Strength for the Climb

My blog is a personal journey of the blessings I have been entrusted with and the strength I have been given to make the climb. I invite you to follow along as I write about faith, family, and Down syndrome.

P is for police, potty, preschool, purpose, and promise.

The summer was filled with many events, some good and some not so good.  So let's start with the later and finish with the best part...it's been a long time since I've blogged about things around here, so be forewarned that this is a lengthy post.  

P is for POLICE

5 am on Thursday, July 21st.  "Carissa, where's the Tahoe?"  My heart sunk.  I had forgotten to check to see if the Tahoe was locked.  My friend and I were in the garage the night before setting up items for the garage sale that next morning.  Our cars were in the driveway.  I hadn't driven the car since early Wednesday morning after picking up Jack from therapy and mistakenly left the keys in the car.  After a late night of setting up, I said good bye to my friend, and put the garage door down. And that was my mistake.  A very costly one.  Someone had entered our driveway, sometime between the hours of 11pm and 5am, and drove off with our Tahoe.  The police arrived at 5:45am and wrote up the incident and told us that they would call us when the vehicle was found. That afternoon an insurance adjuster came out and interviewed me asking me questions about the last time our car was driven, what contents were in it, what our finances were, our employment status, and all the other information needed to, in short, rule me out of insurance fraud. I got a call about 4 1/2 days later, late in the evening, that they had found our Tahoe about 15 miles away in the heart of St. Paul.  Up on blocks (they stole the tires), and trashed.  A tow truck brought it to the St. Paul Police Impound Lot and we were told to come pick it up in the morning.  

For anyone that has ever had anything stolen, it's such a violating experience and many different emotions were apart of this and I was sickened to see the inside of the car completely destroyed.  The worst part of it all was that while Chris and I were going through our things, we found what appeared to be crystal meth in the back seat.  That changed everything for us.  Our insurance company wanted us to professionally clean the car and take it back.  They were absolutely awful to work with and basically tried to use the fact that the police did not formally test the meth and explained that the car could be returned after a quick cleaning.  So I told them to take their $500 detailed cleaning and fly a kite.  (I'm summarizing this month long experience into a few paragraphs for the sake of not reliving this all over again)  Besides the fact that we were reminded that there are very sick people out there that do this to others, I was heartbroken to know these people took my kids' car seats, BOB single stroller, an umbrella stroller, DVDs, and other items that were in the Tahoe at the time it was stolen.  All those items were a complete loss with the exception of the car seats (insurance covers those).  Seriously, get some help people.  I've had a lot of stuff go on in my life and I'm not taking things that aren't mine.  For a few months, I wandered my house in the early hours of the morning wondering if they were going to come back.  I lost a lot of sleep and feel like I aged at least 10 years.  30 days after our car was stolen, and a payment of our insurance deductible, we were able to get a check for our Tahoe and go purchase one similar with the same amount of (high) miles and 8 years old.  Ugh, something I hope never happens again and don't wish on my enemy.  On the morning of my birthday, an officer called and explained that there were 3 blank checks in the Tahoe at the time it was stolen, and that someone was having a hay day with our checking account.  Happy birthday to me.  Also, I'm assuming the people that stole our Tahoe weren't people with Down syndrome...or the other crimes that are committed these days...Geez, and to think, our society is so scared of Down syndrome.  #sarcasm #weneedmorepeoplewithdownsyndromeintheworld

I do know, that no one is beyond God's grace, and was reminded of that when Luke asked me if he thought the people that stole our Tahoe knew Jesus.   I had to pause and pray with him about their hearts, asking that they would someday know their worth in Christ and stop hurting themselves and others.  

P is for POTTY

Speaking of aging me 10 years,  I think I ran myself ragged running Jack to the potty this summer.  In late May, I decided it was time for Jack to take the plunge and say goodbye to diapers.  He was definitely showing signs of being ready and was successfully going a couple times on the potty so it seemed like a great time to give it a try.  I was encouraged by a friend of mine who has a son with Down syndrome.  Her son had been going on the potty for awhile before she officially trained him and by his 3rd birthday he was in undies full time!  This was amazing and so encouraging and I am very thankful for the nudge to try it with Jack. Paw patrol undies, stickers, shows, you name it...we were "On a Roll!"

For the first week I worked hard on getting him to the potty at least every 15-30 minutes and when he went, we celebrated BIG TIME!  He wears pull ups for nap time and nights and braved the first few times out and about.  After a good three weeks of running everywhere in big boy undies and three kids in tow, I decided that we couldn't live in 30 minute intervals for months on end, so he wears a pull up when we are away from home and I think everyone is happy to not hear Mom ask Jack if he needs to go potty every few minutes.  Yikes.  There are days that go so well, with no accidents...and some days that are not so good.  But such is life.  As we know, Jack accomplishes things on his own timeline, and he has been a rockstar, and I'm so proud of him! He continues to amaze us and shows us to continue to have high expectations for him.  I keep saying to myself, "Well, you won't know unless you try!" 

P is for PRESCHOOL 

Jack started preschool in September and attends three mornings a week.  He goes to the private Christian neighborhood preschool once a week and the school district ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) 3's class two days a week.  He is completely integrated with his peers, learning and growing, and loving it!  Last spring while Luke was finishing up his last few weeks of preschool, I sat across the table of the Director of the neighborhood preschool and asked her if she felt that a child with Down syndrome could attend this preschool setting.  Sometimes you don't know until you ask.  So I did.  Nothing like being in a vulnerable position, asking if your child with a disability would be welcomed there.  After a couple meetings with teachers and coming up with a successful plan for everyone, Jack attends and it has gone wonderfully!  His teachers are so loving and work together to help him reach his goals.  He is provided support, as needed, with tasks that he is still trying to accomplish which include many fine motor skills and manipulatives.  His words are coming but when he's frustrated and doesn't communicate his desires he LOVES to throw things which drives me batty.  The kid has a great arm and thankfully the school routine has helped and there has been less spilled milk on the floor at home. Argh.  

Just this morning his teacher said that he soaks up everything his peers are doing and he is such a joy to have in class.  This just affirms that we made the right decision to have him in this classroom and that kids like Jack should be fully integrated with their peers at this stage of development to learn and grow.  I am so very thankful our local school district agrees with this model and it's been such a wonderful team of people working together and watching him be successful.  

Recently, Jack approached his teacher in circle time and suggested that they sing, Row, Row, Row your Boat.  He also has had the classroom helper role of 'calendar" which you can see him doing in the picture below.  His progress report by his ECSE (Early Childhood Special Education) teacher included many positives stating that he follows classroom routines and very compliant.  Chris and I emphasized that it was very important that Jack was held to the same expectation as the other 3 year olds in his classroom when it came to behavior, respect, and following classroom routines.  We have high expectations for him and a lot of our goals come in his behavior as we know that when he is expected to do as the others, he will rise to that.  As with any 3 year old, he is learning the cause and effect of things, which includes what he chooses to do and not do and soaking up our reaction to it.  He's one smart cookie.  His teachers also let me know that Jack has developed some friendships that have been initiated by a few classmates.  This absolutely makes my heart happy.  We did not know these friends/families before the start of the school year and it's so awesome to hear of these sweet interactions.  

P is for PURPOSE

I recently listened (and repeated over and over) to a podcast by Craig Groeschel, Pastor of Life Church.  You can listen to it here.  It's about our purpose.  

"Purpose diminishes distractions.  Purpose pushes us through pain."  

So when we received Jack's diagnosis of Down syndrome, my mind went in so many directions. Often times, the thought of the future was present and many fears set in.  What will our lives look like with a child with Down syndrome?    Now, 3 1/2 years after receiving that diagnosis, I can say that our lives don't look much different than yours probably does.  

We spend time as a family together, at the park, playing and wrestling, going to sporting events, running errands, jamming to music, go on vacations, and so much more.  Granted, I started a nonprofit organization that celebrates babies with Down syndrome (so that is kind of talked about a lot around our house), but honestly, we don't really think about Down syndrome much.  We don't look at Jack and think of Down syndrome.  We have lived this journey long enough that Jack has taught us that he just wants to be himself, and not defined by his diagnosis.  We treat Jack as Jack and our hope is that others would view him as Jack also.  The month of October is Down syndrome awareness month which brings about a chance to share the love we have for him and also show the world that his life is not to be feared.  Also, it feels as if it might be a good time to share that we often hear people say that Jack IS "Downs".  Just a FYI, Jack IS not Down syndrome, he HAS Down syndrome.  Just like if I had cancer, you wouldn't say, "Carissa IS cancer, you'd say, "Carissa HAS cancer.  I wouldn't be defined by cancer, it would just be a part of me."  

What is God's purpose for our family? Our purpose and goals for our family did not change when we received Jack's diagnosis.  Our family goal has always been to Love God and Love Others.  I know that Jack will be able to accomplish these goals.  He has positively made an impact on others and his life will continue to bless those that know him.  Jack's life was created with a purpose, just like yours and mine was.

When we focus on our purpose in life we can diminish the distractions and when faced with pain it helps us move forward and press on.  I recently got a chance to share my life story to the student body at Bethel University, my alma mater, during homecoming week.  I shared about my childhood, my experience in college, and the decisions I made that have a direct impact on the way our lives look today. Craig Groeschel says that we are a sum total of the past decisions we have made.  Please, take a moment and watch the video challenging these college students to think about the story they want to tell...and how their lives can have a huge influence on those around them.  This was a wonderful opportunity to share the backstory on how Jack's Basket got started.  

P is for PROMISE.   

There is an old Sunday school song I grew up with and we sing it around here.

 It's called I AM A PROMISE and it goes like this...

I AM A PROMISE

I AM A POSSIBILITY

I AM A PROMISE, WITH A CAPITAL P

I AM A GREAT BIG BUNDLE OF POTENTIALITY

AND I AM LEARNING TO HEAR GOD'S VOICE,

AND I AM TRYING TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES

 I AM PROMISE TO BE ANYTHING GOD WANTS ME TO BE  

I CAN GO ANYWHERE THAT HE WANTS ME TO GO, I CAN BE ANYTHING THAT HE WANTS TO BE, I CAN CLIMB THE HIGH MOUNTAINS, I CAN SWIM THE WIDE SEA, I AM A GREAT BIG BUNDLE YOU'LL SEE... (REPEAT WITH MUCH MORE ZEST AND ANIMATION ;))

That's right buddy, you are a promise and I love getting to watch you live out your purpose!  May we all be reminded that we were created with a purpose, that YOU are a promise, with a big bundle of potentiality!  To end this long, long post...Jack wants to share the verse he learned in September!

With all our love, Jack and family