Happy Gotcha Day, Miss Vivi!

Miss Vivi is finally right where she belongs, in her mama’s arms!
If you haven’t already, please run on over to Stefanie’s blog and leave them some love.
 And check out the video of Miss Vivi while you are there! It will make your heart smile!

Preparing for Surgery …

I know many of us with Special Angels will be spending a lot of time in the hospital, at doctor’s appt, in therapy, and many other places to help our children grow, heal, and get the very best they need to enjoy a happy healthy life … So my encouragement to you is to accept help … I learned very quickly that upon Maggie’s arrival home there would be time that I simply could not get everything done … I could not be every where at one time … I just couldn’t get all done in a day what needed to be done … It is very humbling to accept help … As women we like to think we can take care of all the needs of our family and that gives us a since of pride and purpose … I am here to encourage you that when others call and ask you if you need anything from store, can they bring you a meal, fold your laundry, or pick up the kids for you that you let them !!! Allow them to be a part of your journey … Let them get a glimpse of what your life looks like with your sweet blessing of a child …

I will never forget the woman that came to my home a month after Maggie was home from China … I honestly can not remember her name … She was from our church and I was in a complete fog … I was sleep deprived, still trying to figure out Maggie’s needs, cries, and just simply trying to stay above water … The woman knocked on my door and said, “Hello, I know we don’t know each other well, but I am here to fold your laundry.”  I could have cried … There was lots of laundry and it was in that moment that God showed me what the function of THE BODY OF CHRIST could be to us during this time …

SO SAY YES, when someone calls and allow them to answer God’s calling on their life to walk with you on this journey … It does not make you any less of a woman or mother … It is actually you showing your children how to give and show love to others …

Prayers please for Maggie as her next surgery is scheduled for Jan. 13th…

I have something very serious I am working on for my next moth’s post … It is something that has been ripping at my heart lately and I just don’t have the graceful words yet to write it … I am praying God will show me how to explain it and hopefully help open some eyes and change some perceptions …

Blessings All

A Small Mercy at Children’s Hospital

My four year-old, Cholita is a darling, wonderful girl. She can also be loud and blunt–sometimes bordering on obnoxious. Sometimes she’s way past the border, with her feet firmly planted in Obnoxious Land.
Last year we were in a waiting room that serves several different clinics at a large children’s hospital. It’s the type of place where your heart aches for the hardships some children have to bear, the type of place where you count your blessings. Cholita was sitting at a table, coloring a picture of Barney the Dinosaur, when a little girl of about 4 or 5 sat down across from her. One side of her head showed the face of a beautiful Asian girl. The other side was hugely disfigured. I know Cholita. I know she doesn’t mince words. If she saw her, she’d say something–something innocent but hurtful. I silently prayed that Cholita wouldn’t notice, knowing that she would. Sure enough, she looked up and stared. She squinted her eyes like she was trying to readjust her focus. The girl pulled her hair across the side of her face and looked down at her paper. Cholita leaned over, chest on the table, and peeked up under the girl’s hair. Her mother, seated next to me in an armchair, set the hospital clipboard on her lap and watched. I literally held my breath and prayed. Please don’t hurt this little girl’s feelings.

Cholita settled herself back into her chair and opened her mouth to speak. I moved closer, ready to offer gum. “You want to share my crayons?” she said. The girl nodded and they giggled and passed crayons back and forth. I breathed. The mother smiled, “Looks like you made a friend,” she said to her daughter.

Truly an answer to prayer. A small mercy.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Handling Your Child’s Disabilitiesmomma Marye Audet at Blisstree… on helping your child to navigate social situations with a visible special need

Guest Author: The Dance, Older Child Adjustmentadoptive momma (domestic and Ethiopia) Michele as a guest blogger at A Bushel and a Peck… on the adjustment process after adopting a teenager

The NSN Misnomeradoptive momma (China) the Rumor Queen at China Adopt Talk… just because you adopt through the non-special needs program doesn’t mean you will avoid special needs

To Post or Not to Postmomma Janice at 5 Minutes for Mom… how much is too much information to share when you are blogging about your child’s special need?

Why blog? adoptive momma (China) Donna at Straight Talk… why she blogs about special needs adoption

I miss my Foster Family…

My oldest daughter is a tomboy but you’d never know it by looking at this photo. She loves to pose for me and she’s always full of surprises.

Last week, she was keeping me company in the master bathroom while I was putting on my makeup and doing my hair when her face suddenly got all serious and she announced, solemnly, that she missed her foster family.

“I miss my foster family, sooo much! I really want to visit them but you won’t let me and that makes me sad. I feel like I have two hearts thumping in me.” Then she patted her chest to show me where those two hearts were thumping.

It was sweet and touching and I stroked her silky cheek with the back of my hand and told her that I love her two hearts with all of my one heart. Then I gently reminded her that she doesn’t have a foster family.

Yep, she made it all up.

She was never in foster care in China so she clearly didn’t really miss her foster family. And she knows what a foster family is so there’s no confusion about that either. She was merely pretending. She has a beautiful imagination and frequently tells stories with fuzzy edges between reality and fantasy and this was just another story to her. She probably hasn’t even thought about it again but I sure have.

She doesn’t have a foster family but if she’d gotten that one critical little detail right, I almost certainly wouldn’t have questioned her sincerity about the rest of what she said. But maybe I should be skeptical because there’s a pretty hefty price to pay if I get it wrong.

As I write this, she’s playing in the other room and she isn’t sad or mournfully missing anyone or bearing the weighty burden of any aspect of her unfortunate beginnings. And that’s a relief because, even though my intentions are always completely honorable, I have tremendous power to influence how she internalizes some pretty hefty issues. I can make her believe that she’s suffered tragic and unfair losses, that people on the other side of the world cry for her and miss her and think about her every day, that it’s perfectly understandable that she’d miss them too. And even though all that might very well be true, there’s a pretty good chance that she wouldn’t be spending any time thinking about it if I didn’t make a ritual out of putting it under her nose and helping her scrutinize her feelings about it. In other words, I’m careful not to treat my kids like injured baby birds because they might start believing that’s what they are.

I feel like I should end this with some really enlightening tie-up-the-loose-ends way but I can’t do it. I know it’s a hard subject for many adoptive parents to discuss because most of us want to err on the side of caution and that means we’ll risk delving into these issues prematurely because we think doing it early will make the path easier to navigate later. Personally, I don’t recommend that because I’ve seen many instances of kids crying for lost loved ones that they clearly don’t remember. But there must come a time when we need to wade out into these waters with our kids just so they don’t think we’re uncomfortable discussing these topics. I’m not sure what that age is but I know it’s not 5 and a half. Maybe ten? If anyone with older adopted kids has started discussions about “loss”, I’m curious to know how it went.

As always, you can see the everyday happenings of my cheerful little brood on our family blog, here: http://2happy.typepad.com/

mother therapy

As parents, we naturally look for our child’s accomplishments. It is a unique gift we’ve been given. An Olympian can have his whole country cheering for him, but the only people he wants to see in the stands are his mom and dad.

When my 2-year old daughter Lydia runs a crayon across a piece of paper, she immediately calls for me to look and cheer for her accomplishment, even if it’s just a scribble. I am glad she wants my praise because it is easy to give. How can anyone ignore these eyes?!

She has grown so much in the year since she came home. Despite having only one functioning ear, she can hear a pin drop and mimic a tune. Her words may not be absolutely clear, but those that know her can understand what she’s asking for. All the tests by the doctors just confirmed what we already knew… that she is a healthy baby… a lot on the petite side true to her Jiangxi roots. We have spent the last year marveling at the person Lydia is becoming. It was us, her parents, rejoicing loudest of all when she overcame separation anxiety at the church nursery.

But despite all her many achievements, I have found myself becoming her worst critic. The weekly flow of therapists in our home is beginning to wear on me. With each visit, we talk about Lydia’s weaknesses and after each visit, I find myself suddenly becoming discontent with her progress. I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like measuring my daughter up against some standard set by a council.

I have only myself to blame for this. I was the one that sought out these early intervention assessments for Lydia. Because of her special need, I wanted to be sure we weren’t missing something. I wanted to ensure her vocabulary would develop properly. I am thankful these services exist and that many of them are covered by insurance or provided free through the state. The speech, occupational and physical therapists we’ve met with have provided us with good information and observations. If you asked me six months ago about glottal sounds and sensory disorders, I would have given you a blank stare. Now I can hear when Lydia is using her throat versus her lips to produce words. I can also see that her need for constant movement may be connected to a need for sensory stimulation and not her plot to exhaust me by 8am.

I see merit in the services these therapists are providing, but lately I’ve felt that I need to stop participating in the cross-analysis of Lydia. I need to focus on her accomplishments and stop looking for all her weaknesses. My daughter doesn’t need a 24/7 analyst at home.

On the one hand, I’m happy to have a few “babysitters” visit each week and play with my daughter, but I need to step away from all the scrutiny they bring. I need to see her as my daughter and not a special needs patient. The love and nurturing I can provide is more powerful than any therapy session. She needs me encouraging her to use any words, even the glottal ones. She needs me chasing after her and cuddling with her. She needs me to be her mother… not her therapist. They get an hour each week but I get a lifetime!

She will have many coaches, teachers, doctors and specialists in her life… but she will have only one mother.

SPD And Me

newly edited, but originally posted at Our Little Tongginator in October, 2009

Now that we’re into the last week of October December, I thought I’d stop procrastinating and write a few posts about Sensory Processing Disorder. I mean, y’all DID know that October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness month, RIGHT?

(I’m nothing if not timely.)

*gasp* You mean you DIDN’T know?? Well, you do now. Although I suspect a few of you are totally scratching your heads at the moment, asking yourselves, “umm… what the heck IS sensory processing disorder?” Well, I happen to be a pretend expert, seeing as how I have it, as does my daughter, my nephew, my brother-in-law and quite possibly even my maternal grandma. Because there totally has to be a label for my grandma’s special brand of wackiness. And please ignore the fact that I sport her same label. Because – despite evidence to the contrary – I am NOT wacky.

Much.

Anyways, last October I blogged quite a bit about sensory processing disorder at my personal blog because Our Little Tongginator is primarily an adoption blog and – surprise! – children who experience international adoption often struggle with sensory issues. That’s because, as evidenced by my wacky family tree, SPD is genetic, running in families, but it also tends to appear in premature babies, children who experience stress in utero and children who were internationally adopted.

Why?

Because the nervous system develops throughout a mother’s pregnancy, plus it continues to grow and form during the first year of life. And if a child doesn’t receive adequate stimulation during those formative months, the nervous system doesn’t always form as well as it could. Our Tongginator, whom we adopted at just under a year, was diagnosed with severe sensory delays at 13 months of age, then later received a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder.

So what did those sensory delays look like when we first arrived home?

Well, let me preface this by saying that sensory issues look different for EVERY person, although most people with SPD do struggle with tactile issues. Our little Tongginator is mostly a sensory-seeker, although she is sensory-avoidant in some ways. Taking my cues from Colleen, I thought I would list some of the issues we faced that directly related to the Tongginator’s SPD:

low muscle tone
extreme oral defensiveness
strong desire or need to feel dizzy
delayed gross motor skills
delayed fine motor skills
extreme tactile defensiveness
self-stimulatory behaviors
high pain tolerance
under-responsive to sights and sounds, unless startled – and then over-responsive
strong desire to smell objects
lack of body awareness and body positioning

Umm… yeah… now y’all are thinking, ‘that’s a lot of nonsense words, TM. And I have no idea what they mean.’ So let me describe them a bit, at least when it comes to our Tongginator.

Our Tongginator had (and still struggles a bit with) low muscle tone. The best way to describe it is to call her a “floppy” child. She had a significant head lag even at twelve months. Her arms and legs would just flop down if you raised them, then let go. Her core muscle strength was almost non-existent, causing her to truncate (sit with her hands braced against her feet to support her body) rather than to sit upright.

sitting versus truncating: RedFish and the Tongginator in Nanchang

Extreme oral defensiveness… I cannot even begin to tell you how this phrase causes horrific flashbacks. To quote an occupational therapist within our county’s early intervention program, the Tongginator was “THE most orally defensive child I have ever seen.” At 13 months of age, the Tongginator could not drink thin liquids, only formula that had been rice-flaked to death. She could not handle solid foods that didn’t match the consistency of said Rice Flake Formula. And the Tongginator, being the Tongginator, would rather go on a Three Day Hunger Strike than drink formula that contained slightly fewer rice flakes as compared to the day before. It took six weeks and lots of therapy and grit to rid the Tongginator of rice flakes in her formula. The Tongginator also rejected anything placed in her mouth that was not Already Approved Tongginator Food… this included teethers, infant or toddler toothbrushes, medicine droppers, infant or toddler eating utensils (including chopsticks), straws and sippy cups, toys, and on and on. Interestingly enough, once we overcame the Tongginator’s oral defensiveness, she began to crave strong flavors and textures in her mouth. The child is now obsessed with foods and chewing and all things oral, except for dentist visits, which continue to be a nightmare.

She has always shown a strong desire for or need to feel dizzy. As a baby, she often flung herself backwards while in our arms so that she could hang upside down, then feel a rush as we raised her up again. She spent hours in a doorway jumper, riding her rocking horse and spinning round and round on her sit-n-spin. I used to spend many an afternoon with her at the local playground, pushing her on the swings. The Tongginator also spent her first few months with us head banging both us and objects. And, when she could finally walk, she would spin around in circles with her arms spread wide for long, LONG periods of time. Now? She swings every morning before school. She asks for us to hang her upside down and to “squeeze my head, please, Momma.” All of those things help her to concentrate.

playing the upside-down game with
Tonggu Daddy in the Tokyo Airport

Sensory kids often display delayed gross motor and fine motor skills. Now, it’s difficult to know what is an institutional delay and what is sensory, but extreme delays are something to check out, regardless of the cause. The Tongginator did not roll over until 12 months of age, crawled at 15 months and walked at almost 19 months. She did not even begin to consider possibly attempting to self-feed until she was almost 14 months old. We still cope with motor planning issues, which means the Tongginator struggles to figure out how to PLAN movement. Pedaling? Confused her for a very long time. Swimming? Still working on that one. Her fine motor skills are also still delayed, mostly because she can’t figure out how to exert enough force to do certain things, including buttons, zippers, opening up a child gate and such. She possesses excellent handwriting because it doesn’t involve too much push/ pull effort, but she does often complain of hand pain because she presses her pencil too hard into the paper.

Our Tongginator also displayed extreme tactile defensiveness. She hated skin-to-skin contact, and not simply because of attachment issues. The Tongginator pretty much loathed anything touching her skin unless it was 100% cotton, including water, the wind, another person, carpet, wood floors, grass… well, you get the idea. Diaper changes, bath time and pretty much anytime was fairly horrific our first two months home. We ended up dressing her in long pants with long sleeves for several months, even though it was spring and summer in the Washington, DC area. We bought a second wipes warmer, so that we could gently heat lotion in it before applying it to her skin. It took several months of daily exposure to help the Tongginator overcome most of her tactile defensiveness. We still accommodate in some areas. For example, the only tights and panties she wears are from Hanna; we purchase seamless socks; she wears dresses most of the time because she hates feeling constricted around her waist; I could go on and on. Don’t even get me started about the potty training. Oy vey. I once wrote a hysterical post entitled “The Ebb and Flow of Pee,” only the husband wouldn’t allow me to publish it.

Sniff. Sniff.

As for self-stimulatory behaviors? That’s basically a nice way of saying that the Tongginator enjoyed hurting herself. She comforted herself by banging her head into walls or furniture… by picking at her skin (especially her nail cuticles)… and by pulling her own hair. Obviously all of this means that she also has a high tolerance for pain. And illness. Only once has my Tongginator ever clung to me while sick. Turns out she had strep throat, a double ear infection and a urinary tract infection all at once. Poor little gal.

In terms of sights and sounds, the Tongginator showed a strange mix of under-responsiveness and over-responsiveness to life happening around her. For over a year, I took the Tongginator to either the local playground, on a play date or to the tot lot inside our local mall every blessed day.

EVERY BLESSED DAY, Y’ALL.

(Did y’all know that I absolutely loathe the mall?)

The Tongginator craved the busyness of people going to and fro. She loved action and wanted to be in the center of it all. She could not… function, for lack of a better word… if we hung out around the house for even one day. Our first two years home, I planned our days in much the same way that I once created lesson plans for my classes. However – and this is a big however – she did NOT like loud, repetitive noises such as smoke detectors, the microwave timer, a fire alarm and on and on. If those things occurred, she often returned to the hand flapping, rocking, self-stimulating behaviors that once were so prevalent. I can’t tell you the number of times complete strangers (and one idiot nurse) asked me, “is your daughter autistic?” during our first year home.

The Tongginator loves to smell things. Not every child with sensory issues focuses on smells, but – for the Tongginator – this is THE number one issue. The Tongginator loves to smell everything, even stinky things. She finds comfort in smells. I remain convinced that the Tongginator fell in love with her cherished Doggy because Doggy arrived in a package containing a perfumed sachet.

with her beloved Doggy

She continues to struggle with body positioning and awareness. In other words, the girl walks into walls, falls off chairs and trips over her own two feet, just like her momma. She also took forever to learn how to dress herself and still can’t quite manage some fine motor tasks, including (hurray!) child gates. She often drops things or slams things down too hard. She craves her special, sensory Tongginator sandwiches. She basically loses track of where her body is in space.

Then again, so does her momma.

There are many more sensory issues that the Tongginator struggles with, but those are the most memorable. SPD is a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe… while the Tongginator is now on the mild to moderate side of things, please understand, y’all, that our experiences during our first year home were some of the most challenging our social worker had ever seen. Add attachment issues, the fight to avoid a failure to thrive diagnosis and my depression to these sensory challenges… and… well… it was a lot. But it was ALL worth it.

Because the Tongginator is worth it.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Our First Six Months Together & Thoughts On Older Child Adoptionadoptive momma (Russia and China) Michelle at Born In Our Hearts… thoughts about their recent adoption of an eleven-year-old during their first Christmas together

7 Questions for a… College Student with Cerebral Palsy
momma to a child with CP Ellen at To the Max… an interview with a college student about her life with cerebral palsy

HIV testing will not be required for obtaining visas for international adopteesat the PEAR blog, which is Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform… a new ruling about HIV testing and international adoption

Yet… I Think He Was Always Beautiful adoptive momma (Russia, Ukraine and Siberia) Christine at Smiles & Trials… a photo journey of her son Dennis’ many cranial-facial surgeries over the past two years

The Best Christmas Gift!!waiting to adopt (China) Kim at Our Journey to Addison Hope… receiving updated photos of their soon-to-be-daughter, who now sports a spica cast

Non-recurring Adoption Expense Reimbursements

I know, it’s a mouthful. But it’s worth taking the time to toss around as many families adopting special needs kids from China qualify for up to $2000 back from their state.

Special needs domestic adoptions are eligible in every state for a one time reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses. But many states also reimburse non-recurring adoption expenses for international adoptions. Since each state has discretion over the distribution of funds, not every state will reimburse for international adoptions.

States also vary on when you must apply for reimbursement, most states requiring that the paperwork is initiated before the final adoption occurs. After placement, the paperwork is completed. Typically, proof of the completed adoption and proof of non-recurring adoption expenses (travel expenses, agency costs, homestudy fees, etc) totaling the amount to be reimbursed is required.

The reimbursement amount varies by state and ranges from $500 to $2,000. Certainly enough to be worth investigating. And I recommend thoroughly investigating the laws in your particular state. Make the calls to the person in charge of the unit, don’t assume that what you read on the internet is current. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out your adoption qualifies for reimbursement!

Visit the NACAC site for details on who to contact in your state.

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t

Last year, there were four kids bouncing around the house Christmas morning.

This year there were five.

But there almost weren’t.

I was thinking about that this morning. Thinking about how I didn’t even know Cheeky existed on December 25, 2008. That Christmas morning, I had a vague image in my mind of the daughter that would one day be. She was around five years old, had dark hair and deep brown eyes. I think God must have smiled at my imaginings. I think He must have chuckled as I searched stores for Asian-looking dolls and worried about whether or not my dream daughter would wish she had light hair and eyes like her siblings.

This morning as Cheeky woke and came out of her room, her white hair mussed, her arms reaching for a hug, I remembered how I hesitated as I filled out the special needs checklist for our agency, the pen hovering above albinism. We’d requested the file for a girl born with the condition the summer after we began our paperwork. A little red-haired, blue eyed doll on our agency specific list. We were too early in the process to be matched with her, and I hadn’t thought much about her until I began filling in the special needs paperwork.

And then she was all I could think about.

My husband and I discussed albinism. We decided that as long as our daughter wasn’t completely blind we could handle the visual impairment that went with the condition. Then my husband, being him, told me that I should go ahead and mark albinism if that is what I thought God was leading us to.

That’s the part of the story everyone knows.

What they don’t know is that I didn’t mark albinism on the initial form. My mind was set on that little dark haired dream girl, and I sent the form in marked with minor special needs and a few moderate ones.

But not albinism.

That very day, I received an email from our former social worker. I hadn’t heard from her since we’d moved from Maryland. The email said that the special needs program needed families willing to adopt children older than six. It said that these children were the ones who waited longest for families and that our agency was looking for families who felt led to adopt an older child. The email ended with the admonition to not jump into older child adoption just to move the process along more quickly but to carefully consider whether or not one of these children would fit into our home.

My husband and I had requested a child between the ages of three and six.

I told my husband about the email, and his response was quick – So, let’s change our age specification. Let’s tell them that all we care about is that the child be younger than Sassy.

And it felt so right to do that. It felt like what we should have done from the beginning. I contacted our social worker and told her our plans, and she asked that I resubmit the checklist with the new age range. I reprinted the form, filled in everything as I had before, then wrote on the bottom that we were requesting a child born after 2/12/01.

And that should have been the end of that.

I had the envelope addressed and stamped, had that SN checklist in hand, was ready to shove it in the envelope and mail it off, but a sick awful feeling kept me from doing so. Every time I thought of putting the list in the mail, I felt physically ill. It wasn’t changing the age that was making me feel that way. It was that word, that condition, that moderate special need that I had hesitated over before.

Albinism.

It was as if God were whispering in my ear, “Let go of your dream. Accept my dream for you.”

Before I could second guess that thought, I checked albinism and shoved the paper into the envelope.

She won’t have albinism, I thought as I mailed the SN sheet. Only one in 17,000 people are born with it.

But my dream was already changing. I was beginning to picture a very different little girl. This one with light eyes and fair skin. With blond or light brown or strawberry hair.

Three days later, my social worker called. She said that our agency’s China team wanted to know if we understood the eye issues that went along with albinism. I assured her that we did. I explained all that I had learned about albinism and actually told her that if the team felt uncomfortable with our request, we’d take it off the list.

Yes, I really did say that.

She assured me that the China team was just making sure we understood, and then she asked me questions about the age range, about a few other needs we’d listed and that was that.

That was Friday, February 6th. On Tuesday, February 10th, I was out shopping with my kids. I’d forgotten my cell phone but didn’t think much about it. When I returned home, I saw that my caseworker had called. I hit play, thinking she wanted to ask more questions about our checklist.

When she said she had a referral for us, I nearly fell over. My hands were shaking as I dialed her number. She answered immediately and said she was relieved I’d called. We had less than twelve hours to make a decision about the referral. We had to let the main office know by the end of business.

I didn’t hear much after that. Just a few words – Six years old. March 31, 2002. Chongqing. Albinism.

And then I was looking at the picture on my computer. Looking at that cheeky face and that happy smile and that white, white hair.

And my heart knew what my stubborn head had once tried to deny. This was my dream daughter. This blond-haired, blue eyed child was the fulfillment of all I’d been hoping and praying for.

Last year, we celebrated Christmas as a family of six.

This Christmas we celebrated as a family of seven.

Cheeky was excited and bouncy and exuberant.


It didn’t occur to me until today that this Christmas almost wasn’t. That things could have been much different. Four kids instead of five or a brunette instead of a blond. Dark eyes instead of blue. Five years old instead of seven.

My dream instead of His.

It is true that I would not know what I’d missed out on if I hadn’t checked albinism on that list. It is true that I would not know the feel of Cheeky’s arms wrapped around my waist, the sound of her silly laughter, the scent of her purple shampoo. It is true that I would only know my own dream, and I would probably be very satisfied with that.

But I did listen to that whispered thought. I did check albinism.

And I do know all those things.

Sometimes we must give up our own dream to have the best dream. That is the lesson I have learned from my journey to Cheeky.

And I am so very, very thankful that I did.