The Harnisch Family

The Harnisch Family

Apr 29, 2012

I'm going to Bolivia...and I need your HELP!

Hi friends...I need your help...or in the very least your prayers.

I know that so many people right here in my circle of friends have giving hearts.  And while they may not have the means to "give" or health to "travel" to the places & people who need it most.  I know that many have a burning desire to.  So with that, I share this story of WHY I am going where I am going.  I want to share, so that perhaps if there is someone, anyone, who might feel compelled to contribute monetarily to help offset my costs...or at least pray for my journey...every little bit would be most appreciated.
It never hurts to throw it out there and just ask right?  So this is for those friends who want to get involved, in at least some way, but just aren't sure how...
Well...I'm about to tell you "how".    :-)


As you know, my life forever changed (for the better) when our Little Miss Macy was born.  Who knew one silly little chromosome could have such a MAJOR impact on all our lives.  I say ALL our lives, because I know darn well her love & affection extends well beyond little ol' me.

Well since becoming a momma of two, and having been catapulted into this amazing world of special needs, I have had a constant fire in my heart.  The kind of fire that is warm, comforting and content one day...and HOT, unsettled and unsatisfied the next.
And by unsatisfied, I mean...having the perpetual feeling that I am not doing enough.  That I am not enough.  The feeling that there HAS to be more.  More that I could do for our sweet girl.  More that we could do for people who have Down Syndrome in our community and our world.
This constant anxiety can't be healthy.
It is important that we do not let Down Syndrome consume our minds or control our hearts.  We need a healthy balance of wants, desires, fears and goals.  Afterall, Down Syndrome does not define our family.  There has to be more...and there is!
I have come to this place in my faith journey.  A crossroads where I feel discontent.  Going through the motions of showing up at church, sitting quietly in the pew, placing a dollar in the basket and humming along with the hymns is NOT doing it for me anymore.
I am craving more.
I have known and heard so much about the children in La Paz, Bolivia.  Our church has, for several years, shared the mission and struggles that these kids who live on the streets endure each and every day.  It is just not fair.  Hearing their stories, not only selfishly, makes me feel blessed beyond measure, it also makes me feel obligated.  Obligated to do something.  Anything.  Big?  Small?  It doesn't matter.  Just SOMETHING will do.

So, I have decided that my "something" will be to go on a vision trip with a group of friends from my church.  We will go to Bolivia and get to know these kids.  Reach out to these kids.  Make them feel loved and important.  SEE these kids.
I do not pretend that interacting with these children for a week is going to make a lasting impression or in any way change the course of their lives.  But it is my hope that, if even for a brief moment, I might have the ability to make them feel important.  Communicate to them, in some way, that their life MATTERS.
I might not speak their native language , sure there will be a bit of a communications barrier (I need to brush up on my spanish a bit), but I feel that communicating, truly communicating, goes much deeper than words.  It's not only about "speaking" through our mouths, rather, through our hearts.  Communicating utilizes all senses and stirs up all emotions.  I am certain, the simple act of being present, genuinely present, will go far.

When it comes to Love - we all speak the same language.  It's UNIVERSAL!

Again, I know that my time in La Paz will not make a big impact on these people's lives.  I know that they "will forget what I did, forget what I said"...but it is my hope that they "will not forget how I made them feel".

From the moment Macy was born I was intimidated.  Scared of this thing, this diagnosis they call Down Syndrome.  This world, just two short years ago, was foreign to me.  I quickly learned that I did not need to be an expert in this area of special needs.  It was not important for me to read and memorize each and every book front to back.  Or scan every website from top to bottom.  I quickly learned that as long as I simply open up my heart and allow myself to simply give in and trust God.  "If he leads you to it, he will get you through it" right?  So, after quite a bit of tears, prayers and self reflection, I quickly came to the realization, that I can do this.  We can do this.  God is in control.  He is the heavenly creator, maker of our plan.  The good Lord Jesus Christ will take care of us and ensure that we are on the right path.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you” (Jer. 1:5) He will not lead us astray.  So for this, I am thankful to be on the amazing journey we call life.  Sure, there have been bumps.  And I know there will be many more along the way.
But life is hard.  And not just for us...FOR EVERYONE!

I do not feel that we are in any way "bringing Jesus" to these people.  Nope, not what it's about at all.  In fact...Jesus is everywhere all the time.  His presence is especially heightened among those who are hurting and need his love the most.  So with that being said...these children, rather, will be bringing me a bit closer to Jesus.

I am not sure why God has called me to go on this journey.  Why me?  Why La Paz?  Why now? 
The timing could not feel more wrong.  Yes our family finances could be a little more in order...but when I sit back and really think about where we are at in our lives (our ages, our kids' ages, my current part-time employment situation) really does seem like the PERFECT time.  Afterall, it should not be about money.  Hopefully that minor detail will just work itself out.  It should be about our hearts and simply allowing ourselves to listen (and respond) to God's call.
To be honest I'm not sure if I'll ever know why God is calling us to go at this time & to this place...he just IS...perhaps it will make more sense when we are there, or at some point in the years to come.  And I guess we'll just have to be okay with that.

As I said before, I do not pretend that my presence and outreach in Bolivia is going to make a huge least it's something.  A little bit of "something" is better than a whole lot of "nothing".  I feel that if each and every person in this whole world would just do a little more "something", and not just those who have been blessed with deep pockets & financial freedom, but ordinary people like you and me...then their would be a whole lot less "less fortunate" people because of it.

I am glad that this "mission trip" has nothing to do with Down Syndrome.  My eyes need to be heart needs to mind needs to firmly understand that there is so much more going on here...there is so much hurt, pain and suffering - more than I can even begin to comprehend.  It is my personal hope, that by being open to this journey, that I can be put at mind can be okay with our heart can feel content once again. I need to truly feel that we are blessed, that we are doing enough.  More than enough in fact.  Perhaps that's our problem.  We are doing too much and stressing over the wrong things.  I don't know.  Are we doing enough therapy? enough school? enough activities? enough social interactions? the list goes on...and I want this list that I constantly check over in my brain to simplify!  The anxiety needs to stop.

So enough about's not about me.  It's about these kids!  Here's a little more about them and this trip.

first off...remember this video I created a few months ago - using John & Christina's photos from a previous trip to La Paz??  I blogged about it a few months back...please watch it again!  :-)

Our vision trip - June 22 - June 30, 2012

"Bethany has a long standing partnership with Kaya Children and its ministry in La Paz, Bolivia. There is no better way to experience the breadth and depth of this ministry and our partnership than through first-hand experience. In 2012 Bethany will be taking a vision trip to La Paz, Bolivia. The purpose of this vision trip to La Paz Bolivia is to experience firsthand the lives of the Kaya Children. Through this experience participants will be able to form one-on-one relationships with the children in our programs, hear their stories and witness the amazing transition from life on the streets through the transition home and into a life with a promising future as a part of the Kaya family".
More about Kaya Children Int'l...In the words of my friend Christina:
"we'll get a glimpse into the lives of children who have had to call the streets their home.  Experience the lives of children who once felt they had no safe place to call home, no parent to trust or depend on, no support system to help encourage their walk in life, or in Christ."

"Kaya Children International is a young and growing organization that is committed to serving children on the streets around the world. We work to meet the immediate needs of children living on the streets, while working toward a future in which no child needs to call the streets home. To accomplish this mission, we engage in direct service, research and advocacy.

A worldwide network of partners and individuals makes Kaya's work possible. While our direct services are currently focused on Bolivia, our other activities are expanding around the globe, paving the way for future programmatic expansion. Our long term goal is to develop viable program models, based on best practice and sound research, which can be implemented on a broad scale to make a lasting difference in the lives of marginalized children."

Contact or for additional information.


We have a diverse group of 18 people embarking on this journey together!  People ranging from young to old not as young...mother/son, father/daughter combinations...a wide array of individuals equipped with unique skills, talents and personality traits to make a wide impression on these kids.
here's 11 of the 18 of us - pic taken at church just this morning...
In conclusion, after $600.00+ worth of (not covered by my insurance plan) vaccinations...more money put towards my first Passport and Visa application. 
These costs, plus the $1,800 needed for travel, lodging and food, etc...I could use your help. 
Please send me a message if you'd like to contribute to my "vision trip" fund.

Anything big and small is appreciated  :-)

If you'd like to make a donation, you can give it to me directly, or there is an online option as well - just follow these simple steps below: 
2)  click on "give"  - which is in the upper right hand corner of site
3)  Enter your desired amount in the "OTHER" box
4)  please be sure to type my name in the "designation" field  Sherri Harnisch - Kaya Children Int'l trip 

That should do it!  It would be helpful if you could also shoot me an email to let me know if you've made a donation on my behalf in this capacity, so that I may follow up on it properly - to ensure nothing "falls through the cracks".

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Your friend,
Sherri Harnisch

Isaiah 6:8

 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

   And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Psalm 23

A psalm of David.
 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
 3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
 5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Apr 28, 2012

My Girls are perfect

 My Girls are perfect.
Our first born, McKenzie is special beyond measure, as she's the one 
who taught me how to love & gave me a "momma's heart".
Macy is the one who came along and broke this "momma's heart", shattered it into a million pieces and repaired it 100x BETTER than before!

Special Olympics NE Promo

The other day we received a phone call from Laura with Special Olympics.  She asked if Macy (and her mom & dad) would be available to be a part of a filming for a new Special Olympics NE video.   She told me this promo, along with others, would be a part of the opening ceremonies and be played during the Creighton game at TD Ameritrade Park.
ummm.. cool!
You bet she'll be there  :)

I was a teeny bit hesitant as she's recovering from a yucky Viral Infection and still has an unsightly rash on her cheek....but I thought, oh well, who care's right?...
Apparently "an invitation was extended to Macy from YAP"...she was sought out specifically to be among several other individuals chosen for the promos.  How sweet is that?!?

Everyone associated with SONE are wonderful...
When we arrived at the studio we were energetically greeted with a "there she is!"  "Is this the FAMOUS Miss Macy?".  "She's so cute!". 
I think we have the fine folks of US Bank to thank for that...their Polar Plunge team raised an impressive amount of money for Special Olympics...and many (Aunt Keri included) used Macy's picture and shared her story on their respective fundraising pages.  :)
that's Macy in the lower left hand corner.  she was centered in the shot .02 seconds ago...FAST little booger!
The fact that I used to work in the media industry, you'd think that this would have been no big deal...I mean it's not exactly my first time in a TV studio...and I've always kinda had visions of my future kiddos being used as "extras" in local TV spots, talent right?  But if you would have asked me a couple years ago, never in a million years would I have thought my child would be featured in a Special Olympics an athlete!  Kind of surreal really.
Macy felt right at home in that big studio - standing in front of the bright lights, cameras & giant green screen...she even signed & said "thank you" right on cue (not sure if she was smiling for that one though)...
I used to work at Cox, so I felt right at home as was also especially nice to have a couple familiar faces (Matt & Troy) shooting and producing spot. 
thanks Special Olympics NE for inviting us to be a part of this shoot!

I guess we'll just have to wait & see if she makes the cut.

photo courtesy:  PlanitOmaha - the company who helped SONE produce the promos.
Initially, I was a little bummed that this shoot was taking place at the exact same time as her Munroe Meyer Speech & Language Disorder class...across town at UNMC.  It's kind of hard to be in two places at once.  I made the choice to participate in the shoot (not every day right?).  BUT...we got there early and they brought us back right away.  We were in and out!  And were able to make class too...only a few minutes late!  Awesome!
Macy studying the picture card hard as usual.
I continue to be amazed by her overall attention span & level of engagement.  The girl BLOWS me away every day!
There are 7 kids in this particular class - 3 of which have Down Syndrome.
As you know, us parents observe from an adjacent room through one-way mirrored windows.  I overheard a mom of one of the other boys.  She was whispering to another that
"those Downs kids are really good and super attentive...they are like the "head of the class".

Now...Even though I wasn't supposed to hear it....and would have liked if she would have used "people-first" language...I got over it and was instantly flattered at her sweet comment. :-)

Apr 26, 2012

Return to Fort Lauderdale

Our little "mom & dad only" adventure began 3am Friday morning…We had everything in order…the house was picked up...our bags were packed…the nanny (cousin Erika) was sound asleep up stairs…the girls’ agenda for the week was all typed up…oh and I caught up on photo-editing and most importantly blogging...whew…I was now ready for VACA!
Joe had a work conference in Fort Lauderdale, so why wouldn’t I want to join him?  I mean seriously
:-)  I am one for taking advantage of any/all perks that go along with having a CPA for a husband.

quick note...I made the last minute decision to leave my beloved camera behind.  I was at initially at peace with the idea of "packing light"...something that mommas of toddlers don't get to do often...but found myself regretting it the moment I stepped off the plane!  I felt like I was missing an appendage or in the very least fashion accessory (thanks to the fancy flower strap my hubby got me).  There are so many beautiful scenes in this lovely beach town.  I was craving my camera, and wanted so desperately to photograph every palm tree, hammock, sailboat, footprint in the sand and frothy beach beverage from every angle.  Uurrrgh.  Yes, I’m crazy I know.  But another part of me was glad to just relax and take it all in without the constant anxiety of wanting to capture everything in still frame.  I was also kind of “picture-takered” out…with several photo sessions and an Easter holiday season just behind me, I was ready to hang up the camera strap for a few days.  But….now that I am blogging about it, I once again, regret the “no camera” decision.   Uggh. I can never win right!?   J


We arrived in Sunny Fort Lauderdale a little before noon.  The beach was screaming our name, so we dropped the bags and bee-lined down towards the white sand to soak up the sun and ocean waves before the impending storms were due to arrive.  Arrive they did around 3pm or so.  These unseasonable cold FL temps justified a few hours of laziness up in the hotel room.  That much  needed middle of the day nap was AWESOME!  J

Later, we met up with a group of friends for dinner and drinks at Coconut's RestaurantAside from the monsoon outside, It was a delightful experience!
Afterwards, we met up with more friends down in the hotel lobby bar (you'll find this was a recurring theme each night of our trip) each night the lobby was filled with several familiar faces, which made for fun times.

Saturday - In true vacationer fashion, we slept in till noon (afterall, it was cold & overcast outside, not like we were missing out on much)  Joe and I ventured out for an afternoon run in the rain.  It felt great!
pretty hot huh?
Sure, I can get this weather in NE…but most certainly NOT these picturesque iews!

By the time we finished our lunch & run the skies had cleared up and enabled us to sit poolside for a while.  We later met up with 30 more of Joe's closest work acquaintances (and spouse tag-alongs such as myself) for dinner at Marios Catalina.  We've been here before and couldn't fathom not making a return visit to our friend, the infamous Mario.  The food, mojitos and sangria at this place are scrumptious…but even MORE magnificent than the food is the overall dining experience.  The servers are kind, Mario, himself, just might be the most fabulous person I know.  From the moment you walk through the door of this charming Cantina, you are warmly greeted and kissed on the cheek by the handsome and charming, Mario, himself.  He, once again, took great “care of us”.  Needless to say, the next time your travels land you in the Fort Lauderdale area, I HIGHLY recommend stopping in to say hello to Mario.  :-)
The night ended with a few drinks back at the the outside bar near the pool.

Sunday – We were excited to be blinded by the bright warm sun reflecting off the beautiful calm waters of the Atlantic ocean.  I don’t like to brag…but we had a kickass 10th floor room with a great view of the ocean down below (again just one more sight I so desperately CRAVED photographing). 
view from our room...this little iPhone pick will have to do for now  :)
Every morning greeted us with a stunning sunrise!

I grabbed my book (BLOOM! - Finding Beauty in the Unexpected) and headed down to read on the beach…after an hour or so, I met up with some familiar faces in the lobby who were getting ready to hop on a bus that would take them 30 miles inland to the Everglades.  Did I want to join them?  Umm…You bet I did! 
gotta love me some "instagram" pics  :-)
What a fantastic experience.  Can’t say I’ve ever seen a real live alligator so up close and personal before…
yep, that there's a gator!
I mean sure, we have a world class zoo right here in Omaha…but taking an airboat through the Everglades and seeing these exotic creatures and wondrous wildlife in their own habitat is seriously amazing.  Our airboat driver was awesome…very much fit the mold of what you’d expect the only female airboat driver of the everglades to be like…she did NOT disappoint!  Well worth the trip  J
The fearless (and somewhat handsome I must say) alligator show dude...
This sweet little girl was super excited to sit atop this gator's back.  CRAZY!  but sSOO cute!
My friend Lindsey was brave enough to hold a so much.  ha!  kinda cute...from a distance.  :)
An afternoon of lunch, beach & book time followed...kind of overcast, but still "good enough" for me! 

That night we met up with our “gang”...boarded the vans that would take us to a local Italian restaurant.  It was pretty good…but to tell you the truth, my steak was a little over-cooked...but seriously, who orders steak in Florida anyway right??  Tough to compete with our “home-grown” NE beef.  J  The night was off to a rough start as I find myself texting/emailing back and forth with Erika back home about a sick little Miss Macy. 
This pic-update of buddy Vollen giving Macy a kiss at his B-Day party is what prompted me to investigate further...that rash on her cheek is WAAY out of character for her.  This rash eventually spread all over...on her face, to her thighs, diaper area, legs, feet & now fingers...too weird!  Among other symptoms...
It was determined by a visit to her pediatrician the next day, that she has a Viral Infection of sorts…NO FUUUN!  (but she got an atibiotic to treat infection and is on the upswing from it now) At that moment though, I just SOOOO wanted to be home cuddling with her and accessing her condition myself.  But…I must say that I was more than comfortable, at-ease, and confident that she was in good hands with my niece who I KNEW was taking amazing care of her.  It also helped so very much. That Erika was constantly sending me texts & photos of their goings-on back at home.  They all had a wonderful time while we were away. 

Dinner was, once again, followed by drinks and good conversations at the hotel lobby bar. People attended this conference from all over the country.  I love meeting new people.  I love conversations that start from the beginning…“what’s your name?”, “where are you from?”, “have any kids?”, “interesting hobbies”, etc…It is SOO fun to discover commonalities among us.  It really is a small world when you think about it  J

Monday – This was a jam-packed stressful day. 

That is if stress involves a full schedule from sunrise to sunset of laying out on the beach, followed by sitting poolside, sprawling out on the hammock with book in hand, eating yummy foods, sipping frothy beverages…tossing the pigskin around in the pool with a bunch of random strangers…you know…that kind of “stress”.  The day concluded with a fierce game of beach volleyball…yes, big deal, I get to play sand v-ball all the time back home…but people…this was SEASIDE beach v-ball…not much of that happenin’ back home in “The Good Life”.

oh could I forget!  Since it was too windy to of us brave souls opted for the banana (or as the hotel brochure calls it "weenie") ride.  oh MAN!!!  It was INSANE!  Crazy.  Ain't nothing leisure about it...Do not underestimate the power of a banana boat ride in the ocean.  The waverunner driver most certainly did NOT take it easy on us.  He whipped us around like rag-dolls, going round & round and super fast speeds...Water gushing in our faces at every turn.  We were ejected a few times.  Joe got a few battle wounds (sorry 'bout thaose claw marks)  Now I get why a life jacket was required...better yet, I TOTALLY understand (even though we joked about it before-hand) why we also had to wear helmets.  wowza!!!  And I guess I understand why they made us SIGN OUR LIVES AWAYS prior to boarding the banana...Goodtimes, goodtimes...will I do it again?  naaa.  But I'm glad to say I have at least done it.
NOT us...but I thought you'd like a visual...:-)
Another important to note highlight from the day, was meeting sweet Stella from New Hampshire.  You see, this bright-eyed, beauty of a 7-year old was on vacation with little sister, mom and dad.  The reason I got much joy out of watching her play and have a GREAT time in the water, was because, she too was blessed with an extra chromosome.  And boy did she ROCK THOSE DESIGNER GENES!  I, stepped out of my comfort zone, and introduced myself to her and her family.  I really enjoyed getting to know her mom Tracy and learning about all that they as a family are up to.  How Stella loves school (especially recess & art), likes pizza, and showed off her mad hula-hoop skills in her school talent show a couple weeks ago.  Stella was really excited and proud to tell me about this feat.  Oh and she LOVES chocolate ice-cream – not candy so much, but chocolate ice cream.  What I loved most, was observing, from afar at first, her mom a good 30+ feet from Stella, sitting in her pool-side chair, chatting with a friend, sipping a drink and paying “casual” attention to a splashing around freely in the 3-foot area…all by herself – no hovering helicopter mom necessary.  Oh what hope this gives me for a future full of  Ain’t no extra chromosome gonna get in the way of our girl having a good time in life!!!!   J

Around 7pm that evning, we met up with the usual crew of about 25+ of us and ventured on over to 15th Street Fisheries. 
There website description says it best:  Visit 15th Street Fisheries for the freshest seafood and a waterfront experience in an authentic Fort Lauderdale marina. The Fisheries is situated directly inside the city's most famous nautical landmark, Lauderdale Marina, and provides a superior complement of fine food and fun along the waterway near the 17th Street Causeway drawbridge and Port Everglades inlet to the Atlantic Ocean. Arrive by boat or car!

Can you say fabulous "lifestyles of the rich and famous?  Wowza!  The fact that we had a front row view of Steven Spielberg’s $200 million dollar mega yacht docked before us, helped make the experience a bit more surreal.  J 
Apparently you can charter his boat for a mere $1.3 million per week. Nice. Maybe on the visit huh? J
On this night we did much of the same as previous nights…hotel lobby bar…but there were a few added attractions…a few groups of people set up makeshift bars inside and out and offered FREE drinks tp all us guests…hmmm, $12.00 glass of mascato from the bar (which mind you, is 3x more than what it costs to buy the BOTTLE back home) , or a FREE anything we want from these dudes over here?   The groups were associated with my husbands’s conference, only from different states, so we could trust ‘em.  J  The night ended with a cold dip in the ocean followed by an intense medical industry chat/debate in the hot-tub.  Once we finished solving the world's healthcare problems, we returned to our respective rooms around 4:00am.  
You would think we’d probably want to sleep-in just a little bit the following morning right?…but heck no.  We have one last day here in paradise and it WILL NOT be spent laid up in the hotel room  J

Breakfast, followed by more beach/pool time/off to airport and HOME!! 

I’ve gotta say that I love getting away with the hubby…but what’s even better than that is coming home and reconnecting with my beautiful girls!  That next morning, McKenzie excitedly filled us in on her weeks adventures with Erika…which included seeing a horse with Jonathon, going to the zoo, eating at G&G Lee’s house, going to Anna’s, loving Erika’s spaghetti (cuz it’s different than the kind I make), Vollen's B-Day Party, school, Macy therapy, etc…

A little later in the morning, a bright-eyed and smiley Macy joined me in my bed.  She gave me the WORLD’S LARGEST hug!  As you know, she is somewhat of a prodigy hugger…but even better than that, she gave me a kiss and repeated the word “MOMMA”.  Yep.  For the first time ever, my baby girl said “MOMMA”.  Like any other self-respecting momma, we have been working on this since the day she was born.  But up until this point she would just look at me funny or respond with “POPPA”.  But not this time!?  Nope, that morning, a milestone for the baby-book (I mean blog book) she responded with a crisp and clear as day “MOMMA”.   Joe heard it too..   


that right there is what mommahood is All about!   Tear.

Apr 19, 2012

Back to Blonde

I've gone back to my roots.  My blonde roots that is!
About a year & a half ago, I took the leap and died my hair brunette, I have been enjoying that low-maintenance doo ever since - It has worked out well.
But I got the itch...and with summer just around the corner, I wanted to lighten' things up a bit!  Plus I leave for Florida tomorrow, so no time like the present right?!?  :-)

BLOOM - Finding Beauty in the Unexpected

We leave for Florida tomorrow...Needless to say, I'm SUPER excited.  Not just to get away for a bit and enjoy the sunny beaches of Fort Lauderdale...but I have been holding out and waiting for the right time to read a new book (I've cheated however, and in a moment of weakness the other day, accidentally opened it up & have already gotten half way through it -oops!)  In any's the book I'm looking forward to reading (I mean finishing) this week!  :-)

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir

The author of the popular blog Enjoying the Small Things recounts the first year of life with her daughter Nella, born with Down syndrome-a celebration of the beauty found in the unexpected, the strength of a mother's love, and, the gift of experiencing life in a wondrous new way

Love me. Love me. I'm not what you expected, but oh, please love me.
That was the most defining moment of my life. That was the beginning of my story.

When photographer Kelle Hampton learned she was pregnant with her second child, she and her husband, Brett, were ecstatic. Her pregnancy went smoothly and the ultrasounds showed a beautiful, healthy, high-kicking baby girl.

But when her new daughter was placed in her arms in the delivery room, Kelle knew instantly that something was wrong. Nella looked different than her two-year-old sister Lainey had at birth. As she watched friends and family celebrate with champagne toasts and endless photographs, a terrified Kelle was certain that Nella had Down syndrome-a fear her pediatrician soon confirmed. Yet gradually Kelle's fear and pain were vanquished by joy, as she embraced the realization that she had been chosen to experience an extraordinary and special gift.

Bloom takes readers on a wondrous journey through Nella's first year of life-a gripping, hilarious, and intensely poignant trip of transformation in which a mother learns that perfection comes in all different shapes. It is a story about embracing life and really living it, of being fearless and accepting difference, of going beyond constricting definitions of beauty, and of the awesome power of perspective. As Hampton writes, "There is us. Our Family. We will embrace this beauty and make something of it. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky."

Kelle Hampton interweaves lyrical prose and stunning four-color photography as she recounts the unforgettable story of the first year in the life of her daughter Nella, who has Down syndrome. Poignant, eye-opening, and heart-soaring, Hampton’s Bloom is ultimately about embracing life and really living it.

I have been following Kelle's "Enjoying the Small Things" Blog ever since Macy was a few weeks old (Nella is just a couple weeks younger than Miss Macy)  :-)  It's inspiring, to say the least.

I am also excited that our "Down Syndrome Super Moms" group got together, purchased 20 books, which qualified us for two SKYPE session with Kelle.  We are having a "book club" of sorts.  ha!  Can't wait. 
Kelle has received much critical praise and so far "Bloom" has landed itself #11 on NY Times Best Seller list last week.  yeah, Go Kelle GO! 

Easter 2012!

The 2012 Easter season has come and gone...but the sacred celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead does not only happen during this Easter "season", we must continue to be be thankful and grateful for His sacrifice each and every day!  He is the true miracle of Easter.  We owe Him EVERYTHING! 

I was born & raised in the Catholic church.  I recall being told this amazing story of Jesus from a very young age.  But, to be honest, it was not until this year that I truly connect and genuinely FEEL the amazing love our good Lord Jesus has for us.  I am deeply humbled. 
Being exposed to this story from different angles & perspectives has opened my heart and allowed me to more fully grasp the true meaning of Easter.
Sure, being that I am now an employee of the church has helped.  This was my first Easter season...and wow, who'd a thought it would have been so busy.  I have always taken "church" for granted.  Church was always a place I just showed up and "it" would happen.  It is now that I truly realize all the hard work and dedication that goes into ALL aspects of our worship going experience.  A lot of behind the scenes prep work is involved.  Christmas, Lent & Holy Week have been especially inspiring for me this year.  Each and every message has moved me beyond words.  The music speaks to me different than it EVER has before...I quite simply, am unable to comprehend and translate all that I have learned these last few months.  For this, I am grateful!
Sure, I learned a lot from our ministry teams at our church.  But, actually, the person who has taught me the most (or I guess spoke to me the loudest and most clear) McKenzie.  I CANNOT believe all the wonderful knowledge this girl has obsorbed at school (which includes pre-school, Sunday School & Bethany Buddies).  Our girl, who usually has a short attention span and is known for "spacing off", clearly did not just sit in class and hear her teachers speak...she retained the message, brought it home and SHARED the good news with me and those around her.  She GETS it!  And I could not be more proud to be her momma :-)
here's one of the wonderful stories that she came home from school with.  Each plastic egg is filled with an object that represents an important symbol of the Easter story.  She enthusiastically told the story behind each object  :-)  She wanted to take this egg carton EVERYWHERE!  So she pretty much did  :-)  She was especially excited when she got to the shiny purple egg...IT WAS EMPTY!...which was representative of Jesus' empty tomb.
________________________ now to some photos of our family celebrations this past weekend!

We were out at the lake Friday & Saturday.  G&G Lee had all the kiddos sleepover Friday night so that we could attend the Passion Walk & Good Friday service in peace and silence.  Since Joe and I found ourselves "kid-less" we had a date-night and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at my all-time FAVORITE place ever...Jaipur.  mmmm
I could not help but notice the beautiful Tulips in full bloom at the entrance of Woodcliff.
so would appear that I pulled the car over and plopped Macy down in the beautiful Tulip landscape...I mean, wouldn't you??  hehe
at first she was more interested in the mulch tickling her toes than the Tulips...
but eventually they caught her eye  :-)
In case you are not aware of the significance of Tulips - and how they "kind of" relate to Down this..."Welcome to Holland Poem"
The Easter Bunny made a few visits to the cabin...first on Friday, he brought all the kids a BUNCH of awesome sand toys...then again on Saturday for a traditional "egg hunt" with all the Salisbury clan.  :-)

Sunday morning, our girls arose to find that Easter Bunny had once again paid them a visit...this time to their house!!
As luck would have it...the Easter Bunny received my internal requests...the silent plea for "less is more in the area of candy" that is.  What a Rabbit, I mean Bunny, whatever!
Macy really got a kick out of this wind-up bunny rabbit toy  :-)
I know some of you would appreciate seeing Macy "all-natural", bright & early first thing in the morning.  So here she is in all her boogie-eyed, snot-nosed, hair-in-the-face GLORY!  Aunt Heather - This one's for you  :-)
All cleaned up and ready for church!
me and my angels
Macy's like "let's GO already"  :-)
After church we met up with all the Harnisches for a nice brunch at Charelstons.  I'm STILL full!  :-)

The it was back to our house for the egg hunt!
surprise surprise, McKenzie made her way to the FRONT of the line!

Big sis helping the little make a "silly" face,  nice!
After the hunt we enjoyed each other's company for the remainder of the day...celebrated Harrison's two-year Birthday!  And watched the Masters.  :-)
Aunt Jess got this shot with her phone  :-) ha!