Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Leanne Dishes On Her Birthday Date

Leanne recently celebrated a birthday by going out to dinner with the ever-so-handsome Mike (not to be confused with "cute" - he prefers to be referred to as "handsome" and he'll tell you so).  Loyal readers will remember Mike from this post (click HERE).  Here's a photo of the good looking couple outside of the restaurant:
My mom took Leanne out to dinner and she and Mike's mom dined at a separate table to let the couple have their privacy.  I haven't really had a chance to hear about the date directly from Leanne until last night.  And in true Leanne style, the emphasis was on the food, she didn't hesitate to share her thoughts on the wardrobe, and she even gave me the exclusive "don't-tell-mom" details (Mom, this video is off limits):

Thanks, Leanne.  We're so glad you enjoyed your date with that dreamboat of yours!

Stay tuned because I plan to draft a long post (or maybe several posts) about the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention in Phoenix, Arizona.  I just returned and I'm bursting with excitement, fun stories, and good information to share!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Defining Perfection

My older sister, Leanne, has Down syndrome so there was never a day in my life that I lived outside of the Down syndrome community.  Down syndrome was as natural to me as breathing.  It was comfortable.  It was familiar.
There was never any process where I had to learn to accept Leanne and her diagnosis; she was a part of my family since the day I entered the world and as younger siblings tend to do, I thought my older sibling was the coolest person ever.
When I left home and went away to college, I truly missed my sister and the special needs community so I sought out employment and volunteer options that would allow me to remain involved with individuals with special needs. 
Being a part of the Down syndrome community was such a positive experience for me that when it came time to start a family of my own, adopting a baby with Down syndrome felt like the natural place to start.
Call me na├»ve, but it really wasn't until I re-entered the special needs community as a parent, that I realized how many people did not share my overwhelmingly positive impression of individuals with disabilities. 
It was hurtful to experience the negative attitudes that exist out there.  So many people still see individuals like my sister and daughter as flawed; like they somehow fall short of what constitutes an ideal human being.  It's as though society has this standard of perfection and Leanne and Josie don't meet it.

And it's really hard for me to accept this attitude.  I can't accept it.  I don't accept it.  Here's why: because I KNOW better!  Trust me, in this life, there are more questions than there are answers but this is one thing that I can speak of with 100% certainty: People with special needs are made in God's image, purposefully created exactly as He intended them to be.  And just like everyone else, people with special needs have strengths, weaknesses, and gifts to share with the world. 
My sister and my daughter are not genetic blunders.  They do not represent an unfulfilled promise of a perfect human being.  They are exactly who they were created to be and they deserve acceptance and appreciation. 
Who determines what "perfection" is anyway?  What does perfect skin look like?  What is the ideal eye color and shape?  What should the perfect voice sound like?  What length, color, and texture comprise the perfect hair?  The answers to these questions are both subjective and insignificant.  And if you spend your time dwelling on these qualities, you're missing out on the truly important qualities that people have to offer.
 You know who could care less about superficial ideals of perfection?  Leanne.  With everyone she meets, she defaults to love and acceptance.  You drive a junky car?  She doesn't care.  Your clothes aren't designer?  She could care less.  You don't have a prestigious education and a glamorous career?  That doesn't make you the least bit inferior in her book. 
You use a wheelchair because your legs are paralyzed?  She might be curious as to why you're in a wheelchair.  She'll probably ask.  And when you respond, she will accept it and move on without pity or judgment.  If you need help, she'll be the first to jump up and help you.  Just like she'd help anyone.  Because she is a sincere, kind, and open-hearted person.
We all know what a ridiculously materialistic rat race this world can be.  That's why it's so refreshing to be able to get away from that nonsense and hang out with people who are genuine; people who are not afraid to be themselves. How wonderful would it be to walk into a room and know that everyone automatically defaults to accepting and appreciating you?
That's what it's like to grow up in the special needs community.  That's an opportunity that I'm thrilled to be able to offer to my daughters.  That's a view of the world I wish everyone could experience.  That's how I KNOW that Leanne and Josie are perfect just the way they are, and that life is better because they're in it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Big Move

Greetings Everybody!  Don't you just hate it when you go to check a blog and it hasn't been updated in forever?!  And you wonder if said bloggers are still alive and what the heck they've been up to that has them MIA.  Well, don't give up on us just yet.  We have a good excuse: We moved! 
As if our day-to-day responsibilities with three children five and under aren't enough, we get to unpack, sort, purge, organize, and repeat.  And just when I think that I'm done with one room, Travis appears from the basement with yet another box he found! 
 Fortunately for us, we have had help!  YaYa and Papa (Travis' parents) came and helped with unpacking, organizing, and various other tasks as requested...like baby gate installation.  We can't underestimate the importance of that!
 Needless to say, there wasn't a lot of time for photography amidst the chaos of moving but I did manage to grab the all-important YaYa & Papa with their granddaughters photo:
As always, my children were cooperative little angels.  YaYa, go ahead and send us your chiropractor bill.  Given the amount of times per day that Josie performs this little stunt, we could probably keep a chiropractor in business full time.
The new house is coming together as quickly as it can, given our circumstances.  While we're not exactly ready to post a house tour (remind me in a few years or so, okay?), it's with enormous excitement that we post a couple of pictures of the most fun feature of the home:
 A little playhouse under the stairs!
I'm going to go ahead and speak audaciously on behalf of my gender when I say, this is every little girl's dream!  It took quite a bit of persuasion to convince Travis to get on board with this idea - he was adamant that the space under the stairs was for luggage storage.  Period.  But, he can only resist for so long.  He's substantially outnumbered, after all! 
Back to the moving process...As he tends to do, Travis embarked upon an international business trip the week after we moved in.  While this time was a little easier than last time because I am more familiar with the area and I have a little bit of help, said "help" all go to the same college where it happened to be finals week.  We've got great timing, right?  So while our beloved sitters were focusing on their scholarly endeavors, Mama Hop and Aunt Leanne benevolently stepped up to the plate.
 That mother and sister of mine (along with that Aleve PM my mom brought) managed to see to it that we made it through Travis' absence and got a little more unpacking accomplished.
 And in exchange for the hours of unpacking, laundry, and childcare they provided, I made sure Mama Hop and Aunt Leanne feasted on one of my famous "home cooked" Bertolli frozen diners:
 Just look at Aunt Leanne's enthusiastic fist pumping!  She is my favorite person in the world to feed because even if I microwave a Lean Cuisine for her, she tells me I'm "the best cook".  And I ignore the fact that she uses this line on everyone who prepares her a meal of any sort.  I just relish in the culinary compliment as they are rather infrequent in my world!
 Let's see...what else have we been up to this month?  Well, both girls wrapped up their first year of preschool.  Merryn is enrolled in a summer enrichment program at her preschool while Josie is enrolled in "the Summer of Indepedence" program (AKA "Mom's Boot Camp").  Goals for Josie primarily center around self-care skills and transitioning from needing physical assistance and verbal prompts to fully independent toileting, self-dressing, and general mobility (stairs, climbing into her chair, carseat, etc).  These goals are rather ambitious, however, we are bound and determined to make as much progress as possible.  Hell hath no fury like a determined mom with an aching back!  Josie is stubborn but I am committed to out-stubborning her.  In fact, that's one of my major goals in life.
We also managed to squeeze in a visit with Elmo and Ernie ...
 ...and celebrate one year of Baby Lydia! 
It seems like just yesterday that Baby Number 3 made her grand entrance, and yet so much has happened in the past year for our family.  And the beauty of Miss Lydia's sweet temperament is that she has handled the pandemonium of having three residences in one year with such gentle grace.  She has been a delightful addition to our crazy circus. 
Her special day consisted of a birthday banner colored by her sister, attending her sister's swimming lessons, enjoying a lunch of her favorite food: spaghetti, and a dinner at everyone's favorite place: The Olive Garden.  Of course she enjoyed gifts, her first taste of cake, and a FaceTime birthday serenade by Mama Hop and Aunt Leanne.
And that, my friends, is the month of May 2015 in a nutshell.  One of my goals as we get more and more settled in, is to blog more often so stay tuned and keep nagging me.  In the meantime, get loads of photos and brief daily updates on our Instagram account: @CatfishWithKetchup.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy Birthday Aunt Leanne!

Happy Birthday to the most kind, loving, considerate, clever, and hilarious aunt in the world.  Leanne, you provide laughter, joy, and inspiration to so many people just by being yourself.  We love you!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

We Are Moving...Again!

Last August we found ourselves relocating to another city and state as a result of Travis accepting another position within the company.  We have always wanted to live in this city and we are truly happy here.  And while our nomadic history has certainly taught us to never say never, we would love to stay here and "settle down," so to speak.  After an exhausting real estate search, we decided that building a home would be the best way to accommodate our unique family.  We broke ground in October and we have been eagerly watching the progress.  Finally, moving day/week is upon us! 
Back in August, I blogged about writing a Social Story  for Josie to help her anticipate and understand our impending move.  Her adjustment to our new surroundings was remarkably smooth, and while I'm not sure that can be attributed to the Social Story I drafted, it couldn't have hurt.  So I decided to do it again for our move into our new home:
Photos of the exterior have been altered/obscured to protect our privacy as part of our internet safety measures. 

Merryn told Josie's speech therapist that our dog is not coming with us because she's not pictured on this page; minor oversight of a sleep deprived mother.  The dog will, indeed, be joining us.

This is the part of the book where Josie busts out her signature sass and echoes "Independently?  NO!"

Everybody now: "Independently?  NO!"
I apologize but it appears as though I failed to save the file properly so I lost a few pages.  No worries - I took photos of my hard copy to share.  My IT guru husband would be mortified!  Lets just keep this between us, Mmmmk?  Thanks!

A few pages were omitted because they contain photographs of a top secret surprise in the new house to be revealed soon!  No, it's not another BALL PIT, but there's still time to talk Travis into recreating that brilliant work of art!  The new surprise is pretty cool so stay tuned.  Talk to you soon, Friends!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spring Photo Shoot

Good Lord Almighty how can you guys be smiling when those creepy iridescent spheres are flying at us?!  HELP! 

Really, Mom?  We're doing this again?

Somebody save me from this torture! 

Mom, we've gone over this time and again.  The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Does that ring a bell?!

 If my eye rolling is this good now, imagine how impressive it will be when I'm a teenager!
It's about as much fun as watching grass grow.

No caption needed