Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One More Christmas

We went to Randy's parents' house on Sunday for one more Christmas celebration. Remember how Travis asked Santa for trucks, helicopters, and a firetruck? Well, we got him a truck and helicopter, and Me-Me and Pop obliged with the firetruck in a BIG way!

Travis opened all of his presents except for one, and Me-Me and Pop made him wait until everyone else had opened ALL of their presents before he could open his last one.

It nearly killed him waiting!

But then he saw what it was and oh my, was he excited! He said, "Santa listened to what I asked for! It's just like I wanted!" He had specified that he wanted a firetruck with a tall ladder and lights and a siren. And this one Yeah.

It's remote controlled and when it goes forward the sirens blare and the lights flash. Oh, and did I mention that it shoots water? Really. Me-Me and Pop keep toys at their house, and pretty soon this truck will make its way back to them. My fuse shortens by about half when sirens are the background noise.

And then when we got home we had a Toy Story moment: Travis' favorite truck up to now has been a flatbed semi tractor trailer that he received for his second Christmas. It was almost bigger than him at that point. He affectionately calls it Mack, like from the movie Cars. It has realistic steam pipes, bumpers, lots of chrome, and it has all slowly been pulled off. It's covered in stickers, and I wrote its name on a piece of paper for everyone to know and Travis taped it on with about half a roll of scotch tape, and then covered it with ANOTHER paper, so no one would see the name. (?) Anyway, definitely a favorite. Oh, and his trucks sleep. Often we have to take a bath with the bathroom door closed so we don't make too much noise and wake the trucks. So when we came home with this new truck, he had to have a place for it to sleep, and he wanted to move Mack so his new truck could take its place. I wanted to hug Mack and tell him it would be okay. Ridiculous, I know!

But seeing Travis face was priceless. My sister got a video, but the file is too large to load on blogger. Travis has seen the video about 25 times though!

Winter Swimming

Travis really wanted Uncle Jerry to watch him at swimming lessons, but they were out of session for the holidays while everyone was here, so we did the next best thing and rented a hotel room and used their swimming pool one day while everyone was here. Unfortunately Travis was a little bit sick and the water felt very cold to him so he didn't want to swim very much. He still had plenty of fun though. He asked Uncle Jerry to throw him in the air and he jumped off the edge of the pool to Jerry too.

Justin didn't mind the cold and he splashed and played and had lots of fun! Then we warmed up in the whirlpool. Both boys agreed that was the best!

My brother was in charge of the camera and I guess he thought it would be funny to take a picture of Uncle Jerry's head. Kind of sweaty! Jerry said, "Huh, so that's what it looks like up there!"

And Jerry invented a game to play with Justin since Justin isn't quite as "into" flying like Travis is. Jerry the swing set! Justin thinks this is pretty fun!

It was a double bonus for us because Randy and I spent the night at the hotel and Mireille and Jerry stayed with the kids! (Did I mention the boys were a little under the weather?! We wanted the experience to as realistic as possible!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Fun

We had a good family Christmas his year. My mom came in early to help with cookies and other preparations, my brother drove in from Phoenix, and Mireille and Jerry came from Seattle. Plus we had Randy's parents who live in town. Christmas morning gets more difficult every year trying to get the kids to wait to open stockings and presents. Of course, it is a lot to expect given that they come from sneaky genes that have been known to sneak downstairs Christmas morning and peak at presents, and then went back to bed to wait for the official present-opening. (That would be their father!) Travis was allowed to open his stocking before the others had arrived and then when we all sat down to open stockings Travis got to open one Santa present. (Remember he asked for trucks, helicopters, and a firetruck...) So he got a truck that has a drill that can be used to take the truck apart. He really thought that was "Cool!" He managed to get that thing apart in record time!

Then we ate breakfast/brunch. I love breakfast foods, so there is always a plethora of foods in which to indulge on Christmas morning at our home. And it's kind of like my cookie fetish: never the same thing twice. I do make a slight exception at Christmas and we have some of the same foods every year, but there are always new things at Christmas. This year I think I made 4 new dishes. It's my Christmas present to myself. :) Justin was being a ham at the table so we got a few shots of his silliness.

And this is Justin before the big present-opening. I think he looks cute. Randy thinks he looks mad.

We received an e-mail a few weeks ago from my sister's mother-in-law saying that she found some John Deere tractor fabric at the store and she wanted to make some matching pants for the boys. I asked if she would have enough to make "worker" aprons for Travis' tools. She came through in a BIG way and the boys both have the cutest pants! Travis was a little more impressed than Justin. Especially when she also sent a calendar of tractors for Travis. He loves that he gets to rip off a page every day.

Justin's favorite gift might have to be a set of maracas. They taste good and they make a cool noise!

And then there is Travis' favorite gift: This has been Jerry's dream for most of this year. It might have been last Christmas that he "claimed" a bike as his gift to Travis. He researched and test drove and ordered this bike for Travis. Everything can be adjusted so this bike can grow with Travis. Jerry really did ride it around the bike shop! They ordered it and we picked it up when we were in Seattle in October. It has been in a box in our garage for 2 1/2 months. When Jerry and Mireille came into town on the red eye on Christmas Eve, the first thing he wanted to do was pull that bike out of the box and put it together. He assembled and adjusted and even took off the warning labels because they didn't look "cool". (You know, the labels that say you can die if you don't take appropriate precautions. Yada, yada...) He put a big bow on the front and covered it in a blanket in our garage until Christmas Day. Travis never even noticed because of the other big thing in our garage (my best present!) which I will tell you about later!

He did a great job riding! It took him a little bit to get the hang of it, but then he was off like a shot!

The other thing that Jerry brought was ice cream! Oh yeah! 4 gallons and 11 pints! All different too! Travis think Uncle Jerry is the best and so now when he plays ice cream man (a frequent favorite) he delivers Uncle Jerry's ice cream. We have egg nog, dulce de leche, egg nog chocolate chip, Mireille's wedded bliss, peanut butter oreo, chocolate oreo, toasted coconut, and several others. The freezer is full! We had no pie for Christmas, but we had lots of ice cream!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve and the last link has been removed from the month-long chain, the reindeer food has been spread (how much oatmeal can you spread on a yard before it turns into a chunky mess the next time it rains?), cookies are left for Santa (he had better be hungry!), and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. Travis said he would sit for ONE picture by the fireplace and that's it! I am glad it turned out okay!

A Special Christmas Present

Last week in OT, Justin started working with a crayon. He knows what to do, sort of, but he mostly just taps the crayon and makes dots. Coloring is good for him to develop shoulder and arm strength. He needs to learn how hard to press on the page. And he is also learning how to color on the walls! Coloring on a piece of paper taped to the wall allows him to work different muscles than just coloring on a table. Miss Caroline started showing him what to do by doing it herself, and then she held his hand and colored, and then she let him try. So this was the progression: Her colors are in the upper right corner, then he up and down lines she did holding his hand, and then the dots are his of course, but THEN, the horizontal lines are ALL HIS! He did the three strong lines across the middle of the page. When Miss Caroline came out with this paper and showed it to me, I was so excited! Justin's first coloring page!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Work Part 2

So Travis has picked up the "work" thing too. He asked to change the air filters in our house yesterday. Apparently goggles and a flashlight are the tools necessary for such a task. Only a little dirty after the job was done. And he even threw away the old ones out in the trash. Very commendable!


I am not sure if I have mentioned it, but my parents were divorced about 6 years ago after 37 years of marriage. When that happened, I really struggled with the values and qualities that I had learned from them. It took a long time for me to see any good in my upbringing. It was a challenge for me to see past the hurt and frustration and pull the nuggets that I know were always there. It took some serious prayer asking God to remind me of the good memories of growing up and not to see them all with tainted lenses.

With that in mind:

This weekend, Randy has been sick, along with both boys. We even had to miss a birthday party that Travis has been anticipating for several weeks! So I had the opportunity to serve Randy by mowing the lawn. (Where we live, we mow the lawn in December to rake the leaves.) He has been wanting to do it, but all the rain we have had has made our backyard into a mud pit. I was thinking about the day as I mowed along when I was struck by the realization that I had my parents to thank for that very moment. They had taught me to see a job that needed to be done and to be willing to do it. They taught me not to be afraid of hard or dirty work, and to work at a job until it's finished. I have been hot and filthy and very sweaty more than once doing jobs with Randy. And it has been good for us to work together, even when the jobs weren't all that enjoyable. Doing it together made it so much better! I was grateful to have a specific example of a lesson I learned being put into practice in a tangible and meaningful way. It was actually sweet to see the three sickies through the beautiful new patio doors watching Micky Mouse Christmas shows. It was cute watching Justin up on his knees with his little face pressed against the window. His smile made me smile as I worked and I was filled with joy knowing that I had an answer to prayer and a great reason to thank God as I made another pass with the lawn mower.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Travis' First Play

We have been reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Travis and Justin (when he listens). Mostly it was out of self-interest. Since Travis and I have to sit for 45 minutes twice a week for therapy (he goes to a friend's house for speech) we read books while we wait. It's a small space and there can be lots of little kids, so we need a quiet activity. And I feel like a pack mule carrying Justin, his backpack, and my purse. And if it rains, even worse! The thought of carrying one...more....thing is too much. The amount of books we would need to last one hour is staggering sometimes. So one book was my goal. We have read A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, and I am considering moving on the the Little House books (can you do that with boys?).

Anyway, the point is that I saw a children's theater group was doing the play of LWW, and I decided to make a special night for Travis and mommy and daddy. It took a bit of explaining for him to understand what a play is. He didn't understand how a person could pretend to be somebody mean. I though having read the story would help him, but he still asked a million questions on the way home.

The show was very fun, and Travis did great! He didn't talk excessively, although he was concerned when the lights went out. He liked the White Witch's policeman, and he wished he could have his uniform. He wanted to go back and see it again today! I guess it was a good outing!

Cookie Day

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas holiday is baking Christmas cookies. I think I enjoy it because I don't have to eat them all! I can make oodles and oodles of cookies and I don't have to worry about them going to waste. I enjoy perusing the cookbooks and magazines and searching for just the right combination of recipes. I do all kinds of planning and organizing, and then my mom comes and wants to make even more! I had planned to make 8 kinds of cookies. She added peanut brittle, almond bark, and 5 others kinds of cookies! Not even kidding!

I have a few basic ideas when it comes to baking:
  1. Butter, and only butter, unless it is lard. And Randy refuses to eat anything made with lard, so butter it is.
  2. Recipes are only suggestions. Guidelines, if you will. If I think it will be better another way, I'll do it that way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's all about the fun!
  3. I love to try new recipes! And I don't feel the need to "test" them in advance. That takes away from the fun! It's an adventure! This year I made recipes I had never made before. Some were really good, others, not so much. But I didn't burn a single cookie! Some weren't very pretty, so just saved those for us!

This year I had planned to make most of the cookies in one day. We made some for church to go to our homebound members, some for the food pantry, some for friends and neighbors, and some for Justin's therapy office. And I have one freaky friend who cannot have chocolate or nuts, and that always adds a challenge. (Really, can you bake cookies without chocolate or nuts?? Not easily!) In the end I figured that there were only 2 kinds that wouldn't kill him. So we made some more for him.

We pre-made a couple of the doughs the night before, but everything else we did yesterday. We began at about 8 am and we pulled the last batch out of the oven at 5 pm. Not too bad with 2 boys, one of whom decided he just wanted to be held Fortunately it was the lighter one!
Travis has turned into quite a cook! He pulls out his apron when he wants to help and he can crack eggs without shells, most of the time, he can measure dry ingredients (both cups and teaspoons) and he mixes straight and doesn't tip the beater and spray all over the walls. I am very proud of him!

This is Justin helping. Giving mommy a break and licking a spoon. He likes it!

And he wants to share!

Travis enjoyed decorating the gingerbread men. He might have overdone some of the sugar...

He likes making towers too.

This is the spread at the end of the day. I set up an extra table in the entry way to put all the cookies as they cooled. We had more cookies than containers! We made: ginger lemon pinwheels, gingerbread people, cranberry macadamia cookies, caramel stuffed cookies, toffee pecan chocolate chip cookies, cherry cookie cups, Christmas cake cookies, raz-ma-taz brownies, raspberry cream cheese brownies, 4 kinds of refrigerator cookies, cherry winks, peppermint meltaways, and haystacks. Randy said that we weren't allowed to make any more cookies beyond the 30 dozen we had already made. I scoffed and said that we hadn't made 30 dozen! That was crazy! Yeah, then I added them up. I hadn't made 30 dozen. It was closer to 40 dozen. 475 to be exact. Not counting the ones we taste-tested.

Christmas Crafts

Last year we made some Christmas trees out of the foam stickers (very simple!) for our family members and therapists. This year I decided to skip that as time got away, but Me-Me and Pop wanted Travis to make another ornament this year, so I had to hop to it and come up with something quick and simple (ie. easily assembled with items already in our home!)

This is what I came up with:

I adapted it from something that a group was making at Chick-fil-A for a kids activity last week. They were larger snowmen for sitting around. They were made out of men's tube socks. Since I wanted them to be smaller and not so heavy to hang on a tree, Justin had to sacrifice a pair of his socks. He didn't seem to mind. We used stuffing and small rubber bands, and folded the tops down to make the hats. We decorated them with things we had around the house, although I admit that we bought a piece of orange felt for the carrot noses. The mouths are small beads, but we should have used something smaller and not so sticky-outie (that's the best way to describe it!). They look like they have buck teeth! But, Me-Me and Pop love them. Grandkids can do no wrong! Now I can prepare more for next year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Breakfast with Santa

We were invited by some friends to attend their church's Breakfast with Santa this morning. The kids were supposed to wear their pajamas and come have pancakes and see Santa Claus. It was a good chance for us to see our friends too. Their son, Jake, had heart surgery before Justin and they gave us all the good tips for Justin's surgery. Jake also had another surgery this summer, and it looks like he has another one in his future. But today was a day for food, fun, and friends.

For the past couple of weeks we have started eating away from home without taking anything for Justin. This is a huge thing for Justin, since for so long he needed something smooth, like applesauce, to help the food go down. Now he is eating just about everything without any problem. Which is good, since I left the house early to get a couple of Christmas presents, and Randy walked out without even a bib for Justin! And while he dribbled a bit of juice, he did great! Santa makes good pancakes!

Here are our friends, Amy, Jake, and Grace.

Travis did NOT want to sit on Santa's lap, and Justin screamed bloody murder when Santa tried to hold him on his lap. So this is the kids on my lap, and me on Santa's lap. I promise, he's under there somewhere! The funny thing about this is that when we came up, Santa said to Travis, "I bet I know your Daddy's name..." I kind of chuckled to myself, knowing that we didn't go to this church, and it was highly unlikely that he DID know Travis' Daddy. Then Santa says, "I bet his name is Randy!" And Travis responds, " NO, his name is DADDY!" Good for Travis, but Santa was still right! He goes on to say how he changed his Daddy's diapers, and how he knew Travis' grandfather. I had to ask Randy about that one, and it turns out that Santa was Randy's dad's old business partner! Too funny!

Then Travis told Santa (once he was assured that he wouldn't have to sit on his lap) what he wanted for Christmas. Travis has been distraught because he forgot to tell Santa earlier that he also wanted a fire truck with a long ladder. That is what he is describing, how big the ladder needs to be.

And then it was on to the activities. They did a great job of fun things for the kids. First they made treat bags for themselves with Christmas stamps and stickers. Then they heard the story of "The Night Before Christmas". Then we made ornaments, dropping different colors of paint into clear glass balls and swirling the paint around. Then we put the ball upside down in a styrofoam cup for it to drip out and dry.

Then we made some reindeer food, and added magic dust that would guide Santa's reindeer to our house for Christmas. It was oatmeal with colored sugar that we shook together in a bag and then we have to put it in the yard on Christmas Eve for the reindeer to eat.

We were also supposed to bring a gift for a needy child which would be wrapped and donated, but we didn't know that so we skipped that room. Travis was very bothered and he mentioned it several times. We'll remember for next year!
Last it was on to the Manger room where the kids got sticker pages of manger scenes to put on construction paper.

Justin found an orange dot on the floor which he tried to pick up.
Oops! Missed it!

Where did it go??

Drats, missed it again!

So then he gave up and crawled under the table to play with the nativity set box. Much bigger and easier to grab.

Then the kids found the large triceratops dinosaur and started playing with that. Travis took a little ride and of course Justin enjoyed it too.

And here are all the guys who had heart surgery: Ty had his as a adult, and Jake has had 2 surgeries already, and Justin had his last September. It was a little too cold for showing off scars, but maybe another day!

And hiding under Justin is Grace, Ty and Amy's daughter. The pediatrician heard a heart murmur at her last appointment, which normally wouldn't even be given a second thought, but with their family history and Jake's problems, she has an appointment with the cardiologist. Please pray for their family.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Therapy Update

Therapy has been going so fabulous, I thought I would share some of our exciting achievements:
  • I mentioned that I was thinking of sending Justin into the therapy room without me. I was planning to start with PT, since Justin has known Miss Penny for the longest. But my timetable was changed when I couldn't leave Travis with my friend for Speech last Monday. I decided to try and see how long he would last, and then if Justin needed us, Travis and I would go in with him. Well, Justin did GREAT! He lasted the whole time and we didn't hear any cries from him. Travis and I were armed with a stack of books, and Travis did great too. He likes playing with all of the toys that are used for therapy and I wasn't sure I could convince him to read instead of play. Wednesday and OT went great and I started reading a longer book so I wouldn't have to carry a huge book bag in addition to my purse and a diaper bag. (Travis always picks thick, hardcover books to take with him, do yours do the same??) And Thursday and PT- another winner! A full week with no problems. I guess Justin feel at home at therapy, just like Travis and I do.
  • Travis loves therapy too. When he has news to share, or a new song, or a drawing, he wants to share it with Justin's therapists and Miss Melissa too. He just goes back into the offices like he belongs there. They don't mind!
  • Justin is doing great with finger isolation. He can "honk" our noses (although not his own?) and his fingers are curling back to help use the pointer like they should. He has pushed some buttons on a firetruck at therapy without any help.
  • Justin is also working at putting some chunky beads on a wooden dowel rod (maybe about a quarter inch diameter). The beads are about as big as the circle made with a thumb and index finger. Miss Caroline holds his upper arm (between his shoulder and elbow) to give him support, and then he can get it on himself! Just holding his arm gives him the extra "input" he needs to complete the task. So we are working on shoulder strength. Crawling is helping that tremendously.
  • And today at therapy Justin stood next to a trunk holding on with just one hand! He has been getting better by the bathtub, either on the inside or out. Sometimes we will just go in there to play because he likes throwing things "in" whatever we can find. And then he likes to see where they go, which causes him to try to pull himself up. It works so well!
  • His crawling is getting so good. We have had a few of those, "Where is Justin?" moments, which are actually exciting! He crawls through a tunnel for therapy, and at first I was at one side and Miss Penny at the other, and we had to coax him through. Now he did it three times all by himself today!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Travis Update

I realized that I haven't shared tidbits about what Travis is doing these days so here it is:

  1. We are ALL about firefighting, firemen, fires, emergencies, and the like. Travis is always pretending that we are firemen going on an emergency whenever we leave the house. We must back our car into the garage like firemen to prepare for an emergency. I am getting much better at this. I think it would be easier if we had a drive-through garage like many fire stations. ;)
  2. Travis asks to feed Justin every once and a while. I got some cute pictures. Justin doesn't seem to mind, as long as the food keeps coming!

  3. Travis is getting better at swimming. He can swim just fine, it's the breathing that is his problem. This week we had a make-up lesson from Thanksgiving, and somehow having 2 lessons in a row helped him do much better the second lesson. He breathed a few times and only drank a little bit. He can do a great starfish, but he doesn't float very well- he wiggles too much!

  4. Travis has advanced to "spitting" toothpaste. Very exciting, I know! It was really just because I ran out of the "swallow" kind and I had a part of a tube of "Cars" toothpaste Travis had wanted earlier and then didn't like. He still doesn't, but he wanted spitting toothpaste, so we went to the store and picked out some watermelon-flavored toothpaste. That is going better, but he likes spitting more than brushing. And I have been cleaning the mirror a bit more often. Go figure.
  5. We made a chain to count down to Christmas. The last chain is red, and the one before that is green. So Travis decided that the green chain will be Christmas, and red one (the last one) will be his birthday. I am not sure what to tell him when he realizes that there are about 35 days between Christmas and his birthday.
  6. He is for sure ready for his birthday though! Maybe more than Christmas. He has been inviting everyone to his "big, big BIG firetruck birthday party!" Even my work friend who we ran into at the dentist. I hope he doesn't notice when she is not there...