The Falco Family: A Year of Change

Better For Having Gone Away

This holiday season was very different for us than in years past. Instead of hosting our annual Caroling and Potluck party, instead of participating in and attending the many holiday-related church services and events, instead of buying a tree and decorating it and the house, we drove West. We covered more than 3000 miles in two weeks. Was it worth it? You bet! On the first leg of our journey, we passed through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and most of Texas to arrive in Ft. Davis where we spent four glorious days with Skye who has been there since mid-August. In case you have not heard, Skye is at a boarding school and treatment center where she is learning “positive peer culture” and tackling some very tough issues that stem primarily from low self-image. (To learn more about PPC and our decision to help Skye in this way, please read previous posts, Adoption Makes Seven, at rebeccafalco.wordpress.com.) It was a joyful, joyful Christmas! We shared simple things like walks together, meals, conversations, board games, and TV watching.

SKyeParents

On the last day of our visit, the entire family met with the therapist for a family session.  Each sibling, piled on the sofa with Skye, shared his or her impressions of Skye and a desire to have her home soon.  The therapist began to weep. She said, “I’ll just say it.  You guys are so cute.”  We are not sure what triggered the therapist’s tearful response, but we would like to believe it is how articulate and compassionate each one of us is about our love for Skye.

DSC_0309

Although Skye is not done with her treatment, she has made great progress. Her school grades are up and she is centered in a way we have not seen in a very long time.  Her positive affect on members of the family was immediate and powerful.  We are more patient with each other.  We tolerate each other’s differences with greater ease…

Skyebrothers

From Texas, we traveled north and east into Oklahoma where we met Journey’s birth mother, Teri, after not seeing or communicating with her for over 11 years.  We also met Journey’s Aunt Kristi who, with me, arranged our visit.  This, too, was a joyful, joyful way to celebrate the New Year.  The delight in all of their faces is apparent in the pictures.  This reconnection with Journey’s first family has also seemed to give her a newfound confidence and maturity.

JourneyTeri

KristiRebecca

OKgroup

After more travels and sightseeing through Arkansas and Tennessee, we returned home to celebrate the holidays with our extended Patton family.  Instead of exchanging gifts bought from a store, the ten cousins and five “middle generation” adults were assigned to create something they could share.  The results were amazing.  Among the homemade cousin gifts were: CDs with music containing the name of each cousin, an original comic book, instructions and paper to do origami, a poem about family, friendship bracelets, “warm fuzzies,” pillows with pockets, a game to catch balls on your head, and more.  Interestingly, just like the time with Skye and Journey’s birth family, this time of giving of ourselves brought about a calm and peacefulness we rarely experience with our usual holiday traditions.  We are indeed better for having gone away.

cousinpile

The Changes We Experienced

Change might be labeled as “good” or “bad.” For example, illness is a bad change, while graduation is a good change. But, after more reflection, the labeling is not as clear. An illness might bring about a greater appreciation for life’s gifts. A graduation includes the sadness of leaving behind special places and special people. Change is defined as: the act or instance of making or becoming different. We, the Falco parents, are inclined to announce our changes in 2012 in a neutral way and let you draw your on conclusions:

The obvious change this year is that the oldest child, Emily, is now a college student, living away from home most of the year. Wow!

emily boot

As my father reflected when I left for college – the first Patton child to leave home, a child’s departure from the family home signals change for everyone else in the family as well.  The family reconfigures and new leaders emerge.  It’s a different world for all of us.  It’s a time to ask: Who am I now?  K.J. became the oldest.  Journey became the only girl.  Becton began to wonder if he could fill all the mischievous “holes” left by Skye’s absence ☺ We are still transitioning and figuring it out…

Becton skate

Emily was gung-ho about attending all aspects of the church’s life.  Once she left for college, we parents found ourselves without an ally in the younger generation for church participation. However, in the last few months, our church began a new worship service on Sunday at 5:05 called The Gathering.  This less formal service has become our mainstay.  Ably led by Josh Amerson, the service is eclectic and moving, with room for many voices and expressions of faith.  We find ourselves becoming a family that battles less over “going to church” because we now have this option. Perhaps, our battle fatigue had as much to do with parental ambivalence about losing Sunday morning to a formal service as it did with lack of enthusiasm from the younger Falcos.  If you live in Atlanta, we encourage you to check out The Gathering.

communion

On our recent trip to Texas and Oklahoma, we stopped at an IHOP.  Looking at the menu, I became aware that on my next birthday I would be eligible for the Senior Menu.  Becton thought this was “hilarious.”  He said, “You are going to be eating old people food!  When are you going to start taking out your teeth?”  This middle-aged stuff is not for the faint of heart.  (Although, John would tell you that being in one’s 40s with bad knees, bad shoulders, bad feet, an aching back, serious allergies, and a torn retina that needed repair is no picnic either.)  This year, I dealt with a problem shoulder, continued cataract growth, and acid reflux disease.  The good news is that eliminating greasy and spicy foods, and eating breakfast before consuming coffee, has some added health benefits.  I just wish I could shoot a basketball again or feel safer driving at night.

JohnKJ

K.J., Skye, and Journey have all been diagnosed with attention deficit for which they each take medicine to improve their focus and concentration.  But, in spite of the medicine, Journey has continued to struggle with reading speed and comprehension.  During the last semester of 6th grade, we did a lot of reading to her to get through assignments.  Testing was done and a reading disability was diagnosed.  Still, there was no clear path for improvement until one night this past Fall when we attended a 10th grade parent-mixer and encountered the mother of one of K.J.’s peers who knew an extraordinary reading specialist who had helped her daughter.  In December, Journey and I met this specialist and Journey took to her immediately.  She promises to bring Journey’s reading fluency from 4th to 7th grade in about 20 weeks.  If this is indeed the case, you will be hearing more from us about her.  There is nothing to compare to the delight on a child’s face when she realizes she is capable of learning and inspired to do so.

Journey penguin

Skye had become difficult to deal with in almost every way: school, chores, and respect toward others. We tried therapists. But Skye would not participate. We tried homeschooling and, frankly, without Sherry, that would have failed as well. During the summer, however, our difficulties with Skye escalated to crisis status as we uncovered texting and Facebook messages that revealed behaviors we had not known about. Skye was hurting and in danger; and we had to do something fast. In short, we made the decision to send Skye to a school and residential treatment center on the same day that we took Emily off to college. Each event, alone, was emotional. But, together, they were overwhelming. At first, we felt more of our loss and failure than the new opportunities for Skye (and all of us). Over time, that perspective has changed. It is still hard to be away from her, but we know that the work she is doing will be life changing. We pray. We give affirming words. And we continue to believe that this most determined, courageous child will use her power to make her own life better. She has certainly made some great strides forward the last few months.

Skyexavior

skyehorse

For many, many years, Sherry Brinson was our nanny.  Well, originally, she was our next-door neighbor at our first home in Decatur.  She took care of K.J. when he was only six weeks old and I had to return to work running an adoption agency.  Sherry worked off and on as babysitter/nanny for us until Becton was born in 2004.  At that point, she became our regular 20 hour-a-week employee… until this past August.  With Emily off to college and Skye off to Texas and the others getting older, we needed her less for homework help, cleaning, and dinner prep.  (We also had financial issues: the high cost of Skye’s school/center, college tuition, K.J.’s and Journey’s private schools, and still owning two homes.)  It didn’t make “sense” for Sherry to keep working for us.  She understood that.  We all did.  But parting, after all these years, was like losing another member of the family.  We are so VERY appreciative of all that Sherry gave us.  We are all better people for having had her support and love these many years.

falcokidsgrad

As our family “downsized” this summer, we began to wonder if we really needed this much house.  Much thought and analysis went into this.  In the end, we decided that our family would fit quite nicely in our previous home on Oxford Rd. – the house that didn’t sell in the downturn of the market.  We have been fortunate to have had renters most of the last five years, but eventually we need to unburden ourselves of one of these homes.  So, in November, 1804 Grist Stone Ct. went up for sale.  We are still waiting for the right buyer.  However, we have plans to move to 1268 Oxford Rd. in March.  More work.  More change.  All (or mostly) good, we think.

GristStone

Some of the Stuff We Did…

As a family or family sub-group: week vacation at Sunset Beach*youth ski trip*spring break trip to Nebraska to visit birth families*Pensacola Beach and half marathon*Spiritual Life Retreat*replaced carpets with wood floors*Choirs, Youth Group, Sunday school and The Gathering*Pumpkin Patch*Good Neighbor Day*weekly breakfasts with John and Helen Patton*raised chickens and cared for three dogs*two week trip to Texas and Oklahoma…

chicken

Becton: 2nd and 3rd grades at Fernbank Elementary*surprise 8th roller-skating birthday party*school play*Reflections competition in dance category*soccer team*Camp Glisson*Fernbank Camp*Dance 411 Camp*dance finale at church talent show*Cub Scouts*karate*wore and lost or broke glasses repeatedly…

bectonfrog

Becton Katie

Journey: 6th and 7th grades at Atlanta Girls’ School*cross country*dance team*ballet*Red Cross babysitting course*confirmation classes*”The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”*One Direction concert (with Skye)*trip to Washington, D.C. (with Skye)*many hours watching Japanese anime or memorizing songs…

JourneyCC

Skye: homeschool for second semester 8th grade*High Frontier for 9th grade*horseback riding lessons*horseback competitions*church talent show with Xavior*One Direction concert (with Journey)*trip to Washington, D.C. (with Journey)*many hours hiding in her room or separate from family…

WashingtonDC

K.J.: 9th and 10th grades at Academe of the Oaks*Cultures trip*playing trumpet in the jazz band*basketball team*Ultimate Frisbee team*soccer team*Bahamas Choir and Mission trip (with Emily)*Honduras Mission trip (with Emily)*driving lessons*many hours in the theater watching TV or playing games…

K.J.soccer

K.J.trumpet

Emily: graduating from Druid Hills High School*college applications*Missions Committee*Youth Sunday*Senior Banquet*Prom*last year with DeKalb Aquatics Swim Team*Lifeguarding*coaching young swimmers*last season on Pangborn Piranhas*first boyfriend*country music concerts*Bahamas Choir and Mission trip (with K.J.)*Honduras Mission trip (with K.J.)*beginning Andrew College in Cuthbert, Georgia*voting in first Presidential election…

Bahamas

John: Partner at Kingsley Associates*travel for business*church Nominations Committee*Associate Producer for “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”*Board of Directors for Get Grounded*giving driving lessons to K.J., Kylie, and Michael*orchestrating the maintenance of two houses*working out while watching multiple recorded TV programs…

Rebecca: Board of Directors at Camp Glisson*home studies*writing and publishing “Saving Sarah” in Adoption Today magazine*writing Adoption Makes Seven blog*book presentations at churches*leading Joanna Circle study of immigration and the Bible*running and occasional other exercise*repeatedly shopping, cooking, washing clothes, and cleaning…

Some changes come unexpectedly.  Other changes are within our control. As the necklaces that my children received on Christmas day state: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Happy New Year!

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One thought on “The Falco Family: A Year of Change

  1. Thrilled to read that Journey meeting her birthmom “happened”. Hope that this (and ALL of the changes seen these past 12 months) bear fruit that makes your heart glad. Thanks for including us in the adventure.

    G

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