Friday, March 21, 2014

3/21, Three Twenty One, March 21st

Today is 3/21, World Down syndrome Day. 3/21 represents the triple copy of the 21st chromosome that occurs with Ds. We always knew there was something extra special about Sara when we first saw her picture. Now we know why!! She is extraordinary and is rockin' her extra chromosome. Our lives rock having her in it! We are members of an elite club that brings so much joy and love into our lives!

One of the campaigns that supports World Down syndrome Day is "Rock Your Socks!" To show your support you can wear crazy socks today, tomorrow or even the next day and when someone asks you about your socks you reply, "Someone I know or love has Down syndrome." All of my kids wore crazy socks to school today! My teenager even gave a shout out to his fiends last night via Instagram, asking them to wear crazy socks and I have already had one mom tell me that her son wore them! It makes me so happy to know that we have the support of our friends and neighbors! It was so cute because Kate, although she wanted to support the idea, she was nervous to wear crazy socks because she has a hard time saying "syndrome". She says "Down sisom". She practiced many times before she left this morning and was pretty confident that she could pronounce it correctly if people asked.

Pretty darn cute, 3 chromosomes made out socks! The socks represent that even though they are different, they serve the same purpose.

Kate and Beck sporting their crazy socks and Ds Buddy Walk shirts. Cole had already left for school but was sporting bright pink ones with sparkly snowflakes.

I love how my kids love Sara! Just yesterday Kate said, "I love Sara so much. She is my best sister!" She and Beck still say, "I forget Sara has Down syndrome sometimes." It's because they see her as a lovely little girl who is just part of their gang! She fits in and is no different than them. I love that Cole, anytime there is a reason to support Ds is posting things for his friends to see. Just the other day when it was "Spread the Word to End the Word" Cole posted the cutest pic of Sara, asking his friends to stop using the words "retard" or "retarded". He had several friends who made the pledge to stop. We are pretty blessed and lucky to have Sara in our lives! She is teaching us and others so much, especially how to love and accept. 

This afternoon my friend Kecia and I are going into Beck, Bree, and Mia's 1st grade class to give a small presentation on Ds. Bree is Kecia's biological daughter born with Ds. I refer to her as the gardener in Sara's garden. Throughout our adoption process I compared Sara to a flower who is ready to blossom and bloom. Mia is Kecia's daughter who was also adopted from Ukraine. And it was during their journey to get her that I knew it was something we could, should and would do. So Mia is the one who planted the seed. Sara is the blooming flower and Bree is the master gardener who cares for them all. Anyway, we're going to show a video, talk a little bit about Ds and explain to the children that Bree, Mia, and Sara are "Just Like You". And then leave them with a treat (Hi-Chew) so they will remember to "chews" to love and accept everyone for who they are. Please take a moment to watch this video too! It will be worth 14 minutes of your time, I promise!

This last picture is a collage of many of the beautiful traits and qualities that I LOVE about Sara. Many of these traits are unique to people with Ds. It's part of the Ds package and what a beautiful package it is!

The first is her little hands. People usually have 3 creases in their palm. Most people with Ds have a simian crease, which is a single line that runs across the palm of the hand. Although Sara does have two separate creases, they come together to make one crease and the third crease is non existent. (But did you know that people without Ds can also have a simian crease? In fact Mark does!) 

I LOVE Sara's piggies!! She has a big gap called a "sandal gap" between her big and second toe. It's just a big space between her toes and occurs in approximately 45% of those with Ds. We love and call them her monkey toes/feet and it is very fitting because she climbs and plays like a little monkey! 

I adore Sara's flat bridge between her nose, her low set, little ears with a tiny fold and her silly tongue that sometimes protrudes! All very common with Ds.

I love that Sara is always dancing as if no one is watching! She can wiggle and move, twerk and groove and can sometimes even do the worm! She hears music and can't help herself! It doesn't matter who is watching and she is never embarrassed to shake it! Little did the Pointer Sisters know that they wrote the song "I'm So Excited" just for Sara. "I'm so excited and I just can't hide it. I'm about to lose control and I think I like it!" 

Sara is super flexible. She falls asleep leaning forward, bent in half. She can touch her toes from standing up without bending her knees. She can put her foot in her mouth and it's almost 98% guaranteed that she will eat with her foot resting on her tray. She is Miss Stretch for sure!

Sara loves without end! She loves to give cuddles! She'll back right into your lap and snuggle. And she gives the best kisses ever! We always get a little extra (wet, sloppy and open mouth). Must be the extra chromosome!

Hey eyes, oh her eyes, how they sparkle and shine! She has blushfield spots which are unique to those with Ds. They are white spots or speckles on the Iris of the eye. They make her baby blues have a marble/starry affect. Her eyes are also almond shape meaning that the outer corner of her eyes turn up instead of down. And she has an extra fold of skin on the inner corner of her eyes. All of these traits make her peepers simply stunning! 

When Sara is resting and taking a break she has a unique way to sit. She sits criss cross applesauce with her head titled up. I used to think that it was because she couldn't see but since her eye surgery, her vision is perfect! It's just a Saraism and I love it! 

The middle picture is my absolute favorite and if defines exactly who Sara is! Sara is happy and full of life! She doesn't care when she has crazy, bed head or a messy face! She doesn't care about what she's wearing or how she acts. She is true and genuine and has a zest for life.  (Yes she does cry too, it's not true that people with Ds are always happy.) But she lives each day knowing that she is a light that was once hidden and can now shine! Her smile brightens our days! Her giggle is contagious! Her spirit radiates love! Everything about her is near perfection! Her mission on this earth is to love and be loved and I'm pretty sure she is right on track! 

3/21, World Down syndrome Day is a day to raise awareness about Ds and gives us an opportunity to teach acceptance and love. Please understand that people with Ds are more alike than they are different. Sara is just like you with an extra pinch of sugar! And believe me, she is pretty sweet!! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To Thirteen and Beyond!!

How do I even begin to express in words how happy I was on this day 13 years ago? I think I would do a better job singing my sentiments but I'll save that performance for the shower. Something extraordinary happened that changed me/my life forever. This life changing event was planned, wanted, anticipated and hoped for. Every ounce of my heart and soul was filled with a desire to become a mother and on this day 13 years ago my little man Cole made it so. At 10:38 PM on February 26, 2001 my firstborn son made his debut. And although I may have given him life, he truly gave me my life's purpose. He fulfilled a desire that has always been in my heart since I was a young girl. My little man gave me my first gift of motherhood.

I often say that Heavenly Father knew I needed Cole and I am so grateful he is my oldest. I am able to do many things and enjoy my life because of him. As a family we are able to function with him in it. He is wise beyond his years and truly one of my best friends! I can't help but tear up when I think of Cole and all that he has become. He is a remarkable, responsible, smart, spiritual, funny, caring, kind, helpful, compassionate, tolerant, considerate, handsome, loving young man. I am not sure how or why I was chosen to be his mother but a day doesn't go by that I don't thank my Heavenly Father for trusting me to be his keeper. He is helping me become and I have enjoyed mostly every moment, every lesson he has taught me over the years.

Motherhood isn't easy and it's not meant to be. Like I tell all of my children, "Hard work is good! Anything that is valuable and of worth requires hard work." Are there some days when the oil in my lamp is low and my light is dim? YES! Are there times when I simply feel like I can't be the mother that I should be? ALWAYS! But each day I am given opportunities to increase my light and most of these opportunities come from my children. Each of my children hold a special and different place in my heart and they are all my favorites but there is something to be said about the bond I have with Cole being my first. Maybe it's because he unlocked the door to what this life is all about and taught me to love unconditionally. Or maybe it's because he fills my lamp when it's burned out and literally brightens my life with a smile or witty comment. All I know is that he is amazing and he is mine and if I could be guaranteed to have another like him I would get pregnant yesterday.

There really are no words to describe or songs to sing to tell Cole how much he means to me. No amount of tears can show him how much I love him and believe me, I have shed many, many tears this week alone in anticipation of him turning 13. I am grateful to be his mother. I am grateful that my first gift of motherhood was packaged and wrapped up so beautifully in Cole. His gift prepared me and my heart for the many other gifts I have been blessed with. I guess from the beginning becoming a mother was hard work after 36 hours of natural labor but he is most definitely valuable and of worth. And so is motherhood. It has it's challenges and requires daily labor but I have no choice other than to keep on truckin and do it because hard work is good and I can do hard things!

I wanted to make a video of photos for Cole since the days of printing pics and photo albums are gone. I wanted to give him something that he can watch, cherish, and share with his posterity. It was very hard to wrap up the last 13 years in one video but after 300 pictures (many that needed to be scanned because they were pre digital), 6 of his favorite songs, 50 plus hours of work, and a 19:51 minute masterpiece, I did it. One thing that stood out over and over as I looked through hundreds of pics was his genuine zest for life. I was also reminded over and over the love that he has for Spiderman his siblings. He is such a tender boy and wears his oldest shoes very well. Not only am I a lucky mama but his dad, brothers and sisters are lucky too!  If you have an extra 19 minutes to spare you can catch a glimpse of his life. I KNOW it's long and honestly I don't expect many to watch it except his grandparents and family in the UK. But if you endure the 19:51 minute video I promise it will make you smile and brighten your day. (Can you imagine how long the next one will be when he turns 18?) COLE, you're a TEENAGER! Eeeeeeek and Ugh!! I am a mother of a teenager!! Not sure I'm ready for this and never thought I'd see the day but I will embrace it and enjoy the ride! Happy Birthday bud!! Thanks for giving me my best job ever! And even though you're taller than me you will always be my little man! I love you lots and lots! To thirteen and beyond!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Abandoned But Not Forgotten

Dear Sean,

It's New Year's Eve today! Many people will be ringing in the new year with celebrations. I wish that I could be celebrating that you have a family coming for you or that I reached the goal of raising $1000 for you but I can't. I am so sorry that another year has passed and you are still waiting and I am sorry that your Angel Tree account sits at $513. We're half way there and I am hoping that when others read this they will help and donate just a little bit to help me reach your goal. More importantly I want you to know that I will continue to share your picture, your story in hopes that your mommy and daddy will see it and will be led to you. You are a child of a loving Heavenly Father who is aware of you and loves you. Although it may seem that you have been forgotten you haven't. Your mommy and daddy's heart is just being prepared and soon they will look into your eyes and say "He's the one." 

This past month you would have celebrated your 5th birthday! Happy birthday little man! I hope that the orphanage did something really nice for you. I have a daughter who just turned 5 this year too. She just started Kindergarten and is loving it! I am hoping that your family finds you soon so that you can attend Kindergarten this coming fall as I am sure you will love it too! I cannot believe how big you are getting! When I fist saw your picture a couple of years ago it was a picture of when you were a baby. Now you are tall and skinny! Too skinny if you ask me but I am sure your nanny's are doing their best to help you grow. I promise that when your family finds you and you are home, you will grow even bigger and stronger. I know you probably wonder why? Why has no one come for me yet? Why do I get overlooked? Why have I waited so long? I too Sean have the same questions. And I don't know why. What I do know is that the Lord's timing is perfect and one day very soon, you will not have to ask that question again. Like I said, your mommy and daddy's hearts are just being prepared. It's amazing how it all works out but when they see your face, they will know! 

I can tell you this because of personal experience. I saw many, many faces on Reece's Rainbow and knew every one's name. You could say I was a Reece's Rainbow stalker! Every child listed was beautiful and worthy of a family. There were even a few who really touched my heart. But when I saw "Susan's" picture I just knew she was the one! There was something familiar and different about her. And now that she is home and part of our family, there is no doubt that she was meant to be. So I know that your family is out there and I promise I will do my part to help them see you!

"Susan" is now Sara and she has been home for over a year. It was an incredible experience and journey to bring her home. It was a 5 month process start to finish. We spent 40 days in her country and we are grateful that we were able to learn more about her culture. You live in a beautiful country and I am envious of your family who will get to experience it's beauty! It will be a long, emotional, costly journey for them, but it will be worth every day, tear, and dollar. I promise you Sean, although you were abandoned by the riverside you are not forgotten. Love is an amazing thing and it will carry you until your mommy and daddy can wrap their arms around you and whisper into your ear "You are loved, cherished and chosen!" I look forward to that day and can't wait to follow your journey home! Happy New Year Sean!!

With love,hugs and kisses,

Please donate to Sean today! Help me reach his goal of $1000. I just need 25 people to donate $20 today! I don't have any incentives or giveaways to motivate you. I don't have a free trip or iPad to offer but what I do have is a little boy who is deserving of this money. Please click on the link below and help ring in the new year knowing you made a difference! Thank you so much! I will never stop advocating for these children so I appreciate those who support my efforts! Every child deserves the blessing of a family! Every child!! 

Click here to donate.

Here is Sean's current picture on Reece's Rainbow.
Look at his precious face.
Are you his mommy or daddy?

Taken from his profile with Reece's Rainbow. 

From a missionary who visited with him in August of 2010. "Sean was found abandoned by the riverside at the age of 4 months. Sean is doing super and is well loved by his nannies!"

Update from 2012:
After his rehabilitation we feel his physical development is very good, he can clearly call father and mother, can sit alone, stand alone, can walk with holding something. He can not walk alone steadily, can feed himself snacks without help, good appetite, likes playing with other children sitting on the floor, occasionally he will challenge his favorite toys with other children. He is very favorable, and we hope him can find a family sooner to have parents to love him to live happier life.

More photos available, along with full social history and medical records.

Single moms permitted, only one parent has to travel.

Currently Sean has $4702.50 in his account.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Wishing you a Happy Christmas from our family to yours!

May you and yours enjoy everything this season brings especially the peace and love from our Savior! 

He is the reason for this celebration! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanks Birthday!!

I have so much to be thankful for on this day of gratitude. I have been blessed beyond measure and today one of my blessings turns 2! Sara Lily is 2!! It's hard to believe that Sara has been home for over a year now and that my baby is no longer a baby. When we first committed to adopt Sara our goal was to have her home before her first birthday. We did it! Although it wasn't quite the grandiose celebration I had envisioned in my mind we were at least able to be by her side to celebrate her first year of life! (She had croup last year and was not well enough to have the "grand" party I had hoped for.) Today I am grateful that we can celebrate her life once again, her journey and the pure joy she has brought to our family. And this time she will be surrounded by many who love her and she will get the "grand" party that she deserves. Complete with a "grand" meal and tasty treats! (Sure wish her birthday would fall on Thanksgiving every year. It sure makes it easy to plan!)

This past year Sara has learned so much and has really become. She no longer curls up in rolly polly mode when Liam approaches her. She no longer clasps her hands in fear and for comfort. She no longer stares at her hands out of habit because that was one of the few things she had to look at when she was lying in a crib in the orphanage. She makes eye contact. She babbles, signs, laughs, cries for attention. She's walking and has been for almost 2 months. She holds her own now when Liam attacks her. She and Liam laugh and play together. She drinks from a straw. She self feeds finger foods and just this week fed herself yogurt from a spoon. She's learning how to drink from a big cup. She has graduated from her crib and is in a big bed. She runs at the mention of food and bath. She can climb out of the bath. She can brush her hair and her teeth. She can climb up on furniture. She can climb our 12 stairs (still working on the coming down part.) She helps when she's getting dressed by putting her hands and arms through the sleeves. She can wear teeny tiny pig tails. (I have said before that she truly belongs in our family because of her slow hair growth.) She can see straight and no longer has googlie eyes. She blows kisses and waves hi and bye! She dances and LOVES it! She is simply amazing and has come a really long way from the first time we met her. Remember, she couldn't even roll over at the age of 10 months. She is one smart cookie! A stubborn, feisty cookie but very sweet 99% of the time.

Time is funny because unless I stop and really take note of all the happenings of a year it really doesn't seem like it has been a year at all. I guess it's because we're all growing up and old together that I don't see the changes until I look at pictures from a year ago then I realize how much has taken place. With Sara too, it just feels like she has always been a part of our lives so unless I stop and remind myself that we spent 4 months paper chasing and fundraising, traveled over 6000 miles to rescue her, spent 40 days in her country, and brought her home at the age of 11 months, I forget that we've ever been apart.

Today is a special day! It is a day of celebration for Sara but it is also a day of Thanksgiving! I am grateful for all of my beautiful children. I am grateful for my husband who loves me for me and is willing to open his heart and love all of his children, even the ones who aren't of his flesh and blood. I am grateful for the gift of adoption! I am grateful for 2 women who gave birth to 2 of my children and allowed me to be their mom. I am grateful that my heart allows me to love and that I am able to live the life that I could have only dreamed of!! I am grateful to my Lord and Savior who has made all of this possible. Happy Thanks Birthday!!

Sneak peek of our family pics taken October 2013 in Midway Utah.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Greatest Show On Earth

I have said many times that life is like a circus. By definition a circus is a traveling company of acrobats, trained animals, and clowns that gives performances. So minus the traveling part, my life is definitely a circus. I no doubt have a 5 ring circus including acrobats (Liam), trained animals (all 5), and clowns (Beck). My husband and I often say that we're raising a bunch of animals so it all makes sense. I am the lion tamer and my brood are my cubs! For the most part my job and circus is entertaining and enjoyable but some days it's very disappointing. Most days I have my lions under control but other days I am one step closer to being mauled. This past week was one of those "Heaven Help Me" weeks. Nothing major, traumatic, or serious happened, just the little things that added up and made me ROAR! 

It's the little things like my acrobat constantly climbing, hitting, throwing, chasing everyone with objects in hand ready to chuck it at them. Or him taking off his diaper constantly and peeing all over!! (He's 3, I know he should be potty trained, and I know that him taking his diaper off is a sign he may be ready, but I'm not sure I'm ready. It's almost easier to keep him in a diaper so I can at least contain some of his mess.) Then he undresses several times a day when he hears the shower, bath or running water, then gets in the shower, bath, or running water. (Since he has a feeding tube, I still put a dressing/guaze sponge around his stoma so his skin doesn't get irritated. So every time he actually gets in the bath or shower after he's already been dressed, it means I have to redo his dressing too.) 

It's the older animals who complain when they have to do any sort of job. "But I did the dishwasher yesterday." "Did you use a bowl and spoon for breakfast, a plate and cup for lunch, and a fork for dinner? Then yes I know you just did it yesterday because we use dishes EVERY day." Or when they don't want to clean the play room after a mess they just made. (First of all we have way too many toys so this issue will be resolved when I secretly make a run to the DI with a bag full of toys. It's time for a toy clean out anyway because as Christmas approaches Santa won't bring new toys unless we donate old ones.) But if you make a mess, you clean it up. Or I love it when I am told, "That's not my job, I'm not doing it." "Well when you need a ride to soccer, hockey or dance, I'm not doing it either."

Or the ones who say "I didn't hear you." After I have only said or asked a dozen times.

Or it's the backpacks, jackets, and shoes that get left right in the middle of the floor the minute the kids come in from school when we have hooks right behind the door they just came through to hang their stuff and a shoe basket 50 feet away.

Then there is my clown who is constantly smacking my bum, or teasing the others with a look of "Huh! That wasn't me."

With Halloween just passing, I have picked up more candy wrappers than I can count. It drives me nuts when the kids eat outside the kitchen because they know the table is the only place for food. And I know that we've all been taught to not cry over spilled milk, but after several cups (even sippie cups) of spilled milk, I'm gonna cry!

So you see, a lot of these things are just typical, life with 5 kids stuff, but for some reason last week the accumulation of all these things made me want to quit my job! But the real truth is, I really should have been fired the way I handled these things. I know could have handled these situations a lot better than I did and knowing this made me feel like I was not cut out to be a lion tamer mom. That is the real, underlying reason I was so discouraged. It's not that I am not cut out to be a mom or don't want to be a mom, it's that I am not being the mom that I want to be. I don't want to be a shouty mom who roars back. I want to be calm yet firm, kind yet serious mom. I want to be a more patient mom and want my kids to know I am in charge. I want to have fun but teach hard work too! I just want them to have a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T and at the same time give and teach them the respect that they deserve. A few days ago I posted a picture of me on Facebook looking perturbed and mentioned this very thing, that I sometimes feel I am not cut out to be a mom. I didn't post it to get reinforcement that I am a great mom. I wasn't looking for compliments. I just wanted to get a few "Amens" from other moms to know that I am not alone. I got several and I appreciate the support because truly it does make a difference to know that even the best moms can feel like the worst moms. One friend mentioned that as long as my kids feel loved then that's all that matters!

I am pretty sure my kids feel loved and I realize that they're only little and are just testing their boundaries and learning. So I hope that I can set those boundaries and do a better job at reinforcing positive behavior. I too am a work in progress and am still learning how to be the best lion tamer I can be. I have to understand that my days of cleaning up their cages aren't over and won't be for a while. And that when I chose to be a mom of 5 kids, it IS my job and I have to do my best. I have to stick to my word when I say "I am not giving you a ride to soccer." And actually follow through with consequences given. I have to give up the distractions (phone, internet, etc.) when my kids need me and schedule my day more productively so I am not adding more stress. Most importantly I just have to sit back and enjoy the show and have confidence in my little lions. Because even though they are animals, they really are trained. And you know, one day I'm going to miss the sticky handprints on the walls and tripping over shoes and toys. I'm going to miss the screams and cries when they are all grown up and wish that I can drive them to soccer, hockey, or dance one more time. So as annoying as these things are some days, these are the things that make a house a home.

We just had parent teacher conferences this past week and report cards sent home and they all did fantastic. Their teachers and peers commented on how kind and helpful they are so I think they are going to be just fine. Someone once told me that you know you're kids are great kids when they act better away from you than when they are with you. With that said, I know they will be just fine. "Perfection is a road, not a destination." "When you aim for perfection you discover it's a moving target. "I may not be perfect but when I look at my children I know that I got something in my life perfectly right." My life may be a crazy circus but it really is THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.