Category Archives: Travel

Two Years Ago…we became a family of four

Two years ago today we were flying home from Hong Kong, exhausted, overwhelmed, a bit scared but very excited.

That means Big Brother has been home for two entire years!  What a wild, crazy adventure it’s been.  Although Big Brother has come so far, he still has so much to overcome.  But we’ll get there.  We couldn’t be more proud of you, Big Brother!

momavi2Mommy and Big Brother, the first day we met (January 10, 2011)

hk15Big Brother and Little Man checking each other out at the orphanage in Hong Kong

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hkcity Beautiful Hong Kong

 

The Moments that Take Your Breath Away

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When I look back over the past 31 years of my life, the moments that stand out most sharply in my mind all tend to all have one thing in common-they all have that rare ability to make my stomach tumble and steal my very breath.

There are many moments I recall….like jumping into the ocean for my first dive at 12 years old or walking down the aisle to the handsome guy that would soon become my husband.  Spectacular sunsets, walks on the beach and misty, muddy hikes through the woods.  Also those moments when the early morning sun filters through the trees in such a majestic way that it nearly brings tears to your eyes.

Then there are those moments that not only take your breath away but usher in a new chapter of your life–like becoming a mom for the first time as I stood and held Little Man in an orphanage in Vietnam….

first-meeting

And that moment in Hong Kong when Big Brother first looked at me–I mean really looked at me–and smiled….

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And then the surreal moment when I saw a little, tiny heartbeat appear on a monitor as I laid in the doctor’s office, wondering what I did to deserve so many blessings….

babybThese fleeting moments that are forever engraved in my mind seem so simple but yet so profound. I love awaking each day with anticipation that I’ll have a chance for just one more…

The girl in the picture…from tragedy to hope

Vietnam holds a special place in my heart as it was the birthplace of Little Man. Not only that, we completely fell in love with the nation, its culture and its people during our month long stay.  After all, Vietnam gave us the precious gift of parenthood.

For obvious but vastly different reasons, Vietnam also holds a place in the history of our nation.  I think I could write a novel about my experience in Vietnam, including the time we spent at the war museum in Ho Chi Minh City.  It was a lot to take in and process.  Sometimes I still feel like I’m processing it…

But this isn’t a pro-war/anti-war post.  Far from it, actually.  Just like in adoption, I’ve learned that beautiful things can be made from tragic situations.  I think war at any time, anywhere is a tragedy.  So when I read stories like what I’m about to share, all feels right in the world  again.

You don’t want to miss this.  Please read and see how one life that was tragically affected by war is now helping to pass along hope to others. http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2012/06/04/on-a-road-40-years-ago/

“Women hold up half the sky” ~Chinese Proverb

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Tonight this incredible documentary airs on PBS.  Please take an hour or two out of your busy day to see what this is all about….it will be worth your time, I promise.  One of the stories follows a young girl in Vietnam, a story that hits close to home for us.

 

Alone in the Wilderness {Snowbird Mountain Backcountry Area}

Nestled deep within the Nantahala National Forest of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains lies a hidden jewel.  If you are serious about exploring the untamed wilderness of the mountains, you will find a wild and secluded backcountry area that is not well known to others.  The Snowbird Backcountry Area  encompasses 8,000 acres of gorgeous terrain and 37 miles of hiking trails.  With many creek crossings (11 on our trail), rugged terrain, poorly marked trails and a lack of fellow hikers, this area is suitable for advanced hikers and backpackers who have experience in the backcountry.  There are several large waterfalls to explore  and the forest is vivacious, dense and lush.  You will be bushwhackin’ a bit on your hike, but it will be well worth the effort.

On Saturday, we hiked 10 miles of the Snowbird Backcountry Area and spent some time fly fishing in the wild trout streams and lounging at the falls.  The solitude was just what we needed–we had the whole area to ourselves.  The Snowbird Backcountry Area also taught me a lesson or two, mainly to watch my step.  For the first time in my life, I took a fall on the muddy mountain terrain and sprained my ankle (badly.)  I had to hike the last two miles out on a sprained ankle, which wasn’t so bad.  That night, however, I paid for those two miles immensely!  I’m on the mend now and looking forward to giving Snowbird another shot.  It was a great way to celebrate 11 years of marriage, sprained ankle and all.

a snapshot of my ankle at dinner that evening:

Treasures from an Appalachian Forest

This past weekend, the Hubby and I celebrated our 11 year wedding anniversary by leaving the kids with family (our first time away from them, ever!) and heading to the wild and wonderful backcountry of North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains. I’ll share more details in the upcoming posts, but for now, enjoy some of the sights from our first day in the forest.

 

 

The Friendly Wildlife of St. Elmo, Colorado

A few weeks ago I posted about our excursion to the ghost town of St. Elmo and beyond.  What I neglected to tell you was the age-old tradition we took part in while visiting. It seems that the ground hogs and chipmunks of St. Elmo have quite a reputation in this town.  They gather daily to be fed by eager tourists, and they are surely not shy!  Seems it’s been going on for years and years. The kids had a blast feeding these cute little critters.  It was an interesting experience to say the least!

Child Safety {Call Me Cuffs}

Two seconds.  

That’s how long I let go of his hand, and it was two seconds too long.  He was gone.  

Luckily, we were in a safe place, surrounded by those who knew us.  He was quickly located.

This was the first time Big Brother wandered off.  I never, ever, under any circumstances let go of Big Brother’s hand in public if he is not restrained in a stroller or cart.  Yes, he is almost 6 years old, but like many children with cognitive impairment and autism, wandering off is a daily reality*.  In the above scenario, I let go of his hand while I was trying to help another child, without even realizing it.  As soon as I became aware that I had let go of his hand, it was too late.  The worst part is that although he is somewhat verbal, he cannot communicate his name, point me out in a crowd or recite his address.

So when the creators of Call Me Cuffs contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their product, I excitedly said yes. I had been wanting to try some sort of safety wristband for a long time, but didn’t know what kind to buy.

The Call Me Cuffs are simple.  They are temporary ID wrist bands for children that you can customize with your phone number and allergy or medical needs. Let me emphasize that they are great for all children, especially those times when you will be in a large crowd.  I imagine they would also be a great item to have on hand for field trips, too.

All children, whether they have special needs or not, can be at risk of becoming separated from their parents in a crowd. The added layer of being unable to communicate, however, makes the Call Me Cuffs even more useful in my opinion.

So I tried the Call Me Cuffs on Big Brother. I let him choose the design in hopes that he too, would be excited about trying them out.

At first I was hesitant because I thought that Big Brother might not like wearing the bracelet as he has some major sensory issues.  I was also afraid that he may spend all day picking at it in an attempt to remove it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Big Brother loved wearing the wristband and didn’t once try to remove it all day.  In fact, Little Man wanted to wear one as well!  So they both have tried them out and love them.  Neither child tried to remove the wristband and they both thought they were pretty cool dudes while sporting their “jewelry.”

my number has been blacked out in the photo

What I loved about Call Me Cuffs:

I love that these wristbands come in a variety of colors and designs, that they are customizable and they can be purchased in a package of 12 or 28. I also was very impressed with the fact that they are not easily removed and also comfortable to wear.

I’m happy to report that I was pleased with all aspects of the Call Me Cuffs and have nothing negative to report!  I will be using these wristbands for Big Brother in the future as well, and I encourage you to check them out at their website:

https://www.callmecuffs.com/

There are many ways to help keep children safe in case of wandering off or accidental separation, and this is one easy, fun way to do it.

I received a complimentary 12 pack of Call Me Cuffs in order to review.  All opinions expressed in this blog post, however, are completely my own.

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*Some staggering statistics about wandering off in individuals with Autism:

“In a 2007 online poll through the National Autism Association, 92% of parents reported that their children with autism have a tendency to wander, but no formal estimates are available.”

“In 2012, the National Autism Association found that from 2009 to 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism subsequent to wandering, and that 23% of total wandering-related deaths occurred while the child was in the care of someone other than a parent.”

‘According to data released in April 2011 by the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) through the Kennedy Krieger Institute:

  • Roughly half, or 49%, of children with a autism attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings
  • More than one third of children with autism who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number’

“WHY WOULD A CHILD OR ADULT WITH AUTISM WANDER OFF? 

Many reasons. Mainly, a person with autism will wander to either get to something or away from something. Like dementia, persons with autism gravitate towards items of interest. Other times, they may want to escape an environment if certain sounds or other sensory input becomes bothersome. Outdoor gatherings present an especially large problem because it is assumed that there are more eyes on the child or adult with autism. However, heavy distractions coupled with an over-stimulating setting can lead to a child or adult wandering off without notice. School settings are also an issue, especially those that have un-fenced or un-gated playgrounds. A new, unfamiliar, or unsecured environment, such as a relative’s home, may also trigger wandering, as well as episodes of distress, meltdowns, or times when a child or adult with autism has certain fears or anxiety.”

-http://www.awaare.org/

Down to the blue hole (Little Man’s 1st kayak adventure)

We took Little Man to the blue holes that lie along the North Chickamauga Creek (outside of Chattanooga) so that he could try out his new kayak. This beautiful river gorge offers some wonderful hiking, swimming, kayaking and rock climbing opportunities.  If you are ever in the area, you should definitely stop by and visit this spectacular place!  Visit here to learn more.

In case you missed it, you should probably read my guest post over at Tales of a Mountain Mama to see why these blue holes are so special to us…

Little Man standing beside his kayak at the blue hole

Big Brother hiking to the blue hole

Little Man was ready to go!

Big Brother having fun in the water

Little Man was a little unsure at first…

But then he got the hang of it!

Even Big Brother wanted a turn

Big Brother wasn’t sure what to do with the paddle!

Leaping Little Man

Little Man’s BIG jump

We had a fun time at the breathtaking blue holes of the North Chickamauga Creek.  Little Man enjoyed learning about his kayak and I would call it a great success. We can’t wait to play around with it some more!