A New Year

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
― Alfred Tennyson

DSC_0539We welcomed 2014 with a New Year’s Day Hike and with a sigh of relief we said goodbye to a tumultuous year filled with pain, loss, grief and one unexpected blessing. We’re still trudging along and dealing with some of the hardships we’ve been dealt, but we’re ushering in the new year with hope and optimism as well. We chose to start the year off with a hike as a way to solidify our resolution that this year will center on our family connecting on a deeper level with nature.  We look forward to the bonding, healing and wisdom that we will gain from our time together outdoors. DSC_0546alt DSC_0549alt DSC_0557 DSC_0565 DSC_0572

Happy new year to you all!

 

Nature’s Grand Finale

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ~Lauren DeStefano

Nothing makes my heart and soul sing more joyously than a hike with family through the autumn leaves! So grateful that I live in a part of the country where autumn is always breathtaking and the temperatures are just perfect. I hope you are enjoying the fall where you live as well. How do things look where you are today?

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On the importance of getting out “there”

….no matter what “there” means to you.  While the past 8 months or so were quite eventful, stressful and busy for us, we did manage to enjoy some fun as well. In fact, the best and most peaceful times seemed to be while we were out enjoying our “there”–the great outdoors. Let’s play catch up:

Winter hiking (this past February) at Rock Island State Park:

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Early spring hiking in the Smoky Mountains:

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Summer coastal fun at St. Simon’s Island:

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Jeannie Reeves Photography  www.jeanniereeves.com

And of course, Little Man was able to run the Columbia Muddy Buddy again this past summer:

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There were also lots of Little Man-Daddy fishing and kayaking trips and visits with family. I’m so thankful we took the time to get outside, even during one of the craziest times of our lives. Despite a difficult pregnancy, a year filled with psychiatric breakdowns for one of our sons and so much more, we did it and I’m proud of us for showing our children what is truly important in life.  It was so worth it–to all of us!

Living and thriving outside the lines

RAD, FAS, ADHD, Autism, PTSD*

Most of these words and what they represent strike fear and grief into the hearts of parents–and for good reason. I’m not going to lie, parenting a child who wears these labels and who comes from a background of complex trauma and abuse is anything but easy and “typical.” In fact, it’s downright soul-crushing and exhausting a lot of the time.  Most of society doesn’t understand the unique needs of such a child. His needs are “invisible” and sometimes hard to explain. We’re not a family with a special needs child, we are a special needs family. It’s an isolating and scary road at times with little support.  Fortunately, we have wonderful friends who get it and who also share similar journeys.

What one would deem a “normal” life is gone. Simple outings, gatherings, school days or even car rides don’t exist. Sometimes life isn’t lived, but merely survived.

But I’d also be doing you all a great disservice if I didn’t tell you about all the good times too. Yes, they can be harder to come by, but they do exist. It takes a lot of hard work and planning, and a little luck and much prayer. And the triumphs are so wonderful…and are savored much more than words could explain.

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Deciding to live beyond the labels and the borders they sometimes create in our society is also a tough road to navigate. But that’s what we’re doing. We’re blowing away the labels and the lines in the sand. I hope to show you how we sometimes succeed at this and sometimes fail, but that you must never stop trying. After all, we still believe adventure is for all.  I hope that I can convince others who feel like they are trapped at home caring for a child with complex needs that they can live a full and exciting life in this great big world of ours. So come along and we’ll try together….

 

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*RAD: Reactive Attachment Disorder

“Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a complex psychiatric illness that can affect young children. It is characterized by serious problems in emotional attachments to others. RAD usually presents by age 5, but a parent, caregiver or physician may notice that a child has problems with emotional attachment by their first birthday. Often, a parent brings an infant or very young child to the doctor with one or more of the following concerns:

  • severe colic and/or feeding difficulties
  • failure to gain weight
  • detached and unresponsive behavior
  • difficulty being comforted
  • preoccupied and/or defiant behavior
  • inhibition or hesitancy in social interactions
  • disinhibition orinappropriate familiarity or closeness with strangers.

The physical, emotional and social problems associated withRAD may persist as the child grows older.

Most children with Reactive Attachment Disorder have had severe problems or disruptions in their early relationships. Many have been physically or emotionally abused or neglected. Some have experienced inadequate care in an institutional setting or other out-of-home placement such as a hospital, residential program, foster care or orphanage. Others have had multiple or traumatic losses or changes in their primary caregiver. The exact cause of Reactive Attachment Disorder is not known although research suggests that inadequate care-giving is a possible cause.” via the American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry

*FAS: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

“FAS represents the severe end of the FASD spectrum. Fetal death is the most extreme outcome from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, or hearing. They might have a mix of these problems. People with FAS often have a hard time in school and trouble getting along with others.” via the CDC

*ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

*PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Finding Joy in the Trenches

It would seem as if I had fallen off the face of the blogosphere. I’m not sure if there is anyone still reading, and I’m sure there are some folks who were wondering if I’m still around at all. The last time I posted was February and in the middle of a fun photo challenge I was hoping to get started. What a bummer, huh?

Sometimes life has a funny way of stopping us in our tracks when we least expect it.  At least that’s what happened to me.

But let me back up a bit. A lot has happened in these past 8 months. First of all, we added this little guy to our family:

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The newest member of the Hiking Family made a surprise appearance in August. He is healthy, happy and such a joy to parent! I wish I could say that it was an uneventful pregnancy, but it turned out to be quite a journey, in fact.

He is now 2 months old and ventured on his first hike this past weekend.

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So where do I begin again? These past 8 months have been life changing. In a very short span of time I was hospitalized three times during my pregnancy, Big Brother (pictured on the far left) was admitted to the psychiatric hospital twice–encompassing 16 days in treatment–and I lost a very dear loved one.  We also made some life-changing decisions and are wading through the aftermath.

We are now trying to find ourselves amidst the new challenges we have been dealt. And I’ve come to the conclusion that instead of waiting for the fog to clear, I will instead strive to find joy while wading in the trenches. I want to use this blog to continue to chronicle our family adventures, but to also now navigate our life as we deal with some new and unique challenges. I’d love it if you joined us. Stay tuned for more of the story….

Love Photo Challenge, Day 2

Be sure to heck out the comments from day 1 to see some awesome nature love!  Thanks to everyone who is playing along!  Feel free to join in for one day or all of them.

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We awoke today with a nice surprise–snow! Even though it’s only an inch, it’s pretty much a blizzard for us down here in the south. Everything is closed and it’s a bona fide snow day! We’re going to play outside a bit then snuggle up on the couch for a family movie.  Happy Saturday, and keep those love shots coming!

 

In the Name of Love Photo Challenge

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In honor of February, the month of love, I thought I’d have a little photo fun. Each day this month, I’m going to post a picture that incorporates the theme of love.  I’m also going to try to make most of mine nature-themed if I can. I’ve been a really bad blogger lately and I need some motivation to get back in the swing of things, so I hope you will join me!

If you’d like to play along, leave a link to your own image in the comment section each day! I’ll make sure to share your links as well.

 

 

What to Expect When You’re Parenting…Adopting…or Not.

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I suspect that most adoptive parents, like myself, spent countless hours pouring over every adoption-themed book they could get their hands on while waiting to meet their children.  Most adoption books are filled with what to expect as a new parent, helpful advice for the adjustment period, the do’s and don’ts, attachment info and even scary worst case scenarios.  As helpful and necessary as these books are, I find only one truth really holds in parenting children through adoption–

Expect the unexpected.

Always.

We all expect it to be hard.  Throw in issues like post-institutional trauma, histories of neglect and abuse, older age, special needs, medical needs  and all the things that will forever remain unknown in your child’s past, and you have a recipe for something that seems mind-boggling in terms of difficulty.  And it is.

Now as I am embarking on an entirely different path to parenthood (you know, the “old fashioned” way) I find the wait to be just as scary as before.  There are all kinds of books that tell you what to expect for each stage of parenthood from prenatal to the teenage years. But this time around, instead of dealing with broken spirits, broken bodies and wounded hearts, I’m preparing to birth and care for a tiny, helpless infant….and it seems a little scary!  And I’m sure that just as before, the expect the unexpected motto will still hold true.

So here I am, reminiscing on all the things I didn’t expect as a parent…

1. Difficult doesn’t even begin to explain how hard parenting a child will be. Throw in special needs, wounded hearts and attachment issues and it’s just plain tough.

2. You will, at some point, feel like a failure.  It happens to us all. But you’re not–you’re just human.

3. You will mess up.  Just own it and move on.

4. You will feel so much love and pride for your children–even the one who doesn’t yet know how to love you back–that you will often feel like your heart will burst.

5.  You will always worry about your children and their safety.  No matter how big they get, you will always have that mother’s worrying heart.

6.  Watching your children experience pain will be the most painful experience of your own life.

7. What you thought would be important before your children arrived (rules, discipline, etc.) will most likely change after they arrive.

8. You will want to curl up in the fetal position and cry some days.  It’s OK.  We will all feel like that sometimes.

9. On some days, you will feel like the most accomplished human being on the planet even if your only achievements were keeping the kids fed, bathed and alive.

10.  You really can’t do it alone.  No matter how brave, smart, talented or great you are, it really does take a village.  And you’ll need a village for yourself, too–a group of moms who understand and support you, even on those days when you feel like curling into the fetal position.

So what’s on your list?

 

Clean Water for your Valentine

As January draws to a close, I wanted to blog about one more social issue that you may consider in time for Valentine’s Day. I’ll be back in February with more regular blogging!

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My kitchen sink. The shower. The flushing of my toilet.

All of these places have one thing in common-the extraordinary ability to  easily provide safe water for drinking, cooking, cleansing my hands, bathing and  sanitation.  All of these things I use on a regular basis without a single thought as to how much we take clean water for granted.

But the sad reality is that so much of our world does not have easy access to clean water.

  • worldwide 800 million people do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion have nowhere safe and clean to go to the toilet.
  • As a result, 2,000 children die every day from easily prevented diarrheal diseases with countless more unable to attend school.
  • Millions of women are unable to work because they spend so much time collecting water and caring for sick children.

That’s why I’m so happy to blog about WaterAid.

wateraidnp28_726-1“Founded in 1981, this charity transforms lives by helping the world’s poorest people gain access to safe water and sanitation. Together with local organizations, communities and individuals, WaterAid uses affordable and locally appropriate solutions to provide safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene education to people in developing countries.

WaterAid has programs in 27 countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific region and Central America, and offices in the US, the UK, Australia and Sweden.”

And just in time for Valentine’s Day, you can spread some love by donating the gift of clean, life-saving water in honor of your Valentine. Go here to learn more!

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globalteamI wrote this post as part of The Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of members of Mom Bloggers for Social Good that concentrates on issues involving women and girls, children, world hunger and maternal health.

Our Motto: Individually we are all powerful. Together we can change the world. We believe in the power of collective action to help others and believe in ourselves to make this world a better place for our children and the world’s children.

Human Trafficking: What You Might Not Know

Most of us have probably heard various facts and figures thrown out in the media about the large numbers of humans that are exploited, abused and sold as victims of human trafficking. In fact, you probably conjure up images of far away, developing nations where poverty is a way of life and trafficking is common.

So what if I told you that the U.S. is a major player in the human trafficking crisis? 

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There have been reports of human trafficking in all 50 U.S. states. In fact, The U.S. is considered one of the major destinations for trafficking victims.

Hits close to home, doesn’t it?

What’s even more disturbing are the statistics:

  • Around the world today, the estimated number of trafficking victims ranges from 20-30 million
  • roughly 26% of all trafficking victims are children

So how can we ignore nearly 5.5 million children, especially when some of them are here in the U.S.?  It seems like such a staggering statistic, but there are ways you can help.

UNICEF works to protect all children from violence, exploitation, and abuse—aiming to reduce factors that make children vulnerable to trafficking and creating protective environments that guard children against exploitation in the same way that good health and nutrition fortify them against disease.

The End Trafficking project is the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s initiative to raise awareness about child trafficking and mobilize communities to take meaningful action to help protect children. In partnership with concerned individuals and groups, the End Trafficking project aims to bring us all closer to a day when there are ZERO exploited children.

To learn more, please visit UNICEF’S End Trafficking website.  Ready to do more? Click here to view UNICEF’s ‘End Trafficking Toolkit‘ for real ways you can make a difference. The first step is educating yourself and then raising your voice.

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globalteamI wrote this post as part of The Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of members of Mom Bloggers for Social Good that concentrates on issues involving women and girls, children, world hunger and maternal health.

Our Motto: Individually we are all powerful. Together we can change the world. We believe in the power of collective action to help others and believe in ourselves to make this world a better place for our children and the world’s children.