Saturday, January 26, 2013

No Ordinary Love

I told a room of 40 people the other day a story about a girl who dropped out of high school at 16, who teetered dangerously close to walking that other, dark path, who turned it somehow all around.

That girl became a teacher, and had a knack for special kids. So, that girl became a special education teacher. That girl was doing well. She got married and had a baby, a long awaited little boy, that girl always wanted a little boy. Then, a divorce, before that baby was 1. That girl was shocked & shaken.

That girl is me. That little baby boy is Ari, and he is 6 and almost 1/2 now. To my great surprise and at times admitted internal greif and dismay, my son was born with a number of special needs. It's been a lot, it has. The biggest part though is the love. I just can't explain it, he's just so special, so much more beyond what is different than other kids about him, or what he lacks or what he can't do, or how behind he is in this or that, or what you can or cannot understand about him. He's like - extraordinary.

Us mom's with special kids are not your ordinary mom's. We're not supermom's either - we just learn things that mostly, you would never set out to learn. We learn how to live with loss, and how to temper hope, and how to make every moment count, with kids that well - you just never know how it is going to go. We cry at things others mostly don't even notice, because they mean the absolute world.  Having Ari and then getting to have Ian, I've been so privileged to meet so many extraordinary mom's of the most amazing people I'll ever know. These kids, they just make us so much better.

It's no ordinary love.

Today, was a day like that, where something so average for a boy his age - something that had been so far out of reach for so long - happened. Right in front of my eyes, for the first time ever. He's been crying and begging mommy for such a long time. Watching other little boys, for years on the street where we lived enjoy such a seemingly simple childhood rite. All he could do was watch.

What can I say? I tried? I did try, I researched, I bought every off the rack model I could afford, in every configuration, that I could. I even tried to hotwire a few to work for him. None ever did.

Then, some hope. A Physical Therapist with an idea. Ever heard of Ambucs she said to me? Nope I said back. Well, it's a long shot, the waiting lists are very long, but it could happen for him. Let's try, I said. Two and 1/2 years passed. Then, a phone call - Ari has been chosen! Please check his paperwork and get back to us so that we can process him. It arrived before Christmas but I knew I could never put it together alone.

So today, became the day.

It started with me asking for help - something I have no shame in at all! Without help, Ian would be languishing in an asylum, if even still alive.

Help arrived. Great Help. Special Help. Family Help.

The man in the hat. My cousin. He lost his little special one, she's an angel 6 and some years gone now. We joked while he worked, he laughed some too, and her name was even said. No ordinary love, and guts and will - does it take for him every single day. It was a special gift that he put the pieces of my son's greatest wish together. As his daughter often wrote: Dream It, Wish It, Do It. 

Then the moment came, he was so happy, he smiled and smiled and waved and laughed and said look at me! I ride my bike! His little boy dreams, just the everyday average ones for an American neighborhood kid, all came true! He was doing it - by him self!

Granted, it was absolutely freaking cold out and so I was forced to put an abbreviated end to our little miracle ride outside, which brought the most deep and painful cries from my boy - oh how he loved that first time he could ride a bike. Oh how he would have stayed outdoors in the frigid Wisconsin air and rode and rode and rode....

No ordinary love, for a little one and his mama. I think the tears froze to my face.

The moment was surreal for me, standing there, watching it all, snapping pictures, beleiving and confirming all at once that it could really happen for him while he was still a child - having had the Amtryke so humbly delivered to our door at no cost (and trust me these things ain't cheap!), Cousin Rick working in the cold on his knees in our garage to piece it together. I don't think it was a mistake that he was the one I thought to call and that he was the only other person to witness this extremely un-ordinary happening.

Having a child (or 2) with special needs is hard, on many levels. Still, I wouldn't trade it. No, I would not, not ever. I cry just writing this as the emotions flood back to the moment I raised my arms up in victory for my special little one. He rode a bike today, for the first time. If you only knew what a long and difficult road this has been - today was no ordinary love - shining through.

I don't know where to begin to thank the many people who made this possible for Ari and us today. It all began 2.5 years ago with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at North Druid Hills and a wonderful Physical Therapist there named Sarah. Sarah knew about Ambucs, a national organization that builds bikes for children with special needs so that they can experience the thrill of independently riding a trike or bike. Sarah encouraged me to put Ari on the list and a woman named Dannell at Ambucs made that happen more than 2 years ago. When the call came in that someone wanted to grant Ari his Amtryke this December, we needed new measurements right away and I am so grateful to Ari's new school based Physical Therapist Leah, who made that happen within 2 days of my request. Her measurements and updated tryke recommendation was a perfect fit! To the organization in Oklahoma that chose Ari as the child they would donate this Amtryke to - words cannot ever express the thankfulness of this gift. To my cousin Rick, or baldy (just not late for supper), I love you more than you know, and I thank you for being here and for taking the time for Ari and for sharing in the a moment I will remember for my entire life. To the genius' at Ambucs - your ingenuity changes lives, and I'm so grateful for the lot of you that thought of that simply beautiful cord pulley system that changes the world for my little boy, that lets him ride his first bike!

I love no ordinary love. Today was a good, good day. 

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Day in the Life...

well, maybe just a snipit in the day in the life of ari and ian and I. daddy is there, but more in the wings making sure we got a home to call home and the bills are paid. im the kid schlepper, and at times, it is exhausting. mostly, its emotionally inspiring and draining at the same time. special kids need and deserve a lot, and after its all said and done, when i collapse on the bed well past midnight, i could just cry and cry over how much i love my babies.



so, before I get to the pictures, let me break it down:

this was Tuesday, and this is EVERY Tuesday this summer.

Wake - 7:30 ish or earlier if Ian has once again defied my insistance that he remain in his bed and not activate the ipod that play the boys' night night music because it wakes ari up...

7:30 - 8:00 they pummel me in the bed, using all manner of wrestling moves. i believe i have at least a bruised rib. its all loving but its all boy too.

8:00 - 8:45 potty, dress, breakfast

8:50 - Ian is off on the school bus which comes to our door (thank you Jesus!) for summer school.

9:00 - get Ari in the car and drive 25 miles due west to his speech and ot therapy appointments, an hour each.

12:30 - pick up Ian at school, grab him lunch on the go, this day it was Chick-fil-A

1:00 arrive to Ian's speech therapy appointment, remain in the room because he's still working on listening to people. this is where the emotions start to rollercoaster. we are trying SO hard to help this child learn to speak. its heartbreaking. its also SO cool when he blurts out a word or a sound. i LOVE his therapist. shes an expert in oral motor and feeding too, which totally effects this boy. shes the one, God sent, I'm sure of it.

Let's start by getting that tongue in order.

Therapist: I'm applying light pressure to force the "f" sound
Ian: and I'm showing you my feet.
The boy is funny. He really is.

After speech work, time for sensory rewards.
Ahh, many colored bubbles that I alone can control!
World domination is definitely next!

Swing = work on taking, always working on talking!

2:00 mad dash out of speech, drive due south for 20 miles to arrive at swimming lessons for a 3:00 start. did I mention I live in Atlanta metro - TRAFFIC omg.

3:00 both kids dive in for private lessons. cost: pretty penny. results: PRICELESS!!! Ari can jump of the blocks in the deep end and swim to the side all by himself. he's 5. Ian, after only 2 lessons, can kick himself to his teacher with the aid of a noodle. granted, he's screaming YELLING at the top of his lungs, but he's getting it. he loves the water.

Ari after having jumped off the racing block into the deep end and swimming to the side.
That's my boy!

Ian and his new BFF, the noodle.

Work some, Splash some. Life is Good.
Ari at the deep end of the pool (9 ft) talking tech with his teacher Faith

My swim monkeys. 

4:00 - 4:15,20,25...depending on the daudle effect with 2 kids 5 and 6...I dry them, change, and sprint out the door to try and avoid rush hour on our 25 mile journey due north to back where we all started from 7 hours earlier.

5:30 home. kids to potty, whip out ingredients for dinner and start cooking. i cook a meal every night (well almost every night). I use the AMAZING time and money saving service called "The Fresh 20." Each week, I get to download my meal plans and shopping list. The weekly meal consists of 20 FRESH ingredients. thats it. and the food is awesome. organic, healthy, home cooked. i could not survived with the Fresh 20.

6:00 lets eat.

7:30 bath starts. I do bath, every single night.

8:00 bed.

and then....the next day, I do it all over again. so, if you have any SAHM time savers or lifesavers, PLEASE comment!! I only do this in the summers when I am off from my job in public education, so I don't know all the tips and tricks you incredible SAHM use to fend off the exhaustion and keep a smile on your face! Id love some tried and true advice!

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Firsts of Christmas

The First Christmas

There have been a good number of firsts as we watch this year come to a close

Tonight, as I held my “new” little one (and though he is almost six years old, he is still a tiny little boy) and rocked him to sleep with my homespun version of “Katusha,” a Russian national favorite, my eyes welled up and my stomach got tight. My mind began to swirl…

He got left. Ian got left as a baby to fend for himself.

He was left alone. To “grow” up or to not. To be happy or to be terrified. To live or to die. Not a single call, not a single visit. No one inquired. No room at the “IN” side of anyone’s heart for this one little boy, for five years.

Not until God opened ours, to him. On Christmas Eve, the day that Christ was born, is four months home for Ian. 4 months out of 5 years has this child known love, a family, safety, play, needs met, an education, and God. Seems like a grain of sand to me, in all of what he has missed.

The pain inside our hearts and minds for the many little soulds that we had to leave behind, will never, ever leave me. Many times, it makes me feel insane and I do not know where to put it all or how to deal with it. Feeling compelled to act and speak and advocate and fundraise for orphaned children (with special needs or not), was a FIRST for us this year. A BIG first.

People tell us, and we often tell ourselves, that everything is okay now because he is here with us. That is true in some respects and not in others. Effects from the “O” (the orphanage) may never leave him, we just don’t know. I see some fading but then only to be replaced by others. Young children are so very impressionable, and the impressions leave psychological and physiological marks. My biggest prayer this Christmas is that he be able to leave the “O” behind and truly come live with us in this new place we call “home.”

Christmas was a BIG bang start to him leaving the O.

People that have adopted many times over have commented to me that for a “first” adoption, we went buck wild. Meaning that we took on an international special needs rescue (watch this) with zero dollars in the bank and just 8 months to get to Ian before he turned five years old and was taken away to the institution where he could no longer be adopted from. His life there…would not have been one.A good friend Julia has written extensively about the horrors these children face being transferred from their baby houses or preschool type orphanages, to the institutions. If you are in search of truth and understanding, please click HERE to read about Aaron.

Knowing him these 4 months now (Christmas eve marking 4 months home for him exactly), we know that our little man would have been TERRIFIED, and that he would have sunk into himself so far that he would have been lost and broken, and that is how he would have lived until he died.

Thank God for the first time we saw his face, and that there was enough time to save him, and that more than 600 people gave more than 40,000 dollars for his ransom. Just. Thank. God.


Now, for our holidays in review:

I asked Santa for a special Christmas for Ari and Ian, and boy did he deliver!
Love me some Santa baby!


First off, our kids are five. They know the reason for the season, and Reece’s Rainbow Angel Tree ornaments hang on our tree (many, many, more to come for as long as an orphan needs a family). We are confident they are caring little boys, they are humble too, and we did not teach them that per se, I think they are just really special little boys. We are so blessed by them. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

This was our first Christmas spent at home. The two week break from school and work opened with a trip to the Georgia Aquarium. Leave it to my two kids to take the stage when no one was invited to do so! Please note the biggest fish in the world swimming over Ari in the largest tank of this kind in the WORLD. There are 4 Whale Sharks at the GA Aquarium.

The first decorations were hung on the tree the weekend before, each child delighting in the process, and each wanting to go higher and higher up the tree each time. Oye, our backs!

I did manage to make one smart move, I abandoned my urge for pretty glass ornaments and went the plastic, shatter proof route for the kids. What a lifesaver! I cannot count how many times those “balls” went flying. I do believe that anything round and hand size, for a small child, is automatically recognized as a ball to be thrown!

On the 19th, we went to see Santa for our annual Christmas picture with Santa. Ari got to ask Santa for a race track, the only thing he wanted for all of Christmas. Ian on the other hand, tried to pull off Santa's real beard.

On the 20th, the boys and I had a nice little meeting with Santa at the Down Syndrome play group…oh so much!...another change for Ari to ask Santa again for a race track! Ian on the other hand, tried again to pull off Santa's real beard. Cool thing about the mind of a child, they have no concept (unless we teach it to them) or race or color or size or shape - Santa is Santa no matter who he is. My kids thought Santa was the same Santa each time we saw him around town these past few weeks. Ahhh, I love these boys!

Later that week, our first winter project! Gingerbread creations that outlasted the astonishing pace at which Ari consumed the candy decorations for the train, and Ian’s attempts to eat the structural cookie walls!

Friday, a divine meeting happened at our home. A little backstory if you will: The boys have had an incredible train set for more than a year. Craig and I built a custom, 6 foot by 6 foot train table for Ari’s 4th birthday. The Geo Trax set had over 800 pieces and it was amazing. It served so well to help us play with our kids.

Alas, the train table began to fall to the wayside recently. The boys wanting us to drive them to Barnes and Nobles everyday so they could play with the wooden Thomas set in the kids book department. Our mission was clear, sell the big train table and devise a smaller, fixed track, under the bed, wood set. Sounds easy right?

RIGHT! At the very first listing of the kids’ train table and massive train set on Craigslist in Atlanta (a metro area of more than 5 million people) a woman named Anna called me. Anna is a special name to us right now, I can’t say why but just know, it has something to do with Ian’s old “O” and a rescue in progress.

Anyway, Anna, who is mom to three (soon to be 4, and then 5 and 6) sent her husband Carl to come for the train table. Mr. Carl and I exchanged friendly conversation as we packed up the train set for his children. He noticed me speaking Russian to Ian. He asked about it. To make a long and wonderful story short, Carl and Anna, complete strangers to us, are right now in the process for a Russian Adoption of one and hopefully TWO children with special needs that they found at….wait for it….Reece’s Rainbow! WOW! No way! The chances of this meeting being by chance carries impossible odds. This meeting marked the first time I met someone that was in the process for RR that we did not already know. Needless to say, this family and us are going to be friends. AMAZING!

Later that Friday night, the new train table was done. Yes, I THINK I am crafty, although I always bite off more than I can chew and have ten projects going and never finish any of them. This week I completed TWO wood projects for the boys. The under the bed train table with fixed track, and an under the bed rolling storage drawer. I love how both turned out and the kids loved the train table. Space being a commodity around here, these two items will go a long way in helping us stay organized and sane!


On Christmas Eve, we had our first ever at home, in front of the fire and tree, mommy and daddy reading of the Night Before Christmas and a new book called the TOYS Night Before Christmas, complete with our caps, santa and gingerbread socks, and wintery attire. So fitting for a long winter’s nap. HA - I wish! The kids wake up at 6:30 am!!

We admired the mantle and our special ornaments

A snow globe of Red Square in Moscow, given to me by my mother more than 20 years ago

Our Reece’s Rainbow Angel Tree Ornaments

Ari’s Trains

Left milk and cookies for Santa (Ian objected vehemently! He truly believed the cookies and milk were for him!)

After the boys were asleep, daddy and I put all the gifts out and watched the fire dwindle on the couch together. No words, just sleep:)

On Christmas morning, a prayer of thanks be to God, and then a mad dash to see if Mr. Claus did indeed brave our chimney for two little boys, to make real on their visions of some special new toys! OH.BOY! just take a look.

Ian's first gift opening

Ari's excitement!


This week began with my FIRST TURKEY EVER! Chosen and cooked by me (not mentioning the pan incident whereby I had NO PAN for the bird and had to run out to buy one wasting precious roasting hours!). I am proud to say it was an organic turkey too! It was the best meal, and shared with family from afar. The boys’ great-grandparents drove 7 hours to be with them for a few days! My near 90 grandmother plays ON THE FLOOR with the kids...hotwheels, reads books, pretend plays – she’s awesome! We opened their gifts and sipped some nog, laughed and had a good old traditional family Christmas dinner together. My mother and grandmother declaring that the torch was successfully passed and that I done good on all the victuals of Turkey, dressing, sour pickles, mashed and yams, rolls….etc. Oh my goodness, does this mean I'm old?

Ari & Ian's great grandparents. Our gift for grandpa Dale,
a military flag with his Marine service inscribed

Tonight, our first official post placement visit will occur and the report will be sent to Russia to be read by the judge that granted our adoption. I hope she feels proud of her choice for Ian, we thinks it was a good one!

Happy Holidays everyone!

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