Thursday, July 30, 2015

12 Years of Wisdom

Ben turns 12 years old today. Our lives changed forever the day he was born. Ryan and I became parents to a wild redhead with more energy and determination than an entire village.

Like most people who become parents, we knew we would instill in our child the valuable lessons needed for life. We had no idea that Ben would be the one to teach us.

Here are Ben's words of wisdom:

Manners, Please
Every parent has to fight for their child at some point. Be thoughtful, thankful and thorough when advocating for your child. Just this morning, a friend started a Facebook post that used words that were derogatory toward people with special needs. After a moment's thought, I spoke to the person privately. This person had no idea they were being offensive and removed the post immediately. Without lessons learned through Ben, I would have approached the situation with anger, accusations and assumptions.

Friends Give Hugs
Often Ben reaches out to strangers to touch their hand. He hugs people he cares about and who care about him. He chooses wisely. My base of friends has changed over the past decade as I found people who understood our struggles and were willing to be supportive.

Try, Try and Try Again
Ben was three when he learned to sit up on his own. I remember the day in November when he accomplished this amazing feat. He repeated it dozens of times that day. Ben has the will and determination to practice skills everyday for hours. With a role model like that, how can I ever give-up?

Ignore the Boring Stuff
Watching a movie you don't like? Offered a food you don't care for? In a place you don't want to be? Then find a movie you like, spit out the food or look for the exit. Life is short - don't sit through the stuff that may not interest you.

Bite in an Emergency
There are times when things are tough or the situation is dire, and emergency communication is needed. Ben bites if he has no other way to tell someone "No", and it means he has met his absolute limit. When I have reached my breaking point, I understand that sometimes biting is the only way to make someone understand.

Get Excited
Wave your arms and legs and laugh uncontrollably when happy. There are so many things in life to celebrate - little and big. Seek them out.

Give the "Look of Love"
The phrase "Look of Love" was coined years ago when Ben started to stare intently at Logan. Intense love comes with the stare. If we are lucky, Ben may choose Ryan, Sean or me to give the "Look of Love". It fills your heart with everything you need.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

20 Years of Rainbow Express

I ran to the bathroom before the final event on the last day of Rainbow Express at Matthews United Methodist Church. Inside the bathroom, a girl was crying inside one of the stalls, "I don't want to leave. I want to know I can come back next week." The sadness in this girl's voice was so intense that I wanted to cry with her. Her counselor assured her that she could come back next year.

Rainbow Express is a weeklong day camp for children with special needs. About 70 campers participate and they love every minute of it. Energy is high, activities are in abundance, hugs are infinite and a puppet show is promised every afternoon. After kids attend a year or two, it becomes a family reunion for everyone.

The entire week is planned by the youth from the church with guidance from founder Laurie Little and other staff and volunteers. Each camper has a youth counselor and a buddy to help them through the activities of the week. The entire church community is committed to making this an incredible week for the campers. Medical staff and special education teachers are available to help when needed. Many volunteers use their vacation time to help this week.

Rainbow Express is in its 20th year at MUMC. Four years ago, they formed a partnership with a group in Haiti and started Rainbow Express at Wings of Hope. Over the next year, Rainbow Express hopes to expand the camp to other churches around the United States.

This was Ben's 8th or 9th year attending. It took him several days to recover. Between activities, hugs and more hugs, he was exhausted.

If you want more information, please visit Rainbow Express Ministries.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Midsummer's Tale

We are at the halfway mark for summer, and I think I can survive the rest of it. We have had fun visiting a lot of different places, many of which are accessible for wheelchairs, offer activities that Ben can do and are low to no cost.

Fun places to visit:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Triumph of the Spirit

My kids untied me for a minute so I could post this story. (It has been that kind of summer from day one!)

A church member sent me this article they read in American Way, the American Airlines magazine. Thought it was worth passing on to others: