Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Good Teacher: Mrs.Faith

I am continuing with my posts on Facebook for Down Syndrome Acceptance Month.

In 2nd grade, again on the recommendation of Mrs. Thomas, we met another wonderful teacher, who would change all of our lives for the better: Lee Ann Faith.

It was love at first sight for my little Joshua. He called her "Miss Fafe," and it was the cutest thing ever. There were still some frustrating days, but SHE was never frustrated with him...or with me. She never pointed out a challenge she was having with Joshua...without pointing out several positive things about him, and how he was doing in her class.

This year was also significant to our family, because it was the year I was pregnant with Clark. When I went to the hospital in pre-term labor with him...and then when he was born 12 1/2 weeks was hard on our whole family, because of the seriousness and uncertainty involved with Clark.

And, as much help as we had from our friends, and Jim's mom, our lives were kind-of turned upside-down for a MINUTE.

Mrs. Faith tells about one day...she couldn't find Joshua. She thought that maybe he had walked down to Mrs. Thomas' class, but she checked with Mrs. Thomas, and he wasn't there. She finally found him in the bathroom, all alone, and crying because he missed his Mom...and he was worried about his baby brother.

Joshua said that Mrs. Faith said, "I'm not your mom, but I'll hug you and take care of you while you're here at school."

SERIOUSLY? I mean, do we not all want teachers like that for our kids?

No amount of money or training or classes can replace the tender words of a caring teacher.


They have such an important role in our families, in our communities...and in the future of our country.


"...who knows if perhaps you were made...for such a time as this." Esther 4:14

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Power of ONE: Lindsey Walker

So, I'm writing 31 days on Down Syndrome...our experiences, memories, etc...on my Facebook.

Today, I wrote about the power of ONE.

On some of my Facebook posts, I'm using stuff I've already written...but haven't put out on Facebook.

That's cool, right? I hope so.

My blog isn't private right now, but I don't typically link it to my Facebook because of Joshua. I feel like I can write more freely on my blog, because he doesn't read it. If he figures it out, I'm sunk.

During Joshua's 2nd year of Kindergarten, he met Lindsey Walker. Lindsey's mom was a teacher at their school, and they lived in our neighborhood. I don't know how it happened, or why, but Lindsey Walker latched on to Joshua...and would not let him go. She became his friend, confidant, protector and helper.

Her family also went to our church, so she and Joshua were in Sunday School and children's choir together. He couldn't get away from her if he tried! Lindsey Walker told him what to do and when to do it. She helped him when he needed help...and even sometimes when he didn't!

She fought WITH him...and she fought FOR him. She was a friend to Joshua, and a blessing to this Momma for sure!

Joshua and Lindsey Walker stayed friends all the way through school. I think they were even football managers together in the 7th grade. They graduated together, and Lindsey headed to be a TEACHER.

Joshua's life would've been quite different without Lindsey Walker, I'm certain of it.

If you are a parent, tell this to your kids...if you're a teacher, tell your students...if you're a student, understand this: never underestimate the influence you can have in the life of even ONE other person.

All that Joshua accomplished in school first started with ONE teacher who believed in him...and ONE little girl...who took a chance on an unlikely friendship with ONE little boy...and it made ALL the difference in the world.

"The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense." Proverbs 27:9

Monday, October 5, 2015

My Words...And Joshua's Words

I don't think anything I post tonight is gonna matter after y'all read Joshua's words, which I am sharing in this post. 

BUT, this is what I posted tonight on my Facebook: 

I don't think I can adequately express my appreciation to the awesome teachers we've had on this journey. After a rocky start at one school, we moved to another school in town. We walked into that first meeting feeling beaten-down and discouraged...but God had gone before us, and He had prepared the way. We met Mrs. Diane Thomas, and she literally changed all of our lives...for the better...right then and there. 

One person, y'all...ONE PERSON. 

Never doubt the impact you can have on the lives of others. 

Mrs. Thomas was passionate, knowledgeable, creative and empathetic. I cannot tell you how good it felt to have school. Since Joshua's first year of Kindergarten was kind of a hot mess for all involved, we all decided to run him thru Kindergarten again the next year...just so he'd really have the hang of it. I will never forget the day when Mrs. Thomas told me, "I've got the PERFECT teacher for Joshua next year. And she can't wait to have him in her class!" Enter Ms. Rupard. Joshua liked her immediately. She was firm...but she was also fun and gentle and sweet. 

As the days went on that year, I slowly began to relax a little. Even when there were issues, Ms. Rupard treated me with respect and understanding, and we worked together to find a solution. ONE PERSON, y'all. ONE teacher...enriched the life of ONE child, and gave hope to ONE discouraged mom. TEACHERS ROCK!

Annnnd...just when I was feeling all warm and fuzzy, remembering some of the good people God placed in our lives during Joshua's first years of school...I got a text from a friend who said, "Joshua's post...amazing."

And, not gonna lie. I thought, "UH OH." Because we never know WHAT he is going to say.

Here are my Joshua's words:

When sometimes I think back on my younger days. I understand how many times. I was probably put down all, for the way I was. From being born with downs. Is something I wanted to have. I accept that. I have downs and I understand that. The Lord has made us according to his purpose. I think back. On my childhood. And I didn't understand why The Lord made me have downs. Because of that. That is why. I cover it up. By teaching myself material arts. Shaolin because it build's how I am. As a person. It has taught me to overcome through kind of insecurities that I have. I like doing martial arts. Because it takes it all I got to give it my best. It help's to clear my head. So I can rise above my insecurities and inadequacies that. I have. With the martial arts. That I do. Makes me a stronger person. And I can focus much better on the spiritual aspects that is main, thing. Because it has developed me into what The Lord want's me to be. I know I can face what challenge that may come my way. As long I make short goals and stick with them. Can make a much better way of life. That I understand that. I must put a way childish things. And focus on being a man. I will not run away. From the things. That has made me the way. I am. To all glory to The Lord. And not me. Because I am second and a alpha male. I will do whatever The Lord want's me to do.

And now we are all cryin' up in herrrrr...

It made me so sad to read his words. We have worked really hard to try and make thing "okay" with Joshua. We haven't focused on him having Down Syndrome. We've celebrated his accomplishments, just like with our other kids. We have tried to show all of them that we are ALL different...and that it's "okay."

We thought we were making it "okay" with Joshua that he has Down Syndrome, and "okay" that he is different and "okay" that he can't do certain things. But then, when he writes stuff like that, I feel like a complete failure...because he is apparently more aware of everything than we all thought.


I know that, as people, we all feel hurt and disappointment and sadness and rejection. I never wanted any of my kids to feel these things, but they have. That's part of life...I know this.

I just never wanted JOSHUA to feel any of these things...but he has. As a mom, I've always wanted to protect my children's hearts...and I know I can't always, and I know I SHOULDN'T always and I haven't always. I have, I think, taught them coping skills...the main one being RUN TO JESUS FIRST, because His ways are always the best ways.

But, I especially wanted to protect the heart of one who is so innocent and pure.


I'm dying a little on the inside.

"The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he delivers those who are discouraged." Psalm 34:18

Sunday, October 4, 2015

On Saying the Wrong Thing

Tonight, I am recycling some of a post I wrote in 2013.

I have been sharing, on my Facebook, some of our thoughts and experiences on Down Syndrome Acceptance/Awareness Month.

Or, as I like to say, "The Month of Joshua's People."

My post yesterday was not to beat down on the church-lady who made the unkind comment to me. She was a sad lady, who was blunt like that to EVERYONE. Plus, if I was going to point a finger at her, I'd have 3 fingers pointed right back at me. Did your momma teach you that, too?

After I had Joshua, I can't even tell you the comments that came my way. The people who made them were (usually) completely innocent of any malice.

Like the time I was at the store with Joshua, before his heart surgery. He had his surgery at 3 months of age, so if this was before that...he was young. He was very skinny, and his skin was a grayish color...because he was very sick. HENCE THE NEEDED SURGERY. He was so pale, but he had this cute, stickin' up hair and these big, dark eyes. I had dressed him in the cutest outfit. I was clearly smitten with him.

This older lady came up to me, when I was in the check-out line. She looked at Joshua, and said, "he's not right, is he?"

I thought about getting all up in my feels, but honestly...who has the energy for that all the time? Plus, this lady was old-school, I could tell...and she seemed genuinely concerned for Joshua.

If it's my desire to educate others about Down Syndrome, and show off the awesomeness that is Joshua, and it is, I need to be careful in my responses to people. Because I welcome questions...most of us do.

So, I took a deep breath and told her, "no, he is not."

I'd like to say that I have always responded to everyone with grace, but that would not be true. I believe there ARE times to be bold and speak up. Before Joshua's open-heart surgery, I asked for a Resident to be removed from his team. She did not share the same value of LIFE that we had. I found this out when she was questioning me about my pregnancy...did we know about Joshua's diagnosis before birth (no, we did not)?

She said, "that's too bad, because if you had known beforehand, you could've done something about it."

Which, she meant, that we could've done something about HIM.

Oh, no ma'am.

I was sending Joshua back for a very serious surgery, and I had to know that everyone on his team was ON HIS TEAM...that they realized the worth and value of every child...that they would fight for him...that they would do their best by him...and that they would see him as a CHILD, and not as a disability.

It was one of the bravest things I've ever done in my life, because she was a doctor...but I was a mom.

We've also heard some funny comments along the way, too. Like the nursery worker who told me about Joshua, "he's not half bad!" Jim and I got tickled over it, and wondered which half she was talking about!

Another lady said that if Joshua had Down Syndrome, he must just have a "touch of it."

Somewhere along the way, God reminded me of GRACE...and gave me this mantra: MOST PEOPLE MEAN WELL.

They really do. Show them GRACE. Try to relax. They are trying to reach out to you in their own way. They just get nervous in the face of tragedy or loss, or things they don't know about...and they'll say the wrong thing, when all they really want to do is to make things better. If you snap back at them, you may lose an opportunity to show God's love to them...or to accept God's love FROM them.

Sometimes, I'm the one who says the wrong thing at the wrong time, because I'm just trying to help...and I hope they get that message, even if I bungle up the words.

And I hope they know that I mean well.

"I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." Psalm 139:14

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Speak Life

Sometimes, we see people when we're out-and-about, and we might be tempted to think, "why can't they control their child?"

Maybe you've thought that same thing, too

And while there are a few who just don't care, I believe that most are doing the best they can. And, we don't know, but they may be walking a road in their lives, or with their child...that we can't even imagine. They may have had words spoken to them that made them want to give up. And so we should maybe respond with grace.

No, we should DEFINITELY respond with grace.

Because that whole "sticks and stones" thing? It was wrong. Words can speak life...or words can hurt.

I've written about this before, but over 20 years ago, Joshua sang with his peers in a Christmas program at our church. He was so happy and he knew all the words. He may have been a tad off-beat, and he may have sung a tad off-key, and he may have not stood as still as a statue while he sang...BUT IT WAS CHURCH...and IT WAS CHRISTMAS...and COME ON, PEOPLE.

As cute as he was, and as proud of him as we were, the thing I remember most from that day is the woman who grabbed me after the performance and said, LOUDLY, "I hope you know your son ruined my video."

You see, Joshua was standing next to her daughter...and this mom had apparently been fuming the entire program about Joshua's performance.

There, in the one place where we teach "Jesus loves the little children of the world," where all children should find unconditional love, and all parents should receive support and encouragement, I heard...unwanted...unloved...unaccepted.

And as a Mom who sometimes felt a little down (no pun intended!) with all the therapies, IEPs, and wonderfing if we were doing any of this "right," her words weighed like a heaviness on my heart.

Since when is a video more important than a person...than a life?

We had many, many friends who loved and encouraged our family in this town our big kids call "home," and we never would've made it without them. But this one lady, and her hurtful words, have stayed with me all these years.

Speak life.

"...Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40