Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Meet Claire, The Book

There were a few reasons I wanted to make a getting to know you book for Claire to bring to school with her this year.  
  • Give her an opportunity to share with her teachers some of the things she enjoys, just like every kindergartner would. 
  • Introduce Claire to her new teachers. 
  • Share a little about special situations in her home life like being a military family and having younger sisters.
  • Talk about down syndrome.
  • Be open about some challenges Claire experiences.
  • Share Claire's strengths and accomplishments. 
  • Thank her teachers for choosing to teach in an integrated classroom and let them know how important that is to us.
  • Let staff know that Claire is a very loved and very special girl with a team of family and friends behind her who support and love her tremendously. 
With that in mind, hope it's not too over the top.  She is really excited to bring her book to open house tomorrow.  She asked me to read the page about the things she loves over and over.  It was so cute and totally worth it even if it was just to make her feel special. 


There are a lot of Super things about me:
I am very friendly!
I like to help!
I am adopted!
I caught a fish!
I have Down Syndrome!
I LOVE school!

My Family is really great!  We are the Leitz family and we love having fun together: camping, swimming, playing games, walking, boating…
I am the big sister in my family.  My little sister Makenna is 2 years younger than me and Alice is 4 years younger than me.  We have three gilrs and
Mommy and Daddy!
We help children who don’t have family to take care of them sometimes.  It’s called foster care.   I like to play with the kids who come to stay,
especially the babies.

I love a lot of things but what I love the most is playing with my sisters.

Tea parties
Dress up…
We play, play, play!

playing with friends,
dancing in the kitchen,
reading books, my dog…

Mary Poppins,
going on dates with
Mom and Dad,
singing, spaghetti
and so much more.

I have Down Syndrome; that just means that I have an extra Chromosome.  Sometimes I need a little extra help to think things through and it really helps when people explain what’s up and give me some time to figure it out.  I definitely don’t let this chromosome slow me down, I love to learn and have fun!

Am I rock’en this extra chromosome or what?

I have friends, young and old,
who have Down Syndrome too
(and lots of friends who don’t). 
We go to Special Olympics,
horseback riding and DS
connections together. 
I love all my friends.

My hero is my Daddy,
not just because he is totally awesome,
which he is, but because he works to keep us safe.  My Daddy, Nate, is in the Air Force.  Sometimes he goes away and that makes me sad because I love to spend time with my Daddy.  
He always comes home and gives me lots of hugs.

I love to make people laugh.

I love to make new friends and saying hello to people!  I’m working on having meaningful conversations.  I am good at asking “what is your name?” and getting better at “can I play with you?”  Thank you for helping me be a kind friend because I just love people! 

Sometimes I feel sad and have a hard time listening and following along but I love it when people take time to help me cheer up.  I have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and sometimes my tummy hurts.  Sometimes I get distracted.  Thank you for being patient with me.

I ride a white horse named sugar.  She helps me stay strong and healthy.
I am so good at swimming!
I love gymnastic.
I like going to the library and reading books.

I love music and performing at Kindermusik.
I go to school and ride the bus.
I go to Sunday school.
I ride my Buzz Lightyear bike.
I love bowling and cheering everyone on.
I can help and put away my dishes.
I can walk my dog, Deacon.

Thank you for creating an environment where I can learn and be with my friends!
Thank you for teaching me
Thank you for being my friend

Smiles, Encouragement, Hugs

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me"

I am oozing stress about Claire going into Kindergarten right now.  I can’t stop thinking about it.  The other day at Meaghan’s new house, right in the middle of dinner, I (almost involuntarily) blurted out “Claire is going to get kicked out of kindergarten” in front of everyone.  I am so ashamed.  Like so many leaves caught up in the wind I watch my words and worries fly.  My mess was more feelings than thoughts, spilling out, unchecked.  And out of the heart the mouth speaks. “We will see what happens,” my wise friend replied.  All I could think about was; what is wrong with me?  Why would I say that? Where did this tyrannosaurus for anxiety come from?  Of all God's commands: Do not steal, lie, commit adultery, become drunk... I feel like do not worry should have come with instructions.

When I read the Bible, Old Testament especially, and God’s chosen people are forgetting and forsaking him time and time again even after they had experienced his faithfulness it makes me think, wow, that is so me.  They were firsthand witnesses to rivers of blood and seas parting and pillars of fire leading them through waste lands and still, again, they turn their backs on their God.  And I, in spite of experiencing forgiveness, rest, mercy, wonder… grow weary with the waiting, seeking in the dessert of my soul. 

I have heard and read many statements like “Having a child with special needs is the best thing that ever happened to me,” and I think, having a child with special needs is the best thing that ever happened to me in the same way 40 years in the wilderness was the best thing for the Israelites.  Not that I think God is punishing me, He was taking His people out of slavery, and He is saving me by changing me.  I know the journey leads to promised land but today feels like peril.  I’m freaked out about Kindergarten next month because Claire put about 100 rocks in her mouth at the beach today just to defy me and threw sand at her sisters’ right after I told her not to and refused to walk down the stairs and took food off of someone’s plate… and I am tired.  I want better for her and I am afraid this pilgrimage is not taking a turn toward greener pastures.  God, you took my life and pointed it to the unknown; I am afraid.  I feel this weight, I can’t withstand the force of its crushing magnitude, a life is in the balance but I can’t fix any of these problems!  I can’t lift this weight!   I’m so frustrated “Why the dessert God!” I’m so sick of sand and therapy and repetition and defiance and advocacy.  Remind me Father, I need to remember the miracle.  You restore the broken because we will be broken.  Here, in this pressed down space you fill my cup with your manna of faithfulness for today.  I am full of gratitude for you because I am emptied of myself.  This place of, I can’t do it without you, is the gift.  I cry out, I have lost my way because I walked away.

So here I am with a confession and a prayer. 

Father God, are the creator of the heavens and of this small heart.  You hold me as I call to you for wisdom and strength.  I don’t want to give up because I know the victory belongs to you God.  I don’t know the ending, I can’t fix this match but you will be glorified in it.  I remember your faithfulness to me. You already defeated sin and death because you love your people, your creation.  I am your creation.  I love you.  Thank you from saving me.

This really is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I am so thankful for Claire and all that she has shown me and all that I have learned.  You have changed me, thank you.

Alice, Makenna and Claire slip-n-slide with uncle Toni and uncle Harley;    Claire 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ten Years, Five Do Overs and A Class Reunion

Thoughts on the high school reunion and why it matters…

People mature, and you know they will, but how do you approach the unknown, where to break the ice?  But not just ice, ice that changed how you saw the word, at least for a while, and who you have become.  For better or worse high school is a part of us all.  In fact, I've spent a few hours in counseling myself trying to sort out what four years can do to a girl.  It's hard to put yourself back out there but you never know who made your life miserable in high school will be your new favorite person to follow on face book and trust me, you'll be glad you found out.  Not everything changes.  There were still those guys, running wild, free from responsibility and maturity, blacked out all weekend long, but not the majority. Happily, we discovered it wasn’t putting yourself out there for post pubescent, popular high school snobs to judge and compare what you have been doing with your life.  It was more like being in a group of people who look crazy familiar but when you start talking to them you discover that you don't really know them at all, maybe you never did.  You have a conversation and suddenly forget what was so different about the two of you, you just might be friends. 

As for that question, how to break the ice, I found that thawing even the most timid, suspicious of hearts, a simple hug will do the trick.  I didn't need an apology; I didn't want one, but a hug, that says it all.  I'm happy to see you, you look great, I really want to know how you are doing... yep, a hug says it all.  I got hugs from a lot of old friends and that felt nice but I also got some hugs from people I wasn't even friends with in high school, healing, forgiving, honest hugs that meant so much to me, for that, thank you. 

Confession, I saw an old, faithful, wonderful friend in the Ephrata Wal-Mart a few years ago.  I hadn’t seen him in about five years and because our last encounter was an intense one and I was nervous and completely caught off guard I said, “Hi, How are you?  Are you still married?”  Ahhhh, who says that, are you still married, really?  As you can imagine this incredibly uncomfortable conversation was short.   Embarrassed and red faced I watched him walk away, wallowing in my own ridiculousness, do over please.   I wish I could bump into him now and say, “Remember when I saw you in Wal-Mart, I’m so sorry, how is your family?  And remember when you totally put yourself out there that one time to save my butt, thank you, you’re kind of my hero.  And I have been praying for you and thanking God for you for years.”  That’s what I wanted to say and managed to get out the exact opposite.  

Social anxiety, no wonder so many of my friends will not go to their class reunions, because they might do that fifty times in one weekend.  I totally get it, valid fear, but if we are all fools together we might get some of those words we meant to say out and that is worth looking the fool.  I got to see a beautiful friend, the only girl my age who ever lived on our block, and say some of those things I should have said fifteen years ago.  I was not the friend I wanted to be and got to say “I’m sorry, I have always admired you and even though we didn’t speak much in high school tears of pride where in my eyes when you ran for Miss Ephrata.  You are so beautiful inside and out.  I want to be your friend.”  She is coming over for dinner with her family on Friday.  Thank you God for do overs! 

Looking over the list of RSVPs I felt a little pang looking at a few names.  I thought those people  were so hurtful and I’m really not looking forward to catching up but about two hours into the picnic I ran into one.  Imagine my surprise when they hugged me.  Okay, and we are hugging now, cool, I guess this is going to be fine.  Then he proceeded to ask me some of the most thoughtful, insightful questions about my life and be awesome to my children who were all well into their two o’clock and I haven’t napped tantrums.  Now I have a new friend and I’m so glad we met.  So to all my friends who didn’t want to go “because I’m friends with the people I want to see and I don’t want to see anyone else.”  YOU TOTALLY MISSED OUT! 

I think being okay with who you are makes all the difference.  I'm proud of the last ten years even though they did not include a bachelor’s degree and did include maybe more children than is socially acceptable, three.  I love toddlers, foster care, PAVE (family advocacy), Special Olympics, being an Air Force wife, Down syndrome parent support... Sometimes I love less; diapers, doing dishes, time outs... This is my busy, crazy, wonderful life and there is nothing to be ashamed about.  So you've been in school for the last ten years because you discovered something you are passionate about after getting a degree for something you'll never use, you had your first child at 17 and have been working ever sense, you design fly fishing equipment... it's your story. When you come contented with who you are you are going to be able to enjoy the diversity in everyone else. 

My only regret of the reunion was that I wish I had got to spend more time talking to a few people.  One dear friend flew all the way from California and we barely got a few sentences in before getting sidetracked, as toddlers will do.  My junior high walking home buddy has been in the peace core for years and we didn't get a chance to catch up, bummer, I so would have loved to hear about that.  People in pictures posted after, man, I didn't even see them.  Some classmates who caused pain I know have changed I didn't get a chance to give one of those hugs.  I guess that's who I'll hug first after another ten years.  I'm remembering where I have been and I'm thinking about where I am going.  I regret how I should have loved better and things I still want to change about myself.  It's a good time for some self inventory. I hope when this rolls around again I will have changed as much again and look forward to meeting a whole bunch of familiar looking strangers. 

Ephrata High School class of 2002, I'm so glad I got to see you ten years down the road. 

Michelle, Me, Ashley