Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Big NINE! (And kindergarten is awesome!)

Another birthday's come and gone.

Number nine!

You wouldn't believe all my NINE year old has accomplished this year. I didn't know if we'd come this far in her lifetime…let alone by now, just a year and a half after coming home.

As I think back over these last 365 days (well, plus a few now, I suppose), one thing stands out to me above the rest.

It's the reason Sam has come as far as she's come.

It's the reason she's walking. (!!!)

It's one very big reason why she's thriving the way she is.

And it's something I dreaded. And put off. And cried and drug my feet on.


Yes, school!

You may recall me confessing that I cried for a full two weeks before I sent Sam for her first day.

Or that (oh yes, I really did) I went with her on day one, eyeing everyone who set foot near her, thinking nasty thoughts about how I could do what they were doing better. (Yep. I did that, too.)

In my head (it's crazy in there) I continually threatened to pull Sam out. Or to send her for half days, or only a few times a week.

The climate of my inward thought life was only made worse by the looks Sam and I were getting as we rolled up to school every day. And the comments.

"What's wrong with her?", kids would ask.

"Is she a baby?"

"Then why does she act like a baby?"

I knew they were only kids. I really did. And God gave me the grace to answer them kindly. But I sincerely feared my Samantha would not have a friend.

Oh, but let me tell you what!

School, particularly Mrs. Lammers and her kindergarten class, have been one of the best things that has happened to us since we became a family.

I remember the turning point.

I was wheeling Sam through the parking lot, up to the door where her para was waiting. We were running a bit late, as we often are. Up beside us pulled a car from which a tiny girl bounded, backpack dragging behind. She was running late too. But not too late to stop, and with a beaming smile exclaim, "Samanthaaaa!"

Before long, that became the norm.

On one cold, slushy winter day, we approached her class, lined up neatly outside the kindergarten door, waiting for Mrs. Lammers. Rather than facing the door, though, a group of half a dozen little cuties was turned and facing us, shouting in happy unison, "Sa-am! Sa-am! Sa-am!", so excited to greet their friend. 

Sam's class celebrated her birthday on Tuesday this week. (Her birthday was Sunday and there was no school on Monday. The whole lunch room sang to her, her class wrote her notes and drew her pictures, and Mrs. Lammers asked the kids to help her compile a list of 9 questions to ask Sam's mom about on her 9th birthday. I loved answering them!
1. Where was Sam born?
Sam was born in Bulgaria. She only weighed about 4 pounds. I bet she was really cute :)
2. Where did/will she go for her birthday?
Sam saw Frozen two times this weekend! She also went to church and to youth group with her mom and the kids there sang to her. 
3. What kind of cake did she eat?
Sam had confetti cake with pink frosting and hot fudge Sundaes. She loved the ice cream. She thought the cake was pretty but she spit it back out. 
4. Did Sam wear a birthday hat?
Sam didn’t wear a hat because she doesn’t like things touching her head. BUT, she did wear a “Birthday Girl” pin on her shirt. 
5. Does Sam sleep with her mom sometimes?
Sam usually can’t sleep very well unless she’s in her own bed. But sometimes she lays in her moms bed for a little while when her mom needs a nap. But she doesn’t really let her mom sleep :) She likes to bounce on the bed! 
6. Did Sam get a birthday card?
Yes, Sam got a Tangled birthday card! 
7. Did she get any presents?
Yes, Sam got an elephant ball popper and a new piano toy that makes animal sounds. She thinks they are both very funny! 
8. Did she chew on her new toys, or did she get a new chew toy? 
She didn’t chew on her NEW toys, but she does have some toys she can chew on. She has a little kermit the frog toy that she puts in her mouth.  
9. Did she blow out her candles, did she have candles on her cake?
Sam’s mom helped her blow out the candles. Sam thought they were very pretty.
Great questions, huh? And honest. You gotta love number 8, asked without a hint of ugliness. Just a genuine question from a friend. 

This wasn't the first time a para or teacher has brought me questions from Sam's friends. They're so interested in her life, and they truly want to communicate with her! And since Sam can't answer their questions they'll ask an adult to ask Sam's mom. "What is Sam going to be for Halloween?" "Will Sam be at the carnival tonight?" "Is Sam coming on the field trip?"

Perhaps even better than the interview questions were the handwritten birthday notes. 

"I like Sam because Sam is pretty."

"I love you Sam so much. You are a good friend. I love you because you sit with me. I love you so much. Happy birthday. You are good."
"I like Sam because she is nice and fun to play with. Happy birthday. I like reading to her. She is funny."

"Sam you are a special friend! You are the best!"

"I like Sam because she is cute! I like to hug her! She is the best girl in the world!"

Oh man, I got a lump in my throat as I read that last one. From sweet Charlotte. What a God-send this little girl is, who wrote in her diary at home, in a blank that said "Who is your best friend?"…Answer: "Sam". 
Charlotte is like a little mommy to Sammers. Can't you just almost hear her saying, "Look at the camera, Sam."

That's better.
And as if that weren't enough, that Sam would have true friends, a little family really, in her kindergarten class, you should meet her teachers!

They occasionally text me pictures or videos of things Sam is doing at school. I'm sure you can imagine my excitement on the day they sent me this:

Or when I showed up for parent teacher conference a couple weeks ago and was surprised to be gifted with a video set to music of Sam doing therapy, learning to walk, kicking a ball in PE, and playing with her friends. All things she wasn't doing back in August. Sam's therapists plan to use this video at a district event with other therapists and school professionals.

I thank God for leading us to this school, at this time, with this exact group of kids and staff. Just when I thought I'd found something I knew better than He did (wink wink). He write the best stories.
I'll leave you with a few more pictures and videos from  Sam's birthday.

And I'll be back soon (maybe tomorrow?) with a detailed prayer list for our upcoming trip this Saturday. Tony-boy, I'm on my way!

Lots of love to all of you.

Watch for her face when they sing her name :)


  1. This is just beautiful. Such a blessing. Cant wait for you to meet your Tony!!!!!!! xoxoxoxooxxo

  2. I cried watching that video of her walking. Silly of me, but wow- she has come so far since those videos of her with the ball at the orphanage! So excited for Sam. Happy Birthday to her, and Grace, please keep blogging about this precious girl. And I look forward to "meeting" Tony, as well. Blessings to all of you.

  3. Precious. This makes me very happy.