June 13, 2014

Thank You, A Smile and Simple Words of Kindness Go A Long Way

This week I had the joy of spending some time ministering to a dear friend who suffered a miscarriage over the weekend.  That time included a day in the hospital where I stood in for her precious husband as her advocate and comforter.  This is the first time I've been back to that hospital  since Addison was born.  It triggered a lot of memories.  While we were there, I had a unique opportunity which again reminded me of the many complex ways God ministers to our hearts and puts people in our paths. 

Go back with me to the day after Addison was born.  I believe I have adequately shared the less than positive experience we had surrounding Addison's birth and his care while we were in the hospital following delivery.  You can read more about it here.  When Addison was a few hours old the pediatrician came to our room and told us she suspected Addison had Down Syndrome.  She recommended having blood drawn for a Karyotype. 

A Karyotope is a type of genetic testing at the chromosomal level to diagnosis a number of genetic disorders.  In this case a sample of blood is drawn and under a microscope scientists line up chromosomes by size to determine how many of each chromosome a person has.

By the time we met up with the hematologist we were exhausted both emotionally and physically.  We had not, nor would we encounter, a positive doctor or member of the nursing staff before we were discharged from the hospital.  We were confused and unsure what to feel or think about our future.  As we waited in the nursery for the blood draw I recall thinking about how this moment would change our lives forever. 

At just over 7 pounds Addison seemed so very tiny.  And even though they had called in the lady known to be the best for difficult draws, Addison's tiny veins and hypotonia proved to be a great challenge for her and the back up hematologist she called in.  The ladies worked on him forever with one vein after another blowing and collapsing.  It took nearly 90 minutes to get the necessary sample.  The patience and kind words of the sweet woman working on Addison were the only loving or kind words we heard from the time he was born up until we left the hospital.  When she was finished she picked Addison up and cuddled him for some time.  This meant so much to me.  I am not sure I ever knew her name before this week, but I have often seen her face in my memories this last year.

While I was in the hospital with my friend, she needed a lab drawn that only one person was qualified to do.  As she pulled back the curtain and walked into the room I was momentarily stunned.  There stood the very same woman who had taken care of Addison a year ago.  Once I got my footing again, I was so excited to have an opportunity to thank her for her kindness to me and my son.  I couldn't wait to tell her how many times I had thought of her and how she had touched my heart.  Even though she remembered us after we talked for a few minutes, at first she didn't even know who we were.  Which tells me her kindness and warm smile are just part of her normal run of the mill life. 

Which is how it should be.  We should always go out of our way to be kind to others in all we do.  Because we just never know how it might minister to someone else's heart.  If you are used to going around with a stern look and finish your job to get out as quickly as possible this may at first seem like a great effort.  But when you make it a way of life from your job to the grocery store and beyond it becomes as second nature as breathing. 

And you know, just one more thing, I know it isn't always possible but when you can, going out of your way to thank those people who extend kindness blesses their hearts as much as their love blessed yours.  When I was talking this lovely woman's face literally lit up.  Her smile went from ear to ear and she in turn thanked me for sharing with her.

At the time we first met, I didn't realize how much Victoria's simple actions would minister to my heart.  And honestly I was in so much of a daze, I don't know if I would have thought to say anything to her.  I am so grateful to the Lord for giving me, through my dear friend's heartache, an opportunity to say thank you.

June 12, 2014

Samuel's 9th Birthday

Yesterday Samuel turned 9!  We often say we should have known how high energy and adventurous Samuel was when he made his entrance into the world.  He was so impatient that five minutes after I arrived at the hospital the nurse delivered him.  That about sums up life with our fellow.  He just rushes ahead into whatever adventure he can find.  He rarely takes time to stop and think about the dangers ahead. 
This Baby Blues comic is so much like my Samuel.  I rarely laugh out loud at a comic strip but this one had me laughing for five full minutes.  It's just that much like our adventurer.  In fact, we have had a friend visiting in Maryland for the last few months.  I am told by his Auntie when he was a little boy he was just like Sammy.  Being away from his family so long, he often spends Sunday afternoons with us.  He and Samuel have a little competition going to see who can wear the other out first.  I mean these two really go at it until Allen and I are exhausted just watching them.  On Monday mornings Samuel practically has to be dragged out of bed.  And my friend, Jotham's aunt, tells me he doesn't make his way down to breakfast much before nine.  So I am guessing it is pretty much a wash.  But anyway, perhaps that will give you a picture of why this made me think of my young man. 

So Sam's personality is such a lesson in contradictions.  On one hand he is this crazy adventurer but on the other he is such a tender nurturer.  He can not walk through a room where Addison is without dropping to the floor and making faces at him or giving him a kiss.  And although he's likely to crack his own head open jumping off the roof one day, he is always the protector for his younger sisters, keeping them from harm and reminding them how to live as proper young ladies.  Sammy likes to dream about owning a Barracuda one day, (he's been saving quarters in a jar since he was about 4) but he doesn't have to think twice before giving his last quarter to someone in need.  Which is why his jar is still mostly empty.  Samuel is easily distracted from his school or chores but if you can get his mind off of inventing or an expedition long enough he will amaze you at his attention to detail diligence and amazing knowledge and wisdom.  While he is all rough and tough, he is also extremely creative.  Anyone who has seen some of his inventions or his beautiful art work can attest to this fact.  He loves the book of Proverbs and Tom Swift stories just the same. 

I love his joy for life, his black and white view of the world, his incredible enthusiasm for everything, his freckles and his great big hugs.  Sam is kind to everyone he meets but he doesn't necessarily form many friendships.  When he does call you friend, his loyalty is unwavering.

Samuel loves cars, boats and planes.  He is a master of paper airplanes and can build a boat out of just about anything.  To celebrate his birthday we spent the day at the Air and Space Museum at Dulles airport. 
We haven't been there for a few years so it was all new to him.         

I tried to talk him into the Dday movie at the Imax but Sam was happy to see some of his favorite planes up close and personal. 

And to check out the Cessna with Addison
We had planned on seeing a baseball game in the evening but everyone was kind of worn out and bad storms were coming through our area.  We postponed the idea and picked up Pho instead.   I attempted to teach the kids a game we used to play when I was a kid.  Which by that time everyone was delirious and a little high on sugar from the cake.

And speaking of cake... Brianna spent a few good hours on Tuesday making this amazing Hershey Chocolate race track cake. 
When we woke up Wednesday morning we found there had been a land slide.
Which for Sam just added to the excitement.  Especially when I pointed out it is not often you can grab a fork and take bites of your birthday cake without anyone noticing. 
Happy birthday to the boy who keeps the adventure alive for us every single day.  May you never lose that joie de vivre!

June 3, 2014

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester

Shortly before Addison was born, one of the publishers I review for sent me a copy of Steven Manchester's Novel, Goodnight, Brian.  This was an entertaining and inspiring story of a child with a disability whose life was touched and changed by the love of his family.  A few short weeks later our Addison was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.  There were many dark and gloomy diagnosis and prognosis in those first few days.  We cried a lot as we considered all the horrible things we were being told.  And then one evening, when Addison was a few days old, I was crying and trying to feed him and the words of Steven's book came back to me.  I was encouraged and inspired as I determined "won't" and "can't" are not going to be part of Addison's existent.  I was sure from that moment on God sent Goodnight, Brian to prepare us for the journey we were going to walk with Henry. 
A few days later I got an email from Steven asking me to review his soon to be released book, The Rocking chair.  When I wrote Mr. Manchester back I had to tell him what his novel had meant to us.  Steven wrote back asking if he could use Addison as a character in the novel he was currently working on.  Pressed Pennies arrived in the mail the first week of March. 
These days I scarcely have time to read a book.  In fact, I have completely abandoned reviews for the time being. When I do read, it has something to do with therapy or down syndrome.  For all those months now Pressed Pennies has been calling me from the top of my summer vacation reading stack under the night table.  Once or twice I picked it up and read a page or two before feeling guilty and putting it away.  
But now school is finished.  Summer is here.  And I have given myself off.  No research.  No obligatory reading.  A lovely 3 month sabbatical to read just what I want.  With the Memorial Day weekend kick off to summer I pulled Pressed Pennies out with no guilt and spent three lovely afternoons in the hammock lost in the world of Rick, Abby, Paige and Addison "Henry". 
As Steven has demonstrated time and again, in Pressed Pennies we see his gift for defining the vulnerability and strength of human relationships in a way which touches your heart and inspires you to find a life you want to reach out to.  This was a fun love story of how God takes us from the rubble of life to restore love and redeem the time.  As someone who was in Abby's very place a long time ago, this was a fun read and a good chance to remember all God has done in my life. 
As an added bonus, it was neat to see how Steven would develop the character of "Henry".  I intend to ask him if he had already written Henry or if the character was developed after he "met" our precious son.  Regardless, I could clearly see the character of Henry as our Henry in ten years. 
There were two neat things that jumped right out to me about Henry and Pressed Pennies.  Before publication, Steven sent me a passage where Henry was first introduced to the story.  There was a note which said, "I hope you don't mind me making him a Red Sox fan."  Well, first we chuckled because we've always been Yankee fans.  For those of you who don't follow much baseball, Yankee Fans and Red Sox fans are pretty big rivals.  But there was more to it than that.  Unbeknownst to Steven, or most anyone, Addison's name came from Addison Park, which is now known as Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs.  
The other thing which stuck out at me was that riding a bicycle is a key element for the character of Henry.  One of our specific prayers since Addison was a newborn was for him to one day ride a bicycle.  It is estimated that only about 5% of people with Down Syndrome ever learn to ride a bicycle.  This seems like a trivial thing and it is certainly something most parents take for granted.  However, as we contemplated what we needed to do to help our Henry gain independence (even less people with Down Syndrome ever pass the test to become licensed drivers) we knew this was something very important to us.  In fact, our family, and specifically Kaitlin, have put a lot of time and effort into raising money to bring Camp I Can Shine to our area to teach children with Down Syndrome how to ride a bike this summer.   
Whenever my mom read a good book she would say it was like eating peanuts.  You know, you have to keep popping more and more in your mouth because one is never enough. And when the bowl is empty you are kind of bummed.  That is the perfect description for Steven Manchester's books.
Pressed Pennies is a fun, easy going story perfect for a breezy summer afternoon.  Get your copy at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle Instant Download.  
(Please note:  There are two listings for Pressed Pennies at Amazon.com.  The link I have included is the book I am reviewing here.)