Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Tomorrow (3/21) is World Down Syndrome Day.  It's held March 21st of each year because Down syndrome is caused by a 3rd copy of the 21st chromosome.  It's a day where people across the world celebrate the people they love with Down syndrome, as well as a day to create awareness of the worth of people sporting this extra chromosome.

Obviously, around here, we love those designer genes and celebrate the every day moments we get to have because of them.  In case you were wondering what life with a child with Down syndrome is like, let me give you some hints:

  You might get a kid that thoughtfully examines things one moment.....and then flashes his most rascally face the next.

Spontaneous dance parties in the most unlikely of places are completely normal.
 (This one was at Gabe's cardiology checkup) 

They might get when your pajama pants don't stay up so you go find a shoelace and fashion a belt for yourself :)

And have I mentioned imagination?  Dr. Gabe is always at our service and provides the best care.  I hope you won't mind that he has to do his charting on the computer while you get examined.

Brothers with Down syndrome make great lunch dates...

You'll find them sleeping in the cutest of places, like on dad's lap.  This may cause dads to have wildly proud grins.  
And you'll find selfies of little feet on your phone that will make you smile.

You may get a boy who loves to watch movies with you (as long as there is popcorn involved), and who loves to be silly with the camera, or gives you the "I'm tilting my head because I'm super cute" look.  

You may get notes home from the teachers. 

Or find out your little Russian, who didn't quite know what to do with a book when you first met him, had a bookworm inside his little body, just waiting to come out :)

You might be lucky enough to feel stung in the heart for a child halfway around the world who needs a mama.  

And that little boy may bring you more smiles, more happy tears, more joy than you could ever imagine.

Now, of course, every day isn't rainbows and butterflies around here.  We have our fair share of stubbornness, whining, arguing and tears.  But isn't that how it is with any child, regardless of the number of chromosomes they have?  Yes.  And that is my whole point on this World Down Syndrome Day-we are more alike than different.  And maybe the thing that sets kids with Down syndrome apart from the rest of us is that special sensitivity they have toward giving and receiving love.  In that regard, I wish I were more like them.  Happy World Down Syndrome Day!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

For those left behind....

My friend Katrina put this video together to show all of the children that weren't able to come home with their parents from Russia that they are still wanted, loved, and thought of every single day.  Katrina was one of many that traveled to Russia, met and bonded with her little girl, then was told all the promises she made had to be broken.  Please watch and share, so that in some way, these children will know their mommy's and daddy's didn't forget them and are still praying for some way to bring them home at last.  

If there were ever any doubts about the ability for these kids to bond with their new parents after only one or two trips (two weeks total), this video will prove that theory wrong.  

One Year Ago

One year ago we arrived in Moscow, Russia, amidst much uncertainty but with optimism to pick up our new son from his orphanage.  It was full-on winter in Moscow, a beautiful, snowy, ethereal feeling as we drove and walked the snow covered historical city.

We consumed any media we could find about the newly enacted adoption ban on Americans.  We were buoyed up by photos of protests and outrage at this new sentence thrown down on the most vulnerable of Russia's citizens.    

We were scared but hopeful when we drove to the courthouse to meet with our judge in a somewhat impromptu meeting regarding our adoption.  We thought we would be spared from the ban because the Russian courts had already ruled a month earlier that we were the new legal parents of Artur.  

I will never forget the feeling when our translator/facilitator came out of the courtroom with a look on her face as if someone had died.  "Not today...." she said in a tiny voice filled with emotion.  The tears came quickly to my eyes, not really knowing how to process her words.  

The next month became a lot of this:

Every day was a new headline.  One day we were sure to be picking up our kids any moment.  The next, it was "unlikely" they'd ever get to come home.  

[Arriving back at our hotel after our meeting with the judge.  Finally saying "yes" to the reporters who had been trying to get us to tell our story and give our perspective on the adoption ban.  It was our "hail Mary", and it worked.]

Little did I know just how many people got to see my "ugly cry" (as Oprah would say ;)  

Rather than rehash all the things that went on during that tumultuous month of fighting our way to the Supreme Court, I tend to think more about the beautiful things we experienced during that month.  I was fortunate to see Moscow in the fall, when the leaves were burnt orange and flaming red and falling like rain.  Then, to see Moscow in winter, I feel like I got to see the heart of Russia, with her blanket of snow making everything feel otherworldly.  

Red Square during a snow storm=winter wonderland.  

 I still remember this walk so vividly.  It was late at night, so the square was almost deserted.  Walking under the arch and into the square, St. Basil's Cathedral rose into the sky surrounded by snow flurries which made the light around it so soft and peaceful.

Jeana and I spent many a day on Red Square and were blessed with this glorious day of sunshine and fresh snow.  The sky was a brilliant blue, the snow blindingly white, making the red brick walls and buildings stand out in such a resplendent way.  

How many people get to leave the bubble of their lives and travel to far-off places and immerse themselves in the culture of a people they'd only read about in history books?  I am beyond blessed and will always be grateful for this experience. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall & Halloween

I am not surprised by it anymore, but it always catches me off guard to have time go by so quickly.  I am still planning a post from our trip to Utah and the Hogle Zoo, but I thought I'd quickly post some photos of things we've been enjoying about fall.




The day after a record-setting rainstorm, I noticed almost all the leaves had fallen from our front trees.  In years past, there were never really enough to make a pile for the kids to play in, but this year the wind hadn't carried them away.  I asked Gabe if he wanted to come outside with me (silly question-he always wants to be outside).  I opened the garage and got out the rake.  Gabe was busy on the tricycle so he didn't really notice what I was doing until I had a small pile collected under the tree.  He brought his bike over and drove right into the middle of the pile, smiling as he "wrecked" the pile.  When he tried to turn and go out of the pile, his bike tipped sideways and he spilled out into the leaves.  His face at first looked like he was going to complain or fuss, but he looked at me and saw my look of "what do you think?!  Do you like the leaves:!" and he broke out into a big smile and laugh.  He then reached down and started grabbing piles of leaves and examining them before tossing them to the side, smiling as he did.  Soon Jake, then Kennedy and Leah saw what I was doing and came running out the door at breakneck speed.  Well, you know what happened next....

Jake had the rake first, but as soon as Gabe saw what he was doing he kept shouting, "Gabie!  Gabie turn!"  So Jake gave him a turn.

He's taking this job seriously.



Notice Jake in the background chasing Gabe to sprinkle leaves on his head.  They did this to each other for a while, laughing the whole time.  
Once in a while he would just crouch down to examine the leaves, so interested in everything around him.
Jake did a lot of this.
And this.

"Gabe!  Let's kick our feet!"

Get ready...
Leah's turn.



I took the kids shopping for Halloween costumes a couple weeks ago. Jake was determined to be a pirate, and I found a great pirate hat & patch on Darlybird for a great price and snatched it up.  Of course we had to have a sword, so that's what we were after on this trip.  But lo and behold, on Halloween Jake changed his mind and didn't want to be a pirate anymore.  He wanted to be Ironmna like Gabe.  But when we couldn't find his Ironman costume from last year we threw together a cowboy outfit for him.  Leah wanted to be a princess (surprise), and Kennedy wanted to be a Native American.  Gabe was just excited to be looking at all the dress ups, since that's another of his favorite things to do.  When we spotted an Ironman costume with muscles built into it, he grabbed it and declared it his.

My tough cowboy.  Too tough for a proper photo, I guess.

I wish I had a photo of Gabe's face when we got home and I put the costume on him to see if it fit right,.  He took one look at those muscles on his arms and chest and just beamed!  He made a big monster pose to show off his muscles and ran through the house growling and being tough.  He felt like such a big kid with all that extra muscle!  His costume came with gloves and a mask, and as soon as he slipped on the gloves he was holding his arms out straight, palms forward, to shoot his laser beams at me.


My princess.

Where did she get such gorgeous blond hair?  Thank you to whichever ancestor gifted it to her :-)

Of course a picture of all of them looking at the camera with eyes open and a smile is impossible...
But these are all I was able to snap before we left to go trick-or-treating!
We spent Halloween night with great friends from the neighborhood.  The men took the kids trick-or-treating while we girls baked pizzas and got ready for the troops to come home with their candy.  They came running through the door an hour and a half later with bags full of candy and smiles as wide as the sky. Gabe was so excited to tell me all about it and show me his candy.  Brian said he was so much fun to watch.  He always ran out ahead of the other kids to get to the next door first.  When the people would open their doors, he would poke his head inside their house to look around.  He was especially happy when they had a dog.  What fun memories for Gabe.

The other kids of course had a great time too, and quickly dumped their candy out in piles to compare and trade some.  Now I have to figure out how to ration all this candy!

We have been loving fall, the cooler weather, and especially the colors of the trees and the leaves falling.  I'll be sad when they're all gone and winter arrives.  I don't like to be cold!  I'm so thankful we have a cozy little house and a warm fireplace to snuggle by for the cold and dark winter.  I do hope we get enough snow this year for Gabe to play in and build a snowman with me.  It is such a blessing and honor to watch this boy experience so many "firsts" this year.  It feels like Gabe has always been a part of our family; he just fits.  Sure we have our struggles still, but they are getting less and less, and when I think back to those first couple of months home they seem like nothing at all.  I feel 100% that he is mine.  My love for him has grown immeasurably the past 7 months, and I am happy to know it will only keep growing.

Happy Fall!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Be the Change

I received an email from dear Olga the other day with photos that made me smile so big and well up with tears of joy, hope, love, thankfulness. 

These were taken in August at the charitable organization Down Side Up's annual Charity Sport's bike ride in aid of children with Down syndrome. 

The goals of the ride are to show the great potential of people with DS (many of the riders themselves had DS), to raise money for early intervention services for children with DS, and to raise awareness about Down syndrome. Awesome!!  

From Olga and

There were famous top athletes from Russia present to show their support. 

So sweet. 

There is something so beautiful and hopeful to me in this photo, seeing this take place in front of the Kremlin. 

Something I love about kids with Down syndrome is how, even though they definitely look like their own biological families, they also share these unique facial characteristics that make them part of a recognizable worldwide family-the Down syndrome family. I think that's why people who love someone with DS are so automatically drawn to complete strangers they see with Down syndrome-because they feel like family. When I am out with the boys and I see another child or adult with Down syndrome and glance at their parent, as soon as we make eye contact there's this smile and understanding that passes between us, like seeing an old friend after years apart. I love it and consider it one of the many blessings of having a child with Down syndrome. 

I have no doubt that one day Russia will be as inclusive and accepting and accommodating to people with not only Down syndrome, but all disabilities. These organizations are the pioneers of this movement, and it is exciting to be able to witness. 

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.” - Gandhi