This is a long post, grab a coffee and take a read
I’m a mom to one and a sister to thirteen. Yep, that's right, it's not a typo, 1-3...thirteen.
Everyone always has the same reaction, so before we go on, I'll answer some questions. Yes, they are all real. No, there are no 'step' or 'half' children, my parents are the parents to all fourteen of us. No, my parents are not Mormon but funny enough they are Catholic and yes, they do believe in birth control.
Our family is different in many ways, you might take a look at our Family Photos and notice that in this family we range in flavour from vanilla to caramel to dark chocolate. You might think that we look more like a day camp than a family and you'd be right, we do and sometimes strangers make it known to us how strange we look as a 'family'.
We're 'different' and in today's society that makes people nervous, but one little boy taught us that different doesn't have to be a bad thing; this story is about him.
My parents became foster parents when I was 10 years old, for the past 16 years they have dedicated their lives to helping others, to rehabilitating families and restructuring their own. We have had 47 children come and go from our home through Foster & Respite Care. Some stayed for years, some months and some only weeks. Some stay forever; no refunds or exchanges, and that's exactly how we went from a family of six to a family to a family of sixteen.
But this post isn’t about us, this post is about someone very special. Take a look at the attached pictures and you’ll see one little guy stands out a bit more, the youngest boy. This little guy is my littlest brother Kruze. This is his story.
My parents first met Kruze when he was 4 1/2 months old, he had been in Foster care from birth. He was born at 33 weeks gestation and spend his first weeks in the hospital. His birth story is so traumatizing and dramatic, it sounds like it was written for a movie, and not real life.
When Kruze first arrived to live in the Ruzic Household, he could barely hold his head. He didn’t make eye contact or smile. He wasn’t reaching the milestones of a typical 4 month old baby, he was lightyears behind, but not only that, Kruze was completely blank. At four month old, Kruze chose sleep as his escape.
As anyone who knows my mother, you’ll know that he was hers as soon as he was dropped off. You read about the stories of the animals that ‘adopting’ the strays, they care for them, provide them and protect them. That is my mother. So as soon as Kruze was placed in her home, she became his; his provider, his protector and his advocator.
My mom carried Kruze around in a sling for months, she wanted to instil the love that he had been denied at birth, she wanted to show him that he mattered. It took months. Mom worked tirelessly with the Child Development Clinic trying to teach Kruze the things that ‘typical’ babies do. Professionals knew something was wrong; no one could ascertain how his traumatic birth could or would affect him long term. Possibilities, such as Celebral Palsy, were thrown around. For months it was uncertain if he would ever walk, or even stand on his own. Worrying and praying became a part of our everyday life, as we waited diagnosis.
Kruze was a year old by the time he had even learned how to roll over. By the time he was 13 months old, it was like something clicked and he was able to sit up by himself. He was crawling by 15 month and shortly after he was living up to his name.
Doctors mentioned Autism when Kruze was only 20 months old, by 29 months Kruze was diagnosed with Severe Autism.
Kruze’s adoption was finalized 6 weeks after.
Darlene Ruzic, has been a problem solver since birth, putting everyone ahead of herself and insuring her children got the best. She did it in everything aspect of her life, from returning gifts bought for her at Christmas time to pay for field trips, to driving a beat up old Suburban and working extra so we could attend a private school to get a better education. Mom's generous heart didn't just extend to her kids but to her entire family, on to strangers and people she barely knew. Mom was the reliable one; the one you called when you needed a co-signer, or a new fridge; the one you called when you just couldn't figure out how to install your new carseat. She was the one who stopped everything to watch your kids. She found an answer for every question and solved every problem.
Autism, that isn't something you can 'solve', it isn't a problem that can be fixed by sacrifice or extra work. Autism is life changing. You wonder what you could or shouldn't have done. You wonder how your child will ever have a 'normal' life. It took us a long time to realize that Autism isn't a problem that needs to be solved.
Kruze might be different; but he lives and loves in more colours than we can even imagine.
Today Kruze is a four year old ball of energy, he has a beautiful spirit and and infectious smile. The world, however, isn’t made for him. Kruze struggles with many parts of day to day life. He is non-verbal but vocal; he has a high-pitched screech when he is happy and excited, he hums when he’s nervous, scared or upset. He has a challenging time going into new and even familiar places, any transition is difficult. A simple traffic detour causes a meltdown and can ruin his day.
Kruze has no understanding of safety. He attempts to pull pots off the the stove or open the oven. The microwave has become his newest obsession. This results in burns; to my mother as she cooks and dodges his hands. Sadly, Kruze has also been burned. Kruze doesn’t seem to respond to pain, therefore he doesn’t learn through cause and effect or even just natural consequences.
Most recently, Kruze has figured out how to escape both the house and the yard. In the past two weeks, he’s been able to escape five times. For someone who didn’t walk till nearly 2, boy, can he run and he is determined, too. He giggles, looking back at you chasing him and runs faster.
We work with a team of professionals at the LEAD Foundation on strategies to keep Kruze safe and even with all the precautions that we have taken, even with a team of professionals my mom still worries about the safety of her son. As a mother myself, I can only imagine the helpless feeling it must bring to her.
Recently, Kruze’s team has suggested a Service Dog, after a lot of research we think it would be life changing, not only for Kruze but for our family. A service dog would help improve Kruze’s quality of life. It would provide safety in and out of the home, control his meltdowns and hopefully help people understand that Kruze is a little bit different.
We are currently turning to social media to help us crowdfund a service dog, we have applied to a few place but do not have the funding required and are currently at a standstill. Yes, there are a few government programs that will cover the costs, but the wait list is 3-5 years
Kruze doesn’t have that kind of time, he needs a service dog to keep him safe now.
Kruze has taught us many things, but most importantly Kruze has taught us that different is beautiful.
We are asking people to please, "SHARE" our post and "GoFundMe" Page with you friends, family and followers. No donation is too small.
My hope is that by raising awareness the government will increase its funding to programs like these and which in turn will dramatically decrease the wait times, giving children with Autism a fighting chance at living in 'our world' and alleviating some of their parents stress and worries.