in defense of my son's first mom

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I was not there for the birth of my oldest son. I don't get to know what happened on that day. I have imagined every different scenario possible for how the moments after he was born looked. What emotions his mother felt when the doctor told her that her new baby was born with Down syndrome.

My son was born in a country where society rejects kids like him. I know that his birth mom was a single mom with three other children. And I know that upon hearing the news that he had Down syndrome, she decided that she could not keep him. I know that she left the hospital without him. That he stayed there for a couple of weeks and that he then went straight into the orphanage where he lived for seven years until he finally came home to us. Those are the limited facts that I know.

Almost four years ago, my daughter and I decided we wanted to do something big for World Down Syndrome Day. She was only three. Her big brother had been home with her for just six months. They very quickly became inseparable. She had this innately protective nature when it came to him. I had never seen anything like it. We wanted to share Archie with the world. So we made a video. We had absolutely no idea the attention that it would get. It went viral in a couple of days and suddenly our little duo was changing lives.

The majority of the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. I got emails from people all over the world who had either recently gotten a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, or had just given birth to a child with Down syndrome, expressing their gratitude for our video and explaining the impact it had on them. Several mothers even wrote to tell me that they were planning to abort their baby, but came across our video and changed their mind. I've gotten to witness through pictures these babies being born and growing up.  It's been incredible and powerful and it has kept me sharing, in spite of the trolls, and uninformed loudmouths.

Yesterday, George Takei shared our video on his Facebook page. And with over 9 million followers, the comments came rolling in fast. I have a "never read the comments" rule that I am usually pretty good about abiding by, but I just couldn't help myself this time. I have never felt the need to address the disgusting comments from the trolls. Things like "that retard should be kept in a cage", while they immediately make my blood boil, don't even deserve a response. What I do want to address though, are the people who have interpreted our video as us being negative towards my son's birth mom. Because that is so far from the case. We are incredibly thankful for his birth mom for giving life to our son.

Here's the thing: Our son was rejected at birth. That is a fact. And the truth of the matter is, it wasn't just his mother who said she couldn't keep him. It was the society that he was born into as a whole. And that's where the problem lies. There is no support, no help, no acceptance for mothers in her situation. Do we think that his birth mother was selfish or a terrible person or that she simply didn't want him because he was born different? No. We don't believe those things for one second. On the contrary, I grieve for her. At some point every day, I look at my son and I feel deep sadness for her and all that she has missed out on. I think about his siblings and how much they would love him. I wonder if they think about him on his birthday or holidays. I try to imagine what they look like.

Was our son abandoned? Yes.
Was he rejected? Yes. He absolutely was.

But it wasn't because his mother had no heart. It wasn't because she just felt he was going to be an inconvenience to her and she didn't want the trouble. It was because everything she knew told her that she couldn't keep him. That he would be better off in an institution. That he didn't have a place in her society. It is devastating that there are still so many parts of our world where this type of mindset prevails, and mothers are left hopeless and broken. I believe that my son's birth mother felt as if she had no choice. And that is a terrible, terrible injustice.

Lots of Love,


Along Came Archie

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Along Came Archie

I have an extra chromosome
And I am quite sure
It's just part of who I am
And no, I do not need a cure

You don't have to be afraid of me
No need to look away
Just talk to me and you will find
That I have lots to say

When I speak you might not understand
But my laughter says it all
When I run I'm a bit clumsy
And often times I fall

I may not be as fast as you
I go at my own pace
And that's okay cause we should know
That life is not a race

And it's a misconception 
That I'm happy all the time
I get mad, and sad, and grumpy
And mom says I often whine

My eyes they're shaped like almonds
When I smile they disappear
But with them I still see you
Just like with my ears I hear

Sometimes people point and stare 
Sometimes they make fun
And I know that I am different 
But I'm not the only one

None of us are just the same
How boring would it be
If the world was filled with people
Just the same as you or me

Lots of Love!


Monday, August 24, 2015

It seems that in my adult life, nothing has ever gone according to plan. Or even remotely according to how I foresee it going. And if something does go according to plan, it's never without major hiccups. I'm not complaining at all. I have learned to ride the coaster fairly well. I keep meltdowns to a minimum and go with the flow.

So when Joey called to tell me- just a few weeks after we closed on our house and moved our family to Birmingham- that things at his job had taken a turn and he was going to be needed back in Houston full time, I wasn't shocked. 

The kids had just started at a new school that was amazing. Finding a school that I felt comfortable sending Archie to had not been an easy task, and this was that school.  I was completely in love with our house and our two wooded acres. I had all sorts of plans and visions and hopes. 

The kids and I {along with our pig, cat, and tortoise} stayed in Birmingham while Joey and I went back and forth on what the heck to do. He was in Houston most of the time, coming to see us on weekends. It was not easy on any of us. 

So at the end of the school year, we decided we would all come back to Houston. So here we are. 

Shortly after moving back, an unexpected job opportunity fell into my lap and just a few days later I found myself back in the classroom after five years of being a stay-at-home-mom. 

Radko is now in "school" full time. He gets to come with me, and his classroom is about 100 feet from mine. But I still cried dropping him off on the first day. And popped by just to sneak a peek at him every chance I could possibly get. 

First day of school crew

The big kids started at a new school where they already have friends and they are super excited and happy. Archie is in fourth grade, and Ace is in second. What?!

As for Sevy....we still wait. We have had a variety of setbacks. All of the changes that have happened over the past few months have slowed things down quite a bit. We are so incredibly anxious to get back to her and bring her home. I know that she will be here before we know it, and that this waiting time will soon be just a distant memory. But it sure does suck. 

That's all for now. Between lesson planning and back to school paperwork and a teething baby who literally screams at the top of his lungs in the night- my brain is fried. 

Lots of Love!

life in the wait

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

During the months in between our first trip to meet Archie and the second trip to bring him home, I must have sworn to Joey a thousand times, "if we ever adopt again we cannot go back to a place that requires two trips." The waiting was excruciating. Time felt like it was moving in slow motion. And all I could do was think about and worry about Archie. Literally counting down the days.

It's been one month since we said goodbye to Sevy. One month down. Having three kids at home this time has definitely made it easier. No time to wallow. A million and one distractions. Time can't stand still. But oh how I miss her. And cannot wait to have her home.

I have spent the last month just really trying to process this whole thing. It's also been one month since I said goodbye to Gus. Since I hugged and kissed him for what would be the last time. It has been an emotional roller coaster. And even though I have gotten to a place where I truly am at peace with our decision, there are times when all I can do is play the "what if" game in my head. All I can think about is him pulling my hand to his face cause he wanted me to rub his cheek. Some nights are sleepless. It's a kind of grief I've never experienced. It's heavy and isolating. It's a strange and unfamiliar type of grief for me because it's based on a decision we made. Gus didn't die. No one told us that he couldn't be ours. No one took him away. We let him go.

But I know that at the end of even my very weakest days, I fall asleep a little bit stronger.

To be honest, I have been mostly faking it for the last month. I hide tears. I force smiles.
Yesterday after I picked the kids up from school, Ace was telling me random stories about her day. (I don't get those often from her). And I just started to cry. She asked me why I was crying and I told her that I just love her and her brothers so much that sometimes it overwhelms me and I just have to cry.
Then we had this conversation:

ACE: what does overwhelm mean?
ME: it means it's so strong and it just takes me over and I can't help but cry happy tears.
ACE: oh yeah I know. Like when I'm trying to practice my guitar and I'm singing a new song and I'm sounding so beautiful and Archie won't stop trying to sing the song with me even though he doesn't know the words cause it's a song what I was making up in my head while I was singing it. And it's so annoying and then I just cry. Is that overwhelms?
ME: exactly.

That. Kid. 

I'm finally finding my footing and getting back to a place where the laughter is genuine. I am thankful for this offbeat life. The adventure, heartache and joy that it brings. And a family who patiently navigates it with me.

{If you are considering adopting or know someone who is, please consider Gus! He needs out. A family with no small children would be best. He's an amazing kid. He loves to cuddle. He loves to be sung to. I know that his family is out there and I have to have faith that they will find him. Because I'm not willing to accept what his fate will be if they don't. If you want to know more about him or have any questions at all please contact me!}

Lots of Love!

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!