Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When God's Plan Differs From My Plan: and other lessons I've learned from a little boy named Henry

As I write my little brother, Henry, is in Children's National Hospital. In the past twenty-four hours he has been suspected, tested, diagnosed and treated for infantile seizures (West Syndrome), a form of epilepsy.

Here's the thing. Henry has Down Syndrome. And since he was first diagnosed with DS I have been okay with that. I've read memoirs of people who had to learn to accept their baby with down syndrome as less than perfect but that has never been an issue for me because I've never believed he was anything less than perfect. So naturally I accepted him as whole. As fearfully and wonderfully made.

My family's goal for Henry is nothing less than a PhD in physics from Harvard University. And I truly, 110%, believed he could achieve it. I believed he would learn to drive a car. And one day marry, hold a job and live a full life. Because there was no reason he couldn't. If we gave him every opportunity I believed he could do anything he wanted. There was nothing stopping him.

Through a year of therapies and doctors appointment I've held to that. One day I would see him walk across a stage and be handed a diploma. It would be the proudest day of my life.

Today for the first time in one year of unfaltering belief I began to doubt our dreams for Henry will ever be a reality. If I will ever attend his Harvard graduation. If I will ever teach him to drive. Or see him say "I do" to the girl of his dreams.

In a paper published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2006 Dr. W Shield writes: "Of the 147 surviving patients [of 214 cases], 25 (17%) had a favorable developmental outcome with an IQ of 85 or greater. Eleven others were in the dull–normal range, with an IQ of 68–84. Thus, of the 214 patients diagnosed with infantile spasms, 31% died, 45% were retarded, but 24% had a reasonably favorable outcome."

That's a pretty hard to swallow. Because this is not part of my plan for Henry. This was not my vision for Henry's life.

Please don't misunderstand me. This doesn't make me think any less of Henry, I really don't. I still believe he is fearfully and wonderfully made. A perfect creation of Jesus. And capable of the impossible.

For the first time I'm acknowledging that he may have limitations. And my dreams for Henry may never come true.

But I'm also learning to accept that.

Because most of all I want Henry to follow God's plan for his life, just as I desire to follow God's plan in my own life. I want Henry's life to be a witness of God's goodness, love and grace. Since Henry was born we have been praying for Henry's life to reach the world. And if God decides Henry can best reach the world with an IQ of 68, so be it.

Several months ago God began to unravel His plan for my life. A plan far from my own. It goes something like this: Four years undergrad work, the formidable MCAT, four years medical school, two to twelve years residency.

I'm going to be honest here: this was not my plan for my life. My plans ran something along the lines of a quick four year degree followed by a easy and enjoyable career where I could be nearby and available for my family. But you know what? God has given me a love and passion for His plan that I never expected. It's to the point where I really cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I see the many ways he has been working in my life through the years to prepare me for this. And even though I know the trials of the journey and how taxing the path will be physically, intellectually and emotionally, even though this wasn't my plan, I'm downright excited and can't wait to get started.

And one day I believe when I consider Henry's life it will fill me with the same excitement. When I see what God's plans where for him and how he used every bump in the road to bring about his master plan I will be able to smile and acknowledge that through it all Jesus really did know best. I'm still hanging onto Harvard for Henry. But if that isn't part of God's plan I'm okay with that.

Because maybe, just maybe, my plans are not God's plans. And maybe, just maybe, that's for the best.

I'm standing here and my finite vision can only see today. My infinite God sees today, yesterday and tomorrow.

Friday, July 11, 2014

On the high school years, finding your purpose, and why searching is only good in Google.

It's inevitable. As soon as a person enters high school family, friends and (it sometimes seems) every human being on the face of the planet begins the ask "the question". It comes in many shapes and sizes but they all say basically the same thing: What are you going to do with your life? And I was no exception. As soon as I started high school the questions starting pouring in from every direction.

Now there are a few things you really must understand about me.

1. I am extremely goal oriented

2. I am an obsessive micromanager (who, ironically, hates to be managed)

3. I always have a plan (and a few back up plans, just in case) and am super prepared (I carry a small pharmacy in my purse)

4. I always know the answer...or at least, on the rare occasion I don't have the answer, I will come up with the pretty darn convincing answer

I view the high school years as a pretty critical time in a person's life. It's the final preparation. Your last chance to get everything straight before entering adult life. I screwed up in many ways during my high school year and wasted a lot of critical maturing time. But I got at least one thing right.

I realized early on my future didn't rest within my hands. Before starting high school (let's refer to those four years as "the critical phase" for the rest of this post, shall we?) I believed firmly God has a plan and purpose for every person's life. And only in carrying out His plan...whether it be serving as a pastor or a missionary in a foreign country, flipping burgers at McDonald's, a full time mother, or an executive in a larger cooperation...can we ever find true purpose and fulfillment. More importantly, only in His will can we optimize our potential to serve Jesus in the future. I committed myself to following God's plan for my life.

Resolved to follow God's plan 100% I entered, shall we say, phase two: Discerning God's Plan. Every day during "the critical period" I prayed for God to show me His plan. For wisdom to see His plan when he revealed it. And for courage to carry it out and follow His plan regardless.

But I started my senior year clueless and frustrated that God was keeping me in the dark. Here's the fifth thing you should know about me: I am very impatient. I mean, VERY impatient.

I don't know why God chose to keep me in suspense so long. But I have a few ideas.

1. I wasn't where I needed to be spiritually

2. I still had (and have) a lot of growing up to do

3. I wouldn't have been receptive because of the reasons above

4. He was teaching me patience

5. And here's the big one - I was searching for God's plan.

If there is one piece of advice I would pass onto a thirteen/fourteen/fifteen year old trying to figure out life it would be this: Never, but never, go searching.

Don't look for your future spouse. Don't seek your purpose. Don't go searching for God's will. Embrace where God has placed you. If you're in high school, embrace this opportunity to further your education! If you are on summer vacation, embrace the opportunity to invest in relationships and rejuvenate your body and spirit! If you, like me, are between high school and college, embrace the freedom to explore your interest and prepare for your future calling. But don't go searching for something.

If you search for something you will find it. But there's no guarantee it will be the right thing. Or even if it is the right thing there is no way to know if it's the right timing. You get what I mean?

But I can guarantee you this. If you...

1. Embrace the season in which  God has placed you

2. Trust God will fulfill your desires and direct your steps when He is ready and

3. Make a relationship with Jesus the only thing you are seeking God will reveal His plan. He will direct your steps. And when He does it will be more amazing than anything you could have hoped for.

At least, for me, it wasn't until I came to this conclusion that I saw clearly what God had been trying to show me for, I believe, quite some time. And it is amazing and more than I could have hoped for. And I will tell you all about it...in the next post.
via pinterest
What do you think? Have you had a similar experience? What do you think about "searching"? I would love if you commented and shared!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Reading List

I am an incredibly slow reader. Often I have to reread a page several times to fully grasp the concept, making my reading progress even slower. Despite the effort I read because the simple pleasure of getting lost within the pages of a really good book.

Every October when I come home from vacation I get busy with life in general and reading is moved low on my list of priorities. But as soon as the weather warms and the pool opens (in short, summer holiday commences) the only place I want to be is tanning by the pool with a stack of books...or my Kindle...which is essentially a stack of books condensed into less matter.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - Finished and highly recommending highly. Dickens does it again.

The Iliad by Homer - I am reading the Alexander Pope translation...the language is absolutely beautiful. If I still love this book by the end I may add the Odyssey to my reading list.

Romeo and Juliette by Shakespeare - I've never given Shakespeare a fair chance and a little tragedy is always nice ... ?

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester - The author is a friend of my mother's and one of the characters is named after Henry (!!!).

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - Based on several strong recommendations from multiple friends. Plus C.S. Lewis always grounds me and reminds me the focus of my faith.

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson - Inspiration for the journey. :)

Politics: A Treatise on Government by Aristotle - My first in philosophy...if nothing else I'll memorize a few passage to throw out at dinner parties while pretending I have the foggiest idea about what I am talking about.

Republic by Plato - Because it seems wrong to read Aristotle and not Plato.

Sacred Singleness by Leslie Ludy - Rereading.

Rosalind Franklin: the dark lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox - After reading this book I may never be able to read The Double Helix again.

Emma by Jane Austen - Because recently I have found myself relating to Emma (slightly ironic sentence when you consider I have an relative named Emma).

Better: a surgeon's notes on performance by Atul Gawande - This sounds like a book my mom would love...a surgeon applies surgical methods of optimizing performance to everyday life. Started reading this book and realized my description was a tad off. I quote, "This is a book about performance in medicine. As a doctor, you go into this work thinking it is all a matter of canny diagnosis, technical prowess, and some ability to empathize with people. But it is not, you soon find out. In medicine, as in any profession, we must grapple with systems, resources, circumstances, people - and our own shortcomings, as well. We face obstacles of seemingly ending variety. Yet somehow we must advance, we must refine, we must improve. How we have and how we do is the subject here." Even better than I thought!

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else by Michael Gates Gill

So excited summer and reading are back again! I'm always looking for recommendations so tell me...what are you reading this summer?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Happiness

It never fails. Every year I go on vacation. I take a million photos because I actually have the time to enjoy the art. Then I come home. And I am overwhelmed by my million and one page to-do list of everything I wasn't doing while I was on vacation. And the post vacation depression sets in. And honestly I don't want to look at the photos anymore. So I never post them. But today I was sorting through photos and came across these. And they made me happy. I heard a rumor the high today was 89*. Thoughts are of SUMMER and of course vacation. And that makes me happy. Perhaps happiness cannot be bought but it's there on demand if you know where to search It's found in expressing yourself through your art. In reflection. And in reliving sacred memories and moments.

cheers, 
näna 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Race for Respect

I did not write the following post. My mom did. My mom writes often. It's therapeutic for her and she is an excellent writer. I've read many posts written by my mom. But this is by far the best. When I finished reading it I was in tears. I want to talk to you about the 5k and I couldn't say it any better. So why try? I know it is long but please read through the end...every word is beautiful.

Before the crack of dawn March 30 th the van was on the road with 18 running shoes,  1 pair of rain boots and two buggies.

Before my first cup of coffee our gang joined 500 other runners in our Nation's Capital to face freezing temperatures, rain, wind, snow and ice for the first annual Race For Respect.

Race day was quite an experience, and I will come back to it. However, our journey to the capital was an even greater experience. A journey which has made each of us better than we started out. 

Working through the trials makes us stronger for the race 

Aedan and Ellie were absolutely amazing. Both of them suffer from Asthma. Anyone with breathing issues knows how hard it is to run with asthma. And anyone with asthma knows how hard it is to breath in the freezing temperatures. Aedan runs in warmer months but was taking this winter off per Allen's and my instructions. When he got out there in February to train for this race he could barely make it up the first hill, which is about a 1/4 mile stretch from our house. He pushed on and persevered without ever making a single complaint. Our last training run before the race he ran with me and did 7 miles without hardly getting winded. And he stayed well ahead of me the entire time.

And Ellie... As we have been training and tracking our progress Allen diligently tacked a report for each of us on the fridge each Sunday. As Elisabeth watched everyone else log miles, she decided to get in on the game. Because of the cold she only had 6 days she was able to run at all. She managed 5K on her second run with me. It was not looking very good for her when she ran with me last. The weather was cold and she was struggling considerably with breathing. But she pushed on and finished 5K.

When we push ourselves we might find we have more in us than we ever imagined 

Most kids who went to the race chose to run the kids 1K event, or to walk the course. Judging by the crowd, I think Elisabeth might have been the only one in her age group to actually run the adult event. Because of what happened, details to follow, Allen and I ended up separated from the rest of our family. But I was told when Elisabeth crossed the finish line there was a chorus of cheers for our 417, who never faltered, even in the cold. When we got the stats later, we learned she finished 91st out of 500 runners. Not too shabby for an asthmatics first event and 7th run!

When things become tedious, push ahead, the feeling of accomplishment is worth it 

Nathaniel has a habit of starting something and not finishing it. Last fall, Allen decided to use running as a way to work on this bit of character. But then life turned very busy and it dropped off for December and January. I am very proud of what Nathaniel showed in these 6 or 7 weeks of training. There were two weeks where commitments and weather made it virtually impossible for the kids to get in all three runs. We excused them from 2 runs during that time span. But Nathaniel, made a point of doing extra runs in order to get in his equivalent of 3 per week. One day he even went for a run with the girls and when he got back headed back out with me for another 4 miles. Along the way, he has increased his speed considerably. He might even be able to outrun Allen now. I'd say he's learned to finish what he commits to, wouldn't you? As for me, in the last few years the Lord has used running to teach me so many lessons. And these few weeks was no exception.

The steady engine encourages those around them 

And what about Kaitlin and Emma? They just plugged along as they always do. Steady and sure. That's my girls.

You might get more than you bargained for, but pushing forward builds character, (or at least makes you think twice next time) 

When the race came up in February, it was Brianna who rallied everyone to get involved. In an odd twist on Wachter world, it was yours truly trying to convince everyone not to run. We told the kids in the beginning no one was required to sign up but if we paid their entry fee they had to run at least 3 days a week until race day. Brianna had to really test her dedication. While she was the one who started the ball rolling, she quickly realized she didn't want to go running in 18 inches of snow and rain.

Even though the weather has not been favorable for running, as race day approached we consoled ourselves through snow and rain by the 10 day forecast of high 50's and sun to accompany our visit to DC. My attitude quickly turned bad Thursday night when a Nor'easter blew in bringing with it three days of pouring down rain, cold temperatures, and some wind and ice to test our conviction and endurance. By Saturday, no one was looking forward to the trip. And Brianna, having had her wisdom teeth removed on Thursday, was looking forward to it even less than the rest of us.

I seriously can not tell you how many times Saturday (and at 5:30 Sunday morning) you could hear someone saying, "Who's bright idea was this, Brianna?" Even our family mantra, "We're doing it for Henry," was little consolation.

And yet, when we headed to bed around midnight on Saturday, we found the boys were so excited they were still all wide awake.

So we, along with a couple of friends, made our way into the city. It poured like crazy until shortly before we got to the parking deck. Allen said God must have been answering my prayers to stay the rain for the race as it turned to just a light drizzle. We pinned on our bibs and tied our shoes wishing the opening ceremony would go a little quicker to stay ahead of the storms.

Family pushes through the trials and shouts the victory together 

Initially, we had planned on having someone watch Carmella and Addison for the run. But I was never really happy with that. Because the thing is we do everything as a family. That's our greatest strength. And we decided to do this for Addison. I just couldn't see running without Carmella and Henry. A few days before the race I brought it up at dinner. And everyone agreed. I am glad we made the decision. Even though it made things a lot more complicated.

It's amazing how many people and how much stuff you can fit into one van 

I usually run while the little ones are napping or we divide up and some stay with the little guys while one group runs and then we swap. I gave our running stroller away a few years ago to make room in the shed. So problem number 1 was getting, not 1, but 2 buggies the week before the race. Problem 2 was fitting two buggies in our van. Fillmore may be huge but there is no room for anything but people with all the seats in. Which we needed because of the extra people riding with us.

The back of the line isn't so bad if you are with the ones you love 

Problem 3, which wasn't really a problem, was anyone with buggies had to go to the back of the line. Which is sort of annoying if you are a faster runner. And, we can make some time. Most of us finished respectably, but we could have made much better time if we didn't have a crowd in front of us. But that is the nature of the thing, and in this life I find it is better to run together than to finish first.

Our challenges, no matter how great, will never be as hard as the next guy 

As we were getting ready in the days leading up to DC we did a lot of reflecting on those with DS. Our hearts were particularly focused on our precious friend Madison, who had just gone through her 3rd open heart surgery. Addison has been blessed with amazing health compared to the majority of the DS population. But there are many out there who fight for their lives every single day. And they are doing so in the face of a world which says their lives aren't worth the trouble or expense of living. We decided we wanted to honor the Madison's of this world in the inaugural race. Emma made an adorable banner and hung it on Addison's buggy. The whole morning people kept saying "Hi" to "Madison" and then we had to explain who Madison was and how she couldn't be with us because she was recovering from surgery. When they asked what our son's name was they seemed very confused when we said, "Addison" which sounds a lot like "Madison" in pouring down rain.
In every life a little rain must fall 

The actual run itself went like this. It poured down rain. And at one point there was snow and ice mixed in. For those of us moving, though. It wasn't bad. As I have mentioned before, where we train there are hills. Nothing but hills. Lots of them. And they are steep. I have decided I really like running on flat city streets. Even in the bad weather and even with the babies, I shaved almost three minutes off my mile. And had it not been for what happened, I think I could have made it four quite easily. I never even got winded. In fact, everyone agreed this was the easiest run they had ever done.

Sometimes the unexpected happens 

The plan was Allen would push one buggy and I would take the other. However, when we were lining up Samuel asked if he could push Carmella. I was thinking it might be tiring for him but we decided it would be good for Samuel to experience working harder for the sake of his sister. Brianna was his running partner and said she could take over if it became too much for Sam. Later Brianna reported back that Samuel pushed Carmella, without even flinching, until the finish line was in sight. At which point the rain was pelting her right in the face and she started screaming. Not crying, but screaming! I wasn't with them to know exactly how the exchange took place but it ended up with a stranger, a poncho and Brianna taking Winnie to the finish line.

And it usually turns out better than what we planned 

Addison was going along and just loving the ride. Because really there isn't anything Addison seems to ever dislike. Actually, despite the rain in our faces, and the general nastiness of the conditions, we were enjoying the super easy run and seeing faces of friends along the course. Until we turned a corner at the 1/2 way point. As we turned the rain starting blowing right in Addison's face. And after 11 months of gentle newborn cries, this guy found his voice. He began to shout and scream and cry in a way we've never heard before. We have worked so hard to teach Addison how to communicate and express himself that we were both excited to recognize this next level of communication and sorry to know he was so uncomfortable. At first we turned the buggy backwards to get the rain out of his face. Allen held one side and I took the other. That worked well as far as the rain went, but it was tough to maneuver since the back wheels aren't made to rotate.
Our challenges push us to greater blessings 

In the end, Allen took Addison out of the buggy and ran with him for a a mile and a half. And, while running and carrying almost 20 pounds, is not an easy task, Allen said he was glad it worked out that way. Actually, this was probably the greatest challenge, and the biggest blessing, of the day, and not just because this is the first time since Addison was born I've been able to outrun Allen. In fact, I had to drop back repeatedly to keep pace with my men.

You might remember we ran this race to remind us of life's challenges for Addison and all those with Down Syndrome. But running 5K is no challenge for Allen. He runs more than that several times each week on very rugged terrain. However, running in the adverse conditions while carrying Addison in his arms upped the ante. It was a beautiful reminder of the challenges God has set before us through Addison's life. My husband has given me a lifetime of moments where my heart swells at his goodness and I feel an overwhelming sense of pride in who he is. His devotion to God. His love for people. His work ethic. The way he provides. His loyalty. And the list goes on and on. The love he has for his children is at the top of the list for sure. And the way he guards and protects and loves and pushes Addison is something poetic you have to live to understand. In the year since Addison's birth I often roll over at night and see my husband's face and I am left breathless as I contemplate the depth of love this man has for our son. And yet, I have never had more admiration for him than I did in those moments when I looked up and saw him running with our baby gathered to himself in an attempt to comfort Addison and keep him warm and dry so they might finish the race together.

You can bet it made the race more difficult. And you can bet it slowed us down considerably. And I am sure people were wondering why we didn't just haul off into one of the public buildings along the way, as others with buggies had done. But for me this was a picture of the beautiful journey God blessed us with the moment Addison was born. Our son will likely always have to work longer and harder to do the things other people take for granted. Allen and I are blessed to be the ones God chose to be his guides and advocates along the way. And while we wouldn't change that for anything, we are learning a lot about how to slow down. How to accomplish less. How to be less. We can never help Addison if we are running ahead to a place where he can't keep up with us. Our whole lives Allen and I were the first in our classes, the best in our careers, and trailblazers in our parenting. But now we are learning how to slow down to Addison's pace. As we are learning to teach him and meet his needs, we are learning how to simply be less than we have been for our entire lives. It is not a bad place, just something different. We couldn't finish this race first, or even in the middle if Addison was to be with us. In fact, we were in the 290's. But we got to run the race with someone we think is pretty special. That is an honor we would have missed out on if we were in the front of the crowd.

Of all the things we took away from the experience the greatest will always be this. Sometimes there will be rain blowing in your face, and you will have to carry extra weight, and you may even end up way behind the pack. In fact, you may end up finishing far behind everyone else. But in the end the time it takes is not what counts. The important matter is that we cross the finish line.
I am sorry to say it was raining so hard there are no pictures to be had. I would love to have a photo of Allen and Addison together to paste in Addison's scrapbook. Or a picture of our beautiful family huddled together in the pouring rain waiting for their brother when we finally got to the finish line. Everyone else had cleared out quickly to drier and warmer spots. But they weren't going anywhere until they cheered their Henry on. That's what family is folks. And that is why, no matter what he learns or where he goes, Addison is already a success in this world. Because standing beside him in the storms of life are 8 amazing smiling faces encouraging him through every struggle and cheering him on to every victory.

"... AND LET US RUN WITH PATIENCE THE RACE WHICH IS SET BEFORE US..." HEBREWS 12:1  

 -Kathleen Wachter 
artschilipepper.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Today I run.

This morning before the sun comes up I will roll out of bed and drive the forty-five minute drive to our nation's capital. To run. To run my first 5k. For Down Syndrome. (But really for Henry.)

These past three months of training have been huge. I am running faster, harder, longer stretches than I ever have (5 kilometers, 3.11 miles, non stop). Though I have grumbled and complained (almost without fail) before each training run these months, this training, has been so good for me. Physically it has revived my body. But more importantly it has been reviving my spirit. My perseverance has increased with each hill. My resolve has strengthened each time I tied on my trusty Asics. My endurance has increased every time I wanted to turn back but kept going. The training was for me. I needed it, physically and spiritually.

But today, this run, is for Henry.  To be his sister, cheer leader, therapist, advocate, guardian...and friend I will need strength to push him when he wants to quit. Resolved to never tolerate any less than the best. And endurance to stick with him through thick and thin.

To Henry, the only boy who can get me out of bed before dawn on a Sunday morning, this one's for you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Baby Shower x 3

If spring is baby season than February is baby shower season. Or at least this year when is seems everyone is expecting. We have three dear friends due in March, April and May. Since they all knew each other we thought it would be fun to host a 3x baby shower. And that is exactly what we did February 20th at a local cafe. 

Our colors were purple, gray and green. I detest typical baby colors and typical neutral baby colors even more. These colors, on the other hand, make me happy. 

I have this thing about invites. And I have this even bigger thing about handmade invites. There are few things I appreciate as much as a well designed invite. And big bonus points if you throw in some twine. Consequently, we spent two Saturdays working on these invites. Totally worth it. They came out so pretty and still makes me happy when I look at them.
We made blessing cards for guests to share prayers and wishes for mom and baby. We tied the invites and blessing cards together with this fabulous purple striped twine from Sweet Love Fun.

The centerpieces were harder. Centerpieces for long tables are always a challenge. I tossed around several ideas and finally settled on this just a week before the baby shower. I found these awesome gray scarves on eBay for less than $2 each. Perfect, oh-so-affordable table runner.
We made the pennants with skewers and washi tape and put them in parfait glassed filled with silver table scatter. The card holders were leftover from a dinner we decorated for last year. We made cards to display on the with prayer requests for mom and baby.
We finished the table decor off with purple decoupaged candle holders, the party favors and purple rhinestone table scatter. 
The cupcakes were MAGNIFICENT! I just adore Sam's Club's chocolate cupcakes with whipped chocolate icing. Why bother making our own when you can buy something this good? We asked all three ladies what kind of cupcakes they would like and they all said chocolate with chocolate icing. I knew there was a reason I loved these women :)
We decorated the cupcakes with sugar sprinkles in our theme colors and small pennants made from toothpicks and, you guessed it, washi tape. Let's just say washi tape played a BIG part in this party.
It was our hope this baby shower would be a time of celebrating these new lives and a time of prayer for Mom and baby as they embark on such a big adventure. On each favor we tied a card with a prayer. We began the shower by going around the room praying the prayer our favors. The plan was everyone would take their favors home and continue to prayer the prayer attached. Prayers really do make such a difference!
The favors themselves were chocolate dipped marshmallows. YUM! I am not a big fan of marshmallows but dip them in chocolate (for that matter dip pretty much anything in chocolate) and I go slightly crazy.
Emma designed this awesome banner on her Cricut. 
Remember the blessing cards in the invites? We set up a table with a jars for people to put the blessing cards. I designed the tags and we embellished with twine and WASHI TAPE (what else?).
The outcome? We had  a beautiful time of prayer. And a large turnout. And the employees told us they had never seen the room looking so lovely. And almost all the guests said they had a great time. Win, win, win. 

The three lovely mother's themselves... (Seriously, I hope if I ever have a baby I can manage to be as beautiful and stylish as these ladies are.)
It was kinda surreal to be celebrating in the same place with many of the same people we had celebrated Addison's baby shower less than a year ago. How much God has worked and we have all changed in the past year!

By way of epilogue, baby Nehemiah (mother pictured on the far right) was born the second week of March and is just so sweet and tiny. Can't wait to meet all three kiddos and watch them grow!

Cheers,
näna

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Down Syndrome Day - Practical Advocacy

March 21. 3/21.

As in 3, 21s. 

As in 3 copies of the 21st chromosome.

Trisomy 21. Also known as Down Syndrome

In the past year I have been introduced to a world I never thought I would be a part of. The world of Down Syndrome advocacy. I love this cause and am so happy to be a part of this world. However, when Addison was first born, I will admit, I was a bit overwhelmed. I loved my brother, all 47 chromosomes. Through loving him I came to love Down Syndrome.  But I wasn't sure what I could do to support this cause. Maybe you are where I was. Wanting to help but clueless where to begin. In honor of World Down Syndrome Day, I would like to share with you practical ways to make a positive change for Down Syndrome.
-ONE-
Educate Yourself
Ignorance is the #1 enemy of Down Syndrome. Outdated and inaccurate information is everywhere. So few people realize the potential of people with Down Syndrome. Ever fewer people know the amazing things people with Down Syndrome are doing. And rarely is anyone made aware of the shocking number of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome aborted...95%. Knowledge is power. Read mementos written by people with Down Syndrome and their families (I strongly recommend Raising Henry, Expecting AdamGifts and A Special Kind of Hero). I have a Pinterest board full of resources, stories, photos and quotes about Down Syndrome and there are many other boards like it on Pinterest.  Around the web there are many blogs written by parents of children with Down Syndrome (two favorites: Noah's Dad and My Name is Sarah). Groups such as NDSS, Global Down Syndrome Foundation and IDSC have great websites packed with articles and information. 

-TWO-
Educate Others
When talking to people I have noticed a hesitance to say "Down Syndrome" in conversation. I believe it is because people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing and offending someone. To break the ice, I try to say the Down Syndrome for them...it makes it less awkward. When I'm open about it they follow suit and you can see their mental sigh of relief. The important thing is: we're talking about Down Syndrome. They are learning, I'm learning. We're swapping stories and facts. We're educating each other and, hopefully, they walk away feeling more positive and comfortable with Down Syndrome. As you share with others what you are learning about Down Syndrome their view is changing and those stereotypes are fading away as they learn the reality. If you feel uncomfortable talking about Down Syndrome I would recommended check out this guide put out by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. It contains brief, simple guidelines for proper terminology when talking about Down Syndrome. NOTE: At the same time, please don't take offence if someone uses a word or term you don't consider kind. Hear them out and listen to their heart before you judge their speech.

-THREE-
HELP A FAMILY
Therapy is so vital to the development of a child with Down Syndrome. Addison spends three hours a day in intense therapy. Fortunately, there are enough of us to help him that it is manageable. However, that is not the case for all families. In most families the mother is doing everything by herself. That's a big strain, especially if there are other children at home. Why not volunteer to assist with therapy every so often? Or babysit siblings so mom can work one on one with the child? Or babysit all the kids and give the mom a brake? You are helping a child to reach their full potential and therefore helping write another success story for the world to read.

-FOUR-
RUN/WALK FOR DOWN SYNDROME
March 30th I will be running my very first 5k race and my first race for Down Syndrome awareness. As I have been training over the past several months (in the cold) "Why am I doing this?" has crossed my mind more than once. The short answer is, for Henry. But how will this run help Henry or Down Syndrome? That answer is a little longer. The funds raised from entry fees will be given to several wonderful Down Syndrome Advocacy groups in the area. More importantly, as hundreds of people are running down Pennsylvania Avenue people will notice. And their curiosity and interest will be sparked. We will be making people aware of Down Syndrome and showing the world people care and are willing to stand up for the rights of people with Down Syndrome. And that is advocacy at it's best. If you are a runner and interested in using your hobby for a good cause, Active.com and other similar websites have search engines for finding races for various causes in your area.

-FIVE-
SUPPORT POSITIVE LEGISLATION
This past month a very important bill was presented before the Maryland senate. A Down Syndrome pro-information bill requiring healthcare providers who diagnose children, pre and postnatal, to give parents accurate and up-to-date information. This is HUGE! Do you know how many lives could be saved by this bill? How many lives could be changed? How many parents would be able to celebrate their child's birth instead of being depressed and bogged down by harmful, outdated, stereotypical information doctors are giving them? If you live in the U.S. you, like me, have the privilege of being able to be actively involved with the law making process. You can help positive laws be passed by contacting your representative and expressing your opinion, lobbying and sharing testimonies and stories.  Pay attention and when bills (such as the DS pro-information bill) are presented do whatever you possibly can to make them law. Keep in mind any bill encompassing special needs and disabilities will effect people with Down Syndrome. Websites such as GovTrack.us are great for find and keeping up with federal bills. Many state governments have similar websites such as the Maryland General Assembly website.

-SIX-
SILENT ADVOCACY
It doesn't seem like much but simply wearing clothing or jewelry supporting Down Syndrome raises awareness. People will ask you questions thus giving you an "in" for sharing the realities of Down Syndrome (see point two). I have a blue and yellow Down Syndrome awareness bracelet my mom gave me for Christmas I wear almost every time I leave the house. Even my dad wears a bracelet with the DS awareness ribbon and was quite distressed when he couldn't find it last week. Again, it doesn't seem like much but it gives you a chance to talk about Down Syndrome and show you care. And that is big.

-SEVEN-
JOIN AN ADVOCACY GROUP
I am privileged to be a part of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. an amazing, active Down Syndrome advocacy group based in my county. They are a group of awesome people who care so much and are doing great things for the Down Syndrome community. Each year they host a Buddy Walk, a conference for sharing with educators how to teach children with Down Syndrome and many other events. They are actively involved with legislation, fundraising and providing support for people with Down Syndrome and their families. There are such groups all throughout the country. Find one near you and get involved. If nothing else, it's a great chance to meet people with Down Syndrome and see who they really are...people. People with amazing more potential than you or I can comprehend.

These are only a few of the many, many idea out there. I would love to hear your idea and how you have been involved with advocacy...for Down Syndrome or any cause!

On that note, happy World Down Syndrome Day! Please remember today isn't just about advocacy...it's about CELEBRATING Down Syndrome and the wonderful GIFT it is.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a video of Henry pictures in honor of WDSD. Because I wanted to fill this post with Henry pictures but couldn't narrow it down to just a few. :)

Cheers!
näna

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Henry Ford Museum

third and final part of the michigan trip...oh, yes, i just finished a series...first time for me...hey, you take the small victories.

So we found ourselves in Detroit for a few days and, really, what is there to do in Detroit except cars? And that is how I ended up at the Henry Ford museum. I entered the museum expecting an air/space type museum. Basically cars and planes. I thought I would enjoy my brothers' excitement over the museum more than the museum itself. As it turns out, I was wrong. There were trains, planes and automobiles (which happens to also be the title of a hysterical Steve Martin and John Candy film) and lots of them. But there was so much more and even the planes, trains and automobiles were presented in such as way as to fascinate even those who don't know the first thing about engines (see also: me). The president motorcade, from Roosevelt's buggy to Clinton's limo, including the car in which President Kennedy was assassinated, was amazing. The Civil rights display was moving. I loved the nostalgia of the the traveling America display. And I haven't even mentioned the beautiful architecture of the museum and surrounding buildings. So much to see I really could have spent two or three days.

In conclusion to the Michigan trip, four tips for anyone visiting Detroit: 1. do not attempt putting on lipstick while driving...I'm telling you, Detroit has the bumpiest roads in America, 2. if you need a place to stay, crash Brandon and Julianne's apartment and tell them the Wachters sent you, 3. don't count on the scenery (there really isn't any) and 4. visit the Henry Ford Museum...well worth your time.

Cheers,
näna