*written some weeks ago, but still making me weepy today.

Today we sat across from a table full of people in the conference room of our beloved elementary school, screen full of numbers and goals.  They were so kind, so tentative, explaining the testing process to us and how Maggie fared in each category.  She’s behind.  Universally behind and the numbers didn’t expose anything we didn’t know going into that room.  But they were so sweet about it, almost apologetic.  She tries so hard and is the sweetest girl, they said.  She makes everyone around her happy; she makes us all happy, they said.  And so they finished highlighting what we already knew: she is behind.  Just that.  She is.  Most of her categories showing her to be at a 3.5 year level.  They laid out the findings like wares at a market, wondering if we’d buy, wondering how we’d react seeing it in black and white.  They were so kind.

At the end of the test-result section of an IEP comes the what-are-we-going-to-do-about-it phase.  But first, there is a box to be filled in with parent’s concerns and reactions.  This must surely be when these dear teachers and test-givers brace themselves for backlash, questioning, tears even maybe.  This is probably not their favorite part.  And we, as the people who loved her best, didn’t disappoint with the tears.  Lip trembling and emotion written across my face, I looked at that screen and said this, “You must brace yourselves at this point in the IEP for parents to be sad or angry or argumentative.  We are none of those.  Because what you need to know is that four years ago, when we thought we were adopting a little girl with cleft lip and palate, our agency sent us her medical file with the directive to read it, meet with at pediatrician who can consult on it and interpret what it will mean before we committed ourselves to her.  And that file?  It contained a comprehensive report by an American doctor who reported that Maggie’s head size was not compatible with brain growth.  Who believed she would be in a semi-vegetative state and would never walk, talk, potty train or be experience any kind of measurable cognitive growth.  She recommended that Maggie not be placed for adoption, but would perhaps be better placed in an institution.  And then she sealed it with her signature.  And our dear friend, a pediatrician, sat on our deck that warm summer day, tears in her compassionate eyes and Maggies file in shaking hands and concurred.  She was broken to deliver this news to us, that was clear.  And we were broken to hear it, spent six agonizing days wrestling with the Holy Spirit about wether he had called us to adopt A child or THIS child.  And then we signed. And when they put her in our arms, limp and lifeless, no expression on that blank face, our worst fears were confirmed.  I spent the first three days we had her sitting in a chair in our hotel room, dribbling formula into her little bird mouth with a spoon because she was too weak to even suck, her teeny body lifeless in my arms. So those numbers up there on the screen?  They are a miracle. And as far as we are concerned, her life began when they handed her to us three and a half years ago, so frankly, your findings are spot on.  You say she is operating at the level of a three and a half year old? That is because, for all intents and purposes, she is a three and a half year old, this 28 pound five year old girl of ours.  Which means she is exactly where she is supposed to be.  We are thrilled.  We will always be thrilled with the numbers because we signed our names on a paper four years ago, locking her in as our girl, knowing that medical science saw her abilities as zero, her potential as zero, her life as zero.  Those numbers up there? Miracle.”

For those of you warrior parents who have spent this fall at those brutal IEP meetings hearing findings that made you ache, take heart in this truth: your child is exactly who they are supposed to be.  Just totally, fully who they are supposed to be.  And wether they are cognitively or socially or emotionally nearly half their bio age or leaps ahead, matters little.  What matters is that they are home and in your arms and that it is forever.  Which doesn’t make the day to day any easier, holy smokes it doesn’t, but let it soak into your heart that perhaps our goal here isn’t to raise Rhodes Scholars, but to welcome in sons and daughters.  That family is more precious than degrees and belonging will matter more than any letters they accumulate behind their names someday.  So you sit at your IEP meetings, looking at those numbers and you want to throw out some of your own.  Numbers like how many days you waited to bring this child home, wringing hands and heart as the time dragged on.  Or how many dollars were raised by a community as committed to bringing your child home as you did, even when giving cost them dearly.  Or how many beats per minute your heart beat as you sat in that room waiting for a first glimpse, your heart like a drum in your chest.  Or how many people dragged themselves out to the airport at all hours to welcome you home, you and your precious new one.  Or how many nights it’s been since you’ve had your bed to yourself, unoccupied by a child who is sure they will wake up tomorrow totally alone and it will all have been a dream. Those are the numbers that matter. And you are killing it.  You are.  So here’s to you, IEP parents.  And those without them.  You are doing the hard, beautiful work that you have been called to do.  And you. are. crushing. it.  Carry on, brave mamas and babas.  Carry on.

break 2.

It is day seven hundred and ninety two of Christmas break.  I have put six hundred miles, at least, on my car driving Smalls to and fro.  When I’m not driving I stand next to the dryer in the back hall and swap out towels and suits for snow clothes, everything smelling of ambition and chlorine.  I have made more lunches for more kids than I can count.  I made soup last night in a sixteen gallon pot.  This is no joke.  Everyone over 8 has had at least 2 sleep overs, so we’ve ticked that box and we are done.  We’ve only taken two mystery trips because there are only small pockets of time between driving. but we have crafted until our fingers are numb to make up for it.  There are Perler beads in every corner of our living spaces and in cleaning out the art cupboard last week I found twenty pots of paint I won’t let anyone use and several small children, who I have sent on their way with twenty dollars and our address so they can write when they get work. No one got geranium red finger nail polish on the counter in the kitchen.  No one also drew a smiley face on the bedroom wall and fed the dogs a cookie.

My Shipt shopper asked if I was having a party this morning when he delivered nearly four hundred dollars worth of  resupplies, stepping over dogs and boots.  At this point I would gladly let almost anyone take over.  You want to start a snap streak with Kim Jong Un?  Go for it, but only if the next sleep over can be at his house.  I leave everyone under 15 for a few minutes each morning to get teenager to practice, which they have every day of break because they hate parents.  During this time I turn the radio off and listen to myself breathe.  Smell the soup, blow the soup, smell the soup, blow the soup.  My favorite jeans ripped up the crotch this morning when I bent to pull kleenexes out of Baxter’s mouth because no one throws their used Kleenexes away if they can help it.  I intended to be buried in those jeans and since break is prolly going to kill me, you can see why this is problematic.  I ordered a new pair and then texted dan to let him know he can now bury me in my bathrobe and long johns because it’s nine degrees outside.  But he has to include a bra because I don’t want to meet Jesus without one.

By the time dan gets home tonight I will have brought kids to and from three sleepovers to practice twice, home from Cannonsburg and to the barn and back.  There will be nothing for dinner because I only have the energy to make nothing.  It’ll be fantastic and everyone will love it.  They will instagram about how good it tasted and how amazing their mama is.  Kim Jong Un will see and invite them for a visit and I will say yes because  they will learn how to work and have respect for authority.  They can come home when we have a new president who doesn’t brag about how big his button is.  In the meantime I will be sleeping and ignoring the dryer which will be empty and will smell good.

Next week everyone will be back at school and I will be rattling around in this house with just the pups and I will hate it.  Ok, mostly I will like it, but by Wednesday I will be missing my people and these sweet days of long johns and cousin chatter and messes made by happy Smalls.  I will ache to hear Abe’s voice speaking “Netflix” (net-palicks) into the remote and having it tell him no comprende.  I will try to make time to lay on the couch each afternoon for a bit and will miss little people asking if I can snuggle them.  I will make what I want for lunch and eat it alone.  Ok, this I will love but still.  These days, they are so long but fleeting.  We have three more days in which to suck the marrow out of Christmas break.  Bring it.

this is me being real.