hi-ho the derry-o {the cheese stands alone}

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My mom has always said that as a mother, "you are only as happy as your least happy child." I always wished that that would not be the case for her. Out of four children, there was a good chance that at any given time one of us would be sad for one reason or another.  And more than anything in the world, I never wanted to see my mom sad. I also remember thinking, "I hope that doesn't happen to me when I am a mom." 

The other day I was in Ace's class at school when her teacher announced that they were about to take a class vote: Which center would be open that afternoon- blocks or sand table. She gave the kids a few seconds to think about what their choice would be and then said, "okay, if your vote is for the sand table to be open, please stand up." The kids all looked around at each other, no one budging, and then up popped Ace. She stood alone. I could tell she was uncomfortable, and sad. She looked at the other girls in the class (there are only two others) and they jumped up and stood with her. Her eyes beamed with joy and pride.

She had only stood alone for probably ten seconds while the teacher tried to convince any other kids to choose the sand table too, but it felt like an eternity. And in those ten seconds, my heart sank, I wanted to cry. On  one hand I was SO incredibly proud of her for standing alone for what she wanted (I realize it was just a sand table, but to me it was a metaphorical sand table), and at the same time my heart broke knowing she might have felt embarrassed.

It was at that moment that I realized- I am screwed. If something as little as that could have me fighting back tears, what was it going to be like when bigger kid embarrassments and sadness come. It was also at that moment that I really understood what my mom meant. Sure there have been times where my kids have fallen down and cried, or claimed that a friend was being mean. But this was different.

Ace is a worrier. Always looking to the future and worrying that things aren't going to happen the way she wants, the way she needs, them to happen. Before school most days, she is already asking me, "can I sleep in your bed the first tonight?" {Which translates to "can I fall asleep in your bed tonight, and sleep in there all night?"} Her questions are endless, and "we will see" or "I will think about it" don't even come close to cutting it. I can feel her anxiety.

When she does get to "sleep in our bed the first", she must sleep on top of me. 

On Tuesdays after school, she stays an extra forty-five minutes for gymnastics. Buys me just enough time to fit in one extra errand (or one extra show DVR'd from Monday night if I'm being honest). But I am never late to pick her up. Except today. I underestimated my driving time by a couple of minutes, and I pulled into the parking lot at 2:46 (they end at 2:45). Considering that I am usually early to get her, one minute late felt like way more. I ran in as moms were coming out with their kids, quickly scoured the room looking for her, only to find her across the room standing with the coach, sobbing. Even though, it seemed a little ridic that she was crying like that after only one minute-- I mean, most kids were still there, it wasn't as if the place had cleared out-- it still killed me to see her so upset.  Anyway, I scooped her up and told her I was so sorry that I wasn't there right when she finished. She couldn't even catch her breath. And I felt awful.

She was over it before long and was back to her typical happy, goofy self. But that along with the sand table situation have me wondering....

Is it even possible to avoid taking on your children's feelings? Or is that just par for the motherhood course?

So happy she has this boy to ease her anxiousness in many situations.  They seem to do that for each other. 

Lots of Love!

GiGi and Noah

Monday, February 11, 2013

Last September I received an email from a stranger, GiGi. Tears flooded my eyes as I read it:

Hi Lisa, 

Yesterday I found out i'm expecting a baby with downs and as I was in between having the "woo is me's" and the "why me's", millions of thoughts ran through my mind, including termination and adoption.  until I found Ace's video and I changed my tears of sorrow to tears of joy.  Thank you for making me realize my blessing, I only hope my baby is as sweet and happy as Archie.  I wanted to say so much in this email, but in the interest of keeping it short & sweet, I just wanted to say thank you. You have no idea how this has changed my life. 

As much as GiGi said we had changed her life, she changed mine the moment I read her email. I was humbled, and I was so thankful for her. 

I could never pretend to understand the feeling of getting that diagnosis. I have never experienced it, and more than likely never will. People call me and Joey "saints" and "heros" and all sorts of titles we completely do not deserve. To me, GiGi is a hero. As a 38 year old single mother of two teenage girls, I can only imagine how devastating this news was initially. Life changing in more ways than she could have imagined a new baby being. When the baby's father learned about the diagnosis, he fled. Completely. Alone, confused, afraid, and against pressure from doctors, GiGi made the brave decision to give life to this baby. 

I don't know what the current statistic is, so I am hesitant to even include any numbers, but according to the always reliable (insert slight sarcasm) Wikipedia, "In the United States a number of studies have examined the abortion rate of fetuses with Down syndrome. Three studies estimated the termination rates at 95%, 98%, and 87% respectively." 
It is very safe to say that the majority of all mothers who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome do choose to abort. And please do not mistake this post as me judging any mothers out there who do decide to make that choice. Like I said, I could never pretend to know what it feels like to walk in those shoes. Would it be my hope that those statistics would radically changed, and more mothers would be able to experience the joys of raising a child with Down syndrome? ABSOLUTELY. But I would never in a million years pass judgement on a mother who had to make that heart-wrenching decision. 

GiGi and I corresponded back and forth throughout her pregnancy. She changed very quickly from a stranger, to a dear friend. Her two daughters, 17 and 13, were thrilled to be adding a baby to the family, and when she told them that their new brother or sister would be born with Down syndrome, it did not even phase them. Clearly, GiGi has done a lot right as a mother. 

We emailed back and forth a few times in the last month. I was anxiously awaiting the news of baby's arrival. She chose not to find out if she was having a boy or girl. I couldn't wait to know! 

Then on January 30th, I opened my email and found this:

Noah was born 1/28 @ 8:11pm weighing 6lbs 11ounces and standing 18 3/4 inches tall.  :) He is the love of my life.  Thank you. If it wasn't for you I don't know if I would've been strong enough to be his Mommy. I appreciate you talking me off the ledge.  Lol. And making that video with your monkeys.  It completely changed my life.

I will never pretend that raising a child with Down syndrome is easy. But the joys are more than worth the struggles. And as long as I can help even just one mother see that, then I will continue to share our journey. 

Precious Baby Noah, you are a miracle. 

GiGi, I couldn't be happier that you fell into my life and I cannot wait to see sweet Noah grow up and change the world around him. As he most definitely will. 

Lots of Love!


Monday, February 4, 2013

This past weekend was one of the greatest and most memorable weekends ever. A while back I wrote a post about Corby's Castle and what was to become of the organization I had worked so hard building in memory of my brother. And what has become of it is something beyond what I could have ever imagined.

This weekend we traveled with our Special Olympics volleyball team to Austin for the Winter Games. Our unified volleyball team (unified teams= half special olympics athletes, half "typical"--whatever the heck that even means-- athletes) was competing in our first major tournament.  

The first night there was the opening ceremonies. So incredible to see a huge gym packed with people who are lifting each other up, so supportive, and so excited. There is really nothing like it. 

We had to be up and at em bright and early the next morning. We stayed in a hotel with our team (which included the traditional special olympics team, and our unified team). Those two teams are under one umbrella- we do everything together. It was amazing to see the responsibility that the athletes take on. There are high expectations placed on them. They are not babied, and no one acts as if they can't handle taking care of themselves. Their parents stayed in a separate hotel so as to make them feel completely independent. They were responsible for being up, dressed and ready to go early in the morning-- and they were always more punctual than our group. 

Our team, The Corby's Castle Towers, consists of me and Joey, my sister-in-law, Abby, her boyfriend, Josh, and our three high schoolers- Kate, Faith, and Holt. We are the "unified partners". Then there are our athletes- Frank, John, Wes, Patricia, Lulu, and Amanda. I cannot say enough great things about our high schoolers. They blow me away. They are incredibly compassionate and I am so thankful that they are a part of this experience. 

Ace and Archie were such troopers. I don't know why it makes me so happy, but seeing them sitting on the sidelines cheering on our team is one of the coolest feelings. They genuinely love our Special Olympics athletes, and vice-versa. I love how blind they are to any differences that exist. And I love how Archie is not different when we are with our team. They love to take care of Ace and Archie. We have all built real relationships, real friendships. That is what is so unique about unified sports. We are not there to help out, we are not there to serve. We are a part of one team. We play by the same rules.  We got frustrated with each other. We supported each other. And just as much as the athletes needed our support, we needed theirs. 

Somehow I made the starting line-up, and played most of our first match. We were up against a team who has been together for close to ten years. Ten years. This was our first time to state. As I watched them warm up the butterflies started going crazy in my stomach. This team was legit. When the game started I truly wanted to barf. I could not believe how nervous I was. And that first game, we did AMAZING. We stepped up our game, and got them off of theirs. Oh and don't think for one second that these games don't get competitive. Oh boy do they ever. We won our first game of the match, which is best two out of three. I think the other team was shocked to have lost. The next two games, we were a bit over excited and totally lost our mojo, and we ended up losing them both. It was actually quite heartbreaking. But we played great and we held our own against a very seasoned team. 

Our next match we got back in our rhythm, and won the match in two games. We ended up winning the silver medal overall. Second place, pretty darn good. {No need to mention that there were only three teams.} Unified sports are still a newer phenomenon, so there are not a lot of teams yet. There need to be so many more! 

I would encourage EVERYONE to be a part of a unified team. Doesn't have to be volleyball- there are tons of Special Olympics sports. There's bound to be something for everybody. I can't wait for the day that Ace and Archie play on one. 

Opening ceremonies

A non-hazardous torch makes its way around

Lucky for us, my brother and sister are both in school in Austin right now-- so we got to spend a lot of time with Aunt May May and Uncle Price. 

Bowling-- Holt and Patrick

Early morning games. Tired baby girl. 

Lulu, John, me and the kiddos. Notice Archie snuggled up on John. He stayed like that for almost an hour while John rubbed his back and he drifted off into sleep. So precious. 

Frank cracking Ace up

The Towers

Relaxing between games 

Archie's favorite 

See that sleepy little face...

Ace and Patricia hanging out before dinner

Cool kids

Just chillin back at the La Quinta

A bunch of silver medalists

Saturday night dance party! This was so much fun. It was an end of tournament celebration. We danced like fools. Archie entertained the entire place for an hour and a half. Ace wore a pretty "twirly" dress, but was too tired to actually dance. She would not let me take her picture. She sure looked cute though. 

Joey gettin all Gangnam Style

Okay cool story. This Special Olympics athlete in the picture below was on the Unified Team that won the gold medal. (The one that beat us in our first match). At the end of the tournament after all the teams had received medals, he came up to me and asked, "would it be okay if I gave my gold medal to your son?" (Archie had been entertaining him and his team earlier that day). I was like, "really, are you sure? no, you keep it..." But he insisted-- he REALLY wanted to. So I took him to Archie and he bent down and put the medal around his neck. He looked him in the eyes and said, "I want you to have this. You're my gold medal." Archie got the biggest smile on his face and hugged his new friend. I don't even know his name but I am so thankful for him. He gave away something that was very important to him. Gold medals are a big deal. Everyone around had tears in their eyes, and as he walked off with one of his unified partners, I heard him say to her, "I just had to give it to him." Later that night we saw him at the dance and he gave Archie an orange balloon. 

Which really came in handy at the crowded dance where he was all over the place and I was afraid I might lose him. (Find Archie in the picture below).

Seriously though, I don't really know why he wanted to do that for Archie. He wasn't doing it for attention, and it wasn't on a whim. He sought me out in a giant crowd at the end of the tournament because he wanted Archie to have his gold medal. It was really an awesome moment. 

After the game we all wanted to go out for ice cream-- so we looked up the closest Baskin Robins. We pulled up to the world's tiniest drive-thru Baskin Robins. Our team packed in and we literally filled the entire place. 

A two scoop limit was set by our coach,  which Patrick inevitably broke. Love him so much. 

Sunday morning it was time to say goodbye. Archie requested pictures with everyone.

It was sad when it was finally time to go as this was the end of our season. We will start back up next Fall. We are already planning outings with our team between now and then though. First things first- a girl's night! 

I love these people so much.

Oh yeah, and our team made the SOTX website-- check it out!!!!!

We are going for GOLD next year!!
Lots of Love!