to go back. First day of High School for Drew and 1st day of 11th grade for Zac. New school for both of them. Drew is thrilled. He is going to exactly the school he most wanted to attend, with a bunch of his favorite friends.

Zac is going to his 3rd high school in 3 years. Add that to the list of things I never expected to happen until Covid. We moved him last year so that he could attend an all virtual high school. That was a great experience, but he wanted to be back in a place where he could do Cross Country, swimming, drama, etc. When he asked if he could change schools too and made a good case for it, we tried to make it happen for him.

They both ranked their first days as 7/10. I think for teenagers that constitutes a win.

I have never liked back to school time. This time of course is no different. I still don’t like it. It feels really different after being all together for so long. I will miss them every single day, and that just will always be true, but I’m also happy. Having so much time together was a blessing that I will never ever forget, but I know that they need this. My heart is full from the time we have had together, and I am looking forward to seeing all of the joy that they are finding back in the world again.

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School 2020

We have officially been back at “school” for a few weeks now. For the first time ever I am not writing a super sad post about this. Thanks to a global pandemic and two high risk kids, we are all staying at home. Although I would rather we were not in the middle of a pandemic and there are days that I long for normalcy, I’m pretty happy to have this crew at home every day.

I love waking up a little bit later. I love the calmness of our mornings compared to previous years hecticness. I LOVE not having to pack lunches every day. I love seeing what the kids are working on first hand. I just love having the house full all the time.

Everyone has had days of sadness and missing friends, teachers, etc., but overall everyone is doing fantastically great. I am so proud of how they have adjusted to this new normal and the way they continue to find joy in their days.

And just for fun I thought you might enjoy seeing what was happening between shots on the first morning of school! They like each other….most of the time.

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A Pandemic Summer

Well, summer has officially come to a close. As our virtual school came to an end last spring I was very concerned about what summer would look like for us. It seemed like an endless stretch of time where there would be no swim team, no camps, no vacation, no playdates, etc.

As it turned out, it was a pretty fantastic summer. Without all of the business of our normal life we just found joy from spending time together. We were relaxed, and that in itself was incredibly refreshing.

We were able to spend some (carefully planned to be safe) time with a few of our extended family members, and I know that we have never valued that time more than we did this summer. We will never take having dinner with grandparents and cousins for granted again!

We made different memories than our more traditional summers, but precious memories all the same.

After school was officially over these guys decided to have their own classrooms. Playing school was a frequent activity all summer.
We had a few virtual sleepovers with a handful of precious friends and made some interesting new desserts.
Masks all around!
I had to add “hairdresser” to my resume.
Lots of experimental baking and cooking!
Hannah got her ears pierced at the pediatrician. This was supposed to be her birthday present in March. She ended up having to wait until July!
Crazy family games
A new driver in the house!
LOTS of family walks and hikes!
We had a few times to swim together thanks to generous neighbors!
A super fun 4th of July visit with family!
Our own bike parade.
Sparklers!
And even an unforgettable talent show!

There were a few movies watched, and a few video games played…

But also there were a LOT of dolls.
A surprising number of teeth were lost. 🙂

We finally got to spend some quality time with cousins, including the newest one!

Whipped cream challenge!
These two cousins adore each other and had missed each other SO much. Nine days together was so good for our hearts!
The kids wrote and produced an original play, “The Scientist and the Popstar”
We made our own water fun.
And we had a handful of outside get togethers with some dear friends. Although very different than “normal times,” spending even a little bit of time with these friends was good medicine to everyone’s hearts and spirits.

Although this summer was not one any of us would have chosen, it will be remembered with joy, and with a deeper appreciation for how much we value the most special people in our lives.

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Adoption Ripples

*I wrote this post about 6 weeks before the bottom fell out of the world as we know it. I wasn’t sure if I would ever share it but I wanted to remember this monumental and precious conversation. With his permission I have decided to share it to provide even more perspective on how hard it must be to be a child adopted from China during a time that China has been made out to be a villain in our global crisis.

Tonight I had a conversation that up until now I had only imagined in my head as a conversation for “some day.”

Kai had a major melt down after dropping his sandwich on the floor. As I was talking to him about it, I realized that he had had multiple melt downs over the last couple of days. I asked him if there was anything else that was bothering him that he wanted to talk about. He immediately melted down and said yes, but he wanted to lay down in his bed to do it.

I was a bit nervous at this point, but we went into his room so we could talk. He immediately had tears streaming down his face.

As a bit of background, Kai goes to a language immersion school, where he does 1/2 of his schooling in English and 1/2 of his schooling in Mandarin. His teachers are Chinese, and they learn so much about Chinese traditions and culture and about China itself.

Kai blurted out, “On my Mandarin days at school I feel so sad because we talk so much about China, and it makes me miss it so much!” As I continued asking him questions about what he remembered and what he was missing he first told me that he was so sad when he thought about his foster family and everything that they did for him. He seemed to pause for a moment and then said, “and I really wonder about my ACTUAL mom”.

It would be disingenuous if I said that sentence didn’t sting just a tiny bit, but the bigger part of me was just thinking, “Okay, we are here now. Let’s do this!”

I let Kai lead the conversation in any direction he wished. We had an in-depth conversation about the reasons why parents give up children in China, particularly children who have major medical needs, like Kai. We talked about how sad it is that children have to leave their birth parents because parents have no other way to care for them if they do not have the finances to pay for necessary surgeries and hospital care.

Kai was hungry for all of the information. He wanted to know every detail about how infants are abandoned, why it happens, and what happens to the birth families after they leave the babies. He wanted to know where he was found and if he had been safe where he was. He wanted to know if the person who found him took him immediately to the hospital and how they knew he needed surgery. I answered everything that I could to the best of my ability, but also stressed that there are some things that we can never truly know and it is okay to feel sad about that.

We talked about his time at Little Flower, the medical care home that cared for him for most of the first two years of his life, and all of the people that cared for him and loved him.

We talked about our journey to get to him and where he was and what he was doing during the time that we were frantically trying to get there.

We made a plan for the coming days. He is going to keep a notebook where he can write down all of the questions about his life in China. Then we will do everything we can to find out the answer. Luckily we can still reach out to several of the people who knew him and loved him during his first two years who can most likely provide him with some of the answers.

But I had to be honest with him that some of his questions we might never be able to know the answer to. He wondered about what his birth mom (we agreed to call him his China mom or his first mom) looked like, and what she did for a living. It was clear to me that he was only scratching the surface of the things that he was wondering about her, and I know that his questions will continue to grow as he does.

For now, he said that he would like to draw pictures of the things that he is wondering about. I thought that was a pretty good solution.

Sometimes things just happen like this. I didn’t know that tonight was the night that I needed to be ready for; that tonight was the night he was going to begin expressing the deep emotions that come from the loss of adoption (and adoption out of his home country and culture at that). I know that I am inadequate to fill the holes that he will naturally have. But I am deeply grateful that I get to walk beside him on this journey. My heart is full of love for this deep thinking and feeling child.

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