Monday, October 24, 2011

Post-placement pride

We recently had our very first post-placement visit with the local social worker who originally approved us to adopt our girls.

I always, always get nervous about these visits.  Someone wielding a whole lot of power, who really doesn't even know you very well, coming into your home and asking questions and making observations.  Yuck!

But this time, in the hours leading up to the visit, I also found myself a little bit excited.

See we kind of had to fight to pursue the adoption of Tigist and Mekdes, because our homestudy agency had some random biases.  In the end we won them over, and I think we also scored a few points for team "Not-Every-Large-Family-is-Always-Chaotic-and-Messy."  If you have a big family, you can thank me in the form of Starbucks and IKEA gift cards.  :)

Now fast-forward a year.  Our daughters are home.  We are a family of nine now.  And even though Mekdes and Tigist have only been home four weeks, oh my goodness, they are doing amazingly well.  Kevin and I are doing amazingly well.  My other children are doing amazingly well.  Our family has worked through the initial adjusting and fine-tuning and are sloowwwly inching our way towards being settled again.

I suppose my excitement stemmed from the fact that I wanted our social worker to see how positively precious my daughters are, and that "special needs adoptions" (whatever that even means--because believe me, every adoption includes a traumatized child with unique and special needs!) are something to rejoice in and pursue, not run away from.  I'm also pretty darn proud of my other five children, and how they've weathered the storm of upheaval.  And of course my husband continues to be such a steady rock and support in our home.

The thing is, you really never know how a placement is going to work.  You can think you know, but you don't.  Not really.  Not until the child is home, and the dust settles as the honeymoon ends. 

And yes, we're surely still in the honeymoon phase, but I do believe we are the right family for these girls.  They fit right in.  My other children adore them, Down syndrome is so not an issue, and our days spent at related medical appointments are, for some reason, fun for them.  (It's not solely because they get McDonald's for lunch or because they get to ride in a Very Big Van that they think is the coolest thing ever, but it helps!  :)  )  Basically, so far, I think our home is a pretty safe place for Mekdes and Tigist to be.  Their siblings (and bursting-with-pride parents) love and appreciate them for who they are, and precisely because of who they are.  We have plenty of wiggle room in our lives and schedule for doctor's visits and, yep, even multiple heart surgeries.

And here's the thing, friends: it's not because we're doing anything special.  At all.  Because we're not.  I do occasionally yell at my kids and there are crumbs on my floor and I'm doing my best to get everyone to soccer and catechism class (on time!), just like the rest of ya'll.  But I am finding crazy, relentless, remarkable-every-day-graces in the errands we run and chores we do.  God is showing up like you wouldn't believe, and I honestly cannot fathom how we ever wound up so blessed as to have Tigist and Mekdes grace our lives.

We don't deserve it.  We've done nothing to earn it. 

And so the social worker came.  We were all smiles and really had nothing negative to report...just the usual challenges you'd expect with an adoption.  The girls were their usual charming selves.  But, I felt as if my daughters are still seen as nothing more than "special needs kids" or "Down syndrome kids" by this agency.  And we're that "big weird homeschooling family."  Any excitement and pride I'd felt ahead of time was quickly replaced by defensiveness and frustration. 

The thing is, some people will just never "get it."  My daughters will be fighting stereotypes and other peoples' ignorance their entire lives, and this is only the beginning.  So I just put on a smile and gave the social worker an earful about how dang awesome my little girls are, how they are sweet and social and attaching to our family.  I talked about how much we love them, and the amazing progress they're making. 

That's what I'd been looking forward to, anyway.  To being able to look this person in the eye and say, our daughters are amazing.  Our family is doing well.  Life is so beautiful.  God is taking care of us.

And of course eventually she left, and it was just our happy not-so-little-family again...and really, at the end of the day, that's who matters.  The people in my house.  Oh how I love them so!

Friday, October 21, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday {#29}

1.)  The latest news around here is that I have strep throat, of all things.  Ugh!  I got right to the doctor though (thank goodness for antibiotics!) and I am already doing better than I was.  (Apparently when you spend a week at doctor's visits and hospitals, you pick up things like strep.) 

2.)  I read this news story today.  Pretty amazing.  This woman is a hero.  Her daughter is precious.  What a legacy this mother has left behind!

3.)  Being sick on the couch = watching mindless TV that I never, ever watch.  We don't have cable or satellite, so we only pull in a few channels.  ANYway, I turned on an old favorite today, Days of Our Lives, and they had all the old people on it!!!  Carrie, Jon, Marlena, Jennifer, Jack...this is just too fun.

4.)  I recently won Father Barron's book Catholicism in a giveaway and am nearly finished.  He is an excellent communicator and I'm really enjoying it.  And, how fun is it to win something?!

5.)  Today a bunch of random rappers started following me on Twitter.  I find this incredibly funny.  Hope they like my sporadic tweets about my kids.

6.)  Literally every time I'm waiting for a prescription at our neighborhood pharmacy (which is near a private university), there is at least one young girl picking up birth control.  One time she was talking to her friend in line about how she pays for it seperately so her dad won't find out.  So, so sad.

7.)  Yesterday in the aforementioned pharmacy, I noticed both at-home cocaine tests AND at-home paternity tests on the shelf.  And some strange part of me really, really wanted to buy them.  I don't know why.  It just seemed kind of exciting. 


Thanks Jen for hosting!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I Wore Wednesday and aprons

Linking up with Lindsey again for What I Wore Wednesday.  Today a college friend of mine, Beth from Salvage Life, is guest posting on her blog.  So fun!

Okay, so this past week has been cuh-razy!!!  And, I need to do laundry.  But I did take photos every day but Friday.  (Friday was homeschool club in the morning, and visiting with a friend in the evening.  Somehow the picture just didn't happen.)

Nothing too exciting to share, but I did wear an apron this week--the first time I've worn one.  Do you wear them?  I seriously think they are super cute and they make me actually kind of like working in the kitchen.  Saturday was Mary's birthday, so I baked a cake that afternoon with Anna and Kaitlyn.  Seemed like the perfect occasion to bust out the apron!

Wednesday.  Visit with friend and kids' soccer game.

sweater--Target clearance

Thursday.  Big kids at school and RCIA.

tank top--thrifted
jeans--Forever 21

Saturday.  Mary's birthday (immediate family party) and just stayed home.


Sunday.  Mass and thrifting.

sweater--Target clearance

Monday.  Doctor appointments for Mekdes and Tigist and hospital visit for Tigist's blood draw.

jeans--Forever 21

Tuesday.  Hospital and kids' soccer practice and coffee with friends in the evening.  (Please forgive the horrible lighting!)

long sweater--gift from mom
jeans--Target clearance

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Heldts go to the ER

Today I--and my seven children--spent the morning (and part of the afternoon) at the Children's Hospital emergency room.

Because, you know, instead of homeschooling my kids at home, we take field trips to medical establishments.

The impetus for the trip?

I got Mary Lu up this morning, just like always, only to discover that she couldn't move her right arm.

As in, it was just hanging there. 

I honestly couldn't believe it.  She'd seemed fine at bedtime!  What on earth could have happened?!

I called our doctor's office, and they told me to take her to Children's.  So after breakfast, we set off.  Sweet siblings helped Mary eat her cheerios and drink from her sippy cup, since she was only using one hand.  I love how my kiddos love each other!

Anyway, turns out it was just something called Nursemaid's Elbow, and they were able to successfully reduce it.  No big deal.  Well, except for the fact that poor Mary screamed and cried during the reduction procedure.  So hard for a mama's heart!  We also had some x-rays taken, which showed a little swelling but no fracture or break.  Whew!

This was the scene in our room.  For reals.  Because when you're two-years-old and you have six siblings, they all go with you to the hospital.  To watch movies with you and make sure you're okay.  That's just the way it is.

Oh my goodness.  These two  No further words necessary.

My pediatrician actually called me as we were on our way home (while I was attempting to navigate my way through a highly disorganized McDonald's drive-thru--more on that another time, but suffice it to say my doctor probably thinks I'm a lunatic now) and told me to just call him directly on his cell if it happens again--he can fix it and save us the hospital trip.  Perfect!  So, so thankful for a wonderful doctor who cares about my kids!  (Even if he does think I'm crazy and a horrible mother for ordering my kids food at McDonald's.  :)  )

And I still don't know how it happened exactly--it's highly possible she was playing with the other kids last night and something happened then, although I think it's actually more likely that she rolled on it the wrong way in her sleep since it seemed fine as of bedtime.

Either way, I'm so glad my sweet Mary Lu Lu is okay!!!!!  Oh how I love my little Lu-bug!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gifts + Hello Love Photography

We have some incredibly amazing friends. 

Since bringing our daughters home four weeks ago, we have witnessed time and time again the profound mercies of God.  And not in the esoteric, intangible sort of way that people so often speak about God, mind you.

But in warm, nourishing meals being delivered to our home, in the smiles and hugs and "We're so glad they're finally here and we're here if you need anything"s, and in the emails and blog comments embracing our daughters and family as close friends.

We are touched.

Today I am wanting to tell you about one gift in particular.  Some amazingly sweet and good friends of ours in Denver recently brought us a yummy meal--we met Mike and Amy a couple of years ago at church, and they are positively wonderful.  And as it turned out, Amy's sister Casey was visiting from Boston at the time. 

And Casey happens to be an amazing photographer. 

And I guess when she heard about us and our family, she wanted to come take family photos.  Just because.

We were so, so touched.  Honestly, we've never had nice family photos taken, ever.  And what a joy to be able to capture this moment in our lives.

Anyhow, she recently featured our family on her beautiful photography blog.  Needless to say I love, love, love how they all turned out.  Go check them out!

Thank you, Casey, for such an incredible gift!  Words cannot express how grateful we are.

And if you live in the Boston area, oh my goodness, tell your friends about Hello Love Photography!!!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday {#28}

1.)  I am not a morning person.  If you have ever lived with me, then you know this.  Don't get me wrong, I like when my day starts early, but it is so.hard. to get out of bed, even if I've gotten a good night's sleep.  I've always wished I could change this little fact, but alas, it is what it is!  Our current schedule only requires early wakeups (6 am) two days per week.  Thank you homeschooling!

2.)  Last night we made a late-night trip to the pharmacy to pick up our girls' giardia meds.  We were out already,on the other side of town.  Still there was no doubt in our minds that we were going to go get those prescriptions once they confirmed that the compounding was done.  They've had two doses so far, and I get positively giddy each time I administer them.  It's the little things.

3.)  Anna, my 7-year-old, is seeming so grown-up lately.  There have been multiple conversations with her recently that have left me thinking, wow, she is getting older.  I love to see how she processes the world and her faith and just the small things in life.  Raising children is so bittersweet in the sense that I'd give nearly anything to go back to when my bigger kids were babies, just for a day, but how stinking awesome is it as they grow and your relationship with them continues developing deeper and deeper?  And hate it, all at the same time.  :)

4.)  It was recently the feast day of the Archangels.  My kids have really been interested in angels recently as a result of discussing it, and it's kind of funny.  Anna is even writing a story about a "crime" that occurred in Heaven, where the angels are sent to spy on the lady who stole Jesus' cross(?)  Now last time I checked, there was no crime in Heaven, nor a cross, but apparently my daughter (who also knows this) has taken some literary license.  It is all kinds of awesome, for sure. 

5.)  I love Fall.  My favorite season by far.  And Fall in Denver is so, so pretty--our street has so many huge trees and when the leaves turn, oh my goodness, it is gorgeous.

6.)  Yesterday an ambulance almost ran me, and my big van, off the road.  Whilst honking at me.  Sorry emergency medical response, I was doing my best to get into the other lane...but, um, I have a big van, and there was a lot of traffic.

7.)  My son broke his oatmeal bowl this morning.  While I really like this set of bowls (kind of a harvest-y yellowish mustard color), I am glad that I buy inexpensive, second-hand stuff.  Because when it breaks?  No big loss.  (But did I mention I really liked the bowl?  Apparently, cheap or not, I am still sad.  Boo.)

Thank you to Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting!!!! 

(Have you ever read her blog?  It's a good one.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The consult

Okay first of all, how cute are they?!  I can't think of two kids I'd rather spend my morning with.  Even if it has to be on the third floor of Children's Hospital.

On Tuesday we met with the heart surgeon who will be performing their initial heart surgeries, via catheter. 

Provided it goes well, he will fix Tigist's defect once and for all during this procedure. 

For Mekdes, it will be purely diagnostic--seeing how much pressure has built up in her lungs, and to see if she is even a candidate for open heart surgery, which she so desperately needs. 

Provided there are no complications, this should be an overnight stay for both girls, at most.  No biggie.  The surgeon seemed all confident-ish and he has a niece from Ethiopia, so he was excited to meet my daughters.

I also completed the consent portion of the proceedings--where I sat and listened to a nurse explain the risks of the procedures. 


Not fun having to hear a long list of scary things, ending with "possible fatal outcomes".  I go back and forth between hopeful optimism, and thoughts like I'm so glad we had family pictures done..., between knowing that the surgeon does this particular surgery all the time, and how can I subject my sweet daughters and their most vital of organs to these awful risks?  Ack.

As for my other kids, they are rockstars.  Got up extra early, on purpose, to help out and see their sisters off.  Anna had wanted to come along again, but she's getting over a cold.  So that morning when she asked to get Mekdes dressed and I said "no, go back to sleep and get some rest!", she said very seriously "Mom, I want to do SOMEthing to help."  I'm just so proud of my oldest daughter.  No words to describe her heart.  None.

And so at 8 am that morning, the five kids gathered around their sisters as Kevin and I looked on.  So they could cheer for and hug and kiss them--sending them off with much fanfare.  For a consult. 

Be still my ever-breaking, perpetually-melting heart.  Oh, how they have fallen head-over-heels-in-love with their dear sisters.  The support and grace and love they have shown is incredible.  And I would not even have believed it possible were I not witnessing it with my very own (teary!) eyes.

New miracles, in my house.

And Mekdes?  Still the bravest girl in the whole-wide-world.  A consult with a heart surgeon at the hospital?  No big deal.  I'm just gonna hang out with my mom and sister and smile really big.

And sing my ABCs.  (I like to cheer for myself when I'm done, because I'm awesome.)

As for Tigist?  Well, do you see that face?  Um, yeah.  So happy.  So sweet.  (And so cute that I'll forgive her for pooping while I was talking to the Very Important Heart Surgeon.  Come to think of it, I've never had a heart surgeon watch me change a poopy diaper before Tuesday.  Kind of exciting.)

She also spent time cleaning the wall.  Because she's kind of a big deal like that.

And looking at books with her sister.  About a creepy version of Santa Claus. 

A scheduler will call in a few days to set up the surgeries, which cannot be done until the girls have successfully conquered giardia.  (At which time there will be much rejoicing, and I may even throw a party to celebrate.  So.not.joking.)  Which means we're probably three to four weeks out or so.

I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for reading along and for your prayers and encouragement!  I'll let you know once the surgeries are scheduled.  And in the meantime, let me just say that life is sweet, each and every moment is so precious, and my daughters are doing really, really well. 

Miracles, I tell you. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What I Wore Wednesday (and the pressure to look good)

Well, another week has come and gone, and I'm linking up with Lindsey again for What I Wore Wednesday!

I have to say that, um, knowing I was going to do this post resulted in me getting dressed more than I would have otherwise.  (But not to worry, I still spent two days in comfy clothes!)  AND, I find I am much more motivated to do the things I need to do (like homeschooling and housework and errands) when I've gotten out of my pjs.  Go figure!  :)

WIWW aside, I feel pressure as a mom-to-many to look somewhat decent when I leave the house with my kids.  I'm not sure if that's an inherently bad (or good?) thing.  But I find that people expect me to look tired...frazzled...and miserable.  Because surely someone in my position must really, really hate their life.  (No, I'm not being neurotic--I've had all sorts of people tell me I'm brave, "better you than me!", "your house must be a zoo", "you don't LOOK like you have seven kids" etc.)

So I feel like I have to show people that even though I do have multitudes o' children, I wear makeup and don't live in stained pajamas (most of the time.)  Do other moms feel this way?  Do moms who have one or two children feel the pressure too, or is it only moms to many?  Granted, I wore makeup and liked to shop pre-kids so it's not as if I've changed per se. 

But I'm much more likely to throw my hair back in a ponytail and go out in my comfies if I'm going without my children.  If a kid's involved, you can be sure I get ready for the day and put effort into my appearance.  Weird!

Anyhow, here is my photo-documentation of the past week, along with what we did each day.  And I'll let you know about our consult with the heart surgeon tomorrow.  (My two daughters just home from Ethiopia, who were born with Down syndrome, are both having heart surgery soon.  You can read a little bit about that here.)

Wendesday.  Homeschooling and kids' soccer games.

camisole: Target
sweater: thrifted
jeans: Forever 21
shoes: Target

Thursday.  Big kids at school and a playdate and RCIA.

camisole: Target
sweater: thrifted
jeans: thrifted
flats: thrifted

Friday.  Parish homeschool group and Costco and dinner with friends.

camisole: Gap
dress: thrifted
sweater: thrifted
leggings: Target
boots: thrifted

Saturday.  Home with sick kids.

tshirt: thrifted
sweatshirt: thrifted
yoga pants: thrifted

Sunday.  Home with sick kids and thrifting.

shirt: thrifted
jeans: thrifted

Monday.  Homeschooling and housework and an evening meeting.

pink sweater: thrifted
stripy cardigan sweater: thrifted
skirt: thrifted
leggings: Target
boots: thrifted

Tuesday.  Consult with girls' heart surgeon at the hospital and homeschooling and kids' soccer practice.

shirt: thrifted
cardigan sweater: thrifted
jeans: Forever 21
boots: thrifted
hand-stamped necklace: Lisa Leonard Designs
red necklace: Ethiopia 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Old books

I love, love, love to read. 

I've always loved to read.

And, I've read a lot of books. 

Mostly non-fiction-type books.

I have to tell you though that I really think old books are the very best.

Kevin introduced me to CS Lewis in college.  Via Mere Christianity.   I was regularly ditching taking an 8 am philosophy class at the time where we daily discussed whether frogs have souls, so Lewis was a huge breath of fresh air.  :)  His work definitely shaped my views on faith and God and gave me a lot to think about.

It's funny how quickly authors are pumping out books today.  The contemporary Christian genre is saturated with peoples' thoughts and opinions on pretty much everything.  (More power to the authors for getting published, however!  People are obviously reading the books!)  I have to admit though that I'm starting to think I'm largely done with this stuff--though I'll still probably read it here and there just to stay in the loop.  (I recently read Love Wins, for example.  'Cause all the cool kids were reading it.)

Anyway, I recently found St. Frances de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life at the thrift store.  Written in, you know, the 16th century.  And so far it is amazing.  Really, quite astounding.  His thoughts are just so rich

So, yeah, old books are awesome.  What are you reading these days?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Family and progress

We've been home three weeks now.

And I cannot even begin to tell you the amazing trasnformation that we have witnessed in our sweet TG.

(Pictured above, with me, in a rather comfy chair in Frankfurt, Germany.  But don't be deceived--in spite of the chair comfiness, I am not a fan of that airport.  At all.)

But back to the transformation.

When we picked Tigist up from the orphanage, she couldn't put any weight on her legs.  Within a week, she could stand holding onto my hands, or onto a table.

As of a week ago, she could not successfully drink water from a sippy cup, bottle, or regular drinking glass!  40-50% of the water would come back out of her mouth and result in her mom clothes or bib being positively drenched.  Nor could she hold the cup herself.  At all.  But now?  She's drinking successfully, out of the sippy, and can do so independently.

Until recently she really didn't have much of an attention span for playing with toys.  Last night, she sat for a good ten minutes at a toy, playing and chattering and enjoying herself.

It was clear from the day we took custody of Tigist that she had had very little exposure to different food textures.  So that, coupled with the characteristic low muscle tone of her tongue, made for extremely messy and stressful meal times.  Because everything got pushed out of her mouth and she was frustrated.  But now she's eating pizza (cut up in little pieces, of course), PB&J sandwiches (also cut), and oatmeal at breakfast (I spoon feed her.)  And most all of it is staying in her mouth.

I realize these may sound like the smallest of things.  Like stuff that isn't a big deal for, you know, a two-and-a-half-year-old to do.  But for sweet Tigist?  It's hugeWithout any therapy or professional help, she is making gains.  Huge gains.  Yes we are still having physical and occupational therapists do evaluations (I'm waiting on their call),  but I am just so thrilled for my daughter that with a bit of constancy, stability and love, along with opportunity, she is accomplishing all sorts of things!

What an honor it is to cheer Tigist on, rejoice in her successes, and watch her begin to flourish...right before our very eyes.  It's like God is giving us this amazingly precious glimpse into our daughter's potential and strength.  Which, in all honestly, is positively limitless.

And for your viewing pleasure, here's a little video of her eating lunch, from a week ago or so.  She rocks.

Oh how I love my dear, beautiful TG!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Keeping it real

So after my "What I Wore Wednesday" post went up, a close friend emailed me saying she was beginning to question her own parenting abilities, being that I wore real clothes three days that week. 


I'm laughing because I responded with this:

Parenting abilities...ummm...did you SEE _______ throwing and spitting food all over me at soccer practice yesterday?! Ha! I started my day off today cleaning PLEGHM off the carpet that _______ had spit. And just now I changed a HUGE, nasty, parasitic diaper...and the entire front part of the house smells AWFUL. Seriously, SO GROSS!!!!! AND before THAT, _______ peed so much in her diaper that she soaked her pants....Good times over here, hehehe.

First of all, how awesome is it that I have friends who I can tell The Most Yuckiest of Stuff to, and they STILL want to be my friends?!

Second, I know bloggers say this all the time, but it's true:  what people see on your blog is such a small snapshot of your day, much less your LIFE.  I don't like complaining on my blog (usually), or putting the worst-of-the-worst out there front and center (usually).  Not because I want people to think I live a charmed existence (although in many ways I do!), but because I don't like defining my life by the bad stuff. 

And Motherhood is unique because while (like with anything else) there is both good and bad to be found in the daily grind, it is ultimately good.  Raising children, loving and nurturing them, allowing yourself to be changed by them and by your sacrifice, is good.  For you, for your husband, for your kids, for the Church, and for the world.

I love that my friend wrote back with:
I feel much better now.  Your poopy house and spitty floor have served their purpose.  : )

Aren't good friends the best?  The email exchange made me laugh, I lit some candles to make the house smell better, and I went on my merry way with some good perspective.

So the moral of the story?  Now you know (if you didn't already) that it can get pretty crazy 'round the ol' Heldt house. 

And now you also know that if you and I become close friends, you might have to hear about The Most Yuckiest of Stuff.  You can't say you haven't been warned!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What I Wore Wednesday

Taking a break from all of the heavier posts, and doing something completely random and superficial today.  :)  (I would say it's vain, except there's nothing vain when I do "What I Wore Wednesday"--remember the bathing suit top I wore to church?!  'Nuff said.  :)  )

I'm linking up with Lindsey for What I Wore Wednesday.

As a homeschooling, stay-at-home-as-much-as-possible mom, I'm trying to make an effort to, um, get dressed each day.  (I say "trying to make an effort", because I'm not entirely sure I want to make the effort.  I'm so that person that likes to be comfortable, and am happy to remain in my pjs all the livelong day.  BUT, I don't want that for my kids so much--memories of mom living in her sweats, except for when we leave the house.) 

Here are my attempts for the week (well technically just since Sunday, since that's when I started taking pictures.  Of myself.  Which is rather awkward and unusual.  There was one I took of my face, but Kevin said I looked crazed.  So headless me it is.)  The vast majority of my clothing comes from the slightly stinky thrift store near my house, because while I love clothes, I don't love PAYING a lot for clothes.  Yes, I'm a total cheapskate, and rather proud of it.  :)

So, I'm going to attempt to do this each Wednesday.  To keep things light during a somewhat crazy and more than a little nerve-wracking time in my life.  There will probably be a fair share of yoga pants + tshirt pics because, well, being comfy rocks.  :) 

Sunday.  Mass and thrifting and relaxing.

sweater--Target clearance

Monday.  Homeschooling and a friend visiting.

camisole--Forever 21
tank top--Target clearance

Tuesday.  Homeschooling and soccer practice.

tank top (complete with wrinkles--see, I told you I wasn't vain!)--Target clearance
sweater--Target clearance
skirt--Target clearance (four years ago)

As you can see, nothing exciting or remotely interesting, but sometimes you just want to read something mindless on a Wednesday.

And I didn't mention Down syndrome, adoption, my seven children, or heart surgery once!  :)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Can you love Down syndrome?

In case you didn't know, we now have two children--yes, two!--with Trisomy 21.

Otherwise known as Down syndrome.

Which obviously falls under the "special needs" umbrella, but the funny thing is, I don't really think of my daughters as having special needs.

At all.

Is that weird?

Am I stepping on some sort of landmine here when I say that?  (Gosh, I hope not.)

I mean I know they have some medical issues that are a result of Down syndrome.  Both girls need heart surgery, and Mekdes also has a thyroid hormone disorder that will require lifelong treatment.  I get that.  All out-of-the-ordinary stuff, to be sure.  Stuff that I desperately wish were not the case.

And I know they have some cognitive delays.  It may take them a little longer to learn to read and write.

And one of them has some physical delays for which we're seeking early intervention.  (If they'll ever either answer their phones, or call me back.)

But kids WITHOUT Down syndrome are born with heart defects...thyroid problems...learning delays.

So I'm thinking through all this and processing what "being a mom to children with Down syndrome" means for me.  And so far? 

So far it means I have two sweet little girls who are pretty much all-around awesome!

Mekdes isn't a "special needs kid"--she's Mekdes!

Tigist isn't a "Down syndrome person"--she's Tigist!

And let's face it: each and every one of my children, biological or adopted, chromosomal abnormality or not, has unique and special needs.  Things that they need help or encouragement with, or ways that they need me, or ways in which they are, simply, special. 

Please hear me when I say that I don't mean to trivialize any of the challenges that people with Trisomy 21 face throughout their lives.  (My children included.  And, there will be challenges.)  I don't attempt to speak for any other mama, especially the mamas blessed with biological children with Down syndrome.  I have not endured the trauma of mourning the loss of what I believed was a healthy baby, nor have I spent time with my newborn in the NICU.  Each family will have their own dynamic and own way of understanding and processing the way Down syndrome plays out in their child's life.  And that's perfectly fine.  

As for me, I have to be totally honest and say that, well, I love me some Down syndrome.  I DON'T love the holes in my girls' hearts, but I DO admit that I've fallen head-over-heels in love with that precious extra chromosome.  Which is a vital and integral part of who my daughters are.  They're not defined by Down syndrome or "special needs", but they wouldn't be who they are were it not for those extra copies.

I honestly never really think about how my daughters could (and will) be labeled by most people as "delayed", "disabled", "special needs", or "the r word".  They're just my kids.  Who need surgery, who need some early intervention, and who need some thyroid meds.  Yes, they do have Down syndrome, but around here?  We think that's pretty rad.  (Yes, I just said rad.  I was also jammin' to 1980s Janet Jackson in the thrift store yesterday.  Because I'm an awesome product of the '80s like that.)

The fact is that all seven (yes, seven) of my children have needs.  Every last one of 'em.  And, they always will.  I figure being a mother is a lifelong pursuit, filled with joys and sorrows and lots and lots of love-put-into-action.  I can't know the future, or say for certain how much Mekdes and Tigist will "do".  I can't know what tomorrow holds.

I just know that I'm their mama, and I'm gonna do my very best to help them reach their beautiful, God-given potential, whatever that may be. 

Mostly I know I love my dear, sweet daughters.  Down syndrome and all.

Monday, October 03, 2011

In pursuit of the new normal

As of last night, my daughters have been home two weeks.

And I feel like maybe, just MAYbe, we're finally starting to settle in and find our footing again.  Maybe.  :)

I believe it was Melissa Fay Greene who used the analogy of the family as a mobile.  It's moving and somewhat flexible and everyone has their place, but then when you add a child (or two), the mobile is a bit off-balance for awhile as you attempt to find balance and structure again. 

Well, it's true.  The family is almost like its own system, really.  And as I've watched Tigist and Mekdes join our system, I've realized that each system needs to be able to embrace and adjust and sway and essentially absorb the impact of such a change. 

I've also realized that our own particular family is so very well suited for our sweet new girlies, and that we have been able to bend and endure some initial chaos.  I can't tell you how dang proud I am of my other five children...who accepted their new siblings, without condition, from day one.  They have been patient, flexible, loving, and helpful.  (Of course, Tigist and Mekdes are pretty easy to love.  Just sayin'.)

As for me, I have done my very best to keep up with our regular schedule, so that my kids have not had to give up activities on account of this change.  In other words, I've tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy in their lives amidst upheaval.  This means keeping up with their homeschool co-op, soccer, ceramics, a Friday night girls' group at our parish, and Mass.  Part of me would have loved to have locked the doors, shut all the windows, and turned out all the lights these past two weeks as I've attempted to get over jet lag and the exhaustion of parenting two new little ones.  But, I don't think that would have been healthy for me or for our family, overall.

And everyone seems to be evening out, life is marching on, and I'm just starting to get the hang of this whole thing.  Kevin went back to work today, another step towards normalcy.  We'll spend our day homeschooling and I also need to make some phone calls to the hospital, doctor's office, and early intervention people.  Whew.

Of course the irony is that by the time we start feeling normal-ish again, it'll be time for, you know, my daughters' heart surgeries.  But, like with everything else, even after our little family mobile goes all crazy-off-kilter, it will right itself again.  That's the beauty of family.  Experiencing life, both ups and downs, all together, and coming out better and stronger in the end.


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