Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rise-ing to the Occasion

I was sitting in a room of 58 other college sophomores, anticipating our first practicum teaching assignment. We had been given the spiel about how not to wear anything revealing - no cracks were to be shown - front or back, not to bring cell phones, and how confidentiality was of the utmost importance. We were anxiously awaiting the green sheet, the sheet that informed us of the school, grade level, and teacher with whom we would be spending the next several hours of the upcoming semester.

I often tell the story that while other children were packing Barbie and Ken into a pink Jeep to go to the beach, I was teaching them their ABC's and 123's, and my poor teddy bears and baby dolls weren't exempt either. They may not have had a tan or sand between their toes, but by golly, they were going places! They were lined strategically along the couch, careful not to put Lucy beside Skipper, those girls were quite the talkers! And every day, me with my grade book and lesson plan in hand, and them with their dry erase boards and hand-me-down textbooks, in the basement of our house, we had class.
I have always wanted to teach. While friends explored other venues, I pursued my love, my passion for teaching and learning. Finally, as a twenty year old, I was getting the opportunity. I opened the carefully stapled paper to reveal the contents of my placement. Before I read the scripted words, I daydreamed. Would I be teaching multiplication to sassy fourth graders, or laying a foundation and love for learning for snaggle-toothed kindergarteners? I envisioned my first teacher outfit with my teacher bag on my shoulder and newly personalized lunchbox in hand. I pictured, phone in hand, making parent phone calls and writing notes of praise on season-appropriate note cards. 

My enthusiasm could have not have been greater when I read that I would be interning in a three year old classroom at the Johnny Stallings Center, affectionately known as Rise, on The University of Alabama campus.

I approached that semester ready to teach, to impress my knowledge on others, to enrich the lives of students. 

I walked away from that semester having learned much more than I taught, my life being the one wholly enriched.

Seeing teachers and assistant teachers work in collaboration with other specialists to provide their students, both typical children and children with special needs, with the ideal education, greatly inspired me. I saw children with seemingly insurmountable mental and physical disabilities approach each day, each task, each learning opportunity with such an incredible zest and passion to excel. And excel they did. Their drive was unparalled and unwavering. I rarely left with the mascara I had carefully applied before arriving; but I always left with a renewed spirit and happy heart. As the semester wound down, I vowed to return to this children's paradise.

Little did I know, that almost 10 years later, I would be returning. But this time, I would return not as an educator, but as a parent.

Our God works in incredible and intentional ways.
His ways are not my ways. 
His thoughts are not my thoughts.
His ways and His thoughts are greater. 

Earlier this Spring, on a bright afternoon, Brian came home from work. His demeanor did not match the warm sunny day. Instead of his usual cheery, "Daddy's home!" which follows with a chorus of squeals from the little because he know what comes next is a whirlwind of scooping up this away and spinning that away, he was more reserved. Upon closer inspection, I noticed his eyes were red. My always happy husband was somber, comtemplative. 

That day, God had impressed something upon his heart. A push to do something more, for Baker, for our family. 

That day, Brian found Rise. He scoured their website and confidently proclaimed, with his familiar smile resurfacing, "Jennifer, whatever it takes, Rise. Rise is where Baker needs to be."

Mind you, we each had wonderful jobs we love, a church family that is...well, the thought of leaving them makes me a weepy mess, a house that we have made a home, family here, Baker's doctors and therapists and a school we adore. And, one teensy detail, while we were faithful it would happen, Baker had not been accepted to Rise.

God's faithfulness.
It's in the details.
It's incredible.

There's a verse I love.
"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."

Today, Brian has a job in Tuscaloosa. 
Baker has been accepted to Rise.
Our house is under contract.
We have visited a fabulous church that has welcomed our little family with open arms.
And I am beginning a job search that will allow me to be the mommy Baker needs while still helping provide for our family.

God's faithfulness.
It's in the details.
It's incredible.

The birth of our son has been such a blessing, in so many ways.
My faith in the Lord and His unending faithfulness to our family has been evidenced time and time and time again.
His ways are not my ways. 
His thoughts are not my thoughts.
His ways and His thoughts are greater.
We're Rise-ing to the occasion. 
And are excited about the opportunities awaiting our family!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

We have had a super low key weekend, just hanging out.
There were weddings, and picnics, and precious time spent with family and friends.
There were also crazy hair moments and diaper blowouts from my little so intense my foot was on the receiving end of the spillage.

The weather was too perfect to eat inside, so we picnicked on the patio.
Here it was a spoon. Today, it was this travel size baby lotion.
I warn you - do not try to take aforementioned object away from subject without earplugs.
Screaming will ensue.
Yes, even over a baby pink bottle of lotion.

Shaking my head, Baker Bell.
Shaking my head.


He looks three here.
He is losing the baby pudge and getting longer and leaner.
Some 18 month outfits are getting too short.
Sniff. Sniff.

And was clearly NOT having ANY part of Memorial Day pictures.
Since he was sick, I cannot be more than 2.375 inches from Baker. 
Going to the bathroom is no longer a private affair,
and showering, well, don't get too close.
And you can forget sitting him down in the grass and walking away with the camera. 
Melt. Down. Cen. Tral.

They're so pitiful, they're precious. 
I cannot help but smile at that pout-pout face.

The hair is getting even more uncontrollable.
There's no taming it.
And to be honest, I have no desire.
I sort of love the crazy baby hair.
And now for a little playtime in the pool and then off to shoot Baker's one year pictures with the fabulous Amber Ruffin of Amber's Photography!

I am so thankful for the sacrifices of so many that I could enjoy this long weekend with the ones I love.
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
John 15:13

Friday, May 24, 2013

Favorite Things Friday

Baker's language.
His native tongue.
Words he speaks that only Brian and I understand.
It's our secret code.
I'll translate upon request.
Listen and be amazed.
I cannot get YouTube to connect to my blogger account, but you can access the YouTube video here.
And he's learned a new trick.
Clearly he's quite pleased with himself.
I'm pretty peachy too!
Watch my boy go, and go, and go here!
But, be ready to clap.
He'll be waiting for you to join him!

I am so proud of all he is doing and all he is accomplishing.
I shared a picture on Instagram this week of my boy and I sharing an ice cream cup at Chick-fil-A.
A midweek date that was even sweeter than the yummy deliciousness we were eating.

And the caption captured the words that have been etched on my heart all week.
He is daily growing. 
He is daily changing.
He is daily loving.
He is daily charming.
He is daily adding new words, and sounds - both good and bad.
That grunt, ooohhh weee! 
Hello, personality!
He is daily becoming a toddler with very defined toddler tendencies.
He is daily making a mother totally reliant on God for strength and sanity.
He is daily making me a mother that praises the Lord for this most incredible blessing.

And I love every single minute.
Every single stage I beg, plead with God to freeze that very second.
Because I am convinced that life could not possibly get any better than this right here.
But, it never happens.
The clock continues to tick.
The days continue to pass.
And somehow, someway, each day is better than the one before.
Each stage, and each age is more precious than the one before.

A child is an incredible gift.
As fleeting as each moment, I pray I never take one for granted.
I pray that God give me the strength, and the knowledge, in this moment, to be the mother Baker needs.
A child is a truly incredible gift.
This child.
My child.
He's a truly incredible gift.

Bakerese and new tricks and ice cream dates!
Sweet, sweet stuff!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sweeter with each passing day

On this day, one year ago, we brought our sweet boy home and so began one of life’s greatest journeys.

Nine long days we spent in the NICU, over two hundred hours.

An eternity for a new mommy and daddy.

Waiting and watching and hoping and wishing. 

Our eyes fixated on the monitors. Willing numbers with all our might to reach their targets. Kissing our precious baby’s heels where they were stuck and stuck and stuck again to check this level and that. Maneuvering around cords and figuring how to position everything just so, so as not to send the machines into freak out mode when beeping pierced every corner of the quiet, sterile room. Making friends with the nurses who became our lifelines. Sneaking down early for feedings, or lingering minutes longer. Sacrificing sleeping and eating for precious minutes with our new precious miracle. Snapping umpteen pictures to send to friends and family not granted VIP access through the guarded doors. Waiting impatiently for the results of scans and sounds and tests.

Waiting and watching and hoping and wishing.

We drank our weight in Propel that week. And crunched more ice chips than law would allow. We smiled the ridiculous, giddy smiles of new mommies and daddies. And became known throughout the hospital as “Baker’s Mama” and “Baker’s Daddy.” And there was no name we had ever loved more. And prayed with a fervor that held me in complete and utter dependence of our Heavenly Father.

That was a good week, a long week. A week of miracles. A week of blessings. A week of answered prayers. A week of dreams come true. 

A week that I finally held in my arms the baby I had carried for eight months in my body, and a lifetime in my heart.

Finally, after nine days, we unplugged cords. And dressed Baker in the clothes we had chosen so carefully. We packed our bags. And loaded the car. When they finally removed the last of their hospital paraphernalia from my little’s body, I sat down with him in the rocking chair, scared to step foot outside of the protective arms of that little hospital. As diligently as we had prayed for the day to bring him home, I was terrified to leave. What would I do without the monitors we had come to lovingly dread? The numbers were comfort. A silent confidence. Could I be the mommy this little angel baby needed? Was I equipped? Was I strong enough? Did I have the answers? What if something happened? What if he needed more than our home could provide?

I asked these as a mommy. As I am sure most mommies do. You don’t have to be the mother of a child with special needs to question, and worry, and wonder. I was not exempt, nor was I alone in these concerns.

Brian patted my shoulder, and gave me the nod. The look that told me he believed in me as a mommy, as Baker’s mommy. That he knew, side by side, we would raise this little boy. That we didn’t have all of the answers, and we never would. That we would fail. Yes, we would fail daily. But that we would, together with the guidance of our Father, raise this little boy to be everything God had planned for him. On May 20, 2012, we walked, hand in hand, out of the NICU, through the sliding glass doors. My steps getting surer, my head lifting higher, my smile shining brighter, my love for my new family of three growing stronger and bigger.

That was just the beginning. And the journey is getting sweeter with each passing day.

A year later,
my little one has four teeth,
a smile that just won’t quit,
talks all day - every day,
sings with the sweetest voice,
loves life in a big kinda way,
has the strength of a warrior with a heart so tender,
loves to read, and dance, and play, and take baths,
melts hearts, brings smiles, brightens days.

Yes, sweeter with each passing day.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weekend Love

We are having our first Open House tomorrow,
so undoubtedly, our Saturday To-Do List was a mile and a half long.

Unfortunately for that lovely list, organized diligently by yours truly,
it was a beautiful day and Baker finally felt well.

So, I adopted the attitude, if it gets done, it'll get done.
We are going to make the most of this day!
And make the most we did!

I started off at the doctor.
I swear Baker gets his hardheaded tendencies from his daddy, and tell him it's true every chance I get.
And every time I say it out loud, a little voice says, "You lie, you lie, you lie!"
I am stubborn to tha max!
I have been sick for days. 
Nothing serious.
Just the crud.
I swear I could fill up the tank of my car with all of the ever-loving snot
I have blown out of my nose and elegantly coughed up every waking hour!
But, I hadn't made time to go to the doctor, thinking I would just shake it.
Sinus infection turned acute bronchitis, ear infection, and one of the laryn or pharyngitises.
Basically, a bad case of rundownitis with a side of little sleep and lots of worry about my Baker.
One shot, two scripts, and a beautiful day with my boy later, and I am a brand new woman!

While I was out waiting for my medicine to get ready, I ran through Old Navy and TJ Maxx and shopped with two hands and one bag - a purse. 
Glorious day!

But then, I couldn't wait to get home.
To this. 
A baby in footed pajamas is definitely in my Top 10 favorite things ever.

We spent the day outside.

Burning up the roads in Baker's new ride.

And interrupting Daddy cleaning out the garage to splish splash in the swimming pool.

Jenny even stopped by to visit.
She and her husband and another couple are flipping the house across the street.
What a project!
And what an incredible job they are doing!

Baby Baker loves some Jenny Carter!

We came inside to attend to some chores.

What is it with a mattress?
In a bed - no biggie!
On the floor - it's a child's play place!
Seriously, show me a mattress on the floor that doesn't serve as a trampoline, 
or tumbling mat, or slumber party's greatest accessory.

Then we did laundry and Bake's new wagon was fabulous for toting clothes and a certain one year old from room to room for drop off and delivery.

So what if the house isn't perfect tomorrow?
There may be a surface left undusted, or a Clorox wipe unused.
The cabinets could stand to be reorganized, and my closet cleaned out.
But, that'll have to happen another day.
When it's rainy or when he's napping.

Because weather this beautiful, and a mama and her baby finally feeling well begged for splishing and splashing, and cruisin' and groovin', and acting like some memory making fools.

At the end of the day, the hubs cooked us a fabulous dinner on the grill while throwing back to some Sammy Kershaw.

Stick a fork in her, y'all. 
This lady's done.
And add it to the record books as another great day. 

This life.
A dream come true.
Every single minute.
A dream come true.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Count your blessings

I had a friend tell me this week, "Count your blessings."

And I thought, that's a nice sentiment.
And gave her a sweet smile, and walked away.

But as I strolled, I was overcome with emotion.
I began counting my blessings.
Naming them one by one.

And I realized, in that moment, that my blessings will always, always outnumber.

Today, I am especially thankful for the precious blessing of this little boy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


We have watched this video a gazillion times since Baker was admitted to the hospital Monday night for an icky case of pneumonia. It has gotten us through breathing treatments, and oxygen therapy, and midnight temperature taking - which turns into wakey wakey Bakey Bakey for the next hour. 

Thank God for peek-a-boo and baby giggles.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To Baker, Love Bebe

A guest post from Becky, more recently known as Bebe. Becky is Brian's sweet mother. I am daily blessed by her grace and love. Oh, and she loves our Baker Boy some kinda crazy!

Dear Sweet Baker,

How do I begin? How can I express in words how much we love you? How exquisitely and wonderfully you are made! You are so strong and determined! You are so joyous and silly! You are so brave and trusting! You have that little crinkled-eyes smile that just makes the day of anyone who is lucky enough to observe it!

I know that your Mommy and Daddy were so happy when they knew you would be their little boy! On the day you were born, we were all there. What a happy day! After you arrived, you had to stay in the NICU for several days. Your Poppa and I came to visit you as often as we could, but your Mommy and Daddy rarely left your side. It was so hard on them because they were worried about you and just wanted to take you home. They were both so very strong for you. I was so proud of your Daddy for the way he took care of his new little family. There were tears. There were prayers. But, there were also smiles! And answered prayers! And joy! And most of all, love. So much love! The way your Mommy and Daddy looked at each other and the way they looked at you...well, no words were needed to express just how much love there was then (and now)! What a lucky little boy you are to have such a wonderful Mommy and Daddy!

I've been lucky enough to get to pick you up from daycare a couple of days a week and take you to therapy. What fun! When we walk in, everyone stops what they are doing to say hello to Baker and they are rewarded with one of your crinkled-eyes smiles! You are one determined little fellow at therapy. You master every task in no time at all while melting the hearts of therapists there. Afterwards, we sing and talk and laugh all the way home.

I'm writing this for your first birthday, wondering where the time has gone. You have grown so fast! The sky is the limit, Little One! You have touched so many lives already and I can't wait to see how God will continue to use you and your Mommy and Daddy in the days to come. Always remember whose you are. Love God, He is always with you. Love and respect your parents.

And come see Poppa and Bebe when you want to go fishing, hunting, four wheeler riding or tractor driving! We are always here for you! We love you.

Hugs and Kisses and Love,
Your Bebe

To Baker, Love Linsey

A guest post for Baker's first birthday from my sister, Linsey.

Sweet Baker,

Since the moment you were born you changed my life forever. I've never felt the love that I feel for you. You are a beautiful and incredible gift to our family. You've enlightened me to educate myself and others about Down syndrome. I know I don't see you as much as I should because I live so far away but please know I think about you every single day. It's because of you that your mom and I are building the relationship we should have always had. You've made me a better person. Never let anyone tell you you can't do something. Happy birthday sweet boy! I love you with all of my heart.

"Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think."
-Winnie the Pooh

Love, Linsey

Baker's First Birthday and a Letter from His Daddy

A few days before Baker's first birthday, we took
 smash cake pictures at home.
I had planned to have these done professionally,
but Baker got sick and they couldn't reschedule before his birthday.
So, we set up shop in our living room,
clothed Baker in a ridiculously precious outfit from Fuzzy Cheeks Boutique on Etsy,
and used the top tier of the cake from his baby shower.
And had a smashing good time!

This has been the most perfect week.
Tending to this detail and that.
But not getting too caught up in the details.
It has been Baker's birth week.
And celebrate his birth we have.

I have told him his birth story as we rocked to sleep,
kissed his sweet cheeks, that have only gotten sweeter and more kissable this past year,
celebrated where we were, and where we are,
reminisced, and reflected, and offered much thankfulness for the blessing of our baby boy.
I've been a mushy mess all week!

We decided to have Baker's party on his actual birthday.
We had a wonderful time celebrating with friends and family.
Baker was a little under the weather,
so the new theme was
"It's my party and I'll cry if I want to!"
For all those who question whether Baker does anything but smile,
we have pictures to prove it!

Regardless, it was a beautiful day.
Perfect weather, sweet guests to help us party for Baker's first, too much food,
too many gifts.
It was an absolutely beautiful day.

"A Year of Firsts, A Year of Fun,
Our Baker Boy is One!"



And after it all, we slept.
And slept some more.
Then woke up this morning and had a blast playing with all of his loot.
We are so grateful for the love of friends and family.

Baker arrived early, as most of you know.
And I am so glad he did, for so many reasons.
One of the greatest - I get to celebrate Mother's Day alongside his birthday.
Like I said, a mushy mess!


Hey boy, 

A year? Really? I cannot believe you have been with us for a whole year. What a ride it has been, the sleepless nights, mini vacations to the hospital, giggle fits and, oh, the smiles! Smiles on your face, on your mommy's face, and on mine. 

It has been amazing to see the lives you have touched. As I read the letters from close friends whose lives you have touched I am...speechless. Your instant effect on people is amazing. I am so very proud of you in so many ways and I can't wait to see what the rest of your life will hold, however, your mama would have a fit if I wished it away!

I cannot believe it's been a year. What a great year. 

You have surpassed every expectation I ever had of you being my son and me being your daddy. Nothing in the world could be better. 

I love you my boy. Happy birthday to you.