Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Led Heart, Welcome to the HOPE reader

So, here it is folks! Our brand new blog! I know that everyone, friends and family alike, have been waiting for new some pictures and updates on our two wonderful boys, and our personal adult journey's through adopting Ian, and everything else blessed this way comes.

I'm so happy to report that we are ready to share!

The HOPE reader will be "my" virtual depository of all kinds of experiences. The only promises I can make about our new blog is that a good amount of time will be spent trying to document and share those moments in our lives that are meaningful to us, that move us, and that change us. There will also be nonsense fun of the type living with very small children, boys at that, brings… along with things just for the heck of it.

First and foremost, we want every person who donated to Ian's adoption to know that we will be eternally grateful for your caring about this one little boy so far away. He was so totally worth it. We look at him everyday and imagine what if...more than 600 of you said, "it's too late for Ian" or "he's too affected by his life thus far in an orphanage" or "I just don't have the money to give" or "my $3.00 won't help them" or even, "if they can't afford it, they should not be adopting" - which incidentally, we were told many, many times over the year plus it took to get Ian home.

Thank you letters and photographs are making their way through the US postal system to the more than 100 addressees that we have on record as having donated to Ian's adoption. Many people handed us cash, people we don't know sent us cash, and all who donated via Reece's Rainbow, have no accessible addressees for us to mail to. Therefore, we are saying to all of you that we cannot reach via letter:

May God continue to bless you and may you too experience, in leaps and bounds, opportunities to increase your faith, to change your heart, and to grow closer in your relationships. Please continue to help HIS children find their way home. If you are in need of a place to start with that, my unspeakably wonderful friend JULIA, is having a tremendously inspirational life giving GIVE-A-WAY on her blog located below, it's worth the 5 min. it will take to check it out today (p.s. you might want to have some tissue on hand).

The Passed over Babes Give-a-Way

I think one of the most incredible things that God does in my life is to remind me that in order find him, I must be willing to be led. The led heart is the heart that will touch things that are of God. My opening post is about dying to self enough to allow ones heart to be led. The led heart is opened to much love, along with much of what is disturbing to many of us about the day to day reality of life on earth. Make no mistake, I plan on working on being a led heart, more and more and more….

I have learned so much since Ian came home, and what is special to me about that fact is that Ari was the foundation that God built for me to ever begin to believe that I could be a mom to two little guys with pervasive, lifelong, intensive special needs. Being a mom is a gift, and a sometimes gut wrenching experience. A couple of weeks ago, my little man Ari fell down the stairs in our home. I am still horrified at the picture of him crying, his little body just sprawled out on the landing, it was gut wrenching. He is okay, but to give you an idea of how painful that fall, and scary it was for Ari, he ended up getting a rug burn bad enough to take the skin off up UNDER his nose on the upper lip. Just imagine how he had to fall to get that, horrible I tell you. We have no idea how he fell. He has been so consistently good on the stairs…this happened right as we were preparing to take the kids for their holiday photos. They still turned out delicious though, don’t you think? I did some photo magic to take the burn mark out of the first pic.

Ari - Age 5

Ian - Age 5 (no, he did not have ANY fun at the photo session)

our lil' guys

The day after Ari's fall my cell phone rang in the middle of the day from Ari’s school (immediate panic set in as they never call), it was Ari’s facilitator Shannon. Ari attends school with his “typically developing” peers, with the help of a 4.5 hour a day 1:2 aide. On this day, she told me something amazing about our Ari. She told me that at about 12 noon EST, he became a swimmer! Say what Ms. Shannon? His swim teacher’s first name is Faith. Ms. Faith has worked one on one with Ari since August, once a week in the indoor pool at Ari’s school. That day, my 5 year old son with pervasive, lifelong, and intensive special needs, my little man diagnosed with Autism, that day after his terrible fall, he JUMPED off of the RACING PLATFORM, into the deep end, popped back up, and swam unassisted to the edge of the pool and hung on. He did it with a little floppy body that was bruised and sore from his fall the day before. Can you say TROOPER? This kid is AMAZING. I am so humbled to know him.

Craig has been in the pool with Ari since he was 14 months old

Ari has aquatic therapy too, working on building tone

Ari's 5th birthday recognition at his preschool

My brave little fireman! Halloween 2011

As I hugged Ari and praised him when I went to his preschool classroom later on the day of swimming miracle, for their Thanksgiving play and “Kosher Feast,” I was dumbstruck by the juxtaposition of Ari’s miracle in the pool and his disaster on the steps. We moms of kids with special needs, I think we can all say that we stay on high “alert” nearly 99.9 percent of the hours in our days. That position is exhausting, mentally and often physically. Ari has been doing SO WELL on the stairs. Not so much on curbs, or in the house at large, but the steps have been FINE.

With so much to concentrate on, for each boy (Ian coincidentally prefers to go down the steps on his bottom at break neck speed), I forgot about the stairs, to me, it had been MASTERED. Mastery is a funny word though, it comes and goes, just like thinking you “know” God and you “trust” in his promises. If I am honest with myself, and if I am looking for those things that are roadblocks to becoming a led heart – it is the coming and going of my faith. Never lost completely, but for certain there are ebbs and flows. These boys are such sprited reminders that my faith MUST rest securely from day to day in my heart, which I so much desire to be purely led.

Later in that week, I got a rare chance to run outside before some very severe weather hit Atlanta. I attempted to do 5 miles. This was day two of kind of trying to get back to running, since I set a goal about a month ago to run those same mountain 5 miles with rolling hills and mile long inclines, in 41 min. Not because I’m turning 41 in May or anything. I just thought “41/41” would be a cool slogan I could use to self-motivate. After my run however, I may be in trouble. Not saying how “fast” I ran them miles (if I can even use the word fast)…just saying, I have my work beautifully cut out for me! Stay tuned to the RUNNING page for more 41/41 updates.

Ian running through the Pumpkin Patch field this fall, likely much
faster and nibble than I around the mountain!

At a moment of just plain stopping running calculated rest, I removed my headphones, turned the music I was listening to off, and listened to the earth. The sound of the wind, the leaves, the smell in the air of a rain storm that was near, and even the whizzing of a biker passing me…it was all so PEACEFUL, that I cried to God in thanks for the blessing of that moment. Physically, I was a wreck and couldn’t run another step.

Spiritually, my heart was being led to a period on the mountain when I cried out loud for all the blessings that surrounded me. I heard myself. When is the last time you simply stood outside, with no one else around, and listened to the earth? Asking myself, I cannot tell you, I do not recall, has it been YEARS? Perhaps. God leads us to what we need, and often we will not see the truth of that statement until the moment has passed us. I’m going to start paying better attention.

Since you last saw us, we were in the throws of adjustment to several things: another child (1 is WAY different than 2! Don’t let anyone fool you!), a change in Ari’s entire routine (new school, new teachers, new schedule, new brother), the emotional and financial recovery from an intensive adoption “rescue” if you will, and just the restarting of our lives after Ian landed on August 24th.

Today, we are still in all that stuff above, and I think we will be for some time. What has changed is that we are starting to be able to etch out a microcosm of consistency with our lives and the boys. There is SO much Craig and I would like to do creatively and with the kids, we hope to get to a place soon where it all clicks and we can all feel at home and at peace (we have peace, all the time no matter our circumstances as a gift from above, so the peace I mean is more like the yelling and stomping and wayward hand waving of one certain Russian General that has infiltrated our ranks!).

I’m no shrink, but I think we are wading through it all “okay”. I truly do not have a thing to complain about, especially if I think back to all of the moments of PEACE and HOPE that come from being a led heart. Putting those moments together to make a complete day is where I’m heading. I’m excited to go there.

Ian is doing okay, which is a loaded word because it includes the times he's doing fantastic and the times he's still hurting from the atrocity of his upbringing before we knew him. YES, I said ATROCITY! and it is. I DID NOT know what a life spent in an orphanage could do to a child. Now I know, and Ian's "effects" I think are light compared to some of the truly sickening places these kids get pulled from. WE (i.e. us humans, are allowing some truly awful things to happen to children, and I pray for an end to it all one day soon. You know, you can MAKE a BABY go insane by leaving him lay all day for years....) Someone once told me they respected my blog because I kept it real, and I intend to continue that trend…sugar (and sugar coating) is bad for your health anyway! So, here are the truths about Ian and our adoption and our adjustment so far:

  • This is great. These kids have changed us. We are better because and for them. Without them, I do not want to know where I would be. We have a real man at the helm of our little family too, and he keeps it all together. He works when his is sick, and has not had a day off in over a year. I am surrounded by Saints and Angels (and a Vampire, a pink Butterfly Fairy, and an overworked Firefighter!). It IS a beautiful life.
Ian, friend Olivia, and Ari enjoying their loot!
  • Ian can count to 5, say HI and BYE in English, knows who we are, learned how to cut (assisted), can kind of draw a circle, is starting to listen better, understands MOST English, has stylish new glasses, loves to eat cheese and anything sweet, comes to us for hugs and is learning to give kisses sans the head-butting upon approach! he's a great mom and dad's helper, and he is tolerating Ari's massive bear hugs and 3-4 times and hour sloppy kisses:) He shows concern for all of us, and he's learning about the world, and this list goes on....
Ian and his preschool teacher Ms. Sara

Ian's progress on drawing (and face recognition) Dec. 2011 - Done Independently

Ian's practice writing the letter "I" with hand over hand assistance
(the fact that he was cooperative was a big deal, he resists writing most times)
  • This is hard. Mainly because we are tired. We are doing this just the two of us, there is no family here and to be frank, when you have kids with special needs, you cannot just get anyone to come in and break you. If you do, you could risk the unlearning of so much that you spent time working on. God has blessed us. We have two wonderful high school girls that come each week to help us. The boys are still in 100 percent supervision at all times mode and Ian is always such. It is costly but we are realists and hey, mom and dad have to have a few hours to do housework and brush our own teeth.
  • Ian refuses to get on the bus to school by throwing massive tantrums, he still hits others, he is very defiant and generally naughty (naughty in the 5 year old boy sense but turned up a few notches), he has less than zero impulse control, breaks most anything he gets his hands on, can have a very ugly attitude, spits or makes some lewd or rude hand gesture when he feels he's being controlled, and this list kinda keeps going on too....
  • Ari loves Ian. He says, all the time, "I love my brother very much." They are becoming peas in a pod. When Ian learns to talk, I am sure the relationship will get better and better.
  • Ian loves Ari. Whenever Ari cries, Ian is upset too. He will come to comfort him too, with a hug, a blown kiss, and a pat on the back. Pouring water over his head during bath time is also another favorite expression of play from Ian to Ari. Ari loves it BTW. Oh, and a "hot shower" is Ian's new favorite thing that he never experienced before, he absolutely squeals, screams, dances and laughs in delight in the shower.
Where one goes, as does the other! (The kids picked their own costumes!)
  • We see so much progress from Ian, he is a VERY (understatement) SMART boy. His problem solving processes are incredible. Part of the reason he breaks stuff is that wants to KNOW how it was put together, lay out the pieces, examine them and put them back together then move on to the next good looking multi piece item to farm for parts. While he is not yet playing with toys in the way they are intended, he is a creative beast. His current love is stacking things.
Ian on his first ever trip to the bowling alley! To say he LOVED it would be a serious understatement, although the turn taking was not a hit with him:)

Ian and Ari at a Korean BBQ. Ian is a picky eater but when he decides he likes something, he'll shovel it in with a vengeance! Ari on the other hand ate his way through the table, he's a connoisseur of everything foodish!

  • This is humbling. No explanation needed.
  • This is a gift to us of epic proportions.
  • God sustains us though it all.
  • We are practicing, everyday, being led.

A family friend came to see the boys:) Ari, Gabby, and Ian

We've been to a record number of birthday parties this fall! More than 7 already!

This is a special picture for us, Ian is still adjusting to human touch, and close, loving touch (that of a mother) is really something I think feels so strange to him. I think he likes it but he is still figuring all of that out. This was the first time (other than when he has been sick), that he crawled up into my arms on his own seeking that mama love:)

I wanna say a bit more about Ian and affection, because I think there is somewhat of an illusion that even though these kids are "raised" in orphanages, that the caregivers love on them. There are many realities that you just do not see until you are there standing in the midst of 10,11,12 special needs babies all clamoring for attention. The caregivers work 24 hours shifts. There is 1 caregiver and 1 aide per shift. ONE. Ponder that. Further, the little girls are better off for a number of reasons, one being by default in the baby houses and kind of preschool orphanages, because they have long hair. Prior to head shaving in the institutions, the girls have long hair and their hair has to be touched to be done. This is an opportunity for them to experience closer human touch than the regular herding that takes place. Ian can totally dress, undress, and potty himself. He's 5. This did not happen by chance, he can do buttons, zippers, and to the finest details. Ari would run the streets "poodle nuckie" (our word for birthday suit attire) if left to his own dressing devices.

Ian was rarely touched, that is OBVIOUS. Loving touch was likely non-existant because loving touch has to do also with connections with people. With different caregivers coming and going, this possibility was slim as well. For Ian, he had another thing not going for him. In our final adoption papers we became privy to some further information about the culture under which he lived. We already knew that being a person of color in Russia was not all the rage. We felt it when we were there. In the papers, we found his detailed medical history. There, about 3/4 of the page down, appeared his list of "deseases."

Deseases: Trisomy 21 Downs Syndrome, Strabismus, Negroid Skin......

Did you catch that? NEGROID SKIN is considered a "desease". Awesome.

So again, back to the human touch thing. Add it all up for yourself. This is ALL news to him. He just was not the number one choice to be a cuddlebug in his life and it HAS impacted him.

What does that little bit of information lead you to? HOPE for Ian because he might now be able to be reprogrammed to accept loving touch? It's a great possibility, we are living on hope.

Perhaps, considering this, you will be LED, or allow your heart to be LED to stop this from happening to other children. YOU HAVE THE ABILITY to be the LED hands and feet of God right now. This is Katie. She was just adopted from a place where the children are barely kept alive. The barley part is unbearable. How old is Katie? She's NINE YEARS OLD. She's the size of a NINE MONTH OLD. Food is important to survival, it is necessary. Human touch is too. Without human touch, GROWTH IS STUNTED.

Once her MAMA got a hold of Katie (oh my such a brave a faifthful family!), just a month later, look at her! She IS coming alive! Even the doctors said she was too far gone to ever grow again. LOOK at what the LED HEART can do!

You can keep up with Katie HERE, and please consider donating to this year's Reece's Rainbow Christmas Angel tree via JULIA's BLOG. So many babes passed over, so many....let's TOUCH THEM with LOVE and HOPE, while we give thanks for all the ways we are all so very blessed.

Next week: The road to our first ever Christmas at home.

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  2. YEAH! I was so happy to see this tonight!

    I'm just amazed that Anya and Ian were in the same group. Anya loves touch. Not as much from me, sadly, but from her sister and Dad. I attribute it to the fact that she had so many women come and go in her life, it's harder to allow herself to bond with me. It's just going to take time to reprogram these kids, you're right.

    Never thought of the hair being a factor in how much touch they receive. But it makes sense.

    And what you said about Ian's race being such an issue there makes me so sad. Sounds like they are still back in the 1950's in more ways than one.

    Thinking of you this holiday season! Love ya, and thanks for listing me as one of your BFF's. :) I'm honored!

  3. So glad to hear from you again. God reminds me often to pray for you. I'm glad that you can find time to share even in this intensive phase. Thank you for sharing openly about the hard things as well as the good ones. May God give you physical and emotional strength to live out your calling, and the spiritual strength to keep clinging in faith to your source.

  4. Loved the update! Thank you so much!

    By the way, that is not Verity. That is Katie, Verity is their other DS blessing. If you look on the right hand side of her blog it shows which one Verity is. We love on Katie (via prayers) all the time!

    Thank you again for the updates!

  5. I'm so happy to see this update. I've been checking and praying that all is well, It sounds like you are making progress and becoming a wonderful family.

  6. Love the new blog!!! I have been missing you and it's so nice to be able to follow again!

  7. So happy to see you blogging again and for the updates on both of the boys! Makes my heart smile! :-)

    One of my big concerns when I came across Ian on RR was him being treated EVEN worse because of his skin color. I remember relaying that to you when I first emailed you. I am so glad to see & read that the long term effects of that are slowly but surely being wiped away. Although I almost expected it, I was still stunned to read that "negroid skin" was listed as a disorder.

    Love seeing how the bond between the brothers is growing! So sweet :-)

    Thanks for sharing Gretchen! The new blog looks great too, btw!