Oh Kai Kai, how are we already here again? You are 8 years old today. EIGHT. Every year I think that just sounds so big as I enter this bitter-sweet season of seeing your growth flash before my eyes (and I do mean flash). Sometimes I’ll look over at you and my mind can’t grasp how tall you’ve gotten, while still feeling so little at the same time. I know that doesn’t make sense-how can you be both big and little at once? It’s true though, which is why my heart is full of contradictions on your birthday. You were so sweet and funny and tender with me last night as I got emotional putting you to bed, as I always do the night before your big day. You gave me a kiss and patted me on the head as tears leaked out of my eyes while a smile was still planted on my face. Just minutes before you showed your uncanny ability to make us laugh as you get more and more witty with every passing year. As I told you, once again, that I wanted to whisk you off to Neverland so you wouldn’t turn 8, you looked at me sweetly and said “But mom, my face won’t change tomorrow…except I might have a little more hair here” while you stroked your chin. Your dad and I about fell off the couch with laughter at that timing. Oh what a joy you are!
I will say, as much as I resist you getting older, this year I have more peace about it than I ever have. Dare I say, this might have been my favorite year yet? I miss how you fit in my lap, your baby belly laughs, the tiny little voice and Kai Kai-isms, but I’m also learning that there’s another type of magic at this stage. It’s not better or worse, just different and fun in its own right. As you were playing with play dough after our school time we were just chatting at the kitchen island, and I asked you some questions about this year. It was fun to hear some of your favorite highlights, because many of them were mine too. I always have a special message for your on your birthday, and this year, I just want to celebrate the big things, biggest deal of them all that you actually got to FINISH so much that was stolen from you early 2020. This has been a full year, with so many prayers answered, and I just stand in awe of this young boy before. His Spirit is at work in you; what a gift to get a front row seat. So, let’s take a look at some of the best parts.
First Trip To The Mountains
We love a good adventure, and we knew we needed to get out of town. A change of scenery, preferably in nature, but your mom doesn’t camp. The mountains were calling, so we had to go! We spent a long weekend in Colorado Springs and it’s now one of our favorite places. We basically had the new Olympic & Paralympic Museum to ourselves, and you loved all the things. Learning about the athletes, different sports, seeing real Olympic medals over the years, all the interactive activities-it was a blast and we still talk about it. We spent the next day at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where you, wait for it…got to FEED A RHINO. Your favorite animal of all time. Despite being told you couldn’t touch its horn before walking up, I heard you whisper, “I want to touch it” and, classic Kai, you snuck a touch because it’s a RHINO and you couldn’t resist. Good thing you’re cute and the rhino liked you too, but that was pretty awesome. The rest of our weekend, we hiked our tails off and it was both exhausting and glorious! We spent a whole day hiking through Garden of the Gods and marveling in the beauty of God’s creation. We did a couple of, rather challenging, hikes the next day, one that included over 200 stairs straight up. You climbed it like a champ with no complaints, and I couldn’t have done it without your constant encouragement helping me be brave and push through. It was so fun, and we can’t wait to go back. True to your personality, we’d reach the peak and then you’d say “What’s next?” Always ready for the next trail to conquer.
FINISHED First Grade
Even though we’ve entered our fourth year of home education, this past year was your second year of Classical Conversations and you got to finish it, hallelujah! You are constantly learning, but you improved greatly with reading. You read through a series of chapter books, I lost count on the number of book series we read-aloud (did we go through Harry Potter twice in one year?), and you read about 300 pages throughout your language arts curriculum. Truth be told, sitting down to read is not your favorite task. You love to be read-aloud to because you can move about, which is how you listen best, but still, I see your love of books and stories continue to grow. The past few months you’ve preferred listening to books on Audible, and while it gives my voice a break, I love that when we get in the car or even when you have the choice to get in some TV time, you want to listen to an audio book instead. You love math, our weekly community day is your favorite day of the week, and I could not have been filled with more gratitude and wonder than at your end of year presentation. Homeschooling isn’t always easy and doesn’t go smoothly every day, but when I hear you say things like, “Someday, when I homeschool my kids…” it warms my heart. We wouldn’t have it any other way, and I love getting to teach you and learn alongside you. Our time together is precious.
FINISHED Level 4 Competition Season
While it was different and a bumpy ride navigating all the different protocols put in place, you didn’t care so long as you got to be in the gym and compete. You didn’t get to finish your first season, and while two meets were missed due to circumstances beyond our control this year, you still got to actually finish. And you finished STRONG. It wasn’t the start to the season that you hoped for, but the biggest thing I am proud of at that first meet was that you KEPT GOING. You didn’t let one routine derail you. We worked through ups and downs and mental blocks, always reminding you that your identity is not your ability. It’s not in scores that are never the same, it’s not dependent on a medal around your neck. Your worth is not found in things that fade, your worth is found in the unchanging, never fading grace of Jesus. Your ability and love and passion for gymnastics is a gift that He’s given you, but it doesn’t define you. You learned so much this year about what it means to be a team, to encourage others even if they never encourage you back. You overcame so much and I never cheered louder than you hitting that back handspring you worked so hard on. Your transformation from meet one to your last meet at Regionals was incredible to see, and we know that taught you that persistence and hard work pays off. You finished 5th All-Around at State, 3rd All-Around at Regionals, and we are so proud of your dedication, grateful for your amazing coach, sweet friends, and love how much you love this sport. We’re ready to cheer you on again, and in the words of your new favorite gymnast, “LET’S GOOOOOOOOOO!!!! (salute included).”
An Olympics To Remember
We have always loved the Olympics. Your parents don’t watch many sports, but when the Olympics & Paralympics are on, we’re sports people. I think every kid remembers a certain Olympic games where they really remembered watching athletes do historic things. For me, that was the 1992 winter games with my favorite, Kristi Yamaguchi, and 1996 games with the Magnificent Seven. Your dad and I were talking about how this Olympics & Paralympics would probably be the one you remember connecting with most. One, you fell in love with it all when we visited the museum in Colorado Springs. Two, the national championships for gymnastics was held local to us, and the night we took you to see the Men’s Finals, I’ll never forget your face. Your excitement, your awe taking it all in, watching everyone, you got attached to many of those athletes, one in particular that we followed and went crazy when he made the team. Yul Moldaur, whose big, fun personality filled up that arena (not to mention he’s an incredible gymnast). You connected with him, and I think, could see a bit of yourself in him. You noticed right off the bat, he’s Asian American, just like you. When you wanted to learn more about him, we found out he was adopted internationally, like you. You enjoyed watching every minute, and told us the names of all the moves and who could do that at your gym and what you wanted to put in your routine one day. During the Olympics and Paralympics, we usually muted the commercials unless it was Jessica Long’s, because you love her story too. Come to find out, there are so many athletes who were adopted, and we saw the power of their stories and what that representation meant to you. It was fun and sweet to see, not to mention, it all took place in your birth country. The conversations we had were beautiful and meaningful.
I saved the best for last. Towards the end of 2019, you told me you wanted to get baptized. It filled our souls to the brim as this was a long awaited prayer, and we had many conversations with you. You were ready. You wanted to make that commitment, that declaration. Then our church stopped meeting in person for a long time. At the end of 2020, we revisited that conversation, and your desire never changed. We ended up changing churches, and once we were somewhat settled, as soon as you heard in service that baptisms were coming up, you wanted to do it. June 27, 2021 will be etched in memory as clear as the day I first met you and heard the Lord speak so clearly. Kai, before we even knew your name, your face, or that you were ours, our prayer was that our child would know, love, and follow Christ. Our prayer over you each night was that He would save you. And He has. As I sat beside you and you dictated your testimony to me, the goodness, grace, and great mercy of God was so apparent. We have done our best, imperfectly and constantly seeking His wisdom for our ineptitude, to point you to Him day after day, seizing every moment we can. But we knew, we aren’t your saviors. Only He can do that. Hearing you say you’ve always known Him and loved Him, that you know you NEED Him, saying the gospel plainly that most of us adults overcomplicate-I praise God for allowing me to see and hear that miracle. You have a thirst for His Word I pray never stops, you seek Truth, and at such a young age you are learning the power of prayer. I pray His Spirit continues to water the many seeds and that they fall on good soil. We stood beside you, your dad baptized you, I watched as your voice proclaimed “Yes” to Him, and what a celebration the saints were having as you came above the water. Our family was there to witness that special day, and by far, this was the highlight of the year for me as your mom, and I know for your dad too.
There have been many, many times in recent months that my spirit begins to give way to fear at the world in which I am raising you. It’s scary, even though our hope doesn’t belong to the things of this world, I can’t help but wonder how could things possibly get any worse, and how will I prepare you to stay steadfast amidst the pressing darkness? I don’t know who wrote it or even the exact words, but a friend shared with me a post that was circulating that He knows exactly the time and culture our kids were born into, being raised in, and that was not an accident. He knew Esther could face Haman, Daniel could face a den of lions, David could face a giant, and so on and so forth. I’m butchering the original, but as I sat with that over a few days, I became more and more solid at the way He created you. You naturally question, you aren’t afraid to go against the grain, you find the positive and joy in circumstances, I could go on. I don’t need to fear because He’s got you. He has great purpose for you. As you prepare to become a big brother (another highlight of this year, officially waiting to adopt again) I see your leadership and the balance you have of strength and gentleness, fearlessness and fierceness. You have pages in your journal filled with praying for siblings, for your birth mom, for the mama who will choose us, and that in the complexity of it all we are all family. It gets me daily. Last night I took a walk after putting you to bed and the song “Million Little Miracles” started on my playlist. There was a full, big, harvest moon in the sky and I just kept thinking how in the world do I get to be the one to see these millions of little miracles take form as our family grows? I have such affection for your first mom even though we’ve never met, I know she’s thinking about you today. There’s so many things to say with that one weighted sentence, but that’s just between us at home and you know that.
I can’t wait to see what great things are in store for you. Eight is going to be great, son.
Love you to Neverland and back,