Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Remember I told you that our Spring is all about sports? Here are a few of the pictures that I took of my Allstars this season, to prove it!

Caleb playing soccer:

Nolan playing soccer:

Jacob playing baseball:

Caleb playing baseball:

And, Gavin even got in on the sports! Here he is "playing baseball":

The season is winding down and even though I'm not a big sports person and I dread all the busyness that comes with all of our boys involved in sports, I have a feeling that I might even miss seeing my boys in action!

Speaking of baseball, it's 3 strikes and you're out, Right?! Well, if this is the case, then I am OUT!

Yesterday, for the third time in a couple of months, I locked my keys in my van! I can't believe it! I've never done this in my life and now I do it all of the time! The first time I was at the mall with the boys and my mom, and she had driven separately, so she and Jake drove to our house to get the extra van key. (Problem solved!)

The second time I was at the mall with just Caleb and Gavin, and I had just finished changing Gavin's diaper on the van floor. When I took him out of the van, I forgot to grab my purse, which had the keys in it! Everyone I knew, including Joel, was out of town, so I had to call a locksmith to get back into the van!

This time around I was at Target and had just put Gavin in his stroller, when a lady came and needed to get into her van, which was right next to mine, to put her son in his carseat. So, I quickly moved our stroller out of the way and shut the van door. As soon as I closed the door, I realized that I had not grabbed my purse from the van! UGH!

Joel says the next jewelery he's going to buy me is a necklace with a key on it! :)

Thankfully Joel's mom had just gotten home when I called her and she offered to come rescue me, by going to our house to get my spare key! I am thinking that this is a sign that I should not be out shopping! Either that, or I simply just need a vacation! Or.....maybe I'm just becoming scatterbrained and getting old?! I vote that I need a vacation! :)

Because it has been 3 strikes and I AM OUT!

"There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory." 1 Chorinthians 15:41

Monday, May 24, 2010

Interesting Week, Busy Week!

Why is it I often feel so bored, but when I look back on my week, it's been a very full one? Here is a condensed version of our family's interesting week.

***Gavin had his first field trip/function with his school. We were invited to a baseball game and dinner, and we had lots of fun! We got to see many of the kiddos that attend his school and they were all so adorable!

***Joel and I celebrated 15 years of marriage! It actually seems longer than this, but I think it's because we have gone through a lot in those 15 years, so it feels like a lifetime! We didn't do anything special, but we hope to get away some time this summer for an overnight trip, because it has been WAY TOO LONG since we have been able to do this! We don't really exchange gifts anymore, because what is the point when you need nothing! But, Joel did give me a very sweet card and in it he wrote:

"Thank you for all you have given me the last 15 years! I pray that I grow as a husband for you and meet all of your needs. We have been through many trials and hard times that would have broken many marriages. Thanks for staying in there with me! Love forever, Joel"

And, this was the perfect gift to me!

They say that 80% of marriages fail when there is a special needs child involved. Joel and I have gone through lots together, even before Gavin came along, so I'm confident we are going to survive! We go through tough times, but we are both stubborn and we DO TRULY love each "bring it on" to another 15 years of doing this thing called life together! :) Love you Joel!

***We got to see a couple of friends that we haven't seen in forever! In fact, my childhood friend, Lisa, is actually the one who introduced Joel and I to one another, so it's fitting that we got to see her again this week! She now lives in California and we rarely get to talk or see each other, so it sure was great to see her and to think back to our fun days together as childhood friends!

***Earlier in the week I sent my firstborn son off "on his own", to go on his first trip without us! (This is why Jake isn't in the family picture above, which is of most of our family at the ballpark.) He had tons of fun on this 8th grade trip and I actually survived letting him go! (But, why do they have to grow up so fast??!!)

***Of course, there were a few sporting events to attend the last week, because what would our family do if sports wasn't apart of our life so much during the Spring?!

***OH, and Joel got stuck in a traffic jam on his way to work last week and actually got hit by a SEMI-TRUCK!

(No, Moms we didn't tell you because he was totally fine and the damage that was done to his car was minor....relax....take a deep breath! :) )

Anyway, they were only going about 2 miles per hour and the semi didn't see him and kept going and Joel had to roll down his window and bang on the truck to get the driver's attention before he did more damage to Joel's car and maybe even to Joel! I about freaked out when Joel told me this, but he waited until he got home, which is probably a good thing so that I could see with my own eyes that everything was fine, but I need anymore of this kind of excitement in my life?! Oh, and Joel got reamed out for being late to work.....seriously?! I can't understand some people! Like he caused this to happen! Anyway, we feel very blessed that Joel and his car are mostly fine and I have to say that I married a forgiving man! Because Joel didn't even ask this driver for his insurance information. He said we all make mistakes and that he was fine and able to drive away, so what was the point to making this guy's just a car and Joel says he's been forgiven for lots of things before too. I personally would have been angry and made this driver pay....but the more I thought about it, I realized that Joel was right in making this decision and it again proves to me why I married him in the first place! He's an honorable and kind person!

***Lastly, Gavin got sick on Friday and I thought for sure that he would be in the hospital with this illness, but he's still home and I am so thankful for this! He has a nasty cough and his sats have been dipping into the 80's, but he's holding his own for now! He actually got better for awhile yesterday, but during the night his lungs sounded horrible again and his sats were down again, but today he is hanging in there! We are just doing lots of CPT and extra breathing treatments, so hopefully this does the trick.

We've had this hooked to his (CUTE) toe a lot, checking his oxygen sats:

And, he hasn't been feeling that great:

But, he still makes sure to give us lots of smiles! He is such a trooper!

This week is going to be another full one for our family! There are 3 field trips planned for 2 of our boys. I hope to go on one of them. There are only 8 1/2 days of school until summer vacation starts! Jacob has his 8th grade graduation and I'm MAKING him study for exams! Their school has field day on Friday, which I'm planning on helping out with. And, of course, there are some sports thrown into the mix! So, I'm praying that Gavin gets better soon so that I can participate in all of this! Say some prayers for him, will you? Thanks!

So, why do I often feel so bored????? Go figure!

"But, beloved, do not forget this thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." 2 Peter 3:8

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What would you do?

Yesterday I received an e-mail from our local Down Syndrome association. It asked us to watch a program that was aired last night on ABC. I've watched this show before and it usually has me stunned and fuming. The show last night had me fuming and also left me feeling very sad. The program is called, What would you do?

Click on this link below to watch a clip from the show that aired last night:

This made Gavin very sad!

It made his Momma very sad as well!

I realize that this type of thing happens, but it's discouraging to see it acted out. Sometimes I just can't understand why people are so cruel! This world is so full of hatred and it really depresses me!

I know that I would have said something to a person that was treating anyone, Down syndrome or not, this way! I hope that I would be eloquent in my response to them, but I have a feeling that my anger would get the best of me.

Do me and Gavin a favor. If you ever see something like this happen.....please speak up and let this person know that it's NOT OK to treat people like this! Thank you!

This would make Gavin and I very happy!

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Making it through.....

I always knew that I would love being a mother. I just didn't understand how much I would love it, until I became one. I'm sure I had dreams of how motherhood would be.....but I'm quite sure my dreams were far different than my reality!

Motherhood is all encompassing. Nothing is the same after you become a Momma. You might have ideas of how you will do things and you might have ideas of the "perfect" life of being a Mom.....and then you become a Mom.

I love this job!......And, I despise this job! Don't ask me how you can both love and despise something, but trust me, you can! Being a Momma is THAT AWESOME!

I felt this way even before I had Gavin, but when Gavin came along.....WOW! The emotions and feelings were even tripled! I may have felt somewhat in control as a mother before, but after Gavin, that sense of control was GONE! Not to mention those dreams that I had for me and him.

I finally finished a book that I have been reading off and on for the last several months. And, I wanted to share some of the things that I read.

The book is called, You Will Dream New Dreams, by Stanley D. Klein Ph.D. and Kim Schive. It's a book filled with a collection of writings that were written by parents of a special needs child.

One of the chapters in the book had some of the following:

It talked about how good chicken soup can make you feel when you are feeling ill and how the ingredients, all put together, make for healing nourishment. The author decided that there are ingredients that are needed when you are raising a child with special needs as well. Here they are:

Chicken Soup


2 cups of support

Generous servings of information and resources

Dreams, dreams and more dreams

Substancial amounts of perseverance (Never say never! Don't take no for an answer!)

A dollop of tears (Those filled with saddness and those of joy)

A dash of humor (Gives emotional stability)

I thought that this was quite clever! I believe that this is so true! But, the more I thought about it, I realized that we probably all need these ingredients to help guide us through life, not just parents of special needs children. I also thought that she left out a VERY important ingredient.....God!

I, for one, know that I couldn't make it through my days without this very important ingredient!

Each day I wake up and I usually want to cover my head up with the blanket and go back into dreamland. My dreams are usually a whole lot better than my reality! I often struggle, thinking that my day will hold most of the same things that every other day holds, and this is often a difficult thing to wake up to each day!

Each and every morning I wake up to the fact that Gavin is severally handicapped.....and this is not a fun thing to wake up to. Here is some of my morning routine:

I have to carry my almost 4 year old out of his crib, unhook his feeding pump, change his diaper, hold his head up and make sure he is comfortable, give him many medications through his feeding tube, give him his morning breathing treatments, help keep his head in a position that hopefully prevents him from violently gagging and try to catch the mess when I and he have failed to prevent this from happening....again!, Change him again since he had his dieuretic, change him again because he probably spit up all over his clothes or filled his pants and it leaked all the way through....again!, Oh and I have 3 other boys to get on their way as well!

I could go on and on, but I won't. The point to all of this is that I really don't think that I could make it through every day, without my most important ingredient....God! Somehow, I am given the strength to get through my days, even though they are all filled with saddness, because my sweet boy's life is not as "perfect" as it could be. In fact, I even find lots of pleasure thrown into each and every day!

Of course, some days I am feeling so down because I have to do all of this day after day and feeling sad because I can't just easily take my son to the grocery store and have him sit in the shopping cart or walk beside me.....(for some reason, the fact that Gavin can't even sit up on his own, is maybe the most difficult thing for me to accept each day. In my head, if Gavin could miraculously begin sitting up on his own, then all would be right with the world!) Those that have a child that can't sit up on their own, you might even agree with me.....having to physically support my son at all times is a VERY trying thing!

But, like I said, somehow I am given the strength to do my duties each day and even enjoy a lot of them.......and this is TOTALLY a God thing!

So, I would put Him as the first ingredient on this ingredient list!

Another chapter in this book spoke about how caring for a special needs child is like having emotions like a roller coaster ride.

There are:

"Lots of ups and downs!

More hills on our tracks (The peaks are higher and harder to reach, and it takes more energy to negotiate the curves and to climb the hills until we reach a straightaway that allows us to coast for awhile. Plus, there is no visible end to our ride.....our fuel supply diminishes and our motor sputters.)

We may wonder if we have time to refuel before the next hill.

Sometimes it feels like the car may go off track.

And, there is no opportunity to get off the ride.

Those of us on this endless ride may find ourselves isolated and not in control at certain times."

The mother who wrote this section also said that we need to remember to "get support and take care of ourself." This is something that I am very bad about! I want to be able to do it all and I like my privacy, but because I don't ask for help, I struggle and I don't take very good care of this is a vicious cycle and just another part of the roller coaster ride, I guess.

This mother also said, "This ride may not end, but you may find yourself reaching the peaks more easily and find that you are enjoying the view from the top more often!"

I have found this statement to be so true! Looking back to the days when Gavin was first born, or when he was in the hospital for so long, or after he had his stroke, I can definitely see a difference in how I felt then and how I feel now! During those times I was just getting by, but the present time really does find me enjoying the view!

My dreams before Gavin have not changed. I still wish for the same things for me and him. But, reality has squashed those particular dreams. Thankfully, God has given me the perspective of seeing Gavin as a huge gift! I may have tough days, but with God and this perspective, today, I can actually say that I am more blessed than most people are!.....

.....Because I have been given this awesome boy!

And, along with Gavin, also came great things and even BETTER dreams!

"When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad." Psalm 126:1-3

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gavin's days are full of color!

Last week we had a very nice day of weather, and since Gavin had the day off from school, he and I went out and had a "Mommy and Me" day! I rarely get a full day with just one of my boys and Gavin and I had so much fun, so I hope to take a day to enjoy alonetime with each one of my boys soon!

Gavin and I drove out to a town, near our home, that has a yearly Tulip Time Festival. It was close to perfect weather, so it was a great day to go look at, in my opinion, one of God's greatest creations, the Tulip! I absolutely love Springtime, just because of all the color that pops up around us in such a short period of time, and Tulips are my favorite flowers to see.

Here are some pictures of Gavin enjoying the beautiful weather and the beautiful flowers:

Last week Gavin also made some color of his own, by painting...

With his feet! :)

I was looking for a project to do for teachers and for Mother's Day and I was having a difficult time coming up with something. Thankfully, I checked a blog that I like to visit and found the perfect thing to do! I changed it up a little, by doing the artwork on canvas bags.

Here is Gavin's finished project, that we made for his teacher:

Gavin did a great job, don't you think?

Gavin also did some artwork at school recently. Here is a picture of the artist at work:

I'm so proud of my sweet boy!

Take some time to enjoy all the colors that surround you! :)

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The BEST & HARDEST job in the world!

Today I buried my face into the shoulder of my husband and asked him:

"Why do I love being a Mom so much?!"

I said this today because, the day that is supposedly set aside to thank our mothers and lavish them with love was, well........just another day in the house of the VW family. Well, not exactly the same. Joel and the boys did start the day off giving me extra hugs and kisses and yelling out, "Happy Mother's Day!" But, besides that, the promises of "giving mom a day of rest from the naughtiness, yelling, arguing, craziness and chaos".....well.....they just couldn't do it. When I say "they", I mostly mean the 2 boys in the middle of our gang!

I really do think that they tried, but it's just in their nature to be who they are. Thus, the reason I wanted to crawl back in bed again this morning and the reason I asked my husband this very question!

Being a Mom is seriously the HARDEST job in the world!

As the day went on......despite all the fighting, craziness and misbehaving, I began to realize why I LOVE to be a Mom!

1) I get to be serenaded by a sockless 7 year old, who made up a silly song for Mother's Day and who had me cracking up several times today!

2) I get homemade cards several times a year...and these are the BEST kind to get!

3) I get extra special cards from Gavin, that my Mom helped him make. (Thanks Mom! You are an example to me, of what a mom should be!) And also, I get to stare at this sweet face every day!

4) I occasionally find a note like this one on my pillow and they always seem to come at the most perfect time!

5) And finally, I have been given the privilege of caring for these 4 blessings and even though they make me want to pull my hair out each and every day, I can't imagine a more fulfilling calling in this world!

I am going insane.....but I am SO VERY BLESSED!

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to all you wonderful Mommas out there! I can't believe that I get to do this wonderful thing called motherhood with so many amazing women by my side!

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What it's like to be followed by the Paparazzi:

Our family was given a cool opportunity the last few weekends. A friend's daughter asked us to be a subject for her photography/journalism class, that she takes in college. She came to our house the last few weekends and was kind of like a "fly on the wall." She took pictures of our family as we did our normal weekend activities.

She took tons of pictures and then had to choose a few of them to add to her project. The project was to tell a story in just 6-7 pictures, with a caption underneath each picture.

Here is her finished product, which she named:

"More Happiness"

Gavin Vander Wall, 3, of Byron Center, was born with Down syndrome and severe heart defects. Gavin spent most of his first year in and out of hospitals for five heart surgeries. In April of 2007, Gavin suffered a stroke that left him unable to talk, walk, and hold his head up on his own. His mother, Alicia Vander Wall, 38, has kept a blog as a both way of giving Gavin a voice in the world and to show her readers the joy, even through the struggles, that a boy with Down syndrome brings.

Gavin Vander Wall, 3, of Byron Center, sits in a special chair, similar to a car seat, to keep his head up on April 10, 2010. Alicia Vander Wall, 38, calls Gavin the “greatest gift ever given to me!” in April 23, 2010 blog entry

Gavin and Alicia Vander Wall play while his mom goes through his daily treatments on Saturday, April 10, 2010 . Gavin has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease, or COPD, which causes his lungs to make extra mucus. Alicia Vander Wall uses this suction cup to break up the mucus that collects in his lungs to make it easier for him to breathe.

Nolan Vander Wall, 10, and Jacob Vander Wall, 14, play with Gavin on April 24, 2010. On June 18, 2009, Alicia Vander Wall wrote, “I love that our older boys love Gavin! It makes me so happy to see them WANT to be with him and WANT to play with him! They truly enjoy having him as their brother, even though he can't do a whole lot or get up and play with them.”

Alicia Vander Wall, 38, and Gavin Vander Wall, 3, of Byron Center, watch son and brother Caleb Vander Wall, 7, of Byron Center, play one of his first little league games of the season at Cutler Park on April 17, 2010. Despite the gloomy sky and chilly wind, Gavin grins as he and his mom cheer on Caleb.

Alicia Vander Wall, 38, of Byron Center, helps Gavin Vander Wall, 3, of Byron Center, keep his head up while he is stretched into a standing position on April 10, 2010. This device, called a Squiggles Stander, holds Gavin in a standing position so that his hip and leg bones receive the proper pressure they need in order to grow strong.

(From left to right) Nolan Vander Wall, 10, Joel Vander Wall, 38, Gavin Vander Wall, 3, Alicia Vander Wall, 38, Caleb Vander Wall, 7, and Jacob Vander Wall, 14, of Byron Center, pose for a family picture inside their home on April 24, 2010. Both the joys and the struggles of raising Gavin have brought them closer as a family.

Alicia Vander Wall, 38, and Gavin Vander Wall, 3, of Byron Center, share a moment together on April 10, 2010. Despite Gavin’s numerous medical obstacles, Alicia writes on February 25, 2010, “Gavin has brought me more happiness than anything else on earth possibly could! I can't even express the joy that he brings me each and every day! Joy that comes just by looking at him and seeing the good that radiates from him! God knew that I needed this special boy in my life!”

Alicia Vander Wall's blog, Gavin's Voice, is found here:

By: Katie Selden

I think she did a fabulous job! She thanked us for helping her, but we are the ones who benefited from helping her out! She took some great pictures and she is giving us a copy of them on a CD. So, we actually got a free personal photographer for 3 weekends in a row!

Thanks SO MUCH Katie! You did a great job! You will make a WONDERFUL photographer some day!

Katie actually does photo shoots now. She is great at what she does, so if you live in the G.R. area and are looking for someone to take some pictures of your family, let me know and I will give her a call!


You can visit her Photography Facebook page here and check her work out for yourself!

While you are on her Facebook page, Vote for Gavin!

She is having a contest right now and the winner gets a photo session with her. Go to her "fan photo" section to vote! All you have to do is become a fan of her Facebook Photography site. You can also upload a picture of your own child (10 and younger), if you are interested in winning as well! You have to have the photo session done in this area, if you win.

Anyway, Check her out!

"I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed." Psalm 34:4-5