Monday, July 28, 2008

Letter, Take 2

Dear Max/Judea,

We found out that we'd been chosen to be your family on November 28th, 2006. It was just two days after Nicholina's birthday and it was such a great gift. Nicholina, Mom, was so excited to find out that you were going to come and be her little boy. She and Anthony, Dad, had been hoping to be your parents for a long time! Davan was very excited about having a little brother, too, and all three told everyone they knew.

Two weeks later, Anthony and Nicholina got to meet you. We came to see you at the Knowlton's house, were you had lived for more than two years. You gave Anthony a big hug the moment we walked in the door. We'd brought a football, which you loved, and we played catch outside with your new football. It was exciting to get to know each other.

After 10 days of getting to know each other and visits back and forth, you moved in and, as far as we were concerned, became an O'Donnell. We were very happy to be a family of four. There were some rough times, though. You missed your foster brothers and were angry a lot. Sometimes you told us that we'd kidnapped you from the Knowlton's.

Over the next year and a half, we all – you, Anthony, Nicholina and Davan - tried very hard to be a family together. Sometimes we did a good job and sometimes we didn't. We did a lot of fun things together. We went to the park often. We camped and did some hiking. We played a lot of Family Rotational Fun, where everyone got to chose 1-3 things for the family to do all together. We had pizza and movie nights. We played games together. We read books together in the mornings and at bed times, most every day. Sometimes we read more. We played basketball in the driveway. We played a lot of catch. We went to lots of your basketball, soccer and football games. You love sports and do really well at them!

There were some highlights to your year and a half as an O'Donnell, in addition to the everyday sorts of things.

We had our first Christmas together just after you moved in, which was hard because we’d just met and now were having a big holiday together. We were so happy to have you, our new son, with us for Christmas, though. You got a lot of Legos from friends and family. You loved the Legos, but they proved to be a frustration, as well. You were not ready to build them yet, hated it when other people worked on them for you (even though you wanted the finished product) and were very annoyed when they would fall apart when you were playing. We realized other toys would have been better, but you were so new as part of our family that we didn't know!

You also got a bike that first Christmas and it was only a couple of months before you were riding it with no training wheels. One day, Nicholina and you were working on learning to ride and you got it! It was very exciting. Davan took some pictures of you riding, with just a little help getting started from Nicholina. You really enjoyed riding your bike around for fun once you got the hang of it.

You lost four teeth while you were here. The first one was lost at basketball practice. Practice had to be stopped so that we could find your tooth! The forth one was lost at a football game. You picked it up off the grass and ran to the sidelines, yelling, “I lost my tooth! I lost my tooth!” Everyone gasped until Anthony let everyone know it had been loose for a while and then everyone laughed. The tooth fairy brought you a toy each time you left a tooth for her. One of the things she brought you was a Batman grapple hook.

We went to Disneyland twice while we were a family of four. You liked Disneyland well, although the first time we went, the traveling was difficult for you. We were visiting family, too, and you were nervous about staying at other people's houses. Even so, you loved the rides. For you, the roller coasters and the bumper cars were the best. You didn't like the Tower of Terror, though!

After you'd lived with us for a year, we talked with you about maybe changing your name to something other than Judea. You were hesitant, at first, which was understandable. After all, you'd been Judea all your life so far and didn't know what it would be like to be called something else. We were in the middle of a trip to Disneyland when we brought up being called by a new name. You, Anthony, Davan and Nicholina decided to play a game and call each other something new for a day. Dad (Anthony) chose to be called Wally. Nicholina was Jenica and Davan was Jessica for the day. You were Michael Jordan! We had fun playing the game and you decided to give Max a try for a few days after Nicholina suggested it.

For quite a while (months!), you liked being called Max, but still wanted to be called Judea at school, so that's what we did. After a few months, you sometimes said you wanted to be called Judea, but when we offered to, you said we should still call you Max. We were really hoping to go forward with your adoption and planned for it the whole time you lived here. We planned to make both Max and Judea part of your name when you were adopted so you could be called either name as you so choose.

While you lived here, you went to Highland Elementary for some of Kindergarten and all of first grade. Your first grade teacher's name was Mrs. McAllister. You enjoyed school most of the time and were a very bright student. We had homeschooled you for part of Kindergarten, but you really loved going to school, so that's what you did for first grade.

After a year and a half had gone by, things were still very difficult for the four of us as a family, even though we’d all been trying hard. We, along with Barbara (our adoption worker, who also acted as a caseworker for you while you lived with us), Lisa (your caseworker) and Alison (your therapist) finally came to the decision that we were unable to provide you with a safe and happy place to grow up. It was very sad for us to realize this. We really had wanted you to grow up with us. We were very sorry that we'd said we would be your growing up family, but then it had to be otherwise. We really had worked toward adoption the whole time we were a family of four.

When you first moved in, you were angry a lot. After a couple of months, you started hitting Nicholina when you were mad. You looked for reasons to fight. We went to therapy. Nicholina and Anthony read a lot of books to try to figure out how to help. We worked very hard to help you overcome your anger and violence and you worked very hard, too. After a while, the hitting got better. You were still angry often, but not all the time. Things were a little easier for a while, although getting along as a family continued to be a challenge. There was still a lot of anger and hostility. Sometimes Nicholina and Anthony would loose their temper and yell, too. Sometimes we had to wrestle you into your room to give everyone a chance to cool down. It was a hard way for everyone to live.

A little over a year after you moved in, you started being angry most of the time again. You started having trouble with being angry at school. You started trying to hurt Nicholina again sometimes. You were very angry and confused. You told us that you hadn't understood that you were not going to live with the Knowltons forever. You started threatening to run away when you didn't like what was happening at home. Then you did leave out of your bedroom window a few times. Meanwhile, Anthony and Nicholina did not always do a good job of managing their anger, either. It was very difficult for everyone.

We, along with the caseworkers, realized that we were not the best family for you to grow up with. We hope that the family that you do grow up with feels more like a family to you. We hope you understand that your caseworker will do the best job she can of finding you the right family. We know that you have a lot of love and caring in your heart and can do well in a family. You are a really special little boy.

During the good times, of which there were many, you loved to cuddle with Anthony or Nicholina. You always enjoyed a lap to sit on. One of the things you told us you liked best about Nicholina was sitting on her lap, reading a book and hearing about what was planned for the day as you were just getting up in the mornings. We enjoyed cuddling with you, as well.

You and Davan enjoyed playing together sometimes, too. Davan wrote up “Max cards” for you with things for you and her to do together. You would ask her to do Max cards with you. You and she also liked to play the chocolate game where she’d chase you, looking for chocolate to eat (you for pretend) and you’d trick her with things like shoes, telling her they were chocolate. She’d pretend to taste it, say, “Yuck, that’s not chocolate!” and the chase would be on again. You’d just giggle and giggle.

You liked to wrestle and were very happy when Nicholina or Anthony would get down on the floor and wrestle or play “get off the couch” with you. You really liked being tickled, as well, and would invite tickling by laying down, hunching over like you were trying to protect your ticklish spots, giggling and looking at us like you were saying, “What are you waiting for?”

You and Anthony enjoyed playing video games and soccer together. You and Nicholina had fun times with the aerobe (like a Frisbee) at the park together and reading with Nicholina reading to you. You liked that Nicholina made your meals for you, but really loved when we all ate out together.

While you were an O’Donnell, you enjoyed drawing and made some pretty great pictures. You also got interested in paper airplanes when some friends showed you how to do it and made lots of them. And, of course, there was your love of sports and video games throughout!

You also enjoyed both the morning and bedtime finger rhyme Nicholina did with you. The morning one went like this:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she knew just what to do.
She hugged them and rocked them and tucked them in bed.
I love you, I love you, is what she said.

The evening one went like this:

This little finger was very tired.
This little finger was, too.
This little finger said, “Good night!”
This little finger said, “Me, too.”
The thumb said, “Look out, make some room for me!” and jumped into the bed.
They all cuddled and rocked and rested their sleepy little heads.

We are sad to say good-bye. We think of you all the time and hope that you are doing well. We hope you find a growing up family where you are cherished, safe and happy most of the time.

Nicholina and Anthony

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