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[31 for 21] ~ Guest Post by Auntie Karla…

I have a guest blogger today:)
I asked my sister Karla if she would write something from her perspective about Jake. I left it wide open, and I think she did an amazing job of sharing her heart. She is an amazing mom of 5 boys, and even with 5 boys she had time to sit down and write a blog for me:)
I am forever grateful for her friendship, for our families’ relationships, and for her undying love and support.
Thanks K!!

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Happiness and Hope.

I have started this blog post many times now and then have deleted and then re-started and then deleted and then re-started again, the pressure to keep up to my sister is very daunting, also the pressure to say the exact right thing so that the world knows all my most intimate thoughts about my feelings and emotions about my nephew Jake, and also being an auntie to the three most amazing boys! I decided however, it was better to abandon my efforts to keep up to Karyn (that’s never worked, even when we were children!!) and to simply share my heart.

The day that Jake was born was one of the happiest, most anticipated days of my life. I had five boys of my own and was privileged to have my sister be the best auntie ever to my kids, and I was very excited to be able to start returning the favor. I wanted to be able to buy loud, annoying toys and then go home when they were repeatedly played with, I wanted to be able to give candy and sugar treats and then leave when the sugar meltdown hit, I wanted to be able to laugh at stubborn behavior instead of having to discipline it, really this was going to be awesome!!

Throughout Karyn’s pregnancy she was, how do I put it nicely, a little bit of a hypochondriac, except it went past just for herself, but also to this unborn baby. Her and her baby conceived pretty much every disorder and disease that they could possibly have, all unfounded of course. It came the pattern to tell Karyn she was crazy and that her baby was perfect and for heaven’s sake just settle down. So, when she came to us and told us she was pretty sure her baby had Down syndrome, we pretty much treated that the same way we had treated every other thing she was sure her baby had, we told her she was crazy and why would she possibly think that, her baby was going to be perfect and to stop all the needless worrying.

Fast forward to the day that Jake was born, he was a little early, and quite tiny, so they needed to immediately take him to the NICU and since Curtis went with him I got the privilege of sitting in the recovery room with my sister and my mom and being able to spend some sweet time with Karyn right after her surgery. We talked about how perfect her baby was, and how I couldn’t wait to see him. Later that night, I drove home with Curtis, I will never forget the moment that he looked at me in the car at 2:30am and said, Karla, the doctors are pretty sure that Jake has Down syndrome, and worse even, Karyn didn’t know yet.

But do you want to know something, my very first thought when he said that was not one of, oh no, how could this happen, or, what are we going to do, or, that I was even devastated, I was sad yes, but for Karyn and Curtis and the vision of what they thought they were going to have that had so drastically been altered, not for myself. I felt happiness, I had a nephew, my beautiful sister had given birth to a beautiful, perfect, amazing baby that was going to bring so much to our family. I felt joy that my five boys were going to have a boy cousin to laugh with, to play with, and to grow up loving and protecting fiercely. I felt hope that Jake couldn’t have possibly been born into a better family, with parents that were going to be absolutely amazing and truly, honestly, this is the truth, I know there are moments of heartache for Karyn and Curtis, but Jake could not have better parents, and I knew this right from the moment he was born.

The next morning as I held my sobbing sister in my arms I had hope, hope for what was to come, because there may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning, and I had hope for the joy that was coming in the morning. And when I went into the NICU and saw that tiny baby in his isolette laying there, all I saw was Jake, I didn’t see a diagnosis, or a disability, I saw my perfect, amazing nephew that I loved with all my heart.

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Today my sweet nephew Jake is 3 1/2 years old and has been joined by two other amazing little brothers, and my heart hasn’t changed at all. I have only gained happiness from having Jake in my life, I have been privileged to see his infectious smile, to hear his joyful squeals, to watch him meet milestone after milestone and conquer them all, to see him sign my name, and more recently hear him say my name with joy and glee, to scream in delight when he sees his cousins and know that he is treasured and loved beyond measure. I have only gained happiness from watching my five boys rally around Jake and seek understanding and grow in compassion and acceptance and then turn and teach their peers to do the same. I have gained happiness from spending countless family dinners, outings, playtimes, holidays, birthdays together and watching Jake be just like all the other boys in our family, he is treated with love, (sometimes smothering love from my kids), kindness and respect. So, I have only gained from having Jake in my life, he is a perfect creation, exactly the way God intended him to be, and I am blessed beyond all measure to be a small part of his story.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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[31 for 21] ~ That Is Progress, People!…

Hope.

Today’s word is hope.

Ever since we started preschool in September, we have been pushing the hearing aids.
“Hearing aids?” you ask…”Does Jake wear hearing aids?!”

The answer is yes. He does (sort of). We have had them for quite a while. We went through a phase where we used them a lot, and then I had a baby. And I found it almost impossible to do everything else that we had going on in our lives, plus try and watch Jake 24-7 to make sure he wasn’t ripping them off and trying to eat them (which he has done multiple times). When we started preschool, however, we decided that it really was in his best interest to use them, and so off we went.

The only problem was, they were too small. The molds no longer fit properly in his ears, and so he would get annoyed by them very easily (I don’t blame him) and then rip them out. Constantly. All the time. Today, however, we picked up our new molds. And wonder of wonders, he left them in for a good two hours before he began to try and take them off! Progress people, that is progress!

Wanna know what else is progress? (even if you don’t, I’m going to tell you!) He has come up to me several times, as well as to Curtis a couple of times (so it’s not just my imagination) with the case in which the hearing aids reside. He has handed me the case, and pointed to his ears. Hallelujah! They are obviously making a difference and he is clearly enjoying his heightened sense of hearing if he has asked for them several times now. Hope springs eternal…hope that he will wear them, that they will make a difference, and that his speech and communication will just take off from here.

*I recognize that these pics have nothing to do with hearing! I just liked them*

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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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[31 for 21] ~ Here’s me, Leaping!!…

Hope.

Today’s word is hope.

Yesterday I wrote this post about something near and dear to my heart: a tiny little school, deep in rural Guatemala, dedicated to providing an education to children with special needs, children who have been deemed unworthy by a large part of Guatemalan society.

I desperately want them to have hope. Hope in a future that has potential. The kind of hope that I have for Jake.

The amazing family that I wrote about in yesterday’s post has ideas. They have brilliant ideas of ways to help this school. And not only do they have ideas, but they have a plan. It’s amazing ~ I’ve seen it! They have it all worked out, what could be done, what could be upgraded, what could be purchased, and learned, and taught, and provided, in order to realize this dream of hope.

The objectives that they’ve written down (and I am taking this straight from their proposal!) are:

1. Expose students to different vocational opportunities
2. Teach some of the basic principles of micro-enterprise
3. Help develop physical, intellectual and social skills
4. Cultivate dignity and self-esteem
5. Generate a small amount of revenue to reinvest in the projects and/or other school programs

Ummmm, yes please! This is something I want to get behind. This is something that will provide that elusive hope for the future for these children. This. Is. Good. Stuff. People.

So here is what I am going to do about it. Here is my small part. Hopefully it will amount to something bigger in the future, but you gotta start small, right?

I am opening an Etsy shop. It is called “321Joy” (more on that later…). You can look it up on Etsy, or follow this link to find it.
I have been planning this for a long time, and I am really excited! This is a great way for me to be creative, and have a much-needed outlet.

It will have more items in it as I continue building it. But so far all there is in my store is a line of shirts in my shop entitled “321”. These shirts serve a dual purpose. They are about Down syndrome awareness, which I am all about! But 47% of the proceeds from this “321” line of shirts will go directly towards the project for this Special Needs School in Guatemala.

Why 47%, you ask? Well, because individuals with Down syndrome possess 47 chromosomes, instead of the typical 46. So again, Down syndrome awareness, plus doing something to raise money for these students who have captured my heart.

This could flop. I am well aware of it. I mean, I think the shirts are adorbs, but come on, I made them for heaven’s sake, so I am a wee bit biased!
Regardless of the outcome, however, I really felt as though this was something I needed to do, to step out of my comfort zone and take a leap of faith. So, here’s me, leaping!!

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**If you are interested in ordering a shirt and live near me, let me know and I can just get it to you without shipping! Also, so far I’ve just got baby and toddler sizes on my Etsy shop, but if you’d like a shirt in a bigger size, leave me a comment, shoot me an email, or get in touch with me some other way, and I will be sure to make that happen too:)**

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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[31 for 21] ~ Begging For Dignity…

Heartache.

Today’s word is heartache.

This is a two-part blog.

Today, part one, I want to tell you a story. I want to give you a glimpse into a reality that is far removed from the one we are living with Jake. I want you to experience just a tiny glimpse into an achingly tragic tale. I want your heart to break as you listen to this story of injustice.

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“It was a moment unlike any I have ever experienced. These beautiful children, these precious souls, were clamoring for love. You could see it in their eyes, you could feel it in their stares, you could sense it in their presence. And as they looked up at me, begging to be accepted and treated with dignity, I couldn’t help but weep.”

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It was about 18 months ago that I had the opportunity to travel, along with a few other people from my church community, to rural Guatemala. We experienced first-hand what true poverty looks like, and it was devastating. It is a vicious beast, attacking individuals in many ways, stripping them of opportunities, of dignity, and of respect. It is a destroyer of hope, a degrader of persons.

In rural Guatemala, few are more prone to degradation than those with disabilities. For me as a mother of an amazing little boy with a disability, this was heartbreaking.

One of the days that I was in Guatemala, we spent the day at a school for children with special needs.
As we walked into the school and watched as the children poured out of their classrooms and congregated around us, I wept. It was, as I quoted above, a moment unlike any I had ever experienced.

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I cried with and for the teachers as I listened to them share their hearts. The teachers at this school want desperately to help their students succeed, but often feel they are swimming upstream. Between the lack of resources, their lack of training, and political tensions between the government policies and life “on the ground”, they often find themselves discouraged.

I ached as I listened to story after story of hardship, of hopelessness, of sorrow, and of pain. Stories of children who can only make it to school once a week because their families do not have the bus fare to be able to send them more often. Stories of children who are mistreated or abused at home. Stories of children who’s only disability is their inability to hear, but are placed in a special school because there is no one who can help them function and thrive within the regular school system.

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I left Guatemala with a heavy heart as I contemplated the future of these beautiful children.
I haven’t stopped thinking about them ever since. I haven’t stopped considering how I can help, even in a small way.

Tomorrow I want to share with you the way I desire to do something to play a part, albeit small, in this story.

Also, if this story resonates with you at all, READ THIS BLOG!! It was written by my wonderful friend Natalie. Her and her husband Shawn and their three children are living in Guatemala, working with this school (and doing about a million other things at the same time). This blog entry has haunted me since the day I read it. She is a phenomenal writer and shares my passion for this school and for these precious souls (okay, probably more accurately I share her passion!).

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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[31 for 21] ~ These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

Happiness.

Okay, I know I’ve posted about the word happiness for a few days in a row now.

I will switch it up tomorrow, but what I want to show you requires few words but much happiness.
Back about six months ago, we won a free photo shoot from PREP (www.prepprog.org), the organization where Jake attends preschool.
Back a couple of weeks ago, we had our family photo shoot in the beautiful fall leaves.
Back a few hours ago, I downloaded the pictures from said photo shoot onto my computer.

This is happiness.
Enjoy:)

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

View More: http://looktwicebykelli.pass.us/slater-family

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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[31 for 21] ~ Half-Right is Better Than Wrong…

Happiness.

Yep, I picked happiness again today.

This afternoon we attempted bowling as a family, with a whole bunch of family and friends from our church. And now it is 8:08pm, and I am lying in bed typing, completely and utterly exhausted.

I am willing to concede that I was not right. I will not, however, concede that I was wrong. Where does that leave me then? I suppose it leaves me with being half-right, which is always better than flat-out wrong! Intrigued? Let me expand…

Curtis and I debated long and hard over whether or not to go bowling.
He thought it would be too hard. He thought our kids were too little. He thought it might end up being disastrous. He thought our kids would get bored.
I thought it was a great opportunity. I thought it would be a new experience that our kids would love. I thought they could just play with their cousins if they started to get bored. I thought it would be worth the difficulty.

Here is a smattering of what happened in the two hours we were at the bowling alley:

* I didn’t see our 6 month old Noah for most of the afternoon. He just got passed around from person to person. Thank goodness for a great church community who can pick up the slack for us when we are too busy to parent our youngest child!
* We almost lost Jake. Literally. We turned our back for a second and he was gone, and by the time Curtis found him he was one stair away from climbing to the top of the stairs and heading out the front door into the parking lot. Scary.
* Cole thought it would be fun to lie in the gutter and stay there.
* Jake and Cole both ran down one of the lanes, and we had to run after them and retrieve them. Cole only did it once, but Jake did it multiple times.
* Jake felt it would be a good idea to lie down on the part where the balls are, with his head facing the part where the balls shoot up. He was about 2 seconds away from getting smoked in the head with a ball when Curtis noticed and rescued him.
* Cole threw the ball into another lane in the middle of someone’s turn. Multiple times.
* I watched both of my kids’ eyes light up as they got to grab a ball, approach the line, and throw it as hard as they could down the lane. Jake stood and screamed “ball, ball” at the top of his lungs the entire time the ball was slowly making it’s way down the gutter, and then threw his hands up in the air and shouted “hooray”. Cole looked on with pride as he actually knocked a couple of the pins down.

And so, I say that I was half-right, which is better than wrong. Our kids had a fantastic time. They got to experience something new, and the joy that I could see in their faces was definitely worth the effort. But…It. Was. Challenging.

Oh, and the theme was “80’s bowling”. But I hate dressing up. So instead, Curtis dressed up in full 80’s regalia, and I did something different. Check out the pic for yourself:) (Oh and in case you are wondering why I didn’t post any pics of Curtis, it is because we were so busy running after our kids that I didn’t get any on my phone, and I am still waiting for the person who took the picture to send it to me!)

We are all numbers in the 80's...everything from 80-89. A different twist on "80's bowling"...okay I'm a dork!!

We are all numbers in the 80’s…everything from 80-89. A different twist on “80’s bowling”…okay I’m a dork!!

Jake getting ready to bowl!

Jake getting ready to bowl!

 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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[31 for 21] ~ Who’s the Lucky One?…

Happiness.

Today’s word is happiness. Actually, a more suitable word might be thankfulness or gratitude, but seeing as both of these words cause me to feel happiness, I’ll stick with that one for today.

Last week was rough for me.
I have already mentioned that I am tired, that I am waking up multiple times a night with both Noah and Jake, and that my exhaustion is at an all-time high. It was Wednesday morning. My hubby had left early that morning, so I was on a time crunch to get all three kids up, ready, and out the door to drop off Jake at preschool. Enter the biting incident. My emotions, which at the best of times are precariously perched on the edge of a precipice, could not stand up under the pressure of the events of the morning, and I fell apart.

I cried at home, rocking and comforting my baby boy (who incidentally, cried for about 90 seconds and then got over it and was fine). I sobbed into the phone as I called my husband to recount the story. I teared up while saying goodbye to Jake at preschool. I dropped Jake off, stopped in to see the Occupational Therapist that works with his class, and bawled uncontrollably in her office. I left the preschool, tried to forget about my sadness, and failed miserably. I went back to pick Jake up from preschool, and lost my composure again, crying uncontrollably in another office with more staff members. I used more Kleenex that morning than I have in the last two months combined!

Here’s where the thankfulness and gratitude comes in.
I am thankful to everyone in my life who loved me, supported me, encouraged me, and spoke truth to me that day.
I am especially thankful to the women at PREP (www.prepprog.org), the place where Jake goes to preschool. These women are amazing.

First of all, they love my kid. Unconditionally. And not only do they love my kid, but they love my whole family. I can actually feel their love and support, and it is an incredible blessing. For this love, I am undeniably thankful.

Second of all, they went above and beyond for me. It is not in any of their job descriptions to sit and listen to a weepy, bawling mess of a woman. It is not their responsibility to provide a shoulder to cry on. It is not their duty to provide comforting words, to give perspective, to show me the bigger picture, to empathize with me, or to encourage me above and beyond the scope of their job. But they did all those things and more. In my moment of absolute vulnerability and weakness, they treated me with respect, dignity, grace, and understanding. They were a soothing, healing balm for my soul. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

And thirdly, I am forever grateful that my complete and utter meltdown did not change their perception of me. I was able to be fully present in my moment of weakness and have them meet me there. But I came back to preschool this week, and they did not walk on eggshells around me. They did not treat me with pity, or look at me as a weak person. They recognized the moment for what it was, but did not let it define their view of me. My gratitude to these wonderful women runs deep.

Who’s the lucky one?
I am.

Bad day...

Bad day…

Better day.

Better day.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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