Sunday, June 26, 2016


We have had three rounds of guests this month! My brother Daniel and his wife Lindsey came for a week in the beginning of June. We went to the park, Brooklyn Museum, Coney Island, and on a double date to Gino's. They were with me when I saw the video of Israel walking the first time! It was a truly special week that I'm going to be forever grateful for!

Will went out of town and my mother in law graciously came to stay with me and help with the kids for a week. We did a lot of hanging out at the house but also ate out a lot at night, which we all appreciated, and went to Ikea! We took Edith to the Zoo and she got a new "blue penguin" animal.

Finally, Justin and Sarah Alexander came in town for a few days! They explored the city a bit, but we also showed them our neighborhood and went to Coney Island for our first beach experience of the year. Both of the kids were completely smitten with Justin, and Edith clung to him at the beach! She is normally shy with new people, but she LOVED Justin. Israel called Justin "Jin" and they were both sad when they left! Justin and Will went to a Yankees game and Sarah and I enjoyed a night in watching a movie. We also put them to work and they helped us rearrange some furniture in our apartment which was a huge help! It was such a fun week with friends!

We love having visitors and little tastes of the South back in our home :)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sarah Siak pictures - April 2016

Back in April when the kids and I went south for a few days, my sister snapped some pictures for us. Both of my sisters were in town so we tried to get an updated grandkid picture for my parents.... my kiddos weren't that cooperative! 

Sarah did manage to get some beautiful photos of my kids. Edith refused to be posed or told what to do, so I didn't get any good ones of the kids together.

I love them so much and I'm so thankful for my talented sister!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Israel Walks!!

I've thought about giving a "special needs update" for a few months- but it has been so hard in the last couple of months. God has been so good to us - and Israel has made tremendous progress since we moved here. Last summer he learned to pull to stand. In November he started crawling. He has become stronger and stronger. A few months ago his teachers reported that they were no longer using his walker at school. They have been working on walking with one hand-support at school, and he was leaning back/ depending on his walker in a way that wasn't promoting independence. Just last March 2015 Israel was taking his first independent steps in the walker, and over a year later he's made so much progress!

Although the progress has been remarkable, it is long-suffering as well. There are weeks and months between these new spurts. There's sleeping issues and behavior issues and the general 4-year-oldness. It can be exhausting. Then there's kindergarten placements that require hours of phone calls, meetings, and research. I think I've thought "I don't know what I'm doing" as a parent more in the last year than ever. It can be overwhelming and heartbreaking and confusing.

On May 20th I had Israel's IEP meeting for kindergarten. We had several propositions and I was told that some of the things we suggested may not be given to us. If you've ever been in the parent position at an IEP meeting, I know you understand the mix of emotions. You have to be a strong advocate, but you're also hearing all of your child's weaknesses and challenges laid out. Hearing the results of his pre-k assessments was disheartening. I left the meeting not knowing what kind of plan he would have (we'd get the results in the mail) and just disappointed that Israel was so far behind intellectually.

On June 3, 2016 his therapist Chaya called me and told me that she had a video to send me from his therapy session that day. She texted me two videos of the OT and PT working with him. ISRAEL TOOK STEPS ON HIS OWN! I was walking out of a restaurant with my brother and sister-in-law and the videos came up on my phone and I honestly sobbed in the street right there. I texted them to Will and got on the train home, watching the videos repeatedly and just sobbing. I couldn't believe it.

That same afternoon I came home and got Israel's IEP in the mail. I was so pleased that Israel will be in a 12-1-3 class (twelve students, 1 main teacher, 3 assistant teachers) and he will have his own paraprofessional helping him. He will also get 4 PT, 4 OT and 4 ST sessions EACH WEEK! That is so much and I'm so thankful! It was a huge win. We're still waiting on his placement information.

All this to say... there are seasons of waiting, persevering, and hoping. Then there are seasons of receiving blessings and having a full heart because there is tangible evidence of God's faithfulness. Israel taking steps is so good for our hearts. These milestones that are so stretched-out seem to come at times when we really needed them. I didn't realize how much my soul would be lifted by this hope. I needed it. I needed the reminder that God is working in our boy. He has a plan, he is using Israel to show us what a miracle is. God is good to us in each season - the highs and the lows. Through the lows we realize how much we need grace and what a miracle the highs are.

Another thing that encouraged us through this weekend's celebration was how many people joined us in our joy. We know that people are genuinely excited with us and hoping for Israel's redemption with us. Thank you for your comments, messages and posts. We read every one and we appreciate our village of cheerleaders and prayer partners that join us in our hope and encourage us in perseverance. Thank you for holding our arms up when we are tired. Thank you for following our journey (many of you in the days before Israel Biruk was even in our home!). It is humbling and honoring that we have so many people believing and praying on behalf of our son in his cerebral palsy journey. These steps are a beginning of a long journey and we need your support! So thank you!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

My Sister Rachel's Visit

A few weeks ago my sister came up for a few days. She was attending a conference in Madison Square Garden on Friday and Saturday, but we got to spend all day Thursday, part of the day Friday, and then Sunday together. It was Rachel's first time in NYC ever, so we decided to "see all the things" together. Thursday was her "cheat day" on dieting so we also decided to go big and eat all the things. 

We began with donuts from Cream in Bay Ridge:

We got on the train and stopped first at Washington Square Park, then walked up to Union Square and to Madison Square Park - stopped to view the Flatiron Building.

We hopped on the train to Grand Central and she gave her best Serena pose:

We went to the New York Public Library - which is more of a museum/ tourist spot, then did some shopping at Zara.

We also split a giant cookie in Bryant Park because it was cheat day.

We walked over to Rockefeller Plaza, Saint Patrick's Cathedral and Times Square. She saw the Naked Cowboy and I lost my MTA card and then found it (miracles exist!).

We took the train to the Upper East Side to sit on the Met steps (it was Gossip Girl day) and then walked through Central Park to our lunch destination.

Rachel's friend from Charlotte generously booked reservations and paid for our lunch at the Loeb Boathouse. It was such a beautiful and fun experience and it was SO NICE to sit down after walking all morning.

We walked through Central Park to the Upper West Side, then took the train south to Battery Park City.

We looked at the 9/11 pools, got some coffee and found a bench where we could admire the Statue of Liberty without taking the ferries because we didn't have much time left to kill.

We headed BACK up to the Upper West Side and went to "The King and I" at Lincoln Center. We had tickets on the very front row thanks to LincTix and it was really fun! Again, it was magical just to sit down after the entire day of walking. 

Day 1 we walked 11.5 miles. It was a long and very eventful day!

Friday we started the morning at MoMa and ate lunch at the Meatball Shop. Then Rachel headed on to her conference. 

Sunday Rachel saw our Sunday routine and the beauty/challenge of walking kids to church when they're not cooperating! We got $10 massages at the corner salon and then Israel and I drove her to the airport. It was a great trip with Rachel and I'm so thankful for all of the one-on-one time we had together and the memories we made exploring the city!
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