Luke has grown physically like a humungous weed. He is 13 years old now.. wow how did that happen... (my biggest struggle with adopting an older child is they go from your new "baby" to well "an older grown up child" in the blink of an eye... ) The boy is HUGE! Just a hair under 5''8 and weighing 107 lbs now. He is a skinny, skinny tall drink of water! Luke still eats us out of house and home, the same he has done since the day we met him. He truly needs his own refrigerator, food shopper and cook. Whew, he exhausts us with his appetite. But when one goes from 4'6' to 5'8" in 3 years that can be the cause of the appetite the size of Godzilla.
The end of September we made a huge life decision and moved our family to Austin, Texas so Luke, Elias and Emma can attend the Texas School for the Deaf. This decision did not come lightly and was after years of battling and loosing to our school district. We eventually got backed up against a wall and had no way to win the battle with our school, we were left with not one viable, acceptable education option in New Jersey. It is sad times when you are backed into a corner and have to move your family across the country so your children can receive an education they deserve.. .but I can tell you from moving here it is obvious we are not the first or last family this will happen to. TSD is full of families that have moved here just for the school, some out of sheer want for the great education.. but many for the same reasons as us.. no options where you lived before. It is insanely hard to leave your family, friends, home, job, life,... your everything to take a leap of faith and do what you feel must be done for your children's sake.. it has not been easy, but it has been the right thing.
That said it is more than obvious that TSD was the right decision for our Deaf Kiddos.. they are soaring!!! To watch the change in Luke that has taken place just since the end of September when he first stepped into TSD until now.. WHOA, WOW, it is beyond incredible. Before we left NJ and had Luke officially tested by TSD they had gathered that he would need to be in their 6th grade Special Education department from his background.. that background being: no education or language until 10 1/2 years old, socially so behind, severe lack of education, Mild Cerebral Palsy, and his diagnosis last year of severe brain damage. All these together pretty much scream the need for a special education program and we felt that would be a great benefit for Luke. WELL much to our surprise... we arrived here and started testing and TSD sits down with us and says.. Special Education.. No way!! This boy is way to smart for that. They were blown away with all he knows in just 2 years of school in his life. Dont get me wrong, we know Luke is smart and he is motivated and loves to learn, But knowing this school and how large it is and that only a tiny percentage of the students here are "Deaf plus" (meaning Deaf and having other issues).. most are just Deaf kiddos, we assumed the regular ed classes would be too hard and too fast paced for Luke and that he would be too far behind. Low and Behold Luke was placed in 6th grade regular ed classes, he was placed in the lowest mainstream level class. He got straight A's and then actually complained his classes were too easy and he was bored..... WHAT? Get out of town! That made my day! I contacted the principal and told her what Luke was saying, she held a meeting with all of Luke's teachers and they decided it would benefit Luke to move up to a higher level 6th grade class and that all of his teachers felt he could handle the higher level class. He was in a class with 4-5 kids and now went to a class that goes from 13-15 students depending on the period, that is a big change for Luke and the pace is faster and the larger class means a teacher has less one on one time to explain, yet LUKE LOVES IT!!!. Again.. get out of town! This boy that had no language or education at such a late stage in life has always and is continuing to push the envelope! Luke is a go getter, he is motivated to the moon and back, he doesnt want to settle for doing ok, he wants to blast off to the moon and back. Luke is dedicated and wants to attend college, he works his butt off. He is ALWAYS willing to sit down with mom and do extra work and spend hours trying to learn more. He is incredible, his appetite to learn is ferocious. We have told Luke since we met him, "there are no limits here for you, mom and dad will help you get as far in life as you are humanly able to get, you can get an education, drive, go to college, get a job, get married, have a family.. it is all in your grasp, you have to want it and work for it...you will have to be dedicated and work hard as you were not given a fair start in life... but we can either complain about how unfair life has been to you or push forward and reach for the stars!" Luke has chosen since the day we met him to "reach for the stars and beyond!"
Luke, Luke, Luke... we have had some of the most blessed times with Luke and then some downright really hard to get through times. At the moment I am pleased to say that Luke is just soaring! TSD seems to have opened many doors for Luke and put him in a calming mindset. As I looked back over the holidays this year (and they were rough for many reasons.. the loss of a cherished loved one, not being with our family for the first time ever, everyone of us sick as a dog.. etc....) Luke triumphed during the holidays, usually really rough times for him and he was amazing! Luke has joined the swim team at TSD and is LOVING LOVING LOVING it! Swimming is so good for his body with his CP and his general core weakness, he is getting stronger by the day. Swimming 5 days a week has been a blessing for his mind, body and soul. Being a part of a team has given Luke a self confidence, pride, a sense of camaraderie and just flat out joy! When we first met Luke and he was SO weak, he could not walk steps (Tom and I had to carry him up steps) he couldnt open his own water bottle and when placed on his stomach on the floor could not even lift his head up off the floor (yes at 10 1/2 years old).. we thought for sure that sports would never be a part of his life and that being a part of a team was just not something that was going to happen for our sweet boy.. ahh I have to stop saying the word never...Luke is now looking forward to being a part of the Track and field team come spring and possibly the golf team. Luke, my Luke who could not run when we got him, who spent 2 1/2 years in some serious physical therapy so he could possible run without being made fun of, is now wanting with everything in him to run in track and field. God is SO good!
Luke is doing so well in school that he just again (yes I said again) made the A honor roll for the second 9 weeks of school!! The A honor roll in classes that are truly a challenge and very hard for him, yet here he is! He also won for the 2nd time in a row an award for Outstanding Citizenship Award which means: he won for showing: Responsibility, Respect for Others, Respect for Authority, Obedience, Self Respect and Trustworthiness. Yup that describes Luke in school for sure!
We are so proud of our boy. It has been a long journey to get where we are now and there were days within the first year of bringing Luke home that we thought, "what did we do?" as the rages went one, the freak outs started, the rigid, rigid inability to flex at all hit an all time high.. adoption is NOT easy, but we hung in and hung on and have reached the other side with Luke. There are still moments with Luke's lack of education and LATE language learning, still very delayed social skills and maturity that Tom and I wonder what the future holds for Luke and what kind of future he will have, BUT Luke has taught us one thing for sure, never place him in a box, as he will just re-shape it or re-invent it :)
Happy 3 year family day my handsome sweet boy! Mommy and Daddy love you to Heaven and back!
Enjoy some pictures from this last year with Luke!
Thank you Lord for blessing us with this beautiful boy!!! We will update you again soon! (promise)