Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Care Bears Buddy Walk 2011

I thought I'd share some pics from last year's Buddy Walk.
Just the 4 of us
Is Bear not the most beautiful boy ever?

My nephew, carrying our sign

The Care Bears, 2010

12 days. Most of us can't remember what we were doing 12 days ago and would agree that 12 days goes by so fast. Not for me. As a first time mom, 12 days seemed like an eternity. 12 days of waiting. Wondering. And finally, when I took my beautiful newborn baby to his first doctor's appointment 12 days after his birth, I received the scariest news *I thought* possible. "Bear's tests came back positive. He has Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome)."

I cried. For days. Weeks. Months. And still do occasionally. But most of the time, those tears well up from a full, full heart. This boy has stolen my heart, and he exudes love and joy. His hugs melt into me. My arms were made to hold him. Daily, I tell him to never outgrow my arms. Daily, I remind him that he is my most favorite little guy in the whole wide world.

And today, I do this for him. Because he doesn't have a fighting bone in his body, today I walk for him, to fight for him, to ensure a bright future for him. The Buddy Walk is THE major fundraiser for Down Syndrome Indiana, the organization that first reached out to us as new parents of a child with Down syndrome. The organization that advocates for the rights of individuals with Down syndrome in their schools, workplaces, and communities. The organization that provides a vision of hope and a bright future for my son.

So will you walk with me? Sure, I know many of you won't be here physically, but will you walk with me by supporting Bear's team? Will you help us claim a place for Bear amongst his typical peers in the classroom, on sports teams, and eventually in the workplace?

Simply visit our First Giving page to support our team. http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/carebears11/BuddyWalkDonating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts.

I cannot thank you enough for your support--and don't forget to share this with anyone who you think might want to donate too!

The walk takes place along the canal in Indy.
Thousands of people were there last year,
and the canal was swarming with people on both sides.
My Mom and sister with a sleepy Bear

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And They Say Kids Can Be So Cruel

Tonight I stopped at Dairy Queen with the kids. We were finishing our meals as an older lady and her adult son walked in. Immediately, it was apparent that something was "wrong" with him, and upon further observation, I could tell he had Down syndrome and severe disabilities as a result of it. He had little self control and his speech was unintelligible, but he was beautiful. He was oblivious of the stares from those around him and was simply happy to get his ice cream.

Not a minute later, a beautiful blond teenage girl and her mother walked into the restaurant, and got in line behind this gentleman. Hearing him speak, the girl couldn't contain her laughter and immediately headed for a booth to laugh at this guy. I was appalled. But I never would have imagined what was to follow. I fully expected her mother to come over and rebuke her for being insensitive, ignorant, immature, mean. But no. Her mother turned and laughed with her! I was beyond appalled. I was FURIOUS. The righteous anger of a mother welled up in me. How dare a MOTHER teach her daughter to be so cruel?

Thank goodness we were through with our meal (I had lost my appetite). I cleared the table and headed for the door. Being the middle child/peacekeeper/people-pleaser that I am, I had no intention of doing anything other than getting out of there. But something stirred in me, and I stopped as I came to their booth and said (politely), "Excuse me, but are you making fun of that gentleman up there?"

The girl froze, guilt written all over her face, and replied, "No."

"Oh, ok, I just wanted to make sure because I'm pretty sure he has Down syndrome, and so does my son, so I just wanted to make sure you weren't because that's so not cool."

And I walked out! Proud of myself. Shaking. Angry. Sad.

ADULTS!!! Grow up! Learn that different is ok. Don't excuse yourself for being ignorant. Choose to interact with people who are different than you. They don't have to have special needs in order to challenge yourself to get out of your bubble and grow. You teach your child so much more by the way you treat people than by the things you say. Imagine what a teachable moment that could have been for that teenage daughter if her mother had taught her about compassion, kindness, and sensitivity rather than immaturity, ignorance, and cruelty.

We cannot point fingers at our children and say, "Kids can be so cruel," if we ourselves are setting no better example. What slurs do you use in front of your children without even realizing it? Ever call someone or something retarded? Stupid? Dumb? Gay? We as adults must first live out kindness before we can ever expect our children to do the same.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Boy Named Josh

We went to the zoo today, Dan, the kids, and me. Dan and I were nearly giddy at the thought of sharing with the kids giraffes, lions, and elephants. And our intuition was right. The kids LOVED everything they saw--lemurs, warthogs, porcupines...everything. But we had no idea what was waiting for us in the dolphin exhibit.

As we walked in, there was a young man sitting in one of the observatory windows, sitting along with a young woman. Immediately, we noticed his beautiful almond-shaped eyes, but even more so, his huge welcoming smile and greeting. Josh has Down syndrome. We started talking with the couple, and though Josh's words were difficult to understand, this mama's heart was taking in every word. Thoughts like, "He can talk. He's independent. He's healthy. He's LOVING," ran through my mind. Josh is magnetic. For fifteen minutes we listened to him talk about the dolphins and his hope to wear a wet suit and possibly swim with them.

And as if he didn't already have my heart, I knelt down with Bear and Lila (who were crawling all over the window seat and Josh) to have Josh look me square in the face and say, "You're really fine and lovely." I couldn't respond with words...only a hug was appropriate, and in that hug, I was suddenly thrust forward twenty years and realized that my little boy will never outgrow his mama's arms. Josh can hug. It's not one of those, "Well, it was nice seeing you" kind of hugs. Just like Bear, he melts into your arms and doesn't let go.

If you're a close friend of mine, you know that I often joke while hugging you and say, "Don't ever be the first to let go of a hug," thus making you hug me as long as I want to hold you. You can say so much through a hug, and Bear, who doesn't speak yet, has communicated more clearly through his hugs than many of us ever do with our words. Josh reminded me of that today.

We said our good byes and eventually left the dolphin exhibit. Throughout the day, we spotted Josh in different areas of the zoo, always, always bringing joy to the people he was interacting with. I couldn't help but think of my prayer for Bear while I was still carrying him as an unborn baby...that he would bring love and joy to everyone he ever meets.

4:00 came and the zoo was closing, so we sat outside the gate and had a snack with the kids before heading home. As we exited, I spotted Josh in the gift shop, dancing with his friend. I smiled. I couldn't help but look for him while we enjoyed our snack with the kids. And then he came.

And he hugged me. And wouldn't. let. go. Josh held me for ten minutes while we talked with Kirby, his friend and now home-health assistant. He whispered that he loved me and would miss me. And patted my back. And got misty-eyed when I did the same. Our hearts spoke to each other as mine told his of the hurt it's experienced due to Bear's diagnosis, and his told mine, "Look at how great it is." Mine told him how much it needed to meet him today, and his told mine, "It will be ok."

I thought I was going to the zoo today to show my kids the elephants. Thank goodness it was to meet Josh.