Raising children well is challenging under the best of circumstances.

Not too terribly long ago I was a mom with three babies under the age of five, and there were some days I wasn't sure I'd make it to the next.  They needed me or wanted me for e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. and if I thought I learned how selfish I was when I got married, I re-learned that lesson times a squillion after giving birth.

Imagine wanting to use the bathroom without an audience?  WHO did I think I was??

But now as I look UP into the eyes of my high school and college-age children, I realize how worthwhile every challenge has been, how the "hard" of parenting has softened my edges and made me a much better person.  And I realize I've had it pretty easy if we want to start comparing….

Fourteen years ago, my sister- and brother-in-law were awaiting the birth of their first; our little family was on vacation waiting to hear their good news.

One afternoon when we returned from a day on the beach, we had multiple messages waiting:  one was from my brother-in-law (and I can't remember now if he told us Caleb was here OR to call him), but the others were for family who urged us to call them before speaking with the new parents.

We knew something was wrong but had no idea what. 

Soon enough we would learn that Caleb had Downs Syndrome, and all those dreams Philip and Bebe (and all our family) had changed.  They knew their path just gotten bumpier; the unknowns back then were bewildering. 

What we couldn't have known was the beautiful impact Caleb would have in our lives, and that he might be the cousin who taught us all the most.  His parents have done (and are doing) an amazing job in parenting him and their two younger children, and all of us have been tendered in a bigger way to children and families who manage special needs. 

Tomorrow is Caleb's 14th and Bebe (Caleb's mom, my sister-in-love) had a wonderful idea; I'm copying and pasting directly from her Facebook page so you can read it in her own words:

Gifts-for-others-are-your-gift-to-calebThis week we will celebrate Caleb's birthday!  While our journey with Caleb is not always an easy one, there is much to rejoice over and be thankful for.  The same way I am confident our Heavenly Father rejoiced in perfectly creating Caleb!

I enjoy birthdays but buying presents for Caleb has always been difficult. He is happy with simple things!   So this year I thought of a different kind of present…serving and loving others by doing random acts of kindness in honor of Caleb's special day.

You could pay the parking meter beside you, tape quarters to a vending machine, pay for the person behind you in the drive thru line, help someone load their groceries, return the carts to the store, send a letter to someone you love…ANYTHING…and think of Caleb!

He has taught us so much about unconditional love.  If you do something, please snap a pic and post it.  I'd love to collect all the photos for his scrapbook.  Who wants to celebrate with us this week?

I was so moved by Bebe's wish for Caleb, I asked her if I could share it on PENSIEVE; she was thrilled to open this opportunity for Random Acts of Kindness to whoever would like to join in. 

So…if YOU would like to join us in celebrating Caleb's birthday, will you let Bebe know on Facebook?  (Here's her Facebook URL.)  Also, would you let me know in comments what you've done to honor him in celebration?  I might miss it on FB if you only post there.  

As Bebe said, she's collecting photos for his scrapbook, and wouldn't it be wonderful to FILL several pages?  And from Caleb's favorite Auntie (ok…his OLDEST aunt!!), thank you.  For you to love on this sweet family is blessing to me.

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