Friday, March 7, 2014

Houston Rodeo Lil' Rustler Justin

Justin wears a baseball cap nearly every day.  The same one that says "Grandpa's Lil' Fishing Buddy".  He loves his hat, and it's difficult for him to give it up, but for one day he traded it for a cowboy hat.  Justin was given the chance to be in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's Lil' Rustler Rodeo.  It's a special program that allows children with illnesses and special needs the chance to get in on the fun.  

The Down Syndrome Assoc. of Houston gets a few tickets every year to this event and Justin was chosen to  participate.  I was a little worried because it's loud and there is lots of commotion, and we were told to plan to leave our child with their cowboy friend (a real Texas Ranger, and not the baseball variety!)  Justin can sometimes go either way, but this night, he did great!  He was so excited to be a cowboy, he couldn't even say it without jumping up and down!  They outfitted every child with a t-shirt and a cowboy hat (complete with a sticker with his name right on the front; they must have learned a thing or two in the 22 years of doing this!)

Here's Justin with his Ranger 

He even got a number on his back, just like the real cowboys.  Justin was number 112.  I was alone with both boys at this time, so I had to leave to be with Travis and watch from the stands.  I kept a close eye to make sure he didn't get too scared, and we made the all-important potty pit stop before we checked in.

The announcer started off really loud and I was praying hard that Justin wouldn't pay any attention to it.  I had lots of other people praying too!  Fortunately, someone turned down the volume and it was much better. 

 When they started, the pairs walked out and each headed for a starting event.  Justin started with the bucking bronc ride (a saddled see-saw with assistants to create the bucking movement).  I quickly learned that the down side of the hats and t-shirts was that everyone looked alike!  It was difficult to find Justin, and because he's so short, he got lost in the sea of taller cowboy-hatted men.  I focused on Justin's Ranger and found the distinctive characteristics of his vest and hat, and that helped a bit.  You can kind of see Justin in the purple shirt behind the long horns.  He even got his hand up waving around to do it right!

Justin's favorite thing was getting to ride the horse.  Each of the kids was able to take a ride around the arena.  There was a volunteer leading the horse, plus the Ranger on one side and another volunteer on the other side.  I think that's the only way I would ever ride a horse!  I was glad to see Justin enjoyed this because there are several equestrian therapy opportunities and I wasn't sure how Justin would respond.  Now I know it's a winner!

They took pictures of each pair and printed out 2 copies, one for Justin and one for his Ranger.

From the stands, it really looked like Justin enjoyed the "calf" roping the best.  It was a bale of hay with a plastic head, but anytime I say that it was hay Justin corrects me and says it was a cow.  I love that!  Justin really got into it and he pulled with all his might!  He got lots of kudos and we could see he was very proud of himself.  I think this is my favorite picture, with his huge hat and number on his back.  He looks so little, but he is full of might. 

And we couldn't really see what was happening but somehow Justin started pulling again, and this time he got serious!  By this time Randy had arrived and he said that he thought Justin even moved the bale of hay.  
I bet he could!

There were a few more small activities, like riding on a stick horse and playing horse shoes, but the arena was really full of people and it was difficult to get pictures of everything.  I think that helped put Justin at ease.  He wasn't so much the focus of attention, so he could do his thing without a lot of distractions.

At the end Justin and his Ranger went and picked up their pictures and Justin signed one and gave it to his Ranger and he signed one for Justin.  It was sweet!  It was close to where I was in the stands so I leaned over the railing and offered my best teacher encouragement to get Justin to write his name legibly.  We are really working on that so I wanted to see how he would do in a real world situation.  Some lines on the paper would have been nice...  Helpful for writing but not pretty to see, I know!

Then the part that Justin was super excited about:  Getting a trophy and other treats.  I have to say how much I love that Justin got a trophy.  There are so few trophies Justin can legitimately earn and this is one that truly means something special.  The ladies were all over him telling him how well he did and all about his prizes.  Justin loves his trophy and his belt buckle, and he's been showing it off to everyone who will look and listen.  And inside the backpack he got there was a rope so he's been roping the banister, his stuffed animals, even Alaina, if she will stay still long enough.  (Not often...)

Justin's grin was huge and very sincere.  He's been asking to go back and be a cowboy again.  He's good at saying "Yee-haw" and throwing his hat in the air.  Fortunately he hasn't asked me to attach his buckle to his belt, since I am not sure how I would do that.  I am glad Justin made some special memories, even if he is back to his fishing hat for everyday wear.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Travis is 8!

Travis had another birthday, which makes him yet another year older.  It's crazy how that happens!  Of course he is all about Legos so that was the theme for his party.  But we mixed in a little Olympics too and did an obstacle course and some other fun games.   

And my beautiful creation: a Lego pinata.  Travis has somehow decided that he wants a pinata every year for his birthday, and it's something that is fun to do so I don't mind, but I couldn't find one that was a decent price (kind of at the last minute...) so I had to do it myself.  It turned out not to be as hard as I thought, and it was fun to be messy for a little while.  

I bought some Legos and gave each of the kids a bag to make their own creation.  Then the adults voted on awards for each of them.  It was fun to see the different things they created with all the same pieces.

Travis is another year older and I hope, another year wiser.  He is such a precious boy.  I can't say "little boy" any more!  He is full of energy and curiosity.  He is silly and plays so well with both Alaina and Justin.  He carries Alaina around like a baby over his shoulder and she just soaks it up.  Travis says he understands what Justin says better than anyone, which may have a bit of truth to it.  He likes reading and history and dislikes math and handwriting.    I love that he reads so much, and he even tells people that he reads anything he can get his hands on.  Kind of like me when I was younger!  He is completely into Legos and his creations are very imaginative.  It's been interesting hearing the stories he tells to go along with the inventions.  I love it!

These 8 years have gone by so quickly.  I love him with all my heart and I want such good things for him.   He is becoming a beautiful young man and I delight in him in so many ways.  I treasure him more every day and I love his smiling face.  It is great to be Travis' mom!

Happy Birthday Travis! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ladies Kick Off Dinner

One of the biggest events our Women's Ministry hosts is a Kick-Off dinner to start the year off with a bang.  And every year I think we might bang a little bigger and more creatively.  Our dinner has a theme and we have table sponsors who decorate a table and host for the evening.  This year's theme was Back to the Future so each table had a different time period as a theme.  I (obviously) decorated my table with a Caveman theme.  It was actually pretty fun to be creative.  I found a "fire" online that plugged in and flickered and looked very real.  And then I went in my backyard and found some rocks and pilfered some sticks from my neighbor's yard and I was set.  A few bones and the look was complete.  Oh, and did I mention we dress up too?

A couple of my other favorite tables:

Flower Power!

Disco Fever!
(The table linens are donated by a rental place where one of our ladies works.  It really makes things look so amazing!)

Our table in all it's animal print glory!  I made little headbands for everyone to wear.  There was a group of 3 sisters and their (close to) 90 year-old mother.  I love that they all wore the headbands!

If you didn't notice, I didn't give anyone silverware, since cavemen don't use silverware.  One of the sisters went into the kitchen to search for something for her mom so she wouldn't have to eat with her hands.  I felt so bad playing that trick on her, but then I passed out the silverware I was hiding under the table and everyone had a good laugh.  That's what the evening is all about after all!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Wrap Up

I have given up all hope of actually blogging the way I want.  There are too many projects stacking up and one of my New Year's resolutions is to get more sleep so my list is quickly getting unmanageable.  I decided to do a quick post to cover the rest of the holidays and another one to start the new year and then try again to (sort of) stay caught up.  If it helps, another one of my resolutions is not to add any new tasks/projects until June.  Of course, there is more than enough to keep my busy until then, and beyond!

We did our gingerbread houses again this year.  I found a fun village with 5 different houses, but when I opened the box, three of them were broken beyond repair.  We shrugged it off and enjoyed decorating what was left.  I was surprised they didn't go crazy and cover them with candy, but they turned out very nice.

Then we had our Christmas with Randy's parents before we left for Arizona.  The kids all enjoyed their presents.  I was not carting them all with us!

Then it was on to Arizona.  I haven't tried to travel on my passes during Christmas since Travis was born and I miscalculated.  We missed 2 flights and we decided there was no way we were going to make it (even on Christmas Day it looked bad!) so we hopped in the car, stopped off at home to make hotel reservations in Fort Stockton and grab some clothes, and we headed out for Phoenix.  It was a LONG trip but it truly could not have been much better.  Randy drove the whole way (both ways) and I was on kid duty.  We watched lots of movies, sang lots of songs, I passed out lots of snacks, and I picked up lots of toys.  We arrived only a short time after Mireille and Jerry did on their way from Seattle.  So we were all in Phoenix for Christmas.  We got to meet Whitney (Jon and Olivia's 3 month old daughter) and Esther (Jerry and Mireille's 6 month old daughter).  So many babies!

Jerry and Mireille managed to sneak a strider bike in the back of their van as a Christmas present for Thatcher.  They also brought Jerry's bike so they could ride together.  Jerry used to do a lot of riding (but might be a bit rusty) so we got a little show in Jon and Olivia's cul-de-sac.  Thatcher was very impressed!

Then Travis got a ride on the pegs and Jerry got creative and rode backwards with Travis on the seat.  Then he doubled up and took 2 kids out!  I missed Alaina's ride, but I heard she enjoyed it too!

I have to put a plug in for the creatively brilliant thinking of my brother Jon and my mom.  Since there were too many of us (specifically too many kids) all to stay at my brother's house, we needed another place for some of us to stay.  The house that backs up to my brother was for sale, and it's the same floor plan as his house so we contacted the leasing agent and asked if we could rent it for a week over Christmas.  There wasn't any activity on the house so she jumped at the chance to make a little money and we had the perfect place to stay, including a refrigerator and washer and dryer.  A few air mattresses and towels later and we were set!  Jon set up a couple of ladders on either side on the wall and we had easy access back and forth.  The kids loved it! 

The other brilliant move was borrowing the church bus so we could go to Christmas Eve service and then go look at Christmas lights all together.  My brother, Jon has his CDL so he could drive us and we had a sweet ride!  We did cause quite a stir everywhere we went:  The greeters/ushers in the parking lot at church got huge eyes when we pulled up.  They all let out a big, "Whew!" when Jon said there were only 13 people on board!  (We might have been a little late...)  And we got a "Nice ride!" from fellow Christmas light viewers.  But the best was when we pulled up at Papa John's right before closing (on Christmas Eve) to pick up our preordered pizzas.  I went in and the 3 employees just stared and no one offered to help me.  So I just jumped in and said I was there to pick up our order and they all busted out in a relieved laugh.  They thought I had a bus full of people needing to be fed!  They were SO glad they didn't have to make up 25 pizzas quickly!

We also made a trip up to see my friend Marla from college who lives in north Phoenix.  We had a very relaxed visit.  We played legos, ate Christmas cookies, checked out their fish tank, and played bowling on their Wii.  We bonded and enjoyed some great family time.  The kids have only seen each other a few times, but they do so well playing together.  It's great to spend time with them. 

Then it was Sunday and time for baby Whitney's dedication at church.  Justin made a great friend, Dina Brinkman (and her husband Gary).  They are our friends from Wisconsin who now live in Arizona.  I just love the tie!  We got a few family pictures and then it was time to head home.

It was a wonderful vacation and time with family.  A great holiday together.  It was so sad to leave and even more precious to watch the cousins say their good-byes.  We live so far apart and it's hard to connect but we were so grateful to make these memories!