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Playing 21: Down or Out?

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This week World Down Syndrome Day occurred and I love the celebratory nature of this special day.  Kids head to school with colorful, mismatched socks to say, “Being a little different is normal”. Facebook recognized the week o17361538_743916415787141_6525614584071599992_nffering their “We Got 21” frame for your favorite people with Trisomy 21. Other social media venues lit up to celebrate these special people. Special because, in my experience, most everybody that knows someone with Down Syndrome (DS) possesses a funny and/or a heart warming story about that person. On the other hand, if you simply Google search “Down Syndrome” or “Trisomy 21”  you’re likely to get a list of traits, characteristics, descriptions and symptoms; most of these fail to capture the wonderful realities.  To this end, I offer paradoxical insights into my life with those with an extra chromosome against the findings of my web search.

Trait 1: Delayed or unintelligible speech (verbal apraxia)

Reality 1: Masters of Communication

The many faces of my girls tell you the words we use make up very little of what we trying to say. Try to match their expressions with the appropriate captions below:

1.Whadya talking’ bout Dad!       3. Eeeeew Dad

            2. Stop Dad!                                      4. Voodoo on you Dad


img_1216-2Trait #2:  Congenital Heart Defects
Reality #2: Unconditional Love

I wrote about DS and unconditional love on my other blog, A Patient Nurse. The story featured my sister, Sherita and is available by clicking here. I attribute my love for DS to her and hope (if it’s not asking too much of your time) that you’ll read her story.

 


Traits #3: Shortened Stature

Reality #3: Larger than Life

Blair just had a bone age x-ray completed. It revealed his skeleton is 4 years older than his chronologic age. This means at 4’9″, he’s done growing. Despite this, he has no problem taking 6’2″ 165 lb me down to the ground in three easy moves:

  1. Jab to Gut
  2. Anaconda around my legs
  3. Tickle

This three-point attack gets me laughing to the point of incapacitation. It lead me give Blair whatever he wants just to get a breath. Typically, I go down to the ground and a Downy pile-up follows.

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Trait #4: Slow to Learn (intellectual disability)

Reality #4: Quick to Speak the Truth

If an 11 year-old tween girl tells you you’re ugly:

  1. She’s trying to hurt your feelings
  2. She’s trying to start a fight
  3. She’s  looking for a role in “Mean Girls 3”

If an 11 year-old tween girl with DS and a touch of autism, tells you you’re ugly than sorry Dad,  you is ugly! The good news is she loves you just the same as if you were Mr. Universe (see Reality #2)


Trait #5: Low muscle tone (hypotonia)

Reality #5: Tower of Strength

DS certainly comes with some setbacks but take a look at Blair. Blair took on open-heart surgery, the loss of his parents, life in an orphanage, failure to thrive and near loss of his life by the age of three. Ten years later our  “Hulky” has amazing take down skills,  the ability to make everyone smile and faces each day welcoming any challenge. He truly loves life!


This brings me to the “Out” part — my Google search did bring me to a website that raises DS awareness and also raises some uncomfortable questions. At this site, I learned  Iceland isn’t able to celebrate  World Down Syndrome Day with the same joy as others. Advanced non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is credited with reducing the number of Icelandic children born with DS to near-zero. Photographer Sigga Ella  highlights this in her photo essay First and foremost I am (click!). Her portraits of 21 Icelanders with DS are taken in the same setting and backdrop. Their personalities magically shine through and need not a word or caption. Click the link above and scroll through her work. Then, ask yourself the questions below:

  •  Is the world worse or better for having these citizens in it?
  • Are we eliminating a disease or a people?
  • What consequences come from reducing chance by choosing choice?

If we look only at the traits, characteristics, descriptions and symptoms of a Google search, we may never see reality.

A reality of beauty, perseverance, laughter and joy!

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5

The Promise of a Do-Over

There are those temperamental moments in parental life that fill you with self-doubt, anxiousness and downright defeat. It can be something we say to our kids in the heat of the moment. Maybe it is love we withhold because we feel hurt. Worse, there are those issues from another aspect of life (men: read work) for which our children pay. This aftermath is a cascade of negative self-talk (“I’m a horrible father”), guilt (“I’ve ruined them”) and regret (“their never gonna get over this”). Yet, if there is one thing I’ve learned about children in my years it is this: Tomorrow is another day — You get a do-over!

Yesterday was a do-over day for me. I won’t get into the details of two days prior but you’ve been there in your own life. If it could go wrong, it did (and this was all by 7:00 am). The next day I woke up and determined not to go the same place — starting off with prayer helped set me up for success by placing my day in God’s hands. I found the same challenges I experienced the day before but a different mindset made the difference! My world didn’t come crashing down, even when the calendar revealed a forgotten doctor visit for my son, Sam.

Sam was one of my “problem” children the other day. His history, prior to adoption, is traumatic and that manifests its ugliness from time to time in unique (not fun) ways. Ultimately, these behaviors just mean, “I need to know I’m safe. I’m secure. I’m loved” but on the surface (and in time real) reading between these lines is beyond blurred. Sam lacks the ability to articulate, or even truly understand, why he does some of these things. Therefore, I need to help him process his anxieties and needs; I need to be on my A game when these moments happen not somewhere lost in my own stuff!

So he’s got this doctor’s appointment and I’m taking him. This is a ripe opportunity for a do-over day! I lead off with letting Sam pick which vehicle we’ll take. He is a monster truck fanatic and I know he’ll chose my F-150. This is a perfect choice because it only has a front bench seat. I slide him right next to me so we can talk and I can put an arm around him!

Sam needs an ultrasound before seeing his doctor, so we head to the Radiology waiting room. Here, there’s about 10 patients waiting. Some kids are running around, some are glued to the TV, some are coloring at a central table. The adults in the room though, are all doing the same thing — the thing I always find myself doing — they’re mindlessly scrolling their smartphones. Not one person is engaged with a child! Today, I choose the road less traveled.

I finish registering Sam for his appointment and find him engrossed in the activity of the waiting room aquarium. Snails (one of Sam’s favorite creatures on Earth) cling to the glass walls and I explain they help keep the tank clean. This leads to a barrage of questions, some of which I can only answer by asking Google.

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Sam and I go back for his ultrasound and I do something different than my typical. I pay attention to Sam and not the ultrasound screen (I’m a nurse and easily fall from my role of Dad in these situations). I can see Sam is nervous about this procedure and explore this a little with him. His fear turns to fascination. His lower GI and urinary systems are being evaluated and when you’re an 11 year old boy, there’s nothing better than a good ol’ convo about Poop and Pee! He does great through the study.

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Next, we head to Urology. We’re a little early so I introduce a classic board game, now turned into a Kindle video game, called Othello. We play multiple rounds and I give him some of my best secrets (“always try to get your pieces in the corner spots!”). He wins some, I win some but it’s win-win for all because the wait time passes quickly. The team evaluates Sam, makes minor recommendations and were done long before I expected. That’s when a bulb lights in my head — the Zoo!

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The Philadelphia Zoo is about two miles from the hospital. It is the oldest zoo in the U.S. and one of the best! My parents gave us a membership last Christmas and, with 70 degree weather in February, it’s a great day to play hookie from school. I don’t tell Sam my idea (he’s hoping we might get McDonald’s on the way back to school). We get there and his excitement matches my anticipation. Walking in, we find the place is empty.

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Sam charges ahead and is fascinated even by the pigeons. He asks me how they catch them and keep them from flying away.

The goats and sheep are restless and “rammy”. Spring is in the air!

 

The Burmese Pythons’ size blow Sam’s mind! Another prayer — Please don’t let Sam ask why the boy one is wrapped around the girl one!

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The Orangutan is not feeling too social today. Then Sam rolls up and he takes the bucket off his head to check out the dude in the wheelchair — the admiration is mutual.

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The lions are Sam’s favorite animals of the day. Sam says, “That lion could bite my leg right off.” I reply, “The nice thing for a guy like you is you wouldn’t feel it!” This gets Sam laughing until he is crying. Unfortunately, I get quite the look from the mother that hurriedly ushers her three and four year old children away from the exhibit.

We took a break for a little lunch…

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…and some unsavory vagrants come begging for a little something.

 

This nut though, was the only one that got sweet reward!

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And just when things couldn’t get any better…

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…this giraffe, “He’s taking a dump, Dad”  brought out the 11 year old boy in both of us (also, to the judgmental disdain of nearby mothers with young children)!

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Sometimes moms make mistakes and dads just happen but kids are resilient and ready to give a Do-Over!

Dad Just Happened!


We Still Need Your Help! 

Thank You to everyone that’s been praying for us, supporting this site and contributing to the Make Dad Just Happened Again Adoption Fund. We’ve been officially matched to our daughter and overcome other big hurdles initially in our way. Our home study is underway, as well as additional legal requirements necessary to complete an adoption. Dad Just Happened! received over 6000 visits in February — a blowout record for us! Finally, 65% of expenses are now covered by your donations to our YouCaring fund!!! As before, please keep us in your prayers, continue to like/share the DJH posts and consider donating to our fund.

Thank you again so much!!!

Adam and Amy

 

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School Holiday: A Survival Pictorial

Well, it’s yet another day off of school for President’s Day. In fact, it’s vacation day five for some of our crew and the “I need my routine back” is setting in hard. Thankfully, we have sunny skies and 60 degree weather in February!

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So we pack ’em up and take them to the place where everyone, and I mean everyone, else is eating lunch today.

The price I pay for my rookie parenting mistake is getting to enjoy listening to this Junior Road Rager scream “CMON MOOO IT” continuously for the 23 minutes it takes to get our order (she’s not talking to the cow mascot. She means MOOOVE it)!

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So we survive the remainder of the 10 minute ride to an adaptive playground and everyone digs in to lunch.

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I attempt to charge a Dad Tax of one chicken nugget per kid and Maddie isn’t going for it!

Knowing she’s a force to be reckoned with, I don’t push it (Provoke not thy children!)

In the end though, I achieve what I call 6 for 6 PCFAS or Post Chick-fil-A Satiation:

 

One of my rules though — a good carb load needs an equal off-load, so we head to the courts:

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It’s all fun and games until someone catches a ball to the head. Why does it have to be her?

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Irina starts flipping out and yelling so Amy takes her over to this clever device:

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I’ve got to install one of these face mufflers at my house!

Poor Maddie is on neck precautions until her surgery next month. Thank goodness for this swing set that keeps her safe and, for a brother that’s willing to hang with her!

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Now back in the car (Irina all the way in the back now) and to home we go!

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Seven pottied, showered and backpacks packed in preparation for school and it’s playtime before dinner.

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Dinner becomes the favorite leftover from the past 3 nights including Italian Wedding Soup, Thanksgiving Dinner with all the fixings and/or Turkey Noodle Soup.

Then it off to bed for Kindle Time (Barney, Power Rangers and iCarly) for an hour before sleepy time!

Then a homemade dinner for parents only — Pepper Beef and Scallops in Garlic Sauce!

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But just as I put a bite in my mouth, a college kid calls looking for something @ home that had to be found immediately! And…

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that’s when I went a little Daffy!

I almost made it then…

Dad Just Happened!

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With A Little More I’d…

Money is a hang-up for me. I’m given to obsessing over it, fearing it, wanting it and downright loving it! Fathering a dozen or so kids should get that out of my system and it does. Every once in a while though, the root of all evil rears its ugly head. Ask a man who’s more satisfied: The one with six kids or the man with six million dollars. He’ll answer, “The man with six kids”, Why? Because that guy doesn’t want for anymore!

True Dat!

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Money gets a lot of people stuck from doing, and from living; I think this is particularly true for husbands/dads. We find ourselves working harder and longer hours in the name of bettering our households. The American Dream we once chased soon becomes a nightmare from which we run.

and not to get off on tangent but what is it about “dreams”?  “My dream job” or “She’s dreamy” or “Follow your dreams“. I mean most of the time when I wake up I say to myself, “What was that about?” or, more often, “What is wrong with you?”. The things my mind creates are scary and I have no desire to work them, meet them or be them!

Anyway, one of the best things that ever happened to me involved giving up “my dreams” Namely, the ones that revolved around money – bigger, better, best. What opened my eyes? Amy, my wife. Like many, I picked-up the overtime, worked the second job and pursued the promotions because I assumed (I know, I know, don’t say it!) Amy’s dream aligned with mine. All of these activities did cost something – my time away from her – but, this seemed a small price to pay. You’ve got to invest to reap reward, right? I thought Amy saw me as provider over a confider.

I was dead wrong! The attention needed for my marriage and family became occupied by things related to making money. I spent way more time and effort at work, even when I was physically home.  A distance started to grow between us, other things started to creep in and suddenly, Amy and I were just (a)partners not whole, not one. I made more money than ever and yet, I’d never felt worse.

Valentine’s Day, during this time, I found myself looking for some trinket for Amy; I had no clue what to get her. Pajamas, candy, roses — been there! I wandered into a bookstore thinking maybe a hobby book or just a good novel might fit the bill. That’s when I found myself in the Relationship section (after Self-Help, there wasn’t a bigger selection of books.) That’s when I spotted these:

These books on what women think men think and vice versa reveal findings from rigorous research done by the authors. I, of course, read For Women Only first and thought to myself, “Uh Huh, there’s a lot of good stuff in here for Amy”. My pre-buy perusal of For Men Only might have had a thing or two for me as well. I got a gift bag, dropped both in and added a card. The card invited Amy on a reading date at a local cafe. My plan – let’s read a chapter in our respective books then compare notes.

The gift was a hit with Amy and, in hindsight, more valuable than her engagement ring. The dividends stated paying off following date one and grew from there. We would get hysterical sitting in the middle of that cafe. For example, if a survey of men revealed 97% of men feel this way about sex, Amy would guess me to be in the 3% minority. Likewise, if 91% of women desired this specific trait in their husbands, I’d always guess Amy to be somewhere in the other 9%. Turns out we were wrong about each other more than we were right! We learned deep things about each other through the 10 dates that followed and our marriage rose to a whole new level.

It also turns out that investing time, presence and love pays off big. This knowledge led to action – I quit climbing the corporate ladder and returned to bedside nursing. A 30% cut in pay gave me 50% more time at home. More time with each other led to more intimacy, deeper love and stronger commitment — it also led to more children!

The more children part is where the money-thing came into perspective. The big Aha? — money is not that important! God led us to adopt (to date) five children since our renewal. The price tag would have stopped the old me, the wealthier me, in my tracks. But God’s economy works differently — He places the desire first and the funds later (at least for us). This method allows many to participate, instead of just Amy and I. He uses $10 to $20 donations to combine into thousands. The Result: New children with forever parents that claim the name Boroughs!

And guess what?

It’s happening again!

I announced last week that we’re adopting a little girl. I asked for help and now, seven days later, over half of the funds are donated!!!

Isn’t that amazing? Maybe even miraculous?

Praise God!

Our application and prior home study arrived at the placing adoption agency today. Adoption physicals are scheduled and start next week (x 14). A new home study by our agency is underway. Security clearances will follow and we hope our new daughter is home by late spring! All of this made possible because we didn’t have the money but…

You did and…

…so did you and…

…you did too!

Thank you seems feeble and not enough. Hopefully the insight into our family from this blog expresses our gratitude.

Thank You!  Thank You!! Thank You!!!


 Thank you for making Dad Just Happened happen! Amazon is running a giveaway to allow me to say thanks to my readers. I’ve chosen For Women Only & For Men Only books as my prize! Simply click the link below and follow the instructions to enter. Contest Rules are available at the site. Winner will via random draw and will be announced next week Good Luck!!!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/c85728b4972926a5

The Make Dad Just Happened Happen Again Adoption fund is over 50% funded but it’s not to late for you. Please consider contributing to our fund to bring our daughter home. Click the Pic below to go to our YouCaring site!

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2

How Do You Know?

One of the common questions about adoption asked of us is, “How do you choose your kids, um like, how do you know?” The simple answer is that we don’t, we just do! It started like this:

“Hey Amy, what do you think of adopting a kid with Down Syndrome?”

Her response: “I don’t think about adopting a kid with Down Syndrome!” Mike drop – DONE!

Several weeks later, something moves in her and she hands me this picture:

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“His name is Ivan, he’s seven years old and I love him”, Amy says to me. I look at her and see this isn’t the kind of love like my, “I love creme filled donuts”. Instead, this expression is like the moment a mother’s just-born child gets placed upon her chest. Her passion transforms a two-dimensional picture into love with length, breadth, depth and height in my own heart. It is the kind of fatherly love that moves me into action. The kind of love that becomes this:

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Our family grows in the years following as this scenario repeats itself.

Sometimes it’s seeing adorable pictures of kids like Luke, Blair and Maddie:


It’s a slam dunk in saying “YES” to being their mom and dad.


Other times, desperate, pathetic pictures present themselves. The kind where you know an invisible but ominous clock is ticking. The kind where delay is not an option. Pictures of Albie and Irina came to our attention in this manner:


A daily existence of trauma and neglect were the thousand words these pictures yelled at us. Sure, saying yes to these two was scary but, the consequences of failing to respond outweighed our fear. Many of our fears were realized in the process of healing through love. This side of it, though, is worth the blood, sweat and tears.

Can you see this in these pictures?


Sammy is the only kid not to come to us in a picture — he came in person! The “danger” in adopting “at risk kids” is exposure to more and many of them. We saw Sammy in the play yard of the Ukrainian orphanage incarcerating (their word, not mine) Luke & Irina. Stuck in a baby stroller due to Spina Bifida, he did everything possible to get our attention. His confinement did not limit his authority over the other inmates (again, theirs not mine) and I soon recognized he was the orphanage godfather. He’d signal to the other kids and they’d come, get their orders and do Sam’s bidding. His command and control at age three impressed me!

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Sam tried to get my attention and compliance as well. Every time our eyes connected, he’d give me a little wave and try to get me to come talk to him. The orphanage matrons would bark at him in Russian each time he did. At one point, I attempted to take his picture and caught the full wrath of a senior matron. (I’m convinced she was a USSR Shot Putter Gold Medalist -Men’s Division in the 1980 Moscow Olympics!). Something about Sammy broke our hearts and we left that first trip intending to find him a home — it turned out to be ours. In the end, the circumstances that made Irina and Sammy orphanage roommates united them as brother and sister.

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Then when we thought we were done, that guy sitting next to Sam in the picture above came into our life via this picture:

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He definitely fell into the “slam dunk” category in our hearts but in the mindset of his country there were several checks against Yul being ours. First, they didn’t like the size of our family. Second, they didn’t like all the “disability” of our family. Third, an unspoken but evident taboo regarding intellectual disability existed that made Yul a less valuable citizen in his homeland. His value to us, by their understanding, was near incomprehensible and raised suspicion to our intent. Nothing short of God’s intervention slayed these Goliath barriers. Our purpose was to give this boy a family but more than that happened — his unconditional love gave us the joy of a son.

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Now for the big news! The second most asked adoption question of us is, “Are you done?”. The answer is we’ve learned not to answer. To this end, a new picture, the desperate kind, presented itself to our family last week — I’m excited to announce we are expecting!

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A nine-year old girl needs a permanent home; ours will be her fourth. She is medically and emotionally fragile — her situation is dire but nowhere near impossible. I’m very limited in the specifics I can provide about our daughter until she is ours. We’ve examined her records and prayed. Our conclusion, God provided Amy and I with gifts that mirror this child’s needs and so now, we must act…

…but I’m going to ask you to act as well! The costs associated with rescuing this child are sizable — I’ll need you to trust me on this instead of asking the “Why?” question (the third most asked!) — It just does. Additionally, quicker action will lead to better outcomes for our new daughter.

Four Ways You Can Help

First, please keep us in your prayers specifically for wisdom, endurance and patience. We cannot get through this without being lifted up by others!

Second, I’ve set-up a YouCaring fund –  Make Dad Just Happened Again Fund to help us fund our adoption. Click here to go to the site and donate. Any donation is greatly appreciated! If you have a blog you can “grab” our widget and post it to your site!

Third, this blog is monetized which means the ads above and below generate revenue by simply clicking on the links. Just click each time you visit Dad Just Happened and it’s money in our bank. We’ll use 100% of proceeds from WordAd revenue towards adoption expenses!

Fourth, please share this post — many hands make light work! It is always amazing to see $5 to $25 donations become $10,000. We saw this happen with Yul’s adoption and, it happened in 72 hours!

We’ll keep you up-to-date as things progress via this site and the DadJustHappened FaceBook page.

Blessings!!!

Adam and Amy

PS: The Philadelphia Inquirer just published a piece on our family. Click here to see the article and feel free to share it (like 2000+ Inquirer readers have already done)!

2

The Gift of Mom

Groundhog Day is always a special day no matter what Phil prognosticates. Why? Because it’s my Mom’s birthday. I may look like my Dad but my mind can be primarily credgroundhog-dayited to my mother. I think like her, compete like her (particularly when it comes to Scrabble) and laugh like her!  She is a superstar in the world of parenting and so much of what I do (the good stuff at least) is due to her influence.

I offer a Top Five Lessons Learned list in tribute to my Mom!

5. Family is More Than Blood 

My parents brought my brother Chris home from the hospital when he was just under one year of age. Chris needed a loving home in which to die. Four months prior to his homecoming, Chris became a pawn in a domestic dispute between his biological parents. The man (only by genetics, not in definition) picked up Chris and threw him down a flight of stairs. The resulting head injury left this sweet, innocent baby paralyzed, blind and fighting for his life. Experimental hypothermia induction and brain surgery shortly after the injury saved his life but, his prognosis meant he wouldn’t see his 2nd birthday.

Chris became the featured “Friday’s Child” in our local newspaper. A loving home for pediatric hospice was needed. My mom read the story and immediately felt drawn to him. Innocent, rejected, alone — this boy needed a mother — she answered the call. I was six at the time and had three siblings. My Mom’s enthusiasm for taking on the challenges of Chris infected us all. We loved him and rallied around him to provide this guy the best life possible. Before you knew it, his second birthday arrived. Four or so additional brain surgeries and shunt revisions followed in the early years of his life but despite this Chris thrived. The reason, I believe, is his love of and devotion for the woman he called “Ma”.

Chris turned 40 last year and that boy loves his Mom more than ever. We all hold our breath when my mother takes any extended time away from Chris (>24 hours) — he becomes miserable until she returns. It’s like a reset button gets pushed when she walks back through the door. He knows what she is – she did not give birth to him but she did give him life!

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4. Momma Don’t Like Drama

Self-pity does not exist in my mother’s world. She doesn’t tolerate it in herself and doesn’t tolerate it in others. This may sound harsh but, I’ve learned through this that looking inward tends to costs those on the outward. Inversely, a focus on meeting the needs of others, typically feeds the soul.

Additionally, her attitude on this subject builds resilience and enables one to endure. She taught me that having diabetes (or any “disability”) is something that can make one stronger not weaker, that badness can be turned to goodness and that life’s tougher experiences lead one to greater compassion and empathy.

3. If Mom Ain’t Happy…

I don’t want to elaborate greatly on this point — I’m afraid I’ll get in trouble! Just let me say that many of the lessons I shared in FOR MEN ONLY: Keeping Her Satisfied started in my childhood. I’ll leave it at that!

2. There’s Points for Creativity in Discipline

My mother says one day she’ll right a book — I’d recommend one on discipline! Knowing I could be beaten within an inch of my life and not learn anything, my mother took a more creative approach to discipline: THE OBJECT LESSON!

An Example: Growing up, I had a beloved Golden Retriever mix dog named Daisy. Daisy’s coat was thick and beautiful but a burden during the hot months of Summer. She’d drink like horse to counteract the fluid loss from “wearing” her fur. It was my job to make sure her bowl was filled with fresh, cold H2O but I’d often forget. I’d be busy playing outside, getting into trouble and just “not remember”. This was nothing short of unacceptable to my mother!

“Adam”, I hear Mom melodically sing out the window “could you come inside?” A cool shiver runs down my spine (despite the 100 degree July heat) as I respond, “Coming!”. I know from the tone I’m caught. At what? The possibilities are endless. The answer lies in my father’s bearskin coat now held in my mother’s grasp. “What did you forget to do?”, she asks. Frantically, racking my brain (and not wanting to confess to the wrong sin) I reply, “I don’t know.” She points towards Daisy’s water bowl and my knees buckle — bone dry! Slowly, I turn my gaze back to Mom and she gives the coat a shake. She wants me to put it on. I attempt to resist but as they say — that’s futile  — the coat is going on! I slip into the coat, which weighs a third of my total body weight and hear my mother say “Run!”. She doesn’t mean walk and she doesn’t mean jog. She means full out Usain Bolt it around the house until she says stop! I comply but slow as I round the corner. “RUNNNNN!” she shouts from the corner window — Good Lord she following me around from inside the house. Window to window this continues for 15 minutes. The bear fur causes me to lose as much fluid from sweat, as I do tears. Daisy never goes thirsty for the remainder of that summer.

Touché Mom, Touché!

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1. Parenting is Sacrifice

My Mom gave up a lot to raise eight kids. She put off her college education until I was almost done mine. She spent long nights at our hospital bedsides praying and caring for us. She lost countless hours of sleep helping us with homework, sewing clothes and working thankless jobs. She made holidays special with gifts that she couldn’t afford and meals fit for royalty. She pioneered special needs adoption (Read WHY GOD? from apatientnurse.com some insight) never saying no to the most vulnerable and needy within our world.


So today, I don’t care if Phil thinks it’s six more weeks of winter. My heart is warmed celebrating a hero — Happy Birthday Mom!!!

 

 

10

What’s in a Name?

I’ve taken a bit of heat since starting Dad Just Happened related to the nicknames we use to describe our kids. “It sounds like you’re making fun of your kids” is what we hear. This made me realize not everyone knows us as well as others and I thought a post to clarify some of this might help (and entertain).

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The HKBs

img_1074The Hong Kong Boys, are Ivan, Blair and Yul. Blair and Ivan were born in Hong Kong (yes, they were Made in Hong Kong!); Yul is an honorary member since he exited China via Hong Kong. These boys have most held true to their Chinese heritage (particularly when it comes to food) and we’ve incorporated aspects of their culture into our family. Additionally, it is amazing to take these three strangers and turn them into brothers. Their bond is inseparable and touching. The Hong Kong Boys is a term of endearment, a recognition of these three amazing guys.

 

The UTTs

d65d584a-f18f-4841-9f6f-cf3d7f28a8e2The Ukrainian Twins of Terror, while subtle, is also term of endearment. Amy and I possessed no foreknowledge of what we were getting ourselves into with the adoption of Luke & Irina. Yes, some clues existed on our first visits to meet the UTTs – Luke taking off his baseball hat, urinating into it, then returning it to his head. Irina scooping up and eating handfuls of dirt. They really earned the nickname, though, flying home from Ukraine. The 17 hours of hell (note: I was at home with the other guys while Amy and my mom endured this peril) included two Russian-speaking children who did not sleep a second of the 17 hours of travel. Irina opted to bomb dinner rolls and other food items at fellow passengers instead of eating. Restless and rammy Luke continually kicked the seats in front of him and barked like a seal for the entire flight over the Atlantic. Things got much worse on their arrival home including attempts to escape the house, sleeping 1-2 hours at a time followed by a minimal 8 hour period of wakefulness. Not to mention, both of them applying the non-stop torture of banshee screaming through all hours of the day and night.. The relief we experienced from professional diagnoses of autism and ADHD, in addition to Down Syndrome, enabled us to seek appropriate resources to help. The Ukrainian Twins of Terror earned their nickname; Amy and I earned the right to give it!

 

The Eastern European Front

96537324-48be-4e93-96fc-aa2711816816The UTTs plus Sammy and Maddie, represent Ukraine and Bulgaria; they make up “The Front”. Divided they are easily conquered, but as a bloc they are a formidable force! It takes the skills of a secretary of state, cold war spy and Jeff Probst of Survivor to parent these guys. The Front unites Amy and I in a way that draws us closer together as wife and husband. The Front strengthens the vows we took at marriage and makes us “The Unified Front”! Additionally, we faced many barriers, prejudices and evils through their adoptions. This animosity fueled purpose to our mission – every child deserves a family! The Front’s existence is a testament to this!

 

The Downy Gang

IMG_6191.jpgSix of our 12 children have Down Syndrome. We often take heat for using this moniker, primarily from parents of other children with Downs. Instead, we apply this nickname as a badge of honor. Their kindness, positive attitude and fulfillment from life’s smallest pleasures (butterflies, Barney, ice cream, hugs, etc.) make our guys an indescribable joy! We’ve experienced many dark times in our history as a family but there is a place we can always turn to for unconditional love — The Downy Gang. The number of pregnancies terminated due to the diagnosis of Trisomy 21 breaks our hearts. I believe our world is so much better, kinder and loving when it is blessed with those with an extra 21st chromosome; celebration, instead, is what they deserve!


Laughing is always better than tears. A sense of humor is essential to taking on hard things. We are certainly serious in the situations that call for it. We are also able to not take ourselves too seriously. I hope this gives a little insight to the critics!


Live
Love
Laugh