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How Do You Know?

It’s finally happening – Our new daughter is coming home!!!

Dad Just Happened!

One of the common questions about adoption asked of us is, “How do you choose your kids, um like, how do you know?” The simple answer is that we don’t, we just do! It started like this:

“Hey Amy, what do you think of adopting a kid with Down Syndrome?”

Her response: “I don’t think about adopting a kid with Down Syndrome!” Mike drop – DONE!

Several weeks later, something moves in her and she hands me this picture:

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“His name is Ivan, he’s seven years old and I love him”, Amy says to me. I look at her and see this isn’t the kind of love like my, “I love creme filled donuts”. Instead, this expression is like the moment a mother’s just-born child gets placed upon her chest. Her passion transforms a two-dimensional picture into love with length, breadth, depth and height in my own heart. It is…

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Capturing the Boroughs Family

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Twelve Stones Photography

I was looking forward to a chance to document this family for a while. It was different than any other documentary session I’ve done before, in the most awesome way. I love this huge family and their amazing hearts. The dad’s description of their family from his blog (which you should totally go check out) is “12 kids from 4 continents, 1 deaf dog, 7 seven chickens, and 2 exhausted parents all living under one roof”. Such a special family makes for a really fun afternoon of documentary photography.

From Amy and Adam:

“Dear Heather,

We just had to send you a note to thank you for the work you did on our documentary session – we love the results! 12 kids, a deaf dog and two exhausted parents make a traditional portrait session impossible. Your creative method of inserting yourself into the middle of our lives then, blending into…

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Box(ed) Score!

 Back during the President’s Day holiday, I posted about the importance of keeping my guys busy on days off of school. Well, those clever folks @ Boxed.com did it again! This month’s Creativity Kit is filled with all sorts of goodies to turn a cardboard box into hours of fun!

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The Boxed Creativity Castle kit includes template cutouts, markers, glitter glue, flags, assorted size googly eyes and more. There’s an instruction sheet with additional ideas but Boxed is careful not to stifle creativity — something I really like, as it allows the kid in this Dad to have a little fun as well. I’ll get back to that in a minute!

 Using the stencil, I traced the drawbridge door and side windows then cut them out with a utility knife. I kept the bottom portion of the drawbridge attached to the castle.

Using a Phillips head screwdriver, I poked a hole on both sides of the door post, one above the center post and two holes on either side of the door

I took the supplied rope and fed either end into the door holes and then into the ones in the doorpost. I brought both rope ends through the top center post hole from the inside of the box. Finishing, I tied them in a knot. Pulling on the the center post knot closes the drawbridge! See that cardboard packaging next to the castle? That inspired my creativity Eureka moment!

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Here’s what that was protecting:

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That’s right – Boxed.com – delivers a variety of delicious wines! and that’s the Big, Bold Red collection!

The Eureka? The packaging screamed, “Those look like castle turrets!!!”

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Nailed it!!!

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A little hot glue to the turrets and we turned the guys loose to decorate.

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And here are the finished products!

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Now, every castle needs a queen and we have six highly qualified candidate.

There was no competition when it came to who to coronate!

Maddie – the girl in the crown!!!

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Boxed.com hit it out of the park once again!!! Here’s to you!

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Boxed is a company who’s mission is to “make shopping for bulk easy, convenient and fun”.

Mission Accomplished!

Interested in trying Boxed.com? How about Dad Just Happened! refers you? Fill out the contact form below and I’ll e-mail you a $15 credit code. You’ll also be helping us cause we’ll get one too!!! Put “Boxed Referral Code” in the comment section and include your e-mail address!

Thanks for reading DadJustHappened!

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Living Jesus

A father of children with special needs can easily overlook providing one of life’s essential components –  spirituality. You can get so busy with the educational, social and medical needs that feeding their souls can take a backseat. If I’m honest,  I neglect the same need in my own life.

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.

Deuteronomy 6:6, 7

Ultimately, I believe God knew exactly what He was doing when forming my children. He intended a very special gift for my wife and me. A gift that shows joy even in hard times, success through perseverance and love despite circumstances. Our children teach us the things that Jesus lived in His life, so it only makes sense for us to nurture these in theirs.

We are fortunate to attend a church that partners with us in this endeavor. Each Sunday, a group of volunteers runs a program for children and young adults with special needs. Lessons are adapted to cognitive abilities, music and videos inspire dancing and singing and the love poured upon each child by their individual “buddies” produces an inner peace that is not easily understood.

My wife and I also benefit by being able to attend to our spiritual needs and sustenance without distraction or concern. It is an hour of freedom we both desperately need! Life with our gang is rewarding but it does take a toll. The time we get to spend in church reflecting on God’s love and help is often the very thing that gets us through our week (Seven days without God does make one weak!)

Recently, hospitalization and other life events have kept us from our Sunday ritual; this didn’t go unnoticed by the leader of the special needs ministry. Instead of judging our absenteeism, she looked for a way to meet us right in our place of need. Last Sunday, she and two volunteers took the 30 minute trip to our home and brought Sunday School into our living room – it was a Palm Sunday Spectacular!

Here are some pictures:

Additionally, Sunday dinner with all the fixings including the creative and delightful dessert below was provided. The restoration of mind, body and soul by these wonderful people led me to reflect on their reason for serving us.

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It’s found in Jesus’ final direction to his disciples during his last meal with them:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:34, 35

Wow! People knowing Jesus not by what He hated, what He’d never do or where He’d never be found but instead, He is seen when lived in the actions of others — like those of our dear friends ministering to our children. As Easter approaches, it is easy for this dad to claim – Jesus certainly does live!

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Playing 21: Down or Out?

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This week World Down Syndrome Day occurred and I love the celebratory nature of this special day.  Kids head to school with colorful, mismatched socks to say, “Being a little different is normal”. Facebook recognized the week o17361538_743916415787141_6525614584071599992_nffering their “We Got 21” frame for your favorite people with Trisomy 21. Other social media venues lit up to celebrate these special people. Special because, in my experience, most everybody that knows someone with Down Syndrome (DS) possesses a funny and/or a heart warming story about that person. On the other hand, if you simply Google search “Down Syndrome” or “Trisomy 21”  you’re likely to get a list of traits, characteristics, descriptions and symptoms; most of these fail to capture the wonderful realities.  To this end, I offer paradoxical insights into my life with those with an extra chromosome against the findings of my web search.

Trait 1: Delayed or unintelligible speech (verbal apraxia)

Reality 1: Masters of Communication

The many faces of my girls tell you the words we use make up very little of what we trying to say. Try to match their expressions with the appropriate captions below:

1.Whadya talking’ bout Dad!       3. Eeeeew Dad

            2. Stop Dad!                                      4. Voodoo on you Dad


img_1216-2Trait #2:  Congenital Heart Defects
Reality #2: Unconditional Love

I wrote about DS and unconditional love on my other blog, A Patient Nurse. The story featured my sister, Sherita and is available by clicking here. I attribute my love for DS to her and hope (if it’s not asking too much of your time) that you’ll read her story.

 


Traits #3: Shortened Stature

Reality #3: Larger than Life

Blair just had a bone age x-ray completed. It revealed his skeleton is 4 years older than his chronologic age. This means at 4’9″, he’s done growing. Despite this, he has no problem taking 6’2″ 165 lb me down to the ground in three easy moves:

  1. Jab to Gut
  2. Anaconda around my legs
  3. Tickle

This three-point attack gets me laughing to the point of incapacitation. It lead me give Blair whatever he wants just to get a breath. Typically, I go down to the ground and a Downy pile-up follows.

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Trait #4: Slow to Learn (intellectual disability)

Reality #4: Quick to Speak the Truth

If an 11 year-old tween girl tells you you’re ugly:

  1. She’s trying to hurt your feelings
  2. She’s trying to start a fight
  3. She’s  looking for a role in “Mean Girls 3”

If an 11 year-old tween girl with DS and a touch of autism, tells you you’re ugly than sorry Dad,  you is ugly! The good news is she loves you just the same as if you were Mr. Universe (see Reality #2)


Trait #5: Low muscle tone (hypotonia)

Reality #5: Tower of Strength

DS certainly comes with some setbacks but take a look at Blair. Blair took on open-heart surgery, the loss of his parents, life in an orphanage, failure to thrive and near loss of his life by the age of three. Ten years later our  “Hulky” has amazing take down skills,  the ability to make everyone smile and faces each day welcoming any challenge. He truly loves life!


This brings me to the “Out” part — my Google search did bring me to a website that raises DS awareness and also raises some uncomfortable questions. At this site, I learned  Iceland isn’t able to celebrate  World Down Syndrome Day with the same joy as others. Advanced non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is credited with reducing the number of Icelandic children born with DS to near-zero. Photographer Sigga Ella  highlights this in her photo essay First and foremost I am (click!). Her portraits of 21 Icelanders with DS are taken in the same setting and backdrop. Their personalities magically shine through and need not a word or caption. Click the link above and scroll through her work. Then, ask yourself the questions below:

  •  Is the world worse or better for having these citizens in it?
  • Are we eliminating a disease or a people?
  • What consequences come from reducing chance by choosing choice?

If we look only at the traits, characteristics, descriptions and symptoms of a Google search, we may never see reality.

A reality of beauty, perseverance, laughter and joy!

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The March of Time

A Patient Nurse

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March is a month of contradiction — the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” thing and all. We see in it the ups and downs of “March Madness” and the rogue winter storms covering freshly sprung daffodils; it is also evident in the types of patients presenting to trauma centers. March, in fact, holds in my remembrance one of my most tragic patients. A tragedy that continues to effect me both as a nurse and a father.

“FlightMed en route with a pediatric trauma code. Victim is 3 months old status post restrained rear seat passenger MVC with tractor trailer. Pediatric Advance Life Support measures in progress. 15 minutes to rooftop”

Our pediatric trauma team activates and prepares for the infant’s arrival. Personnel assemble, roles are delegated and supplies are gathered. I’m the nurse manager of this team of experts. My role is logistics and team support. There is…

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Sins of the Father

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So my oldest son is home from college for spring break and I take him to see LOGAN. Wolverine is, by far, one of our favorite Marvel characters; we’ve loved every film in the series. We settle into our seats, pretzel bites and sodas close at hand, when another father/son duo sits in front of us. The boy appears to be less than 10 years old. The lights dim and the previews start. There’s another Alien movie coming out, Power Rangers are getting a major makeover, there’s a creepy sci-fi thriller called Life (that looks a whole lot like 1979’s Alien) on the horizon. Then a bright red-backed warning comes on screen “THE FOLLOWING PREVIEW HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR RESTRICTED AUDIENCES ONLY”.

What follows is an atrocious ad for a buddy cop film looking something like what passes for “comedy” these days. The preview treats the audience to the following messages:

  • Women are for men’s sexual gratification!
  • Police are corrupt/police are idiots!
  • Homophobia can be fun!

It accomplishes this in under two minutes. I mean I’m embarrassed in front of my son and he’s 21 years old; how is the dad in front of me not running for a refund?!

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I slip my ticket stub out and realize that LOGAN is R-rated. Now, I am distracted hoping the children in the audience (I can see at least three other dad/son groups including two boys that don’t look older than five) won’t be further damaged by what lies ahead in this 2 hour and 21 minute film. The lights go black and the screen lights up; my fears are realized in the opening scene. The violence is epic. The use of Mexican-appearing immigrants as murderous car thieves is insensitive, at best;  it smells like downright racism to me. (Let’s get that wall up and all). A gratuitous full on naked breast shot of a drunken bride-to-be follows in the first few minutes.

The violence escalates through the remainder of the film. We’re treated to metallic claws driven though faces, heads blown off and Ginsu knife body chopping. This is just some of the havoc created by the 11-year old actress playing the lead female role. This is the young girl recently described by People Magazine as the “new badass child star in town!”

The storyline does weave three fathers into its tale — two good and one not so — including:

Charles Xavier — the wise old professor who “adopts” society’s outcast children and attempts to turn hurt to good.

Will Munson — a kind, hard-working farmer who protects and provides for his family to the ultimate cost. Will’s  goodness is evident in the character of his teenage son played adeptly by Quincy Fouse.

Logan — a damaged, self-centered, self-preserving rogue who resists every fatherly instinct to care for his daughter.The best line of the movie comes from the nurse who’s taken on the role of Laura’s mother (until, of course, her savage murder). She says to Logan:

“She is not my daughter, but I love her. You may not love her, but she is your daughter. Please, help her.”

These messages are likely drowned out to many by the cacophony of gore. Certainly, none of the children in attendance could pull any of this out which, brings me to the point of this post  — if we don’t protect our children, no one else will!

The American Academy of Pediatrics‘ Council on Communication and Media position statement, Media Violence, identifies the following staggering facts drawn from current literature on the subject:

By 18 years of age, the average young person will have viewed an estimated 200000 acts of violence on television alone

Prolonged exposure to such media portrayals results in increased acceptance of violence as an appropriate means of solving problems and achieving one’s goals.

Research has associated exposure to media violence with a variety of physical and mental health problems for children and adolescents, including aggressive and violent behavior, bullying, desensitization to violence, fear, depression, nightmares, and sleep disturbances.

The movie finally ends following one more brutal bloodbath involving small children being hunted by vicious, evil men. As the lights come up, I take a moment to recover. As I catch my breath, I’m suddenly filled with anger, maybe rage —  A young dad escorts his tiny son to the theater exit; the kid is not even five years old. This dad has a protective arm around his son but, his eyes are fixed downward. He feels my heat and glances at me. Guilt is what I see but then my anger becomes conviction — I brought my son too!  If the snack stand menu listed fear, depression or nightmares instead of popcorn, nachos and Milk Duds,  would I have purchased anything? Yet, that’s what the young dad did and that’s what this old dad did as well!

Logan’s last words to his daughter Laura are “Don’t be what they made you.

Maybe we fathers need to pause and pray that our poor choices don’t make our children!