A Look Back at 2013

Like most people I'm sitting here reflecting on 2013 and pondering what may be in 2014. It's a little disheartening sometimes to look back on a whole year and measure it out in terms goals accomplished or not accomplished. I didn't complete any degrees in higher education, get a job promotion, run a marathon, run. at. all., didn't read my book list - or even half of it - I read 3 books...THREE - unless you count children's books, then I'm quite the reader, didn't travel to anywhere incredibly exciting, complete anything on my bucket list (I really need to make that list more realistic), haven't lost all the baby weight, didn't learn a new skill or hobby - unless you count taking 4 children to the grocery store without losing one a skill. I'm sitting here thinking "What did I do?"

I had a baby. A really, really sweet, happy, adorable baby girl. I spent the first 4ish months of the year pregnant and in a perpetual state of nausea, heart burn and back pain. I've spent the past 8ish months snuggling and feeding that sweet baby girl, watching her big brothers dote on her, watching her smile, learn to sit up, crawl, and stand up.

And she is one of the 4 greatest "accomplishments" of my life. 

I'm learning to measure my life in the moments that really matter. 

So here's to 2014 and the "ordinary" moments of motherhood it may bring. 

What "They" Can't Tell You

Often, I'd say several times a year, I get an email or Facebook message from a friend telling me that one of their friends just found out they're unborn or newborn child has Down Syndrome. Then they ask me if I would reach out to them, or can they give their friend my contact info. "Yes!" I always say "Yes!" Here's why...When I was 13 weeks pregnant with Hudson we were told that he would never make it to 20 weeks and that he appeared to have Trisomy 13. When I was 21 weeks pregnant we found out that the Doctor was wrong, Hudson was still growing and he had Down Syndrome. Immediately, the Dr. mentioned abortion, genetic counseling, and a slew of potential problems our son would face. When we met with a genetic counselor, she too talked mostly about all the health problems and difficulties Hudson would face if we decided to continue his life and give birth. It felt like we were bombarded with negativity.  Although my heart was full of hope, even joy over the upcoming birth of our sweet Hudson. We didn't know anyone with a child with Down Syndrome. We didn't have anyone to connect with, to tell us all the wonderful things about having a child with Down Syndrome. So I want to take this chance to tell you what "they", those tests, Doctors, Counselors,  those party-poopers can't tell you.

They can't tell you that when you hold your baby in your arms he will melt your heart. That he will look at you with those beautiful eyes, and just like any other baby, he will own your soul. He will make you see beauty in places you never before noticed. He will teach you what determination means, what hard work is as he takes his first steps or conquers the ladder to the playground slide. His laugh will make the worst of days better. When he talks, you will hang on his every word, because the sound of him speaking is the sound of victory. He will take you by the hand, ask you to dance, and you'll have to stop whatever you're doing because he's just to cute to say, "No" to. He will love you unconditionally. You will love him unconditionally. His zeal for life will be contagious. He will make you see people differently, in a new light. He will make you want to be a better person. He will make you a better person. No "test" can predict the joy he will bring into your family. There is so much "they" can't tell you about being the parent of a child with Down Syndrome, but as Hudson and Kole's Mom, I can.

Something To Be Aware Of

October is Down Syndrome awareness month. I haven’t posted anything on Facebook about it, and those that are friends with me may or may not notice, but I rarely do post anything which relates to my having two sons with DS. I want to be clear, it’s not that I am embarrassed, at all. It’s that, for me, Kole and Hudson having Down Syndrome is like your child having blond hair, or a birth mark. It’s just part of who they are. So it’s not really something I think about all the time. God has given me eyes that just see them as my sons, not as their disability. But, it gets tricky being Kole and Hudson’s Mom, because sometimes when others look at them all they see is disability, all they see is everything they can’t do. As a Mom I just want people to see them, and everything, the so many things they can do; the many things they are besides boys with Down Syndrome. I try; I really try to let certain comments roll off my back. We get them so often, the questions from total strangers, the stares, the comments about physical attributes etc… And let me just say, it stinks.

This past Sunday I got the “double whammy” from someone at church. I’ll just preface this story by saying, we love our church. I went to get Hudson from his Sunday School class and out of the blue someone says, “Now Kole and Lane and Hudson aren’t real brothers, right?” I thought for a few seconds, then replied, “Well, Kole is adopted if that’s what you mean. But, they all think of each other as brothers. So yes they are real brothers.” What I wanted to say is, “Yes, they’re brothers! I didn’t whittle Kole out of wood like Pinocchio. They are REAL brothers.” People, listen, adopted children are their adoptive parents’ real children and their adoptive siblings’ real brothers and sisters. Kole is ours. He is my real son. The End.

Oh, but the questions didn’t stop there. Round two started. “So, what’s wrong with Kole?” he continued. I could feel my ears getting hot. I took a deep breath. “Well, I guess you must mean that Kole has Down Syndrome.” “Oh, there’s nothing wrong with Lane though, right?” Me, “I guess not.” Then he looked at Hudson, who was bending over to pick up several toys that some other perfect kid had thrown all over the floor, and said, “Well, what’s wrong with him?” I think I almost had a rage blackout at that moment, but the Holy Spirit kept me chill. I answered quietly, “Hudson has Down Syndrome as well. But, listen buddy; it is so rude to say the things you just said. Could you imagine if I just walked up to you and said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’” He mumbled something and then, praise God, someone else walked over and interrupted.

Parents, people, please imagine with me for one minute how you would feel if someone walked up to you and found your one “flaw” or your child’s one “flaw” and then proceeded to point it out to you. How would you feel if someone asked you, “What’s wrong with your kid?” “Why are you so fat?” “What’s up with that mole over your lip?” Or some other incredibly rude question. Furthermore, there is nothing “wrong” with people with Down Syndrome or any other disability. The sooner you realize that all human beings were fearfully and wonderfully made and created in God’s image, the happier we’ll all be. So in this month of Down Syndrome awareness, if all you see when you look at someone is their “ability”, then as we jokingly say in our house, “Shut your pie hole.”

Being a Mom.

So, the other day I wrote a Facebook post about how SAHMs need to simmer down on the complaining and publicly slamming their children. As you can imagine it was met with sheer joy and acceptance from everyone. No it was not. Although many thought it was funny and/or true, there were several who found it judgmental, abrasive, unkind etc… Some viewed it as an attack on the validity of being a stay-at-home-mom; which it was not. Others made comments about how working outside the home is easier or how we are all just trying our best. Others defended the need to publicly vent and complain about their children or the difficulty of being a stay-at-home-mom. Admittedly, I could have sugar coated it, made it nicer, been more passive aggressive or what have you. But, I’m not really one known sugar coat. And I like to add, that yes, maybe my post should have included ALL moms not just stay-at-home-moms. Due to the number of comments, private messages, and texts I got both applauding and denouncing my post, I’d like to expound some on what I wrote and on some things I’m learning as a Mother of 4 rockin’ kids.
1) I do, in fact, realize that no one is perfect, and I don’t claim to have reached perfection myself.
2) Let’s stop kidding ourselves that we are “doing the best we can.” I’d say I’m a pretty mediocre parent. Most days I don’t do my best. I think that realizing I can do better is much more productive than accepting the mediocrity of yelling at my kids, complaining to everyone, and making my kids feel like a burden. I can do better, and I should.
3) I think it’s hypocritical to tell others, especially for Christian Moms to tell other women that having kids is God’s design and having big families is how it should be, or how we should stay at home and raise our children, then turn around and publicly bemoan the difficulties of having said children. I recently had a friend, who is not a mother, ask me “Is being a Mom really that stressful and that awful.” I was a little taken back and said “Why do I seem stressed out a lot?” She said, “No, but it seems like all the Moms at my church do is complain about being home with their kids, and talk about how stressful it is” Ouch… It’s true though. Isn’t it? We say we have the greatest “job” and everyone should do it too, but then we make it seem so terrible at the same time.  I think we need to do a better job of publicly proclaiming the joys of parenthood. Stop scaring women away from motherhood! Furthermore, if we talked about our spouse or our friends the way we talk about our kids, I don’t think people would think we love them.
4) I don’t think you hate your kids just because you complain about them. I just think the complaining is counterproductive and wrong. However, I do think there is a difference between finding humor in the chaos of life and complaining about it or verbally slamming your kids. Jen Hatmaker has become one of my favorite authors. I find the way she writes about herself and family to be hilarious. But, I also think that she doesn’t come across as a complainer and doesn’t publicly slam her children. Laughter really is the best medicine. So many times we have a choice to either laugh about something our kids did or let it send us over the edge into Mommy rage.
5) I realize that not everyone views being a stay-at-home-mom as a valid career choice, but it is. Although, I’ve never had anyone make a comment of that nature to me when I was “just” a stay-at-home Mom. It seems apparent, especially, in light of a recent popular Matt Walsh blog, that some people think being a stay-at-home-mom is not a “real” job. I was a SAHM for a few years and now I work about 30 hours a week, I’ve also previously worked 40+ hours a week while being a Mom. Every situation has its challenges and stresses. Right now I choose to work. Yup, you read that right; I don’t have to work outside the home; I choose too. Boom! When I was a stay-at-home-mom, with the exception of a time period when one of my children had some serious health problems, I had the choice to stay-at-home. If you’ve chosen to stay-at-home, great! Own that choice. If you’ve chosen to work outside your home, great. They’re valid choices and you don’t need someone else to validate those choices for you. But, stop looking for praise or affirmation from others or your children for the choice you made. It ain’t gonna happen.
6) Which leads me to my next point…Stop caring so much what other people think of you.  You will never agree with everyone on everything. Stop letting the fear of others disapproval or need for approval dictate how you live and what you do. Care about what Jesus thinks. Stick to your convictions. And understand that someone may fervently and verbally disagree with you, but it doesn’t mean it’s a personal attack or that they are an awful person. I recently read a blog post by none other than Matt Walsh about his disdain for the public education system. I really didn’t like some of what he said or how he said it. But, I don’t think he hates people that send their kids to public school and I don’t think he is an awful person.
7) Your child/children’s behavior is not the litmus test for your how good of parent you are. Some people might think you’re a bad parent when your kid has a meltdown or says a bad word, but you can’t let their opinion dictate how you respond to your children or how you measure your parenting success. Recently, we took all 4 kids out to eat at a fairly nice restaurant; it was a risky choice, but I really wanted something good to eat that I didn’t have to cook (plus my cooking usually stinks). Amazingly, all 4 children were really “good.” Another couple even complimented my husband and I on how well behaved our kids were. And they said we “must be doing something right.” It was luck people. Kids are like ticking time bombs; you never know when they might go off. At any moment during that meal Charlotte could have woken up crying, Hudson could have started yelling in his growling monster voice, Kole could’ve started talking to his invisible friend, and Lane could’ve started yelling at Kole to stop talking to said friend, while simultaneously loudly explaining to the waiter, “He’s adopted! From Ukraine!” Would we still have been “doing something right?” I’m not saying we just let our kids do whatever they want and never correct them. But, we can’t control their every move or sound.
8) You want others to cut you some slack, show some grace, and realize that no one is perfect. Do the same for your kids. I could write a lot more on this, but I’ll just say, our kids are little versions of us. Sometimes they are the worst versions of both parents. They are not perfect, show them some grace too.
9) Love your kids for who they are. I recently read an article by a Dad/Pastor  in which he lamented how he had projected his dreams on to his children and how he had focused so much on everything his son did wrong and had failed to accept his son for who he was. So his son found acceptance in others who were not good influences. It was really convicting. I’m not saying we don’t teach, correct, and help our children grow to be discerning, God-honoring adults. But we need to be content with how God created them and learn to praise their differences and embrace their “quirks.”
10) It’s OK to compare. By this I don’t mean think of yourself as better than others. I do mean that it can be beneficial to take a good hard look around us and realize that we have it pretty good. There are a lot of people who have it way worse. I also mean that there are Moms who are doing a way better job than I am, and I can learn from them. I had the opportunity to be part of a church, when I was a single college student, where there were a lot of wonderful mothers who were great examples.  Some of them went through worse trials with their children than I can imagine, and they handled it with faith and grace. Some raised children as single Moms. Some had very little money. It’s not that they made parenting look super easy; clearly it was hard work. It’s that they were content. It’s that they made me look forward to becoming a mom because of the joy they had in parenting. That’s the kind of Mom I want to be.

Lane Miles for Ron Paul


It has been far too long since I last blogged. Time has just gotten away from me. Brace yourself for what you are about to hear, because if you know me at all, what I am about to say will probably shock you. My children are now...HOMESCHOOLERS. Yes, one of the things I said I would never do I am now doing. And most days I am thoroughly enjoying it. At the beginning of November, Drew and I made the decision to take Lane and Kole out of public school and begin homeschooling. I guess I was naive to think that if I was very involved in the school that it would make a difference. It didn't. At least 2 days a week I went and ate lunch with my boys in the school cafeteria, something they loved. I was absolutely appalled to hear teachers yelling at their students and snapping at them. On more than one occasion one of the assistant principals (who happens to be a 6foot 4inch tall football coach) walked up and down the aisles yelling out for the kids to quiet down, as if he were barking orders at a football team. For whatever reason the school has it in their heads that yelling at kindergarteners and dressing them in uniforms is going to help with discipline issues. It hasn't. I really was shocked at the lack of respect many teachers and adminstrators have for the children at their school. And yet, they seem shocked when those children respond disrespectfully. It seems pretty elementary (pun intended)to me that children respond and react to the authority over them based on how that authority speaks and acts toward them. Lane and Kole were fortunate to have two teachers who were patient and kind, but unfortunately they still had to interact with teachers and parapros who were not. In fact, Lane came home in tears more than once because of something a parapro or teacher said to him. Oh yes, making saracastic threats to children also seems perfectly acceptable at Claxton Elementary School. Now, I have tried to teach my kids to be forgiving and understanding. I don't want them to be wimps, but I never thought that my advice would have to be applied to their interactions with teachers. I expect that other children would say and do mean things, but was shocked to see that type of behaviour is typical for those in authority at the school. The "last straw" was when I was standing in Kole's classroom, talking with his teacher, when I heard another teacher scream at Kole out in the hallway. Kole had gotten out of the bathroom line, and this teacher just let him have it. When I walked out into the hall I saw Kole standing there with his face in his hands, almost in tears. What kind of a mean, impatient, terrible person screams at a little boy who 1) has Down Syndrome, 2)has a hearing problem, 3) is still learning English, and 4) is a LITTLE boy! The look on Kole's face at that moment when I walked into the hall was it for me. I know to some it may seem like an overreaction to pull my children out of school because a teacher yelled. But, I say, "shame on the school for treating children like dogs, and shame on so many parents for not standing up for their children." Sometimes I think parents are so uninvolved, they are clueless as to what their children are really being taught. And even when they see something they disapprove of, they are too scared to stand up for their children. I've never wanted to hit someone so badly in my life as I wanted to hit that teacher. But, I didn't, I didn't even yell at her, because I wanted to set a better example for my children. So, that was the last week of public school for Kole and Lane. Now we are one of "those" families. A homeschooling family. To end on a positive note. God has used what was a "bad situation" to bring me closer to Kole and Lane as we learn together. They are both doing so well academically now; I wish I had started homeschooling sooner.

On the Occasion of Kole's 7th Birthday

As we are getting ready to celebrate Kole's 7th Birthday there are so many thoughts and emotions swirling through my brain. It is crazy to think that at this time last year we were still preparing our dossier to submit to Ukraine and waiting for the day when we could bring our son, Kole, home. I distinctly and vividly remember the day of April 7, 2010, Kole's Birthday; the anguish I felt that our son would be spending another birthday in an orphanage. Just like any other day, being treated as though his life was of little significance to anyone. Kole not knowing that his Mommy, Daddy, and two brothers were counting down the days til he would be with us. Kole not knowing that he is worth celebrating, that his life is significant to us, his family. And not just significant to us, but to the God who created him in His image, who formed his very being with purpose, especially that extra 21st chromosome. That chromosome that makes him different, the reason he was placed in an orphanage at birth, the reason he was to be sent to a mental institution for the rest of his life; it is the very thing that led us to him, the very thing that made us want him. That's the kind of God we serve; He takes wrong and turns it into something good and beautiful.

(Kole as a baby in the orphanage)

And we look back on these months that Kole has been home with us, we are amazed at the progress he has made. When we first met Kole, he had no idea what a crayon was or how to use it, he couldn't climb the playground set, he barely uttered a sound, he didn't play with other children, he was nervous to hug. Now, he is writing his name, he can conquer any playground, he is speaking several English words, he is playing on a soccer team, and he gives out hugs to everyone. Sometimes it angers me that for the first 6&1/2 yrs of his life he was treated as thought he couldn't learn, like he wasn't worth teaching; when he is so eager to learn, to try, to be given a chance.

People often say that what we did by adopting Kole is amazing or that we are such a blessing to him; but I mean it with all my heart when say that they are wrong; Kole is the blessing, Kole is the amazing one.

Kole has made our family better.

Kole is remarkable. And on Saturday Kole will finally get a Birthday party, and we will celebrate all that is Kole.

We hope in some small way he will understand that he is worth celebrating.