Journeys

Many journeys I have taken, many lessons I have learned with each milestone my daughter has reached. When Katie was young I scoured every SPED type article I could find. Read every word and advertisement in “EXCEPTIONAL PARENT”. I learned early on that when introducing a new task or activity one should discuss it, model it and practice it. Unfortunately I am too lazy to implement each of those steps and spent most of our time, “winging it” and hoping for the best. For you to better understand my version of “winging it” you need to know that for me it meant: getting an idea, grousing to myself “How on earth could she actually do that?”, stewing over it, procrastinating on moving forward with the idea, sharing my thoughts with anyone who couldn’t run fast enough to escape hearing my litany, taking advice from the wonderful fans of Katie, presenting the idea to her, talking about every single aspect of what to do/what not do and how to react in case things go awry, then tossing her into the situation, hoping things would go well. In the meantime I would be pacing the floor with a phone glued to my ear telling everyone what was happening, then being totally surprised and happy that it all went well.

Last summer was no exception to my laziness rule. Summer water exercise class hours happened to fall on two of the days that I was working at Black Hawk Area Ed Center, not far from Black Hawk College. I thought that an excellent way to sneak extra exercise in would be for Katie to walk from the Center to the College and go to the water ex. class. Then I could pick her up when I finished work for the day. This would be her first foray going for a walk alone to get somewhere (other than walking to or from my parent’s). You must be thinking, “she has ridden that route hundreds of times, of course she will know the way.” That would be true for most people, but when one falls asleep the moment one’s bum touches the tuck and roll upholstery, whatever is passing by the windows is non-existent to the sleeper.

After getting the idea and grousing, stewing, procrastinating, and all of my other winging it phases, I sent her out the front door of the school once I had adjusted the straps of her backpack laden with swim gear. Immediately I had to share my angst with the first person I saw. Her first response was, “I can drive her there, do you want me to stop her and drive her there?”. I told her that I wanted Katie to continue, I just hoped she would make it there and remember to call me when she arrived. Bless her heart, this woman then offered to follow her and spy on her to make sure all was well! You have heard me say this before, but, people are so good!

We evaluated the areas that I thought would be problematic.

1. turning the correct direction out of the parking lot.

2. pressing the correct “walk” button on the stop light at the busy intersection.

3. after entering the pool building, steering clear of the vending machines! This, of course caused the most consternation, but we agreed, and so did the second person I dragged into my drama, that she would be so focused on her mission of getting there that she would not be tempted by the snickers and sun chips. One can alw

ays daydream, plus I decided….we decided that the experience outweighed the possibility of a vendo-gorge.

I was smugly happy with the adventure when my son phoned; my exceptionally reasonable, rational son cried, “you did what? you sent her walking by herself to Black Hawk College?!” at which point panic started to well from my toes. “Oh my gosh!” I thought, “if he thinks it is a bad idea there must be some aspect I didn’t consider.” Upon further discussion I discovered that he thought I was working at my other school for summer school and that I had sent her on a trek across town! Whew, once again I was happy with the adventure. I expected her journey to take an hour so I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when after 30 minutes she called me to say she had arrived without a hitch. Later in the day she explained that when she pushed the walk button she had to run to cross all of the lanes and still didn’t make it in time

Imagebefore the “orange man” showed up. She calmly said, “I put my hand out to stop the cars from coming at me. Next time I’ll have to run faster.”

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Where Are They Now? The Life and Times of a Miss You Can Do It! Queen

Katie VandeMoortel, 2007 Ms. You Can Do It! says that her Challenger League baseball coaches helped her win the title. They taught her to calm her onstage and interview jitters by taking a big, deep cleansing, relaxing breath just like before getting up to bat at a game. The pageant experience provided her with an opportunity to meet and interact with other girls. She loves coming back to the pageant and she looks forward each year to seeing the friends ¬†she met during her pageant years. She has been inspired by the other contestants and by all of the people who volunteer to make this pageant a night of magic. She is employed as a feeding aide at Black Hawk Area Education Center. She is a member of the Happy Joe’s team for Challenger League baseball and participates in the Great River Challenge. Katie has been¬†active in Young Life’s Capernaum Next Step and has volunteered twice at “work weeks” to prepare a camp for hundreds of high school summer campers. Katie is a volunteer at Sacred Heart Church in Moline where she is a money counter. The determination, focus, enthusiasm and persistence that she exhibited during the pageants is evident in her daily life as she battles the effects of Prader-Willi Syndrome. She diligently works out at a water aerobics class at Black Hawk College, where she also swims laps like a fish and has a personal best of 3/4 of a mile in one hour, that’s really kicking it! Just Dance 2 for Wii provides her with hours of fun, aerobic exercise. Kathleen walks at home on a treadmill and hikes at Prospect Park, finding that using hiking sticks gives her a boost. She bowls in a Thursday night women’s league.Image Her favorite activity of all is being Aunt Katie to her adorable nephew Cohen and sweet niece Sophia and making them extraordinaryily creative birthday cakes. Kathleen’s enthusiasm for the pageant has encouraged many of her students and fellow baseball players to participate in the pageant. She is anxious to bring her crown out of it’s box and return to Utopia for a night again this year.

A perfect sign happened to be hanging behind her for this photo.

2015 revision:
Along with Cohen and Sophia, Katie is aunt to Ellie Joy.
Katie has attended Wonderland Camp’s PWS week three times and always wishes that it lasted longer.

 

2016 revision:
Katie died peacefully in her sleep January 25, 2016. She would have been 30 years old in April. She wore her MYCDI crown to her visitation which was unbelievably attended by over 800 community members who mourned Katie lovingly. She is remembered and missed constantly.
Two loves she did not get to meet, niece Mae Anne and nephew Everett Paul were expected to be born on her birthday, but arrived April 14, 2016

I was told the good friends at the MYCDI pageant 2016 took a moment to remember Katie. I was deeply moved to hear that happened.

 

2017 revision:

Katie will be mentioned in a Jenni Pulos article for the Parade magazine featuring MYCDI.

Katie’s brother, Jacob penned the perfect epitaph for his sister. Something a brother should never have to do, but he has always done things for her that no brother should have to do. He, too, loves well and is well loved.

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