October 31, 2013

Henry Six Months Old

Our beautiful boy was six months old on Monday! And what a long way he has come.  Susan came by last Sunday afternoon to do some updated photos for us.  If you've never taken time to enjoy her photography stop by Susan Schmidt Photography and check it out.  I love these photos because each one captures something amazing and beautiful about Addison.

His smile... which truly lights up a room and makes you forget there was ever, or could ever be, something in life to feel sad about
This is the serious, intellectual, physicist look

And his curious... what's going on over there without me look
Isn't it lunch time?  I'll just eat my hand then look

And his feet... I love his big old squishy... these babies are going to take me far... feet...
But this one is the most amazing... not only does it capture him sucking his thumb, which incidentally is his new favorite past time, but you can see the special fold on his eyes and the gorgeous marble flecks in those baby blues 
And well, this reminds us it is fall.  And there were difficult seasons.  But the Lord has lead us through it and given us the victory and the joy.



October 30, 2013

T21 Down Syndrome Awareness Jewelry Giveaway @ Got Down Syndrome

I recently came across "Got Down Syndrome" a blog written by the eldest of eleven children, one of which has Down Syndrome. Apart from enjoying her posts I am loving the giveaways she has been hosting for Down Syndrome Awareness month. Aren't these necklaces beautiful? What a great way to raise awareness for a worthy cause and done so tastefully, too! Enter below and be sure to check out "Got Down Syndrome" for yourself.

October 27, 2013

Sun Shine Down: A Memoir by Gillian Marchenko

These days, I am reading any and everything I can about Down Syndrome in hopes of learning all I need to know to help our son to reach God's potential for his life.  There are stacks of books beside my bed, in the living room and in the family library covering topics on diagnosis, treatment, estate planning, physical therapy, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, communication, education and on and on goes the list.  For every manual and educational book there is at least one book of stories, memoirs or some other motivational book focusing on Down Syndrome.  When Gillian Marchenko's new book, Sun Shine Down: A Memoir came across my email, I quickly clicked on the description.  I just knew from the title it had to be about Down Syndrome.  I was right.

The day before we left for vacation Gillian sent me an eBook.  I don't usually do deep reading on vacation.  It's too hard for my brain to shut off.  But I downloaded Sun Shine Down anyway because I was so looking forward to it.  The file I received was a mess and very difficult to read on the Kindle and the iPad.  But I pushed forward.  Because I wanted to read it so badly.

Gillian's language was very easy to read and instantly had me caught up.  However, the way she hopped around in time at the beginning of the book was very confusing.  I found myself backing up to figure out what time period she was talking about.  Reading about life in the Ukraine was fascinating to me and I am glad to have had a first hand look into that world.

I really wanted to love this book.  I have read a dozen similar books in the last few months but not one of them has been filled with the hope and encouragement I think mom's with Down Syndrome need to hear.  I wanted to love this book and come back here and tell the world how, at long last, this is the one.  I wanted to go to my personal blog and tell my readers to go out and buy this book right away.  I wanted to send a copy to each of the five special families who are the prayer support team for our boy.  But I simply did not love this book.

It was just more of the same pity party I have read in books and on blogs from Christians and the world at large concerning their reactions when receiving a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.  As the mom to a 6 month old son with Down Syndrome I want to read about hope and joy.  But every corner I turn is filled with mothers whining and complaining about the lot they got stuck with when their baby was born with Down Syndrome.  And I can't understand that position.  We talk and we talk about how the world should love and accept our children.  But how can we ask the world to do that when, as their mothers, we go in to hiding and take up drinking in order to cope with our child's diagnosis?  I don't understand it.

That's not to say that there aren't tears.  Nor to say there aren't concerns.  I've got more than my share.  But you get up.  You love your child.  You do what needs to be done.  And in doing so, you show the world that a child with special needs is still as wonderfully and as fearfully made as any other child.  You show the world, through your complete unconditional love and acceptance that they, too, can love every being made by the Father fully and completely.

Gillian and I evidently come from different schools of thought.  On her blog she suggests that it is okay to not celebrate Down syndrome.  But I disagree.  Our Savior has told us to find joy in all things and I think that means Down Syndrome as well.  In believing that my Lord is in control of all, I also believe that means Down Syndrome.  In my faith that His perfect will is best, I must also believe that means Down Syndrome.  What right do we have to rejoice at the gift of the Lord in our "typically developing" children if we won't equally rejoice and celebrate at the gift of our children with Down Syndrome?  Every good and every perfect gift is from above and that means our Father does not give us anything that isn't perfect, including Down Syndrome.

In the end, Gillian accepted her daughter and made peace with the diagnosis.  And that's  how most of the stories end.  And for that I am glad.  But my heart still breaks for the wasted time and needless heartache suffered all around because of this belief that it is okay to not accept your child for who God made them to be.

And the fact is the world doesn't need anymore stories like that.  We are surrounded by them.  What we need are stories that show parents there is hope and encouragement.  Perhaps if there were more of those, the image of Down Syndrome would change.  And perhaps if the world could see that Down Syndrome isn't the end of life, just the beginning of a new and daring life, then more mothers could rejoice at the birth of their special needs children and more mothers would be able to accept their little ones.  And maybe, just maybe, it would catch on.

And who knows what could happen?  Perhaps, mothers would stop choosing to abort their babies with Down Syndrome.  Perhaps, doctors would stop encouraging them to do so.

I am sorry, Gillian.  I feel for the pain you suffered.  But I am sorry for Polly, too.  Who didn't have the unconditional love of her mother for over a year of her life.  And I am even more sorry for the 95% of children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome this year who will be put to death because there are too many people who share your initial reaction.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:



T S Poetry Press (August 18, 2013)

***Special thanks to Gillian Marchenko for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gillian Marchenko lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her writing has appeared in Literary Mama, MomSense Magazine, Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Today’s Christian Woman, and Gifted for Leadership. A speaker, and active on Facebook, Twitter, and her website, Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks for the rest of us.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Sun Shine Down. A memoir.

What if?

What if you dreamed of having a beautiful child, and in your mind you saw the life you'd share with that child. First steps, little league (or ballet). Maybe the child would play piano or make you proud on the Honor Roll. There'd be eventual graduations, college, even marriage and grandchildren. You might dream it out that far. Or not. Every parent has hopes. No parents wish for pain—their own, or a child's.

Then you had a premature delivery in a foreign country. And the words swirling around you said a different kind of "what if." What if something was wrong? The dream was at risk—or so it seemed. Would you be ready for that? Could you make peace? Or would it take you down?

These are the questions author Gillian Marchenko faced as she woke up after an emergency C-section in Ukraine. Only her newborn child could answer them, in time. But first she had to find a way to hear more than the words "Down syndrome."




Product Details:
List Price: $15.00
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: T S Poetry Press (August 18, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0989854205
ISBN-13: 978-0989854207


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

~ 1 ~



I woke up just before seven the morning of April 5, 2006, in a surgical recovery room in a hospital in Kiev, Ukraine. Sluggish, I scanned the room, unable to take in my surroundings. A thin white sheet covered my body. I shivered. A metal table housed a tiny television in the corner of the room. The bare walls were a pale shade of blue gray.

Did Sergei leave? Lifting my hand, I placed it on my breastbone and slid it toward my navel. My mid-section felt numb. Pushing down, it was as if I tapped another person’s toneless stomach. White gauze held my empty abdomen tight. I had been eight months pregnant.

Five hours earlier, I stood naked in a warm shower, my blond hair tucked into a flimsy paper cap. A delivery nurse crouched in front of my middle. “Krasata,” she hummed in Russian, smiling, telling me I was beautiful, while methodically shaving me.

I couldn’t see the nurse’s face over the bulge of my stomach. Her brown hair bobbed in and out of sight as she talked. I imagined her gold tooth sparkling as her mouth moved. In Russian, “krasata”  means beautiful as in, “you are a beauty.” My skin was now translucent, stretched to its limit. I looked like ET’s pregnant cousin, wide-eyed from fear, hair thinned.

“Tebye nada peesat?” the nurse asked as she cleaned off the razor. I nodded – yes, I have to pee, and then I squatted, awkward, as my bladder emptied. I hadn’t peed in front of someone since kindergarten, when I used to make my best friend, Carol Peruski, go to the bathroom with me. The yellow stream swirled around and around the shower floor before sliding down the drain. I wanted to be back home in Michigan, tucked away in an American hospital. I wanted to understand everything being said to me.

*

I had hugged my daughters goodbye that morning, expecting to return in a few hours. Elaina, five and a half years old, had a habit of patting my tummy hello and goodbye. Zoya, eighteen months younger, stood on her tiptoes and aligned her lips with my belly button for a kiss. They hurried our goodbye. They had big plans to make a fort underneath the dining room table with their beloved Ukrainian nanny, Lena.

Our “stalinka”—the historical apartment in Kiev where we’d been living for the last three years, since we’d moved from Chicago to Sergei’s native Ukraine to help start and grow churches—showed few signs of a baby coming. A pack of diapers and some second-hand clothes were piled in the corner. A stroller stood in the hallway by the front door next to a line of shoes. We needed more supplies: ointment and shampoo and bottles. Infant clothes needed laundering. There wasn’t a place for the baby to sleep.

After saying goodbye to the kids, I’d inhaled in an attempt to flatten my protruding belly, needing at least two buttons of my coat to fasten. Giving up, I grabbed a scarf hanging on a hook near the front door and looped it around my neck to keep the Ukrainian winter air at bay. There were three weeks left until my due date. A simple pregnancy check-up coaxed me out the door with a promise of some much-needed time with my husband.

We'd sat in the car a few minutes, waiting for the engine to warm and for the frost to break up on the windshield. I could see my breath. “Let’s swing by that American restaurant on the river after your appointment,” Sergei suggested.

 “You’re on!” I said. “And I know what I am going to order: Eggs Benedict. I am going to eat it all, too. It’s not like I can get any bigger than this, right?”

“You look beautiful,” Sergei said.

At the appointment, I lay on a long brown bed and watched the obstetrician measure my stomach with the kind of measuring tape my mother used to make our clothes when we were kids. The doctor measured once.

“Hmm.”

“Shto shto?” I asked in Russian. What? What do you see? Is something wrong?

Upon hearing my question, Sergei, who sat on the other side of the room, stood up and walked over to us.

“Shto takoye?” Is there a problem? Sergei asked.

“What? Oh no. Not a problem. I want to measure Gillian’s belly one more time.” The doctor positioned her right hand on the examination table next to my side and extended the tape across my abdomen. She hunched to ensure the right start and stop point on the tape and then held it out in front of her, stretching it wide.

“Your stomach hasn’t grown in two weeks.”

A sound like that of a police siren erupted inside my head, sending icy adrenaline shooting through me. Our baby wasn’t growing? Our baby wasn’t growing.

Sergei stood to the right of the doctor. He took hold of my hand and looked at me with that same steady gaze I'd noticed when we first met. When Sergei looked at a person, his eyes were unwavering, showing his confidence. At first that intimidated me but in our years together, it had become a great comfort. He heard what the doctor said and knew her words would worry me. He was with me and present, just as he had been for the last seven years.

The baby had measured small at checkups earlier in my pregnancy but the doctor had never been concerned about it. At one point the baby measured three weeks behind her due date in size and development. At that time, the doctor reassured me that I had nothing to worry about. “She is growing which is the main thing,” she'd said, winking. The doctor, jolly and round, acted like a female version of Kris Cringle. “There’s no problem. Either we miscalculated the due date or you have a petite little girl in there," she'd explained as she turned her attention to Elaina and Zoya who happened to be with us at that appointment. “Now, girls, are you excited about the baby? And how do you like living in Ukraine?”

“Sergei, please tell her we are concerned.” I'd wanted reassurance. To calm me, the doctor had ordered several ultrasounds and non-stress tests. Each time, the tests had shown the baby staying still. “Ona speet.” She’s sleeping, was all she’d say.

  Today she said, “Here’s what we are going to do, Gillian. We’re going to admit you to the hospital overnight. I suspect the baby needs extra vitamins and nutrients. That should get her back on track."

“Should we worry? Is it something else?” I glared at Sergei the way wives do when they want their husbands to telepathically understand they should jump in with questions and concerns of their own.

“No! Don’t worry!” the jolly doctor smiled at us.

Instead of heading off to breakfast as planned, we went directly to the hospital.  By noon I sat gowned in a room on the fourth floor. A nurse hooked a monitor to my belly to follow the baby’s heartbeats. I watched the squiggly green lines on the black screen dip low as my stomach tightened with each Braxton Hick's contraction. Something is wrong. I know it.

We were assigned a new doctor, tall and tan with a wide smile. His fuzzy, brown hair was gone in the back of his head. He wore glasses. He looked the part of the new Ukrainian, the guy who achieved success somehow during economic instability. The first two buttons of his crisp white shirt were open revealing a heavy chain that shimmered around his neck. Two huge, gold rings covered his knuckles. He was excited to have an American patient because he was learning English.

He introduced himself to Sergei first, in Russian, and shook hands with him. Then he peeked at me. “Hello, there. I see you having a baby? That’s great. I…um…ugh… I am happy to be of assisting of you today here in Ukraine. I am fond of America. And, um…, I am tried to work on my English.”

The new doctor continued to sputter and pause as he talked to me, searching for the right words to say in English. I would answer him in Russian, to let him know I could, and then wait for him to find his next English word.

I had studied Russian with a private tutor three times a week, two to three hours a session, for three and a half years. The day I met Tatiana Nikolayevna, my Russian teacher, I was nervous. She was a mountain of a woman with bleached blond hair. Her high cheekbones and pointed nose gave her a diplomatic air. She walked with a limp, suggesting she'd suffered a hip dislocation at some point in her life. One moment she’d give me an icy glare, then seconds later an approving smile would spread across her face.

For years I'd trudged along, immersing myself in basic conversation, memorization and grammar study. I cried at some point in every session. Tatiana was firm, but kind. In the beginning, I likened Russian to a blurry photograph. I knew something was there, but I could not make out the picture. It was humiliating and exhausting to try to speak a foreign language. Then one day the picture started to come into focus. I heard actual words, sentences, and eventually full conversations. I became an avid eavesdropper. My time deaf and mute in Ukraine came to an end. I had survived basic Russian language acquisition.

*

Outwardly I kept my cool at the hospital. But inside, I yelled at everyone who walked through the door. Check me and go away! Let me lie here and worry in peace. I’m not in the mood to teach English as a second language.

After meeting the new doctor and helping me settle into the room, Sergei left the hospital to go home and check on Elaina and Zoya, and arrange the rest of the day's schedule. About an hour after he left, I realized I would need a few things to stay overnight. I called him on the cell but got voicemail. “Hi, it’s me. Hope the kids are okay. Listen, since I’m going to be here for the night, can you grab a few things for me while you’re home? I need a change of clothes, my contact case, and maybe a book to read. Thanks. Love you.” After I hung up, I lay back on the hospital bed and focused on the clock on the opposite wall. There was nothing to do but wait. My hands were shaking.

Sergei got back to the hospital around four o’clock. Occasionally, the English-learning doctor came in, checked the monitor, and listened to my stomach with a stethoscope. Sergei asked questions. “How’s the baby doing? Do we know if the glucose and extra vitamins are helping yet?” We discovered that one phrase the doctor knew well in both English and Russian was “wait and see.” He would not outright answer our questions. “Wait and see,” he’d say, already turning to leave.

By nine o’clock, our American colleagues started to call. Julie, the mother hen of our ex-pat group, called first. Her husband James was our team leader, and they had been living in Ukraine for over ten years.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I called Lydia to tell her about you and the baby.” Lydia was another American working with us. Before moving to Ukraine, she was a postnatal nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

“That’s fine, Julie,” I muttered, my frustration breaking through. I wasn’t mad at Julie. I was mad that I was stuck in the hospital. I was mad that we were told over and over again to wait and see.

Julie continued, “And we are coming to the hospital. Once our sitter gets here, James and I will pick up Lydia and we’ll be on our way.”

As soon as I hung up, the phone rang again. Lydia’s voice, strong but soft, filled my ear with questions and greetings.

The threat of tears tightened my throat and I could only manage a whisper,  “The baby hasn’t grown at all since the last visit to the doctor two weeks ago. I have an IV in right now, and I’m receiving glucose and other vitamins. The doctor says this will help bulk the baby up and get her back on track.” Sergei sat in the corner of the hospital room, pretending to be interested in a newspaper he'd picked up in the hospital lobby.

“Whenever I feel a contraction, the green squiggly line on the monitor drops low,” I said. I expected a response from Lydia. Instead, silence. For a second, I wondered if the phone lost its connection.

“Gillian, I will be there in a half hour. The next time your doctor comes in the room, you need to demand an emergency c-section. I don’t want to scare you, but in the States your baby would have already been delivered. She is not doing well. She’s in trouble. Listen to me; you have to talk to your doctor.” I tightened my grip on the phone. Sergei stood up, came over and sat down on my bed. “What’s wrong?” he mouthed. I shook my head and turned to the window.

“Okay, Lydia. We’ll tell him.” I hung up the phone and started to cry. Sergei leaned in and took me in his arms.

“Lydia said it sounds like the baby is in extreme distress. She said we need to demand a c-section.”

Always pragmatic, Sergei wondered out loud, “How can we know she is right? She isn’t even here. The doctor said the baby needs some extra help.” I moved out of Sergei’s arms so I could look him in the eye.
 “Lydia said if we were in the States, the baby would have already been delivered.” I felt a sob rise and my body began shaking. “Sergei, please find the doctor.”

My husband agreed and went to get the doctor. I was alone. I knew it. I’d known for weeks that something was wrong. I should have spoken up more. Oh God, please let the baby live. I want to go home. I did not trust the doctors in this hospital. I wanted my mother. A few minutes later, Sergei came back to the room with the English-learning doctor who had his usual broad smile.

“Umm, your husband said that you are worried that the baby be born?”

“Yes. I have an American friend who is a nurse. I talked to her on the phone and she said that with the baby’s heart beat dropping so low, I would have already had a caesarean section if we were in the States. I’m worried. We need to talk about delivering the baby.”

I stared at this man who was dressed in white pants and a white, button-down shirt with a lazy stethoscope draped around his neck. He was a doctor. I wasn't sure of the schooling process in Ukraine, but in America he would have completed close to a decade of education in order to qualify for this job. Shouldn’t he know? Didn’t he know?

“The baby is stabilizing with the IV. It hasn’t been enough time. I think we should wait and see. She needs more time.” The doctor glanced from my face and Sergei’s to see if his words registered. Sergei spouted back in Russian.

They talked a few more minutes and then the doctor smiled at both of us and left. The clock next to my hospital bed read eleven o’clock at night. The baby had been receiving fluids since noon. I studied the monitor next to my head. The baby’s heart rate still dropped once in a while.

“He doesn’t know what he’s doing!” I snapped at Sergei.

“I know this is hard, but he’s a doctor. He’s your doctor. We should listen to him. And I’m not saying this lightly. That’s my baby too in there. I’m worried. But Lydia isn’t here and the doctor is, and I think we should listen to him.”

Julie, James and Lydia arrived within the hour. They were upbeat, commenting on the nice hospital room, cracking jokes and squinting at me through the room’s bright lights. All three tried to act like it was the most natural thing in the world to hang out in a Ukrainian hospital room at midnight. I loved them for it.

A nurse located the English-learning doctor. When he came into the room, Lydia stepped forward and introduced herself. She went on to tell him what she told me on the phone. As she spoke, she kept taking steps closer to him. Soon, she stood right in front of his face. The doctor no longer smiled. “Doctor, this baby needs a cesarean section right away!” James and Julie hung back on the other side of the room. Sergei got up from the bed and stood next to Lydia.

“We are going to wait and see if the IV helps,” the doctor declared. Lydia persisted, eyeing my husband for language assistance and nodding incessantly as her words poured in a mixture of English and Russian. Her stern face and tone of voice pleaded with the doctor to take action.

I could tell by the projection of her voice that Lydia meant business. Here was one of my people, not only a colleague and a friend, but an American medical professional weighing in on the fate of my child.

After hearing more from Lydia, Sergei took her side. “We need to see if anything else is going on with the baby. My wife is frightened. We don’t want to wait and see anymore.” Sergei squared his deep blue eyes on the doctor.

“All right. I guess we can take a closer look at the baby through an ultrasound.”

“Spaseebo,” Sergei said. Thank you. “Spaseebo,” Julie, James, and Lydia all chimed in.

“Nyezashto,” the doctor replied. Don’t mention it. His expression was blank when he left the room.

*

Twenty minutes later I concentrated on Sergei’s face, as a coiled cord smeared icy liquid over my midsection. Doctors and nurses huddled around the ultrasound screen, whispering to one another in Russian. The technician tapped on my stretched skin, seeking the baby's beating heart beneath it. As my abdomen tightened again, the small huddle of Ukrainian professionals all gasped at the monitor.

“Sergei, ask them what they see.”

Sergei cleared his throat. “Izveneete pozshalusta. Shto takoye?” Excuse me, please. What is wrong? Our doctor turned around from the group and faced us. Oh no, here we go. Sergei took my hand in his.

“The baby’s heart beat goes too low with the contractions. We need to do a caesarean section right away.”

*

Back in my room, shaved and ready for surgery, I perched on the end of the high hospital bed and studied the imperfections on the tan walls. Sergei had gone downstairs to sign papers to allow the surgery. James, Julie and Lydia had gone to search for the nearest waiting room. All of a sudden I felt the need to take everything in. I wanted to remember every detail. A well-polished wooden desk with a matching chair stood against the wall in front of me. Cream-colored curtains with deep pleats framed the window. My stocking feet dangled above the alabaster tile floor. They seemed disconnected from my body.

I thought about Elaina and Zoya sleeping in their Estonian-made bunk beds back at the apartment. Sergei and I searched all over Kiev before purchasing the pale, hardwood beds. Thick cotton blankets were probably tucked up under the girls’ chins. I imagined their Babushka, Sergei’s mother, asleep in the next room, ready to provide a drink of water or a trip to the toilet. I wished I had kissed them goodnight.

I heard footsteps in the hall. The doctor stuck his head through the doorway. “Gotova?” No time for English now.

I nodded—ready.

October 24, 2013

Roadtrip

I love road trips with our crew... Singing... Chatting... Laughing...Surely these are the happiest moments of our lives.

October 23, 2013

Audrey Bunny by Angie Smith

When Stephanie contacted me about reviewing Angie Smith's new book, Audrey Bunny, I jumped at the
chance. Some of you may remember me sharing a few years ago that Angie Smith is the reason I got into blogging.

And... her first book, I Will Carry You is just simply a beautiful testimony of how the Lord carried her through the loss of her baby, Audrey Caroline.  I remember sitting in a restaurant with my husband days after I had read Angie's story and breaking down into tears while I shared with Allen.  It's just that powerful a testimony.

And... from reading Angie's blog I know the real story of the Audrey bunny and how it relates to that loss.

So... for all those reasons I was really looking forward to this new picture book for children.  I was actually disappointed when we got home from vacation and it wasn't in the big stack of books waiting for reviews from various publishers.

But on Saturday, just before nap time... guess what arrived at my door.  I grabbed up the girlies and the boys came running too.  And then the big girls heard what we were reading and they came.  And we read Audrey Bunny.

Carmella's lovey is a pink bunny so she was immediately in love with the "Olivia book."  The drawings by Breezy Brookshire are beautiful.  And the message was just what this mother of a sweet baby with Down Syndrome wants to tell the world, "God doesn't make mistakes.  Everyone is made unique, beautiful and perfect."

But I would be doing you, my dear readers, an injustice if I wasn't honest in saying, I was disappointed in the
story itself.  If I was in a book store this is not a book I would choose.  Not that it is one of those books I would cringe at if the kids asked me to read it, either.  Do you know those types of books?  But likewise, it is not a book I would find myself reaching for at story time.  It just wasn't my taste.

I hate to end on a less than pleasant note, so let me close by saying I think Angie is fantastic and I think she is a woman after God's own heart.  I hope that there are many people who fall in love with this story and more importantly that the message she is trying to share reaches many people.

To learn more, take a minute to read the description from the publisher and watch the trailer.

Audrey Bunny was inspired by the loss of Angie Smith’s daughter, Audrey, only a few hours after she was born. She illustrates how in God’s eyes, everyone is perfect just the way He made them and He doesn’t make mistakes.
Angie Smith
In the tale, Smith writes about Audrey Bunny, who is insecure due to a mark over her heart. Audrey Bunny tries to hide the mark in fear that she will never be worthy of a young girls love because of her imperfection. However, with the help of a young girl’s unconditional love, Audrey Bunny learns that the mark over her heart is what makes her special. 
“The theme incorporated throughout the lines of Audrey Bunny is one that all little girls should know and understand,” says Smith. “God doesn’t make mistakes. Every single one of us is perfect in our own, unique way.”
Angie Smith is a well-known speaker and the bestselling author of I Will Carry You, What Women Fear and Mended. Audrey Bunny is her first children’s book. She has a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Vanderbilt University.

October 22, 2013

John 21:18

The verse for our family devotions yesterday was John 21:18

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest:  but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not."

The Lord has plans for us.  He wants to lead us.  If we don't gird ourselves up and follow Him, he will do the job for us, as we saw in Jonah's case.  Many times the Lord's perfect will leads us to a place we never would have chosen ourselves.  But, when we are willing participants we will find many blessings there.  

I never would have chosen Down Syndrome.  But we believe it is God's will.  And because we let Him gird us and carry us,"...whither thou wouldest not..." we got to experience the incredible blessing of watching Henry try to sit up on his own today.  Life is good when you let the Lord lead it.



October 21, 2013

Henry in the fall


Henry loves fall and staying warm thanks to the cozy sweater sent from a sweet friend and reader in Ohio!

October 19, 2013

Completely Random

Yes, we are home.  One thing about traveling in the fall and going for several weeks is we leave in summer and 90 degree days and return to autumn and all the wonderfullness that goes along with it.  Red and golden leaves... cozy sweaters... pumpkins on the porch... freshly sharpened pencils... and pumpkin spice lattes.
For all those who wrote to ask about vacation and all those who wrote how much they enjoyed the vacation photos... it wasn't easy!  On the first day of vacation, we were walking down the beach and Brianna was taking pictures when the battery compartment (it must not have been closed all the way) popped open and the battery fell into the ocean.  Yeah, you are thinking what I am.  Salt water is not so great for electronics.  I have a spare battery and we thought all would be well.  But two days later the camera came up missing.  The next day, when Allen was looking for the camera, Brianna remembered she had set it down in the thrift store we were visiting.  Yikes!  We finally got it back the next week, only it wouldn't work properly after that.  This is the least photographed vacation in all of Wachter history!  Most of our photos were taken on my phone.  My family didn't believe they would ever hear me say, "Thank God for the iPhone."  But there you have it.  We typically have a no electronics on vacation policy.  So, we did allow the exception for photos.  We immediately uploaded a few to my blog... just in case some other horrible fate should befall our photographic existence.  Anyway, I hope to get around to writing the stories to go with them one of these days.  I'll let you know if that ever happens.

One of the big things I have been working on since we got back was an interview for a new magazine a friend of mine is putting together.  It made me finally get around to writing answers to a lot of those questions blog readers frequently ask.  So watch for some questions and answers to appear here in the next few weeks.    

I am feeling completely random.  My mind has been spinning a million miles a minute since we got home.  Actually, its been spinning like that since Addison was born.  Some nights I just wake up and I can't go back to sleep because of the lists going through my head.  But believe it or not for the first time in 13 months I feel like life is returning to something that might be orderly and, I dare say, normal?  

We went on vacation with some very basic goals.  My health has been very poor since I got pregnant with Addison.  We knew I needed some extensive rest that I have not been able to get at home.  We had hoped three weeks would be enough.  It really wasn't.  But we got some down time and are heading in the direction of healing so we trust God will take care of the rest with His grace.  

Another goal was to work out our scheduling, planning and logistics for our ever growing and changing family.  We didn't even start on that, instead opting for more rest and down time.  So I had to get serious about that when we got home. I am so blessed by my children.  They spent our first day home handling the cleaning and unpacking and meal planning and laundry so I could immerse myself in that effort.  This last week came off rather well for the first week back home, first week of Autumn and first week of school.  

Since we returned we have begun our new year of home school.  This is such a transition time.  Brianna will be lending a hand with teaching now that she has graduated.  She also asked if she could take over the meal planning and shopping.  The kids are all very good cooks and asked if they could each have a night to prepare the meal.  This allows me an extra hour in the late afternoon with the youngers.   I sat down to dinner one night this week, having no idea what would be served. That is very bizarre but pleasant, indeed.  We are also trying out new schedules to find one that suits Addison's therapy schedule.  And, although she has been schooling for most of her life, Elisabeth will be unofficially-officially joining us for kindergarten this year. 


With her business starting to take off, Kaitlin will be stepping down to devote more time to sewing and marketing.  And speaking of Kaitlin's business.  The Henry Owl sale was a huge success.  The lady who was handling the owls in our absence said they were the best selling item at the Buddy Walk.  The walk itself raised nearly $50,000!  So far 76 owls have found new homes raising more than $500 to better the lives of children with Down Syndrome.  I am so proud of my girls for their efforts.  If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out Henry Owls over here.  To all those who have helped to make this possible with your purchase or your post a big thank you!!!  When she was putting one order together with one of her favorite guys Kaitlin said it was hard to mail them out to strangers because she had put so much of herself into them that they felt like her kiddos.  We all cheered her on by saying, "You're doing it for Henry!  Imagine him riding a bike one day."  And there you have it.  Each of you in some way have helped our boy to learn to ride a bike or to reach some milestone that might otherwise be intangible.

While we are on the topic of Down Syndrome.  We are excited to be gearing up to be part of a new project for a book featuring children with Ds.  One of the things that I have been so frustrated about is the lack of good resources.  There are tons of books.  But quite frankly, no good ones.  I wanted just one good picture book that included children with Ds.  There are two books people keep recommending to me.  The one that supposedly explains Ds to kids in no way prepares children for the differences they could expect in their siblings or friends with Down Syndrome.  Another one shows two preschoolers playing together throughout the book.  I know that the one little girl has Ds but you couldn't tell from the picture and it says no where in the story.   Which is nice in the realm of political correctness, I suppose.  To my kids the book just came across as any two preschoolers playing together.  So think about it.  If you can't tell the child has Ds how can you make the point that they are doing the same things that other kids do?  You know?  Anyway, I finally stopped looking and told Emma to start drawing.  The girls have been working on a picture book.  I can't wait to see how it comes out.  And so imagine my excitement when I got the email on this new book project.  Stay tuned to see how it all comes out.     

We hope to be welcoming an American Sign Language Instructor on Tuesdays to help our family better communicate with Addison.  Kate not only works as an interpreter but has taught and worked specifically with disabled children and children with Down Syndrome.  This is just one of those many areas where the Lord is teaching us.  Never before Addison did it occur to me that you would need a special language for children who were disabled.  As Allen and I began discussing and praying about learning sign language, we wondered how Addison would be able to sign when managing fine motor skills is so difficult.  It is really amazing the questions you come up with when your perspective changes just a little.  So for all those who never thought of it before, yes there are special signs for the disabled.  I am both looking forward to and a little anxious about this.  I don't learn new things very quickly.  I really have to work like mad.  And right now I don't have time to work like mad at anything so I will probably end up in the dust as the rest of the family develops their vocabulary.  But I figure even if I can't keep up, I will learn something which is better than the ten signs I know now, right?  Plus, I only need to really keep up with Henry, so I already have a head start because I know all the most important words like God, Bible, please, thank you and coffee.  I can sign Jesus Loves Me, too.  Working out scheduling with her babysitter is proving to be a challenge so we are praying for the Lord to work those details out if it is His will for us to do this.

Since we got home, there has been this gigantic praying mantis living on our back door.  Every morning he greets me while I brush my teeth.  We've had lots of these guys around over the years, but I've never seen one stick to one area like this one has.  Stink bugs seem much lighter than they have been in the last few years.  I wonder if we have the praying mantis to thank or if the wicked things are finally moving on.  Which has nothing to do with anything but is one of the many things that is spinning through my head right now.  

And what's the deal with this?  Everybody is retiring.  Well not everybody.  Just 2 of the 3 doctors in our family practice.  This is kind of traumatic for us.  These doctors have treated our family for more than 25 years.  And if there ever was a time when we needed to rely on our docs this is it.  In June one up and retired and yesterday the second one. Now Addison's well baby checkups will be with some stranger.  Yeah, we are more than a little resistant to change.  Plus, we liked the idea that our doctor knew us so well that we'd chat about his grand kids and whatever was going on in our home school during checkups.  

And then yesterday we got an email from the owners of our local children's shoe store saying they were closing their doors and retiring.  This may seem trivial to you but this is serious business to us.  Not only because it is literally the only place to buy good quality kids shoes in our area.  But also because Allen and I remember going there to get our shoes as a kid.  As parents to nine kiddos, it was always with great ceremony our new walker would go to get measured for their first (and, when they got too big, last) pair of shoes.  Miss Dianne always kept a tub of pretzel sticks for each of the kids.  And as long as I can remember they had a race car.  You know one of those machines where you put in a quarter and get a ride.  Our kids loved getting their quarter after being fitted.  Sigh.  I guess it is just one more way that we see time keeps marching on.

And wow!  Time sure is marching on.  I could swear we just put up the Christmas decorations and today, while decorating pumpkins, Allen turned on the Christmas music, again.  So I think we are back where we started.  The leaves are changing.  The flowers are dying.  We have traded flip flops for fuzzy socks and our bathing suits for cozy sweaters.  We are drinking pumpkin lattes instead of iced coffees.  Fluffy pool side novels have been exchanged for text books.  Instead of roasting smores we are burning our Autumn scented Yankee candles.   
I am not going to mince words.  It has been a long, hard and sometimes very emotional year.  But as we settle in for the cold months and look forward to the upcoming holiday season, I feel at long last I can start to breath again.  Life is good.  And the God who has entrusted it to us, is even better.



October 7, 2013

The Henry Virtual 5k


October 5th was Children's first annual 5k run. For those of you not familiar with our local children's hospital  (considered one of the best in the nation) they are the amazing group of doctors, nurses and healthcare providers who make up Addison's medical team. We are still on Tybee Island and 12 hours  away from the national mall but thanks to the wonders of modern technology we joined in and ran virtually, glad to be on the beach instead of running in the 60 degrees and rain in DC :)
Running for Henry. Even when it's hard we keep going, thankful for the ability to run. Henry's life is always going to be harder and the last thing he needs is a family who quits before the last mile.