Good Monday morning everyone! Happy week of Christmas!!!! I am so darn excited for this week, I can hardly stand it! I would be more excited if I actually had even just ONE present wrapped... but I don't... so I'll just look forward to wrapping presents as part of my Christmas week! :-)
Today I have a very special treat, something that I have been looking forward to for a while now. :-) I have already introduced you a little bit to Patti, through her amazing fundraiser/giveaway for Olga, a little girl with Down Syndrome who is looking for a home and family. Through her blog, Patti was able to raise over $11,000 for Olga in a week! And she is now giving away an iPad--and other great gifts--in another fundraiser! This one is for Olga AND another beautiful little girl named Kareen. If you haven't already checked it out, please consider making a donation--and getting an entry or two into the giveaway! Seriously--it's an iPad, people!
ANYWAY, back to the interview. I first "met" Patti through A Perfect Lily, her blog that is a series of letters to her sweet baby girl who has Down syndrome. It was so beautiful to get this peak into her life and her love for her daughter, and it was reassuring to have a friend going through the same things we are. But Patti also blogs at Notes From Home, where she talks about life with ALL TEN of her children. Yeah, TEN. And did I mention that she HOMESCHOOLS them all? And has a baby girl with Down syndrome? And does amazing things for children around the world, like raise $11,000 in a week? Yep, I'm giving this woman a cape for Christmas. I think she's super, and she's definitely my hero.
So since Patti is such a fabulous woman, I wanted to give you all a chance to get to know her as well. Here's what she had to say...
(PS - If you're a friend of Patti's who is visiting, thanks for coming by! Stick around and visit the zoo while you're here. ;-) To hear more about our journey, start with Roo's story.)
1. Tell us a little bit about Lily. When was she born? How did you find out that she has Down syndrome?
Lily was born on January 16th, this year. She was 3 weeks early, to the day, and she was a whopping 5 pounds 8 ounces and 17 1/2 inches.
At our 20 week ultrasound, Lily showed some markers for Down syndrome. She showed a possible av canal defect (which either resolved itself, or God healed it!), short femurs and arms, enlarged kidneys, and she was measuring small. We chose not to do the amnio- I didn't want to put her at risk - and we did not find out until she was born that she did indeed have Ds. I have to say- nobody really thought she had Down syndrome. We had so many friends who told us stories of scary ultrasounds, etc...it was hard to believe that these markers really did mean something. However- without sounding too "out there"- deep down I believed she did have Down syndrome. My pregnancy was so different- she moved so slowly, and I never felt the large, sweeping movements...I knew something was different.
(You can read Lily's complete birth story on A Perfect Lily.)
2. How has having a child with Down syndrome changed your life?
Nothing has really changed in our day-to-day... except having a therapist come to our home twice a month. And initially there were a lot more doctor visits, a stay in the NICU... but right now our lives are the same. Having said that, I don't think anybody in our family or those around us can say that they haven't been affected by Lily's birth. She has opened our eyes to a whole new world--we treasure each milestone met, we have a new heart for people with disabilities everywhere, we are now consumed by the children on Reece's Rainbow who are left in orphanages simply because they were born with an extra chromosome. We are immensely enriched by all that Lily is--she has turned our little family upside down with love.
3. What do you wish you could tell the still-pregnant you about life with Down syndrome?
It's a beautiful thing. Don't grieve. Not one second. Get over yourself ;) Would I say that to a pregnant woman right now? Never. I think grieving is a normal thing, but I also realize now that it was wasted time- Lily is my greatest gift, next to salvation, and she is the light of our lives. If I could take the Pregnant Patti Past and show her our lives today--I think she would be so flipping ecstatic at what was going to happen to her life because of Lily- she might go into labor. So... probably not a good thing there's no such thing as time travel :)
4. I first “met” you through Lily’s blog, but she is far from your only child. Did you always know you wanted to have a big family (10 kids!)? What is your favorite part about having such a big family?
I never planned on having a big family. Each baby just cuter and cuter, so I just kept asking my husband... please just one more??? And now that we've achieved perfection in Lily... well... I guess... we're... done. But I said that 5 babies ago.
My favorite part about having a big family... wow... too many blessings to list! I guess it's the real-life learning that takes place. We are all learning on a daily basis that life is not all about "self." Hard to be selfish and greedy when there are only 9 toothbrushes for 11 people. Just kidding. Sort of. I need to label those things.
5. Over the past several months, I’ve learned that “I don’t know how you do it!” can be a rather annoying sentiment. But literally, how do you homeschool all of your children? How do you teach children at different ages/ability levels at the same time? How/when do you do all of the regular household stuff like laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc?
I am still learning, ha! We try to get the house ready for the day before we start home schooling. I can't function in chaos. It comes undone as the morning rolls along and I yell "five minute clean-up!" and everybody drops what they're doing to pitch in. My older boys are very good at getting their work done without much help from me. We use K12 online curriculum, so this helps. We have an intense chore chart. Every kid has a zone that they are responsible to keep clean and organized. Does everything always run smoothly? Nope. But we aim high and get good results, even if they aren't perfection. I wish I could say I'm Michelle Duggar, but... most days I just feel like Lucille Ball.
6. What made you decide to homeschool?
Our children were previously in public school. Things gradually deteriorated (moving to a small, very liberal town contributed!) and we switched to a private school. The economy took a down turn, our bills mounted, and voila...home school. I do believe it's a great thing- but it is not for the faint of heart. Or illiterate. Just sayin'.
7. What tips do you have for teaching our children compassion?
Don't shield them from real life. Expose them to those less fortunate then themselves. Show them Reece's Rainbow. Teach them to give--and live it. Pioneer a church in your home :) Open your home to people who have no place to go for the holidays. Have deep and meaningful discussions about how good they really have it. And PRAY. Seriously, my number one prayer for my kids: God, give them a heart for You, and give them a heart for people.
8. Your children span a large age range—Lily is still an infant, but your oldest and his wife have foster children of their own! How has your parenting style changed over the years?
I think God is helping us to see that the little things really do matter. A 3-year-old insisting on wearing mis-matched clothes that do not fit may be cute. But it is not cute at 13. So stand your ground now, and establish early on--this house is not a democracy. It's a dictatorship. KIDDING! But really--we have a lot of rules and a LOT of love. Imbalance in either area is not a good thing. So I think we are a bit more strict... and we have also learned that children need so much more praise than we realize.
9. How do you foster good relationships between your children?
Zero tolerance for bickering. We always try to nip it in the bud. We have lots of family meetings when we feel the atmosphere in our home is shifting. We have a buddy system--older children help their buddies with things like brushing teeth, tying shoes, etc. I think this really helps foster the getting-along thing. Jackson always calls his buddy "Buddy" instead of Tyler..."Buddy- can you get me some more milk, please?" Of course, we do have to switch buddies when we see them getting on each other's nerves!
10. What is the biggest lesson you have learned as a mom?
I can't be a good mom without God's help. Daily. it doesn't matter how good my intentions are--if I do not pray and rely on God's grace--I'm sunk. Second lesson: if I don't take time out for me...I will fall apart. A very hard lesson to learn, because as a mommy I want to put my kids first. But if I don't get away and refuel... I'm going to suck at being a mommy. Can I say that as a pastor's wife? I sure hope so.
11. What other tips do you have for us moms of young children?
Hmmm... have a stash of chocolate hidden somewhere for those melt-down moments. It really does help! And remember--this is just a season. Just blink and they are all grown up and not "needing you" anymore. Jason if you're reading this--I'm sorry I didn't let you put gel in your own hair when you were a kindergartner--come back home! Bring Naomi and the kids too!
12. How did you meet your husband?
A very long story, but I was dressed as a Madonna-wanna-be on Halloween... the party I was at got busted by the police (pre-Christian days)... my friends and I drove to Gelato's Italian Ice Cream shop in Scottsdale, Arizona to get some ice cream. We were killing time til the police left before we went back to the party. Sam was a manager at Gelato's... I got some ice cream, we left... and in the car I told my friends "I want to have that guy's babies." And the rest, as they say, is history!
13. How did you become a Christian?
I ended up getting a job at Gelato's... because I just fell in LOVE with their ice cream. hehe. Six months later, Sam gave his life to Jesus--I was so convicted, because all of my life I claimed to be a Christian, but I knew I was a hypocrite. I pretended to be a "good person" but deep down I knew I wasn't right with God. So here was Sam--a very experienced sinner :) and he was telling ME I needed to get saved. I was mad and self-righteous--but God dealt with my heart over the course of a week. I was so uncomfortable, knowing that there was a "me" nobody knew. I went to church with him that Sunday... the pastor was preaching on being a hypocrite. I thought for sure Sam had told him all about me. (The church was over 250 people but I just knew that pastor preached his sermon based on my life.) When the opportunity was given to respond for salvation, I went forward for prayer. Hardest thing in the world for a nervous little 17-year-old girl who was extremely absorbed with what everybody thought of her. But I prayed--and Jesus radically changed my life!
14. What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
All of it--I am so into Christmas, I start playing Christmas music in July. I seriously love every little tradition we have--and there are tons! But I think this year we have started what will be our very favoritest-of-all tradition--finding a baby on Reece's Rainbow and getting them home. Right now that means fundraising. I hope some day it means rescuing one ourselves.
15. How do you teach your children the real meaning of Christmas?
See answer 14 :) We have tried for years to instill in our children that the birth of Jesus is what Christmas is truly all about. We talk about it, read the Christmas story in Luke, we sing songs about it at church, we do a Christmas play based on that fact... sometimes it seems we are fighting against a very materialistic and self-centered culture, and we're not totally getting our message through to our kids. But I believe that living our lives every single day of the year, mindful of the fact that Jesus came here to do one thing: die for us... is the best way to teach our kids the real meaning of Christmas.
16. What is your favorite Bible verse?
Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior's hands..how blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
Thank you, Patti, for your time & your wisdom! :-) Now go read Patti's blogs and tell her I sent you, 'k? :-)
And did I mention, Happy Christmas Week?!?