Welcome to my blog!

A blog about our busy family with two amazing kids, one of whom happens to have Down syndrome!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Will there be Down syndrome in Heaven?

This is a question I've heard posed in the past and think about often. Will there be Down syndrome in Heaven? My answer is yes. Unequivocally yes. Let me tell you why.

The Bible says, in Revelations 21:4; "He will wipe away ever tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." This verse is about the healing we will see in heaven. God does not promise us physical healing in this lifetime. Even those that are saved are not promised physical health. Jesus died on the cross to ultimately bring us spiritual healing and to allow us to be saved by faith; to allow us a personal relationship with God. He did not come here to make life easier.

I don't feel that Down syndrome is something Lauren needs to be healed of. In fact, it's not something I would take away from her. Of course I would wish to take away the struggles she will face; the teasing she will likely endure at some point in the future, the discrimination that is inevitable in a society that values productivity above all else. I would give just about anything to ensure this would never happen to her at all. But I wouldn't give up that extra 21st chromosome.

Lauren's diagnosis brought me to my lowest point thus far. I have never been so weak, so unable to grasp the possibility of a future, than when we found out Lauren would be born with Down syndrome. I was truly in the depths of despair. But the Lord shows is strength in our weaknesses. I felt so abandoned by God. I felt I must have done something absolutely horrible to deserve such a fate. I did not plan my life to include a child with special needs. Even after she was born and I fell in love with her, I searched high and low in my heart and in my past to try to find that elusive thing, the one that made me deserve her. The five stages of grief were alive and well in my brain. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. It was a five-act play that never stopped, didn't happen in order, and will likely never truly end. Denial? Not me, I'm too young and this only happens to other people. Anger? How could my God forsake me this way? Bargaining? I begged God to take this burden from me. Depression? I felt so utterly alone. Acceptance? I'd choose her time and time again.

The truth is, the stages of grief don't happen in order. Grief isn't linear and it's never really a finished process. Acceptance? Not a problem on days she speaks in full sentences, comes up with clever jokes, writes her name. Depression? The days her elopement takes over my life and makes me again feel so utterly alone. On those days I doubt myself and my ability to be a mother, much less her mother. Denial? My child is just the smart child with Down syndrome that's ever lived. Anger? Lets talk about how it feels when someone tries to limit my child. My anger might not necessarily be directed at Down syndrome during those times but it's certainly the root cause. Bargaining? If He would just make her a little less busy I could have more time to do things like read my Bible, be a better friend, a better wife.

If I took away her extra chromosome, I'd run the risk of taking away the very essence that makes her Lauren. What if she didn't giggle until she almost falls over? What if she didn't stamp her little foot when she gets mad? What if she didn't call us "MommyDaddy" like we're one entity? What if the twinkle in her eye that makes her look so very alive disappeared? What if she didn't make friends with every person she meets? These are her best qualities, things I never knew I needed in a child until it happened. On the flip side, what if we took it away and she stopped running from us? What if she could learn at the same rate as other kids? What if she'd been born without a broken heart? What if she were less stubborn and easier to parent? But the truth is there are no guarantees in this life for any person, any child, any situation.

The truth is, Lauren has changed me as a person in so many ways. I'm more patient (at least in theory). I'm more understanding of people's differences. When I had her my whole world opened up to things I'd likely never experience without her. I've met a whole community of other families who have children with Down syndrome and other disabilities. I have a job that is so much more than a job, a place that allows me to share in the triumphs and sorrows of families on a similar journey to mine. She took away my ability to hide my head in the sand from true sorrow and despair. But she's opened my heart to joy I thought was unattainable until she was placed in my arms. It is true that she's not easy. And our family faces struggles that many families will never understand. She is definitely molding our lives into something much different than I would have chosen in the beginning; for myself, my marriage, my son. But different is not always defective. She is exactly who she was always meant to be.

All of those things said, Lauren's purpose in life is no different than any other person's purpose. Her purpose in life is not to teach me about patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, peace, or love. Does she help teach me all of these things? Absolutely. So does Ryan, in a completely different way. Her purpose is not to make people smile, to change stereotypes everywhere (though I'm sure she's doing this too). Galations 5: 22-23 teaches us this, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law." Having a child with Down syndrome, having Lauren, has taught me so much more about pursuing all that is good.

According to the Bible, man's purpose is to glorify God. And Lauren is no different. "everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." By this reasoning, Lauren is exactly who she is supposed to be. I can't imagine the Lord would change her in Heaven.

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Friday, April 7, 2017

More About Monte

Just 2 weeks from today we'll be in another state to get Lauren's service dog! We are getting very excited at the thought of being able to do normal family things again.

Lauren's most recent elopement was while just she and I were shopping about about a week ago. Luckily it was under 5 minutes. But until that, things had been going fairly well. I'd almost had myself convinced we didn't really need a service dog. She'd had small episodes, like running from us at the grocery store. Just today we went out to dinner and she tried to dart between tables and go...elsewhere. Rarely, if ever, does it seem like she's trying to get to a specific place. It can be kind of dangerous in a crowded restaurant with servers carrying heavy and hot plates full of food. I pulled my back today by carrying her at said restaurant. She only weighs about 40lb, but anyone that's picked her up recently knows it's kind of comparable to picking up a 40lb bag of water. She doesn't "help" at all. She asked Greg today to "hold me tighter!". She loves the sensory input of being held really close, but her low muscle tone doesn't really allow her to hold back. We're hopeful that her dog can keep her from eloping, but also provide some of that sensory input she craves.

There are just some places we can't go. Luckily we have awesome family that loves to come get Ryan so he can do fun kid things that Lauren's disability make very difficult for our family. Tomorrow his aunt is taking him to an Easter egg hunt! It's a large public event. We just can't realistically take Lauren to a place that encourages kids to run in an open environment. If there isn't a fence, Lauren doesn't know the difference between running away and just plain running. Sure, I could go and stand directly next to her and make her hold my hand. But then Ryan is once again kind of left to fend for himself. Ryan wants to go to our public library soon. It sounds so fun and I absolutely loved our local library when I was little. But again, it's a larger area with lots of shelves to hide behind. And then Ryan gets no attention, once again. We like to say that Lauren is a two-adult child. Really, if she's the only kid she's fine with one adult. But if there are any other kids, she needs somebody just specifically for her. Because we all know how quickly she can disappear. 

The practice of tethering is really controversial in the service animal world. And I get it, I really do. There are concern of injury to the dog and/or the child. We will always, 110% of the time, be working in a triad team with Lauren and Monte. This means an adult (me) holds his leash. And there's a separate "leash" connecting Lauren to Monte. She's not strong enough to drag/injure him. He can never just "take off" and drag her. We will always work as a triad. And the hope is that in time, with bonding, Monte will block her from running and alert us if she tries. But until then, we will be working as a tethered triad team. Giving Lauren the extra space to safely explore her environment has the potential to be life changing for her. Most 5 year olds are not required to be physically touching a parent at all times. But Lauren needs that reminder in order to not elope. And if she does elope from the house, or at a mall, or park, or somewhere else she may not be physically connected to Monte? He's trained in search and rescue. He has been working specifically with her scent. Specifically to find Lauren.

The feeling of your child being missing is something that can't be explained unless you've been there. Lauren's "big" elopement, where she was gone for over an hour and the police found her, I didn't even find out until after the fact. (I was out of town). And still, finding out this happened made me feel like my heart stopped beating. What if she gets hurt, or worse? What if she's kidnapped? She's so trusting of adults that it terrifies me. Parenting any kid is hard. Parenting a kid with a disability can be doubly hard...and exponentially rewarding. I view Monte as another tool in our toolbox to help us keep Lauren safe.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lauren's REED...and new skills!

On Monday we had Lauren's REED (review of existing evaluation data) to discuss what kinds of evaluations will be done in the next month. (They have 30 school days from the REED to complete it and convene for the IEP).

It went really well! The only team member not there was the PT (because she was at a different building) and my husband (because he was at work). It was Lauren's teacher, her OT, speech, the school psychologist, and me. We decided to consent for cognitive testing this year. It's kind of a crapshoot whether they'll even be able to get a full scale IQ because she's only 5, but they will look at scores across the board to see where the data lands. The IEP classifications we're considering are OHI (otherwise health impairment), CI (cognitive impairment) and Speech and Language Impairment. She'll keep her speech classification as a secondary no matter what, but they're not sure if she'll pick up a CI label yet. She's currently OHI, which I'm not sure how long she can keep that in our state, but the team wasn't confident she'd qualify for a CI label yet based on upcoming testing.

The only person at the meeting that hasn't met Lauren yet was the school psychologist. And the rest of the team had such great things to say about her! Her OT said she's a hard worker who doesn't get frustrated easily, her speech teacher said she's a rock star and has a great attention span (when she feels like it). The whole meeting was extremely positive and I really felt like there were no "sides". Everybody there was on Lauren's side. I had the chance to ask questions, which was nice. The only real question I had was that if they were able to try to get a FSIQ (full scale IQ) if they would please attempt verbal and nonverbal. Lauren's a speech rockstar, but is still definitely behind her typical peers, and expressive language can affect scores. The team cautioned me that if Lauren's IQ score appears to be low, that they'll likely assume there were some struggles with cooperation and language. Lauren's doing awesome cognitively, and I'm glad her team realizes that and is already planning to take that into account when reviewing testing scores.

They asked me to review medical history for the psychologist. It makes me so sad to think about Lauren's rocky start, but I'm so thankful for how healthy she is now! Then we reviewed areas that create barriers to learning for Lauren (behavior!!!). We went over some new phrases she says a lot at school and at home, namely "I will do all of it!". She often refuses help even if she needs it, and if she's only supposed to touch one thing (like during receptive language testing) and she wants to touch all of them...well, she's going to touch all of them. She insists on turning every single page of all testing booklets herself. This will likely create a barrier to testing! I totally forgot to mention the issue of elopement/flight risk until Lauren's teacher reminded me. Duh! I explained that she's getting a service dog and reviewed with the team what specific tasks he will be trained for. The team was really excited for her and how he will help foster her independence (like not needing me to hold her/hold her hand and not having to be confined in a stroller for public outings). They asked if we planned on him accompanying her to school (we're not) and seemed open to it, which was pretty great. I figure they get one chance. If they lose her even one time we're asking for a para to handle the dog (he is trained to work in a triad team, meaning Lauren-Monte-Handler (generally a parent)). Can you imagine sending a fluffy dog to a kindergarten class and telling everyone they can't pet him? Me either.

It was a great meeting and her IEP is scheduled for April 24th. I've asked for a copy of all MET data to review prior to the meeting, which isn't what people generally do, but I'm legally allowed to do it. That way I won't be blindsided by results walking into the IEP.

As for new skills... Lauren is AMAZING!!! I'll detail some of the amazing new things she's started doing just this week.

-She wrote her name! We have her just writing "Lo", this is also in her IEP. We have a Boogie Board, which is this awesome tablet type thing that you write on and then push an erase button to make it disappear. She was using her finger and talked herself through it. "Big line, little line. Then a circle. That's me!"

- She sight read fish, dog, goat, and panda.

- She told Greg that Panda starts with P.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Ryan has been noticing a lot lately and becoming a lot more observant! He wanted to know why my blog isn't called Meeting Ryan. I assured him that I write about him too!

He "failed" his vision screening at school a while back, we just got the letter in the mail. So Monday afternoon he has his first visit to the eye doctor! He was mad when I told him because he was afraid people will make fun of him if he wears glasses. Then he told me that everyone at his school wears glasses, so I wonder if maybe he's just nervous in general and wanted to argue about it. I've actually been wondering lately if he was having a hard time seeing things, plus he gets headaches, so I was not at all surprised when the letter came home. If he needs glasses he is going to look so adorable!!!

He is turning into such a man lately. He has a YouTube channel (heavily monitored by mom and dad). He's building Legos like a champ. He's doing great in school. He has a new friend at his table in his class, she's from the VI program (visually impaired). I am so excited about this!! He asked me what VI meant so I explained it meant visually impaired, which just meant she has a hard time seeing. The advocate in me had me wanting to ask him what kind of accommodations she gets, if she has a para, if she goes to resource room, if everyone's being nice to her...but he's 7 and honestly doesn't care what kinds of accommodations she has, lol. His teacher put her at his table because he's such a welcoming boy and used to kids being a little different. Proud mom moment!

My heart is overflowing with love for this boy.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Result of the Meetings

So I had all 3 meetings this week and came to MUCH different conclusions than I expected.

1. Private School
I loved the private school! I have nothing bad to say about it. The only downside would be the logistics because it's not at all close to where we live. And it's $8.5k a year. And it only goes up to kindergarten so we'd be back to square one next year.

2. Charter School
I was overall simply unimpressed. There was nothing overtly bad about it. But nothing wow'd me. I felt like the principal was really skeptical that it could work for Lauren. The building itself seemed dingy. And the one interaction between a teacher and I student I observed was less than friendly. There were some kids inside that didn't "earn" the recess time, and that's who I observed. It's not for us.

3. Public School
I was pleasantly surprised! I went into the meeting thinking I'd already know what they'd say and that I knew I didn't want it for Lauren. I was wrong. They presented 3 options. 1. Young Fives (not kindergarten curriculum, not special ed supported, and half day). 2. Gen ed (could include resource room time, speech therapy, and occupational therapy per IEP goals) 3. Cross Cat/Center program. The center program fully follows the kindergarten curriculum and common core standards. The ratio is smaller 3-4 adults per maximum 15 students. The teacher then has the ability to work with kids 1:1 in reading and math. For handwriting, science, social studies,etc there is 2-3 adults to circulate the room and help as required. They "scaffold" the material to teach it several times and in several different ways. There's a speech therapist in the classroom for the majority of the day.
We're familiar with gen ed because Ryan just did gen ed K last year. It's a lot faster paced with a much larger teacher ratio 1-2 adults to 26ish kids.
This was presented as either/or.
I asked about doing part of the day in center and part of the day in gen-ed. I actually really liked the answer! They said they do have some kids who do part day gen and and part day special ed. They said they have a couple kids who do about 1/2 hour in gen ed and the rest in special ed. But I spoke with a center teacher after the meeting and she currently has a student with Down syndrome in her class who does about an hour of gen ed plus specials with gen ed, the rest in the center program. I LOVE this idea. She said the parents went in asking for full day gen ed. I'm thinking they probably knew they wouldn't get that and "settled" for what they actually wanted. Smart parents!
I asked about the difference between the CI (cognitive impairment) and Cross Cat/Center program. Basically you have to qualify for CI, which is for kids with moderate-severe cognitive impairments. We were told last year that Lauren would likely not qualify and this would not be presented as an option to us.
I expressed to Lauren's speech therapist at the meeting that my main concern is Lauren having peer models. I said that I don't think gen-ed only is the right choice for her (speech therapist agreed), but I also don't think she will have enough peer models verbally in the Center program (speech therapist also agreed and said that socially, Lauren is more of a peer model). So I'm thinking we may not be getting as much push back as I was expecting when I ask for gen ed time.
I asked about gen ed plus resource room as an option. They said that while this is an option, there could come a time that so much resource room support is needed that it's practically a self contained classroom. I could see this happening with Lauren. Academically she is nowhere near a typical gen ed kindergartener. While we're expecting that Lauren's cognitive impairment is mild, she is still cognitively impaired. I can't ignore that.
I also asked about plans to get the gen ed kids and center kids together. Currently at one of the schools in our district there is a buddy program in place. I only learned about this at the district meetings I went to when they were deciding where to move the special ed programs (two schools closed and programs were shifted around. The special ed program was moved from two schools to do different schools). I heard great feedback from 2 gen ed kids who really loved having a "center buddy". The district coordinator said they are actively working on ways to implement that at the new schools in the fall.
I really liked what they said about placement. They said that while the team (current teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and district special ed coordinator) will make a strong recommendation, placement is ultimately up to the parents. This is true based on IDEA law and I love that they were very up front with this.
Greg and I both really liked the private school option. But logistically and geographically, it's not close to home. And we'd be back at square one for first grade. So we're thinking that if the district is willing to meet us halfway and give us minimally an hour plus specials of gen ed time, we'll choose our home district.
Overall, I really am surprised at our current decision! I did not expect to at all like what the district had to say. But I was very impressed! I have a meeting early next month with the team to discuss cognitive testing, then the IEP will be hammered out and decided upon. Then we can make our final decision.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

School. A little (or a lot) soapbox-y

Next week I have THREE kindergarten planning meetings for Lauren. We're currently considering three options for school for next year.

1. Public school. Our district is going to offer us special education kindergarten. It's still kindergarten, but at a slower pace with less kids. It's called cross categorical or cross cat. Or simply, the center program. In theory I don't have a problem with this. Except for that I don't understand why gen-ed kindergarten isn't being offered as an option. It's kindergarten, not higher level learning. Life is not segregated. The kids in this classroom have varying IEP classifications. In some districts, this kind of classroom can be used as a "catch all" for the kids that either don't quite fit anywhere else (emotional impairment, otherwise health impaired, etc) or for kids whom their classification classroom doesn't have a spot for them (if the ASD rooms are full). Or it can be used very appropriately for kids with mild cognitive impairments. I am not against this placement. I am against only this placement. Our district doesn't have mild CI classrooms. I asked about gen-ed time if we choose this program and I was told "they don't do that". Hmm. There's a kindergarten planning meeting on Thursday next week for parents of kids currently in special ed preschool in our district. Both center teachers and gen ed teachers will be there.

2. Charter school. There is a charter school in our city that does Montessori. They use a full inclusion model, but I'm not sure exactly how equipt they are for a kid with a mild cognitive impairment, like Lauren. Do they have a resource room? Do they have speech and/or OT? I'm not sure. I have a meeting with the principal and the special ed coordinator on Wednesday. I don't know a whole lot about this school, but I love their attitude about inclusion.

3. Private school. I'm going to a kindergarten open house for a private school in our area on Tuesday evening. This school only goes up to kindergarten, so we'd be in the same spot as we are now at the end of next school year. This school is 100% pro inclusion. They keep spots open for kids with special needs. It's an awesome program and I've heard only great things about it. It is, however, expensive. I'm not sure how expensive yet, but I'll likely find out next week. Another con is that it's not in our city. A huge plus for this school is that it shares a building with my work. I love the thought of being so close to Lauren every day even if I'm working at she's learning.

We'll have to see what information the meetings bring. I'm wary of our public option simply because I think Lauren CAN be successful in a gen-ed classroom. Obviously her work would have to be modified. But socially, emotionally...she's ready and she'll be fine. She's already been in the classroom for 3 full years. Lauren is doing really well cognitively. Her receptive language scores are low for a typical kid... but really really awesome still considering she is not a typical kid.

Another big concern of mine is that if we don't try gen-ed now, chances are we never will. The gap is just going to get bigger because development is a moving target. I think it would do Lauren a huge disservice to not even give her the chance to succeed.

Lauren will have cognitive testing next month. We consented to the IQ test, which I know is pretty hotly debated. But I'm a person who likes to see things as concrete as possible and I think being able to look at her strengths and weaknesses academically will help us to make the right choices. At her age, the best indicator if IQ is the receptive language score. Last year hers was great. I'm curious to see what it looks like this year. Either way, we're pushing for inclusion because studies show that kids with Down syndrome do very well with inclusion.




I understand that funding is frequently an issue. But quite frankly, that's not my problem. Tax money is slated for education. My child, by law, must be educated. And the federal law indicates that the least restrictive environment is where a child should be placed. How do we know how little to restrict if we never even try it?

Let's look at some of the verbage used in the law. I don't think this is unclear at all.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is the requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with nondisabled peers and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily. [20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Sec. 1412(a)(5)(A); 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec. 300.114.]

In all honestly, this is kind of a switch from my previous way of thinking. I previously felt that special education alone was "good enough" for Lauren. I didn't (and still don't) expect her to earn a high school diploma. However, I feel like I was selling her short a little bit. She is smart, she is capable. She loves to learn. She loves school. She loves to have friends and be included. I do still feel like her most meaningful friendships will be with others that have disabilities like hers. But why does that need to happen in a separate environment? When she grows up and gets a job, or goes to a post-high school program (there are tons available and more popping up every year), or runs errands out the community she will be in our community as a whole, not in a separate disabled community. And I truly believe that Lauren, along with everybody else with a disability, has the capability and potential to be a contributing member of her community. That will likely look different for Lauren than it will for her typical peers, but different does not mean less than.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

She's FIVE!!

I can't believe she's 5 years old. Didn't I just have her? She's currently sitting next to me on the couch asking me a zillion questions while waiting for Signing Time to start. It's so much fun to spend time with her!

Her biggest strength right now is speech. I couldn't even hazard a guess as to how many words she has. Her spontaneous speech is awesome. She is extremely sassy and talks back just as much, if not more than, any other five year old. And I have to say, I did not anticipate that! Here are some examples of a few funny things she's said lately.

Lauren: I want to go swimming! (She came up to me completely naked. She was dressed 2 seconds before this).
Me: No Lauren, we're going to Kroger! Go put your clothes back on immediately!
Lauren: Are you kidding me?! I can't!

Me: Alright Lauren, it's time to go to school!
Lauren: I can't go to school, my teacher is sick! (not true)
Me: Well, then we should go to school and tell her to feel better!
Lauren: Mommy, you can just talk to her on the phone.

And then today she told me, "When daddy get home from work I listen to mommy!" I asked her if she could just listen to me now. She said, "Uuummmmmm..." It was definitely a no.

She's a huge bedtime staller and her excuses are so typical. "But mommy, I so thirsty!" "But mommy, I so hungry!" "Mommy, it's so dark! I can't see my big toe!" (Okay, maybe that last one isn't so typical)

Speech is definitely her biggest strength right now. It's so much fun to have conversations with her and I love hearing about her day. She is a total chatterbox and I absolutely love it! There are times I would love just 5 minutes of silence, but I really am so thankful that her speech is such a strength for her.

She currently loves ketchup more than anyone on this planet loves anything. It's absolutely disgusting, lol. Today she force fed me a goldfish cracker dipped in ketchup against my will. She regularly smells like ketchup. She's still a champion eater and will eat pretty much anything except for broccoli, and even then she'll sometimes surprise us! She loves movies. Her current favorites are Secret Life of Pets, Frozen, Inside Out, Toy Story 2, The Incredibles, and Finding Dory. She is still head over heels about books. She loves to go swimming. She still really loves animals and is so excited to get her service dog in April.

We celebrated her 5th birthday last weekend with a Frozen themed party! She got a couple of preschool workbooks. She loves to do "homework" when Ryan does his. We mostly just have her tracing shapes and lines. She's not tracing letters yet. Fine motor skills are definitely a weakness for her. We're working on this with wooden block letter puzzles. She's so good at them! It's been amazing for letter recognition as well! She is hit or miss with behavior. She's awesome for everyone but me, it seems like. I know this is 100% my fault. I'm way too easy on her. Her go to apology for me is "I sorry mommy. I won't do it again". It's so adorable and totally not true because whatever she promises not to to again, she does. She still really struggles with being impulsive, which includes running from us. It's easier in the winter because we're just out less. She's also less likely to try to get out of the house in the winter.

She can spell "cow" like a champ. Pig is usually correct. She did, however, recently spell hen in an interesting way..."C-I-5"! She was so proud of herself, too! She's doing awesome at recognizing letters out in the community. C, O, W, E are currently her best letters. She's counting to 10 when she feels like it. I honestly thought she couldn't until our pediatrician told her to do it. She still loves school, but every Wednesday (when I'm home) she tries to get out of going. She doesn't usually tell us about her day, opting instead to say "nothing" or "I only want mom!" But today she told me that she is a diamond and her friend Hope is a circle. I'm assuming they're assigned a shape at school but she could totally be making this up!

Her health has been pretty stellar, save for a bout of the GI crud that was going around. She recently had a sedated CT scan that ruled out atlanto-axial instability. We got the all clear right before Christmas!

She is such an amazing little girl and I still can't believe she's mine to keep. She still prefers me over daddy most days, which I love so much. I'm absolutely positive nobody in the whole world will ever love me more than she does. And nobody could ever love her as much as I do, though she is super easy to love. She always tells me I'm her best friend, though she is indiscriminate about who she says that to. Strangers, airplanes, dogs, cats, trees, are all "best friend!". Ryan is an amazing big brother and is so incredibly patient with her.