On this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast, host David Hirsch speaks with Josh Avis, father of three and cofounder of The Lucky Few Instagram account and podcast. Josh and his wife Heather have adopted three children two of whom have Down Syndrome. Josh and Heather consider themselves among the lucky few to have two children with special needs, in fact, Avis has written a book entitled The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places, which you can find at Amazon. We’ll hear all about the Avis family and The Lucky Few on this Dad to Dad podcast. To find out about The Lucky Few and to hear the podcast go to https://www.theluckyfewpodcast.com. To hear about this mission of The Special Fathers Network go https://21stcenturydads.org/about-the-special-fathers-network. Lastly hear’s the link to the Amazon page for The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places. https://www.amazon.com/Lucky-Few-Finding-Unlikely-Places/dp/0310345464/ref=sr_
Dad to Dad 82 – Josh Avis, Father of 3 Adopted Children (2 With Down Syndrome) & Co-Founder of The Lucky Few
Josh Avis: We think life is going to be a certain way. What cultural says is it’s a negative thing. And then when you get to experience that, those of us who do have kids with down syndrome, it’s not, we’re actually the lucky ones because we are fortunate to live life differently and see the beauty in it and see the humanity of. Our kids, which is a good thing. It’s shifting the narrative of how we see things.
Tom Couch: That’s Josh Avis, bother of three and cofounder of the lucky field, Instagram account and website, Josh and his wife Avis have adopted three children. Two of whom have down syndrome. We’ll hear the Avis family story and more all on this dad to dad podcast.
Here’s our host, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the dad to dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process.
New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads. To find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: And now let’s listen in as special father Josh Avis talks with our hosts, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Josh Avis of Redlands, California, who is a father of three and cofounder of the lucky few. Josh, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview with the Special Fathers Network.
Josh Avis: Thanks for having me. What an honor.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, Heather have been married for 18 years and the proud parents of three children, August six, truly eight and Mason 11, all three of your children have been adopted and both Mason and August have down syndrome. Let’s start with a little background.
Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Josh Avis: Born and raised in Southern California. Uh, in the mountains, a small town called Crestline. It’s about 60 miles West of, uh, Los Angeles and grew up in a. A home of four is my mom and dad and my older brother and my brother is three and a half years older than me and born and raised in the same house.
I went to the same schools and then, uh, moved out around 18. I think
David Hirsch: I would, I think of I’m a little bit older than you as a Beaver Cleaver type of, uh, upgrading.
Josh Avis: I remember growing up. One thing I love of that, I, I look back on my upbringing was, um, we had dinner at the dinner table every night and, um, I remember falling asleep at the dinner table.
I would just play so hard outdoors, you know? Like with all the neighborhood kids. I didn’t have a phone, you know, in my hand when I was a kid and, um, I would come in and that was time. I would just, I would, um, I would just conk out. So, but I, I, I love that my parents instilled that and we try to do that with our kiddos in our family.
So, uh, as my father in law says, uh, put our feet under the table.
David Hirsch: Got it. Well, uh, I think the fact, uh, the matter, yeah, with all the kids growing up in father, absent homes, four out of every 10 across America, that dinner table experience is not a given. Yeah. Families are busy. It’s like, Hey, you know, I made some dinner for you, you know, make sure that your kids are being fed, but you know, that extra step taking the time.
Right to be present in one another’s lives and just sort of catching up. And I think we need to return, right. If there’s something we could do to roll the clock back, it would be to make sure that all kids have an opportunity to grow up with their feet under the table.
Josh Avis: Yeah. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Out of curiosity, um, what does your dad do for a living?
Josh Avis: He was a physical therapist technician at a Kaiser here locally, and he did it for 39 years. He commuted for 39 years. Did the same job. For nearly 40 years.
David Hirsch: Okay. So it sounds like here has a compassion for, you know, helping others based on his occupation.
Josh Avis: Did he never really talked about, he’s not a feeler in the sense of a, it’s not an emotional guy, but yeah.
He showed up for people every single day and he loved it. He, I think he loved the start to finish, you know, getting people. A rehabilitated. I always liked to go into his, his hospital and, uh, he had this really sweet, like rehab room. It was like a gym for a kid, but not, you know, it’s for patients. And, and we would, you know, run on everything and bounce on things and, you know, I’m sure he was yelling at us, but yeah, I never really thought of it that way, but that’s absolutely true, uh, of a compassionate, uh, seeing people.
You know, get better, get healed.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, sadly, I think you mentioned in a prior conversation that your dad has Parkinson’s.
Josh Avis: It does. Yeah. Uh, he’s had Parkinson’s for, I think it’s been about nine or 10 years now. And you know, we talk about his job for 39 years. It really, his job really became his identity.
My dad was the guy who. Was so consistent and going to work every day. And he didn’t just do that, that he also was in the air force reserve. So he was doing that kind of on the side and yeah, his work ethic was just off the chart that was robbed from him in his retirement. He was forced into retirement and he, he would have gone.
He probably would have gone another 10 years or. To watch him navigate. That has been really hard, really hard. My mom’s is full, full time caregiver now, and it’s gotten progressive and it’s hard. Uh, and. Who my dad is today is not who raised me and is who is not, um, you know, who I see. And so that, that makes it really hard.
I mean, I think we’re all going through our own grieving process. Uh, and we’re trying to enjoy him as much as we can and give him the best life he can right now.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, sadly, that’s something we have in common. My dad, uh, later in his life, he passed away almost three years ago. Now I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
I think it was diagnosed about six years before he passed away. Yeah. Yeah. It’s not. Immediate, right. It’s this gradual slide down. Yeah. And, uh, you know, you, you have to be pretty strong constitution. My dad certainly had a strong constitution. Uh, he just sort of played the hand that was dealt him. And, uh, there is a grieving process, right?
When you launch a loved one, you know, go through something. And I think the fact that your mom is there. It makes it a little bit easier for him, but that’s no small burden for a spouse to be there and then sort of deal or reconcile with the emotional aspects of that as a challenge. And, uh, you know, my heart reaches out to you from that perspective.
And, uh, you know, I’m, I’m hoping that he’s receiving some enjoyment. From the fact that he’s got grandkids.
Josh Avis: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Yeah. You mentioned you have three of his grandkids and I think in a prior conversation, your brother has a couple kids as well. And, uh, you know, sadly your kids won’t know their grandpa into an old age.
Like he might have lived otherwise, but, uh, hopefully they’ll have some good remembrances of him.
Josh Avis: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s there Papa for sure. Yep.
David Hirsch: That’s coincidentally my nickname as a grandfather, as Papa as well. Um, we only have a 10 month old, but, um, I’m really warming up to this idea about being a grandpa.
Josh Avis: I love it. Congrats.
David Hirsch: Thanks. So if you were to characterize your relationship with your dad or think about some of the more important takeaways you’ve already made, you know, Good reference to his work ethic and the role model that he has been. But I’m wondering if there’s anything that he always said or did that, uh, has been a positive takeaway for you?
Josh Avis: Oh man. He is consistent. He’s always been consistent. Like I said, he. Had the same job forever. And, and I just, and that’s a wild idea today. And, you know, in our culture, it really is. I think I’ve had, you know, three different jobs in, in the short course of 15 years. And so to watch him be so consistent with his work ethic, he was and is an unbelievable husband.
I think that would probably be. The biggest gift that he has given me as an example is to watch him love my mom. So well, you know, and I’m obviously his own unbelievable dad, his consistency with, you know, putting food on the table and, and, and being steady was huge for my brother and I, and, um, I could always count on him and that’s like a, that’s a big thing to say.
Yeah. You know? Uh, so yeah, that’s, that’s how I would describe him. Yeah,
David Hirsch: well, if I can paraphrase what you’ve said, not only did he have a good workout, your mom, which is really important role model. Um, but he was present. You might take that for granted that, Oh, all dads are present, but, uh, like we were talking about if there’s Florida, 10 kids across America, growing up in a household without their dad, maybe that wasn’t the reality for everybody.
Right. Maybe even have some friends that, you know, their dads weren’t as present and that’s not just physically present, but being emotionally present, spiritually present. And, you know, we just take for granted that dads are going to pay the bill too.
Josh Avis: And I probably did take him for granted some of those years, you know, of him being consistent so much.
I I’m sure I did. I’m sure I took, I took that for granted.
David Hirsch: Hopefully your kids won’t take you for granted.
I’m thinking about, uh, other father figures and maybe starting with your grandpa’s. Did your dad’s dad or your mom’s dad, uh, have a very much of a influential role in your life?
Josh Avis: Yeah, so my. I did have a relationship with both grandparents and I still do with my dad’s daddy lives. They live eight hours away.
So it’s, yeah, it has been a little bit tricky growing up, but we did see them, you know, probably twice a year and it was always great. My dad’s dad actually adopted my dad when he was three. He was 21 years old and he adopted him. And I think about that today and that, and if, you know, A 21 year old says they’re gonna adopt a three-year-old.
I think that that just says a lot. And he jumped right in with my grandma and became my dad’s dad. And he’s always, he’s always been grandpa to me. I don’t remember when I found out that my dad had been adopted by his dad, but he’s, I think that consistency that I spoke of earlier really kind of flowed through.
To my dad. And so I have a must respect for my grandpa and we call him grandpa. My, uh, my mom’s side of the family. We call him Papa. Okay. He died probably. Uh, it’s probably been about 15 years now. He was definitely a character that my memory of, of my Papa was he had had a stroke. It really robbed him of his retirement.
And so rehab was a huge part of, of what I remember of my Papa. He was quite the character. He had a, quite a story, you know, he was a functioning alcoholic for a long time and it took a toll on him. It took a toll on the family and I do remember. Uh, when he had a stroke in and it devastated the family and, and, and we watched him go through this in it.
He recovered some, but man, he never really recovered. He never really recovered covered. And I, I think that was a big memory. I did have a chance to live with them part time while I was going to a junior college, uh, when their town that they lived in. And that was a sweet time. That was something that really.
Impacted memories with them. And he would always ask me like, what’s your schedule today? What are you doing? You know, when’s class out, do you have a job? Where are you going? Why, you know, why are you coming and going so much? And so that was a, that was a fun memory. You know, he sat in his chair in his living room, eight hours a day and watch Laker games in soap operas with my grandma.
That’s a fond memory I have of them. Sweet couple. He had a long, he had a long story. Yeah, he did. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, I love the part where you’re recalling that he was quizzing you, you know, and what I heard was he is trying to keep you accountable.
Josh Avis: He’s being a
David Hirsch: father figure. Right. And I don’t know if he was reporting back to your parents, but, uh, you know, um, that, that was very Tundra.
Thanks for sharing. Yeah. So, uh, under the banner of, uh, other figures, were there any other father figures, uh, that you can look back on and say, These men definitely played an instrumental role in my life.
Josh Avis: Oh, for sure. You know, my whole life I’ve feel like I’ve really gravitated towards a rabbi or a mentor type that I just look for.
Some, some answers, some direction, you know, starting in high school, we had a couple of youth pastors that were instrumental and. Having good hard conversations as a, as a high school or feel pain. You know, he’s still working in ministry today. I’m not sure where he is, but I believe, and he’s like a missionary and Ecuador and just was bold enough to have those really great conversations with, with teenage boys.
And, uh, we also had, so my I’ve known my wife since I was 16. And their pastor of their church became a mentor to me, his name’s Mike Giordano and Mike mentored me and he ended up marrying my wife and I, but we’ve stayed in contact for a long time. And yeah. Um, and then, uh, obviously my father-in-law he had, uh, after we got married and, and I think prior to getting married, I think it was like, Who is this guy?
Why is he hanging out with my daughter? He doesn’t deserve, you know, any of my time. And I hate it. I just really respect my father-in-law and he, over the years has just become so dear to me, he he’s, he’s probably. As much of a role model as a father, he like, feels like he adopted me when I was about 20 years old and has just consistently poured into my wife and I in so many ways.
So, yeah. So, yeah. And then I on right now, I just have a group of guys that I call my personal board of directors that I surround myself with. You know, we show up for our wives and, uh, it was, it looked like to be dads and the struggle of what it. It means to be dads with kids with special needs adopted fathers.
So I have been very, very fortunate to have a group of guys around me that are in a similar stage of life that are, we’re all holding some similar stuff. And that has been, I, yeah, if I didn’t have that, I don’t know. I would have the foundation yeah. To, to be a functioning father, to be honest. Yeah. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, it sounds like there’s been a lot of men, not only your biological family, but other men who have spoken into you, you know, we are a product of those that we’ve been in community with. Yeah. Yeah. You’ve been very fortunate from that perspective to have a broad and deep foundation. So again, thanks for sharing.
Josh Avis: Yeah,
David Hirsch: from that, I remember you went to community college and then graduated from San Francisco state with a degree in industrial art, web design and graphic arts. I’m sort of curious to know, uh, how did your career transpire and get you where you are as a cofounder of the lucky few?
Josh Avis: Yeah. Good question.
I’ve always been a creative. I mean, I written with some of my first memories were drawing on the walls of my bedroom. And getting in trouble for it, or always having a pen and paper, uh, always, always eating with my hands. And so the gifts that I’ve been given are. Creative and, you know, infused in me. And, and so I’m always creating, I’m always trying to, uh, design and so that I just navigated towards art in high school.
And honestly I used art to, uh, to win friends over and to impress my girlfriend. And so, so then when, uh, art was a option in college, I chose graphic design because it. I remember this moment where I was, I was studying fine art and I realized, man, I don’t have the discipline to do this. And I wouldn’t say discipline is something that is deep seated in me.
But what I saw was that where you take art and design and it was part of it of, uh, desktop computers. I took, uh, uh, graphic design class in the junior college and I just fell in love and I’ve never, I’ve never stopped using computers too. With software and creating things from movies to websites, to marketing things and logos and identity.
And, and so I’ve always, I love that stuff. And so that, that was part of my first job was actually working for a church as a craft designer when churches didn’t have graphic designers. And I love this idea of using art to help people. And I’ve always kind of had this thing inside me. I needed some, I needed a purpose.
Like I needed something that my hands created. I worked at a church in LA, a church plant that exploded in five years and became really, you know, it was like 400 at first to about 5,000 when we left. And again, it was something where. We could, it was really focused on community, really focused on diversity.
And that was something that was important to my wife and I, uh, our middle daughter is African American and Guatemalan and my wife and I are Caucasian. And so to put ourselves in a, in a place where, um, diversity in, in community was important for our daughter and for us. And so we were part of this community, uh, this church that was very diverse and I was able to be on staff there.
David Hirsch: if I can paraphrase what you’ve said about your career, you could not have anticipated when you graduated from college, that you’d be doing what you’re doing, but when you look back, it seems so logical, right? Like this led to that, this led to that. And all of a sudden, you know, you’re, you know, purposely prepared to be doing what you’re doing.
Josh Avis: Yeah.
David Hirsch: It’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing. So, uh, I think he made reference to trying to impress the girlfriend. Um, and I’m wondering if that same person is now your wife.
Josh Avis: She is, she is. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Okay. How’d the two of you meet. Anyway,
Josh Avis: uh, we met in high school through her older sister, her older sister, and I became friends and she had a car.
I did not, we lived in the same neighborhood, so I didn’t want to ride the bus home. I wanted to ride in the car and I asked her for a ride home and we became fast friends. And then we started hanging out at her house and I found out that she had a little sister that was really cute. And the rest is history.
David Hirsch: Yeah. And, uh, you’re then a father of your girlfriend didn’t, uh, kick you out or make it too difficult for you to become?
Josh Avis: No, he never kicked me out. He just, he just wouldn’t acknowledge me. What father of a teenage girl wants to acknowledge any boy
David Hirsch: So let’s switch gears and talk about specialty. Needs first on a personal level and then beyond. So before adopting Mason, did you or Heather have any experience with adoption or special needs?
Josh Avis: We did. Yeah. I grew up in a house where my mom was a teacher’s aid for about 25 years in different environments with.
Uh, kids with different abilities. And, and so she, uh, would always come home and, and have these wonderful stories about kids in our classroom. And it just became a natural thing to hear these stories in our house. And, and then we would get to meet the kids. I would go to the classroom. And so being in a, a classroom where the kids were a little bit different, As early, early on was normal for me.
And then for my wife, she chose. Special ed as her course, uh, for her credential. And she started teaching for my mom. She was a, in her mom’s my mom’s class. My wife has an incredibly passionate heart. And I saw early on that I was so attracted to this girl who had so much compassion and, and, and drive. And she became a special ed teacher in, for high school for about five years before we adopted our oldest.
So yes, the answer’s yes, we had. Some familiarity for sure.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So what’s the backstory. How did she become Mason become a part of your family?
Josh Avis: Oh man, that’s a good one. Basin is such a gift. What my wife and I, we had been married about three and a half years and decided it was time to try to grow our family and.
We couldn’t and we went through some infertility for a couple of years and we always wanted to adopt, but my idea it’s always our idea, right. We think we have these grand plans and it was to have our own kids and then adopt and, and, uh, we couldn’t, we couldn’t conceive. Kids. And we started to do the research on adoptive families and we really didn’t know any adoptive families.
And there was a gal that my mom, my wife had worked with and her Senate adopted, and she connected us with this amazing family in town. And we went over and had dinner and. I went in there thinking if I adopted what I really love of these kids, as much as my own as, as a biological father. And I just couldn’t see it.
I just didn’t know. You know, we, we don’t know. We don’t know. And we’re sitting there having dinner with his family and they had, they had adopted two little boys and they had looked like each other and. It was normal. It was like, Whoa. Oh my gosh. Like, I don’t know what I was thinking, but, and they were so open and so great to us.
And they said, Hey, listen, we adopted through this private agency in LA. Why don’t you. Reach out to them and just start the conversation. And that’s what we did. We, we went to a private agency so that we could adopt a healthy newborn. Um, there’s other ways to adopt there’s there’s many ways to adoption.
And so we did the profile, we signed up for all the things and, and then we, and then we, or we’re ready to be picked, you know, they, they present your profile to families and we waited and we waited and we waited and my wife reached out and said, Hey, we’re. We’re going to take a trip to Europe. We just want to let you know, we’re taking a trip to Europe and, and if you try to get ahold of this, this is pre cell phone.
Uh, you can get us on a email and, and then she said, how are the things just, how are things going? So we went to Europe and we’re traveling around Greece and, uh, she checks her an email and it, and it’s things are slow right now. We have two kids with down syndrome. One is so sick that she’s really not placeable, uh, be patient and.
Uh, let us know when you get back. And that was it. And my wife came down, I think it was, she was in the hotel room. I was in the lobby and she came downstairs and she said, and, and you could see the spark, you know, and, and she said, Hey, what do you think about a baby with down syndrome? And I said, I don’t know, I let’s let’s pray about this.
And she was expecting me like, nah, nah, that’s not for us. Like, yeah. And then, you know, and she’s like, Oh my gosh. You know? And I think she deep down, she will say like, Oh, I think this is it. So we went home all excited and we, we let them know, Hey, what about these little girls with down syndrome? They, Oh, well, once too sick.
Yeah. I went on trips. He’s gonna make it. And the other. We play, she would have been a great fit for you. So we were pretty devastated. And, and so then we just, we went back to normal life and, and then, uh, about a month later we had a call, Hey, the other little girl, she made it through her first surgery.
And you know, I know you guys had shown some interest. Would you even, would you want to come down? So we went and talked to the social workers and sat down and they handed us. A medical file. That was about, you know, this thick, it was about an inch thick and, and said, here’s, what’s going on. She’s really sick.
She needs another heart surgery. What do you think? And it wasn’t encouraging, man. It really wasn’t. It was like, what the heck? Like. I think, I think this is our little girl, but why it’s really hard. And, and so we went home, we deliberated and there was like, no, we didn’t get our moment of like, Oh wow. Maybe, maybe we were chosen.
Uh, so we said, well, let’s, let’s move forward. And they presented our profile to the birth family and the pro family wanted to meet us. We were ready to go ahead. And so we said, well, let’s go talk to the doctors. And we went and talked to the heart surgeon and the cardiologist, and we went in and I thought, well, they’ll surely, you know, give us a thumbs up, thumbs down kind of thing.
We went in and talked with them and it wasn’t encouraging it. Wasn’t, it wasn’t, it wasn’t good. And it was, it was, you know, it, this heart surgery, but she has an incurable lung disease. And, uh, you know, if the heart. Condition doesn’t improve the lungs. Then she might not live til she’s eight. So, you know, early, like not much.
And so we left if they’re really devastated and we went to Costco. And th I’m turning this into a very long story. I’m giving you the long version, sorry, but we, we went to Costco and we’re sitting in the parking lot. And as every spiritual conversation in Costco happens, we are sitting there and there’s just this overwhelming sense that this was our little girl and, and, and my wife.
Said to me, you know, if this is, if this is our, our gift from God, how can we look at this gift and say, it’s not good
David Hirsch: enough?
Josh Avis: And I still can’t tell that story without getting choked up. And he said, you know, as if God, it wasn’t this audible voice, but it was, if you get three years or 30 years, Those are your years with her and what a gift.
Yeah. And, and so we said, yes. Okay. We went forward. Uh, I think we, I may have said no in there and freaked out and then said, yes. And in these agents, the agency, you know, they’re so patient with new parents in there, they knew they give you like a 24 hour, like cool down, you know, period. And, and so we said, yes, and my wife likes to say, she’s our, um, Scariest and best.
Yes. And we went forward in the day. We brought her home the very first day was a, an appointment with a heart surgeon and, and we went to the hospital and we forgot her stroller and we’re brand new parents and we’re carrying across the parking lot. And this kid thing that had any idea what we were doing, and we sat there and talk with the surgeon and we jumped right in.
So, um, Mason’s our first, she’s 11 now. She went through heart surgery recovered a few years later, her. Incurable lung disease was healed. You know, we went through years of oxygen and crazy amount of, she was just such a medically fragile baby. And when we found out that she had down syndrome, it was such a backburner to the medical stuff since you recovered.
And we did years and years of, you know, the, having a medical fragile little girl, and today she’s thriving, she’s 11 and she’s there. She’s an incredible story. She’s incredible little girl. That’s the long version of, of, uh, of bringing Macy.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that’s an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. I’m sort of curious to know what age was Macy adopted?
How old was she? We
Josh Avis: met her when she was four months old. We brought her home when she was five months.
David Hirsch: And I’m sorta curious. No one was the Down’s diagnosed.
Josh Avis: That’s a good question. I believe in utero. Yeah, there was a very big sign of it and they do these tests and, and birth mom and birth. Dad just felt like they couldn’t do it.
And then when the, when she was born, they, they was confirmed. And, um, and so I, I believe. If I remember the story, right. That she went straight to the foster home.
David Hirsch: Well, I just wanted to be clear about that. Cause it wasn’t evident from even the long version of the story that you knew, both eyes open. Uh, she had down syndrome from the time he adopted her.
Josh Avis: Yeah. Yeah. Yup.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s just a remarkable story. Uh, she’s a remarkable young lady and the. Other question that came to mind was, was that her name that she was given when she was born or did you name or rename her when you adopted her?
Josh Avis: We got to name her. Her birth name was RP, a RPI it’s, it’s a, she’s a a hundred percent Armenian.
And, uh, so we kept her, uh, RP as her middle name. Uh, w she has two middle names. So her full name is Mason hope, RBA Davis. And we kept, uh, you know, hope because man, we were hoping for so much of, for her life and, and RP to really honor who she is and, and where she came from.
David Hirsch: That’s excellent. Well, thanks again for sharing.
Josh Avis: Of course.
David Hirsch: So it didn’t stop there. You, uh, decided to adopt a gun and your middle child, other daughter’s name is truly. Yeah. And I’m wondering, how did she become a part of your family and at what age?
Josh Avis: Yeah, so a couple of years after Macy came home and the medical stuff kind of became. Better and normal and, and manageable, uh, for our family, we always wanted to have more kids.
And this time, instead of going through a private agency, we went through the County. Uh, it’s free. Did all the work, did all the hours to, you know, profile again. And, uh, and we waited and they said, very clearly you will get, you will not get a baby that doesn’t have some sort of substance abuse or substance or a sibling.
And, you know, are you open to siblings? And we were, uh, you know, if you adopted baby, they’ll probably have an older brother or sister and, you know, they want to keep kids together. And, and so we, we. Honestly, we went into it with our hands pretty wide open on the first one. Our hands were pretty clenched, you know, and we thought we had our plan.
And so this one, all right, God, you’re going to turn this thing on its head at all anyways. So let’s go into it. And so. We got a call. There was a brand new baby. She was five months old, no substance abuse, perfectly healthy. So like anomaly in the County. So we went and met her at the foster family and it was a.
You know, it was like perfect match, you know, for us it’s and it, uh, we brought her a home at six months and, uh, we got to name her and she’s our truly star and she is African American Guatemalan. And we didn’t know naming her truly, especially, truly star would be so fitting for her. Who she is because her personality, Oh my gosh, man.
She, she is full of life. She is our enthusiast. She is mountain top to mountain top, and she is such a joy and a, and she’s just fun. She’s just, she doesn’t stop. The only time she stops is when she’s sleeping and she’s a, and she’s our spicy little girl. Yeah,
David Hirsch: that’s awesome. Well, I was going to jokingly say, does she just have one middle name, star, truly
Josh Avis: a star Davis?
Uh, no, just one just star. Yup.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well she sounds like a gem and it’s just amazing how you and Heather not only opened your home, but hoping your hearts to these two young girls and the story doesn’t stop there because, um, you have a son as well. August or Augie. I’m sort of curious now, how did he become a part of your family and what, at what age?
Josh Avis: So Augie again, we knew we wanted to have another kid we’re trying to grow our family this time. Truly was two years old and we thought it would take about a year and a half at the, you know, adoption is not quick at my any means. So we went to the County again, and this time they kind of put you on a fast track because you’ve been through.
And, and so we went through and it’s like, I think it’s called a taking care of business day. And we went in and, uh, at this point, social media had kind of become a thing. And so I thought, Oh, let’s just take a snapshot outside the office that you know, where we did the taking care of business and say, here we go again.
You know, just kinda like, uh, yeah, people say I’m pregnant, you know, we don’t get to do that. So we thought, well, let’s just let people know. Here we go, where this is the start doesn’t mean we’re bringing a kennel. Well, one of our friends. Saw that post and said, Hey, I just got contacted from a, a mom in San Diego.
She has the she’s pregnant and the baby has down syndrome. And we weren’t, we were looking to adopt a kid with down syndrome again. And, and we thought, Oh man, this is quick. I don’t know. I think at the time she was probably about six months pregnant and. Without, well, let’s just take the next step. So my wife of all places as a conversation on Facebook with Auggie’s birth mom.
Oh my gosh. And it was a wild ride thing, man, listening to her, read the conversation back and forth and it was awkward and it was, you know, we’re talking about growing a family family, and this is someone’s life. And then, I mean, this just the emotional state of I’m having to have this little boy, I don’t know.
He has a hole in his heart. You know, and so we, we had many conversations and then it was, it looks okay. I think we should really consider this. And so it was really kind of the agency said, well, let’s talk to birth mom. And if birth mom chooses you, then we’ll take the next step. And she did, and she chose us.
And so then we started showing up for. Uh, the ultrasound and, and having conversations about heart surgery. And it was an amazing thing to meet a birth mom, to meet Auggie’s birth mom early on and develop that relationship. And then we have this incredible picture of, of her with Augie in her stomach. And I just cherish all of that.
And, and so then come birth the day that. You know, I was born there is where the crazy thing about adoption is it’s never, it’s, you’re never for sure. Like she could change her mind at the end. So we’re on pins and needles and, and she’s we, she said, she, you know, I choose you. I want you to be the parents, but my gosh, they, the day that she was born or he was born, um, we get the call he’s here.
We weren’t there in the room, but we got to meet him when he was about four hours old and, uh, and spent. An entire day in the hospital room with birth mom, her sister, her mom, her daughter, her bio daughter, Auggie’s bio sister. And. It was anointed man. It was, it was, it was unreal words. Can’t describe meeting him and holding him when he was brand new and the connection we made with her.
And then the heartache of watching her leave the hospital with our son and our arms and she’s going home. And so we brought August home. We did a whole another round of heart surgeries and, uh, he didn’t have other medical conditions like. Mason did, but we’ve had them since, so, since he was born and we have an unreal bond, he is, he’s a character.
He’s our little encourager. He. Is very compassionate. He’s super imaginative. He he’s like Woody from toy story, the movie toy story. He just, he loves his Woody. He goes in and he creates these scenes. He’s, you know, he’s six years old now, but he he’s a little introvert and he loves his space. He loves his toys.
He loves his older sisters and he is man. Wayne is just, he’s such a, um, a gift to us. Yeah. That’s Augie.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s. That scene that you described after the birth, where you and Heather are present with the birth mom, her sister, her mom. It sounds like a surreal experience.
Josh Avis: Yeah,
David Hirsch: it just seems like a, Oh my gosh.
And I can’t even imagine what’s going through somebody’s mind yours as the new parents and then the mental gymnastics that must go on in a woman’s mind to give birth and not. Not be the mom. Right. And feeling good, feeling like that was the best decision for my,
Josh Avis: yeah.
David Hirsch: Yeah. So it’s remarkable. Well, uh, so thank you.
Thank you for allowing us to come in and, you know, share a little bit of that.
Josh Avis: Oh yeah.
David Hirsch: So looking back, I’m wondering what, uh, where some of the more important decisions that you’ve made raising these three children and two of them were special needs.
Josh Avis: I think probably some of the. Best thing we could do is just immerse ourselves with information and community and people who went ahead of us, uh, to put ourselves in a posture of listening and learning.
I think that was because the fear of unknown will really cripple you. The tricky thing is today is there’s a lot of negative information out there about down syndrome. There’s a lot of, there’s a, a cultural norm that says this is not good. And there was something behind us that said, Yeah, but that’s not what we’ve experienced.
And with Heather students with what I knew growing up, I think we had to weigh some of that. And, and, and I think just being a learner, to be honest. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So I’m sort of curious to know what impact your children’s situations had on the rest of your family, your parents, or siblings, yours and other siblings for that.
Josh Avis: Hmm. I think though the one that comes to mind is my mom. I think she knew she had a special bond with so many of our students. And so I think she knew, and I saw Mason’s healing of with her down syndrome and sorry with her heart surgery and in her lung condition, it had a huge impact on my mom. I saw that she became a different person and I think when you witness a miracle.
How can you not be changed? How can you not look at things differently and for the rest of the family? Yeah, I think it’s, it’s brought us together in some ways, I think. Yeah. Watching her cousins, watching the cousins, they don’t know any different. They don’t, they see them as they’re cousins and that’s it.
And I think that’s been amazing to see how they’ve just really. This is their normal, this is, this is what they know, you know? And, and, uh, Mason has a cousin who’s very similar age and they have become really like best friends and, and she knows she has down syndrome and there’s something about their bonds that it’s just made it so sweet and.
I think we’re all they, I just see they’re better for it. They’re just so much better for it. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, I think the broader community, if I can sort of read between the lines is learning about inclusion and acceptance, right. Because it’s something that they have to sort of work toward. Whereas if you grow up with it, right.
You don’t know anything different. That’s what I heard you saying. Yeah. You know, that’s just, yeah. The way they think that’s just their reality versus not having had that experience and sort of trying to bridge the gap. There is no gap to be bridged.
Josh Avis: Yeah.
David Hirsch: So under the banner of supporting organizations, uh, you mentioned the church or there’s some other organizations that have played an important role in your lives on behalf of your family.
Josh Avis: Oh, sure. Clip 21 comes to mind there organization in Pasadena, California, they have been instrumental and resourcing us and helping us. And it’s a community of families with kids with down syndrome from baby to adult. That’s been, they’ve been amazing. There’s been the. You know, social media, isn’t all that bad.
A lot of it is bad, especially in a political environment these days. But online, honestly, there has been a huge resource. We are fortunate to have a large platform, social media wise. And so we. We ask them a lot. And there’s a lot of people who deep who care deeply from PI chain to heart surgery, to, you know, speech, to, you know, school, to inclusion, to bullying, to getting dressed, you know, there’s this online community that is so strong.
So that’s, that’s been great. And then we have, you know, local community. We have a few families nearby that have adopted kids with down syndrome. That is just been, it’s been good. And my wife’s been fortunate enough and what she does she’s nationwide has been. With, you know, national down syndrome organization.
And there’s a, there’s a whole bunch of them, you know, she’s become friends with them in jesus’ place. The house has been super supportive. My wife has, I’ve written a couple of books. They have been really great in hosting us. Uh, you know, they’re all over the nation. So they have allowed us to have events in there.
A couple of their different, um, chapters. Yeah. So they’ve been, been
David Hirsch: great. Well, where I’m not familiar with, uh, club 21. Um, I am familiar with Judy’s Playhouse and I think we’ve made it that connection in a prior conversation. GGS got it. Start here in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago and Gigi. His parents are Paula Nancy Gianni, who are just anything parents because 16, 17 years ago, when Judy was born there, there wasn’t a GGS Playhouse there wasn’t, you know, these resources and these 40 plus communities around North America.
And, uh, There’s Down’s syndrome awareness centers. Um, resource is that they’ve created, you know, have a packet. Well, over 30,000 families, it’s amazing. And I can’t help, but sing the praises of the families, not just the Gianni family that helped start GGS, but the other families that were there at the very beginning and who would have guessed that it would blossomed into what it has been.
It’s sort of like part of the movement, right. Of inclusion and acceptance for all things down syndrome. Yeah. And that’s not just for little kids, younger kids like you have, but for our teens and now adults and beyond
let’s talk a little bit about your situation beyond your own personal experience. There is a book or books. There’s a podcast. There’s some. Social media that have been created. So starting with the book, the lucky few finding God’s blessing and the most unlikely places. This is a book that, uh, Heather wrote what motivated her to write the book.
And what’s the backstory there.
Josh Avis: Sure. Yeah. So it’s a memoir. My wife is an author and she is a talented communicator and, and I think she didn’t set well, she didn’t set out. To write a memoir. Someone approached her, uh, when she was, you know, being a stay at home, mom, I mean, she was raising these two little girls and someone that approached her and said, you have an incredible story.
Would you ever be willing to write a book? And at that time she was blogging when, you know, everyone had a blog. And so she became a voice in this space. And so she wrote a book, sharing our story. I didn’t know then that easy and normal and nice would do little to build my character and make me a better and more complete human being somewhere off the Rose pedal path where easy, normal, and nice bloom, true beauty lives in the muck, but only the lucky few of us who step off the path.
We’ll find it. My luck began when God picked me up off the comfortable path I had paved for myself and drop kicked me into the mud. It’s it’s her story of adopting our kids.
David Hirsch: So, yeah. So who do you think is the target audience for the book?
Josh Avis: I would say young families, specifically moms who either have an early diagnosis of a kid with down syndrome, a baby with down syndrome.
The backstory to the lucky few is that we think life is going to be a certain way. What cultural says is it’s a negative thing. And then when you get to experience it, those of us who do have kids with down syndrome, it’s not, we’re actually the lucky ones because we are fortunate. To live life differently and see the beauty in it and see the humanity of our kids, which is a good thing.
It’s shifting the narrative of how we see things.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I love it. Um, I’m sort of curious to know, where did the title or the phrase, the lucky few actually come from
Josh Avis: the backstory is it’s a way to shift the narrative, the cultural norm of how we see. Humans and our humans that we are growing in our house happened to have down syndrome.
And we’re lucky that they do because it’s changed everything for us in all the positive ways. I’m not saying it’s not hard. I’m not saying that it hasn’t had our challenges. And especially with the medical and all that. And you know, my daughter is in a regular ed classroom full time right now. And we had to work really hard to get her into that classroom because they saw her as not, not.
Human enough, not a citizen that belonged in that classroom. And she absolutely is so and countless stories of relationships, especially with her teacher today saying I wasn’t open to this. I really didn’t want a kid in my classroom with down syndrome. Now that she’s here, she has taught us a new way to look at things.
And that makes you lucky. So that’s, that’s part of where it comes from.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, um, it’s very apropos and. Uh, I would just take a step back. Uh, you’re lucky to be parents that’s because you weren’t able to conceive children of your own, that one level. And it is a blessing to be able to have kids. You might question that, you know, as your kids are getting older and all the challenges, no matter whether you have.
Typical or atypical kids. Yeah. It’s easier to look back and count your blessings, but for those that maybe around the fence about starting families or if they can’t on their own about adopting, you know, this is just testimony to the joy and the value of being parents. And I think, uh, yeah, but, uh, A more deep seated appreciation for what it means to be parents.
Josh Avis: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true.
David Hirsch: So there’s a podcast that goes by the same name, but I’ll keep you from what I remember, there’s 50 plus episodes. Where do you guys find the time?
Josh Avis: Really? We are a good team. One of her friends came to her and said, Hey, let’s do a podcast. There’s not any other podcasts in this space that, that focuses on celebrating down syndrome in the life of.
Kids with down syndrome and families and, and, and understanding what it looks like to live a life with, you know, the, with our kiddos, and this is what we do. This is our full time thing. And so it’s something that, or deeply passionate about and we make it work and it’s weekly now. So it’s exciting. That’s great.
Hey friends, welcome to episode 53 of the lucky few podcasts where we are shifting the narrative by shouting the worth of people with down syndrome. This is Heather Mercedes and Mike and friends. We are so excited to issue a very happening new yeah. New. Yeah. We are here to talk about all of our goals for this year.
Cause that feels like inappropriate conversation for our first, I would say probably a third of the episodes. There’s three hosts. So it’s three moms who have kids with down syndrome. Two of the moms with my wife and another mom, I have adopted kids with down syndrome so that we have that in common, everything to surrounding a life with what it means to raise a little kid with down syndrome.
And, uh, and then we have done a season of, uh, we did a, a season on, uh, the end of the entertainment industry. We’ve done an inclusion. We’ve. Interviewed experts in education in business. So it’s a pretty wide spectrum and we’re having a blast doing it. It’s been great. It’s I mean, it’s such an amazing thing to be able to learn as we go and interview, and it feels a little bit like.
We’re getting paid to do it, have an education, you know?
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it sounds like a win, win, win, win situation. There’s the three sort of co-hosts, you know, not only learning and enjoying sort of the process themselves, but educating others.
Josh Avis: Let me be clear. It’s not just my wife and I, we have a whole team that, uh, pulls this, uh, podcast.
Gosh, if they heard me take the credit, I would be, they would shoot me. So we have an, we have engineers and we have producers and yeah, we have a whole team that is deeply passionate about that and where there’s no way we could pull this off without them.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering if there are some important takeaways that come to mind, raising a child with differences that you’d like to share.
Josh Avis: You know, relationship is huge. That’s what I would say. Proximity matters when we moved to LA and we got to do life with families that didn’t look like ours in Oh eight. We had a very racially, diverse community down there. And I had, we had experiences down there with different families and it was such a eye opening experience to say, Oh, this is such a good thing to be in relationship.
And so I would just say, if you don’t have people in your community, if they all look like you speak, like you talk like you vote, like you. You’re missing out. You’re missing out. I think there’s, there’s been such a gift and seeing what these kids have overcome and what they overcome on a daily basis. Uh, my, my little girl has more endurance and stamina than I ever will in Bo all my kids do, but especially Mason, and then to see her overcome so much and, and she keeps going.
Um, so yeah, my advice is open up your world to people who are different.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Wonderful message. Thank you. Um, I’m wondering if there’s any advice you can share with dads or parents about helping a child with disabilities reach their full potential?
Josh Avis: I think the first thing I would say is you’re doing enough.
I think there’s a lot of dads out there that are feeling run down and overwhelmed. And, and I want to say you showing up. And doing the best you can. Don’t compare yourself to other dads you who are made as you are. You are enough. And I think the other thing I would say, you’re not alone. Make sure you surround yourself with people who have got ahead of you take that posture of listening and learning.
Like I said, that’s been really crate. You’re just not alone. You know, then taking it together is so much better. Yeah. That’s what I would say.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well that would be an easy segue to ask the question. Why did you agree to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Josh Avis: Well, I think part of it is so many there’s there’s dads ahead of me that have spoken into my life and the asset.
I think it’s a stewardship thing. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s not lost on me that a, your oldest is 11. Agreed to be a mentor father, which is wonderful because you know, you’ve got a decade plus experience being a dad. And you feel confident enough that if there was a younger dad, somebody that was closer to the beginning of his journey and that you’re willing to be there for him.
Yeah. But you also have so many years ahead of you. Um, there’s a lot of milestones that, uh, you would expect that your family is gonna cross. And there’s a lot of learning that you can do with dads. Like you said, that are older than you. So you’re sort of like wearing multiple hats, your willingness to share your journey, right.
As brief or short as it’s then, and then the willingness to be open minded to the learning, listening and learning from other dads who maybe have a child with Down’s is 20 years old or 25 or 30 years old, right? Yeah. There’s all these. Milestones that you can cross. So I’m hoping that we can connect you with some other more seasoned dads, uh, raising children with down syndrome and that it’s a win, win situation all the way around.
Josh Avis: Absolutely.
David Hirsch: So is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Josh Avis: Yeah. I just think this idea of shifting the narrative is something that has been our mission, our value, and our, our hope is that. Our kids are human too, you know, and too. See them as human and not as, as something less than has been, uh, are it’s going to be what we will do for the rest of our lives.
And we’re, we’re lucky to be able to do that and experience that with them. And I’m, I’m so glad to be on here and shout that out. Yeah. Thanks.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. If somebody wants to learn more about adoption, Gigi’s Playhouse about the lucky few, the book, the podcast, or contact you. What’s the best way to go about doing that?
Josh Avis: Uh, on our website. Yeah. luckyfew.com and then they can follow our daily journey of all the good, the bad, the fun, the crazy, the dance parties, all of that on our Instagram, which is, uh, the like keep you official the lucky few official.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Josh, thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Josh is just one of the dads who has agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs.
If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation, your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org. Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network dad to dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.
As you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501 c3 not for profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free. To all concern, please consider making a tax deductible donation today. I would really appreciate your support. You can also post a review on iTunes, share the podcast with family and friends and remember to subscribe. So you get a reminder when this new episode is produced.
Josh, thanks again.
Josh Avis: My pleasure.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation.
It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers go to 21stcenturydads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org.
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