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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Merry Christmas Never Sounded So Sweet

This will be Big Brother’s 2nd Christmas. And even though he is almost 6 years old, this is the first time he has been able to actually sing a Christmas song. Nothing sweeter to my ears than this precious child who we were told would never talk! #miracleshappen

I dare you to watch and not smile…

The Gift

He had a traumatic and tragic birth history. He spent his first four years of life in two different orphanages.  He was diagnosed as being severely mentally delayed.  He was nonverbal and faced a life of institutionalization.

Flash forward 1 year and 10 months, a new home, a new family….

He is diagnosed with autism. It is found that he possesses a gift.

The gift is numbers–math.  He counts everything.  He can count a collection of hundreds with a single glance.  He can add, subtract, multiply and divide in his head and does so all day long with great joy.  His entire world is a puzzle of numbers.

He is five years old.

He is now being placed in a 4th grade level math class at school.  His verbal skills are at a 3-year-old level and his self-care skills are about the same level or below.

But his gift is amazing.

His story is still unfolding, and how lucky I am to be a part of it. He has taught me a lesson that I very well might have missed out on otherwise.

What would this world be like if we could all see past each others weaknesses and instead only focus on the many gifts around us?

 

 

The Power of We

Today is Blog Action Day, a time for bloggers from around the globe to unite and join a global discussion about one important topic.

“The purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a positive discussion that enables social good about an important topic. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

By blogging about the same issue, on the same day, from their own perspectives, the blogging community focuses discussion and give their audiences the opportunities to take part in a global conversation, raise awareness or even funds for not-for-profits.”

The topic for today is The Power of We.  I love this topic so much and was really excited to write about it.

the reason I started blogging in the first place…..Little Man and I meeting at the orphanage in Vietnam for the first time

I started blogging in 2007 as a way to chronicle our adoption journey.  At the time, it was just a way for us to keep family and friends updated on the long, complicated journey.  Over time, my blog changed a lot.  I wasn’t sure what to write about or how to use my online presence.  But then slowly, after the adoption of our second child (a special needs, older child adoption) I knew what purpose I wanted my blog to serve.

My blog, you see, became my voice.  A voice to raise awareness on the issues that had affected my life personally: autism, special needs adoption, older child adoption, HIV adoption and the HIV/AIDS orphan crisis and non-profits providing aid to orphanages and children around the world.  I  even found my voice in encouraging others that adventure and the outdooors are for everyone–especially for children and those with special needs.

In 2009, through the power of blogging, I was able to team up with some other adoptive mama’s to start a series of campaigns to raise funds for children and families in Vietnam.  We had never even met in real life, but we had forged a connection through our sons’ shared heritages and our online voices.  We took a small idea and using he Power of We, were able to give life-saving surgeries, meals and other resources to people in need.

In 2012, again through blogging, I was able to connect and meet with the moms involved in the World Moms Blog and was able to spread my voice even further by becoming a contributor to their social good column.

And again in 2012, I was able to join a coalition of moms called the Global Team of 200 in an effort to spread my message of social good far and wide.

I am just beginning to harness the Power of We.  I don’t know where I’m heading, but I know it’s right where I’m supposed to be.  Blogging has not only let me find my voice, but has let me truly discover the amazing Power of We. I am so excited to see where this journey takes me.

Together, our voices united, we can bring about the changes we seek.  I have seen it happen before and I am honored to be a part of the Power of We.

Won’t you join me?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead 

Searching for…The You We Adore {a children’s adoption book review and giveaway}

For those who read my blog, you already know that I’m passionate about the great outdoors, special needs parenting and adoption. My motto is adventure for all, which was inspired by the adoption of Big Brother. If not for him, I’m not really sure that I would even feel inspired enough to keep up with the blog. It is my goal to weave together many stories on this blog that highlight and intertwine my three passions. Today I want to share with you all about an adoption-themed book for children. I know a lot of my readers are not necessarily touched by adoption, but I just had to share for those who are!

A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I would like a copy of Searching for…the You We Adore. Of course I can’t pass up an adoption related book, so I excitedly said yes! The author, Valerie Westfall, was kind enough to provide a copy for one of my readers as well.

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Searching for…The You We Adore by Valerie Westfall
Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey
www.TheYouWeAdore.com

When the book arrived, my Little Man excitedly ran to the door to take the package from the delivery man. He immediately opened the package and we sat down, along with Big Brother, to read the story.

What I loved most about the book is that it is a beautifully illustrated and simple story that focuses on the love that adoptive parents feel for their child, especially during the waiting phase. In this story, the love of the waiting parents–symbolized by a red ribbon–is sent out all across the world in search of their child. I adore the fact that this book includes diversity and is suitable for all those who have adopted, whether it be domestically or internationally. The overriding theme is that the parents’ love is strong enough to send them searching to the ends of the earth for their child. You see, both literally and figuratively, we have traveled to the ends of the earth for our children. I love how this sweet book captures that fierce love in such a beautiful, simple way. There is no talk of paperwork or processes, only of the love that unites a family. You and your children will love this book and it will make a great addition to your child’s library!

My kids gave it two thumbs up 🙂

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You can purchase a copy of the book by visiting the website I listed above (psst….you can also preview the book at the site, so go check it out!)

So how can you enter to win a copy of this delightful book? All you need to do is leave a comment on this post! You can also earn additional entries, too. Here’s how to do it:

1. You must leave a comment on this post telling me how you are touched by adoption or why you would like to win this book. Make sure your email address is present when leaving the comment (not visible on the blog) so that I can contact you!

2. For one additional, optional entry you can share this post on your blog. Make sure to leave an additional comment on this post telling me you did so, and please share the link!

3. For an additional, optional entry you can tweet about this giveaway and leave an additional comment on this post telling me you did so. The tweet can go something like this: I just entered to win a cool children’s adoption themed book from @hikemama Check it out! http://hikebloglove.com

4. For an additional, optional entry you can go “like” my fb page and leave an additional comment here telling me you did so. If you are already a liker, just leave an additional comment telling me so!

One lucky winner will be chosen at random at 8 am on Tuesday, July 3.

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I was provided a complementary copy of Searching for…the You We Adore. All opinions expressed, however, are my own.

The Girl in Vietnam: Why Being a Part of the Adoption Triad is not for the Faint of Heart

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On the way to school this morning, Little Man was chatting up a storm and asking lots of questions. He’s an inquisitive child and this seems to be the norm for our daily commutes. About ten minutes into the drive, this particular conversation arose:

Little Man: Why is that girl in Vietnam sick?

Me: [sounding confused] What girl?

Little Man: That girl in Vietnam. How did she get sick?

Me: Huh?

Little Man: That girl that was supposed to take care of me.

Me: [ohhhhhh….that one] I don’t know. It’s complicated. Maybe we should look at your life book at home and then talk about it.

Little Man: Do you think she’s still sick?

Me: I don’t know for sure, but yes, probably so.

Little Man: I would like to go to Vietnam and meet her. What does she look like?

Me: Yes, we will go to Vietnam someday and see if we can meet her. I don’t know what she looks like, but I bet she is beautiful just like you.

***
The conversation about Little Man’s birthmother ended just as quickly and effortlessly as it had begun. Little Man seemed satisfied and continued chatting about various other topics. But I was left trying to catch my breath. My heart was racing and nearly ponding out of my chest. I am so happy that Little Man is talking about his past while he tries to make sense of such a complicated issue. But did I say the right things? Did I handle the conversation well? My mind and heart were racing, trying to make sense of all that had just transpired.

Even though we’ve used the term birthmother in our conversations about his past, he still only feels comfortable approaching the subject by using the word “girl.” We are not rushing him and we are allowing him to express himself in a way in which he feels comfortable. As he matures, the lingo will change, I’m sure.

We are very open about his past and his adoption story–with the very few facts that we do know. The hard truth is that we don’t know much and I grieve heavily for all of the unknowns. The truth is that Little Man’s life began in the midst of a very tragic situation. I want so badly for my son to know his history in its entirety, but it just isn’t possible. The paradox of adoption–the joy and the the loss–is so heartbreaking to navigate at times. Today’s conversation gave me a glimpse into the future and nearly ripped my heart to pieces. Someday the answers will be too few, and the only thing I will be able to do is stand beside my son as he grieves. For now, I will focus on what we do know and I will choose to embrace the joy that has come out the complicated paradox of adoption.

The evaluation that kicked me in the gut

Big Brother had an informal evaluation by a child psychologist who specializes in both developmental disabilities and international adoptees (I know, right??!!) The point of the appointment was to really just gather some pertinent information about him before his full formal evaluation takes place, sometime in the near future.

{Backstory Here}

Most of the time was spent with us explaining his complicated background and answering developmental questions asked by the psychologist. The last five minutes were spent with the psychologist actually interacting with Big Brother.

Where do I begin?

We walked into the room and Big Brother immediately starting showing signs of extreme stress and anxiety. I could see the switch flipping. 3…2…1… he was gone. He was back in fight or flight mode and he was ready to rumble.

He climbed on the tables, threw the toys, screamed, obsessively started counting aloud as he slapped himself. He stomped around and made unintelligible noises. But none of that really bothered me. Classic stress response in my sweet boy. What happened next is what really got to me.

He spotted a small snack container filled with cheerios sitting on the psychologist’s desk. I won’t go into the details of what happened next, but if you’ve ever seen a post-institutionalized child from a background of neglect with food issues, you can imagine. It was heartbreaking. When he finally was allowed to have the cheerios, he shoveled as many into his mouth as possible and tried to hoard the rest.

I was sitting right there. He knew I was sitting right there. I had just fed him a meal where he had eaten more than a grown man. He knew I had snacks in my bag and in the car, too.

I had not seen the food drama in months…..in nearly a year, to be exact. It usually only happens now if he is away from me (which is not much).

But here we were. I fought back tears as I watched the weight of four years worth of trauma unfold before my eyes. I felt as if someone had punched me in the gut. I was immediately sucked out of my warm, fuzzy bubble into a place where the magnitude of Big Brother’s past traumas had come into sharp focus. I started gasping for air. My head was spinning. The psychologist starting telling us about her observations….I wanted to scream, I wanted to run. I wanted to grab my children and run away to a deserted island where they would never have to deal with this wicked, cruel world again….a place where we can live in our warm fuzzy bubble together, forever.

Big Brother was not the only one in full stress mode.

I took a deep breath and prayed. And cried. I needed this–to be reminded of how tightly trauma’s grip can be. Now it was time to wipe the tears and roll up my sleeves.

***

The next day I took Big Brother to school. In his room he looked me in the eyes and said “Mommy in school.” I told him that I couldn’t stay but that mommy always comes back. He then looked at me and said “Mommy come back.” He kissed me and I actually caught the slightest grin grace his lips as I pulled back.

And that’s when I thought to myslef Take that, trauma! Watch out world, we can do this.

And I know we can, and we will. Together.

In a word

one-on-one full-support will be necessary

autism room

psychological evaluations

medication

no progress being made

obsessive compulsive

violent outbursts

oppositional defiance

self-injurious behavior

There have been many words tossed around lately by both us and Big Brother’s teachers. We are gearing up for his IEP and trying to figure out what next year should look like. We are heading in for some full psych evaluations next week at our local children’s hospital. More appointments will follow. Many more. We will also be heading to the autism clinic for full evaluations.

Big Brother has been home for one full year now and we finally feel that he is no longer a “moving target,” so to speak. We are at a place where the adjustment period has ceased, adequate time for language conversion has been reached and the effects of institutional autism have had time to fade. We are ready to know where we stand….officially.

And yet, in the middle of all this, I find that it really doesn’t matter. Yes, we need to know where to go next and how to do it. But he is my son and no matter what labels and words will be used to describe him, I know the true words that go beyond all of those sputtered by outsiders…the words that describe who he is and not how he is.

curious

sweet

eager for love and affection

creative

resilient

intelligent

strong

hopeful

silly

joyful

loved

wanted

chosen

Next week will begin a new chapter for us. We are ready. We are hopeful. But most importantly, we are moving forward together as a family. We are too blessed to be stressed.

The beginning of a journey

One year ago today, Hubby, Little Man and I boarded a plane that would take us to Hong Kong, China. We traveled to this faraway land as a family of three, but returned home as a family of four. After 14 long months of waiting, we were finally going to bring Big Brother home.

Little Man waiting to board the first flight:

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Lifting out of detroit….next stop Hong Kong:

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What a journey it has been. I can’t wait to blog about the details of our Hong Kong trip from the perspective of being home for a year now. What a journey we were beginning one year ago today! Stay tuned this week as I revist our time in China and reflect on that emotional week when we first met Big Brother….

Beginnings

“Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way. Stay away from what might have been, and look at what can be.” – Marsha Petrie Sue

A new day begins on the shore of Lake Superior

The quote above fits our lives perfectly right now. As you can gather from my last post, we take things day by day around here. Some days are great and others are downright brutal. It can be easy to get caught up in the what might have beens during the difficult times, especially when you are parenting children from difficult pasts.

So, let’s talk about beginnings. Today I am beginning something new on the blog. As you will notice on the side of my blog, I’ve decided to join in on the NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) fun. That means I will be posting daily during the month of January and the common theme weaving through my posts will be beginnings. I’m hoping to get the creative juices flowing. I love to write but with life being hectic and hurried, I need some inspiration from time to time. So here we go. I know, I know, I’m already a few days behind. Better late than never, right?!

***

As I was just sitting down to write this post, something spectacular occurred and it’s too good not to share. Both boys were asleep in bed when I heard it….

“Mommy!”

My heart thumped heavily in my chest. My mouth gaped open and I sprinted into the boys’ room. My stomach had butterflies. I knew exactly which son had yelled out for me. I picked him up and gently placed him back into the bed he had rolled out of. I rubbed his back as he drifted off to sleep again and I quietly wiped the tears from my eyes.  My heart swelled and I felt the edges of my lips curl into a huge grin.

It was Big Brother.

And it was the first time he has ever called out for me in the night. On January 14th we will celebrate one year together as a family….one year since we stepped off of a plane with a very scared four year-old boy. And tonight something wonderful transpired in our home–something I honestly thought would never happen. I had just decided to get a video monitor to put in the boys’ room since Big Brother never cries out (or even leaves the bed) when he is distressed. I usually sleep in the room with him or check on him every couple of hours. But tonight, I was delighted to find that my son had actually called out for me in his half-conscious sleepy state.

Our little boy is starting to trust….to love…to want us. All the hard work, all the doubt, all the tears triumphs and fears over the past year have led us to this moment. Even as I rocked him and kissed him goodnight at bedtime, he had spontaneously repeated the phrase he’s heard from me no less than 5 million times, “family forever.” He loves to repeat phrases without understanding their meanings, but I think he actually gets this one.

No, I’m sure he gets it.

It is the beginning of something wonderful. I am looking at what can be and it is breathtaking.

I love a good beginning, don’t you?