Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Disability or profound gift?

There is a beautiful meditation on disabilities from Monsignor Charles Pope at the Archdiocese of Washington DC website.
 Over twenty years ago I worked for a year with the profoundly mentally disabled. They lay in beds and wheelchairs often with little muscle control. None of them could talk and only a few could engage in rudimentary communication. There was one man in his forties who had never emerged from the fetal position. He lay in a large crib his tiny yet clearly adult body curled up like a newborn babe. And on his face the most angelic smile that almost never diminished. He had been baptized as an infant and to my knowledge could not have sinned. I looked with marvel each visit upon innocence and a beatific countenance. What an astonishing gift he was. And who knows but God why he was this way? But God DOES know and had very important reasons. There was something central and indispensable in this man’s existence. Some role only he could fill. Apparently I was not able to fill that role. He was not disabled, he was differently abled, uniquely abled for something different than the ordinary. Looking upon him I had little doubt that he was directly in touch with God in a way that I never had been for his radiant face infallibly conveyed that. With our human eyes we can be saddened even appalled. But we’ll understand it better by an by. One day in the great by and by we may well be surprised to learn that the most central and critical people in God’s plan were the most humble and often the most broken and that we would never have made it without them.
Thank you Monsignor Pope for this profound meditation on the unfathomable gifts of a loving God. We are grateful that you see our children through the eyes of faith and that you are helping others to do the same. May God richly reward your efforts.

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New software helps children with Down syndrome learn to read

One of the many topics of conversation on my round trip drive to DC for the KIDS event at the March for Life with a pro-life physician who happens to have a daugher with Down syndrome was how our children learn to read. I had heard that phonics don't work, and she has heard that they do. Frustrating as it is to have conflicting information, I press on seeking ways to improve her reading skills.
However, one thing both sides agree upon, is that contextual clues help. I was just in a planning meeting with Christina's teachers and they showed me how they were modifying the class's sentence building lessons  for her by adding pictures.  An example is; "The moose is in the yard." with cute drawings of the moose and the yard.
A new software program does this as well, as is aimed at English Language Learners as well as those children with autism and Down syndrome who are visual learners. It was developed by Rosemary Starett, an Irish educator and is called "A Busy Day"
The scenarios offered by the software are meant to illustrate "a busy day" in the life of a young child. Users see a brother and sister each waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast together, walking to school with their father, and engaging in several other activities that most children will easily recognize. The software presents the scenes in colorful, fully illustrated on-screen windows featuring people, places, and objects children will relate with the activities being shown. "Waking up" includes a bed, pajamas, an alarm clock, and a bird perched on the windowsill. "Eating breakfast" displays a kitchen, food, silverware, and a table and chairs. Tied into the scenes are a variety of interactive exercises such as word matching, find the right word, and spot the differences, all designed to drive word recognition and association.
Read more about it here.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Meet me at the March for Life

My group Keep Infants with Down Syndrome will be hosting a reception with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) who is on the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus
at 10:30 AM at:

National Right to Life Headquarters
512 10th Street, NW
Washington DC 20004


At noon, after an hour's worth of inspirational speeches, free refreshements and fellowship, we will take up our signs, don our signature blue and yellow scarves and take KIDS to the streets. We will join the March for Life, a short walk from NRTL headquarters, and march together in solidarity for the unborn child with Downs yndrome 90%of whom are being denied life through abortion.
Join us!
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Mother and daughter interview on "The Face of Pro-life"

I was preparing for an interview on this TV show about the upcoming March for Life, when the Creative Director asked if my daughter would appear on the next segment. I called Gabriela, telling her that she had 20 minutes to get ready for her television debut. After hysterical screams of "but I look terrible" died down, she got ready and came into the studio to do this outstanding interview.
 I just tried to stay out of her way, she was blooming as a pro-life leader before my eyes. And NO you don't look FAT honey, just lovely. You are a leader, articulate and convincing, well versed, and passionate, yet poised. I am awestruck by how you shone in this interview.

 How did I ever deserve such a daughter? Thank you Lord.
Here is a link to the video.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Maddie Curtis is on American Idol!

Last year I met Barbara Curtis author and mom of 12 who blogs at Mommy Life as we were awarded the American Life League Pro-life Blog awards. She was so warm and real, and we held hands excitedly as we awaited our trophies. It was an honor for me to be considered on the same level as this accomplished lady who has just reverted to the Catholic faith. She is often in the media as a outstanding pro-life witness, but the other day, I was thrilled when. .
Isabella burst into the room to tell me about an American Idol acceptee named Maddie who has 4 brothers with Down syndrome, I KNEW it was Barb's daughter. What a gorgeous voice, on a lovely young lady who simply radiates love in the home scenes shot with her brothers. And she auditioned with the song "Hallelujah".
Her faith simply radiated through her powerful performance. I just loved the reunion she had with two of her brothers and mom outside the audition. Her description of her brothers with Down syndrome says it all, "they see the world in color; we need more to see the world that way."

I wish Maddie Godspeed, I'll be watching, and voting!
Thank you for raising the profile of famlies who love their children with Down syndrome, sweetheart! You are a winner just as you are.,
Watch her story and inspiring audition here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Full speed ahead to the March for Life!!

The last member of my family is on anti-biotics(they last until the March, so what can we catch now?
 "Canticle" magazine came through with a check for my article on KIDs in the March for Life (gas money)
 and I have a hotel room for Friday night.
March for Life, here we come!
Christina and I are driving while the teens in my home are going by bus. If any of you want to meet Rep Cathy McMorris Rogers at National Right to Life Headquarters at 11AM on the 22nd and join us for the March, come on over, no reservations needed! We will have a light brunch.
We have signs, banner, and scarves a plenty.
Hope to meet you there.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The devil is busy but God always wins

The only member of my family without strep throat is taking her math midterm today. We are all very sick and even our computers have viruses.That's why its been so quiet around here.

Some of my Facebook friends suggested that the computer gave me a virus.

 My plans to attend the March for Life are on hold till I see who is well enough to travel. The more of a fight I get from "Old Stinky" the more blessing I am going to get from the event. This is a predictable pattern.
He always loses, I wonder why he bothers.

God will win here too.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beautiful article by my friend Kathy Carlman

I am always humbled in the presence of real talent. I who write incessantly, and can be careless with grammar and punctuation, know talent when I see it. Each Sunday evening, while our girls play volleyball, I share the bleachers with a talented writer and college composition professor, Kathy Carlman. She hasn't been writing as much as I have, and I told her that she had to share her God-given talent. She has, and you can see why I urged her to write when you read her moving piece today on Catholic Exchange.
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Monday, January 4, 2010

A Blessed Epiphany

The Friars of the Immaculate at the Marian Friary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Griswold have a wonderful Epiphany Party. After Mass and a potluck lunch, participants enter their names and those of their loved ones into a 'raffle'.
Fr Ignatius said a prayer invoking the Holy Spirit and pulled out a holy card for all the names which included four saints who would be special patrons of that person, a title of Our Lady, a virtue to focus on and a maxim. Here are mine.
Saints:  St Veronica Guiliani(Franciscan)
 Bl. Michelina of Pesaro (Franciscan),
Bl. Mary Mancini, OP.
 St Miguel Pro.
This is the second time St Miguel Pro has been mentioned to me in this short year. A Voice in the Crowd reminded me about his heroic sacrifice in his comments after my post here. I hope my year doesn't hold the challenges of his martyrdom, but I certainly need his courage.
Marian Title: Singular Vessel of Devotion
Virtue: Hyperdulia (the devotion given to Our Lady alone, above that of the saints, beneath the worship given only to God)
Maxim: "The Immaculate can turn even our weaknesses to greater good. This is my only consolation. "
St Maximilian Kolbe
:Learning about the saints and blesseds other than St Miguel Pro, with whose story I am already famliar, is a project I will share about here.
I am so pleased with the Marian Title  and how the virtue of devotion to Our Lady points me in her direction all year, to learn about how my weakness will be made into strength. St Maximillian is right, this is a tremendous consolation, considering I lost my mother this year. I will follow in the footsteps of Venerable John Paul II whose closeness to Our Lady when he was left motherless at nine years old, gave him his vocation.
Who knows what Our Lady could accomplish through my many weaknesses?
I can't wait to find out.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Christmas letter is reaching the Holy Father!

 Here is an email from Padre Paolo Padrini, the director of the Holy Father's initiative Pope2You.
I sent him a link to my Letter from God to a Special Needs Mother.
He'll be sending my email to the Holy Father himself! I am so honored!
You can send the Holy Fahter your Christmas greetings by following the link in the email.

Dearest friend

I wanted to thank you for your Christmas greetings and tell you that will be delivered in the coming days to the Holy Father.

We propose an important initiative: during the Month of Peace, we invite you to send the Holy Father and to the world your photographic or textual message of Peace.

We invite you to do it the same way that you used for sending Christmas greetings from the site

We urge you to make you, as requested by the Pope, "proclaim" the Gospel, and promoter of the portal of the Vatican Pope2You.

Heartfelt thanks

The Staff of Pope2You

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Start the New Year off right.

With this cheerful video from International Down Syndrome Coaltiion for Life. Look for  Christina in at least three photos.

Abuelito is gone

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Antonio Chicas Velasquez, my father-in-law who left this life today at his home in El Salvador while we were praying for him at Mass. My husband's father was 74 and had chronic obstructive breathing disorder. 
Antonia met us in 2004 when Christina was a baby. He taught her to walk, patiently walking her over and over again across the living room floor. The two spent hours together on the floor with Lego blocks, and she always loved it when he would push her on the swings.
God have mercy on your soul, suegro, may the angels lead you into paradise.
Vaya con dios.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Our spirits were lifted by "Up"

Carl and Ellie Fredricksen became childhood friends in the 30’s through their mutual admiration of Charles Muntz, a world traveling adventurer modeled on Charles Lindberg. The little house where they met becomes their home when they marry and spend a lifetime dreaming of moving the little house to the top of Paradise Falls, in South America where Charles Muntz is still searching for his monster. Carl sells balloons in the Zoo where Ellie is a guide in the tropical birds house. When their plans to move to Paradise Falls are never realized, and Ellie dies, Carl is bereft, hardening into a stereotypical cranky old man. Their charming little house is surrounded by skyscrapers, and though Carl intends to stay put, he loses his temper with a construction worker, hitting over the head with his cane, and finds he has been forced by the court into leaving the home he loves. He hatches a plan in the night; he will float his home away with thousands of helium balloons, sail to South America and finally plant the little house on top of Paradise Falls. What he doesn’t realize is that he has a stow-away. Intrepid Russell the Wilderness Explorer has spent the night under his porch and suddenly finds himself on a floating house in the middle of Carl’s escape plan. The crusty Carl is none too pleased at this wrinkle in his plans, he was doing this for Ellie and wants nothing to do with this pesky little boy who is fascinated by his “floating house”.
When UP came out in theatres this summer, I avoided seeing it. Those who know my tastes as a family film reviewer will find this odd, so let me explain. This summer, I heard that UP, as lighthearted as it seemed in previews, had a theme about death. Since my own mother was succumbing to cancer, I was not ready to deal with my own intense feelings in a cinema, so I stayed home. I gave the DVD to my girls this Christmas, yet they insisted I avoid showing this film to my father. You see Carl’s beloved wife in UP was named Ellie. Like Mom.
So, when I finally saw this little film, it was with trepidation. I needn’t have worried. The sweetly sentimental treatment of a lifelong love was utterly charming. The tenderness of the couple living the ups and downs of marriage set to the lilting strains of a waltz was so delightful, I have the melody stuck in my head. And I love it there. UP reminded me of two things on this New Year’s Eve as the family watched it together; cherish even the boring everyday moments you share together; they may become your fondest memories when loved ones pass away. And when they do, and life seems stalled in the past, it is merely taking a new turn. If you keep your heart open, you will find someone to care for, someone who will bring a sparkle to your eye and a spring to your step. And that’s just what Ellie would want.
Pixar has done it again. Taken a theme of high flying adventure, bolstered it with unforgettable characters, exciting action and wonderfully clever humor and wowed family audiences. How do they find such great stories with such loveable characters as Carl the Curmudgeon and Russell the rotund Wilderness Explorer? How did they know my dog’s personality quirks and insert them into Dug?  This is the type of film a family should own to develop their own inside jokes (remember the time we saw Grandpa’s teeth besides his bed in a cup?) Crusty old age is as gently teased as is the youthful know-it-all, but in UP, its all in good fun. Only the bad guys lose altitude.
UP manages to deal skillfully with several themes not considered standard fare for children’s movies; disillusionment with childhood heroes, death, depression, and absent fathers. My hat is off to Pixar who always makes me look forward to the next film. Issues of death, and marriage are fleetingly but properly set inside a church, and Carl looks heavenward when talking to his late wife, implying a belief in the afterlife. Childlessness is seen as a source of suffering, and adults are respected by children. Amazing. No language or nudity, fleeting potty reference, some frightening scenes may bother younger viewers. Ages 8 and up.  Highly recommended.

This film is now available on DVD. Rated PG. 
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