Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jacob and Highland Football

Jacob was interviewed by the Yakima Herald for his role in helping bring back football to Highland High School, and frankly, I'm so impressed with his spirit. His seminary teacher said that when she saw this picture of Jacob, she thought, "That is not my Jacob!" But when I saw this picture, I thought with a smile, "There is my Jacob." Klamath Falls peeps will back me up. They knew Jacob from the age of 2-7 years old, what I call the "Destructo-Boy Years." From the time he could scoot across the floor, Jacob has been pushing mightily through life with a determination and passion--and a grin--that made me second guess my parenting skills and had me drawing the conclusion that Jacob's soul must be HUGE and crammed into that tiny little body, so he's just busting to make a place in this world and see what he can do. He's not so tiny anymore and he doesn't break all my stuff anymore, and I don't have to grip his hand so he doesn't run headlong into the heavy traffic of life, but he's still pushing mightily, and his grin is still as big as it was when he was three. I have loved watching this kid tackle what has come at him with grace and ingenuity, determination, humor, and his feet pushing him forward. Often leaving the ground to slam into the ball-carrier.

Read the article here:

The Scotties have a long road ahead of them, and it's still a struggle watching their games. The road blocks? Lack of knowledge and experience, language barrier, and trepidation. How often do you feel a touch of victory when the half-time score is 0-40? And an even greater victory when the final score is 0-47? That was a great second half, by the way. So yeah, it's rough. But man, I get to watch my boy all over that field. "Tackle by Jensen." "Tackle by Jacob Jensen." "Tackle by number 51, Jacob Jensen." "The ball stopped by Jensen." "Number 51 with the tackle." How many ways can they say that? He scrambles over and under and through. He torpedoes from out of nowhere and takes the runner down. He comes from the other side of the field and stops forward motion. He blocks kicks with his chest. He. Never. Lets. The score. Slow. Him. Down. Seriously. Fun to watch. And you know what? It's contagious. During second half, different numbers, different names with the tackles. You can feel it. The team is watching. The team is getting brave.

When Jacob was in 2nd grade, I got a call from the principal. Jacob had been in a fight. A classmate was being bullied, and Jacob had had enough and launched himself at the bully. I was told it was a full-out rolling on the floor, punching fight. On top of that, I was told that Jacob was lying about his part in the fight. The principal asked me to come in and get my son.
I was full of mixed emotions: proud of Jacob for defending a bullied child, worried about finding him bloodied or bruised, confused about discipline, and embarrassed that he would lie. He was my most honest child.
I arrived to find Jacob with a swollen lip and scratched neck. The principal (who was the most disengaged principal I've ever known at a school) briefed me on what happened, expressed his understanding that Jacob was defending against bullies, but made a very big deal over the lying. "I asked him if he had punched the other boy, and Jacob said no. It was very plain that they were throwing punches. We have witnesses. He's lying, and so he's expelled for the day."
The lying was the thing. I just thanked him and we left.
On the way home (we were walking), I gave Jacob a hug for defending  someone who was being bullied, and asked him what happened. He got to the fight part and said, "So we started hitting."
I stopped. I asked, "So, you were punching?"
"No," he said. "Hitting. But he hit me first. I just tackled him away from (the smaller kid)."
I said, "Show me what punching is."
He closed his fist, and acted out hitting himself in the face and head.
I said, "Show me hitting."
He closed his fist and acted out hitting his body all over. Just his body.
I said, "So you were hitting."
He nodded.
"But not punching?"
He shook his head no. "I wasn't punching."
He wasn't lying. His definitions were just different than ours. And he stood by them. And I gave him a big hug. I taught him about the words. We talked about what to do about bullies and friends, and frustration and anger. I wanted to go back into that office and tell the principal my son wasn't a liar. I wanted to tell that principal that I wish somebody would have done for his brother Braeden what Jacob did for that little boy, when Braeden was being bullied. In HIS school, on HIS watch.

But from that point on, I knew I didn't have to worry about Jacob getting picked on, or Jacob worrying about what other people think, or Jacob fearing much of anything. He'll have trials, he'll have obstacles, he'll make mistakes and have heartache like the rest of us. But he's one of my heroes.

He won't sit back and let things fall apart. I can just picture his response to that suggestion.

"Why would I do that?" And then he'd grin.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Two-Month Anniversary: Gotcha Day

I finally uploaded this video and I'm amazed at the changes in Will since we first met him on July 20. In a lot of ways he was more like a 9-month old baby on that day and even that first week, instead of a 25-month old little boy. I can see his detachment and discomfort (not surprising considering he was just passed off to strangers), the way he's leaning away and even his legs are not engaged in being held. Now when we hold him we note his "tree frog" grip. Even his toes grip us tight, and his arms rest on our necks as he is happily packed here and there, asking us what everything is called. In the video he only makes eye-contact a few times. But I also see glimpses of the toddler just waiting for a chance to be heard, listened to, taught. I see a brave little boy who is choosing to observe and wait and see what exactly is happening before he allows fear to take over his emotions. It did, eventually, and what a road we've had facing those fears. But he didn't let it keep him from coming to us, and that was brave.

I simply handed him a toy car, and he was willing to come right to me. And when it was time to leave that chaotic room and see what was outside, he was willing to come with us again. He's an explorer. An observer. A question-asker. A risk-taker. Thank goodness.

I prefer watching this video without the sound. The sounds of that room and China still make me a little nuts. But I'm in total caregiver mode asking those questions. That's pretty much all the info we got. But Brandon, Will, and I had each other and we did what we could with experience and what we'd studied, and focused on what worked and what didn't. He's a different little boy now. Not totally, but it's like he'd been bucked off-track the first two years and now he's returned to becoming himself. He's finally turning over his "inner parent" to us, and trusting us to do that job for him, and to do it better. That alone has eliminated half the battles, and he's having a childhood. He plays, he laughs, he pushes boundaries and his body, and if he gets frustrated or hurt, he turns it over to us. Mama will help. Dada will make it better. Will will be okay. Will isn't alone anymore. Will has Mama, Dada, Meh-en, Eckob, Dog, and Beh. He looks at family pictures and knows Chessa, M't, A-Car, Bampa, Bamba, and Sheh. He hears Brodie barking at the front door and goes running to see who's there, and squeals in utter, really LOUD delight when it's Dada or Eckob or anyone from his little tribe. That's right, now we have the dog barking AND the baby screaming at the front door when somebody comes. WELCOME. We are so excited to have you WAIT WHERE ARE YOU GOING? WE'RE CUUUUUTE.

 He is a sweet little man. I recently read on an adoption blog, addressing the traumatic state of your adoption those first days, that "the child you get in China is not your child." It's true. They find themselves later. They just need to be given that chance.

I wanted to take some new video to post with the Gotcha Day video, so yesterday I took the camera outside. He got pretty quiet for the camera, but we had fun exploring, This is a pretty typical day out back with Willster. (Please ignore the space of dirt where the pool used to be. We're getting sod put down soon! I hope...)

What we're seeing:

GROWTH: Will has grown from being in the less-than-3% in weight and height, to 6% in weight and 12% in height. Everything is looking good in his development. We are humbled and grateful. He loves to move that little body. If his bathtime play is any indication, he should be a little swimmer next summer.

SLEEP: He's taking his bottle again. 6oz of warm whole milk (with a scoop of formula added until the container is empty) for nap and bedtime. He's doing great with sleep. He rarely wakes up at night, now. HOORAY.

REGULATION: Today was Will's first full day of church. All three hours. His behavior is very typically toddler, and that's great. He likes nursery and interacts pretty nicely with the kids. He offers them cars and gives them back things they've dropped. Today he pushed a wooden ring back and forth across the table with a little girl. I'm happy to see he gets along well with others his age. He had moments of potential meltdown, but there was always some distraction and he pushed through it okay. We kept bear handy just in case, and used it a few times, but overall, he seems to really like it in there. HOORAY. It definitely helps that my new church job is nursery assistant. Perfect!

Last week we took Will to Sacrament meeting and then a little preview of nursery.
He seemed to accept it as just part of what we do. Because we're a family.
Also, couldn't you just squish him?
COMMUNICATION: Will is pretending to talk on his toy phone. He says, "Haloo." Then nods his head like he's listening. Then he says some gibberish, then hands the phone off to someone else to say "Haloo." He started this after talking to my mom and then Chelsea on the phone. It's adorable. New words: tah...tah...tah (hot; this is whispered), tee (eat), Bampa/Bamba (Grampa and Gramma), Sheh (Shelli), gwink-oo (thank you), quock (clock), sit (kiss), nigh (good night), lebelblelblelbel (Llama Llama), MEEEEEYA...MEEEEEEYA (Come here! It's usually yelled from somewhere I am not. I noticed I say it a lot in the videos, ha).

Happy Anniversary, Will. It has all been totally worth it.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Zen Project

I've been working on what I call my "Zen Project" for a couple of weeks now. When Will started taking more regular naps, and I started anticipating (not pleasantly) taking him to church, I couldn't help remembering my Quiet Book from when I was little. I LOVED that thing. It kept me busy every week at church. And I thought, "It's too bad I don't have that for Will." 

And then I remembered that I can sew.

Most of these ideas are based off designs I found on Pinterest, so I'm including a link to my sewing board where they can be found, here.

This is the inside cover put together just before sewing it and the outside cover together. On the left is part of the first page of the quiet book, and on the right is a big pocket for a coloring book or board book. The spaces on the reinforced spine are where the binder rings slip through. I based this design off a couple of books I saw on Pinterest. I lined each side with fusible fleece for body and structure.

Here's the cover all sewn together, turned right-sides out and edge-stitched, rings in place, and ready to fill. I sewed the button on after it was filled to make sure the placement worked.

Name Page. The letters store in the pocket and velcro into place. The buttons all slide on the ribbons. Weee!
My pages are 10x10" and made on extra-heavy interfacing fabric (Pellon). I machine or hand-stitched everything. Nothing is glued or ironed on. Basically because I don't trust glue, and I hate ironing, though I did iron on the fusible fleece for the cover. I used fray-check for ribbon edges.

Stoplight Page. This was a basic template. I added the pocket and words, and the "hanging wire" look. The lights snap on.

Dump Truck Page. This one was pretty fun. The basic template was a solid-pieced truck and load, with wheels that turned. I loved the big wheels, but wanted more. I made everything bigger, then made the dumper into a pocket with a removable load, and hinged it using two buttons (one in front and one in back). I hope it's sturdy enough! The wheels button on and off and turn great in that mud. Vroom.

Flower Page. All the templates I found for the classic flower page had them in a vase. But I wanted them in the dirt. So I layered brown woven ribbon and "planted" those beauties. All the colors can mix and match.

Matching Page. I made this one up. Will loves peek-a-boo, he loves finding things, and as he grows he'll learn matching skills. Cars, penguins, bears, oh my! It was fun to pick out the little buttons.

Grocery Store Page. This template was for a bushel of veggies and fruit. I LOVE the patterns. But I wanted a step up from the bushel. So here we are in the grocery store. I love sales.

Hamburger Page. This is another idea I saw and changed it up. Will loves burgers and fries. The burger-building items store in the cup. 

Shapes Page. I struggled with this page. At first I had all the shapes attached to the pocked with ribbons. But that made a big jumbled mess. So I cut the ribbons off. I can totally see that semicircle getting lost first. I guess I know where I can get another one, huh?

Counting Page. This came straight from the template. I liked the simplicity of it.

Dress-Up Page. This is probably my favorite page. The only change I made was to make the facial features closer to Will's, and I created a better treasure box for the loot. Super fun. The hard part was stopping myself from making a dozen more dress-ups. I may add a few later. Scuba gear, football helmet...I drew out a template for a luchador mask...

Bedtime Bear Page. Who wouldn't want to put a soft teddy to bed? The bear and the page on the right is the original template. I added a toothbrush, a bottle, and a storybook. After all, Will loves routine.

The book has fabric pages and a real story that I wrote.
"Sweet dreams...Sleep tight...I love you...Good night."

Zipper Page. I had to throw one more page together so the bed page had a "back" and could go in the book. I'd found these zippers so I sewed them on. And I thought, "BO-RING." So I thought and I thought.
Then I remembered that I can draw.

Now, it's one of my favorite pages. Yay!

And here we are! The beginning of Will's Quiet Book! The button is really the color of that green ribbon. Not sure why it showed up chartreuse. ANYHOO...I made one engineering mistake. I should have made the cover about two inched longer on each side so as the book fills up with pages on the 3" rings, those that rise up in the middle won't stick out. But I'm not too broken up about it. I love how everything turned out!
I can't wait to show it to Will. And it was so great to create something with my hands again. It really helped me destress during nap time, and it also gave me an opportunity to think about the stories I will write next. After I finished each page, I would look at it lovingly and say to myself, "Will is going to tear this apart." Then I would add it to the pile and allow that to be okay. I didn't make it for a museum. I made it to be loved.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Update on Will the Brave

We've been home six weeks from China and I've been so busy with Will, back-to-school, appointments, and a few projects, that I haven't conjured up the time to post an update. Well, abra kadabra, here you go.

ADORABLENESS: HE IS FULL OF IT. His personality is big and his enthusiasm and determination makes for pretty fun antics. He's entertaining and he knows it. His "toddlerness" is pretty spot on and we laugh, grimace, cushion, and encourage. Lots of laughing, though. And face-palming.

Mowing the lawn like Dad.







COPING SKILLS: Will is continuing to absorb this new life and leave the old one behind. He is gaining new coping skills and uses them. He learned "soft" ("dahh") and he has attached to his teddy bear. This was huge, as he had zero interest in any stuffed animal from the beginning, and honestly, we only kept three in the crib to use as soft barriers between his head and the crib railings. But one morning he woke up and played the name game (he points to his chest and says "Will," then points to something else and I tell him its name, then repeat), but this time he pointed to each of his stuffed animals. I was surprised, because I didn't know he even noticed them.
"Will?" He points.
"Will?" He points.
"Will?" He points.
"Llama llama."
Repeat the next couple of days.
Then one morning he woke up and held up one of the animals in triumph. "BEH!" And he noted Beh was soft. "Dahh." And he wanted Beh to come with us to breakfast. And to read books. And in the car. And pretty soon Will would make Beh dance and he'd sing, "Doo dee doo dee doo." And if Will fell or got frustrated and was angry or too deregulated to want or see me, I could give him Beh and we would say "Dahh. Dahh. Dahh." and pet Beh's soft fur, and Will would calm down and see me again. If Beh wasn't around, we used our dog Brodie. "Dahh. Dahh. Dahh." Soft. "It's okay. Soft. Soft. It's okay." And Will would calm down. And sometimes, if Beh or Brodie were not available, and a meltdown was beginning, I would take Will's hand and we'd rub his own arm or cheek and say, "Soft. Soft." And Will would take a breath and say, "Dahh. Dahh." Last night as I was putting him to bed, he was a bit wound up and refusing his bottle and just being a toot. But it was 9:30 and we both needed sleep. I was frustrated about the bottle and was moving him to a different position, and he started to kick. But as I settled him into the crook of my arm, his hand went to his cheek and he said, "Dahh. Dahh. Dahh," stroking his own cheek. This was a choice he made, at a point where, weeks before, he would have been hurting himself as his coping mechanism and losing control. It was a small little thing and he only did it the little bit before settling down and letting me rock him, but I was moved by the magnitude of this switch in his thought process. "Will is soft, and Will can calm down, and be soft to Will. Just like Beh." It's not every time, and it's not always enough, but baby steps. Awesome little huge baby steps.
Will and Beh just before bedtime. Sleepy-face.
COMMUNICATION: As I mentioned, Will plays a name game. He asks for the name of lots of things. Sometimes he attempts to repeat, sometimes he just listens. Then a few days later he starts using the word. So, new words: ha-lo (hello), peeez? (please--he's caught on that I melt when he says this so of course it's one of his manipulation tactics), qua (crib), phhinn (fan--he's a little obsessed with our ceiling fans and struggles with words that begin with F, so he practices this a lot), nigh (good night), Beh (bear), oo-foo (shoes), buh-bo (button), fow-feh (flower), cuck (truck), tsi-tsi (sit), nah (done), on..mmm...eee...GO! (one, two, three, GO!), ummeee (yummy), buh (book), luh-ow-loo (I love you). We finally Skyped with his niece, Carly (ha that sounds so weird), and they were pretty cute. They stared at each other for awhile with little smiles on their faces, then they both pointed and called each other "baby." Then Carly waved her big hand wave and Will returned it with his little finger wave and Chelsea and I were pretty much wishing we weren't four states away.

SLEEP: We've made big strides in sleep. Every once in a while he'll fight going to sleep, or wake up at night once or twice, but it's becoming more normal for him to go to sleep and sleep through the night. He's starting to refuse his bottle or just drink two ounces, or he'll drink eight. So I don't know. I'm switching him gradually from formula to milk so maybe that has something to do with it. Oh well. But I'm definitely grateful for more regular sleep. He hasn't had any night terrors lately. Most of the time when he wakes up I'm greeted with an enthusiastic "HI!" hands thrown up in the air, big grin, and a quick grab of Beh before he leaves the crib. Pretty fantastic. If he wakes up grumpy, we're in for a long day, ha.

SOCIALIZING: We've had a visit from my sister and her family, a day trip to my parents' house, we took Will to Jacob's football scrimmage and a staff BBQ, I take Will walking in the mornings with my friends Sara and Laura, and we've ventured to Maren's dental appointments, junior high orientation, Costco, the grocery store, JoAnn Fabric, and even Hobby Lobby really quickly. He's doing pretty well as long as the trips aren't too long (he did NOT like the trip to Kennewick; however, he LOVED my parents) and we have snacks. The school orientation was too much. But he does love being in the car and seems to enjoy the car seat as long as it's not more than thirty minutes. And he is social, saying "Hi!" and "Car!" to anyone he thinks might be interested. So we practice. We were going to take him to church today, but he's been fighting a cough and cold, and yesterday the same thing hit Brandon hard, so they stayed home together and I GOT TO GO TO CHURCH. Yay! The cute thing is, Will totally loves Brandon. They play together really well, and we can see Will kind of showing off for him when he gets home from work, like, "See what I learned to do today? Watch me do it even louder and stronger!" I think Brandon likes that extra cause to smile after a long day at work. Pretty sweet.

So, we've been up and down and all around, but hopefully moving forward. In trying to describe to friends the changes we see in Will compared to those first weeks, I told them it was like we are seeing him filling up with water and coming alive. Before, he was surviving. But he's beginning to live.