Sunday, April 6, 2014

Noah's Ark: The Petting Zoo in Ireland

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After our conference and meetings at Leckey it was time for play!   We picked up the children from the hotels and made the short journey to The Ark (Open Farm)!  Yes, imagine how excited I was when I realized that Noah was going to get to visit The Ark - and not only visit The Ark, but walk at The Ark for the first time - especially given his namesake.  
Noah & Family at The Ark Petting Zoo, Ireland

We arrived and looked around briefly.  Luke latched on to a little John Deer child's tractor.  He loved it and wasn't about to get off for well, anything except for a playground.  We suited Noah up in the Upsee so he could walk around and experience animals at his level.   Noah was up and ready to go in less than five minutes and we walked through the barns, seeing pigs, sheep, chickens...  they let Noah have bread to feed sheep, a bottle to feed a pigmy goat, pellets to feed other animals.  Noah for the first time in his life got to stand and feed animals. 

Noah feeding a baby goat a bottle at The Ark Petting Zoo

They even brought out a white rabbit and Noah opened his little hands to reach out and pet the rabbit all while standing in his Upsee.  Luke brought up the rear in his John Deer, having way too much fun to get off and explore animals.  He left that all up to his big brother to enjoy his Ark.   It is a lovely petting zoo, tops anything I've ever seen here in the States.  It is so well done, and so pretty.   I wish it were closer to home we'd be regular visitors. 
Noah Petting a Rabbit for the first time
Noah standing to touch sheep
Noah was all smiles, he was having the time of his life.  We walked around and socialized with all the animals.  I think I seen the biggest pig of my life.  And I mean big - like horse big.   They have a really beautiful playground and on just the edge of it there were a patch of daffodils.  They picked a handful and let Noah hold them.  He put them in his hands and held on tight as we walked on together.   He beamed with pride.  He was so proud of himself I could feel it with his small steps that we took together.   I tried not to get teary, after all pictures were being taken and the last thing needed was a weepy mom, but the daffodils well that was about the part that put me into a waterfall, so I tried to refocus on Luke who was running happily up and down the playground to get my mind off the swelling joy that causes those mommy tears.
Noah at

We watched his little brother come down a slide - rather fast and plop on his bum only to get up and do it all over again, and play on the swing.  There was such freedom in that moment.  No wheelchair to move, no playground that wasn't handicapped accessible that we couldn't wheel Noah up to.  We were side by side.  

After Noah had his fun in the Upsee at The Ark, we took a brief break so I could do an interview about our experiences in the Upsee.  None of us knew that recorded interviews were in the plan, so looking back on the videos you kind of kick yourself like why didn't I bother to do my hair and make up that day and care about what I was wearing?  But in hindsight I guess it doesn't matter in the larger picture because what was recorded was real and raw, and that's all any of us can really hope to be.   Unscripted and allowing your heart to speak in the moment.   There is so much worth in just being honest and genuine, and maybe other parents could relate to me on a simple level - so much more so than if I had been groomed and dolled up for the event.  I am what I am, just as Noah is who he is.  And I keep telling my children you don't have to be perfect to radiate something beautiful.

And I have a lot of respect for Leckey for doing everything the way that they did.  No one was paid, no one was coached, no one was made promises, nothing was staged.  We all just existed as we were experiencing these wonderful things together.  At the heart of it all Leckey knew what mattered - family participation and being able to provide this gift to so many around the world.   The media attention came as a surprise to all of us, none of us had any idea that the Upsee would draw in such an audience.  At best I thought well maybe 500 people might check it out total when it first went up for sale.  I never thought we'd all find ourselves attached to news articles and news stories on television.   I expected it to be a lot like the GoTo Seat, a really amazing product that is so needed in our special needs community that would simply spread by word of mouth slowly.  And even with all the attention, the entire Leckey team, and even Debby Elnatan herself, remain so humble.  I admire their unwavering focus which is on bettering the lives of others.  Firefly products are going to make so many dreams come true.   Leckey really deserves all this publicity, they are moving mountains for children with special needs. 

Although I can honestly tell you there was no way to top The Ark, we did come close to celebrating all the joy at a restaurant called Deane's  Now you all know I loved Flame, but Deane's I think was my ultimate favorite!   Maybe it was the two French Martini's with Raspberry and Pinneapple... or the Crab with celeric mayo on toast... or the Royal Fish Pie... or Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pistaciso Caramel... or the after dinner coffee with cute biscuit...
French Martini

The best coffee I have ever tasted!  With a Biscuit!

Crab with celeric mayo on toast
Luke asleep after dinner

Noah was as equally in love with Deane's, and Luke well he had his fish and chips with mushy peas and fell asleep right there at dinner.   We kept ordering Noah scoop after scoop of ice cream - five total scoops that child ate after dinner! And our hosts were so lovely they indulged Noah in all his scoops.   I get all teary just writing this because they loved my Noah. And not just a fake, I tolerate you, special needs disability kind of thing.  Like they really loved my Noah.  They really loved all the children who were there.  They meant every bit of kindness, every loving gesture, every beautiful word.   And it felt so good.  We were so overdue for some unconditional love from strangers.  You all know I write about how rough our lives can be.  And for a moment as a family, we were as close to heaven on earth as you can get.  The inventor of the Upsee held and lifted a sleepy Luke for me,  held Noah's hand, spoke to him like a real person who understood everything.  I was living a dream.   It all felt like we had found family.   We may not have been able to buy a lot of souvenirs, but what we did bring back with us was the love we experienced.  And that feeling is something money can't buy.

I found unconditional love in Ireland and new friendships that mean the world to me. 


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.