Tuesday, November 30, 2010

National Adoption Month

Here we are at the 30th of November. I'm not exactly sure where this month went. It seems like it was just 31 for 21 in October and now we're at the end of November. Thanksgiving is over. Christmas is upon us. The year is nearly done.

It occurred to me that I had failed to post anything in regards to National Adoption Month. I feel like a total slacker!

November is indeed National Adoption Month. I LOVE that there is an entire month dedicated to adoption. We talk about adoption often in our home. National Adoption Month is just another way to focus on the topic.

For those of you who may not know, all three of our incredible children came to our family through the miracle of adoption. Tyler was ten weeks old when we adopted him on August 11, 2004. Emmalee came to us just eight months later when she was exactly two weeks old. Her adoption day is April 20, 2005. Nathaniel was born on September 1, 2007. He was 15 weeks early and spent almost four months in the NICU. His adoption day is December 21, 2007 and he came home from the hospital on December 29.

Each of our children's adoption stories is unique; as unique as each child. Each of them came to us when they were meant to. Each of them came to us HOW they were meant to. I have no doubt that these children were meant to be ours. And I have no doubt that adoption was always the plan for our family.

Of course, that is easy to say now that I am blessed with these little ones. I wasn't always so sure. I wasn't always so confident that adoption was our plan. There were many, many tears shed, many prayers uttered, many days of worry and fear. There were also years of doctor's visits and fertility treatments. Years of self pity and doubt.

I will tell you that once we made the adoption decision, everything fell into place. It was as if Heavenly Father breathed a sigh of relief that we had finally figured it out. Things happened quickly once our final decision was made. We completed our initial home study in April 2004 and Tyler was home in August. One year from the initial home study we brought Emmalee home. And just three and a half years after that first home study we were blessed with Nathaniel. Yes, once we accepted and understood the plan for our family, we were blessed.

There isn't a day that I don't think about and pray for each of our children's birth parents. It is because of them, their love and their sacrifices that we are a family. We will be forever in their debt.

Tyler was also blessed with "first parents." Not only does he have incredible birth parents, he has amazing first parents. We love his first parents as well.

Did I ever expect when Brent and I got married that we would build our family thorough adoption? In a word, no. It honestly never occurred to me that we wouldn't be able to have biological children. It just wasn't something I had thought of. But WOW! I simply can not imagine our lives without THESE children. I know, without a doubt, that these children were meant to be in our family. And I also know that the only way they were able to come to us is through adoption.

Our children are the greatest blessings in our lives. They have made us a family. They have brought us closer together as a couple. I thank my Father in Heaven every single day for these beautiful children!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eye Color and Love

Dear Emmalee,

I adore you! You are one of the sweetest little people I know.

Sometimes I wonder if you will ever sleep through the night in your own bed. You are almost six, you know.

Okay, the truth is that I secretly like that you come snuggle with us. We could set a clock by you. It is almost always 1:00 a.m when you come in. Sometimes you are a bit cranky and get a little irritated if I don't move over right away. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and don't even remember you coming in. And sometimes, like two nights ago, the best thing in the whole world happens.

As usual, you came in right around 1:00. You snuggled right into me and I was still kind of awake so I said hello to you and then you and I had the best conversation. You were so smiley and had the sweetest little whispery voice. You told me how much you love me, (all the way to the moon, all the countries, all the states, all of China, all the way back to the bottom of the deep blue sea, all of New York and all around the world.) And then you asked me how much I love you. (All around the world forever, all the way through the entire universe and all the way back to the bottom of the deep blue sea.) You told me how much you love daddy and Tyler and Nate. You told me that you're glad I'm your momma. It was perfect. It made me so very happy! I told you that you and I and daddy have the same color eyes. And guess what you said? You told me "that's how we know we were meant to be together forever!" You know what, sweet girl? You're right. We were meant to be together forever. No doubt about it. You were meant to be our girl and we were meant to be your momma and daddy. What an incredible gift it is to be a forever family!

I know that someday, all too soon, I will wake up and you won't be snuggled in bed with us. I'll stay awake until 1:00 in the morning and you won't come in. You'll be too big. And when that day comes, I will be sad. I may even cry a little. But no matter what, I will always have the memory of one perfect night, snuggled tight with my baby girl, whispering about how much we love each other. Thank you for giving me that amazing gift, Emmalee. I am so blessed to be your momma!



Monday, November 1, 2010

I Am The Child

I found this on another blog and cried as I read it. Grab some tissues!


I am the child who cannot talk. You often pity me, I see it in your eyes. You wonder how much I am aware of -- I see that as well. I am aware of much -- whether you are happy or sad or fearful, patient or impatient, full of love and desire, or if you are just doing your duty by me. I marvel at your frustration, knowing mine to be far greater, for I cannot express myself or my needs as you do.

You cannot conceive my isolation, so complete it is at times. I do not gift you with clever conversation, cute remarks to be laughed over and repeated. I do not give you answers to your everyday questions, responses over my well-being, sharing my needs, or comments about the world about me. I do not give you rewards as defined by the world's standards -- great strides in development that you can credit yourself; I do not give you understanding as you know it.

What I give you is so much more valuable -- I give you instead opportunities. Opportunities to discover the depth of your character, not mine; the depth of your love, your commitment, your patience, your abilities; the opportunity to explore your spirit more deeply than you imagined possible. I drive you further than you would ever go on your own, working harder, seeking answers to your many questions with no answers. I am the child who cannot talk.

I am the child who cannot walk. The world seems to pass me by. You see the longing in my eyes to get out of this chair, to run and play like other children. There is much you take for granted. I want the toys on the shelf, I need to go to the bathroom, oh I've dropped my fork again. I am dependant on you in these ways. My gift to you is to make you more aware of your great fortune, your healthy back and legs, your ability to do for yourself. Sometimes people appear not to notice me; I always notice them. I feel not so much envy as desire, desire to stand upright, to put one foot in front of the other, to be independent. I give you awareness. I am the child who cannot walk.

I am the child who is mentally impaired. I don't learn easily, if you judge me by the world's measuring stick, what I do know is infinite joy in simple things. I am not burdened as you are with the strifes and conflicts of a more complicated life. My gift to you is to grant you the freedom to enjoy things as a child, to teach you how much your arms around me mean, to give you love. I give you the gift of simplicity. I am the child who is mentally impaired.

I am the disabled child. I am your teacher. If you allow me, I will teach you what is really important in life. I will give you and teach you unconditional love. I gift you with my innocent trust, my dependency upon you. I teach you about how precious this life is and about not taking things for granted. I teach you about forgetting your own needs and desires and dreams. I teach you giving. Most of all I teach you hope and faith. I am the disabled child.

Author Unknown

Sunday, October 31, 2010

31 for 21, Day 31!!!!

Wow, I can't believe that this is the last post for 31 for 21. I certainly wasn't perfect at this and didn't post every day as I had hoped to. But I am really thankful that I participated. Mostly I am thankful for all the other blogs I have found. I have read many uplifting stories this month. I have also seen some amazingly adorable children from around the world!

My ultimate goal for participating this month was to help people realize that those with Down syndrome are more alike than different. They love, they laugh, they hurt, they cry, they learn, they teach, they have friends, they go to school, they work, they often get married. In other words, they are just like everyone else. Tyler is just like everyone else. Yes he has his struggles. But who doesn't? Everyone has special needs in one way or another. His just happen to be more noticeable.

Not a day goes by that I don't feel humbled by the fact that God chose me to be Tyler's mom. There are many times that I feel unworthy of such an incredible blessing. I am overwhelmed with love for this amazing child. Being his mom is more than I ever could have hoped for in life. He makes me want to be the best person I can be. He makes me want to work harder, to be kinder, to enjoy the little things in life. He helps me remember to smile more, to laugh more, to sing and dance more. He can make me smile in an instant, no matter how blue I may be feeling. His love and compassion for others never ceases to amaze me. His spirit shines through in all that he does. I am simply in awe of this sweet, sweet boy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

31 for 21, Day 29

Emmalee and Tyler were playing today and Ty was really enjoying it. They were getting along so well. Emmalee looked and Brent and I and said, "we're best friends; I just know it." I looked at Brent and we both had tears in our eyes. I am truly thankful that our children love each other so much and that they really are best friends.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

31 for 21, Day 25

Tyler had surgery on his left eye today. They replaced the lens in his eye with a synthetic lens. He did great, as usual. (He had the right eye done a few weeks ago.)

Here are some fun pictures of him before surgery. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

31 for 21, Day 24

Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days. Our laptop decided to get a virus. I think, (fingers crossed) that we got it taken care of. Whew! I was able to check email and Facebook on my phone but trying to post to the blog from there was just not working for me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

31 for 21, Day 21

Okay, this post is for all of you out there who have happened upon our little blog. I have seen folks from all over the world in my status feed. So, I am challenging you, dear readers, to put a quick comment and tell me where you're from, how you found the blog and anything else you might like to share. Thanks in advance!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

31 for 21, Day 19

Every so often I'll run into pictures or videos of the kids and instantly I am transported to that moment in time. It's incredible how much our children have grown and changed. The days go by so quickly and the kids seem to be changing before my eyes.

I found this video just now and it instantly brought tears to my eyes. This was taken April 21, 2008. Tyler was just about eight weeks into his leukemia treatment. He had lost his hair and the steroids had puffed him up so much that he was almost unrecognizable. He was miserable during those weeks. There were days he wouldn't move off the bed. He wouldn't eat. It was torture to watch him and know there was nothing we could do to help him.

Tyler would barely interact with people when they would come in the room. That is, except for one person, his music therapist. As soon as she would come into the room, he would sit up and smile. He would sign "music" and wait for her to start getting out the instruments. He would interact and be happy and for the thirty minutes that she was there each day, he was himself. To us, she was a miracle worker.

I will be forever thankful to everyone who took care of Tyler during his cancer journey. We simply could not have made it through without all of them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

31 for 21, Day 18

Click HERE to read one of the most incredible birth stories ever. Grab some tissues first. When you're done with the birth story, peruse Kelle's blog. She is an incredible writer, an awesome photographer and has two of the most beautiful children ever. Her youngest, Nella, happens to have designer genes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

31 for 21, Day 16

Update on Nate's Appointment

Well, we met with the gastroenerologist and the surgical team on Wednesday. The good news is that Nate does not have Hirschsprung's disease. The bad news is that Nate does not have Hirschsprung's disease. Why is that bad news? Because it means there isn't a definitive answer as to what is going on.

Dr. Rossi from GI is at a loss. Based on all the tests we have done, there just isn't an answer from a GI standpoint. He said there is one more test we can do but we'd have to go to Boston for it and in his opinion it probably won't show us anything different.

Dr. Pegoli is the surgeon. He believes that Nate's constipation issues are neurological. He thinks that there was probably neurological damage due to Nate's extreme prematurity and intracranial hemorrhages after birth. It is obvious by Nate's extreme developmental delays that there are neurological problems. We had no idea that they could also cause issues with his colon and bowel system. It makes perfect sense but it just wasn't something we had thought about.

So what does this mean? Dr. Pegoli says we have two options at this point. The first option is to continue doing what we're doing and see if eventually Nate will be able to have a bowel movement on his own. The problem with that is not knowing if or when it will happen or how long it may take.

The second option is a colostomy. This would give Nate relief now and may allow his colon and bowel system time to recover. The colostomy would not necessarily be permanent and, as Dr. Pegoli stated, "it wouldn't burn any bridges." In other words, we could eventually reverse it and start over to see if Nate could go on his own.

At this point we are simply not sure what to do. We are going to try giving him large amounts of Miralax again to see if this will make any difference. It hasn't really helped in the past but Dr. Rossi says it is worth a try.

I was really prepared for them to tell me that Nate has Hirschsprung's. If he did, the colostomy would be absolutely necessary and not just optional. The thought of having to put him through a major surgery is daunting.

Right now we are going to pray about it and try to make the best decision for Nate. Please continue to pray for him and pray also that we will make the right choice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

31 for 21, Day 14

Some of Tyler's Favorite Things

  • Apples
  • Goldfish Crackers
  • Eating! He will eat pretty much anything.
  • MUSIC!! Right now we are listening to Train and he LOVES them!
  • Barney
  • The Doodlebops. It was a sad day when Disney stopped running their show! Thank goodness for DVD's.
  • Riding the bus
  • School
  • Making people laugh
  • Playing outside
  • Swinging
  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • The Hokey Pokey
  • Vacuuming
  • Sweeping
  • Taking off his shoes. As soon as he gets home from school he gets his shoes taken off and always says, "Oh, that's better!"
  • Starburst
  • Throwing things down the stairs
  • Turning the TV up way too loud and then yelling "TOO LOUD!"
  • Pushing the button to open/close the garage door
  • Learning a new word, sentence or sign and then repeating it a million times
  • Blowing raspberries on someone's arm or neck
  • Playing 'Rock the Baby' with me. He will say that and then lay in my arms like a baby while I rock him. Then he laughs and says, "again!"
  • Playing with Emmalee & Nate
  • Dancing while daddy plays the piano
  • Drumming on anything and everything
  • Corners on fabric. He always finds the corner of blankets when he is tired. My friend Camberly made him a gorgeous quilt for his birthday with a corner border all the way around.
  • Firetrucks, ambulances and police cars
  • Saying "HI!" to everyone
  • Books

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

31 for 21, Day 13

Today is a big day for Nathaniel. I know many of you have kept up with our posts regarding his possible diagnosis of Hirschsprung's disease. (You can read them here and here.)

This has been a very long, very frustrating process. In a nutshell, Nate doesn't poop. Not on his own anyway. I'll spare you the specifics but suffice it to say, it takes a great deal of help for him to be able to have a bowel movement. He has had several tests done....barium enema, rectal biopsies, rectal pressure test, etc. The gastroenterologist has been back and forth about whether or not it is Hirschsprung's disease. I think he's been hesitant to make the final diagnoses because of what that will mean for Nathaniel.

After the last test, (rectal pressure,) the doctor has decided that it is time to consult the surgery team. We are meeting with our favorite surgeon today, along with the GI team.

I am nervous but hopeful. Hopeful that we will get a diagnosis. Hopeful that we will get a plan. Hopeful that it will be something that will most benefit Nate.

Please keep us in your prayers.....I'll update later today.

Monday, October 11, 2010

31 for 21, Day 11

I LOVE this story!!

Player with Down syndrome Scores Touchdown

by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News kgw.com

Posted on September 30, 2010 at 11:11 AM

SNOHOMISH, Wash. - By most accounts, Ike Ditzenberger is different.

The 17-year-old junior at Snohomish High School has Down Syndrome. He takes special classes during the day, but after school Ike is just like one of the guys.

He’s a varsity football player.

“He gives it 100 percent every time he’s out there,” says Head Coach Mark Perry. “On the sidelines, he likes to crack jokes, and sometimes he’ll eat a cookie or two.”

The players embrace Ike as one of their own. Every night at practice, the team runs a special play. They call it the ‘Ike Special’.

“Ike runs it up the middle and the guys pretend to tackle him,” says Perry. “Everyone loves it and Ike gets to play.”

On Friday night, Coach Perry pulled the ‘Ike Special’ out of the playbook. He told the opposing Lake Stevens High School Football players what was about to happen and he called number 57 out on to the field.

“I told them if he gets 10 or 20 yards, that’s great,” Perry says.

The play call was a surprise to almost everyone in the stands, including Ike’s mom.

“I heard a lot of commotion and then I saw my son Ike run out onto the field,” says Kay Ditzenberger. “My first thought was, ‘I hope he doesn’t drop it!,’” she laughs.

4th quarter. 10 seconds left. Quarterback Taran Lee hands the ball off to Ike.

“I dropped back to hand it off, and Ike ran backwards a little bit,” says Lee.

Over the next 18 seconds, Ike ran a zig-zag pattern around the field, every step still inching closer to the goal line. Then he straightened out his run. The opposing players for Lake Stevens made admirable attempts to dive for Ike, but came up short, knowing Ike was going all the way. Then magic happened.

After a 51-yard run, Ike Ditzenberger crossed the goal line for a touchdown.

“I was bawling and everyone was screaming. It was such a special gift,” says Ike’s mom.

After a short celebration with his teammates in the end zone, Ike ripped off his helmet and ran toward the sideline with a grin from ear to ear. Thanks to both teams, Ike got his moment.

“To see the players and fans react the way they did was special,” says Coach Perry. “They went nuts. I’m glad it could happen.”

Snohomish High School lost 35-6, but the score didn’t matter. Already Ike is thinking about the future.

“He wants to play for the Huskies,” says mom. “But first, he says he wants a date for homecoming.”

31 for 21, Day 10

Okay, I didn't get a post done yesterday. My sweet family gave me a much needed mom-cation.

I love you, Brent, Tyler, Emmalee & Nathaniel!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

31 for 21, Day 9

First Day of School -- 2010

Tyler started 1st grade. Doesn't he look thrilled?!

Tyler LOVES the bus and he was very excited to meet his new bus driver and aide.

Bye, Mom!

Emmalee started kindergarten. She really didn't want to stand still long enough to take a serious picture.

She was also very excited about riding the bus. Her bus driver is great!

Nate started his first year of pre-k. Sadly, this is the only decent picture I got that morning.

Friday, October 8, 2010

31 for 21, Day 8

Down syndrome Myths and Truths

Myth: Down syndrome is a rare genetic disorder.

Truth: Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic condition. One in every 733 live births is a child with Down syndrome, representing approximately 5,000 births per year in the United States alone. Today, more than 400,000 people in the United States have Down syndrome.

Myth: People with Down syndrome have a short life span.

Truth: Life expectancy for individuals with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent years, with the average life expectancy approaching that of peers without Down syndrome.

Myth: Most children with Down syndrome are born to older parents.

Truth: Most children with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35 years old simply because younger women have more children. However, the incidence of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother.

Myth: People with Down syndrome are severely “retarded.”

Truth: Most people with Down syndrome have IQs that fall in the mild to moderate range of intellectual disability (formerly known as “retardation”). Children with Down syndrome fully participate in public and private educational programs. Educators and researchers are still discovering the full educational potential of people with Down syndrome.

Myth: Most people with Down syndrome are institutionalized.

Truth: Today people with Down syndrome live at home with their families and are active participants in the educational, vocational, social, and recreational activities of the community. They are integrated into the regular education system and take part in sports, camping, music, art programs and all the other activities of their communities. People with Down syndrome are valued members of their families and their communities, contributing to society in a variety of ways.

Myth: Parents will not find community support in bringing up their child with Down syndrome.

Truth: In almost every community of the United States there are parent support groups and other community organizations directly involved in providing services to families of individuals with Down syndrome.

Myth: Children with Down syndrome must be placed in segregated special education programs.

Truth: Children with Down syndrome have been included in regular academic classrooms in schools across the country. In some instances they are integrated into specific courses, while in other situations students are fully included in the regular classroom for all subjects. The current trend in education is for full inclusion in the social and educational life of the community. Increasingly, individuals with Down syndrome graduate from high school with regular diplomas, participate in post-secondary academic and college experiences and, in some cases, receive college degrees.

Myth: Adults with Down syndrome are unemployable.

Truth: Businesses are seeking young adults with Down syndrome for a variety of positions. They are being employed in small- and medium-sized offices: by banks, corporations, nursing homes, hotels and restaurants. They work in the music and entertainment industry, in clerical positions, childcare, the sports field and in the computer industry. People with Down syndrome bring to their jobs enthusiasm, reliability and dedication.

Myth: People with Down syndrome are always happy.

Truth: People with Down syndrome have feelings just like everyone else in the population. They experience the full range of emotions. They respond to positive expressions of friendship and they are hurt and upset by inconsiderate behavior.

Myth: Adults with Down syndrome are unable to form close interpersonal relationships leading to marriage.

Truth: People with Down syndrome date, socialize, form ongoing relationships and marry.

Myth: Down syndrome can never be cured.

Truth: Research on Down syndrome is making great strides in identifying the genes on chromosome 21 that cause the characteristics of Down syndrome. Scientists now feel strongly that it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome in the future.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

31 for 21, Day 6

21 Things I Love About Tyler
(In no particular order.)

1. I love Tyler's facial expressions when he is trying to get a laugh out of someone. He sort of raises one eyebrow and then stares at you and waits for you to crack up. No matter how hard I try to keep a straight face, he can get me every time.

2. I love that he can walk. It took him a long time to finally get enough strength and courage to start but once he did, there was no stopping him.

3. I love how much he loves Emmalee. I really believe she is his best friend. He gets super excited when he sees her and LOVES it when she plays with him.

4. I love how much he loves Nathaniel. There was a time when he wasn't so sure about Nate. Now that they share a room they have really bonded and play so well together.

5. I love his enthusiasm when he sees someone he knows. He'll call out, "HI DADDY!" (or whomever it happens to be.) It is awesome! It makes you feel like the most special person in the whole world.

6. I love listening to him pray. I only understand a couple of the words he says but I know that Heavenly Father understands him perfectly. It touches my heart and renews my faith. It is the sweetest thing.

7. I love how much he loves music. All kinds of music. He loves to sing and I am constantly amazed at how many of the words he knows to different songs. Sometimes I will hear him singing when he doesn't realize I am listening. He really loves listening to his dad play the piano. He has always loved that. Right now his favorite song is "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train. He asks for it several times a day by saying, "Hey Hey Hey...." We listen to it quite often.

8. I love watching him dance. He dances with his whole body and really gets into it. It is so fun to watch him! Watching him break dance is the best!

9. I love how much he loves his daddy. He has been a daddy's boy from the very first day we met him. I love watching the two of them interact and seeing the bond they have. It makes my heart melt to see them together.

10. I love how much he loves me. As much as I know that he is a daddy's boy, I also know that he loves his momma.

11. I love seeing him interact with animals, especially dogs.

12. I love how strong willed Tyler is. He is determined and stubborn. I'll admit, sometimes that can be frustrating. But I know that it is because of his determination that he accomplishes things. He will be able to accomplish anything he sets his mind to. He has a can-do attitude and never says that he can't do something. If he can't do something the first time, he doesn't get mad, he just says, "oops, try again," and works harder until he accomplishes it.

13. I love how excited he gets about things that might seem mundane to anyone else. He truly embraces life and sees the joy in everything. That is one of the greatest lessons I have learned from him.

14. I love that he loves to eat and is always willing to try new foods.

15. I love his giggle.

16. I love it when he says, "again" and then grabs your arm to blow raspberries on you. That's one of his favorite things.

17. I love hearing him talk! He seems to learn a new word every single day and it is amazing! Today's new word was gross.

18. I love his empathy for others. If one of us gets upset or cries, it breaks his heart. If one of the other kid cries, he gets so upset for them and says, "you okay?" He truly hates seeing someone else who is in pain or upset.

19. I love that he accepts EVERYONE. It doesn't matter who they are. He loves everyone. He is completely unconditional.

20. I love how he yells "HI" to every single person he sees. It is fun to take him shopping or to any public place. He does tend to get irritated if people don't say hi back. :)

21. I love that he is always willing to share.

Wow....I could go on and on. I may have to do 21 more things sometime later this month. There are just so many things I love about this boy. I am truly blessed to be his momma!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

31 for 21, Day 4

I love the pictures that I posted yesterday. They are so Tyler. My friend Shelly took them and she truly captured his personality. Tyler LOVES to make people smile and laugh and he has several facial expressions that he uses to get a response. The first and second pictures are so "Classic Tyler" -- one eyebrow raised, a bit of a goofy grin. I love it!

When I made the appointment for these pictures, Brent and I really debated about whether or not we should get Ty's hair cut beforehand. His hair was pretty wild, as you can see. It was uneven and super messy. In the end, we opted not to cut it first. Why? This is the most hair Tyler had had in two years.

For those of you that don't know, Tyler was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL, on March 2, 2008. He started losing his hair pretty quickly after treatment began. His hair began falling out in giant clumps. I finally ended up shaving his head in the hospital. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever had to do. When his hair started falling out, it was the first physical sign that he had cancer. It finally started to sink in that he was sick. His hair loss was much more difficult than I imagined it would be.

Thankfully Tyler is now cancer free. He is also finished with treatment. His hair has finally started growing in properly and he has had several hair cuts since these photos were taken.

When I look at these photos I am so happy that we decided not to cut his hair first. His hair is a sign of how far he has come. These pictures will always be a reminder that Tyler triumphed over cancer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

31 for 21, Day 2

I think one of the greatest myths regarding people with Down syndrome is that they are always happy. I can be completely honest here when I tell you that that is not true. Tyler is not always happy. He is just like any other six year old. Granted, he is happy much of the time. But he also gets frustrated, angry, sad, scared, disappointed, overwhelmed and every other emotion you can think of.

The fact is, people with Down syndrome are more like everyone else than they are different. They love, they hate, they have fears, they have joys, they laugh, they cry. More than anything, they want to be included and treated fairly. As Tyler's mom, I want that for him more than anything else.

On my sidebar I have the Down Syndrome Creed posted. I think of this often. I know that Tyler will do all the things that other kids do. I know he is capable. I know that he will succeed. I also know that he will do it at his own pace. It may take him longer and that's okay. I am excited to enjoy the journey right along with him!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Down Syndrome Awareness Month! 31 For 21, Day 1

Hooray! 31 for 21 is here! I am really hoping for two things by committing to blogging each day this month.

1. That I can help to make others more aware of Down syndrome in general.

2. That I don't bore everyone to death.

The rules of 31 for 21 are pretty open. You don't have to blog about Down syndrome specifically every day if you don't want to. I'm glad for that rule but I am really hoping to have something pertaining to Down syndrome every day, even if it is just a picture of Tyler.

I would love topic ideas from all of you. Is there anything about Tyler that you'd like to know? Are you curious why we chose to adopt a child with Down syndrome? Do you have questions about Down syndrome in general? Please, ask away!

I am really looking forward to this month of posts. I am also looking forward to reading the other blogs that have also committed to 31 for 21. I LOVE connecting with other families.

Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

31 for 21

I have seen the 31 for 21 blog challenge the past couple of years and always think I will commit to doing it. And then I don't. This year I decided to step it up and make the commitment.

What is 31 for 21? Well, October is Down syndrome awareness month. Down syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21. So, 31 for 21 is 31 days in October to blog about Down syndrome. Hooray!

I am excited to share more about Down syndrome on my blog and to blog more often in general. So watch out....you all may get real sick of me by the time the month is over.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Things NOT to ask adoptive parents.....

I saw this post today on another blog and just had to share it. Yes, we have been asked many of these questions. Not only are thy inappropriate, they are hurtful. I know most people mean no harm but it can be very frustrating. I LOVE to talk about adoption, especially with those who are genuinely interested. However, I don't like being asked silly questions by total strangers, especially in front of my children.

As adoptive parents to children with special needs, it seems that the questions are even more inappropriate. If I don't know you personally, it isn't your business. End of discussion.

There are some things that I know for sure. I know that we are blessed with three amazing children. I know that adoption is a miracle! I know that our children were meant to be in our family. I know that all of the years struggling with infertility, all of the tears, all of the fear and worry that we would never be parents, all of the heartache and pain and agony -- it was all worth it. These children, these amazing children, are ours in every sense of the word. No, they are not flesh of my flesh or bone of my bone but they are miraculously my own. No, they didn't grow under my heart. But they grew in it. I can not imagine our lives without these incredible children. I am truly blessed to be their mother.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Conversation with Emmalee

Emmalee: "Mom, what happens if you die first?" Me: "Then dad will take care of you." Em: "Oh, so what happens if dad dies first?" Me: "Then I'll take care of you." Long pause.....Em: "Huh, I sure hope you die first."

Nice to know how I rank around here! I couldn't help but laugh. She is too much!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Moving On.....

No doubt about it, I really should be sleeping. It is now 4:40 in the morning and I have my alarm set for 6:30. The movers will be here at 8:30. I still have things to pack up and get the children situated for the day. And yet, I simply can't sleep.

This is the last night in this house. The last time I will sit in my too small kitchen writing a blog post. The last time I will sleep in my too small bedroom. The last time I will wish we had more space, more bathrooms, bigger bedrooms. The last time I will complain about how much I hate hardwood floors. The Gardner family is moving on.

I am really excited about the new place. It has all the things this house doesn't -- larger bedrooms, a master bathroom, the laundry room on the upper level next to the bedrooms. It has carpet, a larger dining area for our table, a much quieter neighborhood, a double garage. Really, it is everything we want.

But this house......oh this too small house. I love this house. We have so many memories here. We have been here for four years.....four years today, in fact. Tyler had just turned two when we moved here and Emmalee was fifteen months. They were babies.

We knew right away the house was too small for us. We decided it would be fine for a year and at the end of our lease we would move on. And then life happened and we simply couldn't bring ourselves to leave the comfort of our little house.

I can't even begin to remember all the amazing events that have happened in this house. Tyler learned to walk here. Emmalee grew so much that she could finally see out the living room window. We got the call about Nathaniel in this house and we brought him home to this house. This is really the only house our children have ever known.

We've celebrated four Christmases, four anniversaries and several birthdays here. We had movie nights and friends over for dinner and had so much joy here. This house has become so much more than just a house. This house is now a home. And as much as I complain, as thankful as I am for all the things the new house has, I will truly miss this little home. I pray we can be as happy in our new house as we have been here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Tyler has his final bone marrow biopsy tomorrow morning. I can scarcely believe that we have completed two years of treatment already. In some ways it seems like only yesterday that we received the horrible news that Tyler had leukemia. In other ways it seems as though this two years has dragged on forever.

Tyler has been cancer free for quite some time. This is an incredible blessing! We are praying that his bone marrow will continue to be free of cancer and that this nightmare is truly behind us.

Please pray that Tyler will do well, that his bone marrow will be free of cancer and that Brent & I will have peace and comfort.

There will never be enough words to say thank you to each of you for your love and support over the past two years. Each one of you have been a blessing in our lives, have stood beside us and loved us. The love and support we have received have been essential in getting us through this. The prayers have been heard and felt. There is no way we could have done this without all of you!!

Please continue to pray for our little friends who are still fighting. Please pray for the families whose children have lost the battle.

We love you all!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy 5th Birthday, Emmalee!

Five years ago today two incredible people made the decision to place their beautiful baby girl for adoption. Not a day goes by that we don't think of them, pray for them and thank our Heavenly Father for the awesome miracle of adoption! We are truly thankful to be Emmalee's parents and we will always love you R & M.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Last night Emmalee, Nathaniel and I trekked out to the urgent care so we could all be seen by the doctor. We are feeling lousy. Anyway, Nate fell asleep in my arms and Emmalee looked over at him and lovingly said, "poor Nate, his batteries ran down."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh Emmalee!

I love the funny things that girl says. She sure makes us laugh!

Emmalee was awake in the middle of the night a few nights ago. I happened to be sleeping on the couch because I've had a horrible cold and couldn't stop coughing. She came out to the living room and snuggled up with me. She asked me to tell her a story. There's one she really likes. It is "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" as told by Iza Trapani. (Incidentally, if you've never heard of Iza Trapani, you simply must check her out.)

At any rate, I recited the story for Em. The last line talks about the spider resting in the sun. In the book, the spider is wearing sun glasses and relaxing on her web. I told Emmalee how cool it would be if spiders really wore sunglasses and relaxed like that. She got very offended and said "Mom, you know nothing about nature!"

I love you, Emmalee!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nate The Great

My friend Shelly did some cute pics of Nate. He was less enthusiastic than Emmalee but I LOVE them. The first one is my favorite. :)

Beautiful Emmalee

My amazing friend Shelly took these pictures. I am in love with them. I love how she was able to capture Emmalee's personality. I love that they are fun and unique. She is going to do some of Tyler in April and I can't wait! Thanks again, Shelly!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The End Is In Sight

It seems impossible but we are near the end of Tyler's treatment. Tyler started his next to last cycle on Friday. We started week 103 on Friday and we have just about six weeks to go. He has six weeks of meds left and then he will have a final bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap. He will also have a couple more surgeries, one for his Mic-E button and one for his undescended testicles. The end is truly close.

On March 2, it was two years since the official diagnoses of leukemia. I have been trying to think back to all that has happened in our little family in that two years. There have been multiple hospital stays, infections and surgeries for Tyler, multiple hospital stays for Brent, two broken ankles and three ankle surgeries for me, a hospital stay and surgery for Nathaniel, personal struggles for Emmalee, constant stress and fear and worry. And yet, through it all, we have stayed strong.

We have realized time and time and time again that it is not a coincidence that we, the five of us, are a family. Together we have been tested and yet we have persevered. Our children, despite overwhelming circumstances, have thrived.

Tyler has met so many milestones this past two years. He learned to walk, his language skills are getting better all the time, he started kindergarten and he has shown everyone around him what it means to be strong!

Emmalee has had a tough time. She has had to put her own desires aside many times in order to allow us to take care of her brothers. And yes, there are times that she gets frustrated and upset, but for the most part she is patient, kind and understanding. She has learned greater compassion. She also now knows that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

Nathaniel continues to amaze us every day. He has also learned to walk. He started going to school this past fall and has changed so much. He is the sweetest little boy and we are so thankful that he is part of our family!

Many people have asked us over the past two years how we do it. How we stay strong despite our crazy circumstances. And the answer is simple. We couldn't have done it without a whole lot of help. I could never name all the people who have stood beside us through these past two years. Many are people we will never know. We have always had help with childcare, meals, Christmas gifts, surprises for us and the kids, random gifts of cash and other items, gift cards, phone calls, emails, hugs and so many prayers. Our family, friends, church family, cancer support group CURE and even strangers have made it possible for us to get through this.

And how do I even begin to talk about the incredible medial care Tyler has received? His doctors, nurses, child life specialists, home care nurse, patient care techs, social workers......how do we begin to thank them for saving our child? There simply aren't words.

I think the single most important lesson I have learned over the past two years is that we can not get through life alone. Heavenly Father put us on this earth together for a reason. He has sent earthly angels to help us through our trials. What an incredible blessing!

So now as we face the end of Tyler's treatment journey, we ask that you continue to pray. Pray that this truly is the end, that the cancer does not come back and that this amazing little boy will be able to go on and live a long, happy life. Pray that Brent and I will be able to have some peace, that we will not live in constant fear and worry and that we will be able to look back on the past two years as a gift and not a burden. And pray for all the others who must still fight this monster we call cancer.

Every year more than 10,000 children are diagnosed with cancer. This means that thousands and thousands of parents, grandparents, siblings and friends are affected by this horrible disease. Cancer isn't just about the child. Every single person that child knows and loves becomes involved. Please pray for all of these children. Several of them are children we have come to know and love as they have fought right alongside Tyler. Some have lost their battle and some continue to fight. Please pray for all of them.

We love each of you so very much. Thank you will never begin to express how we feel. Together we have fought and together we have overcome.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I have a confession to make. I miss Arizona. I miss family and friends and warmth and I really miss our house. I miss going outside in January without a jacket, wearing flip flops on my feet. I miss having windows open and smelling the citrus blossoms. I miss not worrying about the next big snowstorm.

I only say this now because it is the beginning of March and the winter here seems so long to me. I love the change of seasons. I love how green it is here in the spring and summer and the beautiful jewel tones of fall. I even love the snow, for awhile.

However, when it is really cold and dreary, gray and cold, I miss Arizona. I do not feel this way from May to November. I think I would be a perfect snowbird. Yet another dream for when we magically win the lotto.

Friday, February 26, 2010


We are home! Oh, how I love that word. Emmalee put it best. "Momma, we're a whole family again." How right she is.

Ty was released yesterday afternoon. The final decision was to not put in any type of line, including a PICC. Everyone agrees that Tyler is not a great candidate for a PICC simply because he is so rough on things and would likely pull it out. I honestly can't imagine him leaving a PICC alone. So for now, he will get the remainder of his Methotrexate as a shot each week. The last two doses of Vincristine will be done in clinic, via an IV placed by the nurses. He will go into the lab each week and have a finger poke to do his bloodwork. Given how close we are to the end of treatment, this seems to be the best possible plan.

Tyler tolerated the IV Vanco well until he finally lost his IV on Wednesday. They decided not to place another one and instead switched him to high dose oral Bactrim for five more days. Provided he has an uneventful weekend, (knock on wood,) he can return to school on Monday.

All in all, things are going well. Thank you to everyone for your love, prayers and continued support!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Update from Hotel Strong

Good Morning!

Ty is still at Hotel Strong. Removing the medi-port was a fairly simple procedure and he did great. He was pretty cranky afterwards but he has been fine since.

Now they're just trying to come up with a plan. They have tossed around the idea of putting in a PICC line. Honestly, Brent and I just don't see that working well for him. I really don't think he would leave it alone. They just don't know what to do at this point. The team was just here but they are going to consult with Dr. Bruckner since she is his primary oncologist. For now, we'll just have to wait and see. He only has three cycles of chemo left which is good but he also has to do some IV antibiotics.

I'll update again when I know more. Please continue to keep him in your prayers.
Please pray for Brent also. He has several new sores and he is in a great deal of pain. He is trying to work and take care of the other kids while Tyler and I are here. He could sure use the extra prayers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

To Emmalee's Future Children

I just had the most hilarious conversation with Emmalee. She said that when she grows up and is the mom, she will get to decide what foods her children will eat. I asked her what she will feed them and she said slime. Why slime? Because she doesn't want them to grow big because she wants them to stay babies so that's all she ever has to take care of. What a little goose!! She asked me if I have a recipe for slime and I told her no. She was disappointed but said that's okay, she'll make her own recipe when she's the mom.

Don't worry, future grandchildren, when you come to my house, I promise not to feed you slime!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hotel Strong

Good Morning....this comes from our favorite "vacation" spot, Hotel Strong. :(

Last night when I went to de-access Tyler's medi-port, I noticed that the skin around the dressing looked red. Sometimes this happens from the tape so I didn't really think too much of it. Then I took the needle out. It instantly gushed nasty, greenish/yellow pus. Not good. I realized right away that his port was probably infected and given his MRSA history, I didn't want to take any chances. I called the hem/onc answering service and Dr. Norman called back right away. She had me bring him into the ED and from there he was admitted. They took him into surgery about an hour ago to remove the medi-port. For now they are not going to replace it. They want to make sure the infection is gone first.

No idea how long he'll have to be here. I'm guessing it may be awhile considering the fact that without the medi-port, I really can't do IV antibiotics at home. I guess we'll just wait and see.

I'm just praying we caught it early enough that it hasn't spread throughout his system. His blood counts looked pretty good, considering, and he wasn't really running a fever.

That's pretty much what I know for now. I'll update again as I know more. Thanks for the love and prayers!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Think it will work?

Dear Winter-

If I use my sweetest, gentlest voice and ask you very nicely, using all the magic words, will you please, please, please go away? I don't mean to be rude. Really. And don't think that I don't love you at all. Because I do. In December. During Christmas. But now it is almost the end of February. You have had your fun. You came, you snowed, (a lot!) you froze us to death, your winds have blown, we have shoveled, scraped, slipped, spread ice melt and endured day after day of gray skies. And now we'd like to ask you, ever so kindly, to leave, flee, vamoose, cease and desist, depart, withdraw, wrap-up, exit, do not pass go, do not collect your $200. In other words, GET OUT!!!

With Kindest Regards,


PS - Don't worry, I'll be ready to see you again in November.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Here is proof that --

A. I do exist

B. I own other clothing besides sweat pants and pajamas

C. I actually do shower and fix my hair once in awhile