the hardest part

Friday, March 27, 2015

We are home. Reunited with Archie and Daddy. Our trip back was unfortunately NOT uneventful. It was filled with a lost stroller (thanks to airline). Which meant lugging giant baby and heavy bags through the airport. Not realizing the gate for our connection was a thirty minute walk. Radko fell asleep on that walk turned run (because we were almost late). So 28 pounds of dead weight plus heavy bags. Ace dragging one. I felt like I was a Biggest Loser contestant on the first day. Any time we passed one of those people driving the carts I would moan audibly and say things like, "oh my gosh I'm dying..." in the hopes that they would offer a ride. They didn't. Radko decided he wouldn't sleep but for forty five minutes on our combined twelve hours of flying. So that was awesome. Finally a customs guy told me in a very mean voice that I had "wasted enough time already" when I fumbled to get our passports out. Jerk.
But we made it.

So, about Gus:

We arrived in his tiny town of Stamboliysky last Sunday. And met him Monday morning. He was moved to a group home in this town, from he and Archie's old orphanage, about six months ago.
Seeing him in real life, holding him and kissing him was surreal.

A lot can happen to an orphan in four years. So much damage can be done. I prayed and prayed that he had been spared and protected over these years. But it was clear from the moment I saw him that he had suffered a great deal. 

Day one was good. He was quiet and reserved.

Day two he started trying to explore us a little more. There were some moments that brought cause for concern. But I brushed them off.

Before we committed to adopt him, I asked as many people as I thought might have an answer for me if he had any aggressive behaviors. Having a baby in our family, that would have been a deal breaker for us. I got very little feedback, so we had to trust what we knew from when Joey met him almost four years ago, and what was indicated in his file.

On our first day at his group home, before they brought him in, the director and some other workers in his home met with me. They asked if I had any questions, and again, that was my one question. Is he aggressive, specifically to other children.  They assured me that he was not. Then sort of backed up and said things like "he prefers to be with older children and adults" and talked about how he would sometimes push in frustration. One of them said that I would need to "always guard the baby". Needless to say, those things had me worried.

And on day three, my biggest fears were confirmed. I witnessed him be very rough with another little girl in his home. And anytime Radko came near him he shoved him down. And eventually made it his mission to "get to" Radko to push him down or kick him when I restrained his arms. I won't go into details here, but it was scary and I ultimately had to spend my time protecting Radko. And even Ace. I choked back tears that entire last visit. This was the reality. And it wasn't good.

I left that day convincing myself that we would figure it out. We would make it work. We absolutely could not give up on him.

But the thoughts of what could happen in a split second to Radko (Or Ace, or Archie for that matter) kept running through my head.

After consulting with a doctor who specializes in international adoption, tough conversations with many adoptive mom friends who get it, and many tears and prayers, Joey and I have decided that we cannot be his family.

This has been gut wrenching. We are beyond heartbroken.

It is not his fault. And those behaviors are not who he is. It is just a harsh reality of what having to grow up literally fighting for your life can do.

He and I bonded a great deal. Which makes this even harder. He is a sweet and precious soul. He would climb up in my lap and just wrap himself up in me. He always wanted to be cheek to cheek. Loved when I kissed his face. I knew that he felt safe with me.

Thinking about those moments makes me want to say, "we will just make it work... He needs us."
But I know that it isn't right. I can't put my children at risk. I can't force them to live in fear. It isn't fair to them. And isn't fair to Gus either.

I am angry, confused, and just hurting. The only thing I can think as to why this has all turned out the way it has, is Sevy. If not for Gus, we would have never found her. If someone had told me he had become aggressive, especially towards smaller children, we would have never moved forward. I would have never laid eyes on her.

And I will stop at nothing to find him the right family. So maybe this is just the way it all had to happen.

I am grieving so many different things all at once. It is heavy and it hurts. Letting him go will be one of the hardest things that we ever have to do. I'm afraid of the days when I wake up drowning in guilt and regret. But Joey and I know that this is the right decision for our family. No matter how hard it is.  

That's all I've got. 

{Mean people with not nice things to say please go away. I have no time for you. We knew the risks going into this, we know the reality of life as a nine year old orphan in Bulgaria. In spite of how smoothly Archie's adoption went and how well he did right away in our family, we did not have some fairy tale or romanticized idea of how things would be. We could have and would have been willing to take on all the behaviors and damage that came with Gus. This is the one thing we simply just cannot}

{To my friends who have been here, and get it, and who have been my rocks throughout know who you are...Thank you. So much}

Lots of Love!

hotdogs and heartache

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yesterday sucked. There's just no other way to put it. Our final visit with Sevy was cut short due to circumstances beyond my control . So we only had about an hour with her. It felt rushed, and the whole thing was just not how I imagined or would have wanted. We gave her a quick hug and were shuffled out the door. No one took the time to explain things to her. She probably expected us to be back today. But we weren't. I knew that she couldn't understand me when I turned back to shout, "we love you and we will be back as soon as we can." She smiled and blew us kisses as we walked away and screamed, "ciao, kaka!" A Bulgarian word that means big sister. That's what she had been calling Ace all week. (I had to continually remind myself that she was not speaking Spanish). 

Ace was teary and still questioned why we had to leave her. Why she couldn't come home with us now. And those are questions that I just really can't answer. I mean logistically and technically, I know the answers. But telling a six year old, "well some more paperwork has to be done, and court has to happen..." does not even come close to sufficing for her little heart. 

So I distracted her with talks about our fun summer plans and all the things we would do to prepare for Gus and Sevy's homecoming. (For those who have asked, the second trip to come pick them up and bring them home should be July or August). We smiled and laughed thinking about all the fun ahead. But we still both hurt. 

Then we got back to the hotel to relax and cuddle and I find out that my dog died. Seriously? My sweet Jessie who I can't even remember life without. Joey and I got her in high school. She really was our first baby. I knew that she was getting old and that her time left with us was limited. But I can't really imagine a worse time for her to go. 

As soon as Joey said the words I lost it. Like ugliest of all the ugly cries. Thank goodness Ace had her headphones on and was in her Minecraft zone cause there is no way I can tell her about Jessie while we are gone. Literally minutes before I found out, we were coming up the elevator in our hotel and Ace said, "it smells like Jessie in here. And I love it. Cause I miss Jessie." (There was a terribly funky smell in the elevator and Jessie had gotten quite stinky in her old age. Ace was right. It did smell like Jessie)

I went to bed last night so discouraged. So sad. So homesick. I counted the days we had left here and tried to figure out all of the ways to make it seem shorter. "Well it's practically already tomorrow and we leave extremely early Thursday morning. So really we only have four days left." Then I felt guilty for wanting to leave so quickly. I am leaving two of our children behind. That completely breaks me, and the in between months will come with many lows. But at the same time, this is just hard.

This morning I woke up wanting to do absolutely nothing except for mope and watch the clock go by. So that's what I did for a while. Until I noticed Ace across the room playing with and talking to some imaginary friends. And Radko who rarely does what she wants him to do. She much prefers the compliance of the imaginary friends to Radko's antics.

And I realized I was being a total fool. Wasting the one free day we have here, cooped up in a hotel room. We should be exploring, adventuring, laughing. So I got my sad butt up and we headed to the zoo! After a couple of miserable, wet and cold snow days, the weather was absolutely perfect. And the zoo was amazing. It's the oldest and largest zoo in Eastern Europe. Opened in 1888. It was beautiful. The animals were amazing and just right there. Sometimes the only thing between us and them some "not thick enough looking to me" chain link. Ace was completely in her element. The zoo was enormous and we did a lot of walking. Radko was awesome. He "talked" to every single animal we saw. And always waved goodbye.

We got hungry towards the end and I told Ace we could eat whatever she wanted. I didn't want to let her see my lack of confidence in the hot dog stand she chose. So I smiled and ordered us two hot dogs. As he was cooking them I noticed french fries on the sign and ordered some for Radko. I guess we got lost in translation and he put the fries on each of our hotdogs. I told Ace that's just how they do it here. I also told her, as I cringed and "mmmmm'd" as I 
took my first bite, that they eat their hotdogs cold in Bulgaria. 

When we left I realized it wasn't going to be as easy as I thought to find a taxi to take us back to the hotel. So we bought a plastic lion from a man standing outside the zoo selling toys, in the hopes that he might help. I asked him, "taxi?" He said, "da, da" and immediately got on his phone. But apparently he couldn't get through to them and after about ten awkward minutes he gave up and we "merci'd" him and walked away. Not really sure where we were walking. We were far from our hotel and there wasn't a taxi in sight. I started to get a little freaked out. I'm a wuss in general. And being in a place where I can't sufficiently communicate with anyone and feeling literally lost was really scary. Ace noticed the word "hotel" up in the sky. She assumed it was ours. It was obviously not. But it seemed like it was close enough to walk to. It. Was. Not. Close. But we trekked on and finally made it there and the nice lady at the front desk called a taxi for us. Before we knew it we were safely back at or hotel.

Yesterday was hard. Yesterday was awful. But today- in spite of some twists and turns- today was magical.

Also, thanks to these two love monkeys for pressuring me into a talk that I was fully unprepared to have with Ace. I'm sure all the Sex Ed teachers in the world would have died hearing me try to answer her question: "why was that one monkey bumping the other one's butt?" The thirty people standing around watching and laughing (awkward) didn't help either.

Good times.
Lots of Love!

Sevy makes seven

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I will never forget the moment that her face popped up on my phone screen. It was early one morning and I was lying in bed casually scrolling through my Facebook feed. It was rare for me to wake up before the sound of my giant baby alarm. So I was just soaking up the quiet.

I can't really put words to the feeling. I see tons of faces of children waiting for families every day. Children in horrible places and situations with very little hope. And while my heart hurts for each and every one of them, I don't always stop and think, "hey, that kid belongs with us." But her face made me think that. It was the exact same feeling that I felt when I saw Archie's chubby little face in his referral picture. Something about her made my heart skip a beat. 

I fought the feeling hard. Like no, no, no. We were already committed to Gus and we were NOT bringing home two. Just no. 

Except for that I couldn't get her face out of my head. Or her story. 

Sevy's birth mother was a victim of sex trafficking. When she was born, her mom took her to live in a home run by a priest, for women and children in trouble. They lived there together until Sevy was three and a half. At that point, for reasons I don't know, her mother decided that she could not raise her, and Sevy was sent to an orphanage. 

I cannot imagine that day. It is beyond heartbreaking to think about a mother who obviously loved and fought for her little girl for over three years, feel so hopeless that she had to let her go.

I was still feeling uncertain, so I begged God to give me something that made it obvious that she was supposed to be ours. I kept asking myself, "seven? SEVEN?!" She would make us a family of seven, and that seemed crazy. I didn't know her real name yet, I knew her as "Annalynn", the alias given to her to be posted publicly. 

I emailed our agency and requested her file. And when I got it, I also got the sign I had been asking for. Her name: Sevjdan. I messaged my friend and agency worker right away and asked how to pronounce her name and she wrote back: "I think it would be Sev-yan....Sev like 'seven' and yan with a short A." And all I could do was smile. 

I hadn't even mentioned her to Joey yet, because that would have made it really real. And when I finally did, he felt the same as I did initially- no way, no can do. 

But he agreed to take some time and really think about it. I left him alone, as I knew this was a huge decision. And when we talked again a few days later we were on the same page. We COULD. 

And yesterday, I finally got to kiss that little face. And Ace's dream of a having sister came to life. The night before, she danced around our hotel room chanting, "I'm meeting my sister tomorrow!" 

And the joy was overwhelming. Sevy is amazing. She is hysterical, smart, sassy. She is pretty much the girl version of Archie. When she does certain things, Ace will look at me and say, "that's so Archie." She is tiny. She turned eleven in December but is much smaller than Ace. She is about the size of a four or five year old. 

We have only two more days of visiting with her. About five more hours. Friday will be a really hard day. Ace has already been crying about having to leave her on Friday and doesn't understand why we can't bring her home now. I wish there was anything I could do to make it better. There's just not. 

Ace has requested to add some thoughts of her own to this post:
"I am having so much fun with Sevy in Bulgaria. I wish I could stay with her longer. She is the best sister ever. She is so funny and she really loves me. As soon as she wakes up in the morning, she's kind and playful. Every day. I love her so much and I am so happy that she's my sister. And I can't wait for Archie to meet her. Oh and Daddy. Oh, I just realized, now Daddy has two princesses. Okay now put 'From Ace'". 

Also, this kid. What a trooper. That is all. 

Lots of Love!

{I wish that I could share pictures from our visits, but I'm not allowed to share any pictures that I take until after they are legally ours}

waking up in Holland

Monday, March 16, 2015

It’s been almost four years since Joey, Ace, and I traveled to Bulgaria to meet Archie. That trip turned my world upside down. It changed me. It shook me.

I could never unsee. I could never unhear. I would never be the same. Joey and I met our son. Ace met her brother. Her best friend. And while it was beautiful and glorious and amazing. The reality was devastating.

We bonded with our son and we bonded with his friends. And then we left them.

When Joey went back to pick Archie up, he met another little boy. A little boy who had just been moved to Archie’s orphanage. He took tons of pictures of him and told me all about him. He was precious. Exactly one year younger than Archie, but just a tiny little thing. Joey loved on him. And fell in love with him. 

Once Archie was home and we finally fell into our new normal, I started looking through all of the pictures Joey had taken on that trip. It was very surreal. And every time I came upon a picture of Little Guy, my heart sank. Somebody needed to go and get him. I knew it couldn’t be us, so I sent out some emails in an attempt to find out more about him and his situation so that I could advocate for him. I found out that he was not listed as available for adoption within the registry.

I wrote a couple more emails, and nothing was seeming to ever come of it. He was stuck. But my life kept moving. I didn’t forget about him, but I felt helpless. I thought about him every single day.

So this past summer when I got a message from one of my best adoptive mama friends that just said, “I think your boy is finally listed,” my heart sank into my stomach. I knew exactly what that meant. Mandy had also met Little Guy and knew how in love with him we were.

I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty of the conversation Joey and I had upon hearing this news. I will just skip to the end…the good part. The part where we said, “well, let’s go get him!”

So the paper chase began.

I could not believe we were back in the process. We had decided that it would be several years before we even thought about adding another one to our crew. But there I was, back to the days of spending most of my time with my notary and staring at the email icon on my phone waiting for the red circle to pop up. {Whether I was expecting anything or not}

I reconnected with some other adoptive moms and joined my old Bulgaria Adoption Facebook group. Which is where I saw the face of a little girl waiting for a family. She was perfect and beautiful. And if I didn't know any better I would have actually believed she was Archie’s long lost twin. She couldn’t become one of the forgotten ones. Left behind forever. She needed a family fast. And I tried to come up with reasons as to why that family couldn't be ours, but I came up with nothing. So yada, yada, yada, another long conversation with Joey, which this time ended with him asking me, “are we crazy?” And me confidently answering, “absolutely.”

It has been a complicated road. There were days when we did not think it was going to work out. But all in a time that was not our own, things fell into place. And we suddenly found ourselves needing to be in Bulgaria very quickly.

So Ace, Radko, and I boarded a plane yesterday. And this morning we woke up in Holland. Not the metaphorical Holland that my fellow special needs moms know. Actual Holland. What a perfect place for a little stop on this journey.

The kids were both total rockstars on that nine hour flight. And the second flight to Sofia was a breeze. And now we are here. Back at the same hotel we stayed in almost four years ago. Tomorrow morning we will wake up and head to meet our sweet girl. I wish I could bottle up Ace’s energy and excitement. It's just awesome.

I will leave it at that for now. Between crazy jet lag, a rambunctious six year old, and the most destructive, giant baby there has ever been, I am running on straight fumes. 

Oh, and I will leave you with some pictures of our newest loves.

Here is Archie with our Gus on the day Joey picked Archie up from the orphanage

And some pictures a friend sent to us of Gus from after Archie was home:

And finally our sweet Sevy

Okay, well here we go!

Lots of Love!

when my son feels all the feelings

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I sat right next to the window of the Chick-fil-A playground as I always do. The glass between us gives Archie a feeling of independence, but allows me to keep an eye on things, especially on those crowded days. This particular day was quiet. Just Ace and Archie and a couple of other kids running around in there. Both of my kids are pretty quick to make friends in those situations. Ace organizes games and Archie follows her every step. They had a game of hide-and-seek going, and were having a blast, when I noticed the game come to a pause. Ace and Archie stood in the middle of the room side-by-side, across from a little girl, probably about six years old. 

I could see that they were talking. I couldn't hear anything, but no one was smiling or laughing so I was unsure of exactly what was going on. It looked pretty serious for a Chick-Fil-A playground conversation. Then all of the sudden Ace grabbed Archie's hand and pulled him out the door with her. As she approached the table dragging Archie behind her, I saw her eyes begin to fill with tears. "Mom, someone in there doesn't like Archie." 

I acted like I hadn't noticed the confrontation with the little girl, and asked her to tell me what happened...
Ace: "She told me, 'hey, I don't like him', and pointed to Archie"
Me: "Okay and what did you say?"
Ace: "I said, 'well, he's my brother'. Then she told me she didn't want to play with him because he's weird and so I just brung Archie and came out here." 

She was upset. Archie was confused. 

And for the first time ever, I knew that Archie understood what had just happened. Up to that point he was oblivious to teasing, or people saying something not nice about him, being made fun of. This wasn't the first time something like this had happened, but it was the first time that I could tell he FELT it. 

He looked at me and asked, "why geel (girl) no like me, Mom?" 

That moment rocked me.

This was going to be the first of many of these times. This wouldn't be the last time someone didn't want to play with Archie. Or would call him weird. 

Here's the thing: At times, Archie can be the most annoying human being I have ever encountered. That's the truth. He's LOUD. Like very, very loud. There is no such thing as volume control with him. And as much as we work on it, he still hasn't grasped the whole personal space thing. He's in your face and grabby. And to be perfectly honest I totally understand when other kids don't want to be around him at times. That sucks. But it is our current reality. As he has gotten older, it has gotten more difficult. When he was little, it was cute and he could get away with so much. Not anymore. 

His impulsivity, hyperactivity, inability to bring it down a notch. We work on these things daily. And he is aware. He understands what behaviors are appropriate and which ones are not. The comprehension is there, but the follow through is not. Sometimes he just loses all control and it takes him a long time to get it back. 

I know that it is a good thing- him being able to understand and be able to feel when someone doesn't like him, or doesn't want to be around him. For him to be able to tell when he is being teased. But in those moments when he comes to me and tells me that someone was mean to him. Or when I ask him why he did something he knew was wrong, and he tells me that his friend told him to....and he realizes that said friend was not being a good friend at all. His face in the moments when he feels that sadness. Sometimes I wish he couldn't. 

I don't want Archie to be anyone other than himself. But the fact that we are still so far from where he needs to be in the socially acceptable behaviors arena is discouraging and disheartening. It just is. 

But we will get there. 
Can't stop. Won't Stop.

Lots of Love!

the day the dam broke (and i survived)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Our move to Birmingham has been less than smooth. To put it incredibly lightly. We were supposed to get here and spend a few nights in a hotel while we prepared to close on our house. Glitches that were out of our control kept popping up and the nights in our tiny, one bed hotel room started adding up.

Radko, who has been sleeping through the night like a boss for a very long time, could not sleep in the hotel. Most nights I was lucky if he slept for a two hour stretch. I couldn't let him cry at all considering that we shared paper thin walls with people on both sides of us. So I spent the majority of every single night in the hotel pacing back and forth with him. There were times when I was certain I was going to fall over while walking with him. But if I made the slightest attempt to sit down, he would scream his little head off. Not just a cry. An "I am being tortured" shrill.

Then one lovely evening, we all got sick. I started feeling nauseas. Then Ace told me her stomach hurt. And the next thing I knew she was projectile vomiting in my face. I was next, then Radko. Archie somehow escaped it. But the rest of us were down for the count. Ace threw up literally the entire night. Radko too. We ended up with not one single clean sheet or blanket. We had two tiny hotel towels. You know the kind that are so rough, you rub your skin raw when drying off. The bed was stripped down to the mattress and we covered up as much as we could with the towels.

The next night was super fun. Ace and I had recovered, but Rad couldn't keep anything down. It must have been 11 o'clock at night. Radko was crying and I was pacing back and forth from wall to wall with him. He puked about every third lap. I tiptoed around the room as if I were walking through a land mine. He finally got still and quiet when there was a knock at the door. I ignored it at first and "shhhhhhhhhhhhh"ed loudly in Rad's little ear. But the knocking continued. With vomit caked hair, I opened the door to find the hotel manager standing there. He told me he had received a noise complaint. In my mind I throat punched him and slammed the door. In reality, I said "Ok thanks" and quietly shut the door. That woke Radko right on up and we started back from square one. You get the idea.

The hotel nights continued to be sleepless and I was reaching a point of really nasty exhaustion. My sweet husband who was working in Oklahoma felt helpless. I desperately needed him. I desperately needed my mom. But I kept reminding myself that this right here was what it was all about. I could do hard things

I wanted to break down. I wanted to cry all the time. I was far from home. Far from my family.

But I told myself that if I broke down down, I was failing. So I pulled it up by the boot straps and kept on trucking as best as I could.

Fast forward to yesterday. I thought being in our house would solve everything and I would be magically rejuvenated. That those hellacious weeks and all that I kept inside would fade away.

I was sitting at my house dealing with the security system guy and the television guy when Joey texted me:

JOEY: The ADT guy is coming by but I told him you wouldn't be there cause you are picking up the kids from school
ME: I'm here
JOEY: Well who is picking up the kids?
ME: They get out at 3:55, babe, I am leaving to get them in just a bit.
ME: Weirdo
JOEY: What the heck, Lisa, they get out at 2:55!!
ME: (Look at time, it's 3:15) Holy shit!  (excuse the language, Gigi, just keepin it real)

I ran to my car, threw the baby in his seat, and drove off (entirely too fast) to head to their school. I called and told them I was so sorry and was on my way. They had just brought the kids in from the completely empty and finished carpool line to the office.  As soon as I hung up the phone, I felt it coming. The dam was about to break. My eyes started to fill with tears but I took deep breaths and held it all back.

I got to school in five minutes, though it felt like an hour, and ran into the office to find my two kids sitting in chairs. Ace was crying. I have never been ashamed of being "that mom". I've always been that mom. But I had never been THAT mom. When I saw Ace crying, it was over. The dam broke. I broke. There I stood sobbing to a room full of strangers.

I don't embarass easily. But I was humiliated.

It continued when we got home. I let it all out. And I thought, "well, Lisa, that's it. You lost. You screwed up. And you couldn't endure hard things."

I beat myself up for a while before I finally came out of the haze and was able to breath.

And in the end, I realized I hadn't failed. It was okay not to be okay. I let myself feel all of the feelings. Even the hard ones. The tears didn't mean I had lost. In fact, they were exactly what I needed.

Lots of Love!

eicherumba adventures

Monday, February 2, 2015

For thirty one years I have lived within the boundaries of about a five mile radius. Five might actually  be a stretch. I never went off to college. I chose to stay home and go to the University of Houston, and live with my parents. A decision I will never regret. Those years own some of my absolute most favorite memories. Most people probably think I stayed behind and didn't venture off because I didn't want to leave Joey who still had a year of high school left. And while, yes, the thought of being miles away from him was not a fun one, I really didn't want to leave my parents or my siblings. I was the kid who could never even go to overnight camp. I tried. It was ugly. {My sincerest apologies to anyone who had to witness that. Damn, that most have been so annoying.}

I was comfortable. And I was afraid of anything unknown. But over the past couple of years Joey and I have talked about moving out of Houston. Adventuring off and being "on our own" so to speak. I never thought it would happen because I was too afraid. Somewhere along the way though, I started to realize it might be something I needed. The first time we visited our friends in Birmingham we thought "this is a place we could be really, really happy". Everything was a little more simple. Slower paced. There were mountains and hills and all sorts of things that made our kids very happy.

We didn't think about actually moving until things at home started to get more complicated. Houston real estate wasn't even something we could look at without having small panic attacks. Trying to find a house zoned to the right school for both Archie and Ace was pretty much impossible. Last year we hit the jackpot when they were able to be transferred to a school with a great program for Archie and also perfect for Ace. Then at the end of the year I got the dreaded phone call that they were shutting down Archie's program. So that was no bueno.

We started doing some "just for fun" searches for houses in Birmingham. And eventually I stumbled upon my dream house. It was just out of our price range at the time, so I chalked it up to a "woulda been nice!" situation. But then a few weeks later the price dropped right into our budget. After lots of discussion and mind changing between me and Joey, we decided to go for it.

Everything started happening very quickly and feeling very surreal. Before I knew it we were on the road, headed east on our new adventure. The kids and I came last week to get them enrolled in school and to be here for closing details. There have been a couple of logistical glitches and we have been all cooped up in a lovely extended stay hotel. If adventure was what  I was looking for, I sure as heck got it. (More on all of the excitement since we have been here which includes several noise complaints thanks to Archie's elephant loud walking, much projectile vomit, sleeping on a bare mattress using towels as covers, to come!)

In spite of all the madness and my insane exhaustion, all is good. The kids are getting settled in their new school and are loving it. Joey has been working out of town but will be joining us in a couple of days....thank you Baby Jesus.  And then we move into our "treehouse in the woods" as Ace likes to describe it. We don't know if we will be here forever. We have no idea what the future will bring our way. For now, we are here and we are excited. (And, of course, I am counting down the days until my mom arrives for a visit in just a couple of weeks). I am homesick. No doubt. But I am also growing and learning a whole lot about myself. And that is good.

For now I will leave you with some pictures and a promise (mostly to my grandma) to keep you regularly updated with all eicherumba happenings.

Living in one tiny hotel room means lots of cuddling

She can quite literally sleep through anything

Late night Target run

Doing what they do best
First day of school
Our new home
Looking out our bedroom window

Here we go!

Lots of love!

when being archie's sister isn't easy

Monday, December 1, 2014

I have written before about Ace's anxiety and her worrying about Archie. She worries about him so much and she has very much taken on the role of his protector. I walk a very fine line every day between wanting to praise her for always sticking up for and watching out for him, but also trying to avoid her taking on adult roles or stress that a six year old should not have to deal with.

Last year after school, I picked them both up in the carpool line every day. They would sit together and wait for me. Except for on some days if Archie was still working on something, or if he was having behavior issues, he wouldn't come out as early. And I knew as soon as I saw Ace's face walking towards my car if it had been one of those occasions. She would come out with tears streaming down her face, sobbing. Couldn't catch her breath. 

The first time it happened I was all, "what in the world is going on?" It was like slow motion as she walked to my car practically hyperventilating. Every bad thing that could have possibly happened ran through my mind. Then a teacher helped her in, and explained to me that Archie hadn't made it to the carpool waiting area yet, and she was upset and scared. Talk about a mom heartbreak.

We waited a minute and then Archie was shuffled to our car by his aide. He hopped in and immediately asked, "why Ace cry?" She couldn't talk, but leaned over and wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his shoulder. It was as if she thought she would never see him again and was overcome with relief when she finally did. She was doing the whole gasping for air cry, so I pulled the car over and climbed in the back with them. Ace and I sobbed. Archie was beyond confused. Begging us to "no more cry, please!"

That happened on and off for the rest of the year. And no matter how many times I told Ace to please not worry, she reacted the exact same way every time it happened.

She used to regularly express her fears of Archie having to go back to Bulgaria. She would cry and tell me she didn't want him to have to go back. She was always needing me to reassure her that he would indeed be with us forever. Every once in a while if she hears something or sees something that makes her mind go there, she will ask me to promise her that he will never have to go back.

Sometimes being Archie's sister is tough. I think siblings of kids with special needs are some of the most amazing humans there are. It is a whole different world. So much of who she is has been shaped by being Archie's sister.

Of course, I want Ace to be a kid. And to not have to worry about her brother every second. And we are getting there as they get older. Slowly but surely. It involves a lot of talking, reminding, and reassuring.  But she will always protect him and have his back. And that is okay with me.

Lots of Love!

why i like to give my son opportunities for failure

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Last week I wrote a post in which I talked a little bit about how I like to give Archie (my ten year old with Down syndrome who we adopted from Bulgaria at age seven) opportunities to fail. I got several responses from people who were concerned with my love for a good failure. Some insinuated that was cruel and unnecessary. So I thought I would go into a little more detail about what I mean.

One commenter asked, "You 'love' giving him opportunities to fail? Doesn't life do that?" Of course, life gives every single person in the world chances to make poor choices. That's not the point. Down syndrome or not, life gives us all plenty of chances for failure daily. As Archie's mother, it is my responsibility to give him opportunities for small failures. The thing is, if he isn't allowed minor failures today, then there is a much greater chance of him making catastrophic mistakes later in life. So yes, when I see an opportunity for him to potentially make a bad decision (that won't be harmful to himself or anyone else), I jump on it, step back, and let him learn.

His first Christmas home, we were walking through Urban Outfitters and he came across a lovely display of shiny, very breakable ornaments. His eyes lit up and he walked up to the ornaments and stuck his chubby little hand out to grab one. I KNEW what was about to happen. If I wanted to take the easy, less stressful way out, I would have grabbed that ornament out of his hand and told him not to touch them. But I just watched him dangle it in front of his eyes. His fingers separated and it was like slow motion watching that thing fall to the concrete floor and break.

To be clear, this was not Archie's first time in a store. And he had been told many times before not to touch things in stores, and especially not to drop things on the ground. HE KNEW. Would it have been fair for me to let him do that if I thought he didn't know any better? No. But, regardless of how helpless that boy can make someone think he is....he knew exactly what he was doing.

Luckily, the ornament did not smash into a bunch of pieces and I was able to pick up the few chunks and we went and stood in line to pay for it. I was also fortunate that my mom and sister were there with us, so I was able to whisk Archie home for a time out and leave Ace with them. A little while later Archie and I went back up to that store. He walked in with his hands behind his back and kept them there as we slowly strolled past the ornaments. And to this day, he remembers that incident and does not grab and break things in stores.

In my last post, I told a story about Archie losing cake privileges at a birthday party for attempting to blow out the kid's candles. And another commenter asked if I should have given Archie some sort of verbal cue when he was faced with a situation in which another mom was trying to get him cake. No! Most definitely not. Again, Archie knew what to do in that moment. Yes, he looked at me with a "is this a test?" face, and I could have absolutely said, "no, Archie, remember you aren't allowed any cake today." Of course I could do that. That would be EASY. But here's the thing- our goal for Archie is independence. And I am not going to be there holding his hand throughout every step of his life to say, "No, Archie, remember, we don't (fill in the blank)." He has got to learn to control his impulsiveness and make good decisions without me there to remind him.

This video shows one of my most proud mama moments. Ace and Archie had a choir performance at church. During rehearsal, Archie could not help himself from messing with the bright lights shining up from the floor. He kept reaching down and grabbing them, and earned himself several timeouts in the pew with me. I was certain come show time, those lights would catch his eye and he would be right down there on the floor with no concern of what was going on around him. But a miracle happened. Around 1:15 in the video, you will see his eyes find the lights. Then he grabs Ace's shoulder as if to say, "don't let me do it, sis." Then he signs "good boy" as a reminder to himself. He wants so badly to jump down and mess with those lights but he doesn't. He is fixated on them for the remainder of the performance, but he controlled himself. And he was so proud. And his dad and I were SO proud.

If I wanted to eliminate stress, and ensure that Archie could not screw up during the actual performance in front of a packed chapel, I could have had his teacher move him away from the lights. But then he wouldn't have had the opportunity for that great SUCCESS. And that smile and laughter in the end is him being so excited that he did the right thing. That is a major win.

So when I say I love to give Archie opportunities for failure, it is not because I am being mean or cruel. It is because I love him and I owe him that. I owe him the greatest chance at independence. I owe it to him not to take the easy way out on things, but to go through the struggles, and fights, and failures with him so that he can learn.

Lots of Love!

no, actually, it's not okay for my son to lick you

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Over the last three years I have been really trying to learn and figure out how to properly navigate this world of having a child with Down syndrome. I am a major work in progress as a mom to all three of my children, not just Archie, but he obviously adds some unique aspects to motherhood. The one part I am still trying to figure out how to handle with tact, grace, and patience is other people's reactions to my son. It is such a huge spectrum.

One that I encounter often is the "Archie should get away with things and get special treatment because he has Down syndrome" philosophy. The idea that since he has a "disability", all the rules don't apply to him. This thought process is problematic on so many levels and will only hold Archie back from being an independent person with socially acceptable behaviors.

Recently we were at a birthday party and as it got to be time for cake, Archie insisted on standing right next to the birthday boy. Here's the thing: Archie has an obsession with blowing out candles. It's one of the most difficult things for him to control. His impulsivity kicks into high gear and most times he just loses it. So as he begged me to stand next to the birthday boy, I explained to him very clearly, "you DO NOT blow out the candles. If you blow out the candles, you will not get any cake." He knew the drill. He excitedly exclaimed, "yes, mommy, I know. I won't!" And I know that he wanted that to be true. It was a really long shot, but I took a couple steps back and was prepared to give him the opportunity for a huge moment of success, or a major failure. And as the lights went out, and the cake approached, with those bright flickering candles, I saw the wheels in his head begin to spin out of control. He sang "Happy Birthday" in his loudest Archie voice, and before the final "happy birthday to you" could get out, he lunged forward and blew with all of his might before the kid even had a chance to make a wish. (Fortunately his aim is pitiful so not too much damage was done.)

I quickly escorted him to the other side of the room and calmly explained that he would not be getting a piece of that delicious chocolate cake. (One of his favorite things in the world). I wasn't mad at him. I wasn't upset that he failed. In fact, I was quite happy. I love giving him opportunities to fail and I give them to him often. Those failures, and the consequences that follow, are exactly how he learns. He cried and begged and threw a fit. People looked on awkwardly. One mom in particular stood close by and observed. After I was finished talking to, and hugging on Archie, the mom looked down at him and quietly asked him, "would you like a piece of cake?" I was shocked. So was Archie. He looked at me like "is this a test?" I looked at him with wide eyes like "yes it is, do the right thing..." Then he looked at her and through sniffles and tears said, "yes, please." (FAIL AGAIN!) She reached her hand out to him to take him to go get a piece and he started to move towards her. In my head I was all, "what the??" But I politely said to this mother who I had never seen before in my life, "actually Archie here was told that he wouldn't be allowed any cake if he tried to blow out the candles and unfortunately, he did. So we will have to skip the cake this time." She made a frowny face and gave an audible "awwwww". Seriously, lady?

The thing is, I can say with great certainty that if Archie had been a typical child, she would not have even looked twice. In fact she may have even thought, "too bad, punk." But because Archie has Down syndrome, in her mind he needed to be let off the hook. Um, no.

His Down syndrome is a major part of who he is, but it's not a golden ticket for him to go around doing whatever the heck he feels in the moment.

Here are some examples of things that Down syndrome does not give my son an excuse to do:
Spank your butt
Grab your boobs
Lick you
Pinch you
Blow out someone else's birthday candles
Eat food off of someone else's plate
Drink the rest of someone else's juice box
Drop things on the ground to see if they will break
Push your kid down
Cut in line

The problem is, when any of the above mentioned incidents occur, and I correct Archie, most people's reaction is, "Oh it's problem....he's fine...." Actually no. It's NOT okay for my son to lick you. It IS a problem if he spanks your butt. And it's NOT fine for him to cut in the line just because he's got an extra chromosome.

I completely understand these reactions from people. They mean well, and are really just trying to make me comfortable and make sure I know that they aren't bothered by Archie's antics. And while I appreciate that (and I really do), allowing him to act like anything less than the ten year old boy that he is, is not doing him any favors.

Lots of Love!

ace and archie today: a new video

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

For World Down Syndrome Day in 2011, we made a video of Ace talking about her brother, his adoption, and Down syndrome. I had no idea that the video would get the attention that it did. And I have been so thankful for all of the responses and emails I have gotten from parents who have been encouraged by it. Parents from all over the world who have just received a Down syndrome diagnosis and say that seeing our video gave them so much hope and joy in a difficult time. Those messages make all of the hateful comments from the trolls more than worth it.

(If you haven't seen that video, here it is:)

Recently, the video started circulating again...and since it is so old, we thought we would make a new video to show Ace and Archie today. Archie did not have a lot of language and his speech was very unclear back then. It's a whole different story today. He has lots of words. All day long. The words don't actually ever stop. Whether I want them to or not. 

So without further adieu, Ace and Archie today:

(My friend Jenny and I have launched a new blog where I will be doing most of my posting- check it out at

Lots of Love!

radko james

Monday, June 2, 2014

Oh hey! It has been a while. We have had quite a bit going on around here with the addition of our new little guy! Wasn't sure when I would find time to write this post. Thanks to "anonymous" for the comment that nudged me back here.

So Radko James Eicher arrived on March 8 at....well, sometime in the afternoon. (My brain still doesn't allow me to remember details)

Since he had given me such a rough pregnancy, I was very pleased with him when he made the delivery as easy as could be. He weighed just under 8 pounds. They flopped his little body on my chest and I fell madly in love. He was perfect.

So his name: Radko. As you may know, we were having a hard time deciding on a name. Joey wasn't loving ANY of my ideas. Yet he had no ideas of his own. None whatsoever. (That's so annoying. I mean, if you hate all of my ideas at least throw some of your own out there!) Thanks to everyone who did offer up suggestions-- we had fun looking through all of the names and were so thankful for yalls' help! 

One night I thought, "hmmm, I wonder if there are any cool Bulgarian names that we both might like." (With Archie being from Bulgaria, and Bulgaria being such a huge part of our family, I thought that would be really special.) So I made a list of ten names originating from Bulgaria that I liked. I knew which one was my favorite right away. I gave the list to Joey and asked him to look over it and pick his favorite one. He finally decided on his favorite and I told him that we would say ours at the same time. "So I counted 1, 2, 3...." and we both said "Radko!" We smiled at each other, put the list down, and that was that. Radko he would be. His name means "happy, care, and joy".  And James is my dad's first name. And my dad just happens to be an amazing man and father so we went with that. 
It's one of those names that takes some getting used to, but we LOVE it. And it is so him. Of course he has several nicknames- "Rad", "Koko", "Kokonut". But Archie prefers to call him by his full name. Every single morning he asks me, "Mom, where's Yako Jame?" (He's usually laying right next to me or in my arms...Archie just likes saying his name). Same thing when I drop him off at school. He always has to stand outside the car and yell, "bye, Yako Jame. Luh you!"

Ace and Archie have both really stepped up and been such big little helpers. I knew for sure that Ace was going to be such a little mama. But I wasn't exactly sure how Archie was going to handle it all. Ace was carrying him around the house within days home. She is a natural. 

Archie mostly just observed for a while. And I had to keep reminding him to be more careful with his floppy body, because we now have a small baby in the house. He's not the most observant child, and there have been several times where he has just flopped himself on the bed or couch right on top of Radko. And every time he's shocked, like, "Oh yeah, totally forgot this kid lives here now." And he quickly says, "Oh, sorry, Yako Jame! I didn't mean to." Archie has AMAZED me these last couple of months. He is such a big help. He has some intuition that I didn't see coming. 

The other day, I put Radko in his swing while he was asleep and went to hop in a quick (and ridiculously needed) shower. Of course, the second I got in I heard him start screaming. I turned off the water and was heading that way when it got quiet. I thought, hmmm I guess he fell back asleep. So I continued with my shower, taking my sweet time, listening for his cries as my sign to get out. It was still quiet when I finally got out. I walked into the den and found this:

Archie had gone all on his own into the kitchen and found a bottle that Radko hadn't quite finished. And was feeding him perfectly. He had one hand on his little chest and was gently rubbing it. And he had been doing that for a while. I never told them where the bottle was or to give it to him if he started crying. Nothing. He just on his own went and took care of his baby brother. My heart completely melted in that moment. 

We are starting to get into the swing of things. My bigs' behavior has been better than ever lately which is such a huge help. Because at one point, between Ace's whining and Archie's defiance I had no idea how I was gonna make it through a day. But both have been behaving so well lately, and it makes life so nice. I told Ace the other day, "I am SO proud of your behavior these days." To which she replied, "I know, mom, I have never even had behavior like this before." 

Good times. 
Lots of Love!