Tag Archives: adoption

Adoption: Myth vs. Reality

country, musicI have a confession: I’m not a fan of country music. Now I know that may seem to be a silly and somewhat trivial thing to profess, but living in the land where country music reigns supreme, it’s kind of a big deal. So you may find it a little weird that a country song inspired this entire post. Stay with me, folks.

A few weeks ago as I was riding in the car, I just couldn’t fight back the tears that came when a certain country song came on that I hadn’t heard in years. I immediately felt the tears welling in my eyes upon the lyrics “How long do you want to be loved? Is forever enough, is forever enough?

So here’s my second confession. Years ago I would listen to that song daily as I endured the long, winding  and excruciating wait to becoming a mom. The wait for Little Man was very drawn out and sometimes tortuous (that’s a whole ‘nother post, my peeps, that involves lawyers and international battles.) The song became a comfort to me, a little pick me up to get me through the wait. That song, you see, is a lullaby written to express a mother’s love for her child. Each day that I waited, I would listen to the words and conjure up images in my mind about how wonderful it would feel to finally become a mom. In my day dreaming state, I would hold my sweet precious baby, he would smile and coo at me, we would rock and sing together…..it would be divine. Life would be absolutely divine. I was building a wonderful fantasy in my mind of what motherhood would look like, of what it would feel like. I wanted it more than anything and my entire life revolved this beautiful dream of motherhood.

Months later the big day finally came. My baby was placed in my arms, only he wasn’t that much of a baby at 11 months of age. There were no smiles and cooing. In reality, my son could not stand to even be touched. After 11 months of laying in a crib for 23 hours out of the day with a complete lack of stimulation, the last thing my baby wanted was to be rocked. He would violently rip and scratch his flesh and pull his hair out if I tried. Banging his head against the wall or the ground was the only source of stimulation he was accustomed to. He was scared of me. In an instant, my fantasy that had taken years to build had crumbled down around me. My reality was that I was now a mom to a deeply traumatized little boy. There were no warm, fuzzy lullabies that would make this better. There were not many carefree moments to be found, much less to sing about. There were tears, grieving and profound trauma. It stung like a cold, hard slap to the face.

Oh, but Hiking Mama, you must have been prepared for this, right? Oh sure, I had read every adoption book, followed all the best adoption blogs and even gone through hours of agency training. But still, it’s so different when reality is sitting in your presence, screaming a deep, sad moan of pain and hurt. We all secretly hope that we will be the lucky one to have our fantasy come true. We all hope our baby is the lucky one that will have escaped the trauma of neglect and institutionalization.

Nearly four years later, I am happy to report that my sweet Little Man has come a long way from those first few months. We still deal with the trauma from his past, but it is very trivial as compared to when we first brought him home. After all of this, you would think I would have become some type of adoption expert. That’s what I had thought, too. But fast forward a bit and I’m sitting in a room in China, staring at a four-year old boy who is completely detached from his world. When we met Big Brother, it took days for him to even notice that we were anything more than a piece of furniture or some other inanimate object.

Trauma? Oh trauma was his middle name. And first. And last. He showed absolutely no emotion or hesitation to being ripped away from his current life by us “strangers.” Sleeping in a new bed with people he’d just met who didn’t even speak his language? OK. Whatever. Sure. He had been so hurt by this life that he had completely retreated inward. Life was just something that happened around him; he was merely surviving. There were no Hallmark moments between mother and child. We were in survival mode as we prepared for the long journey to bring him back to life.

Hearing this long forgotten song last night did something to me that I never expected. I have never really minded the fact that my grand fantasy of motherhood didn’t quite shape up as I had expected. There were no tears shed for a loss of my perceived dream of what motherhood would be like. The tears I shed were in honor of the beauty of this journey. As I thought back to those days of day dreams and fantasies, and then considered all that we had been through, I couldn’t help but think, “wow, what a beautiful journey it has been.”

And here’s the thing–had I know how difficult, how painful and how difficult (did I mention that already?) it would be, I don’t think I would have journeyed down this path. I would have been too scared and would have doubted my ability to parent children from hard places. And had I not, I would have missed out on something far more breathtaking and amazing than any fantasy could ever offer.

I have gone to the ends of the earth for my kids. I have fought like hell for their love with every fiber of my being. I have found a strength in me that I didn’t know existed. I have fought for their trust. I have given all of myself to them in order for a chance to receive their love in return. I have fought for them, prayed for them, rallied for them, defended them and supported them. I have often felt defeated, my heart has been broken countless times and my soul has been stretched too thin at times. But I have seen trauma overcome and obstacles melt away. I have seen miraculous progress coupled with sad regression. I have felt joy that makes my heart explode. I have felt pride that is as deep as the biggest ocean. I have seen the scars of trauma soften. I have seen tiny victories that are indeed monumental feats. I have seen my children rise from a darkness that not many of us can fathom. And in the light, they have given me a chance to see the world through a new set of eyes.

We are still a work in progress. A glorious, wonderful, beautiful work in progress. There’s no fantasy that can compare to something like that.

—-

“Lullaby”

They didn’t have you where I come from
Never knew the best was yet to come
Life began when I saw your face
And I hear your laugh like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

I slip in bed when you’re asleep
To hold you close and feel your breath on me
Tomorrow there’ll be so much to do
So tonight I’ll drift in a dream with you

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

As you wander through this troubled world
In search of all things beautiful
You can close your eyes when you’re miles away
And hear my voice like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up
Is forever enough
Cause I’m never, never giving you up

Searching for…The You We Adore {a children’s adoption book review and giveaway}

For those who read my blog, you already know that I’m passionate about the great outdoors, special needs parenting and adoption. My motto is adventure for all, which was inspired by the adoption of Big Brother. If not for him, I’m not really sure that I would even feel inspired enough to keep up with the blog. It is my goal to weave together many stories on this blog that highlight and intertwine my three passions. Today I want to share with you all about an adoption-themed book for children. I know a lot of my readers are not necessarily touched by adoption, but I just had to share for those who are!

A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I would like a copy of Searching for…the You We Adore. Of course I can’t pass up an adoption related book, so I excitedly said yes! The author, Valerie Westfall, was kind enough to provide a copy for one of my readers as well.

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Searching for…The You We Adore by Valerie Westfall
Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey
www.TheYouWeAdore.com

When the book arrived, my Little Man excitedly ran to the door to take the package from the delivery man. He immediately opened the package and we sat down, along with Big Brother, to read the story.

What I loved most about the book is that it is a beautifully illustrated and simple story that focuses on the love that adoptive parents feel for their child, especially during the waiting phase. In this story, the love of the waiting parents–symbolized by a red ribbon–is sent out all across the world in search of their child. I adore the fact that this book includes diversity and is suitable for all those who have adopted, whether it be domestically or internationally. The overriding theme is that the parents’ love is strong enough to send them searching to the ends of the earth for their child. You see, both literally and figuratively, we have traveled to the ends of the earth for our children. I love how this sweet book captures that fierce love in such a beautiful, simple way. There is no talk of paperwork or processes, only of the love that unites a family. You and your children will love this book and it will make a great addition to your child’s library!

My kids gave it two thumbs up :)

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You can purchase a copy of the book by visiting the website I listed above (psst….you can also preview the book at the site, so go check it out!)

So how can you enter to win a copy of this delightful book? All you need to do is leave a comment on this post! You can also earn additional entries, too. Here’s how to do it:

1. You must leave a comment on this post telling me how you are touched by adoption or why you would like to win this book. Make sure your email address is present when leaving the comment (not visible on the blog) so that I can contact you!

2. For one additional, optional entry you can share this post on your blog. Make sure to leave an additional comment on this post telling me you did so, and please share the link!

3. For an additional, optional entry you can tweet about this giveaway and leave an additional comment on this post telling me you did so. The tweet can go something like this: I just entered to win a cool children’s adoption themed book from @hikemama Check it out! http://hikebloglove.com

4. For an additional, optional entry you can go “like” my fb page and leave an additional comment here telling me you did so. If you are already a liker, just leave an additional comment telling me so!

One lucky winner will be chosen at random at 8 am on Tuesday, July 3.

—–

I was provided a complementary copy of Searching for…the You We Adore. All opinions expressed, however, are my own.

The Storm

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the beauty after the storm

The other night I laced up my shoes as I geared up for my nightly run (my soles4souls 5K is coming up on Saturday, eek!) My mind was heavey and loaded with things that can’t be spoken into life on this blog. Luckily I was running with a dear friend who does get it….the hard stuff that comes with parenting a deeply traumatized child.

As we ran in the summer heat, a storm rolled in. We kept running. We became soaked and decided to turn around as not to put ourselves in danger, but we still managed to finish our run. There was a part of me that welcomed the storm with open arms.

I couldn’t help but think of how running in this storm served as a great metaphor for my life right now. I could have easily avoided the storm, but instead decided to run straight into it. I embraced the reality of the rain as it pelted my skin, the wind as it pushed strongly against my body, the thunder as it echoed through my ears. I felt strong, calm. As the storm raged around me, I secretly felt free. This is where I wanted to be, I thought to myself, in a place of personal calm as the storm of life rages around me.

You see, I have been avoiding the raging storm in my own life. Not because I don’t see it, but because I have been paralyzed by fear and denial. But today I have chosen to run in head first, to be embraced by the raging storm…to enter it and walk through it in hopes of coming out the other side better than when I entered it.

My child with special needs who came from a history of profound trauma needs more help than I can give. Today, I sought out that help and it was an extremely difficult thing to do.

I have faith that there will be beauty after the storm. But you can’t get to the other side without first venturing through the chaos and turmoil. So while the storm may rage, we will walk hand-in-hand, knowing that the beauty of the aftermath awaits us just around the bend…

***

“I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” ~ Unknown

“Mommy Love You”

I sit here typing, not knowing exactly what to say.

I just walked out of my son’s room after several hours of a mega meltdown and I’m thinking to myself “what in the world just happened?” And trust me, I’ve seen it all with Big Brother. Autism, cognitive delay, attachment issues, adopted as an older child, history of neglect, abuse, institutionalization and other traumas….oh yeah, I’ve seen it all.

It started at dinner. My son, who is 5 years old and has Autism and cognitive delay, became overstimulated at the restaurant we were eating in. He began verbal stimming and having a hard time contolling himself physically (this is typical, usually we can manage it.) All was fine once we were home. But then my overtired, typically-developing 4 year old son threw a massive temper tantrum over something trivial. He had been struggling behaviorally all day, I’m not sure what the cause was. But his tantrum was long and drawn out, but eventually he settled down and went to bed.

But that temper tantrum triggered a rage in my special needs son…..a rage and a meltdown that I can’t even begin to describe to you in words. I think he was scared and confused about why his brother was so upset. But this meltdown, it just went on and on and grew into something ugly. It’s not the first, nor will it be the last. We’ve seen it all around here.

But oh, how he raged tonight. Once we were able to bring him down from this mega meltdown (hours later), my sobbing son looked up at me as I rocked him and he moaned “mommy love you,” as much in an inquisitive tone as a pleading one. He was repeating what I always tell him–that “mommy loves you.” But he was searching, pleading for the answer to still be the same.

Oh dear sweet child who does not feel worthy of love, who feels that we will only love you during the good times….how can I make you understand? How can you possibly understand true, unconditional love when this world has only shown you hurt and disappointment? When will people understand that there is only so much trauma you can inflict upon a child before his very spirit is shattered beyond repair? Those of us left to pick up the pieces must witness our children take on the heavy burdens of their pasts. Sometimes, it just seems too much to bear for such tiny beings.

Will you ever understand?

Mommy loves you, forever….the end.

Mom Enough

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By now most people are fully aware of the current mommy war being waged thanks to the recent TIME Magazine cover story: Are You Mom Enough?

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I actually agree with attachment style parenting, but really, this is not a war I am fighting. In fact, this is the only mommy war I’ll wage: Where’s the Mommy War for the Motherless Child? (please go read this excellent post, it is worth your time)

See, many of the parenting choices other moms talk about were already made for me by the time I met my children. I don’t even know what Big Brother looked like before he was 2.5 years old. If you want to know how I really feel about motherhood and my journey, then you should read my “dear me” post or my Mother’s Day post from last year.

I don’t much care for playing the I’m a better mom than you game. Because you know what? I am just thrilled to be called mom.

On Mother’s Day 2008, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day, but it looked much different than anything you have probably seen. You see, on this Mother’s Day my child was 9,000 miles away living in an orphanage in Vietnam. I had only met him through pictures. We had just found out that there were problems processing his visa and that our adoption was now in limbo.

Because my child was only in my heart and not in my arms, not a single person wished me Happy Mother’s day. No one acknowledged that I was indeed a mom whose path to motherhood was a unique and winding one. It’s not because I am surrounded by mean people, it’s because most of the time people just don’t know what to say or how to respond. I get it.

Then I turned on the news and saw that a popular Mother’s Day contest had put adoptive moms in the non-mom category. Everywhere I turned, I was feeling like a big old non-mom.

***

This is what I wrote a year ago about my experience of motherhood, with two adoptions under my belt and one of those being an older child, special needs adoption:

When you adopt a child, you promise to love them through the good times and the bad times. You love them even when you know they don’t yet love you in return. You kiss the boo boo’s on the outside while trying to mend the deep, profound wounds on the inside. You put on a loving face as they pull away from you, you quiet your voice as they rage against your touch, and you hold them tight as they kick and scream trying to get away. You do everything a loving mother would do while trying to mask your own pain. You smile and coo, while on the inside your heart is breaking. Day after day, you mother them in the hopes that someday they will reach up to you and ask for your touch. You know that healing is measured in years, not days. You march forward because you know it’s the only way you can get to where you want to be. You never give up hope that attachment will come. It’s a tough job that many people can’t fathom. It’ s so, so hard, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

***

Over the years it has become apparent that some view me as lesser of a mom because I did not have the biological experience that they had. So I have beat myself up about it time and time again.

Here is what I think about being mom enough.

I am mom enough to hold a screaming child who does not love me, and in return show him that I have all the love in the world to give.

I am mom enough to accept the fact that some horrible things happened to my children before I met them and there is not a darn thing I can do about it.

I am mom enough to be more than a cook, chauffeur and teacher. I am mom enough to be a healer.

I am mom enough to understand motherhood looks different for me and that it’s ok.

You are mom enough. I am mom enough. To the one reading this who is loving your child from afar, whether that means in an orphanage or a place not of this world, you are mom enough. To the mom across the world who is doing everything in her power to feed and protect the child in a place where poverty is the way of life, you are mom enough. To the one who had to make the impossible, heartbreaking decision to place your child for adoption, you are mom enough.

Let’s use our energy to fight for something more important. Let’s wage a mommy war for the motherless child or for the moms here and all around the globe that need support to be the best moms they can be. This Mother’s Day, instead of worrying about how you measure up, why not go and lend a loving hand to a mom in crisis or to a child in need? Let’s show the world that we are mom enough to put aside our own first world problems in order to help those who really need it.

“Somewhere, children dance to the joyous music of life, and elsewhere they only cling to existence….they are all our children.” -Unknown

Firsts {Little Man loses a tooth}

I didn’t get to see his first smile. I didn’t get to see him roll over for the first time. I missed the first time he pulled himself up with the help of his barren, metal crib. I didn’t get to see his first tooth poke through. I didn’t get to see him crawl for the first time. I missed so much.

I missed all of those first year milestones.

But yesterday, my 4.5 year old Little Man lost his first tooth.

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I cannot express in words how much each milestone means to me. I know, like many who are parents through adoption, what it feels like to miss out on so many of them. I savor and treasure the milestones we experience together.

And yes, it is a bit young to be losing teeth. In fact, Little Man has two more ready to come out. My son has had major dental issues from the time he first arrived home. He has had surgery and many procedures to salvage the wreckage of extreme and early malnourishment.

But yesterday, non of that mattered. All that I could see was my sweet, precious son standing before me, beaming with pride and sharing a special moment with his lucky mama. My heart was soaring.

***
Every child deserves a shot at life. Every mom deserves to experience these milestones with her children. That’s why I support the Shot@Life Campaign. Please consider making a donation for life-saving vaccines that will give a child a shot@life.

***
What’s the most recent milestone you celebrated with your child?

The Paradox: through the eyes of a chimp

Since today ended up being a rainy day, we ventured out to see the film Chimpanzee. I dare you to watch the trailer and not shed a tear or two (not that I did or anything.)

We really enjoyed the movie. The footage is spectacular, but the story is even more breathtaking. The movie follows a young chimp named Oscar who loses his mother and ends up being raised by a very unlikely character. This movie will warm your heart and soul! Friends, this is the true essence of what adoption really is–an unlikely joy that arises out of the ashes of profound loss. The tragedy of loss and separation is real and no amount of love can ever wipe it away. But the joy that can be created in the aftermath is real, too. Seeing this truth played out in nature by beings other than humans brought me to tears and reminded me how connected we all are.

We all have the need to be loved…..to belong.

My Little Man asked me why the movie had a sad part. I gently explained to him that each of our lives will be filled with some sad parts as well as happy parts. How else can we know how wonderful the joy feels without the sad times?

Oh, and he also asked me when we can go to Africa.  I told him it’s my life-long dream and that someday we’ll go on a safari together.  If anyone would like to sponsor that trip so that we can go a little sooner, just let me know ;-)

Go see this movie. It is worth your time.

***

“Adoption is paradoxical through and through, a mix of grievous losses and joyous gains, tragic separation and firm belonging.” Cheri Register, author, “Are Those Kids Yours?”

The Girl in Vietnam: Why Being a Part of the Adoption Triad is not for the Faint of Heart

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On the way to school this morning, Little Man was chatting up a storm and asking lots of questions. He’s an inquisitive child and this seems to be the norm for our daily commutes. About ten minutes into the drive, this particular conversation arose:

Little Man: Why is that girl in Vietnam sick?

Me: [sounding confused] What girl?

Little Man: That girl in Vietnam. How did she get sick?

Me: Huh?

Little Man: That girl that was supposed to take care of me.

Me: [ohhhhhh....that one] I don’t know. It’s complicated. Maybe we should look at your life book at home and then talk about it.

Little Man: Do you think she’s still sick?

Me: I don’t know for sure, but yes, probably so.

Little Man: I would like to go to Vietnam and meet her. What does she look like?

Me: Yes, we will go to Vietnam someday and see if we can meet her. I don’t know what she looks like, but I bet she is beautiful just like you.

***
The conversation about Little Man’s birthmother ended just as quickly and effortlessly as it had begun. Little Man seemed satisfied and continued chatting about various other topics. But I was left trying to catch my breath. My heart was racing and nearly ponding out of my chest. I am so happy that Little Man is talking about his past while he tries to make sense of such a complicated issue. But did I say the right things? Did I handle the conversation well? My mind and heart were racing, trying to make sense of all that had just transpired.

Even though we’ve used the term birthmother in our conversations about his past, he still only feels comfortable approaching the subject by using the word “girl.” We are not rushing him and we are allowing him to express himself in a way in which he feels comfortable. As he matures, the lingo will change, I’m sure.

We are very open about his past and his adoption story–with the very few facts that we do know. The hard truth is that we don’t know much and I grieve heavily for all of the unknowns. The truth is that Little Man’s life began in the midst of a very tragic situation. I want so badly for my son to know his history in its entirety, but it just isn’t possible. The paradox of adoption–the joy and the the loss–is so heartbreaking to navigate at times. Today’s conversation gave me a glimpse into the future and nearly ripped my heart to pieces. Someday the answers will be too few, and the only thing I will be able to do is stand beside my son as he grieves. For now, I will focus on what we do know and I will choose to embrace the joy that has come out the complicated paradox of adoption.

The Mom I Was Supposed to Be

Before I became a mom to two little boys from hard places, I had all kinds of grand ideas of what I envisioned motherhood to be. In fact, I even knew what kind of mother I was going to be. I knew what issues I was passionate about. I knew what mattered to me and what I stood for. I believed organic was good, processed was bad; natural was safer, chemicals were dangerous; plastic never, glass and wood always; technology nada, nature only. I thought I had it all figured out.

I had a game plan and I was going to follow through, gosh darnent!

And then it happened. On February 15, 2008, I received a phone call from our adoption agency. There was a little boy in Vietnam with medical special needs. He was 4 months old and he needed a family. “Would we like to be that family?” they had asked. They sent his picture to my email box. With one click of the mouse, my life changed forever. I saw my son’s face for the first time and I was totally smitten.

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My heart saored and my stomach turned flips. Was this really happening? After all these years, was I really going to be a mommy? Was this precious baby really my baby? I had never felt so much joy in all of my life. I felt like I was flaoting above the earth and waltzing through the clouds. I was going to be a mommy to Little Man.

Little did I know at the time that the next 6 months would be the most grueling, soul-crushing time of my life as we waited and fought tooth and nail to bring our son home. What turned into a political battle of wills between two nations resulted in one of the darkest times of my life. After watching our beloved son grow up through pictures in an orphanage 10,000 miles away, we finally boarded a plane to Vietnam after a long, hard fight. Our little baby that we hadn’t even met in real life yet was nearly a year old now. He was hardly a tiny baby anymore and we prayed he would be resistant to the wounds of institutionalization. Oh how I wish he could have been.

After 36 hours of travel, my son was placed into my arms and immediately all the would-of, could-of, should-be’s fell to the ground. The most important turths of life selectively came into focus. My son was safe, alive and in my arms. We were all together. The battle was over. Little Man had survived his first year alone in an orphanage. We were all alive and safe.

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That evening-our first evening together as a family of three-I would learn just how dark and horrible the downward spiral of institutionalization can be for a child. And in that long, sad night, I said goodbye to all my frivalous mommy plans and laid a new path instead. It would be a path of healing, of gratitude and of awareness. It would be a path whose goal had nothing to do with being trendy, popular, mainstream or full of ideals. My new path would hinge on the fact that life is so fragile, so short and so magnificent that I needn’t worry about the small, fleeting issues of daily life. Maybe the trauma of the preceeding months had reshaped how I saw the world and motherhood. Maybe I was just too busy and overwhelmed to even care. Or maybe I was just so grateful at the chance to be a mother to this child that nothing else even mattered. All those other issues seemed so silly compared to what I now knew to be important.

While I still prefer to stick to my ideals when given a chance, I don’t worry if I fall short. Because around here, that happens often, especially now with a special needs child in the picture. Somedays we are lucky if we even check one issue off of the list. And I’m okay with that. I am so thankful that this new path has taught me time and time again to take nothing for granted…to find joy in every day and to remember that life really is a miracle. Enjoy it now and everything else will fall into place. Or at least you won’t feel guilty if it doesn’t.

Let’s take a walk outside…

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
- Henry David Thoreau

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I kept Big Brother home from his pre-school today. He was having some minor health issues, but I just thought that a day off might help him. Now before you judge me, you should probably read this post, and then this one.

Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.

Did you read them? OK….

So instead of school, I took Big Brother to the one place I can count on to bring out the best in him–to the peace and quiet of the forest. Big Brother was so excited to go on a little hike this morning and he did awesome! He explored, walked on his own, climbed and jumped and collected leaves and sticks. No tears, no tantrums, no fits….just smiles and laughter–a rare treat for us all. For a moment, the current worries and struggles of being a special needs child and mommy melted away. It was just us and the stillness of nature. We both really needed it. Maybe I needed this time with him more than I even realized. Sometimes I even get this crazy notion that our early morning hikes together are helping to heal his tiny soul, one step at a time.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
- John Muir

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