Was it really 18 years ago today that I awoke at 4:30 am feeling uncomfortable? Yes, at 8:40 PM 18 years ago this day, a little bundle of pink joy was welcomed into the world by loving parents, family and friends. People say the time passes quickly. Of late, so many people have joined me in echoing those sentiments that you can’t be turning 18! You’ve been reminding dad and me for a while that you will be 18. Now you are.
How did 18 years pass so quickly? A few of the ways we’ve passed the time –
- Meeting eternal friends at Special Kids and Families at the age of 10 days! We love you Joel, Becky, Olivia and Ben! Oh baby the places we’ve been and the places we’re going to go.
- Going to physical, occupational and speech therapy. Too many to list by name but so grateful for each of you.
- Advocating for early intervention services in Tennessee
- Attending your first Town Hall Meeting with US Representative Ed Bryant at the age of two!
- Helping build a very successful Buddy Walk and the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-South
- You told your kindergarten teacher, “my mom is always busy working on the Buddy Walk.” Mommy guilt!
- Learning to read. Thank you Meg for your help! We still have Ten Little Hens, and I miss the I am Sam the Puppy books.
- And you have kept reading – Romeo & Juliet, Fahrenheit 451, Of Mice and Men, My Louisiana Sky, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, A Separate Peace, The Outsiders – just to name a few
- Advocating/fighting for inclusion in general education in preschool and then for 15 more years not because the law says so but because it is so.
- Playing t-ball, soccer, taking piano lessons, voice lessons singing in choirs and Upward Cheer.
- At the age of six, marching into a state legislator’s office and saying “Hi I’m Rachel. I’m fully included in kindergarten.” That’s when I knew how much you really listened. I had not told you or coached you to do this.
- Meeting Bill Dance and spending two days fishing with him and getting a spot on his show
- Doing TV spots on exercise, toys, Just Like You, the Buddy Walk and something I’m sure I missed.
- Auditioning for 20 play and being cast in 19. Thank you to all of her directors and other artistic team members.
- Advocating at the US Capitol and telling them about your dreams including your now famous Pink House! We’ve met the nicest staffer along the way. Thank you for your kindness and for listening.
- Meeting, educating and lobbying state legislators, governors, US Congressman and Senators. You love to tell people who Senator Moran says you are the “best lobbyist in Washington DC.”
- Helping raise money and awareness at Fashion Shows, walks, runs, bowl-o-rama’s, silent auctions, Wild Game dinners
- Watching daddy run
- Making the honor roll
- Being part of the amazing Just Like You-Down Syndrome video, premiers and continued good education and awareness from that event. Thank you KC DSG, Just Like You and all the people who have shown this video.
- Dancing, dancing, dancing and the dance recitals
- A Disney audition. Thank you Gail.
- Speaking in 11 states about how much you “Love Your Life”
- Helping test and debut a game app
- Helping to #passtheABLEAct. It took eight years but we did it!
- Getting phone calls from Senators and Congressman letting you know the ABLE Act passed!
- Testifying before the Kansas State legislature
- Opening Kansas first ABLE account!
- Going to church camps, zoo camp and other camps
- Volunteering at church and going on mission trips
- Making friends & meeting lots of new people
- Christian Youth Theater shows and 28 classes . So many wonderful friends. #weareblessed
- Being featured as one of Sporting KC’s Victory Project Kids. Thanks Brandi and Deb.
- Helping auctioneers at fundraisers
- Meeting you “favorite player” Billy Butler because of Variety Kansas City
- Helping the Mayor proclaim it National Down Syndrome Awareness Month
- Calling the Hogs and meeting UA coaches, pom-pom girls, cheerleaders, the Chancellor, his wife and even becoming friends with a few players
- Promoting Down syndrome awareness on Times Square
- Training advocates and advocating at the NDSS Buddy Walk on Washington
- Serving as an NDSS DS-AMBASSADOR
- Speaking at Buddy Walks and Step Up Walks
- Going on vacations and trips to New York City (three times!), a Disney Cruise (mom’s favorite), the beach, bowling, Build-A-Bear, Pump-it-Up, and hosting sleepovers. How what fun we have had!
- Hosting Christmas cookie parties for your friends
- Working hard at science, history, math, English, and all your other classes. Heck, I never learned a Shakespeare monologue.
- Being inducted into Thespians and National Honor Society
- Serving on Student Council
- Serving as the OS Volleyball Manager. Thank you Ms. Fitz and girls.
- Being elected to OS winter court and prom court
- Did I mention you’ve been to a lot of Razorback games?
- Laughing and smiling
- Educating healthcare professionals, teachers and journalists that people with Down syndrome are not afflicted and that you have value just because you were fearfully and wonderfully created
- Loving and following Jesus
- Loving life, living life and just being you, Rachel
Well, when I look at it that way I wonder how we packed that all in 18 years? Even when you would have preferred to be with your friends or at school, you have willingly without too much complaint missed school and left school and other events to go advocate, educate, raise awareness, raise money and more because you knew it was important. In your short 18 years, you have made a difference.
Yes, 18 years has passed much too quickly. Just for today, I’m going to enjoy the moment and just celebrate you, Rachel Nicole Mast. #SavingMedicaid, reading senior English novels and working on independent living skills can wait. I’m going to enjoy some chocolate cake and celebrate my loyal, courageous, hard-working, devoted, fun and funny, infectious smile, contagious laugh, Jesus-following Rachel who has blossomed into a remarkable young woman. Today, I’m going to try to learn to be a little more like you and focus on the joy in the journey. Like everyday, I’m going to thank God for choosing me to be your mommy.
Happy 18th Birthday Baby Rachel! It really is the great adventure.