Sunday, September 8, 2013

Be the Change

I received an email from dear Olga the other day with photos that made me smile so big and well up with tears of joy, hope, love, thankfulness. 

These were taken in August at the charitable organization Down Side Up's annual Charity Sport's bike ride in aid of children with Down syndrome. 

The goals of the ride are to show the great potential of people with DS (many of the riders themselves had DS), to raise money for early intervention services for children with DS, and to raise awareness about Down syndrome. Awesome!!  

From Olga and

There were famous top athletes from Russia present to show their support. 

So sweet. 

There is something so beautiful and hopeful to me in this photo, seeing this take place in front of the Kremlin. 

Something I love about kids with Down syndrome is how, even though they definitely look like their own biological families, they also share these unique facial characteristics that make them part of a recognizable worldwide family-the Down syndrome family. I think that's why people who love someone with DS are so automatically drawn to complete strangers they see with Down syndrome-because they feel like family. When I am out with the boys and I see another child or adult with Down syndrome and glance at their parent, as soon as we make eye contact there's this smile and understanding that passes between us, like seeing an old friend after years apart. I love it and consider it one of the many blessings of having a child with Down syndrome. 

I have no doubt that one day Russia will be as inclusive and accepting and accommodating to people with not only Down syndrome, but all disabilities. These organizations are the pioneers of this movement, and it is exciting to be able to witness. 

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.” - Gandhi

Saturday, September 7, 2013

In The Night

As I lay here in my bed this early morning, I again have some of the same overwhelming feelings I have had many, many times since our adoption story began. The feelings come when I wake in the night for unknown reasons, or after I've been awoken by one of the kids coming to snuggle. They are strong, full-bodied and difficult to put words to, but I will try:






You see, in those quiet moments where there are no distractions, my thoughts often turn to YOU. Those people who prayed this boy home from Russia, those people who so generously and humbly donated their hard-earned money to help us get to this point of completeness in our lives. 

I play over and over in my mind not only the general feelings but specific events that all add up to INCREDIBLE and MIRACULOUS. Envelopes left at our door anonymously. Letters and gifts sent in the mail by people we've never even met. Friends who, upon reading our situation of having to stay weeks extra in Moscow, quietly send their support in the most generous of ways. 

I think of that incredible woman and mother who spoke up to spread the word about "Arnold," writing a whole blog series about his situation and sounding the call across the Internet that there was this boy, tiny and special, who needed a family, who deserved so much more than the future ahead of him. 

Because of her, another mother saw and made an unthinkably large donation to his adoption grant. Again, I can only imagine what that must have felt like for her, to mail that check and hopefully know that it would mean the difference between fear and certainty for this family to step out and say "we can do this."  

I think of those first few weeks after announcing our intention to adopt, and almost immediately friends asking us, "how can we help?  We know this is expensive and we want to do something."  I think of that yard sale, OH that yard sale. I still look at those photos of tables upon tables of donated items, many from friends, acquaintances, and some even from strangers who quickly became new friends. That day was a perfect storm of goodness. There were envelopes again in those early days, left by friends who wanted no recognition, just desiring to do what they could to help this child find a family. 

I think of the playhouse fundraiser started by a woman who had never even met us and another who had only just become a new friend.  Hours upon hours of phone calls, painting, hammering, coordination, selling tickets, all while caring for their small children at home. I knew there were people like this in the world, but having them so close to me was astonishing and humbling to watch. And how blessed I was to get to know these women better, to laugh so hard together I cried, and then having tears later just thinking about their generosity.

I think of each and every one of you, those I know and those I will never know because of your anonymity. I want you to know that it is often you I think about in those rare quiet moments. And I know it will always be this way for the rest of my life, for I have never witnessed so many miracles, so much GOOD, in my life and I realize it is a rare and very special gift to have witnessed. 

It is because of you that I took an opportunity to travel to Africa, with such a desire to physically make a difference in another persons life. It is because of you that I have made donations to other adoptive families, no matter the size, because I KNOW how $5.00 feels like $5,000.00 when you are in the thick of things. 

I think of you. And I just wanted you to know. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

First Day of School

When we decided seven years ago (has it already been that long?!) to move here from Utah, I was torn.  I had always wanted to strike out on our own and see different parts of the country, even if it wasn't very far from home.  But part of me was so sad about raising our kids away from their extended family.  I was always blessed to have cousins and grandparents nearby, and I had always looked forward to watching my kids love that experience too.

After Jake was born, just a few months after we were settled in, and we discovered the many services available here for him relating to his Down syndrome, I knew this was a big reason why this move felt right even in the face of my torn feelings.  When Jake began kindergarten and got in to his charter school by a hair (they have a lottery to determine who gets to enroll each year; he was first on the waiting list after the drawing, and luckily for us, another family decided to not enroll and he got their place), it didn't take long to realize this was yet another confirmation that we were in the right place.  His school is amazing, outstanding, a perfect fit for both Jake and Kennedy. 

So when we decided to adopt Gabe, I took great comfort in the fact that he would be going to this school too.  The teachers were completely on board with us and have been nothing but supportive and enthusiastic. They made preparations and plans for him before he was even home.  We have absolutely struck gold when it comes to the people that have been put in our lives to help our children.  

Anyway, I wasn't great at taking a lot of photos the first day of school because we were busy!  I drove the kids that first week to make the transition a bit easier (for me, mostly :-).  Gabe now rides the bus and does great on it.  It makes me smile every morning to watch Kennedy help him up that first big step onto the bus.  He's the tiniest kindergartener ever!

"Me?! Me?!  School?!"  He just couldn't contain the excitement.

"Oh hey, you're my teacher huh?  Nice to meet you!"
Mrs. G meets Gabe and Jake each morning, making sure they get to the right places.  She is also one of their amazing teachers.  I tell you, we are incredibly blessed.
The school gang.  I guess I have a thing with plaid shorts.
Kennedy being the great big sister, as always.  These boys don't know how lucky they are to have a big sister like Kennedy.
Gabe jumping up and down when he sees the buses in the distance.  This kid LOVES the bus.  I love the looks on the other kids' faces, "who IS this kid?!"

After I picked him up that first day.  He was so tired!  He has a nap every afternoon after he gets home from school now.  It's been a nice routine coming home and having lunch together then reading a book and tucking him in.

gabe bus 1
Waiting for the bus the second week of school.

Gabe bus 2
Of course he has to make a face (oh the naughty things his big brother is teaching him).
Gabe bus 4
He gets the first seat behind the driver and knows just what to do now.

Today was the first day I got to go in and volunteer in his class.  I get to do that once a month (at back-to-school we got to sign up, and every single day is now filled with a parent who will be in class helping out.  His school has such great parent support too).  It was so comforting and reassuring to watch him in class and see how far he has come in just a few weeks.  He knows right where his "cubby" is, where he puts his papers and back pack.  He follows directions and isn't yelling and being too loud like I had worried :-)  He is happy and smiling and is a hard worker for his teachers.  My favorite part was hearing him say, "Mom!  Watch!" as he did his work and was so proud to have me see.   

We are just blessed.