Wednesday, January 29, 2014

a little southern snow

Yesterday morning, I pored over the weather forecast.

As a lifelong Bama girl, I was more giddy than any school girl at the thought of even a few snow flurries.

Our county was in a band forecasted to get a light dusting. I loved the thought of watching snow fall and our students getting the chance to make memories dancing in the snow!

I also held onto a sliver of hope that just maybe we would dismiss early for a snow day! The sliver dwindled with each minute of the weather I watched. It wasn't likely.

I dropped Baker at school and went to a local primary school to help with DIBELS testing. I checked my Twitter feed and Weather Channel app eager to stay abreast of any changes. Nothing. Nada.

Then something not even the best in the business forecasted happened, the snow fell. And fell. And fell.

Schools dismissed. Businesses closed.

And like no one could have predicted, snow wreaked havoc on our little cozy pocket of the South.

It wasn't the snow day I had envisioned. Not at all. This was not fun snow.

I made the usual 15 minute drive to get Baker in just under three hours. The roads were an icy mess. People were slipping and sliding everywhere, and not in sleds. In their cars. There were multiple wrecks.

I have teacher friends who spent the night hovered over students stranded at schools. Friends spent the night away from their babies because they couldn't get to them. Some were stuck at their office. Others slept in hotel lobbies. Still others walked through the snow desperate to reach their loved ones.

In a mere 36 hours, snow and ice have had their way. And personally, this snow loving southern girl, couldn't be more excited to see them on their way out.

We spent most of the time indoors, waiting to hear our people were okay, and enjoying the warmth of home and extra time with our family.

Baker has decided chocolate pancakes topped with Hershey's syrup and Cool Whip is appropriate in any weather!

As if snow days didn't hold enough magic, Nana hosted a middle of the kitchen floor chocolate chip pancake picnic. She makes life special.

 Harley loved the snow! 

Baker signing "cold" is about the only thing that makes these frigid temperatures acceptable. Cuteness overload!

And now, the only white stuff I want to see on the ground is sand! Bring on summer and humidity and beaches and flip flops!

You can see our Snow Day 2013 post here. Baker has changed so much!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wishes for a Happy Home

I think this is what you call the calm before the storm.

Baker is napping and Brian and I are kicked back, with our feet up, watching a movie.
Sunday afternoons are my favorite.
I think this may be our last quiet Sunday afternoon without a mile long to-do list for quite some time.

This week is going to be crazy!
Crazy busy!
Crazy exciting!
Crazy full of changes!
Crazy awesome!

We close on our new house Thursday and will spend this upcoming weekend moving all of our goodies from Mississippi to Alabama!
Three cheers for having our belongings in one state!
And a big Hip, Hip, Hooray for all the fun that comes with making our new house a home.

As with any change, I reflect and I hope.
Reflect on what was, and hope for what is to come.

I have been scouring Pinterest for ideas on decorating, and making menus for weeknight meals at home. I have been planning wall art, and contemplating which dishes to put in which cabinets. I have considered how to baby proof a new home with an overly curious toddler, and picked out fun bath soaps and salts for our first houseguests.

I have also thought about house rules to keep our new home clean, pristine, and germ free. As I thought about taking shoes off at the door and transferring all laundry to the laundry room, my thoughts were clouded.

Instead of an immaculate home, my hope is for an inviting home.

14 wishes I wish for our home:

1. Laughter emanating from every corner.
2. Magnets on the refrigerator boasting a child's artwork and letters of the week.
3. Clothes in the dryer and toys on the floor, and a mommy forsaking chores to make forts out of dining room chairs and bedroom sheets.
4. Smudges on the glass, and fingerprints on the table.
5. Mismatched picture frames of toofy grins, and fun firsts, and precious family memories.
6. Candles lit, coffee brewing, and friends on their way.
7. Living room dance parties.
8. A place where I love yous are said. And shown. Many, many times a day.
9. Pruny hands from long bubble baths, baby mohawks, and shaving cream beards.
10. Too big bowls of ice cream with chocolate syrup and sprinkles and yummy goodness.
11. Homemade breakfast and sneaking our pup, Harley, in to help make Baker's a happy plate.
12. Saturday morning snuggles.
13. A yard cluttered with toys and bare feet.
14. Lots and lots of love. Lots.

8 x 10 | "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" print

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24:15

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A little hump day post

This little one -
my Baker Boy,
our littlest love,
food thrower extraordinaire.
He is brightener of all the days.
A recent night owl and wee hour party animal.
Lover of singing and dancing and moving and grooving.

He craves coffee and climbing.
Music is his love language.
He can untie any knot.
And would live in the bathtub, if only we would oblige.
He has become quite decisive in toddlerhood.
I never knew how much I would love a little head nodding up and down and back and forth so stinking much.
He is a student and he is a teacher.
A sponge who soaks in the entire world around him,
and then shares it with such joy and enthusiasm.


He is a thrill seeker.
A high swinger.
A shrill screamer.
He has a big laugh
and a shy cry.
No trip is too short for him to lose his shoes
and he never misses an opportunity to share a cheesy, toothy grin with the nearest mirror.
He loves to see the world from his daddy's shoulders and snuggle in his mommy's arms.
Baker is gaining independence, building confidence, and increasing his speed.
But right now, I am most grateful that not a step is taken in which his little fingers aren't carefully secured in ours.

 Good golly, I love this kid.


Friday, January 17, 2014

What I wish I knew then - a post for expectant parents receiving a Down Syndrome diagnosis

This one is for you. It’s for you, and you, and you, and you. And maybe, this one is a little bit for me.
I hope to share here what I would have wanted to hear on that day in December when we received Baker’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome.
Before you read another line, lean back from your computer, put down your phone. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Fill your lungs. Breathe in. Breathe life. Breathe encouragement. Breathe hope. Breathe faith. Breathe confidence. Just breathe. Now release. Let it all out. The fears. The doubts. The uncertainty. The tears. The hurt. The worry.
Feel my prayers for you, for your little one, for your husband or your wife. For your parents, and your in-laws. For your friends. For your child’s future teachers and neighbors, and therapists, and doctors. For the cashier at the grocery store, for your small group, for the person who will give you a smile to brighten a cloudy day, for the friend who will send a handwritten note at the just right time. For the lives you will touch with yours.
I am wrapping you in prayer.
Congratulations on your baby. What an incredible gift. There are no words I can convey that will share the immense love our Baker Boy has brought into our lives. In his short twenty months, he has given a lifetime of smiles, hugs and snuggles and kisses so great in number I will never be in want. With every breath, he breathes joy. He is, like his name suggests, a strong willed warrior – sometimes a little more strong willed and stubborn than I would like to admit. He is a fighter, a peace maker. He is a pleaser. He is independent. He is strong. He is gentle. He has a laugh that spreads more quickly than wildfire. The sparkle in his eyes could light the night sky. He is ours. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I hope you have been steered here because this is a place where abilities are celebrated, where joy is found in the everyday, and where love abounds.
This is what I would have liked to read that afternoon in December.
One. You are a first a mommy.
          You are first a daddy.
Your baby is first a baby. Not a Down Syndrome baby. Your baby is a baby with Down Syndrome. You can read all the books and fill out all of the paperwork later. Today, cherish their kicks. Savor being wholly exhausted during pregnancy. Laugh about your cravings. Daydream about the future. Decorate their nursery. Sit in the rocker where you will read countless books together. When he or she arrives, memorize their first cries. Breathe in their scent. Kiss their cheeks. Study their face. Fall all over in love with your baby. Hold your son. Talk to him. Tell him about his furry big brother waiting not so patiently for him to come home. Sing to her. Whisper lullabies in her ear. Dance together. Cover her in prayers. When the doctors allow, take him home. Introduce him to the place where he will splash in the tub. Show her the garden where you will grow blueberries together and get dirt under those tiny pink painted fingernails. Tiptoe through the kitchen, the home of the famed Tupperware cabinet and chocolate chip pancakes. Christen the rocking chair by reading Love You Forever. Then, gently wipe your tears from his cheek. Break the rules and let her drift off to dreams on your chest.

She is yours. And you, hers.

He is yours. And you, his.
Two. It’s okay to grieve. But it's not okay to live in grief.
You can mourn the loss of the child you were expecting. But then, stop. Reconsider all of the hopes and dreams you have for your child. Most, if not all of them, are still attainable. Recognize that. Celebrate that. Your son can still be the point guard for his high school basketball team, and your daughter, crowned Miss Alabama; if that's what you want for them.
For some things, your child will have to work harder. He or she will experience failure. It’s okay. It will make both of you stronger for it. And, you will more intentionally celebrate milestones because you know how stinking hard you had to work to accomplish it. Persevere.
The only limitations are the ones you set.

Hold your head up, and grab your favorite sunglasses. That baby you're carrying has a future so bright, you'll certainly need shades!
Three. Tell somebody.

Brian and I chose to keep Baker’s diagnosis to ourselves. We silently prayed. We silently worried. We silently read and silently studied. We silently went to doctor’s appointments. While I don’t regret the way we handled anything, I wish we would have shared with close friends and family. I needed to know they would still love us. I needed to know our boys would be able to play together. I needed to know this wouldn't change anything. I needed their support, their prayers, their smiles, their encouragement.
Four. You are not alone.

When I bought my SUV in 2011, I left the dealership thinking I had the only black Nissan Murano with tan leather in all of Mississippi. Wrong. As I ran errands the next day, I counted twelve. TWELVE. Twelve exactly like mine.

When we received a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I felt like Brian and I were the only parents in the whole world to have a child with Down Syndrome. Wrong. As I learned more, and met more people, I realized we were not alone in this journey. We are part of a community. It is not small. Like any group of people, we share. We share celebrations, we share struggles, we share ideas for therapies, and discuss schools and the best tennis shoes for emergent walkers. And unfortunately, the kids even share germs. Just like a Bible Study group, or a cross fit class, or a Supper Club, connecting with others makes the road a little smoother and the drive a little brighter.

Five. In time, you won't use the words "Down Syndrome" everyday.

Right now, it's all you can think about.

I know. I've been there. In the place where all you can think about is the diagnosis.

If you've been following this blog, you may wonder why I have veered away from every post being about Down Syndrome. It is still a part of who we are, Baker will always have Down Syndrome. But, it does not define us, nor does it confine us.

He is Baker. He is mine. He is here. He is loved.

Down Syndrome is a thing, but Down Syndrome is not the thing.

There is more to share. There is always more to tell. Read other posts. Some will make you laugh, some may make you cry. Some will make you happy, some may make you sad.

I try to honestly share our journey here. Some things are sacred in our family, and I choose not to post them for the world to see.

It is my desire to share how the Lord is using our family for His glory. How He is faithful. How He gives strength when we are weak. And rest when we tire.

I would love to celebrate with you and pray alongside you. I welcome the opportunity to share more about our journey as parents of a child with Down Syndrome. Please email me (there is a link at the top of the screen) if you have a specific prayer request or if I can provide encouragement in your journey.

One last thing, get ready.
You are in for the greatest gift, the greatest joy, the greatest love one can experience this side of heaven.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Twenty months

 This smiling boy is a whopping twenty months old today!
Cue obligatory "I cannot believe my baby is this old!!"
It's true.
I really can't believe it!
We have had the best day!
We started with chocolate chip pancakes and even a little cheers with Nana.
Twenty months with Baker is something to celebrate!
Next, he splished and splashed until he was just the right combination of pruny and squeaky clean.
We have had dance parties in the car,
walked up and down every other aisle of Target,
shopped for furniture for our new home (yes, and EEKK!)
sang and read and played with Baker's favorite toys.
I love Saturdays with this little one.
While I am a little weepy at how quickly he is growing,
I think this is going to be the most fun age.
Baker has been signing "walk" all the time.
He loves to be on his feet!
This excites me more than you could possibly know.
Absolutely nothing compares to seeing the joy on his face at this HUGE accomplishment.
This is evidence of hours and hours of physical therapy and countless prayers.
You rock, Baker Bell!
Baker has been saying "Ma Ma" for about a year.
He has signed "Da Da" and there is no doubt he knows and loves his daddy.
But, just recently, this has been happening.
Brian's face when Baker says his name, y'all, I just can't even deal.
I don't know if he was more proud when I met him at the alter and said "I Do."
Yep, this stage is something fabulous!
Happy twenty months, my sweet Baker Boy!
We love you the most!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Take time to swing

As a child, I loved eating at Cracker Barrel. It was the one place this always hungry girl didn't mind waiting to eat. My sister and I would play Checkers in front of the warming fire. My brother would carefully select his peppermint sticks, almost always settling for the very blue blueberry. My parents would scour the jellies and jars of cinnamon apples, promising to come back for their selection when our tummies were full. After the friendly competition, the picking of candies and other delicacies, we would wait for our names to be called while swinging on the front porch.

We were serenaded by southern gospel hymns and old country classics dancing through the air. Sometimes we discussed the church service of that morning. Others, we would contemplate the menu, each fighting an internal battle of whether to order fluffy pancakes with one's very own bottle of sorghum syrup and hashbrowns from the breakfast menu or chicken and dumplings and baby lima beans from the dinner menu. And sometimes, there was the rare silence. When we allowed the rhythm of the rockers, and the warmth of the sun, and the familiar feeling of being surrounded by family to be enough. There were no words needed in those moments. There was no complaining or whining of hunger and a wait too long for a family of five.

There was simply time.

I long for that.

This week, we returned to school and work after a coveted break. The frigid temperatures afforded us three lazier than usual mornings. Alarms were forsaken in favor of waking to baby babble down the hall. Shakes on the go were placed with leisurely homemade breakfasts in which coffee was served in cups with handles instead of cups with no-splash lids. Newspapers were read. Skyscrapers of Legos were built. Conversations were had. Prayers were uttered.

I have committed to 2014 being an intentional year.

Part of that means being more intentional about spending time with my family.

This year, we will take time to swing.

On the front porch of favorite restaurants, in the cool air of the backyard, at the school playground we pass on the way to the grocery store I always promise to visit "when we have time."
This year, we will take time to swing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Delight my soul

This verse feels like my favorite plush blanket, tucked neatly around me,
as I am curled in my favorite corner of our couch, a cup of steaming hot cocoa teeming with marshmallows in hand, with the fire place aglow in front of me,
keeping the room cozy and my toes extra toasty.
This verse is one I pull out and snuggle up with on dreary days,
on days when my attitude is less than sunny,
when my worries outnumber my joys,
when my fears abound,
when I am anxious and afraid.

It comforts.
It encourages.
It provides solace, and sunshine, and rest.
"When my anxious thoughts multiply, your consolations delight my soul."
Psalms 94:19


Saturday, January 4, 2014

And then my son was born with Down Syndrome

Brian and I are nineteen months in.  Nineteen glorious and memorable months in. Nineteen months I wouldn't trade for all the wonders of the world.

For nineteen months, we have held and snuggled our precious Baker.
For nineteen months, we have gone to sleep at night and woken the next morning with a little one snoozing in our home.
For nineteen months, we have fed and diapered and clothed him.
For nineteen months, we have high fived each other and wahooed for surviving another crazy wonderful day of parenting.
For nineteen months, we have dissected each decision and found failure with many of our actions, promising and praying to be a better mommy or daddy the next day.
For nineteen months, we have worried, we have fretted, we have celebrated, we have enjoyed this journey.
For nineteen months, we have played tag for the night shift and played rock, paper, scissors over dirty diapers.
For nineteen months, we have prayed all the prayers, and wished all the wishes, and dreamed all the dreams for Baker.
For nineteen months, we have lived and loved a life only to be described as a dream come true.

Dreams are funny like that.

When I thought about having a baby boy, my dreams for him were something like a checklist:
_____  Little league baseball player, homeroom hitter, game winner
_____  A perfect mix of Teacher's Pet and Class Clown
_____  Camo wearing, gun toting, daddy's little boy and fellow hunter
_____  Rough and tough and all boy for all his days
_____  Levi's wearing, boot stomping, truck driving teenager
_____  SGA President
_____  Varsity football player
_____  Scholarship recipient
_____  College graduate, law school applicant, husband, father
_____  And all the things that come in the years before, the years during, and the years after my very artificial meaningless checklist.

And then my son was born with Down Syndrome.

And my dreams changed.

Not that, for a single second, do we believe Baker is anything short of a dream come true. Or that he isn't fully capable of achieving everything on this list and then some. The reason my dreams changed is because they weren't dreams that mattered. They weren't really the dreams I wanted to come true or the wishes I really wished for my little one.

Through the birth of my son, my son with special needs, I realized the dreams that need dreaming aren't about sports or school. They are fun things along the way, sure. The dreams I dream for Baker now are the prayers I pray for him, the wishes I wish for him, and the hopes I hope for him.

I hope my son lives a life that glorifies Jesus and points others to the Son.
I pray Baker comes to know Jesus as his Savior and Lord.
I dream of him accomplishing everything he was created to accomplish, and then some.
I pray he learns his daddy's work ethic.
I hope his spirit stays so sweet, and he puts others' needs above his own.
I wish for his smile to continue to bring joy to everyone he meets.
I pray those he encounters throughout his life encourage him and build him up and give him strength and hope.

These nineteen months have been the sweetest, most joy filled nineteen months. When I wake each morning, I think of the things I want to teach Baker; yet when I go to sleep each night, I think about the things I learned from him.