Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I Didn't Know I Wanted a Child With Down Syndrome...Until I Had One

I am often asked what it's like to have a child who has Down syndrome.

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That's SUCH a loaded question.

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I often wonder if the person asking wants me to reply "Oh, it's so difficult!" so they can nod their head with sympathy.  What I actually say is, "Not that much different than having a typical child."  This is usually met with a look of disbelief.

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But here's the thing: Down syndrome is not as big of a deal as it's made out to be! It's not a monster who wants to ruin your life and steal your happiness. THAT'S the truth that needs to be told! It needs to be told to everyone.  It needs to be SHOUTED OUT so the message is heard around the world.

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My former self would have stared in disbelief.  My former self would have felt pity.  My former self? Didn't understand what Down syndrome really was.

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Right after Liam was born, and we were told the suspicions, I begged God to take it away. I prayed that the lab results would be negative. Parenting a person who had Down syndrome felt like a prison sentence.  I never thought I would laugh, smile, sing, dance, or have fun again. 

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As the days passed, I fell head over heels in love with my sweet boy and I realized just how special he was. When the doctor called 2 weeks after his birth with the test results, I didn't even flinch. I already knew Liam was perfect just the way he was, and life returned to normal.  Yes, I said it.  Normal.

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Almost 2 years have passed since Liam was born. We are smiling. We are laughing.  We are singing. We are dancing. We are having fun. Most days I completely forget Liam has Down syndrome! 

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Sure, there are therapy sessions to help him reach milestones, but he's reaching them. There are more yearly appointments, but that's just to catch any issues before they become a problem. Inclusion, early intervention, and close medical attention is making a world of difference. Now, more than ever, there is SO much hope and these kids are exceeding expectations! I have NO doubt that Liam will do the same!

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Our life isn't much different than it was before Liam was born. We attend storytime, have picnics, and visit the park. We go out to eat, run errands, and go shopping.  We have playdates, visit family, and go to church.  We go to the zoo, go to museums, and attend functions. We go to movies in the park, go swimming, and go to baseball games.  We eat meals together, have Family Movie Nights, and play outside. Liam is just like any other toddler his age.  He can walk, talk (and sign!), and feed himself.  He can bounce, dance, and wave.  He loves books, cars, and playing outside.  He smiles, laughs, and loves to socialize. Liam is so much more than a diagnosis.

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Everybody wants and expects to have a typical child. The typical lifestyle is appealing.  As a parent, we want our kids to be a success, get married, have children, and have an easy life.  But let's be honest.  Life isn't easy. Having a typical child does NOT guarantee a typical lifestyle. Many children will grow up to lead not-so-typical lifestyles. The majority of parents will face some sort of difficulty with their child at some point. All of our challenges are different. My parenting challenge is nothing compared to parents who are dealing with kids who have cancer, mental illness, or drug addiction. In the grand scheme of things, having a child who has Down syndrome is not that big of a deal.  Even if he is dependent for the rest of his life, we still win, because we will get to see that incredible smile every single day.  Finding the beauty in life-ALL life-is the key to happiness.

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I can't even imagine life without Liam and I can't even imagine life without Down syndrome. The saying is true: We are BLESSED with Down syndrome.  For most people that's hard to fathom.  But you can't truly understand something until you live it.  I'm living it, and I wouldn't change a thing!

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Even if I had the capability to make it go away, I wouldn't. I fear that if it went away, it would take away his incredible joy, his huge personality, and that smile that is so contagious. Thinking of all that being gone immediately brings tears to my eyes. I LIVE to see that smile every single day and watch him laugh his way through life. His presence makes our lives infinitely better!

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Liam's extra chromosome makes the light in his eyes just a bit brighter. It makes his hugs just a bit tighter. It makes his contagious smile just a bit happier.  It makes his joy radiate through his entire body.  It gives him a personality too big to fit inside that tiny body. It fills him with so much sweetness, goodness, innocence, and purity that it takes my breath away. May the light that makes him shine so brightly never fade.

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I definitely didn't even know I wanted a child who had Down syndrome...until I had one. Liam is no mistake.  God knew EXACTLY what he was doing and exactly what I needed.

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Living life comes so easily to Liam.  Live, Laugh, Love, and trust in God.  

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I was given the gift of a life blessed with something a "little extra."  For that, I'm forever changed and eternally grateful. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Our summer vacation is off to a...rainy start.

Seriously.  I feel like it rained most of May and June! ENOUGH already!

We're trying to make the most of it...

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...but we're hoping July brings some REAL summer weather!

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Under-The-Sea Ice Pops

Now that Summer is here, popsicles are staple in our freezer!

We go through popsicles SO quickly. I felt like I was constantly buying a wide variety to please everyone, so I picked up an inexpensive Ice Pop Maker ($3!) to make our own!

We love coming up with new popsicle ideas. Some of our favorites are Iced Tea Ice Pops made from homemade sweet tea, Yogurt Ice Pops (filled with our favorite yogurt), Chocolate/Strawberry/Vanilla Milk Ice Pops, and Strawberry-Banana Puree Ice Pops. And on those days when everyone wants something different?  I can do it!

A few days ago, while I was trying to figure out what kind of popsicles to make, it hit me that I should add some fillers. My kids love Swedish Fish, so I already had a bag stored away for an upcoming treat.  I often add them to blue raspberry jello to surprise the kids, and I realized that I could do the same thing with popsicles!

They were so easy to make, and the kids (and my husband!) loved them!

UNDER-THE-SEA ICE POPS

Items Needed:

*Ice Pop Maker
*Swedish Fish
*Blue Kool-Aid®

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{Step One}  Fill the Ice Pop Maker with Swedish Fish.

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{Step Two}  Fill the Ice Pop Maker with blue Kool-Aid®.

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{Step Three}  Put the lids on tightly!

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{Step Four} Give it a shake to mix up the Swedish Fish, then freeze for 8 hours.  Once they're completely frozen, ENJOY!

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Under-The-Sea Ice Pops ended up being Liam's very first popsicle!  The PROfreshionals Ice Pop Maker is PERFECT for tiny hands!

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He thought the ice pops were the best thing ever! 

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Under-The-Sea Ice Pops are REALLY easy to make and fun for the whole family! 


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HAPPY SUMMER!



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Play Ball!

We can officially cross another big event off of our Summer Bucket List!  

Our local library kicked off their summer reading program with a raffle, and one of my kids won 10 tickets to Tuesday night's Pittsburgh Pirates game!  The kids were SO excited!

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(Isn't PNC Park GORGEOUS?!?)

We decided to invite my niece, Aubrey, and our friends Audrey, Jack, and Rex to join us!  It was Aubrey's first Pirates game!

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It was a great night for a game.  The weather was gorgeous, and the view from the park is always spectacular!

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Each of the kids had a buddy.  Aubrey and Lexie, Dylan and Jack, and Audrey and Lily.  Liam bounced between Grant and I, but he loved the game.  Every time he heard a cheer, he started clapping! Lily was finally old enough to enjoy it, too!

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The kids worked so hard on their banner and they were certain they were going to get on TV. No such luck, but they tried!

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After a few innings the kids had to go to the bathroom-of course!  I took the girls and Liam down to the restroom, then let them enjoy the gorgeous view of the city from the balcony.  Liam paid no attention to the beautiful river and cityscape. He was all, "Hey, my hands are so awesome!"

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We headed back to our seats, but as soon as we reached the top of the steps, Liam pooped-of course!  All the changing tables were occupied, so he got a riverside diaper change. He was unimpressed.  In true boy fashion, the game was all he cared about!

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Shortly after we returned, the sun began to set over the city.

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THAT'S when the game got exciting!  A huge hit resulted in a homerun.  They set off fireworks every time the Pirates get a homerun, so it made the game extra exciting!

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The kids were already thrilled from the first set of fireworks.  Lily was clapping and grinning ear to ear!  Then...it happened again!

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After the excitement, Liam started to get sleepy.  He was an absolute angel for the entire game, and I was so impressed he lasted so long!

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Finally, it was time for the Pierogie Race!  Oh yeah, it's a thing.  The kids look forward to it every time we go to a game!

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Darkness settled over the city, and Liam fell asleep amidst all the noise.

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By that time, it was getting really late, so we decided to leave just before the game ended.  The kids were reluctant to leave, but everyone was getting sleepy!

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As we left, Grant snapped a quick picture to prove I was there! We only had one brave person ask if all the kids were ours.  There may have been a few strange looks, too, but I'll call that a win! We very successfully survived the game with 5 kids, and we ALL had fun!

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Even though we left a bit early, the Pirates pulled off a win.  It was a great night for baseball in Pittsburgh and such a memorable night for my family!  Go, Pirates!!!

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