Two Years Ago…we became a family of four

Two years ago today we were flying home from Hong Kong, exhausted, overwhelmed, a bit scared but very excited.

That means Big Brother has been home for two entire years!  What a wild, crazy adventure it’s been.  Although Big Brother has come so far, he still has so much to overcome.  But we’ll get there.  We couldn’t be more proud of you, Big Brother!

momavi2Mommy and Big Brother, the first day we met (January 10, 2011)

hk15Big Brother and Little Man checking each other out at the orphanage in Hong Kong

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hkcity Beautiful Hong Kong

 

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The Moments that Take Your Breath Away

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When I look back over the past 31 years of my life, the moments that stand out most sharply in my mind all tend to all have one thing in common-they all have that rare ability to make my stomach tumble and steal my very breath.

There are many moments I recall….like jumping into the ocean for my first dive at 12 years old or walking down the aisle to the handsome guy that would soon become my husband.  Spectacular sunsets, walks on the beach and misty, muddy hikes through the woods.  Also those moments when the early morning sun filters through the trees in such a majestic way that it nearly brings tears to your eyes.

Then there are those moments that not only take your breath away but usher in a new chapter of your life–like becoming a mom for the first time as I stood and held Little Man in an orphanage in Vietnam….

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And that moment in Hong Kong when Big Brother first looked at me–I mean really looked at me–and smiled….

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And then the surreal moment when I saw a little, tiny heartbeat appear on a monitor as I laid in the doctor’s office, wondering what I did to deserve so many blessings….

babybThese fleeting moments that are forever engraved in my mind seem so simple but yet so profound. I love awaking each day with anticipation that I’ll have a chance for just one more…

Our Top 12 Outdoor Moments of 2012

As 2012 is winding down, I feel a little sad that my family and I have not been able to spend as much time outdoors as we normally do.  With three rounds of family strep (yes, 3!!) and other medical issues, getting outdoors has been hard for us over the last couple of months.  So I’m really looking forward to getting back in the groove of outdoor livin’ in 2013.  To cheer myself up a bit, I decided to take a look back and reminisce on our favorite outdoor moments of 2012.

12. New Year tree huggin’ on Fiery Gizzard Trail (our fave trail), January 2012

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11. Autism and the healing power of nature, February 2012

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10. Nature day with mama, March 2012

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9. First canoe trip of 2012, April 2012

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8. Nature for all, May 2012

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7. Mother’s Day Caving, May 2012

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6. The Great Sand Dunes, June 2012

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5. Mini Muddy Buddy Run, July 2012

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4. Alone in the wilderness, August 2012

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3. Adventure and the special needs child, June 2012

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2. Alpine Views in Colorado, June 2012

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1. Water fun and Little Man’s 1st Kayak, July 2012

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo what was your favorite moment of 2012? Any adventures you want to share before the new year falls upon us?!

Almost Wordless Wednesday

It’s been a rough week….just all around tough for the whole family.  Autism stuff, school stuff, health stuff and a bunch of other stuff thrown in.  BUT, we’ve had some good moments to add to the mix.  It’s those small moments that get you through the tough times and remind you how blessed you are.

Little Man’s big catch (and he was safely released!)

Field trip with the boys

The newest member of the family, a sweet little kitten that took up residence under our front porch.  Little Man is thrilled….the hubby and the dog?  Not so much.

Adventure: Is it really for everyone?

20120606-013428.jpg Big Brother’s fortune at his “welcome to the family party” mere hours after he was declared our son in a court of law.

Tonight I found myself reminiscing about the past 1.5 years that Big Brother has been with us as I gazed upon the hundreds of pictures I have saved on my computer. Most of the pictures were taken during a time when he was trying something new. Pictures of Big Brother in a canoe, on a hike or in a cave are sandwiched among pictures of him playing with his brother or celebrating a holiday with family. He certainly has been on a lot of adventures since being home. I remember so clearly the words of concerned loved ones who were afraid that by adopting Big Brother, our adventurous lifestyle would come to an abrupt end. On the contrary, we have found that it has just begun.

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I truly believe with every fiber of my being that adventure really is for all. But does the world think so? Probably not. And although my brain is screaming that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks, I know in my heart that it does matter. It matters because I get tired of “defending” our right to be somewhere to others who think we should just stay at home. I want the world to know that my son with special needs has just as much right to venture out into this world as anyone else. He has just as much right to be on a hiking trail, at the climbing gym or on an airplane as anyone else. Although he may be unusually loud or need special accomodations at times, he is, after all, just the same as any other human being. There seems to always be people around us that act perturbed to see our family come near. Not everyone we encounter feels this way, but it’s happened enough that it really gets me thinking.

And then tonight as we sat in the office of our much loved pediatric specialist, he said something that grabbed my heart. “A lot of people with children like Big Brother tend to retreat to their homes and not venture out…”

What a shame that our society can make an innocent child feel like a burden to society, as if he is not worthy of the same rights to explore this world of ours.

So, if you see our family out and about and are bothered that the likes of us would join the ranks of ordinary adventurers, you may just get a kind but thorough lecture from me a la Ms. Cho style. I promise I don’t bite, but I will defend my creed of adventure for all fiercely and relentlessly.

How about you? What is something that you are willing to stand up to the world for…something you believe in so much that you are willing to raise your voice as to be heard by all the world?

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela

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P.S. Thanks for all the kind and encouraging comments on my last few posts. I may not have responded to each and every one, but please know they are all appreciated and loved by yours-truly. You are the best readers a gal could ever hope for!

Nature for All: Creating a Family-friendly, Special Needs-friendly Hiking Group

What do you get when you mix a beautiful day, 9 beautiful kids (some who have special needs) and a beautiful, family-friendly hiking trail? A spectacular day that is full of fun, adventure and empowerment.

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excuse the bad photography–I was busy with the kiddos and just trying to keep up!

I decided to create a hiking group in my community that would be geared towards the motto of nature for all. Here is the description I used when I first launched the idea:

We are a group of families who believe that every child should have the chance to explore nature. All types of families are welcome, especially those with special needs children. Our goal is to plan one family-friendly nature walk/nature hike each month, in addition to a twice yearly super-sized hiking event. You can attend just one, or come to them all! All excursions will be educational, non-intimidating and fun!

Today was our first hike and it was a great success. A good time was had by all! I am so excited to show the world that nature and outdoor exploration is for all, one family at a time.

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The Mom I Was Supposed to Be

Before I became a mom to two little boys from hard places, I had all kinds of grand ideas of what I envisioned motherhood to be. In fact, I even knew what kind of mother I was going to be. I knew what issues I was passionate about. I knew what mattered to me and what I stood for. I believed organic was good, processed was bad; natural was safer, chemicals were dangerous; plastic never, glass and wood always; technology nada, nature only. I thought I had it all figured out.

I had a game plan and I was going to follow through, gosh darnent!

And then it happened. On February 15, 2008, I received a phone call from our adoption agency. There was a little boy in Vietnam with medical special needs. He was 4 months old and he needed a family. “Would we like to be that family?” they had asked. They sent his picture to my email box. With one click of the mouse, my life changed forever. I saw my son’s face for the first time and I was totally smitten.

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My heart saored and my stomach turned flips. Was this really happening? After all these years, was I really going to be a mommy? Was this precious baby really my baby? I had never felt so much joy in all of my life. I felt like I was flaoting above the earth and waltzing through the clouds. I was going to be a mommy to Little Man.

Little did I know at the time that the next 6 months would be the most grueling, soul-crushing time of my life as we waited and fought tooth and nail to bring our son home. What turned into a political battle of wills between two nations resulted in one of the darkest times of my life. After watching our beloved son grow up through pictures in an orphanage 10,000 miles away, we finally boarded a plane to Vietnam after a long, hard fight. Our little baby that we hadn’t even met in real life yet was nearly a year old now. He was hardly a tiny baby anymore and we prayed he would be resistant to the wounds of institutionalization. Oh how I wish he could have been.

After 36 hours of travel, my son was placed into my arms and immediately all the would-of, could-of, should-be’s fell to the ground. The most important turths of life selectively came into focus. My son was safe, alive and in my arms. We were all together. The battle was over. Little Man had survived his first year alone in an orphanage. We were all alive and safe.

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That evening-our first evening together as a family of three-I would learn just how dark and horrible the downward spiral of institutionalization can be for a child. And in that long, sad night, I said goodbye to all my frivalous mommy plans and laid a new path instead. It would be a path of healing, of gratitude and of awareness. It would be a path whose goal had nothing to do with being trendy, popular, mainstream or full of ideals. My new path would hinge on the fact that life is so fragile, so short and so magnificent that I needn’t worry about the small, fleeting issues of daily life. Maybe the trauma of the preceeding months had reshaped how I saw the world and motherhood. Maybe I was just too busy and overwhelmed to even care. Or maybe I was just so grateful at the chance to be a mother to this child that nothing else even mattered. All those other issues seemed so silly compared to what I now knew to be important.

While I still prefer to stick to my ideals when given a chance, I don’t worry if I fall short. Because around here, that happens often, especially now with a special needs child in the picture. Somedays we are lucky if we even check one issue off of the list. And I’m okay with that. I am so thankful that this new path has taught me time and time again to take nothing for granted…to find joy in every day and to remember that life really is a miracle. Enjoy it now and everything else will fall into place. Or at least you won’t feel guilty if it doesn’t.

Outdoor Friends, Help Needed!

Hello Dear Readers!

I need some advice.  Our family wants to start cycling and we need a way for Big Brother (our five year old son with special needs) to join us.  I was looking at this page of bike trailers.  Big Brother is approximately  38 pounds and is very excited about getting to cycle!  What kind of seat/trailer do you recommend?  I fear that riding backwards will not be good for his sensory dysfunction. I am thinking this looks pretty neat:

http://www.rei.com/product/808195/weehoo-i-go-trailer-bike

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!