interview with judah: summer camp.

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Tell me about your camp. What kind of camp was it?

A Christian camp

How many boys were in your cabin? How many counselors did you have?

Ten boys and two counselors

What major did you choose for the week?

Outdoor survival

What’s one thing you learned about outdoor survival?

That clay can be used as a bug spray

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What other activities did you get to try?

Archery, climbing, GaGa ball, zipline, jump on the Blob, kayaking, water games in the lake

What did you do during chapel?

Talk about Jesus being the Vine

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What did you do to celebrate 4th of July?

Big fireworks on lake

What’s something that surprised you about camp?

That everyone was so nice

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Did you get homesick?

Yes

What was the hardest thing about your week?

The showers weren’t very clean

What was your favorite part of your day?

I liked it all

Do you want to go back next year?

Yes!

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Was the lasagna as good as your mom’s?

Not quite as good

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about going next year?

It’s very fun and there’s nothing to worry about

Is there anything else you want to tell us about?

Not too much, I would if I felt better

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And there you have it, folks! Poor Judah has been sick ever since he got home Saturday and wasn’t quiet up to this interview. We’re headed to the doctor this afternoon to see if he has strep throat. He still insists, “It was worth it!’

I felt like he came home about a year older and a foot taller. He is just growing up so much.

The senior counselor pulled David aside Saturday when he picked Judah up and said, “I want to tell you what an amazing kid you have. He was so nice to everybody and so respectful. We love Judah!”

Thanks to Bethel Christian Camp for an awesome first camp experience!!!



judah goes to camp.

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Yesterday evening we dropped Judah off for 6 nights at Bethel Christian Camp in Gaston, about 30 minutes away from Columbia. It’s a camp we’ve known and loved for a long time. We’ve met the director, and have seen lots of friends attend over the years.

I can’t imagine a better first camp experience for our boy; still I can hardly believe he’s gone.

He’ll turn 10 in September, which is the age I was when I started going to camp, but it still feels young somehow. I was delighted that we were allowed to settle him into his cabin and see the bunk he chose and meet his senior counselor. He was so excited. I reigned in my emotions and put my big girls pants on and said good-bye with a clear voice and a big smile.

The five of us made a forlorn trek back to our van, and cheered ourselves up with a stop at Pelican’s Snowcones before we headed home.

We gave Amelie the option to go to camp this week too, but she said, “No way! I’ll miss you too much!”

She regretted her choice when we dropped Judah and she got swept up in the excitement of chattering kids and rustic cabins and the lake. Still, she’s not even 8 yet, and I’m not sorry she decided to wait. Next year will be soon enough.

And so this week we find ourselves one kid short. It’s the quietest kid we’re missing, yet still the house feels a little bereft today.

I know I’m being sentimental, but to me this feels like the first big milestone of my kids growing up. Bit by bit they’re gaining independence, making memories apart from us.

I felt sad in the months leading up to this week, but even though I miss my boy like crazy, I suddenly find myself so very happy for him. This week away at camp is good and right; such a fun, valuable part of childhood. I love that he’s living his own story. It’s a gift to be a big part of that story, but I’m okay with letting go a little. I love the boy he’s becoming.

We get to send Judah emails throughout the week which are printed and given to him at lunch time. Here’s Noah’s message from today:

Dear Judah,

I can play Hobbit with you and play special toys with you. And I can play with the big Lego set too, and I can do Hobbit Hole reading with you. And I miss you really and I like you to sleep there because you had a good, good night. Obey your teacher and your class. Let’s sit in the chair together and read a book.

Love Noah

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judah turns 9.

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Our oldest boy turned 9 years old yesterday.

Can you believe it? Is it possible that I have a 9-year-old?

We celebrated with a breakfast date: Judah, David, and me. The three of us sat on the front patio of Rise Bakery, eating sticky buns, and shooing away the black cat that wound around our ankles, wondering when the last time was that we’d been out together, just the three of us.

Judah requested a whole year ago that he get the day off school for his birthday. He’s the only one of our kids that has a birthday on a school day, and he was very frustrated about it. So from here on out we plan to take September 8th day off (no complaints here).

Back home he opened his gifts from us: a Lord of the Rings Lego set and a chess set.

This is the first birthday Judah hasn’t asked for all toys, and that makes me a bit wistful but also thrilled with the way he’s growing complex, with different hobbies and interests. From family members he got a knife and a sharpener and wood for carving. He got a Hobbit t’shirt, a tin of Pokemon cards and a binder to organize them.

At nine years old he’s growing up, but not so much that he didn’t spend the morning building and playing with his new Legos. I love that.

At nine years old Judah loves playing table tennis with Grandpa, and going to CIU soccer games with Papa and Nina. He’s the most outgoing of all our kids in social situations, is friendly and talks to adults and kids and teenagers alike. There’s an intrinsic confidence about him that I’ve always admired.

Judah is comfortable with who he is.

This year David and I have watched him grow and mature more than any other. He came out of the cloud of stress surrounding our adoption, has passed through anger and adjustment, and loves all three of his siblings. He’s shedding some of his tunnel vision and thinking of others. He’s learning to connect with his little brothers, even though sometimes they bother him. He’s growing kind and tactful, and is very sensitive to hurting people’s feelings. He’s learning to look adults in the eye when they speak to him and answer clearly.

He loves Classical Conversations. The academic philosophy is perfect for Judah. He loves to learn and has a great memory and is interested in the world. His favorite subjects are science and geography.

Unbeknownst to me, he decided to give his first class presentation on living in India. He hasn’t lived there in four years, but he stood up and told his class about preschool and learning Hindi and his friends, about being incessantly pinched on the cheeks and about eating masala dosa.

In his second week of school he recited the poem, The Land of Nod, by Robert Louis Stevenson, in its entirety.

I’m unspeakably proud of my boy.

I’m also more humbled than I can say. As a parent my two biggest temptations are to 1. Feel like I’m constantly falling short of being a good mom, and 2. Fearing the future as my kids grow up and encounter suffering and temptation, longing to protect them from all of it.

And yet. Watching my 9-year-old is nothing short than a testament to God’s faithfulness.

Judah has had several challenges already in his life: many moves, a traumatic time in India with a very sick Mommy (he later told me that he worried that I was going to die), planting a church, adopting two little brothers, a mom who has anxiety, as well as unique challenges he’s faced with the way God created him.

And yet, he stands before me with bright, eager eyes. He does his schoolwork and then knows he needs a break to jump on the trampoline. He’s interested in life and learning and river adventures with his dad. He loves watching The Great British Baking Show with me and learning to make chapati. He enjoys holing up alone to read and also going see his friends at swim practice. He’s bursting with excitement about our CPC church retreat this weekend.

All of this is God’s grace to our family and to our boy. I give Him the glory and I trust Him with Judah: both at 9-years-old and in the years ahead. My hands are open, even as I ache at the ways I fail and the challenges all kids face in growing up. I chose to enjoy Judah right here and now and to live in hope for the future. God loves him so very much more than I do and will work all of it for good in my boy’s life.

He has already.

I love you, Judah.



harry potter progress.

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I shared here about Judah starting the Harry Potter series for the first time.

So many people have asked me how we made the decision to let him begin, and how far in the series we’ll let him go (he’s 8 1/2). Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure when we started, and that may have been a poor parenting decision on my part, but here we are.

After much deliberating, I just let Judah start book 5 of 7, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I keep saying “I” because David hasn’t read the books, and defers to me, but we’ve discussed it quite a bit, and are on the same page.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, they begin when Harry is 11 years old, and each book covers a year of his life at Hogwarts School. The books mature as Harry matures, which is one of the many reasons I think J.K. Rowling is a genius. Not only do they follow a plot that darkens with each book, but the characters become complex as Harry moves from the rather emotionally concrete world of middle school, into the murky teenage years where everything isn’t black and white, and he’s navigating different sorts of relationships.

However, there are clear lines between good and evil in the story, and (spoiler alert), good wins out at the end of each book and at the end of the series.

My main hesitation with letting Judah finish the series now was wanting to protect him from the dark elements of the plot, which, quite frankly, give me the creeps. There are also some “teenage themes” as the books progress, which include dating, falling in love, and kissing, but I think it’s handled fine.

I guess in the end I realized two things:

1. There are a lot of things I want to shelter Judah from right now, while he’s 8 1/2, but the content of the Harry Potter books is just not high on that list. I love the characters. I love the themes of friendship, loyalty, making wise choices, standing up for what’s right rather than what’s popular, and forgiveness. We’ve talked about the dating stuff, which is just part of life, and we discuss other situations and characters as they come up. Oh how I wish I could start assigning him literary analysis papers, because this series is a treasure trove of characters and themes (I’m such a nerd, I know).

2. Judah has always known his limits with regard to what scares him, and he’s said that the books haven’t been too scary yet. You know what I realized? Because of his age, I think he’s processing them differently than I do. Because I’ve experienced more of the world, I shudder at the evil and grief and loss. But right now Judah sees it all as a magical world and a big, glorious battle between good and evil. I’m okay with that.

3. If you yourself are trying to decide when/how to let your children read this series, all I can say is that every family is different and every child is different. Definitely read the books yourself first so you can discuss situations that come up. Both Judah’s Mum-Mum and I are reading each book right behind him as a refresher, and lots of our family and friends have read them too, which makes for fun conversations right now (he’s exchanging letters with David’s aunt as they read, which he loves). Watch your child to see how he/she is processing it. Are they consumed by it? Are they having nightmares?

One rule we have is that Judah doesn’t read the books right before bed; he and Amie listen to something light like Beverly Cleary or the Boxcar Children on audiobook before they fall asleep. Another thing I’ve realized, is that I think in general people can handle violent or scary scenes in books better than on TV. There’s something about the images on a screen that stick in your mind, whereas when you’re reading a book you subconsciously create the image and scene for yourself, and typically it’s not as graphic. So Judah reads the books, but knows that he doesn’t want to watch beyond the first movie for now.

 

So that’s our update! I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to see my child embrace reading and get swept up in a really great story. I hope this is just the beginning of a lifelong hobby for him!



the harry potter era.

I was a sophomore in high school when this book first came out, in 1997. My mom read it soon after with my brother Danny, who was 11 — Harry Potter’s age in this first book. Yes, Danny was in that magical group of kids who literally grew up alongside Harry Potter. My mom told me to read it, and eventually I tried the book, but was unimpressed (I was kind of a literary snob back then).

I didn’t pick the Harry Potter series up again until years later, when I was out of college and married. I wish I could remember what made me want to give the books another try, but I think it had something to do with youth ministry and spending lots of time with teenagers (that will knock the snobbery right out of you). Anyhow, this time I was hooked from the start and tore through the books, collecting the series in hardcover bit by bit at used bookstores. I’ve reread the series in its entirety almost every year since. It’s one of my favorite traditions.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in the summer of 2009. David pre-ordered me a copy and it arrived on our doorstep in Lititz, PA, the day the book was released. I was seven months pregnant and still as sick as in my first trimester, and basically parked myself in our hand-me-down recliner until I finished the book. It was every bit as good as I wanted it to be.

Two months later, Judah was born. Harry Potter has been across the world with us, lugged in suitcases from Lexington to Lititz, from the U.S. to India and back again. I remember seeing Judah’s eyes light up the first time he really saw the books I was reading — their covers a swirl of color and wizards and magic — and he asked, “Mommy, what are these books?”

Since then, he’s been an avid Harry Potter fan by proxy. He remembers details he hears about the characters and the movies, because he knows I love them. He studied the Harry Potter Lego sets in his catalogs until he memorized scenes. He recognizes the soundtrack when it comes on the classical radio station on Spotify. It’s like he’s always known Harry Potter would be something we’d share, just like my Mom and Danny shared the books all those years ago. And in the last few months he’s asked, “Mom, when can I read Harry Potter?”

I’ve gone back and forth about this decision, polling other parents to find out when’s the “right time” (and as you can imagine opinions vary wildly). Finally I decided that there’s no reason he can’t at least read the first three books in the series; they’re certainly no scarier than Star Wars. Our one deal is that he can’t read them last thing before bed. There’s a natural break, I think, between The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire, and after that I imagine waiting a bit.

So this afternoon Judah and I laid on the trampoline in the March sunshine and read chapter 1 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’ve been waiting his whole life to be able to share it with him, and finally we’re here. He took off on his own after that and is on chapter 5.

My heart is happy. As soon as he finishes the book, of course I will pick it up and start at the very beginning, trying to see it all for the first time, through his eyes.



judah’s first poem.

Judah wrote his first poem last week. It wasn’t an assignment — we were doing our daily reading in Story of the World, and afterward he said, “I’m going to write a poem!” He remembered from our grammar lessons that the first word in each line should be capitalized. And then he sat and wrote it. He presented it to his class at Classical Conversations today, and this proud mom can’t help sharing it with you!

 

History

History is not a mystery
How do we know? From
The earliest creation
To the best information.
Epic battles take place.
Astronauts go to the moon in space.
And that’s how we know History is no
Mystery.

— Judah Gentino, age 8

 

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judah’s golden birthday.

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Judah’s “golden birthday” was this week: he turned eight on September 8th!

We celebrated in style all week. He and Owen had a Pokemon-themed family party on Saturday, and his birthday breakfast request for Tuesday morning was donuts. David took a couple hours off work in the morning to open presents, help build a Star Wars Lego set, and play a game of Pokemon. The kids and I celebrated with a few friends from Classical Conversations at the park in the afternoon, and we topped the week off with a family trip to HiWire trampoline park today.

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Judah and Amie have been anxiously awaiting this birthday so that the four kids in our family will be “2-4-6-8!” I have to pinch myself to believe that I have an eight-year-old. It makes me feel so old. I am thoroughly enjoying the elementary years so far. Our boy is growing up kind and funny and smart.

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He’s become an avid reader in the last month. Favorite series are Magic Treehouse, Pokemon comics, and Star Wars Jedi Academy. He still loves to be read to, which makes me happy, and daily offers to read picture books to his siblings.

Judah enjoys drawing and making his own comic strips, playing Pokemon and Lego’s, jumping on the trampoline, hiking and camping. His favorite subject in school is science, and he has an amazing gift for memorizing facts in all of his subjects. He loves his astronomy class with Grandpa (at the moment he’s sitting at the table next to me making a comic strip about his astronomy class).

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Judah started practice this week to prepare him for swim team with Columbia Swimming. His coach told me last night she’s very impressed with his form and the way he’s already beginning to pick up strokes.

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We love watching his skills, abilities, and interests blossom, but most of all, we love his heart. Judah is very sensitive to the feelings of others, and doesn’t like to see people suffer or get sad. He’s an encourager. He’s fiercely loyal to his sister and brothers and wants to protect them in all settings (sometimes to their exasperation!), and he deeply cares for his friends.

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He can be very detailed and particular. He likes his world and the people in it to function in a certain way and doesn’t like chaos or lots of noise. So as you can imagine, adopting two little brothers was very hard for him. We are so proud of the ways Judah has grown and changed this year in response to something that has been quite traumatic. We see him becoming more patient and flexible, willing to give up control, and love people who are different from him. That’s Jesus working in his heart, plain and simple.

We love you, eight-year-old boy! You bring us so much happiness!

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birthday boy.

Judah turned 7 on Monday! We had a fun couple days celebrating . . .

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David measures the Birthday Kids each year and records their height on the dining closet door frame. Judah grew 2 inches this year and Amelie grew 2.5 inches!

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We did a birthday breakfast and gifts Monday morning before work and school. Judah’s breakfast request was his dad’s homemade bagels. Yum.

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Judah still loves Star Wars but his latest character obsession is Transformers.

IMG_7116He was so excited to bring cupcakes to Classical Conversations on Monday. Can you believe we just started our fourth week of the school year? Each week gets a little easier for the kids and me to find our routine and we’re all enjoying school so much more.

IMG_7124My cousin Allison drove up from Orlando to visit me this week for some much-needed girl time. She came Monday afternoon and we hit up Whole Foods for some gelato.

IMG_7126We love each other and were so happy for chances to sit and catch up, run errands, watch a chick flick, and do a couple of projects in the baby’s room.

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On Tuesday Judah had a little party at Monkey Joe’s with our church staff friends.

IMG_7147Our boy loves Lego’s! Happy birthday Judah!



he says.

David: “Hey you’re in my chair! Hop up!”

Judah: “Dad, part of being a pastor is learning how to share.”



he says.

(Judah tells me about the one hundredth Lego set he’s decided on for his birthday…in September)

Me: Hey buddy, Dad and I are going to pick your birthday present, okay? It’s going to be a surprise but I promise you’ll love it.

Judah: Okay. Just make sure it’s expensive.