Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Hug From Very Far Away

About a month ago I signed Angela up for a bunch of free toy catalogs. She LOVES flipping through these! Tonight I wandered down to the mailbox, with Angela at the top of the hill hollering, "Is a new one? A new toy magazine for me?"

There was, indeed, a new catalog for her, and an interesting looking envelope addressed to me from a name I didn't recognize in Florida. While Angela was flipping through her prized possession, I opened the envelope to find it had really come all the way from Germany! It had been sent by our Downsyn friends Friederike and her daughter Cecilie!!!

When Angela realized the package was really for her,
she was so excited to get mail! I showed her the map, and how far away Germany is. We talked about how that envelope GOT here, etc. She was very impressed. Then we red the story of Tuffi. And right now, Angela is going to bed wearing her flashing Tuffi pin.

By the way,
Cecilie is 5 1/2 and has Down Syndrome, and we "met" via the internet. It's amazing how the internet can connect families who you would have otherwise never dreamed of meeting. And Down Syndrome brings together the most amazing people. See? This is why I live online! LOL

Thank you for brightening our day!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Winding down. It's been a long week!

It's been a long week and a half. Aside from the emotional fall-out of the Wyoming crash, there were other things that needed to be dealt with. When Angela went with her dad, due to the length of the trip and the fact he wouldn't be doing laundry in the semi (aawww c'mom!) I sent nearly everything that she had that still fit. (she's gone through a HUGE growth spurt this summer!!!) At the time of the crash, Angela was wearing pajamas and was barefoot, so all the clothes I sent were burned up in the fire. Shorts, socks, underwear, pants, pajamas, tshirts, sweatshirts, toothbrush, all her medications....everything gone. When she came home, the first thing we did was go shopping for clothes!

Have I mentioned that Angela does not do so well in stores? Ok, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I didn't pick the best time to take her shopping, as she was completely exhausted. While we were in the dressing room at Kohls she insisted on putting her shoes under the wall into the next booth. I explained that there was someone in there, "See the lady's feet? Lets keep the shoes AND MY PURSE in our booth, ok?" Yeah...that didn't work so great. Before I could grab her, both shoes had flown OVER the booths and landed 2 or 3 booths away. (I knew I should have put her in softball this summer.) Anyway, I made a split decision, piled all the stuff into a cart (5 or 6 pairs of pants and about as many shirts) paid for them and brought them home to try on in her own room. That was only slightly better, and of course NONE of the pants fit her and ALL have to go back. It's been a week, and I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I better do so soon! School starts in a few days and she has NO PANTS!

Angela's shoes are a whole different story! She was barefoot at the time of the acccident. Her dad had to make a list for the insurance company of items lost in the fire. He asked me, "How much were Angela's shoes?" HA!!! The "shoes" were $20 from Payless, it's the $800 orthodic inserts that were IN THEM that are going to be tough to replace!!! Here private insurace doesn't want to touch it. Afterall, they were only 3 weeks old! Here I was feeling proud of myself for getting all these medical things taken care of before school started and....litterally...POOF! They're gone! They had really been helping her too. She was finally able to walk more than a couple of blocks without her knees or hips bothering her, or being just plain exhausted.

Angela was supposed to come home on Sunday the 19th, then Monday the 20th go for a long-awaited eye doctor appointment, as her vision has deteriorated over the summer. I made the appointment back in June when she failed a "healthy athelete" check up at the special olympics state meet. Needless to say, she missed the appointment and now I'm trying to get her in somewhere else. Everyone is booked out a couple of months. I was just hoping to have her able to SEE when school started. Oh well.....

There were other things lost, like her portable dvd player that Andy and I send back and forth to keep us sane when on long trips with Angela. Her neuro-developmental ped was actually quite shocked to find out that Angela had actually been on a a semi...all the way to California! In several reports are phrases such as, "Angela's activity level is striking." LOL...I call that an understatement!

But these are all just things. They are a minor incovenience compared to what could have been.

Saturday morning I found Tosh's obituary, on the very day of his funeral. It was the first time I was able to put a face to the name, and the emotions I felt were indescribable. I wanted to ask him questions right then and there, but I wanted to ask God even more. I'll never have answers for those questions, but worse....neither will his family. My heart aches for what they are going through right now! I learned that like Dean and I, he's a biker. Since my house was empty that day I decided I was going to take a long ride alone. Since my ride was related to the crash (I was going out to my sisters 70 miles away to get the disk of crash pictures Angela's dad had dropped off there) I decided I was going to ride for Tosh. Even if it was in my own heart and nobody knew I was going to do it.

Someone asked me how I can forgive "someone like that" who tries to kill your kid? The answers are simple. 1) I don't think he meant to kill my kid, or her dad. He meant to kill himself and I don't think he though far enough ahead. All he thought of was the object...the truck...and not the fact there would be a real person driving it. I all certainty...had he known thee was a child in there he wouldn't have done it. I don't know much about Tosh, but I do know he had a love of children, particularly those with special needs.

But there is a #2 to my answer. God says I have to forgive him, and so I do. There have been times in the past where my mouth has said, "I forgive" but my heart doesn't feel it. I can tell you honestly, my heart feels 100% at peace in forgiving Tosh.

There are some who have criticized me, saying, 'You're being petty. Why all the emotion? Your kid is safe. Get over it already!"

I sure wish it were that simple. My daughter and her dad watched someone die. My daughter can only express to me her emotions through play. I have to pay close attention to decipher what she's trying to tell me. And then there is myself too. No, there are no physical scars, but believe me....the emotional scars are deep and to the bone. To look at the pictures of the accident is a feeling beyond explanation. I get the chills and break out in a cold sweat. My baby was in this vehicle! But more than that...SHE SURVIVED IT!!!!

The truck after it had been moved. Do you see the passenger seat, where Angela was sitting at the time of impact? Do you see how far it's moved? Tell did my daughter walk away without any physical injuries? (click on pictures to view full size)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
So although we're trying to move on, we'll be dealing with some of these things for a long time.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sorrows, Praises and MIRACLES!

There are alot of people who've contacted me this past week who I would love to reply to, but blogger blocks out the email addresses. Late last night I received one email in particular that I feel I must respond to, but I think my response to one will really be for everyone.

To Kam Kam's Mom....(re: comments Sunday August 19th)

I am sobbing and in tears right now. With trembling hands I'm responding.
I have received emails (anonymously) from Tosh's extended family members, telling me "We don't get it...this wasn't HIM! He didn't DO things like this! Gave no indications!" I wasn't him, and I didn't even know him. Maybe someday, on my blog I'll write what I really believe happened in the spiritual world of good and evil on that night.
If I knew you well enough, I'd tell you all of what I, and the rest of my extended family believe. If you look at the pictures of the accident...and understand the timing and sequence of events of that evening, then you KNOW...beyond a shadow of a doubt...that it was only a miracle, angels and GOD that got my family out of that truck. At one point, after the fire was put out, my daughter's dad was taking pictures of the truck. A fireman told to get away because they needed to do a body recovery on that vehicle. When he discovered that Andy had been the driver...he was shocked...he said there was NO TIME for anyone to have gotten out of that truck, much less a man going BACK IN to get his daughter who was afraid to come out into the flames. Things happened too fast for anyone to get out. They were sure he'd burned up in the fire.

Please know I am so sorry for the hell Tosh's family is going through. There is some extended family member who has criticized something that I wrote (it's kind of hidden on the net) at a time when I was angry, scared and upset by what had happened. I understand that he/she is dealing with their own roller coaster emotions right now. I feel horrible for Tosh's family. They were the innocent ones left behind to sort out the why's, hows, what-if's of it all. It is the sad end that comes with suicide. Too many unanswered questions. Too many hearts that feel guilty about things they shouldn't. "I wish we hadn't argued." "If only we'd collected keys." "I wish I hadn't said...." But Tosh was determined that night. There would have been no stopping him.

My family is dealing with things from an entirely different perspective. It's 1:30 in the morning...last week I didn't get the call until 2:30 a.m. I haven't gone to bed before that time since the crash. I can't. I hardly sleep.

Angela has been putting out imaginary fires with her invisible friends. Yesterday she started patting my leg. I asked her why and she said, "putting out the fire." Here dad has told me where that came from, and I wish I'd never heard the explanation.

Tonight we went to a carnival, and as I put Angela on those giant swings I had to turn and look away. I wanted to throw up. I don't know how to describe what I was feeling. All I could think of was what if this ride collapsed? I'm too far away! Because of Angela's communication issues I can only guess what she saw/heard/felt at the time of the crash. If I pay close attention to her play I can put some of the pieces together. I hope and pray she didn't see the same things her dad did, but in reality I know there's no way she didn't. But tonight, on the way home from the carnival, she told me countless times to "Slow down mom. Take it easy." We were on area of freeway that's known to be a speed/dui tagging place, and there were alot of squads with cars pulled over. With every one that she saw, she said, "Nope. No fire. Nope." She had also just graduated to sitting in the front seat if she chooses. She now chooses not to. "Safe in the back" she says.

I've talked Angela's dad more in the last few days than I have since we divorced 6 years ago. There is no doubt he has PTSD. Her dad has disappeared now for awhile. He told me he was going to. I have prayed every night that this event will be a turning point in his life to realize he has a PURPOSE here, and that clearly he hasn't yet completed his task or he wouldn't be here. It's up to him to figure out what he needs to be doing with his life.

We lost some things that night. The material things are just that....THINGS. No matter how expensive, how necessary, they can be replaced. Andy's permanent address was his truck, so his home is gone. Angela's things...while some were very necessary, have already been replace for the most part. But we lost more, I don't know what it is. I can feel it but I can't label it. An innocence maybe? And inability to ignore areas in our life that we have been ignoring for too long?

I'm a "glass half full" kind of person, and I truly believe that night, as horrific as it was, was a gift to us onn levels that would be incomprehensible to most. Angela and her dad were given life. They were also given a future. I was given the opportunity to watch Angela continue to grow, and now it's up to me to make sure she develops the way God intended her to. Her job here isn't done. He told me when she was a tiny baby that she was here to teach. She has done that time and again with every single person involved in her life over the years, and she'll continue to do so. I can see that I'm not done learning.

I wanted to send flowers for Tosh's funeral, but couldn't find any information about it anywhere online. Believe family calls me the super sleuth...and I couldn't find a thing. Just tonight I found the notice in the local paper. It's the first time I've been able to put a face to the event. Seeing Tosh's left me with a stunned feeling. Please...tell them if I lived there I would be at that funeral, to give them each a hug and tell them I'm sorry for all they've lost. They will (some of them anyway) carry with them memories of that night that will haunt them. I will pray that God soften the edge of the unpleasant memories, and sharpen those that bring them happiness. I pray that he will soothe their hearts, and wrap himself around them in his comforting embrace.
~Leah Spring~

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Suriving Tragedy / ID bracelets

It seems I only write here where there is some crisis or big event. Maybe those things happen more than I realized? I don't know. Here's our latest big event. ....

Sunday, August 18th
About a year ago I bought Angela an emergency ID bracelet. She hates it, and obsesses about taking it off, so I finally gave up trying to get her to wear

Fast forward.......

I live in MN. Last week I needed to make a trip to Western Montana, so Angela was going to spend the week with her dad. He drives semi over the road, and was going to be making a run to California. Angela was excited to go along on the trip. She's gotten to do it a couple of times this summer.

At 8:30 last night (mountain time) I talked to Angela on the phone. She had just woken up from a nap in the back of the sleeper truck, and moved herself to the front seat where she got herself buckled into her seatbelt. "When er you picking me up?" she asked. " I'm bored of the truck!"

I told her, "You'll be home tomorrow, and then we'll go school shopping, ok?"

At about the same time, in Mountain Veiw, Wyoming, the county sheriff was negotiating with a man who was racing through town in a corvette. During the chase he called his girlfriend (or wife, I'm still not clear which) and told her, "I'm going to go out with a semi. Goodbye!!!" The chase continued to the freeway. The State Patrol met him there and threw out tire strips, but he was able to avoid them...twice. He raced down Interstate 80, clocked over
100 miles per hour. (the trooper later told me they don't know how fast he was going, as their cars top out at 110 and they couldn't keep up to him.

He headed West on I-80, and finally, at some point, crossed the median into oncoming traffic. Angela and her dad could see the flashing lights ahead of them but didn't know they were on THEIR side of the road speeding directly toward them. Angela commented, "Uh oh! Bad guy speeding!" or something like that. Just a second later her dad realized they were going to get hit. He swerved the semi one way, and the car met his swerve. He swerved the other
way, and again the car met him, the drivers sights set on hitting the truck. Finally, knowing the impact was coming, Angela's dad threw the wheel to the right, hoping to jack-knife the truck so the car would hit the trailer instead. He looked over at Angela, knowing they were going to die.

The car hit the front drivers corner, taking out the front axle of the
truck, and the fuel tank, causing it to catch fire. When everything stopped moving, Angela's dad looked over to see the trailer had slid forward and was now outside Angela's window. She'd already unbuckeled herself, and the flames were coming from under the dash. There were only seconds to get out of the truck. Her dad grabbed her, kicked his door open, expecting to jump down out of the truck. But there was no jumping...the floorboards were on
the ground, and flames were now coming from under the cab.

He ran across the road and handed Angela to someone in a truck who had watched the whole event. He ran back to the truck, in a hysterical attempt to get things out. (you know how you don't always think clearly in something like this.) He was just able to get a couple things out of the pocket on the door when the entire truck went up in flames. He was able to get away.

The man in the car had been ejected, and was found dead under the bridge where the impact happened. Angela's dad hadn't known they were on a bridge. At some time he tried to get around the debris, and in the darkness was going to step over the thigh-high rail to get around the truck. At the last second he realized there was no ground there. He would have fallen about 30 ft, just about landing on the body of the dead driver.

When the fire was put out, Angela's dad went to take pictures of the truck. A fireman said, "I'm sorry, you'll have to get away from here. We still haven't recovered the bodies out of this truck." They didn't even KNOW that Angela and her dad had gotten out! (at that time they still hadn't found the body of the car driver and were concentrating on looking for him. They assumed the truck driver had burned up in the fire.)

Two or 3 days ago, I told my husband Dean, "You know, I should be making Angela wear her ID bracelet when she goes with her dad. What if something happened? Nobody would have any idea who she was, know to get a hold of me, or how." Last night was a prime example. Nobody knew who Angela was. The people in the car who were keeping her safe and warm while her dad dealt with the police and firemen didn't know her name, and I doubt could understand her. Someone could have called me then. Instead I knew nothing
until about 3:00 in the morning when someone finally tracked me down. (Angela's dad's phone burned up in the fire and he couldn't remember my number since it was just in his phone.)

Angela and her dad escaped the accident with only minor scrapes. Angela has a bruise on her thigh from hitting the gear shift as her dad yanked her out of the truck. It is only a miracle. There were angels protecting them every step of the way last night.

They are still in Wyoming, about a 24 hour drive if they go straight
through. Her dad's boss went to pick them up. But first they need to meet at the accident scene tomorrow with the investigators and the insurance adjustors. I don't expect them to make it home until Weds. I just want to hold my girl. She seems so very far away right now. I wasn't even THERE and the images in my head of what she saw are keeping me awake, along with the images of what COULD have been the case instead.

Please, hug your kids tonight, and put those ID bracelets on them. There are lots of really neat ones out there. Pretty ones for little girls. More durable and sporty ones for little boys. Whether your child has a disability or not, in an accident they may not be able to communicate, and people may not know who they belong to. Don't get the kind that go on your child's shoe laces. Why? Well in Saturday's accident, Angela was barefoot. Her shoes were burned up in the fire. Even if she had shoes on, how many times have you seen those emergency room shows and the person comes in missing a shoe? Shoes fly off during accidents all the time. Me...I want permanent. I'm thinking a tattoo or microchip!

~Leah Spring~