It's been some year. It's hard to believe a year has passed since we became legal guardians to 15 year old Yolani, from the Marshall Islands. People have asked, what's it like to add one more into the mix with a culture and way of life so different from our own? What's it like to add another kid into a developing young family? I've been thinking about it a lot. If you'd have told me twenty years ago, I'd be a mother of four. I would have laughed till I cried. Now, I'm laughing and crying a lot. It's life at it's funniest. For six months the 'changes' that came about for all of us were abrupt, high, low and difficult. It was difficult to see Lani miss her family. She comes from a loving home, unlike some kids that leave a foster home or homes of neglect, or an orphanage. Lani loves her mother and father and misses her baby brothers and sisters. For months, at times, she would withdraw, go deeply inward (trance like) and mourn their loss. She plays the Ukelele and writes her own songs of friends and family, sings out loud, sometimes it was the music that would make you sad for her separation. Other times it was the lack of music that concerned us. When the Uke went quiet it was like a silent protest or a dark cloud. There were times she would lay on the floor and cry and keen. How could I tell her that homesickness will go away, or get better, or disappear. It doesn't. It haunts you like an inner ghost! I know.
Many times I asked her, "Do you wanted to go home?" There is no failure when you put one foot in front of the other and follow your dreams. Even if those dreams come at a cost. She wants to be a nurse. She will be a nurse, we can help her, but we all wondered at some point was the sacrifice too big? Was she really ready to leave so much, her culture, family, friends? She is younger than her years. That was the first 6 months and no matter how low she became, she bounced back, put on her beautiful smile and went to school and worked so, so, hard. She plays her Ukelele and sings her songs and loves Abba and laughs out loud. She took up ice-skating, softball, won a golf scholarship, rocks math and never has to be be told to do her homework. Ever. She teaches me how to communicate more clearly, and be more patient. She catches my tired tantrums with a slight raising of her eyebrow. (just one) She recovers from her lows faster now. She is in natural sync with this crazy household and has weathered the storm of adjustment. We all have. And not without help. Lani has become part of another family, here. Sara and Justin Ahern have been like second parents to her and they have weekly dinners and sports games and fun with their family and these have been so important for her growth here, getting a sense of independence and belonging. (It does take a village) Watching her shed her Guam (dress) for American cloths and pick up our Irish/American ways has been interesting to say the least. She is devoted to Jesus, and yet never heard of the Pope. (We are not devoted to religion of any sort and are happy with the separation of church and state) but invest in emotional and spiritual well being.
In Ireland we call on Jesus, and his mother and father for back up and help. And this makes her scream with delight and shock. My habitual "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, would you clean your room, for God's sake?" puts her over the top. "Mommm," she slaps her head into her hands. She would change me and my rebellious Irish ways if she could get me into her little colorful church on her little sandy beach in Santo MI. But she won't go to the big Catholic Church here. She holds Jesus in her heart, with song, and Facebook likes, calling and Skyping her family, and in her way of thinking and kind way of being. She finished 9th grade at the Charter school and we could not be happier with her and the school for the work they did. MV Charter school is about taking care of the whole child, not simply academics, not just getting through MCAS but developing as a human being, and so far, our three girls have responded really well to the Charter's way of rolling in the school world. They love going to school, are socially well balanced, enjoy working hard on their core subjects and all around they are happy. So far so good, thanks be to... (moving on) Of all the adjustments, I'm proud of our kids who responded so brilliantly to become the new family we asked of them. The girls changed rooms a few times, they have fought wildly and bravely, like sisters. The house is alive with screaming, crying and laughter, all of it, is perfectly the way it should be for four females. Cathal ignores it all, he is not prone to other peoples drama, especially girl drama. Every now and again he breaks out in a game of LAX with them or cards, and more often, thankfully, he laughs with them. Patient Chuck is a constant mediator and the voice of reason. Until he can't take it anymore then goes for a walk, which is the sign for all of us to take a time out. It works! (mostly) As a family we went to Spain for my sister's wedding, (we had such a hard job getting Lani into Spain, but Chuck stuck with the Boston consulate and got the visa eventually), hiked in Maine, and she's been to New York with the School and to Boston for cooking class. She's seen her first snow, ate her first cherry, saw her first cow, had eleven fillings, one extraction and got eyeglasses. She experienced so many firsts, so many things that we do daily and probably take for granted and she has done it all with grace and ease. Just a year ago, she sat in my car as we drove down Barnes road and it began to rain. She rolled down the window and stuck her head out, backwards, letting her hair hang down and the gentle raindrops wash over her face. It was beautiful to her. Has it been easy? No! Has it been rewarding, yes! I suppose the hardest things in life are, and raising kids is no hay ride. Last year we brought Lani into our fold, and Clifford (Tukka) the biggest retriever you ever saw. I published Chesca and the Spirit of Grace in December, she witnessed my proudest career moment, it was a huge year. This one is shaping up to be another stellar year. Easy, no, rewarding, yes! Tomorrow is the beginning of our new year.