Saturday, February 25, 2017

As Long As It's Healthy, A 77 Year Old Pregnancy

As I rummaged through the area under the sink, my mom stood next to me nervously fidgeting with her hands. I handed her the Dixie cup and a few moments later we saw two little lines. Pregnant! I cried tears of joy and amazement “I cannot believe I get to experience this with you, mom!” She gently rubbed her belly and said “I think it’s a boy, I can tell by how I feel.” We were giddy and excited like we were sisters. I was then outside and in the distance was a sparkling water tower with bright orange pumpkins at the top. I made a mental note to take photos of the kids there sometime. It was the golden hour and the sun was shining beautifully and the light was perfect. I pulled my mom close to me and we googled “77 year old pregnancy risks”.  The next thing I remember is being startled awake by the sound of my alarm clock. I smiled to myself and thought “oh man I can’t wait to tell my mom about this one”.

That morning I did what I do every day, I called my mom. “Mom, I just had a dream you were pregnant!” She giggled and said “I better go to the casino, maybe it means I’ll meet a guy!” She always makes me laugh. So then we had a whole conversation about stories of women past age 60 having babies, I reminded her to be careful. “I wonder what a 77 year old’s risk of having a Down syndrome pregnancy would be?” we giggled some more. As I explained the random pumpkins and the water tower, she said “OK you know what is weird, I’ve had a reoccurring dream and fear since I was a little girl of water towers.” Her brothers would simply walk by her and say “water tower” and she would cry. Dreams sure are trippy, aren’t they? I wonder what it all means.

Me and my mama
I can tell you exactly why I’ve been dreaming about babies and pregnancy though, it seems that everyone at work is pregnant. The two girls that sit next to me are pregnant and have the cutest little baby bumps. We talk about babies every day. I was talking to one of the girls right before her gender ultrasound. I said “so do you think you’ll have a little sis for your daughter or a baby bro?” She looked at me and said “I don’t care, as long as it’s healthy”. Then I could see her body language shift. She said “but, I mean, if it’s not healthy that is OK too...” I could tell she had one of those “oh crap” moments, like maybe she said the wrong thing to me.

This conversation brought me back to when I was pregnant with Ellie. Every night Jesse and I have a routine of going upstairs and kissing the kids goodnight before we go to sleep. Every single night during my pregnancy with her, I would go kiss my boys and then rub my belly and say a prayer “please Lord bless this baby, and please make sure she is healthy”. I had a rough time throughout my pregnancy and always worried that she wasn’t going to make it. I had bleeding for weeks, gestational diabetes, thyroid problems, and she was in an odd position in the womb to which doctors had no explanation.

My Ellie Belly
After the birth of our girl, I remember crying to my mom. Through tears I said “but mom I prayed every night that she would be healthy.” She looked me straight in the face and said “and she is, honey.”

Ellie with Grandma
I know once you join the Down syndrome club, and you hear other moms saying how all they care about is that their little one is healthy, it can hurt a little. Like they don’t want a baby like yours. But I’ve come to realize that there is nothing wrong with hoping your baby is healthy. One thing we all have in common is that we don’t want our little ones to hurt or suffer. We are protective and love these little beings more than life itself. So “as long as it’s healthy” doesn’t bother me anymore. Because I prayed that our girl was healthy too, and she is, honey. 

Ellie and I
This week's song was one that popped up yesterday on Pandora, and I immediately sent it to my brothers. Yesterday would have been my handsome dad's 80th birthday, so of course I always think he's saying hello by sending me beautiful music to listen to. :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy 4th Birthday Ellie

To capture 4 years into a 4 minute video was hard for me, especially since I take sooo many pictures! And do you know what really stood out as I sorted through the hundreds of photos? This. girl. is. so. loved. Wow!

Click the link below to watch the video:

Happy 4th Birthday Ellie

Happy birthday Ellie, our beloved one!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Shaken, Not Stirred: A Stafford Family Update

As I sit here on this snowy Thursday night, drinking some cheap red wine, I had the realization that I have only posted on this little ole' blog four times this year. That is a huge difference from the first year we had Ellie, I had posted 22 times in 2013. 22! That's almost 2 posts per month. And I remember when I started blogging, my whole intention of sharing our life was to maybe help one family receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis, to show them that it would be OK. I also remember thinking back then.. "there sure are a lot of blogs about babies and young kids with DS, and not many about older kids"... My imagination lead me to wonder if this was because it got harder as our kids grew, maybe it was harder to talk about? Too overwhelming to share? Is this why the blog posts fade into nothingness?

Truth? For us it hasn't gotten harder. It's gotten really "normal" to be honest. I don't have anything exciting to report on my little blog. We are a family of 5 and we are so dang busy that we've resorted to eating Taco Bell 4-5 times a week. I probably shouldn't admit that, huh? Yikes. I'm juggling work, Jesse's new adventure, Will's tournament basketball team (basketball 5 x a week! seriously), Ellie's appointments as well as trying to encourage our little artsy "cream in our cookie" Lukey Lukester.

So in regards to Jesse's new adventure. I have to tell you a story. If you know me at all, then you know I'm very "woo woo". Jesse has had a dream of owning his own liquor store since he was a kid. I'm not kidding. While we all were playing "house", "cars" or "teacher", Jesse was playing "Liquor Store". He had a cash register and mini bottles that were his Grammy and Papa's. He would sell the mini bottles to his make-believe customers. Who does that!? 

He tried for over ten years to be appointed to a store. He was told no over and over again, but he never gave up. Finally this past September he opened his own store. He has been working 80+ hours a week and business is growing every day. He is truly good at what he does and watching him with his customers makes me so proud. 

Leading up to this we had many little angel winks, including Luke asking the Magic 8-Ball if daddy would get a store and it said "All Signs Point to Yes", my mom found a little black cocktail recipe book that was her dad's on the day Jesse found out he got the store. The first recipe in the book? "Angel's Kiss". Thanks Grandpa Lehne for the blessing! After feeling like maybe owning a store just wasn't meant to be it finally happened. 

I can't forget to mention that a psychic told me Jesse would get the store, hehehe. She nailed it. Too funny huh? Side note: she also said my dad plays songs for me and he loves that I notice. WOAH! Goosebumps! He plays songs for me all the time and you wouldn't believe the eye rolls I get when I mention that my dad in heaven is turning the radio dial. 

The Recipe Book, note the 3rd one down, LOL

Front of the Store

At Daddy's New Store
To make it even more fateful, Jesse and I met when we were 18 and lost contact at age 19. Guess where we were when we saw each other again 5 years later? You guessed it, the Liquor Store. That was where we rekindled our love! I have a whole story about that encounter but seriously, it's where it all began!

And now an update on the kids!

Will is 9 now and is doing really awesome at school. He is drawn to all things sports and plays soccer, basketball and baseball. Right now he's on a tournament basketball team and they got first place last weekend at their tournament! He is really tall and loves to compare his height to mine. His favorite things are playing outside especially with the neighbors and being a comedian 24/7. He is so much like his uncles that it creeps me out sometimes. 


Oldest and Youngest

Luke is 7 and has been really exploring his artistic side. I'm so so proud of him! He has his own art instagram and has been doing the CHAP art classes every month. He is so creative and amazes me with his artistic ability. He was asked to be part of an online gallery called childish. I asked him if he wanted to do it, and he said he absolutely wanted to! So stay tuned to see his "Happy Trees" art being featured! He also had his first commissioned piece and made $10, he was pretty stoked!



Luke's "Mother and Baby" his first commissioned piece!

Ellie will be turning 4 in January. I can't even believe it, our baby! It's been a whirlwind trying to figure out what's going on with her legs. She still walks sideways and drags her smaller leg behind her. She's been to a couple of specialists and we are trying to determine if it could be Cerebral Palsy. Our last stop is the Neurologist and I'm just waiting to hear from them to make that appointment. She had thumb surgery in September which was a success also! 
After Thumb Surgery
She and I were in a documentary and that was fun to do together. I think it turned out pretty great and I can't wait to share that after the new year. She also had another photo shoot for Fred Meyer and looks so cute! This ad not only ran in the local Freddy's ads but in the Kroger ads nationwide! My friend Kelly in Texas picked me up a bunch of copies!

Latest Fred Meyer Ad
Ellie also did a calendar shoot for FACT with her Uncle Danny! He will be getting a framed copy of the ADORABLE pic for Christmas, I can't wait!! When I asked him if he could be a model with her, he said "Tiff, God answers prayers in ways we don't expect. I've been praying a lot lately and then you called me to tell me this!" Oh man he makes me smile!

FACT Calendar
Dressed up for Christmas Pics
So really the whole point of this post was really no point at all. I just thought I'd check in and write down what has been going on! I should mention that I have been a really really really bad friend, sister, daughter and wife lately and I'm sorry for that. I am so lucky though because most of you still love me. I'm terrible about setting up dates and checking in. It will get better I promise, once we get out of "survival mode" of owning a new business. And once I can get more than 5 hours of sleep a night! I'm tired! 

I also have to mention how grateful I am that my mom and mother-in-law have been so helpful and loving and supportive. Cooking meals, folding laundry, even cleaning toilets. Seriously big huge hugs and loves are going out to those ladies who keep me from completely losing my you-know-what. I love you! More than you know!

For this week's post I'm putting a very random but special song to our family. It is one that is often playing in the background when we are cooking dinner or hanging out. Every time I hear it I just think of my sweet little crew and it makes me smile. I'm getting a record player for Christmas and found this on vinyl for $2, it shipped yesterday. I can't wait to listen to it on Christmas day. Ahhh so excited!!!


Angel From Montgomery - Bonnie Raitt & John Prine

Monday, September 5, 2016

Welcome to the Club

I've been watching Season 2 of "Born This Way" on A&E, a reality show about young adults with Down syndrome. It follows their everyday lives, showing their triumphs as well as struggles. Every single episode I shed a tear, whether it's when Megan expresses her desire to have babies, when Elena and her mom go head to head, or the love Cristina and her fiance' have for each other. I love Sean's parent's humor and they remind me of Jesse and I, plus my boys are constantly singing "Shake Your Booty" by cast member John. I can't help but look forward to my future with Ellie. I'm learning so much from the parents who have walked this path before me. I'm also realizing I have so much more to look forward to. 

On a recent episode, Elena's mom was talking to the other parents about how hard it has been dealing with Elena's fragile emotional state. They comforted her, reassuring her that they are all there to help her through it. Then Rachel's dad said something that really hit home for me, and the tears started flowing. He talked about being in "the club". It is so true. We are in a club we never dreamed we would be in (unless you are Jesse and I and you literally dream your daughter with Down syndrome into reality!) And now I can't imagine not being in this club. It's something amazing that is for sure.

Just a little over a week ago I hosted a mom's lunch for local families. The Down Syndrome Network Oregon graciously sponsored the event and we had a huge turnout. There was about 150 people including the kids, all at my house! It was amazing! There were children from 1 month old all the way up to 15 years old. I was in awe watching the moms connecting and sharing their stories. All of the kids got along as if they had been playing together for years. It was a "heart is overflowing" moment for me. I also have to make a shout out to my mother-in-law Julie, my mom, and my best friends Jos and Allyn for helping me put the event together! I couldn't have done it without their help. Also, Jos took over 200 photos for me. Here are a few from the day, I had a hard time narrowing it down so I apologize in advance for the photo overload!

Helper Extraordinaires! My Mama, My Bestie, My Mama-in-Law
Ellie and her new buds :)
Babies galore!
Iris loving the pool!
Two beautiful girls.
Paula, one half of the amazing DSNO founder duo!
Little Miss Sunshine.
One of my closest local mama friends and her beautiful family

I am leaving Friday morning for a two night trip to Dallas, Texas to see over 100 of my closest friends. That sounds funny doesn't it? But it's true. We are all moms to children with Down syndrome. We have been each other's sounding board through surgeries, struggles, delays, successes, GI issues (some of you know more about this than you'd like), and navigating services, inclusion and more. This event is put on through the DSDN and is called the Rockin' Mom Retreat. We will have 3 days and two nights full of laughs, tears and relaxation. The goal of the weekend is for the moms to connect, inspire, and recharge. To say I'm excited would be an understatement. Here's a few photos from last year's event in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

1st Rockin' Mom Retreat - 2015 - Minneapolis, MN

Elevator fun!
The late night crew!
There for each other. Always.
This is our tribe. As our children grow, we will have each other through every  milestone, whether locally connected or connected virtually. The future isn't scary or lonely when you have others who get it. Our kids may end up living together someday, like Steven and Sean from Born This Way. Speaking of Sean I get to meet his Rockin' Mom this weekend in Dallas! And I wonder who will be in the first "Rockin' Wedding", I have my sights on Mason and Ellie for that title. 

I don't know what Ellie's future holds but I do know as her mom I am not alone, and never will be. How is it that a little extra chromosome can bring together people who would have otherwise never met? I also can't imagine not having my now-best friend Jos. Our girls brought us together and I'm forever grateful for that. 

Sweaty BFF's but having fun!
Have you found your people yet? The first step would be reaching out to your local group for face-to-face support. If you click this link, it will show you the organization closest to you. We have the DSNO and NWDSA local to us here in Oregon, both are amazing organizations that provide so many resources to families. And if you are new mama, "welcome to the club", you will love it here I promise. When you are ready, please find us on Facebook at the DSDN and join one of our many private support groups. And remember, you've got this, and we've got you.

My song for this week is one that reminds me of my fellow Rockin' Moms. I love you ladies so much and can't wait to see many of you on Friday!

Count on Me - Bruno Mars

Sunday, April 17, 2016

How Can You Change the Face of Beauty??

Is your child a ham? Do they light up when they see a camera? Have you wondered what this whole Changing the Face of Beauty business is all about??

Well I am being totally serious when I say, send your child's photo in to your local agencies!!!! Do it! If Ellie can do it, your child can too!

Since Ellie has been booking modeling jobs I have received a lot of messages from other parents who want to know how to get started. I thought I would list the steps I took here for easy reference.

The first step I took was to google... I googled "child modeling agency" in the largest town near us. I had found two agencies that sounded good. I picked two photos of Ellie that I felt showed her "sparkle", one head shot and one full body shot. At that time Ellie wasn't walking so it ended up being a sitting photo, but it worked out just fine.

Here are the pictures I submitted:

When you submit your photos, there will most likely be an area in the form for comments. This is where I included the link to Changing the Face of Beauty, and I explained to the agencies why I am so passionate about CTFOB's mission. I also told them all about Ellie. 

Then I waited. I had submitted Ellie's photos in December and didn't hear back until March. One agency never called me back. But Puddletown did, and they have been absolutely wonderful to work with. You can see Ellie's talent profile here. We have had a lot of fun with the shoots Ellie has done for Hooray Haroo, Matilda Jane, and Fred Meyer.  She has a Fred Meyer ad that is supposed to run this week, so keep an eye out for it!

The posing. I wasn't going to add this tibit of information but I think it might be helpful. Since Ellie was tiny we have always had fun with her signature "model poses". Here she is as just a little nugget posing for me:

Just a few weeks ago my friend Joelle from Australia messaged me. Her beautiful daughter Josee Hope was asked to be a model for a company called Oobi. And not only a model, but the Unicorn Ambassador for their company - PERFECT!!! Joelle was nervous that Josee wouldn't pose for the camera. Here are some of the tips I shared with her:

The mirror: The mirror has helped us with Ellie's speech, teeth brushing, hair brushing, etc. We also would copy each other's faces in the mirror, so now she will copy any face that I do. It's a great place to start.

The iPad or phone: Letting your child videotape themselves making faces gives them instant gratification. This is another useful speech tool as a matter of fact!

Siblings/Mimicking. This one is HUGE. Mimicking and copying siblings has been a huge help in getting Ellie to do her poses. Even during her Matilda Jane shoot Ellie started to melt down, but then she watched Grandma Barb and copied her, you wonder where her sassy poses came from? 

So Joelle tried these tips with Josee who had never modeled professionally before. She absolutely ROCKED IT. You have to check her out, isn't she amazing??? Oobi Unicorn Ambassador Josee Hope

I was worried about whether modeling would be too time consuming for our crazy life. Honestly I wasn't sure if doing this would even be feasible since I work, but my mother-in-law has been a huge help, thank you Grammee!! She has taken Ellie to both of her Fred Meyer shoots, and the Matilda Jane shoots have been on the weekend, so I was able to take her! We are taking the jobs as they come and are figuring it out as we go. We don't know how long the modeling gigs will keep coming in so we have just decided to have fun in the process. We are also saving Ellie's money for her college fund!

As always, I am here to answer any questions you may have. Seeing children and adults of all abilities in the media is so, so important. It makes my heart swell with pride and excitement when I see more and more companies being involved. My hope is that someday it isn't a big deal and that it just "is", if that makes sense. 

Here are some of her latest photos that I love:

Her first Fred Meyer ad:

Behind the scenes at Matilda Jane:

The real deal, I think they turned out so great:

A few I took this morning:

For this post's song I'm going back to my high school roots (thanks to my niece Karley for rekindling my love for this music). Here is one of my faves from 20 years ago, and now it reminds me of my baby girl:

Beautiful, you're beautiful, as beautiful as the sun
Wonderful, you're wonderful, as wonderful as they come

Beautiful - The Smashing Pumpkins