About Me

My photo
After being told I would never be able to have children, I am now a stay-at-home Mommy to Maddie who happens to have Down Syndrome. I've been married 16 years to my best friend, having the time of my life. Thanks for stopping by and sharing in our little journey through life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Create Dreams That Scare You a Little

I've been writing this blog post in my head for weeks now.  
To start at the beginning takes me back to summer.  
I led a bible study group through the book The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.

He talks about dreaming big dreams.  
Dreams that are so big they require supernatural intervention to achieve.
I have always admired marathon runners and have often thought they must possess some sort of mind-over matter-true-grit-magic that few of us ever experience.

That would be a big dream.
I've always loved running, in fact, you may be interested to know that in my dreams, I'm like super-duper, crazy fast!  I'm always running and no one can ever catch me. I've even jumped over buildings once! In my dreams I'm super awesome. Just sayin'. (perhaps I should explore why someone is always chasing me in my dreams. 😆) 
BUT, coming back to reality, the problem is, I haven't ran in years...actually...decades to be exact.

So, I thought I would ease into it.
Take 10 months to train for the Memorial Marathon.  
That should do it, I thought.

Actually, I have to back up in the timeline a bit to tell the full story. (Get comfortable, this story's a long one!)
I began in September 2015 going to the gym to get in shape. 
After a month or so of going to classes 2-3 times per week, I found myself on the Stairmaster one minute, and on the ground the next!
I almost passed out, and made a big enough scene to alert the medical team at the YMCA.
Turns out nothing at all was wrong with me except the fact that I was so out of shape, 10 minutes on the Stairmaster was enough to do me in!!  
Umm,  can you say embarrassing!

So now, fast forward July of 2016.  
I'm actually considering running a marathon.
Of course it will be 10 months away, a lot of training can take place in 10 months.

But then, I had a good friend who encouraged me to sign up for the Route 66 marathon, less than 5 months out.
I'll do the half, I thought.  
Get my feet wet, and then run the full in the Memorial Marathon.
Good, solid plan!

But for some crazy reason, I began training with Oklahoma Landrunners and started out with the full marathoners running 8 miles in August.
After that run, I was encouraged to forget the half and go for the full. 
Run the full, they said. It will be fun, they said! 
Not that was a dream that scared me a little.

10 months ago I couldn't even handle 10 minutes of Stairmaster.
Now, I'm going to sign up to run 26.2 miles?
Yes! Mark Batterson would approve.
It was the perfect dream!
A dream so big it was beyond my own reach.
A dream that would require supernatural intervention.
I was excited for the spiritual journey ahead!!

I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I had no idea what kind of hard was ahead.
I expected there to be some obstacles, because anytime you set out to get closer to God, there will always be fiery arrows thrown.
Still, I wasn't prepared for the hardship.
I had some health issues come up.

It turns out your body does weird things when you ask it to go above and beyond.
It's like a rebellious teenager that flat out says, "NO" right to your face!
I visited my doctor and everything serious was ruled out.
I guess I'm just weird (yeah, the story of my life!)
With the OK from the doc to continue training and a prescription in hand, I struggled on.

And this is where the story gets interesting...
Why, oh why, do we as humans insist on trying to fix things all by ourselves?
Things weren't going my way, and so I pouted.
I had to stop my training for a while.
I worried and stewed and wondered if I could do this.
I researched.
Perhaps I just needed the right goop, or energy drink, or gear.
Why couldn't I do this, I wondered?

And then one night, it's like Jesus finally hit me upside the head and said, FOCUS!
Remember your why.
Is this about your glory or Mine?

From that night on, my prayers changed. 
No longer did I pray to take away the affliction, but instead work through it.
I had to believe that He had the power not just to take away the ailments, but to provide supernatural strength despite them. 
I had to trust Him, rely on His strength and not my own, stupid weakness.

Everything changed from that moment on.
I ran with a lightness in my feet. 
I felt strong and able.
It was still difficult, but I also felt Him with me each step of the way.

I began listening to the Bible App.
I started in Galatians and listened through Revelation.
Then, I listened to Matthew.
Next, I went to the Old Testament and listened to Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Isaiah.

The Words came alive.
Running early in the morning before the sun came up, listening to scripture for hours on end, was like a super-concentrated cleaner where a little goes a long way.
These scriptures stayed with me throughout the week and brought new, vivid colors into tired, old, everyday scenes!
I can't say I've ever experienced anything like it.

I discovered verses that really helped me carry on like: 
Ecclesiastes 7:8 "Finishing is better than starting, Patience is better than pride."
And verses I had known, but found a new meaning like:
Isaiah 40:3 "but to those who hope in the Lord, they will soar on the wings of eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint."
Hebrews 12:1 "Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."
1 Corinthians 9:27 "but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."

Run a marathon and you'll find out what you're made of.
I found I'm not worth much without my Best Friend, my True North, my Savior.
You want to know what gives marathon runners that mind-over matter-true-grit-kind-of-magic?
In my experience?
It's Jesus. 😊

Want to experience it for yourself?  
Create a dream that scares you a little and see what happens!!

aw man, blisters are the worst!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Feeling Nostalgic

I was feeling nostalgic about motherhood this morning and decided to look through pictures.
One of the biggest life lessons this journey has taught me is this:
Having someone believe in you, even when you don't believe in yourself, is more powerful than you can dare to imagine.

When I was a little girl growing up, I don't remember pretending to be a Mommy with my dolls.
I was more into the fashion accessories for my Barbies...all those cute bits and pieces, so fun!
I honestly didn't think I would make a good Mom.  

As the baby of the family, I was far too self-absorbed and selfish to make a good Mom.
I needed my entire family taking care of me, how could I ever be in charge of taking care of someone else?

At 25 years old, when the doctor verified I would never be able to get pregnant, I knew it was for the best.  
I just wasn't mommy material, and this was God's way of confirming what I knew was true.

Ironically, I had majored in Child Development because I read this verse in the Bible that said, "unless you are like these little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
I needed to know what these "little children" were like, so I majored in Child Development.

Purely selfish motives.  

I discovered I really enjoyed kids, they were fascinating!
I loved being an Aunt, one of the greatest joys in life, but you can imagine my surprise when, at 30 years old, I found out I was pregnant.

My first emotions were joy and awe.
How was this possible?

Suddenly I was regretting wasting my pretend play days on Barbie's fashion accessories.  
Then I panicked, went to the library, and checked out every book on parenting I could get my hands on.

From 20 weeks on, the pregnancy was tumultuous but by the grace of God, I had this unbelievable peace that everything was going to be all right. 
Looking back, it's astonishing what life threw at us but my belief never wavered and I can't really explain why.
It's just a God-thing, I guess.

But then, when Maddie had to be taken via emergency C-section, and the Dr. came in and told me she was 90% certain Maddie had Down Syndrome, I felt this amazing love wash over me.
It was as if God was telling me, "See, I believe in you. You are Mommy material because I have shaped and formed you into my Likeness. This is my gift and my confirmation to you." 
I think I even smiled when I heard the news.

The power of believing, it's life-changing.
I've made lots of mistakes in my 8 years of motherhood.  
Many moments I wish I could take back, but just like with my pregnancy, I haven't wavered in the belief that this journey was meant to be.  

I'm dreaming big dreams these days.
Dreams that, for me, require strength of character, perseverance, fortitude, and belief.  
Belief that I sometimes have to borrow from others around me because I doubt.

Find someone to believe in today.
Tell them you believe in them and speak life over them.
It truly has the power to change lives. 

If you are the one doubting, focus on the people who believe in you.
You never know, it could make all the difference in the world.  

While I'm at it, just one more piece of advice...  
Take lots and lots of pictures!  
You will thank yourself on those days when you want to look back and be nostalgic!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Girl and Her Dog

These two are starting to build a really special relationship. The first couple of weeks we had Belle, her occasional barking would send Maddie screaming and crying, slamming doors behind her and leaving Kyle and I looking at each other like, "what just happened here?" We sent Belle off to boarding school to get trained and now that Belle's been back from training, things are very different. Maddie doesn't feel so out of control and Belle is learning her place in Maddie's world. The other day I had to get on to Maddie for something and through her tears she said she needed Belle. Belle came over and Maddie hugged her and felt better.

Maddie always brings a "friend" along for homeschool each day.

On this particular day, she chose Belle to have alongside her.
We've also seen improvements in Maddie's speech and confidence levels since Belle's been back.

As simple as it sounds, repeating words back, like with a memory verse, is something that Maddie has struggled with for a long time. As part of Sensory Processing Disorder, Maddie has the added complication of Central Auditory Processing Dysfunction where she has a difficult time recalling what's been said and discriminating between different sounds.
But you can see in this video, she strokes Belle with each word and is able to repeat back the entire verse!
The big yawn at the end proves it was hard work for her, but she did it!

I'm so excited to see how this new friendship will continue to affect Maddie's life!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Immeasurably More

We are now very happy dog owners of the most perfect fit for Maddie. 
Lady Belle

I grew up in the country and for most of my childhood, we always had a family dog, and at least one stray dog that would come and go.
One year, someone even had the audacity to dump an entire litter of puppies in our backyard.  
Luckily, it was my 16th birthday and so for party favors, we just passed out puppies! 
I don't remember our decisions to get dogs being any big deal, but the fact they became family was a big deal.  
During my elementary school years, we had a cocker spaniel named Britches Wayne.  
He was a great dog, and was supposed to be my responsibility.  
As an 8 year old kid, I didn't realize the weight of that responsibility until one day my mom realized I had forgotten to feed him.  She asked me how I would feel if she forgot to feed me one day, and from that day on, I resolved to never eat breakfast until after I had fed Britches Wayne.  
That was wonderful until we left town for vacation and I didn't know if/when he was fed.  
Mom was really confused when I refused to eat breakfast. Ha.

This decision to get a dog for Maddie has been over a year in the making.
In comparison to growing up and always having a family dog, that's a big deal!

About a year ago, I was REALLY wanting to get a dog.  
We had a pug before Maddie was born and in 2013 when Maddie was 4 years old, she got cancer and we had to put her down.  
Still one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.  
We weren't ready for another dog for quite awhile, but last year I was finally ready.
Kyle, on the other hand, was definitely NOT.  

It just so happens I was reading Walking With God by John Eldridge.  
In his book he talks about prayer being a two way communication.
He said to pray simple prayers, and you should expect to hear a response. 
It was new territory for me, and Eldridge suggests starting with something small until you can tune your heart to hear the response of God. 
I decided to pray about the dog.  
I just simply asked if this was the right time to get a dog.  
I heard an audible, "No."  
It wasn't a voice outside myself, but it was distinct and my spirit knew it was God.
I was so heartbroken!
After pouting a bit, I asked, "how will I know when the time is right?"
And I heard, "You'll know. Trust Me, you'll know." 
With that, I was confident we would someday get a dog, so I shifted my prayers to pray for the right dog for Maddie. 

Fast forward a couple of weeks ago.
It seems like we've been enjoying a season of self-regulation when it comes to Maddie's sensory processing disorder.  
That was until a couple of weeks ago, when things started falling apart. 
We are now in an out-of-sync season.  
Things are starting to bubble up and it's making life difficult again.

Maddie's way of "playing ball" with Belle!
 I started wondering if a dog could help.
There's tons of research out there on how families are using therapy dogs to help autistic children, which a lot of sensory processing symptoms mimic.
All this time, I've been ready to get a dog, but Kyle hasn't. 

Then one day he surprises us with an email he sent from work with the subject line, for Maddie's birthday.  It was a link to goldendoodle puppies and he writes, "pick one."
That particular breeder was 4 hours away, so I began to search for someone closer.  
I called one breeder only 45 minutes away, but her puppies wouldn't be ready to take home until early December.  
Then, a friend noticed goldendoodle puppies for sale on Facebook.  
She sent me contact info and Maddie and I went to meet the puppies.  

Right away I knew I liked her!
We stayed for who knows how long, I just had a ton of questions and she was so honest and pleasant to talk to, and of course we fell in love with the puppies.
  When Kyle thought we might have until December to get ready for a puppy, I think the thought of getting one RIGHT NOW seemed a little sudden.  
He needed time to think about it.
That was a Thursday.
Friday night he said he needed one more night to think about it.  
It's a lot of money to spend, and a decision that will affect many years into the future. 

Saturday morning I left the house early to go for a run.
During my run, I get a call from the breeder.  
I just knew she's calling as a courtesy to let me know the dog we liked had sold. 
I anxiously finished my run and called her back.  

She asked if we had found a puppy yet, and I told her no, bracing myself for the bad news to come.
And then she said, "You are going to think I'm crazy, but last night I was praying for you and praying you would find the right puppy for Maddie.  Whether it's one of mine or not, I just prayed you would find what you are looking for. Then, I felt led to give you the dog you were looking at, so if you want her, she's yours!" 

Instant tears.

I couldn't believe it!
My mind immediately went back to, "You'll know. Trust Me, you'll know." 
I really thought a stray dog would just show up on our lawn some day and that's how we would know. 
Never in a million years, could I have dared to dream He would give us one of the most premium, sought after, and incredibly desired breeds of our time.

Ephesians 3:20-21
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen!"  

We plan on training Belle to be a therapy dog and then take it a step further to train her to work with Maddie specifically to help with some of her struggles.  
It would be nice if Belle could intervene when Maddie begins her pacing back and forth.
Or, somehow cause a distraction when she grinds her teeth, obsessively stacks various groups of things around the house. or chews her thumbs with nonsensical vocalizations. 
But our main task for Belle will be to provide the comfort Maddie needs to fall asleep, along with the courage to sleep in her own room. 

She's got her work cut out for her, but I'm confident we have found the right girl for the task!

A very special thanks to my new friend and sister in Christ who was faithful in prayer and gave with a servant's heart and a huge smile on her face. May God bless you immeasurably more!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Adventure is out there! Highlights from our trip to Disney!

We are HUGE Disney fans!
For us it truly is the happiest place on earth.
We love it.

One of the reasons I love it so much is the way Maddie lights up.  
A few years ago, when we were struggling so much with sensory processing issues, it's like something magical happened when we were at Disney. 
She was more her true self there; happy, complacent, engaged.
She spent a lot of her every day life in her own head and there were days I felt like I just couldn't reach her.
But then we would go to Disney and she would come alive and there was connection and joy and happiness.  
She's been doing so much better this last year, but Disney will always hold a special place in my heart for that time.  

We've been back a couple of weeks now and I've had a chance to sort through some of my favorite photos.  I only took a little over 4,000 this trip!

Our first night we went to Disney Springs for dinner.
One of the things Maddie was most excited about were the dance parties.
As soon as she heard the music, she hopped out of the stroller and started dancing!
She's got some moves, I'm telling ya!

We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside.  
I loved this resort.  
One of the things I was most excited about was the resort day we had planned.  They have cane pole fishing, surrey bikes, two different swimming pools, carriage rides, so much!
Unfortunately, on our resort day, Maddie had caught some sort of stomach virus and was so sick! 
Poor thing, she never gets sick, and this was the sickest I've ever seen her. 
Luckily, it was just a 24 hour thing.
She woke up the next morning and declared, "I'm all better!" 
The thing about Disney vacationing is you never feel like you get to do it all, hence the need to come back again!

It's tradition for us to always visit Magic Kingdom the first day of our trip.  
We got up super early to see the Welcome show.
Maddie dressed up as Minnie this day.

Maddie's first request was to ride the teacups!  
She LOVES thrill rides.
This trip she was finally tall enough to ride some of the bigger rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Mount Everest at Animal Kingdom.
Her favorite was Splash Mountain!
We rode it three times!

Magic Kingdom is my favorite park.  It's so beautiful!

We found an awesome spot to watch the Festival of Fantasy parade!

Our next day was at Animal Kingdom.
Maddie dressed up as a Wilderness Explorer like Russell in the movie Up.
She met Mickey and the gang at character breakfast, which thrilled her to no end.

It's hard to pinpoint a favorite memory, but this ranks high up on the list!
She was so excited to see Russell and Dug.
They gushed over her, and we definitely felt the love.
It was awesome.

Maddie's communication skills have improved exponentially in the last year, and she was able to interact on her own with several cast members.
She really touched a lot of hearts!

This is Yee Haw Bob, and he is also a contender for one of my favorite memories!
He plays at the River Roost 3 nights a week at Port Orleans Riverside and he was SO MUCH FUN!
Before he began, he came to each table and met everyone. 
He got down on Maddie's level and said, "I'm going to sing and play music and have lots of fun, and I love you!"
I don't know how he does it, but he has this special way of taking a song like B-I-N-G-O and making it extraordinarily fun!

The next day was Mother's Day and for a special treat we had brunch at the California Grill in the Contemporary Resort.
It exceeded all of my expectations and was super special!
Maddie dressed up as Mary Poppins this day.
(Can you tell how much she loves to play dress up?!)

I love this picture!
We were at Epcot in the Japanese store.  
She loves the movie My Neighbor Totoro, and we found this book. 
She sat right down and looked through every page!
Of course, it had to come home with us.

Later that evening at dinner, she was so tired she nearly fell asleep resting on the ledge.

The next day we were back at Epcot again and first on the to-do list was meet Joy and Sadness from the movie Inside Out!
This was so cool!  
They spent a lot of time with Maddie and Joy took Maddie over and personally showed her the memory balls.  

The best part of going to Disney this time of year is the Flower and Garden festival at Epcot. 
It's so breathtaking, I love it.

Maddie wanted to get her face painted.
She specifically asked for Donald Duck, and the painter was so talented it was no problem!

Aw, one of my favorite photos!

Our last day was back at Magic Kingdom.
Maddie dressed up like Jessie this day and we met her first thing!

Later that day, she got to dance with her during the Move It! Shake It! Dance party!
So cool!

As much as she loves the thrill rides, she can never get enough of the classics like Dumbo!

Every year we get a silhouette.
To me, this is by far the best souvenir you can come home with.
These guys are super talented!

 We left Magic Kingdom and headed to Fort Wilderness Campgrounds for dinner.
While we were waiting, Maddie took her first-ever pony ride!

His name was Nemo.

It just so happened Magic Kingdom was open until 1:00 AM so after dinner we headed back to park hoping to stay as long as we could!
This was Maddie at 1:30 AM, still going strong!

It was a great way to end an incredible vacation.
I'm sad to be back home, but so grateful for such amazing memories!