Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The End

Since our journey to Ryland is complete and we are finally home - we thought that it was time to close this blog out and start fresh by chronicling our new life as a family.  If you're interested, please follow along at our new spot,  It's been an incredible adoption journey, thanks for sharing it with us!!!

Dustin, Cortney & Ryland Stone

Progress Update

Ryland has been adjusting ridiculously well so far...or so we think!  He's taken to our family right away and loves them like his own.  He asks for each of them by names throughout the day and gives big hugs/kisses when we see them without prompting.  Grandpa and Aunt Chandler watched him for a few hours so I could get my hair done and he was fine - no problems, no tears, no asking for mama or papa...SUCCESS!!! 

Since we have a pool, we wanted to get him in swimming lessons pretty quickly so that he could at least learn the basics.  He's having a blast and loves to go to "swim school" every night!  The teachers say that they can communicate with him just fine and if he looks confused, they just show him what to do.  Today they asked "Who wants to jump in first?" and Ry was like "ME, ME"!

I know that he doesn't comprehend most of what is going on, but he gets pieces of it and understands more everyday.  Everywhere we go, he asks if it is America too.  I think he thought that was the name of our house!!  He is still amazed by airplanes, cars, limos, trucks, trains and points every single one out!!

Our biggest struggles right now are discipline, food & playing on his own.  He likes to pout when he doesn't get his way and we are still working out our boundaries.  Food-wise, he tries everything, but isn't too keen on American food yet but he is getting there!  He wants someone to play with him all of the time and doesn't grasp the concept of all the millions of little things there are to do each day.  He gets a little better each day, but it is something that we're working through.  The last struggle is no naps...that equals no "time" during the day to get anything done.  He goes non-stop from the time he gets up!

He has SOOO much to adjust to and I am sure it's overwhelming!  The part we didn't prepare for is how overwhelming being parents actually is.  As happy as I am, there are times throughout each day that I grieve for my old life.  I guess I need a transition period, too!  As I was getting ready the other morning, I looked at my bathtub in my bathroom and just missed it so much.  It used to be clean, inviting, relaxing and bottles of potions/bubble bath were all around it.  That morning all of the bath toys from the night before were scattered in the tub and wash cloths were everywhere.  My potions and pretty towels had been moved to the side, replaced with bright colored monkey towels...I missed my bathtub.  As I am sitting there, thinking of my old bathtub, Ry comes barrelling in with a big smile saying "Mama, beautiful"!  Perfect timing...I snapped out of it...bathtubs are over-rated anyways.  I can guarantee you that he has had more fun in that tub in a week than I have had in it in 3 years!!


A boy & his dog!  Don't let Sadie's look fool you, she is loving all the extra treats that Ryland happens to give her!

Saturday, July 24, 2010 last!

Things have been absolutely crazy since we've landed and we've been going 100mph!

The long journey home was not as painful as we thought it would be and Ry was a trooper the whole way.  He never got sick (thank you, thank you, thank you) and was in a pretty good mood most of the time.  He LOVED being on the airplanes, loved watching movies & loved his new leapster that we saved for the plane ride home!  He wasn't too keen on the airplane food, but hey...who is?  Landing in DC was cool and it was neat to see the excitement on Ry's face when we finally landed in America!  The moment we landed @ DFW was very emotional for me.  I didn't even realize it would be, but the second we landed I just felt such a burden lift off of me.  Everything that we have worked so hard for, over the last 3 years, had finally all worked out.  We were a family!  I can't even begin to describe that was overwhelming. 

Since we landed at 7:30 at night, we asked our family to please not meet us at the airport and let us get him home to see the house, meet Sadie and then get some rest.  I know it was very hard for everyone, including us, not to see everyone right away, but it was definitely the best and things weren't too overwhelming for Ryland.  So after we landed, Dustin waited for the luggage and Ry & I ventured out to find the car.  Quite the trip!!  It was hot & humid and after we'd been outside for 3 minutes Ry said that Texas was hot and he wanted to take his shirt off.  GREAT...he hadn't been here for 10 minutes and he already wanted to go shirtless at the airport!!!  As we were walking, we had to stop about every 30 seconds to look at another plane taking off or landing.

We slept good the first night and that next morning, most of our family came over around lunchtime.  Ry took to everyone immediately.  Big hugs & kisses to everyone, he sang everyone the ABC's, Monkeys Jumping on the Bed & Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes.  Wasn't shy at all...Skype really works miracles, it was like he already "knew" everyone.  I can't say it enough...he is such a trooper!  It's literally been like he's been a part of our extended family for years!  Both sets of grandparents are just in love with him already, his aunts and uncles adore him and he & his only cousin, Nyah, are best friends already!  We've spent most of Thursday, Friday & Saturday with various family members and he has LOVED all the attention!!!  Dust & I are so relieved... 

Here's to you Ryland - you're the best thing that's ever happened to us!!

First Pic as an American citizen!!
He loves swimming in his pool and asks to go swimming at least 50 times a day
Sleeping all night, in his own room and his own bed with no far!
Ryland & Nyah
Bath Monkey!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fun Times in Almaty!

We’ve had a really good time here so far! Yesterday we went to the medical appointment for Ry and it was quick & painless. We spent an afternoon poolside and went to dinner with Lisa & Beth. We had some great pizza and shared stories about each of our adoptions so far. It was so nice to meet them both and I wish them both the best of luck in their adoptions! Their babies are absolutely ADORABLE!!! After dinner we took a quick stroll through Paniflov Park and headed back to the hotel. Ry & I grabbed some ice cream in the restaurant while Dust tried to get some work done. It’s a little tricky getting him to sleep when we are still up and Dustin is working in the same room! The internet here isn’t unlimited and we have to pay by the ½ hour.
This morning we headed to Kok Tube to take a cable car ride up into the mountains. Of course, we pick the one day a week when the cable car doesn’t run until 6:00 PM. I was so bummed, because I spent about 30 minutes this morning trying to explain to Ry, in our limited communication what a cable car was! They had a bus though that took us to the top. It was very nice and had beautiful views of Almaty. They had souvenir shops, restaurants, a small zoo & a roller coaster that went down the mountain. Ryland LOVED this and has talked about how fast he went for most of the day today! This afternoon we had a 3:00 appointment with the US Embassy and all went well. So far, everything in Almaty was quick and painless. We have all paperwork in our hands and the official told us that as soon as we land in Washington DC, Ry is an official US citizen! He his so excited to have his own passport now!

We head to the airport about midnight tonight and we are only 4 flights away from home! We are scheduled to arrive July 21st @ 7:30PM at DFW. Crossing our fingers for no delays and no lost luggage this time!!

Here’s a few pics of our excursions!
Yes, he prefers to sleep in the crib...

swim time
Russian Orthodox Church in Paniflov Park
Roller Coaster down the mountain-side
View of Almaty
The Stone's
Apples Are From Kazakhstan

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In Almaty!

We made it to Almaty with no problems. I was stressed out the whole, turbulence filled plane ride here because I just knew he would get sick but everything was fine. We are worried about the long flights coming up later this week though! He didn’t understand waiting to board the plane and asked for the plane every 30 seconds or so. He was PUMPED getting on the airplane and taking off, but was bored & restless during the rest of the flight. It’s going to be a loooong trip home!!

We have to take him to a medical appointment tomorrow and then we have an exit interview @ the Embassy on Tuesday. We want to leave ASAP, but there aren’t a whole lot of flight options. Right now we are on hold for a flight on Wednesday that has an overnight stop in DC and if that doesn’t work, we won’t be able to make it home until Saturday. We are still working with the travel agency trying to firm everything up.

We’re staying at the Hotel Kazzhol and have very nice accommodations, including A/C! I’ve visited tons of hotels throughout my life, but today I figured out the absolute best thing a hotel can do to accommodate families – have a pool! They have a beautiful, indoor swimming pool here and Ry was very happy to kill a couple of hours down there! The restaurant is fantastic and I’m worried we will gain back all the weight we’ve lost by eating here for a few days! They have specialty Swiss ice cream which is absolutely delicious.

After we got to our room, some of the staff wheeled a crib into our room. We tried to tell them that we didn’t need a crib – Ry could sleep in once of the Queen beds, but it was lost in translation. We just let them set it up and told Ryland he didn’t have to sleep in it. He almost cried and told us he wanted to sleep in it and put his stuffed bear & dog in there! We’ll see how tonight goes, but it looks like he wants to sleep in the crib!! I’ll definitely get pictures if he does! At least he can’t fall out of the crib – last night he fell off the couch and Dust found him sitting on the living room floor half awake & very confused. Dustin told him everything was OK and laid him back down and he was out like a light!

Ry’s little suitcase has not left his side for about 24 hours. He even took it with him to the bathroom this morning before we left the apartment. I think he was so afraid that we would leave all of his stuff behind!

Friday, July 16, 2010

What a Day!

This morning @ 11:15 the phone rang. Our translator. “Can you be downstairs ready for a taxi in 15 minutes to go the coordinator’s office?” Ryland was in the bath tub (we finally got hot water back around 10:30 AM this morning). We ran around finishing getting ready, bathed & dressed Ry, gathered the rent money and ran downstairs just in time. Taxi mishap…we wait outside for 30 minutes…finally a taxi comes. Once we get to Svetlana’s office we find out the following:

- The passport came!!!!!

- All paperwork to sign out Ryland from Pavlodar is in process and should be complete about 5:00PM

- The Director of the Orphanage is there and asks us if we would please make an impromptu trip to the camp where the other kids are to say good-bye.

- How can we say no???

So we leave the office and head to the travel agent to book our tickets for the 1st leg of our trip home – Almaty! Of course, they don’t take CCs and we already took out our ATM limit earlier this morning to finish up the rent money…GREAT. We had to go to a bank and withdraw money which literally took almost 40 minutes. We had to fill out a questionnaire that seriously asked us if we were the President of a foreign country or the Chief of a foreign army. No…we are just a couple of Americans looking to take out $400…not $500,000…$400. Yikes…good news though – we are now in the bank’s system so they next time we are in town and need to withdraw money, we are golden. (What a relief!)

Then we went to the orphanage to have “Tea Time” with the staff that was still there to say our good-byes. Next stop, the grocery store, so we could pickup drinks and snacks to take to the kids at their camp. About a 45 minute ride out to the camp in a large van with no A/C. Today it was about 95…I can’t remember the last time I sweat this much…I also can’t believe that I am taking the time to type this post before I take a shower…yikes. I feel like I’ve been camping for a week – I don’t even care if there is no hot water tonight! All the kids were so excited to see Ry and it was just like paparazzi. He did not like all the attention/hugs/kissing on him, but was happy to see his friends/family. We visited with everyone for about 45 minutes and then took another hot trip back home.

We finally got back to the apartment around 6:30 – craziness when we thought that we were just taking a quick trip to Svetlana’s office this morning & would be back by lunch!

Tomorrow we will be packing up and finishing up everything else that we want to do in Pavlodar and then Sunday morning we will head to the airport about 10AM. Ry is over the moon to go on the airplane! I know he will think Almaty is America… Poor thing – he just wants to finally get there and see what all the hype is about!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


The passport didn't come...but it's been confirmed that it's on a train to Pavlodar right now and will be here at 7:00AM tomorrow morning. We will see!! This *shouldn't* hold us up any and it looks like we will leave Pavlodar on Sunday and head to Almaty.
To kill some time this afternoon we took another trip to the beach. Ry had fun and wanted to swim today. Swimming consisted of one of us holding him in the water and him moving his arms around in every single direction! Pretty cute. He took the big plunge and put his whole head under 3 times and is verrrrrrrry excited that he has a swimming pool at home and can swim all the time. Swimming we come!

Day 3 of no hot water in the apartment... I hate it! Showers & washing dishes is just miserable without hot water. Please come back...we miss you. Ry's bath time takes 3 times as long because I have to continually boil pots of water.

We went to dinner with our translator & coordinator tonight and had a really good time. Excellent food and great conversation. I am going to miss our "family" over here in Kazakhstan so much. Everyone that we've worked with has been absolutely amazing and I consider each one of them good friends of ours.

Ryland's English and the communication within the Stone household has been amazing. It's been 2 weeks since we were able to pick-up Ry and we haven't had to call a translator once to assist with conversation. I am just astonished and am so very proud of Ry, Dust & myself. It's like we just sync and we "get it". There is often a lot of communication to explain a simple thing, but that's working just fine for us!

The behavioral issues that we've had with him so far seem to just be a "kids his age thing". He's energetic, but what kid isn't. I'm not sure if any of these are adoption related or not and am interested to discuss with the professionals back home. We've had a couple of times where he's lied to us about something small. He cannot stand for Dustin and I to show any affection and if we do, he withdraws and pouts. We've started doing a lot of family hugs.

Hope you are all having a great week!

Signing off for the night,


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Latest

Still no passport for Ry, but it has been promised for delivery tomorrow by lunchtime - we will see! Thanks to the Kaz community for reaching out with tips for us in dealing with the passport office.

The best news of the day came from the Embassy here. Even though we are waiting for the updated I-171H, this will not hold up our trip home since our Home Study and fingerprints are updated. If everything goes to plan and we receive the passport tomorrow, then we will leave Pavlodar on Sunday morning and head to Almaty. We should be able to leave Almaty on Wednesday or Friday depending on how our appointments in Almaty line up.

WE ARE SO READY TO COME HOME!! We can't wait to show Ry his new home and meet his family. We are hoping that we have good news to share tomorrow!

Other than that, we are just having fun figuring this whole thing out. Small victories seem like big, huge successes! Tonight I was able to get Ryland to go to sleep without me being in the room with him. AMAZING!!!! It's remarkable how much more trust he has with us in just 2 weeks time. He is doing great, eating wonderfully and having minimal behavior issues. So far, we have really lucked out. I know that it is not typically this easy and I'm sure we'll have plenty of issues once we are finally home! Dustin and I are working great as a team and give each other some "down time" throughout the day. This new life is so fun and exciting, but it's really nice to have 30 minutes here and there to paint my nails, catch up on Facebook and just zone out. It has really helped us stay grounded and not completely lose our old selves that we knew and loved so much.

Ry falls asleep in the bedroom and then we move him to the couch once Dustin is done working.  We go into the room last night to find him dead asleep like this.  Even the flash from the camera didn't disturb him. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ryland's Bubble Show

Save the Taraz Ten

There are several families right now that have gone through the bonding process in Kazakhstan and have had a judge deny their petition to adopt. If you have your kids right now, give them an extra squeeze and think of these poor families that are waiting for a miracle.

One of our friends created a "Save the Taraz Ten" cause on Facebook. If you wants to join, please go here:

Monday - July 12th

We received news on Ryland's passport today, but it wasn't the best news. His paperwork went missing for a while and then was finally found. They are hoping to process his new passport tomorrow and get it to us on Wednesday. We won't know for sure until Wednesday. In the meantime, we are still waiting for CIS to update the system with our new clearance and age preference. Hoping to hear news on this soon as well. So for now, we are just waiting and trying to do everything in Pavlodar that we can before we leave.

The sun is supposed to come back tomorrow and we want to go back to the beach for a couple hours. On Wednesday we're going to go to an indoor pool and we are interested to see how Ry acts in the pool to give us a little glimpse of where he'll be once we get home. He has had a little cough, just in the morning, for the past couple of days. I thought it would go away, but we had our translator take us to the drug store today. The "kids" cough syrup that we got wasn't fruit flavored like back home and smelled like fennel. I was worried about him not taking it well or spitting it out, but he drank it like a champ. Such a little man!!

Yesterday we all went with Dust to get a long over-due haircut. Even though Ry didn't need one, we wanted to use this experience to get him used to a barber shop and since he wants to do everything that Papa does anyway, why not? He got a little trim and got his hair in the front cut shorter so that he could spike it up (you guessed Papa). After that we went to the Irtysh Hotel for some lunch and he was AMAZED by the beautiful, clean, mirrored elevator ride up to the top floor. So different from the dirty, tiny elevator in our building! Once we got home we took a quick trip to the grocery store because it was getting really dark and looked like a big storm was coming in. We didn't make it a quick enough trip. Just as we were finishing up, the storm came and rain/hail was pouring down and the power in the store went out! We were using our cell phones in the aisles to get the last things we needed. I thought Ryland would be scared, but he loved it and giggled the rest of the time! Once the rain let up, we checked out (apparently the only things on generators are the cash registers...not the refrigerators...) and headed home. The streets were FLOODED and Dust carried all the groceries, I carried Ry and we waded our way home. We were completely soaked halfway up our legs and of course Ry thought he was missing out on the fun and wanted down into the puddles too! We got home, stripped down, washed the dirt off our clothes/shoes and got Ry into a warm bath! It was quite the experience!

Yesterday we started teaching him the ABC song and he is doing quite well. Tonight during bath time, he wanted me to help him sing it the whole time. As soon as we would finish, he would say "AGAIN"! He knows the very beginning, so if I would start to sing that part, he would say "I got it" and do it himself!

We're doing great - just waiting to come home! When I think about the situation that others are in, it reminds me to just be so happy that we have him...even though we aren't home yet.


He thought it would be hilarious to put on Papa's shorts and go show him!  Most days I think we should have named him Dustin Jr.

Before his first haircut as a "Stone"
Chandler- this one's for you...Watch out, it looks like someone is pining for your job!!  He was so happy that I let him vacuum all on his own!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ryland's 5th Birthday!

This morning Ryland got to open his present from us!  He was very excited and gave us big hugs and kisses before even unwrapping it!!!

Looking sharp before his birthday party

Family pic at the party before we ate

All the kids posing with balloons

As a special gift for Ry someone gave the kids a bubble show.  Ry was very shy and quiet during the show but in the end he went on stage and was put inside a big bubble!

Ry's motorcycle birthday cake (banana filling...Cortney was not a fan)

A little dab of frosting on the nose for some big laughs

On the way back home with a big stick of cotton candy

Showing off his presents that he got from guests at his party

Ry sporting his new Kazakh hat

Friday, July 9, 2010

Scooter Time


Let's get the boring stuff out of the way first. Our new fingerprints that were taken in Astana have been accepted and we are now in the clear through October 2011! We just have to wait for USCIS to update the National Benefit Center. Once they do, the "system" will be updated and that should be enough for the Embassy here in Kaz. On the Pavlodar front, we have almost all of Ryland's paperwork completed. We were supposed to receive his passport today, but we didn't get. We hope to get it on Monday... Apparently the Kaz government is making all citizens update their identification cards and the deadline is very soon, so the office that handles all of this is extremely busy. Once we receive the passport, it will need to be sent to Astana to get his visa and sent back to us here in Pavlodar. Once we have all of that, we are free to leave Pavlodar and spend the rest of our wait in Almaty. If everything goes to plan and we get the passport on Monday, we could be in Almaty end of next week. Still waiting to see if all the pieces fall in order!!

On to more important stuff - tomorrow is Ry's birthday! The big 5 - a whole hand of fingers!! We are going to have a belated celebration when we get home, but wanted to celebrate his day here nonetheless! Tonight we booked a table at the Kid's Palace (think upscale Mr. Gatti's with much better food) for the party. It's tomorrow at 2:00PM if you're in the neighborhood! We've invited all of our friends over here and hope to have a party of 10-12! We ordered him a cake shaped like a motorcycle and bought one more remote control car and got it wrapped! All of his other remote control cars have died and we have a nice car graveyard in the living room.

Our days are long and boring, but we're finding all kinds of things to do. Today we played a version of Simon Says and he had a ball and learned quite a few new English words in the process! When I say his English is drastically improving daily, I mean it. It's astonishing! Tonight we went to visit with Svetlana and several people were speaking Russian to him and he would answer some things in English. At one point someone called him Dias and he corrected them and said "I am Ryland (Loveland)". He's a very smart boy and I now fully believe that in 2 months time he won't be able to speak or understand Russian. So many people have told me this and I just couldn't fathom it, but I get it now. I wish he could continue to speak both languages, but Dust and I just don't know enough Russian to make that a reality.

We are so ready to come home and are dying for everyone to meet our little guy! I know the weekend will fly by and hopefully we will have good news on Monday!

The Three Stone's

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Our walk around Pavlodar

The infamous traveling dolphin show

We could finally fly the kite without having to run!
Looking for boats
Ry's first car rental experience

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Keeping Busy

We've been doing our best to kill time around here! Even Ryland is asking to go to America several times a day! Yesterday we went to the beach for a couple hours and had a good time. Ry was beside himself and smiled the whole trip through! He was ok playing in the sand, but had to constantly go back down to the water to rinse off his hands and his toys. After that, we went to see Toy Story 3 in the afternoon. Ry enjoyed it and especially loved the popcorn; Dust & I thought it was cute, but couldn't understand any of it! We'll have to go see it again once we're home. Most of the kids DVDs we have here at the apartment can be played in English or Russian. We always ask Ry what language he wants to watch them in and he usually picks Russian. Since yesterday, he has requested English! He is learning more and more every single day and it is absolutely amazing how well we are communicating with each other.

Today we went to see a traveling dolphin show and that was a very interesting experience. About 1/2 way through Dustin leaned over and said to me that the dolphins weren't even the interesting right he was. Not sure on the whole animal's rights thing, but I was in shock that they had the dolphins (really baby beluga whales) in such a small tank. It was like a large, above ground, backyard swimming pool. There was some type of entertainment (think rodeo clown) that lasted more than half of the show and was pretty terrible. Ry almost fell asleep and asked to go home several times during the show. At one point, they had the dolphins "paint" a picture and the stopped the show to auction it off around the arena. Strange. Also, at the very beginning, they asked for volunteers to come up and there was a pre-arranged couple that went up there. After doing the trick with the dolphins, the guy proposed to the girl. It was over the top cheesy...we were just cracking up. I told Dustin that if he had done something so ridiculous, I would have said no!! Anyway, long story short, the traveling dolphin show was a big bust!

In less than a week, we've made so much progress. The first night Ryland cried at bath time and didn't want anything to do with it. Tonight during dinner, he said he wanted a bath! He's a great eater and will eat most things and I have finally mastered milk porridge, well, I don't know if mastered is the best term, but he will finally eat my version!! He loves fresh vegetables (any kind), but is not a fan of them once they've been cooked. We are learning just as much about him as he is about us everyday and things are getting so much easier. We've been tweaking the bedtime routine every night to see what works the best for us and we're making great progress!

I am officially taking some time off of work for the next couple of months, so it's been a big adjustment for me to take on more of the domestic duties while Dustin focuses on work. Since we both work a lot, we both typically do everything. I'm not quite sure how one little man adds so much extra laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning...but he sure does!

Well, I'm off to pick up the apartment, again!


Playing ball at the beach!
People watchin'  - just like his mama!
Ry & Dust got matching temporary tattoos from the "Cars" movie.  This really made his day and he loves to lift up his sleeve and put his arm right next to Papa's!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July!!!  Wish we were back home to celebrate, but made the best of it today.  Dustin's whole side of the family is celebrating at our house this weekend and they all got together with my side of the fam for dinner.  We were jealous and of course wondering how the conversation went without us...probably about us, I'm sure.  For the last couple mornings, we've been able to Skype with family and it's been fun.  Ry has no idea how it works, but loves showing all of his stuff to whoever on the other side of the camera.  I'm sure our family is loving getting to see and hear him live.

Ryland's First Boat Trip - Irtysh River Cruise
View of the beach from the river
We may not have had fireworks for our 4th, but we had a great day on the boat & at the beach!
Big Hugs, Kazakh Flags...could this pic be any cuter?
Checking out the scenery!  Words of the day: boat & jet ski.  Every few minutes he would get so excited, and I mean beyond excited.  Go figure, he now wants a boat and a jet ski!  He would point out every one and whether or not it was fast and tell us the color.  "Smo-tree, Smo-tree (look, look) boat, fast, yellow". 
Happy boy on the boat with his new shoes (don't hate...there's not a lot of shoe choices here!  You get what you get...).  Can't wait to get home & shop for little man!
YES...there are rednecks in Kazakhstan...
After the River Cruise & lunch we took an impromptu long walk and ended up at the beach.  We plan to go back tomorrow for a more prepared beach excursion, so hopefully better pics to follow.  Every time I see parents with their kids in underwear instead of bathing suits, it absolutely appalls me, but what were we to do???  When in Rome...

Sitting here, watching the excitement in Ry in getting into the water like this for the first time was overwhelming for me.  He was just overjoyed to strip down, run to the water, to splash and squish the "sand" in between his toes.  He was in awe, he just couldn't fathom that he could do that.  I got choked up just watching the happiness and feeling so lucky to be able to bring this joy to him.  Then I got even more choked up thinking of all the kids just in this town, let alone the world, that have never experienced it, never had the chance to have a normal childhood like so many of us take for granted.  It just broke my heart. 

A HUGE thank you goes out to our parents who did everything they could for us to make our childhoods as special as they could...that's all a parent can do!  I never thought about it before...  I'm sure our parents weren't over the moon about taking us to amusement parks, roller skating rinks, and all those other fun kid activities, but I know they were thrilled to see us have such a great time.  Thanks you always told us, we'd never even begin to understand until we had our own.