Up the creek…

without an agenda.

A couple of weekends ago, our family hiking group visited a lovely nature park filled with several kid-friendly hiking trails.  Since this park was new to me, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but had heard good things about it.  Luckily we were not disappointed!  After a short hike, we came upon a spectacular shallow creek that ran against a bluff line in the woods.  The creek was teaming with small fish, crawfish, salamanders and even snakes.  It was so much fun to get a little wet and muddy while exploring such a diverse habitat.  We ended up staying and playing in the creek much of the time, letting the little hands explore and discover to their hearts content.  I love finding such a jewel in the woods!

Little Man having a blast

Big Brother enjoying the water

Little Man holding a crayfish

a tiny salamander

hunting for treasures

some colorful mushrooms along the trail

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Peace Begins at Home

Remember me? I used to blog here.

Let’s face it, I have neglected my blog over the course of the past few weeks. It wasn’t intentional and I have truly missed sharing my thoughts and photos with all of you each day. Life, it seems, has swept me away into a dizzying whirlwind of to do’s and obligations. I’m actually blogging from my phone while sitting in my office, if that gives you any indication of the state of my blogging goals. But I’m readjusting the sails, so to speak, and I’m going to try harder to spend time nurturing my precious and worthy outlet–my blog.

A single moment out of my crazy and hectic morning stopped me in my tracks, reminding me to start looking at the big picture.

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I always put notes in the boys’ lunch boxes each day. This morning I found that Little Man had also decided to write a note for his brother, and he placed it next to mine. Looks like Big Brother will get a double greeting today.

Such a small act of kindness that speaks more profoundly than words ever could.

I mused to myself that I must be at least doing something right in this crazy and chaotic season of my life. And then it struck me that today is the International Day of Peace. And you know what? I had a thought.

Peace begins at home.

It’s not something you teach, but something you live. It’s not something you have, it’s something you are. So live it and pass it on.

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peace

Sinking

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling to keep my head above water.  The boys started Kindergarten.  I started back teaching at a local university. Then the sinus/cold/mystery virus crud made its way around the family, one member at a time.  Exhaustion has become the norm.  But in all fairness, things are going very well here in the Hiking household.

If you’ve been following Big Brother’s school journey, you know that we’ve had major issues in the past.  So you can imagine how happy I’ve been to hear that Big Brother has been having good days at school and that he will soon receive his very own aid [fist pumps spastically.] Everyone told us we were crazy to advocate for such a thing in our school system.  Good thing I consider myself to be pretty crazy, huh?  It seems to have worked to our favor in this case.  I guess that’s why I chuckled so much at the sight of this image on my fb feed tonight:

So all in all, I’d say we’re doing great despite the never-ending streams of mucus and lack of sleep.  Once we settle into our routine and recover from the crud, I have a feeling it will be smooth sailing as far as school is concerned.  In the meantime, we’ve been trying to get outdoors as much as possible in addition to weekly visits to the climbing gym.  I’ve only got a few cell phone photos to show for our week.  I’ll try to do better next time.  Right now?  I’m going to try to catch up on some much needed sleep….

Yep, life is good.

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Thanks to all the new readers who found me through my SITS day!  I’m still responding to all the awesome comments and trying to go and visit each new blog from all the new visitors.  I absolutely enjoyed all of the blog love, thanks for making my day so special 🙂

Best Buddies 5K

On Saturday I ran my heart and soul out for the belief that friendship is for all.

I ran and when I grew tired, I thought about Big Brother and about how hard he must work each day.  I thought about how he never gives up and always fights, no matter how hard it is. I thought about how easy a race must be in comparison to living without friendship and in comparison to living with Autism.

I ran and thought to myself what a blessing it is to have two strong legs and two healthy lungs.  I thought about how blessed I am that I can show my gratefulness each day by using my gift to help others.

I ran and watched over 1000 smiling faces running for those who couldn’t and for those who are their best buddies.

I ran for team Big Brother and all those like him.

I ran and ran hard with a smile on my face, choking back tears as I saw countless runners sporting pictures of their best buddies.

The sun was strong and the hills were high, but I finished in 35 minutes keeping a steady pace throughout.  I was proud.  But more importantly, I couldn’t wait to go home and hold one of my best buddies after the race:

It was a good day.

Hope, Fear and a Mother’s Love

“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” – Ellen Goodman

Yesterday I sent both my boys off to Kindergarten.

Like all mothers, I have hopes and dreams for my children.  And like most mothers, I often find myself drowning in fear and worry about every aspect of their lives.  Sometimes it is easy to push these worries aside and focus on the now.  But yesterday, the fear and worry about my son with special needs was nearly too much to bear.  And as my motherly instinct had forewarned, my worst fears did turn into reality.  Days like yesterday tip the balance of my motherly hopes and fears and I find myself grasping for anything to hold onto, anything to help me regain my footing.

My Little Man was so excited to start Kindergarten and I’m happy to report that he did great.  He was all smiles and couldn’t wait to tell me all about his day. His joy and enthusiasm made my heart soar.

All I wanted for Big Brother was for him to make it through one entire day in his new Life Skills class, but it was not to be.  He made it for a few hours before I received a frantic phone call.  I rushed to pick up Big Brother, my heart nearly leaping out of my chest on the short drive to the school.  The anxiety, the over-stimulation, all the questions, the new people, the new schedule….it was all too much for him. He had an epic and violent meltdown that left us all in quite an emotional place.

All the therapy, all the love, all the medication and we still find ourselves back at square one.  It’s hard when you feel so helpless–when you see your child suffering and cannot do anything to stop it.

I know Big Brother did the best he could.  I know he was scared and did not understand why I was not with him at school.  I know he felt pressure to answer questions he did not know the answers to. I know we prepared him the best we could with visits and meetings. But I can’t help but feel that I failed him somehow….that I am asking too much of him.  I feel that I should advocate harder for him, to make the world see past his trauma.

There are just some days that leave you breathless, grasping for anything you can to find your footing.  There are days when your heart aches more than words can say.

But we will try again and I will work to find the balance between hope and fear.

Until then, we’ll take Little Man’s advice and “just keep swimming, just keep swimming….”

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship for All: Why I’m Running for Best Buddies

In his own words, let Big Brother tell you what he would like to do with his friends…

Remember this post? Running for a Special Cause {Best Buddies 5K}  I’m raising funds for this wonderful organization, in honor of Big Brother!

“Best Buddies is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

I’m running because I believe that friendship is for all. Please consider donating for this great cause.  You can find my very own secure donation page here. If every reader donated just $1, I would be able to reach my goal!  I encourage you to check out this great organization further by visiting their website. If you can’t donate, please share this post!

Thank you all!

 

 

 

Running for a Special Cause {Best Buddies 5K and Fundraiser}

You may have recalled that I recently ran my first 5K (well, the first one in many, many years) that benefitted Soles4Soles, an amazing foundation that provides shoes for those around the globe who don’t even own a single pair.  Now I’m at it again, but this time it’s for a cause that is super near and dear to my heart.

On August 25th, I will be racing in honor of my sweet Big Brother.  The organization that is sponsoring the 5K is called Best Buddies:

“Best Buddies is a non-profit organization that establishes a global volunteer movement that enhances the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by matching them into one-to-one friendships with their non-disabled peers.  There are 7.5 million Americans with intellectual disabilities, and 200 million worldwide, and they are the most neglected and undervalued population in the world.  As such, children with intellectual disabilities often grow up experiencing a life of rejection and isolation.”

They do much more in helping individuals with disabilities, like opportunities for job placement and leadership roles. This is an organization that I believe will serve Big Brother as he grows older. I am so happy to support such a great cause!

But I need your help.  I am raising funds to support this great organization.  Please consider donating or sharing this post.  You can find my secure donation page here. Thank you for you help and support!!

Child Safety {Call Me Cuffs}

Two seconds.  

That’s how long I let go of his hand, and it was two seconds too long.  He was gone.  

Luckily, we were in a safe place, surrounded by those who knew us.  He was quickly located.

This was the first time Big Brother wandered off.  I never, ever, under any circumstances let go of Big Brother’s hand in public if he is not restrained in a stroller or cart.  Yes, he is almost 6 years old, but like many children with cognitive impairment and autism, wandering off is a daily reality*.  In the above scenario, I let go of his hand while I was trying to help another child, without even realizing it.  As soon as I became aware that I had let go of his hand, it was too late.  The worst part is that although he is somewhat verbal, he cannot communicate his name, point me out in a crowd or recite his address.

So when the creators of Call Me Cuffs contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their product, I excitedly said yes. I had been wanting to try some sort of safety wristband for a long time, but didn’t know what kind to buy.

The Call Me Cuffs are simple.  They are temporary ID wrist bands for children that you can customize with your phone number and allergy or medical needs. Let me emphasize that they are great for all children, especially those times when you will be in a large crowd.  I imagine they would also be a great item to have on hand for field trips, too.

All children, whether they have special needs or not, can be at risk of becoming separated from their parents in a crowd. The added layer of being unable to communicate, however, makes the Call Me Cuffs even more useful in my opinion.

So I tried the Call Me Cuffs on Big Brother. I let him choose the design in hopes that he too, would be excited about trying them out.

At first I was hesitant because I thought that Big Brother might not like wearing the bracelet as he has some major sensory issues.  I was also afraid that he may spend all day picking at it in an attempt to remove it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Big Brother loved wearing the wristband and didn’t once try to remove it all day.  In fact, Little Man wanted to wear one as well!  So they both have tried them out and love them.  Neither child tried to remove the wristband and they both thought they were pretty cool dudes while sporting their “jewelry.”

my number has been blacked out in the photo

What I loved about Call Me Cuffs:

I love that these wristbands come in a variety of colors and designs, that they are customizable and they can be purchased in a package of 12 or 28. I also was very impressed with the fact that they are not easily removed and also comfortable to wear.

I’m happy to report that I was pleased with all aspects of the Call Me Cuffs and have nothing negative to report!  I will be using these wristbands for Big Brother in the future as well, and I encourage you to check them out at their website:

https://www.callmecuffs.com/

There are many ways to help keep children safe in case of wandering off or accidental separation, and this is one easy, fun way to do it.

I received a complimentary 12 pack of Call Me Cuffs in order to review.  All opinions expressed in this blog post, however, are completely my own.

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*Some staggering statistics about wandering off in individuals with Autism:

“In a 2007 online poll through the National Autism Association, 92% of parents reported that their children with autism have a tendency to wander, but no formal estimates are available.”

“In 2012, the National Autism Association found that from 2009 to 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism subsequent to wandering, and that 23% of total wandering-related deaths occurred while the child was in the care of someone other than a parent.”

‘According to data released in April 2011 by the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) through the Kennedy Krieger Institute:

  • Roughly half, or 49%, of children with a autism attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings
  • More than one third of children with autism who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number’

“WHY WOULD A CHILD OR ADULT WITH AUTISM WANDER OFF? 

Many reasons. Mainly, a person with autism will wander to either get to something or away from something. Like dementia, persons with autism gravitate towards items of interest. Other times, they may want to escape an environment if certain sounds or other sensory input becomes bothersome. Outdoor gatherings present an especially large problem because it is assumed that there are more eyes on the child or adult with autism. However, heavy distractions coupled with an over-stimulating setting can lead to a child or adult wandering off without notice. School settings are also an issue, especially those that have un-fenced or un-gated playgrounds. A new, unfamiliar, or unsecured environment, such as a relative’s home, may also trigger wandering, as well as episodes of distress, meltdowns, or times when a child or adult with autism has certain fears or anxiety.”

http://www.awaare.org/

Adoption: Myth vs. Reality

country, musicI have a confession: I’m not a fan of country music. Now I know that may seem to be a silly and somewhat trivial thing to profess, but living in the land where country music reigns supreme, it’s kind of a big deal. So you may find it a little weird that a country song inspired this entire post. Stay with me, folks.

A few weeks ago as I was riding in the car, I just couldn’t fight back the tears that came when a certain country song came on that I hadn’t heard in years. I immediately felt the tears welling in my eyes upon the lyrics “How long do you want to be loved? Is forever enough, is forever enough?

So here’s my second confession. Years ago I would listen to that song daily as I endured the long, winding  and excruciating wait to becoming a mom. The wait for Little Man was very drawn out and sometimes tortuous (that’s a whole ‘nother post, my peeps, that involves lawyers and international battles.) The song became a comfort to me, a little pick me up to get me through the wait. That song, you see, is a lullaby written to express a mother’s love for her child. Each day that I waited, I would listen to the words and conjure up images in my mind about how wonderful it would feel to finally become a mom. In my day dreaming state, I would hold my sweet precious baby, he would smile and coo at me, we would rock and sing together…..it would be divine. Life would be absolutely divine. I was building a wonderful fantasy in my mind of what motherhood would look like, of what it would feel like. I wanted it more than anything and my entire life revolved this beautiful dream of motherhood.

Months later the big day finally came. My baby was placed in my arms, only he wasn’t that much of a baby at 11 months of age. There were no smiles and cooing. In reality, my son could not stand to even be touched. After 11 months of laying in a crib for 23 hours out of the day with a complete lack of stimulation, the last thing my baby wanted was to be rocked. He would violently rip and scratch his flesh and pull his hair out if I tried. Banging his head against the wall or the ground was the only source of stimulation he was accustomed to. He was scared of me. In an instant, my fantasy that had taken years to build had crumbled down around me. My reality was that I was now a mom to a deeply traumatized little boy. There were no warm, fuzzy lullabies that would make this better. There were not many carefree moments to be found, much less to sing about. There were tears, grieving and profound trauma. It stung like a cold, hard slap to the face.

Oh, but Hiking Mama, you must have been prepared for this, right? Oh sure, I had read every adoption book, followed all the best adoption blogs and even gone through hours of agency training. But still, it’s so different when reality is sitting in your presence, screaming a deep, sad moan of pain and hurt. We all secretly hope that we will be the lucky one to have our fantasy come true. We all hope our baby is the lucky one that will have escaped the trauma of neglect and institutionalization.

Nearly four years later, I am happy to report that my sweet Little Man has come a long way from those first few months. We still deal with the trauma from his past, but it is very trivial as compared to when we first brought him home. After all of this, you would think I would have become some type of adoption expert. That’s what I had thought, too. But fast forward a bit and I’m sitting in a room in China, staring at a four-year old boy who is completely detached from his world. When we met Big Brother, it took days for him to even notice that we were anything more than a piece of furniture or some other inanimate object.

Trauma? Oh trauma was his middle name. And first. And last. He showed absolutely no emotion or hesitation to being ripped away from his current life by us “strangers.” Sleeping in a new bed with people he’d just met who didn’t even speak his language? OK. Whatever. Sure. He had been so hurt by this life that he had completely retreated inward. Life was just something that happened around him; he was merely surviving. There were no Hallmark moments between mother and child. We were in survival mode as we prepared for the long journey to bring him back to life.

Hearing this long forgotten song last night did something to me that I never expected. I have never really minded the fact that my grand fantasy of motherhood didn’t quite shape up as I had expected. There were no tears shed for a loss of my perceived dream of what motherhood would be like. The tears I shed were in honor of the beauty of this journey. As I thought back to those days of day dreams and fantasies, and then considered all that we had been through, I couldn’t help but think, “wow, what a beautiful journey it has been.”

And here’s the thing–had I know how difficult, how painful and how difficult (did I mention that already?) it would be, I don’t think I would have journeyed down this path. I would have been too scared and would have doubted my ability to parent children from hard places. And had I not, I would have missed out on something far more breathtaking and amazing than any fantasy could ever offer.

I have gone to the ends of the earth for my kids. I have fought like hell for their love with every fiber of my being. I have found a strength in me that I didn’t know existed. I have fought for their trust. I have given all of myself to them in order for a chance to receive their love in return. I have fought for them, prayed for them, rallied for them, defended them and supported them. I have often felt defeated, my heart has been broken countless times and my soul has been stretched too thin at times. But I have seen trauma overcome and obstacles melt away. I have seen miraculous progress coupled with sad regression. I have felt joy that makes my heart explode. I have felt pride that is as deep as the biggest ocean. I have seen the scars of trauma soften. I have seen tiny victories that are indeed monumental feats. I have seen my children rise from a darkness that not many of us can fathom. And in the light, they have given me a chance to see the world through a new set of eyes.

We are still a work in progress. A glorious, wonderful, beautiful work in progress. There’s no fantasy that can compare to something like that.

—-

“Lullaby”

They didn’t have you where I come from
Never knew the best was yet to come
Life began when I saw your face
And I hear your laugh like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

I slip in bed when you’re asleep
To hold you close and feel your breath on me
Tomorrow there’ll be so much to do
So tonight I’ll drift in a dream with you

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

As you wander through this troubled world
In search of all things beautiful
You can close your eyes when you’re miles away
And hear my voice like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up