Thursday, November 22, 2012

Our Journey to Tulip Part One

Who or what is Tulip?  Tulip is the nickname that our kids gave TuYuan the first time they saw her picture.  Clara thought that her little pigtails looked like the top of a tulip and she exclaimed, "Let's call her Tulip!"  Somehow it stuck.  So from now on (until another suitable name is agreed upon {which is looking a bit unlikely these days}) we will refer to her as Tulip. We have nothing against her Chinese name except for the fact that we have no idea how to say it correctly and so it turns into a fumbled mess each time we try and that feels strange.  Simplicity, my friends. Tulip it is, thanks Clara!
For AMY (my sister) see the Chinese characters on the back of the chair--those could be her name--not sure.

I can't possibly share our entire journey to Tulip in one post.  It is a long story. And parts of it are private. And sad. And parts of it still don't make sense to us. But I can tell you this much--this Journey to Tulip has been forming for much longer than most of you suspect.

Have you ever felt like there was one particular thing that you were created to do?
Imagine each life as a beautiful painting.  So intricate and detailed that you can't just give it a once over and walk away.
You must start on one side of the painting and slowly, bit by bit, let your eyes roll over each shape, each color, each stroke in order to fully grasp the beauty of the whole painting.

Over the past few months I have allowed my eyes to slowly roll over the painting of my life and I can't help but notice the repetition that The Artist used.
  • I started preschool in 1979 at Seymour Christian School--look what else happened in 1979 at Seymour: "A successor of the Pine Rest Children’s Retreat, the Christian Learning Center, sponsored by the Grand Rapids Christian School Association, opened its doors with an Exceptional Needs program in the fall of 1979 on the campus of Seymour Christian School."
    I have very vivid and fond memories of sharing eight years of my educational life with kids who had a variety of special needs including Down Syndrome.  
  • Two little girls with DS were born to families on my childhood street. That street has only 39 houses.  I was asked to babysit for both of those families and I babysat one of those little girls at least two days a week for over two years. She was non-verbal (she still is) and pretty low functioning.
  • A family that I had previously babysat for had a third child after they had moved out of the area.  That little girl was born with DS.  I was in high school at the time, but I still remember the birth announcement that they sent me (and all other family and friends) with a very honest and loving note describing their new daughter and her diagnosis.  I kept that note for many years because I admired the way that they had handled a very hard situation.
  • In high school I was a counselor at Camp Sunshine.  No surprise that I was paired with a girl with DS :)
  • In high school and college I volunteered with Friendship Ministries. Once again, I was paired with individuals with DS.
  • I was a special education major at Calvin College however, I never really wanted to teach in a special education class. Instead,  I thought maybe just maybe someday I would parent a child with DS.  So, technically I spent $60,000 preparing to be Tulip's mother.  Not surprising though, my special education student aiding was done in a class room of preschoolers with DS-go figure. 
  • When I worked for a private reading company in Maryland in 2002, I taught a 50 year old woman with DS how to read.  That was a great experience.
  • In Mexico in 2004, I volunteered at a state run orphanage once a week.  I was assigned to the baby room where there was the sweetest little baby with DS.  I almost tried to smuggle him out one week :)
  • While in Armenia I volunteered at an orphanage for children with special needs.  There were 8 children with DS who lived there.  7 were feisty and one was a tiny and gentle girl named Stella.  Adam and I discussed adopting her. We chose not to. Now we know why. I still think of her often but I did hear she was adopted by a German family. I pray she is living a wonderful life.
  • In June of 2010, I expressed my passion for DS on this blog in this post.  Of the roughly 703 posts I have written on Diplofam, this one I am most proud of. 
Dear Tulip,
Did you know there is an awesome Artist that has painted a masterpiece of your life?  I haven't seen it yet but I know that it will be beautiful. I know there will be mystery and sadness mixed in.  Your mother and father, maybe even your grandmother and grandfather could only see part of the painting--they couldn't see the whole picture.  But the Artist knows. And He loves you.
And so do I,

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