On the man in our lives

It was another full weekend, with a celebration of our 13th anniversary (which is actually this coming Tuesday), and of course, Father’s Day today.

I’d love to be able to take credit for picking the man who has made such a remarkable husband for 13 years and a truly show-stopping dad for a little over five. But really, I’m not sure how much credit I deserve. I was a very young – and as a result, fairly ignorant – 18-year-old when we first started dating. I was a still very young – and still fairly ignorant – 23-year-old when we got married. A lot of those kinds of relationships don’t last, for good reason. Who really knows at 18 what they want from life or what kind of person they will become? When you start married life at 23, there is still a lot of growing and changing to do. How do you know you will continue to share the same values and want the same things from life?

The truth is, we didn’t. After five years of dating, we knew each other well, and we understood each other’s characters. But in the end, we took a gamble. To varying extents, marriage is always a gamble. We gamble that the person we’re marrying is who we think they are. We gamble that we are ourselves who we think we are. We gamble that the character and values we share with our spouse will remain constant enough to allow us to continue on the same life path together.

I was confident in my decision at 23, but Jon has surprised me. We have our daily frustrations, same as any couple. Sometimes, I mutter about murdering him in his sleep as I clip in the car seat he left sitting out. But as a husband and father, he has blown me away. In his steadiness and patience, in the depth of his love for me and our kids, in his wisdom and spiritual depth, in his incredibly hard work, he has far surpassed anything I imagined when we said our vows. Life has thrown us some surprises and will probably throw us a few more. But I believe deep down to the soles of my feet that God knew every twist and turn, and He brought us to each other, to lighten the load when it’s heavy and to multiply the many joys as they come. The gamble isn’t so scary that way.

Jon still makes me laugh. We still enjoy each other’s company above any other. And my kids are blessed beyond measure with a dad who is not only perfectly capable of caring for them, but who truly loves to do it. When I left them with daddy for five days last weekend, he looked forward to the time. I came home to kids who clearly thrived while I was away and a daddy who lit up when he told me about the fun they’d had together. He came away with a little better appreciation for what I juggle every day, but he loved that uninterrupted time with his kids, and they loved it, too.

That’s the man who has so surpassed my 23-year-old expectations. That’s the only guy who could live up to the very high bar my daddy set. That’s my husband, and the father of my children.

After all that, I’ll leave you with a few pics from our night on the town.


Goofy mirror selfie on our way out the door to dinner





Thus begins transition

Jon and I attended Lina’s first school transition meeting yesterday. We drove down to the county administration building and met with Lina’s TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention Services) coordinator and a school psychologist who took down initial information about Lina’s current progress, goals and needs. There wasn’t much new information at the meeting, since we’ve already talked quite a bit with the TEIS coordinator about the early childhood special education program. We got a few answers to questions, but the meeting mostly served as an official introduction to the school system and the kick-off for the transition process. From here, the wheels turn until her first day of preschool on September 14.

The next steps, as we understand them, are:

1. Soon – probably in the next few weeks – we will know for sure which school Lina will be assigned to. Early childhood preschools are not offered at every elementary school in the district. Our zoned elementary school is in a “swing zone,” meaning we could end up at either of two preschools, both of which are about 20 minutes away. There is also a chance the district will open a third program, which could potentially mean a closer option.

2. Sometime over the summer, Lina will be scheduled for a full evaluation, which will include motor, communication, social and cognitive assessments. These assessments will show where she is in her development and will be the basis for her qualification for special education services.

3. Once the assessments are complete, the school system will schedule our first IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting. This will be the biggie, where we sit down with school administrators, teachers and therapists and outline very specific goals and strategies for Lina. We will be attending regular IEP meetings for the rest of Lina’s educational experience. The IEP is a critical tool for making sure she is receiving the support and resources she needs to reach her full educational potential.

4. In August, we will schedule a tour to see the preschool in action so we have a better idea exactly what to expect on Lina’s first day.

It was a pretty uneventful meeting. The most involved discussion we had was about cognitive testing, which some parents refuse out of distrust for the accuracy of the testing and a concern that an IQ score will result in limiting expectations. But really, it was pretty simple, and we were out of there in about 30 minutes. It’s funny, though; I still felt a bit like a wrung-out dish rag. Even when the logistics are straight-forward, a meeting like that requires a higher level of emotional energy. I think any parent who has been in a school meeting to discuss a challenge can probably relate. I have been to similar meetings with her current school or therapists, but this was the first one Jon was able to attend. He commented last night on how it was emotionally a little bit hard; I felt relieved to share that experience with him. He won’t be able to go to every school meeting, but we agreed it’s important for him to be involved whenever he can. I am hopeful the educational realm we are entering may make it a little easier for Jon to be involved in setting goals and knowing what we’re all working towards.

On a less serious note, I’ll share a few pictures from the last day of my cousin’s visit. We had such a good time with family we see too rarely, and we miss them now that they’re back home in Michigan.




Girl was fearless heading down the big slides.





Dirty and content


A boy and his dog

Giving thanks

Really, there’s not much narration necessary here. It was a beautiful Thanksgiving with family, hosted for the first time at our home. The meal was a true group effort, with everyone contributing to a fantastic menu. It was so good to spend time with family we see too rarely. Our hearts were as full as our bellies, which is saying something. Friday was a site-seeing outing downtown and a fantastic lunch at The Pharmacy in East Nashville. These times are over too soon, and we have to hold out for the next holiday we can gather and enjoy each other again.

And once again, I am indebted to my brother, Ryan, for taking quite a few of these photos.

















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Team Lina!

The Buddy Walk is the biggest fundraiser every year for our local Down Syndrome Association, and I hear it’s a really fun experience to mix with so many other local families in the Down syndrome community. Last year, Lina was just a few weeks old, and it was just too much for us to make it out. But THIS year, we’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it right!

On October 19, we’re going to get as many friends and family out as we can to walk with us as part of Team Lina. We’re going to have T-shirts, we’re going to have fun, and here’s the part where you long-distance folk can get involved: We’re going to raise money, starting now.

The Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee is a tremendous resource in our community for people with Down syndrome and their families. From the moment a new little one with Down syndrome is born (or before, in the case of a prenatal diagnosis) all the way through adulthood, this organization provides support, education, advocacy and a wide range of programs and resources. The DSAMT is doing essential things to improve life for people with Down syndrome and to help our broader community be a welcoming and accepting place for so many people like Lina. We are excited about this opportunity to help in the work they do.

So, dear readers, I am asking: Help us make this difference. Whatever you can afford to give will be so very appreciated. Be a part of Team Lina! Donate to our Buddy Walk fund, and help us fuel the changes that will make life just that much better for our Lina and so many others.