Dear Arizona, you call that fall?! Jk. ;) But seriously, jumping back into summer weather for a few days was a blast. We woke up to a cold, crisp fall morning and when our plane touched down in AZ we were ready to play in sprinklers!
A couple months back I got a call from a woman named Carole who had gone to great efforts to track me down. She was a board member for a foundation called "Sharing Down Syndrome" in Arizona. This amazing woman has no children with DS of her own, but has a passion and love for them. I was so impressed as she is one of the few people I know that fully understands the beauty of this diagnosis without having it in her own family. What a beautiful soul my new friend Carole has. When she asked me if I would come be the keynote speaker at their 25th anniversary gala, I jumped on the opportunity. I enjoy meeting other DS communities and I sometimes enjoy speaking. ;) Plus, this meant that I would get to visit my sister and her family whom I miss dearly.
Scott told me to leave the two older kids behind and to go have a little break in AZ with just our nursing babe. I insisted that Scarlett and Welles would want to play with cousins and that I could handle traveling with just me and the three of them... What a comical thought! Thankfully Scott was able to get me to my gate with a special pass from TSA. His co-worker happened to be on my flight and helped me to baggage claim and out to my brother-in-law at the curb. The trip back was similar but with a few extra bumps (almost missed the flight, Welles figuring out how to take off his belt and run up the aisles, plus all kids whining)! Thank you to helpful strangers and sugar bribes!
BUT our time in AZ was memory-filling and an absolute blast! We got to my sisters house and went to a church Halloween party which involved some darling costumes she threw together for my kids. If you know my crazy-amazing, artistic, creative, best-mother-in-the-world sister, this wouldn't surprise you one bit. After that, we spent a couple of days letting the kids run wild while we talked, snuggled and ate delicious/unhealthy food. It's what we Clark's do when we're together! I hate that my sis and her littles live so far away. We are not meant to be separated! Our kids love each other so much and everyone cries when we part ways. Even when we know we'll be reunited in a month or so!
Our last night there was the gala where I spoke for Sharing Down Syndrome. I was choked up all night. The people I met touched my heart in ways I cannot explain. Two separate young moms come up to meet me who had flown in to hear me speak. ME! Wow, what an honor and what pressure to do a decent job. ;) I met the most incredible young adults with Down syndrome who got me so excited for Welles' future. They were capable, articulate and happy individuals. We got to see some of them preform and I was truly impressed with their talents. Joy filled the room as celebration was in full swing. Gina Johnson, who started the foundation 25 years ago after her son's surprise diagnosis, was honored that evening. Hearing the stories of how she has helped so many, had the whole room in tears. What a remarkable event to be a part of.
On Saturday before we left, I thought it would be cool for the kids to see some big cactus since we don't have many where we're from. ;) We took the kids to this park that is filled with large cacti. They ran around them as we warned not to get too close. Sure enough we all left with little cacti hairs in our fingers and other places (side note: don't sit under a cactus and expect to leave without some prickles in your rear...)! But it was all part of the AZ experience! Until next time, sunny Arizona!