Oh, hi there!

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I can’t believe it has already been a year since I last blogged. Time really flew by fast. I hope everyone is doing well! Life for me has been crazy to say the least. I have been extremely busy with my first year of college (and I’m almost done. What?!). This is all very exciting for me. It is hard to believe that I’m already a quarter of the way through. I’ll be leaving soon to move away and go to a university in the fall. You see, I’ve been going to community college and got accepted into my dream school. It is still so surreal and I found out months ago. Unfortunately, this means that “Manda Poppins” will also be leaving her amazing babysitting families (as well as her actual family. Hi mom and dad!) I will fill you in on the life of “Manda Poppins” though. She is still babysitting as much as she did a year ago. I hate how close I have become to these families, and then I have to come to the realization that I will be leaving them soon. Hang on, I just need a moment to cry. Luckily, I know that my relationship with these families is so close that they won’t mind if I stop by to see them on my breaks. That makes me happy to think about! It truly is the end of an era. After nearly seven years of babysitting, I am moving on and pursuing my dream to become an Elementary school teacher. That excites me and worries me all at once. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. Anything can happen.

Inspiration.

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As some of you may know, I started this blog as part of my graduation project. Since then it has become so much more! I presented my blog to a group of judges on Wednesday for my projects, and by the looks on their faces I could tell that they loved it. Because of the three amazing families that I have written about I was given a PERFECT SCORE on my graduation project! A TWELVE OUT OF TWELVE! I couldn’t believe my eyes. This just shows that when you are truly passionate for something and work hard at it, that work will pay off. It was just such a phenomenal feeling. It really inspired me. Oh, and on another exciting note, my “Manda Poppins” blog has had almost TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY VIEWS! Yay! I can’t even believe it! This is truly amazing! Ahen starting this blog I thought that I would ten views, maybe! Each and every person who has read my blog has inspired me to write more.You all are such fantastic people! For that, I thank you! 🙂

Passion.

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Since beginning my graduation project and “Manda Poppins” blog, I have learned more about my surroundings than I thought I would. I have learned of the strengths and weaknesses in being a babysitter. This has also helped me learn more about myself. By doing research about Down syndrome and how family relationships are affected by the disorder for two years, I have become extremely passionate for it. I do not want to stop my research as soon as I am done with this project. I would love to further my education about special needs throughout my life. Every aspect of it inspires me. Children with Down syndrome inspire me, parents of children with Down syndrome inspire me, and even siblings of children with Down syndrome inspire me. I want to raise awareness of Down syndrome. It is not a disorder to go unnoticed, because these children are some of the most precious miracles in the world. I will forever be passionate about Down syndrome.

My beautiful, little Arden!

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The saying “what a small world we live in” is a saying that defines my life. Or at least it describes how my relationship with Christi and her family began. Like I said in my previous blogs, I babysit two different children who both have Down syndrome. That was until I met Miss Arden! We seriously live in such a small world. One day I was scrolling through my Facebook page when I got a message from a woman who had a couple of the same friends as I did. Two of which were Cammie and Victoria. I thought, “Perfect! If she is friends with the two of them, she has to be the sweetest person ever!” And boy, was I right! Not only were they all friends from The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte, Cammie and Christi were neighbors. How does that even happen? Seriously, what a small world! I was extremely excited, I couldn’t even wait to meet her and her girls. Christi is the mother of two girls, Andersen and Arden. Beautiful names for beautiful girls. I adored her family as soon as I met them. My relationship with this family quickly developed. It was like I had known them for years! Andersen and Arden are two of the sweetest girls you will ever meet. I quickly saw them as more than just two little girls that I babysit, but two younger sisters instead. They are just so precious. During the school year, I would pick Andersen up from her science class, and then we would go have an “A&A” day! Of course Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was included. I loved seeing her face light up as soon as I stepped out of the car. That was an amazing feeling! Her little sister, Arden, is such a smiley, little four-year-old. She really is a princess in disguise. She just loves it when the people around her are happy. As soon as you walk in the door, she will run up to you and give you the biggest, most sincere hug. Those girls are just a blessing. I didn’t know that I could establish a relationship with a family in less than a year. My relationship with this family is more than just another babysitting family relationship, but a real family relationship. A relationship I will forever have.

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Zach Attack!

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Zachary Howard
Meet Zachary, a bright blue eyed and smiley four-year-old. He is one of the sweetest little boys you will ever meet. In the four years that I have known him, he has forever changed my life. He was one of the thousands of children born with Down syndrome. I met maybe one or two other people with Down’s before him, but knew nothing about the disorder. It wasn’t until I began to form a relationship with him and his family that I truly learned what Down syndrome was. Since then, Down syndrome has had a huge impact on my life. I met Zachary’s mother at my church, and she instantly became one of the most important people in my life. His mother, Cammie, became the Children’s Ministry director at my church in August of 2010. She dedicated her kind heart into everything that she did. Soon after meeting, she asked me to babysit her son and now seven-year-old daughter. At first I was nervous. How would babysitting an infant with Down syndrome be different from babysitting a child without special needs? I instantly learned that it was no different. He communicated in his own ways, and through facial expressions he showed me exactly how he felt. He acts exactly like any other four-year-old boy you might know. When Zach starts to giggle, no one wants it to end. Seeing him run around the back yard with his big sister, one will see a four-year-old, not a disorder. The love he expresses to everyone around him changes lives. All he has to do is smile.

My two favorite boys, Luke and Samuel!

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Luke and Sam Norton

I adore Luke and Sam. I am privileged enough to babysit them three times a week. They are seriously the sweetest, little boys. They are typical brothers. They giggle at each other, they hug each other, and they even tickle each other. Seeing them interact with one another, makes me smile. I don’t understand how two little boys can be so precious, so loving. Even though Sam’s disorder may make them slightly different, their love for one another isn’t affected in any way. They just love each other even more. I can already tell that Luke will be protective of Sammy when they are older. That is what I love about them; how much they truly care for one another. I really do adore this family.

Sam the Man!

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Samuel Norton
This is Samuel, one of the most precious eighteen-month-old babies you will every meet. Sam has two of the most inspiring parents. Travis and Victoria are the perfect couple. The two married in September of 2007, and had their firstborn son, who they named Luke, a few years later. Luke is three, and is such a giggly and loving child. In August of 2011, Victoria gave birth to their second son. Samuel, their newborn son, had a much more difficult time after birth. When he was born, he portrayed the same characteristics that any other baby would. No one suspected what would happen to him within minutes. Sam became cyanotic, meaning that his skin’s appearance became a blue discoloration due to the tissues near the skin surface being low on oxygen. Doctors began to question his condition; by becoming cyanotic, they began testing on his heart. While testing his heart’s condition, they began to question whether he had Down syndrome. His doctors had multiple sources of evidence [including small ears and toes that were spread out] to believe so. Forty-eight hours passed and testing was still in progress. Soon they found out the fate of their child. Samuel had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. Soon after being diagnosed, Sam had his heart operated on. The relationship of their family has been strengthened because of their miracle child. At two weeks of age, Samuel was entered into the Early Intervention program for children with disabilities at the hospital. Having help with therapy can be a blessing and a bother. Physical and speech therapy come to their household a few times a week. Because of his surgery, Samuel was not able to start therapy until he was several weeks old, unlike other children who can start at six to eight weeks of age. Along with therapy, Sam’s doctors appointments keep the family very busy. Having such a complicated schedule affects their other son as well. With too much change, Luke’s behavior changes slightly. Behavior change is common. Now that Luke is becoming older, he is slowly beginning to understand everything going on around him. At the end of the day, Victoria says that, “Sam isn’t the center of our family; he is just another family member to love.”