3 x 21: Shifting Perspectives

A mom post tonight…

We’re very lucky to have some incredible role models for Lily within our Down Syndrome family and sometimes I need those role models as much, if not more, than she does. There are times when we’re hitting a milestone roadblock or we’re up to our ears in non-stop vomiting that I find an unmeasurable amount of solace in looking at Lily’s counterparts and enveloping myself in their amazing lives.

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In 2012, the UN General Assembly declared March 21st as World Down Syndrome Day, “to reaffirm that persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others. Let us build an inclusive society for all.” (Ban Ki-moon).

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Last year was our first year celebrating World Day Syndrome Day as Lily’s parents and we celebrated it quietly and with just the three of us. This year we chose to spend the day embracing our lives in this amazing community we are surrounded with. We were honoured to start our day with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society in opening the market at the Toronto Stock Exchange. Though it began a little rough, with an unintentional sleep-in causing us to rush to try and get out the door and then getting thoroughly turned around between the Exchange Tower and First Canadian Place, once we stepped into the broadcast studio we were quickly reminded why we were there. If you looked beyond the “official” types who were there representing different Down Syndrome affiliate groups, you would find yourself immersed in a group of parents and supporters watching, with so much pride, these individuals displaying the best parts of human nature – engaging, kindness, laughter and so incredibly supportive of one another. We had time to speak with a few of the self-advocates and I was filled with so much joy listening to them speak about their ambitions, their careers, their passions – so many of them echoing similar sentiments: that they simply want to educate people about what it’s like to live with Down Syndrome; to show people, who aren’t as lucky as we are, that having Down Syndrome doesn’t detract from you life, it enhances it.

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On this day last year I spent my time reflecting on what Lily’s life was like at the moment – what her diagnosis was bringing to our lives right then. This year I find myself picturing where her life will take her and how I really and truly believe that her life is going to be amazing. There are so many people our there right now- self-advocates standing up to be heard, parents demanding their children not be dismissed – paving the way for the next generation of kids with Down Syndrome. As time passes and each March 21st brings more awareness, I hold on to the hope that inclusion and integration will no longer be catch phrases but will actually be the norm; the hope that when Lily is ready to take the world by storm – as I know she will – the world will be ready for her and truly see her abilities.

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* Special thanks to Trina Hoadley for the amazing photos of Lily, as part of Toronto’s Circle 21 World Down Syndrome Day celebrations. You can see more of her beautiful work here.

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A Great December

Guys, it’s a good thing that it’s almost the new year, because I totally need to make a resolution that I’m going to update you all a lot more often.  Lately I’ve just been so busy that by the time I can sit down and write a post so many things have happened and I’m scared I’m going to forget something.

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First – it was my birthday and now I’m 2! That meant it was totally time to party.  The mom’s planned a fun afternoon for me and my friends – there was a slide and a ball pit, cars to drive, lots of food and then cake! Can I tell you that I’m seriously digging cake.  My Theresa made the most delicious cake ever (because that’s what she does) and it was so good that I actually tried to eat the plate!

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I got to see so many cool people – my birthday twin and my BFF (Daniele & Shanelle) came, even though they’re so much older and they brought their friends Sarah and Cameron, who were so much fun, and they even let Rachel and Tammy come along too.  I got to spend a lot of time with my friend Caleigh too, who is the same age as me but knows how to run and walk.  Even still, she slows down so that we can play together – she’s awesome! Mostly, it was just the best birthday ever! I can’t wait until next year.

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It was more than just my birthday party that was super cool, it was also my birthday present from the mom’s…they bought me a puppy! It’s a boy puppy and he’s black and fluffy and the mom’s say he’s going to be really big (which is better for me because then he’s kind of like a pony!).  There was some debate about his name because Mama C was telling Mommy not to be ridiculous, but I think that in the end Mommy won because we’re all calling him Sprinkles now.  Mama C looks a little embarrassed when she has to call him when we’re out for walks but Mommy just laughs and laughs so I think it’s okay.  Sprinkles and I haven’t spent too much time together yet, because he’s a little bouncy and bite-y still (the mom’s say that’s because he’s teething like I am), but sometimes he just sits nicely and lets me pet him (and by pet him I actually mean pull on his fur or try and stick my fingers up his nose).  The cat doesn’t really like him, but she’s outnumbered so too bad for her!

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I had my latest check-up with my cardiologist at Sick Kids last week.  I had to be sedated so that they could do an ECHO and look and see how my heart is doing.  The mom’s were super happy because even while I was on the medication that makes me sleepy, my oxygen sats stayed as high as 96%, which is pretty incredible.  And it turns out that it’s because I am incredible! Dr. Dipchand says that my hearts looks amazing! She confirmed that there is no blood flow at all coming from my left lung, but I’m handling it really well and there are no signs that my pulmonary pressures are high.  All of this means that I don’t have to go back and see Dr. Dipchand for ONE WHOLE YEAR! She and the mom’s talked some more about some down the road, long term stuff, but for now, unless I start showing signs that something is going funny, then she said there is no point in coming in to take another picture to show us the same thing.   It may have been the best birthday/christmas gift ever!!

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Speaking of Christmas – I just wanted to tell you all that I hope you have a very very very merry time with all of your family or friends or friends who are family.  I know that I’m very very lucky to have incredible people in my life who make the holiday’s so happy and amazing and I just hope that you do too! Plus, I met this Santa guy and he seems to know what’s going on….so maybe talk to him too and he’ll sort you out…

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For Keeps

I think the title says it all. As of 2:15pm, the judge signed the papers and officially said that the mom’s and I belong together for keeps. We all know that it’s really no different then it was yesterday, but it feels a little bit different. I have their last name!

I was incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the people who made this adoption all possible in the first place. Obviously the mom’s and I were there, but we were also joined by our adoption worker Mary, Gramma & Pa and Grandpa, of course my cousins Ollie and Thor along with so many other people who have been our biggest supporters over the last year and a half – Steve, Jason, Telly, Rita & Thano and Madison. And then, we the three people, Auntie CC, Theresa and Cathy (MeMa) who put their names on the line and told CAS how they thought the mom’s would be great parents and how they deserved the chance to love a kid like me. If they hadn’t done that and done it so well, then maybe none of this would have happened. For that, I know the mom’s are so so so grateful (and really, how could they not be – they got me out of the deal!).

It was a pretty amazing day all around, but something very surprising happened while we were in the court room that took us all by surprise and made the day even more incredible. We all filed in the room and the mom’s and I sat up at the front. It took a minute for the judge to start talking, and he started by welcoming us all there and telling us that adoption days are the happiest kind of days because they get to help create a family (he didn’t really need to tell us that). But then, he went on and told us that my adoption in particular was very happy for him because he was the judge who was there when my birth parents made the hard decision to let me be adopted because they wanted me to have the best home possible. He’s the man who really made it possible for the mom’s and I to be together. He told us that he remembered when my birth parents came in and he felt really lucky to get to meet me in person and get to see with his own eyes that I found a family who loves me so very much. He said he doesn’t always get a chance to see things come in a full circle and this was special to him. I know the mom’s agree with him and if I could speak I would tell him that he doesn’t know how right he is. Today, I feel pretty loved.

My August Adventures – Part 1

I’m back! I can’t believe that I was gone for 3 whole weeks! How did you guys survive without me??

My August (even though it’s not quite over yet) has been filled with a lot of adventures.  It’s pretty incredible that I’ve gotten to see so many new things.  At least that’s what the mom’s keep telling me.  I keep trying to tell them that mostly I got to see the inside of our car, but they don’t think that’s as funny as I do.

We drove with a bunch of our friends to Florida to celebrate Rachel’s 30th birthday all together.  For the first few days we stayed in Cocoa Beach, which to my dismay, was not made of cocoa.  But it did have a big sandy beach, a great house with an amazing pool (with a waterfall!) and some really friendly people at the Cocoa Beach Hospital emergency room.

That’s right, I decided that the mom’s were having too much fun with their friends and not paying enough attention to me, so one morning as everyone else was getting ready to go surfing at the beach, I grabbed my g-tube with my toes and kicked so hard that it came out….mission accomplished! After a tiny bit of freaking out by the people who had yet to experience how cool my g-tube stoma looks when it’s just a hole, the mom’s and my Steve, piled into the car and went to the emergency room to make sure that Mama C had put the foley catheter in the right place.  Here’s what I found out about American hospitals – they give you stuff! By the time the 4 of us walked out of there Mama C was carrying a whole bunch of stickers, a syringe that I had decided to play with, a teddy bear and a brand new knitted blanket! Plus, I don’t know how often the people there get to see someone as cute as I am, so I also got a bunch of visitors just coming in to say hello and tell me that I’m adorable. To be honest I got to hear that a lot on trip, especially from my new friends (guys, I have older friends now too – they’re super cool) – Marcel, Andre, Shanelle and my birthday twin Daniele.  They are Rachel’s brothers and sisters and I spent a whole lot of our time in Florida getting to hang out with them – we got to spend a lot of time together in the pool, walking around the parks and snuggling at night. I miss them already.

After our time in Cocoa Beach, we piled back in the cars and drove to Orlando! Our house there was in this gated community, and our house was huge and had 2 pools! One right outside of our house and then one at the community clubhouse.  We didn’t spend a lot of time at that house though, because we were too busy doing cool things like going to Walmart, hanging out at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, having dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp, and you know…going to DISNEY WORLD!

People, it’s magical.  I can’t believe I had never been there before! We were just walking down the street and BAM! there was a parade! Then we kept walking and BAM! there was Mickey Mouse! It’s crazy!

We started the day with a big step for me.  As soon as we stepped onto Main Street USA, we walked into a building and  I was greeted by this lovely woman named Barbara, who escorted me to my very own big girl chair.  From there, Mommy and my entourage (because that’s how I travel now) kept showing me these crazy cool light up toys while Barbara moved around me super quick.  I didn’t really understand what was happening until the very end, when Barbara reappeared with my very own Mickey Ears that read “First Haircut”….the mom’s paid someone to cut off my long, beautiful locks and then tried to trick me by giving me a pair of mouse ears to distract me from the truth! I was having none of it! That evil Barbara (or Maleficent – her real name) put those ears on my head and I began to scream! I hoped someone would notice and make them put my hair right back, but no one did.  Instead they all just laughed.  I realized after a bit more pouting that I’m just as cute with bangs as I was before, so I’ve forgiven them, but I won’t forget.

The rest of the day was pretty magical, once I forgot about my poor hair.  We walked around and saw all of these really cool things.  I got to ride on an elephant that flies (I think Mama C called him Dumbo), on a boat that took us all around the world (it’s pretty small…) and on a beautiful horse that I rode all by myself (if you ignore Mama C holding on to me very tightly as the horse jumped up almost higher than she could reach).  After some ice cream and hot dogs and some downtime to relax, we ended the night with some amazing fireworks and I was asleep before we even got off the monorail.

And just think – that’s only the FIRST part of my month of adventures.  I have more to tell you about – more Florida, Camp JAC, another tooth and our annual trip to the CNE….stay tuned!

Parties and Brains and Zombies…oh my!

We’re having a quiet day here at home.  It’s raining outside and the mom’s say that makes people sleepy, plus I think I have this other tooth coming through and it’s making me slightly miserable.  I’m thinking about having another nap, but at the same time it’s kind of fun to watch the mom’s get so amused by me refusing to sleep and then fall asleep on the living room floor in a few hours.

It’s been a busy week for our little family.  Last weekend the mom’s threw a really big party  for me.  Originally it was called “Lily’s One Year of Ass Kicking” party, but then someone shortened it to just my “Re-Birthday” party (which frankly sounds nicer because I’m little and technically not aloud to swear yet).  We had an amazing time at MeMa’s house – swimming in the pool, playing Bocce ball in the backyard, eating delicious food and just hanging out with all of the people who were so supportive to the mom’s when I was so sick last year.  People were tricky though and brought presents, which was totally against the rules because it wasn’t technically a birthday party (don’t people follow rules anymore, geesh, kids today) but it was really kind of them.  I even heard a rumour that there were sparklers at the end of the night but someone fell asleep and missed out (okay, I’ll admit it, I fell asleep.  I’m so embarrassed).

After the party this week, I also had to go see my neurologist at Sick Kids to check and see how my brain is doing.  We got there bright and early and got my head all hooked up so they could take pictures of my brain activity while I was resting to see if I’m having any seizures.  And the happy news is, after waiting so long for me to fall asleep and then visiting my nurse Jane and getting weighed (I’m finally bigger than 20 pounds!!), I finally got to see Dr. W and she said that I look amazing! She said that my brain activity looks amazing for a kid who had infantile spasms! She said that we’ll switch to a safer medication for 1 year and then I can start to come off of it.  Fingers crossed everyone that my brain will keep being as healthy for the next year!

Lastly, I just wanted to show off my incredible new talent.  I’m getting really good at impressions – this is my version of Zombie Lily.  I’m tucking it away until next Hallowe’en…

Happy Lil-Aversary!

One whole year.  Guys, it’s been one whole year since I came to live with the mom’s.  It’s been a crazy, whirlwind of a year, but I think overall it’s been pretty amazing.  I feel so lucky to be living with my mom’s but really, I think that they might be the really lucky ones.  They keep talking today about how much I’ve grown, how big and strong I’ve become and how I’ve come so much further than most people thought I would last August.  The mom’s and I were talking about doing a big dinner/party to celebrate my anniversary but in the end we decided to have a really big party in August – to celebrate everything: my adoption, our family and mostly that I’m here, kicking butts and taking names.  Life is good.

Sweet Potatos and Joey`s Birthday

So, a little while ago, I told you guys that I had this cold.  It was super annoying because I couldn’t really breathe and I was all sniffly and gross.  On top of that, it’s already hard for me to swallow sometimes (because of my low muscle tone) that when I’m sick it makes it even harder.  This was especially frustrating because my OT at Sick Kids, Lisa, had given us the green light to start letting me eat all kinds of food, but then I couldn’t because I couldn’t swallow them properly.

But luckily this week, the cold has finally gone away and we’re back on the food train!

I really love eating, as long as I think it tastes yummy.  The mom’s gave me banana cream to try and I got very upset by that (it tastes gross).  But when they give me apple sauce or sweet potato, I just go crazy!  Mama C even let me try a bunch of different things at Easter dinner last week and they were so good…I got to have actual turkey and some stuffing.   She told me that we can have them again at Thanksgiving and even though I actually have no idea what that meant, I’m really looking forward to it!  And just in case you’re worried that the mom’s are just spreading food on my face and telling you that I’m eating, I even have a video to prove how much I’m loving it.  (Please excuse my hair though, I’m battling some cradle cap again and so I have a little olive oil going on – not to mention the goofy looking clips holding it out of my face).

This weekend has been pretty exciting, because I was a guest at my very first birthday party (besides my own).  My friend Joey is turning 3 years old (he’s totally cool like that) and so today I put on my party dress, did my hair all pretty and strapped on my favourite shoes!

When we got there I couldn’t believe how many other kids there were! I got to make some really great new friends: Ava and Heidi and Ella and especially Addison (she’s little like me).  I was a little too excited though, because after hanging out for half an hour, I needed a nap.  Luckily, between Michelle, Lorraine and Theresa, I had no trouble staying cuddled enough for a good sleep.  Afterwards, I even got to play with some toys that I’m usually not allowed to play with, like a bouncy exersaucer (don’t tell my OT Kristen, okay??).

But mostly, it was a pretty exciting day because I really do love my buddy Joey a lot.  In fact, I love all of his family a bunch.  My Theresa has known Mommy for a long long long time and I know that they have a special place for our little family.  Joey treats me so very gently, even though he can be tough with bigger kids, and Joey’s daddy Jason is one of the best cuddlers I know.  He calls me his Pretty Princess and I like that he has a special nickname just for me.  And my Theresa, she’s one of the coolest grown-up’s I know.  She loves to laugh with the Mom’s, but then she always complains about having to pee.  But, in spite of that, she also makes the coolest cakes around! You might remember that she made my beautiful birthday snowflake cake (guys – it was sparkly!!) and today, for Joey’s cake, she made a super cool Thomas (and Percy) cake!  I think I’m pretty lucky to know such great people.