Friday, April 29, 2011

Ethan's Senior Class Includes a Young Man With Down Syndrome!

ethan and our friend,
bill husfelt,
school superintendent

proud daddy and son!

yesterday was ethan's senior year academic awards ceremony!  last night was his mapps traditions ceremony.... from here on out it's just one thing after another until graduation in 17 days!   it was a great day!   he received his 4th academic medal for maintaining a 4.0+ gpa!  we are very proud of him!  and he will graduate with 36-40 hours of college credit!  he'll be entering the university of west florida as a sophomore.  and it will happen before we turn around!!! 

me and my firstborn! 

so, i was NOT prepared for the end of the academic ceremony yesterday.   i had forgotten that there is a senior at ethan's high school who has Down syndrome.   i had forgotten that he will be graduating with ethan.   i had NEVER seen him before.  at the end of the ceremony, the last awards given were academic certificates of achievement for students who have maintained a 3.0-3.199 gpa for the year (b+ average).  out of the corner of my eye i see a young man moving towards the "receiving" line to shake hands with all the district officials and the principal....i say to tim, "is that a student with Down syndrome?", and sure enough, it was!    there he was, a young man with Ds, receiving his academic achievement certificate!   yes, i was teary....more than a little teary.   (i apparently have become an emotional mess as ethan's graduation rapidly approaches!)    wow!   would that be our wyatt in 17 years?    i told tim that we will be VERY old by then...and will have to sit in the "handicapped" section on the lower level! 

as we went down to congratulate ethan, i asked him about the student with Ds, he said, "oh yeah, that's manny."   manny has gone to school with ethan for 4 years and i have never seen him.   i looked around for manny, and he did not have any parents there with him.   that made me sad.  he was standing around on the fringe of a group of girls, one whose mom included him in their picture....way to go mama!   but for the most part, he was alone.  and that made me sad.    as we were leaving, i went out of my way to find him and shake his hand and congratulate him for his achievement!   he was very gracious and personable.   i'm glad i got to speak to him; i WAS so proud for him! 

as i have reflected on manny being basically alone after the ceremony, it's made me think....A LOT.   does he have friends in the school?   i asked ethan these questions, and he didn't know (he is a boy, you know!  not awfully observant!).   is that why some people say it's better for our kids with Ds to go to school with other kids like themselves, segregated, as they get older?   i don't know the answers, but i do know it gave me food for thought.    last summer i talked to a mama of a 33 year old young man with Ds at the national conference, and she completely included him in mainstreamed classes.   he learned to read from his Bible!  she felt it was more important for him to be included with typical peers than it was to be segregated in a school to learn "life skills."   she said they taught life skills at home!     he now works a couple of jobs and is heavily involved volunteering in their church.   that's my hope for wyatt...that he will love GOD, have friends, perhaps get married, work....and enjoy his life!   but for now.....we'll focus on walking and talking.....peace......

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday.....Easter Egg Hunting!

this is wyatt's first Easter egg hunt....

big brother ethan stuck pretty close to help out!

forrest on a mission to find more eggs!

wait a minute!  there's something in there!

my guys.....




Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter & "The Day Phillip Joined the Group....."

i love Easter!  i love to celebrate Easter with family and friends.  we always get together with my mom's side of the family to cook out and have an Easter egg hunt, up in the "country," where my mom grew up!  we did that yesterday and had a lot of fun!   my dear friend susan and her boys joined us, as they have done occasionally throughout the years!   it was a beautiful day!  

today was a beautiful Easter sunday, and we attended our regular worship service.   the music was great; they sang a song during which different people walked across the stage with signs that were hand printed with an adversity or life circumstance on one side, and on the reverse side, how God had worked in that situation; for example: "victim of domestic abuse/i'm alive!"  "biological father left at age 3/Heavenly Father will never leave me"  "only daughter died in a tragic car wreck/i will spend eternity with my only daughter because of the sacrifice Christ made!"  "born a sinner/saved!"  to list a few.  it was very moving and emotional, as i knew many of their stories, and the pain that they had gone through.  needless to say, i cried a bit, as i reflected with them how great our God is, and that He is alive and well, at work in our lives!  
our preacher went on to preach his message about Jesus' resurrection, which we celebrate on Easter.  towards the end of his message, he retold a paul harvey story about a boy with Down syndrome, which i am including below.  i had heard the story before, but for some reason, as soon as steven starting telling it, i FELL APART.  not just a little.....a LOT.  i thought i was going to have to get up and leave, i was so upset.  the thought that one day wyatt could be excluded and made fun of just tore me up.....i was sick to my stomach.   it was a terrible feeling.....i know my friends in the choir, who could clearly see me, felt so bad for today has been an emotionally draining day......
The Day Phillip Joined the Group

He was 9--in a Sunday school class of 8-year olds. Eight-year-olds can be cruel. The third-graders did not welcome Phillip to their group. Not just because he was older. He was "different." He suffered from Down's Syndrome and its obvious manifestations: facial characteristics, slow responses, symptoms of retardation. One Sunday after Easter, the Sunday school teacher gathered some of those plastic eggs that pull apart in the middle -- the kind in which some ladies' pantyhose are packaged. The Sunday school teacher gave one of these plastic eggs to each child. On that beautiful spring day each child was to go outdoors and discover for himself some symbol of "new life" and place that symbolic seed or leaf or whatever inside his egg. They would then open their eggs one by one, and each youngster would explain how his find was a symbol of "new life." So ... The youngsters gathered 'round on the appointed day and put their eggs on a table, and the teacher began to open them.

One child had found a flower. All the children "oohed" and "aahed" at the lovely symbol of new life. In another was a butterfly. "Beautiful," the girls said. And it's not easy for an 8-year-old to say "beautiful". Another egg opened to reveal a rock. Some of the children laughed. "That's crazy!" one said. "How's a rock supposed to be like a new life?'". Immediately a little boy spoke up and said, "That's mine. I knew everybody would get flowers and leaves and butterflies and all that stuff, so I got a rock to be different." Everyone laughed. The teacher opened the last one, and there was nothing in it. "That's not fair," someone said. "That's stupid," said another. The teacher felt a tug on his shirt. It was Phillip. Looking up he said, "It's mine. I did it. It's empty. I have new life because the tomb is empty." The class fell silent. From that day on Phillip became part of the group. They welcomed him. Whatever had made him different was never mentioned again. Phillip's family had known he would not live a long life; just too many things wrong with the tiny body. That summer, overcome with infection, Phillip died. On the day of his funeral nine 8-year-old boys and girls confronted the reality of death and marched up to the altar--not with flowers. Nine children with their Sunday school teacher placed on the casket of their friend their gift of love - an empty egg ...

Easter Blessings to you and yours.......peace.......

Thursday, April 21, 2011

IndyE....Where Did My Little Boy Go???

 ethan turns 18 in a little over an hour!   where has the time gone?  he can now vote and register for the selective service.  in about 4 months he plans to leave for college!   wow!   i didn't see that one coming!  i thought we had at least another year with him here while he attended our local community college.  we made the "mistake" of attending an open house at the university of west florida, and that all changed!  he decided he was ready to go straight out of high school!   he has almost 40 college credits out of the way, which is awesome, so he will enter as a sophomore.   

at the alamo!
 is he ready?  only God knows.  do we trust him?  completely.  he has been such an awesome kid and teenager!   will i miss him?   more than you can imagine.    as an only child for the first 8 years of his life, he has always been more like a little adult; very mature for his age.  he has definitely always been older than his years, an "old soul!"   maybe that's why he plans to study "old" things!   he plans to pursue a degree in anthropology/archaeology!   and then travel the world on "digs" !     which is one of the reasons he has not 1 but 2 foreign languages fulfilled!  he studied latin (very beneficial) and italian (because he wants to go to italy!).  

my 3 sons!

selfishly i will miss him being here to help me in so many ways; driving, running errands, keeping the kids, etc.  but above all else, i will just miss hanging out with him.   we "grew" up many parents say of their first child!   and i know that his brothers will miss him so much!  but i'm also excited for him....for what lies ahead!   i'm so proud of the young man that he has become, and i can't wait to see the opportunities that he will have, and the relationships he will build as he pursues God's will for his life!   i know that God has great plans for this young man, and i am so blessed that HE allowed me to be ethan's mama......

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hope Haven Truly Gives Hope!

wyatt and i just returned from our second visit to hope haven's Down syndrome clinic in jacksonville, florida.   i love to go there! we get so much great information and new ideas;  i wish that everyone had the opportunity to go there.  they are so encouraging and affirming!   

it's a long day, basically 4 therapies in a row, back to back!  today wyatt started with ms. debbie, who is an occupational therapist.  she gave us lots of terrific idea to work on at home!   my main concern in ot wyatt's (lack of) pincer grip.  wyatt has the fattest short little fingers that you have ever seen!  it's really no wonder he has a hard time with that pincer grip!    she really encouraged me to work on strengthening his grip, strengthening those hands, gettting him to use them LOTS!!!!    and so we will.....

and then we moved on to see ms. laura, who does the educational evaluation.  she was so happy with the progess that she saw in wyatt since we were there in october of last year!   it's always fun to hear what others see in our kids, isn't it?  sometimes we miss the progress that they are making!   we talked about some concerns that i have for wyatt, including his sensitivity to sounds.  wyatt often gets upset when there are loud sounds around him.  she offered some ideas for desensitization in that area, ideas for making haircuts more manageable, etc.  she is an awesome resource, and it's great to be able to call or email her with questions and concerns that i might have.

our next session was physical therapy where we got to work with an intern, kristina, as well as ms. kris!  they were very happy with wyatt's strength!   they believe, however, that the only thing holding wyatt back from walking is a vestibular issue.  he has the strength, the range of motion, but is still not walking.  they explained that sometimes the fluid in the ear canals (i think) need to be manipulated, swished around a bit.  so they introduced us to Astronaut Training: A Sound Activated Vestibular-Visual Protocol for Moving, a therapy that involves holding wyatt and twirling around and around in various position to swish that fluid around.   there's more to it than that, but that's the "gist" of it!  after they did it one time, they saw a difference in his stability!   so tim will be working on that with wyatt....because i CAN'T twirl round and round like that! 

 we ended our long day of therapies with ms. melanie, the speech therapist.   she did lots of playing with him, getting him to make sounds, signs, etc.  but he was tired and hungry!  so we moved on to some oral motor exercises!  she used lots of different "tools;" jigglers, z-vibes, nuks, etc., to "wake up" his mouth before we had his yogurt!   it was funny to see him eat his yogurt after that, you could tell that his mouth did feel different!   and we worked on drinking from a cup with a straw.  wyatt is STILL nursing at 21 months, and really could care less about drinking anything else!   so she gave me some ideas to work on that as well!
we ended the day with a quick trip back to ms. laura's office for a "wrap up," which is a nice way to end the day at hope haven!   you hear so much good stuff through the day, sometimes you forget to ask questions, and sometimes you just need clarification on something!   
hope haven is a wonderful place, a tremendous resource for our Down syndrome community!  they see over 1400 children and teens who have Down syndrome every year!   they provide their services at a greatly reduced rate, as well, which is wonderful!  many local organizations offset the cost, or pay for it in its entirety, for the evaluation, which they recommend twice a year.    today i encountered a family from washington state who were in florida and were able to have their daughter to be evaluated; people come from all over for their services!   so if you're anywhere near jacksonville, i highly recommend a visit...but plan ahead; there's a 6-12 month wait...... 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Talking, Eating, and Laughing in Louisiana!

I miss my family! And i know that they miss...Wyatt! They probably miss me a little too! Wyatt and I are in bossier city, louisiana visiting one of my best friends in the world, Shirley! I've gotten to meet some of shirley's best friends here, it's been a lot of fun! Shirley and her family are now retired military, and moved to Louisiana about 2 1/2 years ago. We miss each other a lot! She has been to visit us a few times, and came to help me after wyatt was born and after his open heart surgery. We have not seen her since that trip, which was a little over a year ago! She has enjoyed Wyatt so much!

All we have done is eat and talk, and eat and talk, and LAUGH! Shirley has talked and laughed so much that her braces have rubbed her mouth raw... We have really enjoyed our time together! We have enjoyed some good food, too! (I love food, in case you didn't know that!) We've eaten papa murphy's take and bake mediterranean delite grilled chicken pizza, good eats chicken salad, pasta down on the boardwalk, puffy crispy tacos from superior grill, cupcakes from buttercups, frozen yogurt from fruiti YoGo, and it has ALL BEEN AMAZING! Delicious! I just hope that I fit in my airplane seat tomorrow!

Wyatt has had a lot of fun too, I'll post pics when we get back home! One thing that I mentioned to Shirley is that although I have noticed people looking at Wyatt, like folks normally do, everyone has been so kind and gracious! They have gone out of their way to speak and wave at him. He has been a blessing to those he has encountered, and we have been blessed as well! Peace....

Monday, April 11, 2011

Brotherly Love....

i just uploaded the most recent pictures from our camera, and came across this one, taken at forrest's academic awards ceremony recently:
forrest is such a proud big brother to wyatt!   he always wants to show his friends whatever wyatt has learned lately, he just adores him!    the other night at dinner, we were talking about ethan leaving for college in the fall (UGH), and forrest said "i'm living at home when i go to college!  wyatt will need me!"   we were pretty proud to hear forrest say that, not that we want him to feel like he must do that, but because at 10, that's what he wants to do!  

which reminds me that we must make decisions about wyatt's future.   that's right, we don't have a will, and we've never chosen guardians for our kids, just in case.   it's such a hard thing to do!   some people are blessed to have family members who immediately "claim" the privilege of being their kid's guardians.   others have close friends who would assume that role.   of course, we hope that wyatt will be able to live somewhat independently, if that is his desire, but we have no idea what his future holds for sure.  but i'm so thankful that we know WHO holds his future!   much to think and pray about......

on a lighter not......wyatt chasing a ball under his music play table..... 
first, i thought he was stuck.....

then i realized he had a goal.....
get the ball!

the joy of success!!!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Alexander's Journey Home....

i have met the nicest people on facebook.  seriously.  people i even call in real life, now.  people i would never have met if wyatt did not have Down syndrome!  

one of those special people is christie taylor.   she and her husband , shawn, are on a roller coaster of a ride to adopt a precious reece's rainbow orphan, alexander...pictured here, and in their button in the sidebar!  
isn't he adorable?  he will be blessed with 3 brothers when he gets home to his forever family in indiana!   i say their adoption process has been a bit of a roller coaster because they have had to "stay the course" through different issues;  passport problems, adoption agency problems, housing situations, etc., but they are staying the course, and following God's direction for their lives to adopt this precious boy!   

alexander found them about 2 1/2 months ago, and they immediately started the international adoption process.   they have recently contracted with a second adoption agency to proceed as quickly as possible with all the details involved!  alexander is almost 6 years old and has already been transferred to an institution.  christie and shawn are desperate to get to him and bring him home!    

please pray for alexander's safety until his mama and daddy can get to him!  pray that he is healthy and being loved and nurtured by his caregivers.   pray that the rest of their adoption process will be uneventful, that they will be approved in every area, and that they can raise the remainder of the funds that they need to bring him home!   they are currently having a fundraiser giveaway for an ipad2, click here to visit their blog, follow their story, and see how you can give financially to help them!  and you might win an ipad2 as well!

i am blessed to be one of christie's prayer warriors throughout this journey, and ask that you pray with me for this precious family as well!      peace......

Monday, April 4, 2011

Am I A Jonah? Are You A Jonah? you know him?  have you heard about him?    well i have.  A LOT LATELY!!!!   i have been leading a Bible study on jonah,  jonah:  a life interrupted, written by priscilla shirer.   our ladies Bible study began in january, and we've been meeting twice monthly as we've worked our way through the study.  it's a great study, by the way!   

then i was asked to speak to a ladies class at their quarterly lunch about my "interrupted life....."  basically our life since God chose to bless us with wyatt!   and what a blessing he is.   i shared a little about jonah with those ladies, and how the "interrupted life" is often actually a "divine intervention", which is the thrust of the jonah study.  

this past weekend i was blessed by our ladies Bible study group with a ticket to the priscilla shirer conference, going beyond, which was held locally.   there were over 1600 women there, worshipping and studying God's Word together!   well, guess what priscilla talked about?   yep, jonah!   in addition to the jonah lessons, she also shared steps to practically and methodically study God's Word on your own.  it was a great lesson as well!     

at worship yesterday, would you believe that our pastor preached on....JONAH??????    okay, God, are you trying to tell me something?   i thought that i had already dealt with my obstinance concerning His gift of wyatt.  granted, i was not excited about having a baby at 43, but i finally got used to the idea.   and yes, it took a while to realize what a blessing wyatt and his Down syndrome is to our family, but i got it!   so what now?  is God trying to show me a new direction for my life that i have been avoiding?   a different ministry, or new focus of ministry from the direction He was leading before?  

there's a lot to learn from jonah's response (running away) to God's directions for his life.  much to be learned from that tiny book that can easily be overlooked!   and lots for me to think and pray about.....

Friday, April 1, 2011


praising God this morning with the HOOK family....the same russian judge who denied the adoption of KIRILL last week approved their adoption of EVAN!!!!   SHE SAID YES!!!! 
the hook family with EVAN!!!!
praying that this will open the doors for adoptions in that region! also continuing to pray for the MORENO family as they await a court date with that same judge for their adoption hearing for BABY J! and praying that the same judge will reverse her decision to deny the DAVIS family's adoption of KIRILL!!!!!
tesney and kirill
if you get tired of my endless advocating for these children who need homes, please understand that it just breaks my heart that these children with Down syndrome are transferred to mental institutions around the age of 5.   NO CHILD SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THAT!!!!   in america we have countless families who are waiting to adopt children with Ds born in the united states.   but in those eastern european countries, that is not the case.   please continue to pray with me that these children, who are JUST AS PRECIOUS AS OUR WYATT, will be allowed to be adopted and be united with their forever families....