Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Little Time Away

So I know, I am the worst blogger ever! The day after our Titus 2 day at church, I packed up the boys and we headed up to Tennessee to visit my dad and his wife Tammy. As a bonus, we got to see Tammy's son, Nate. Our family had planned a trip last summer to visit, but we didn't get to go because my dad ended up in the hospital with kidney stones. So this trip was a long time coming. This was also my first trip with both boys all by myself both ways. It was the best trip EVER! And I have a lot to compare. I am planning a post about traveling with the boys and how I do it, but that's coming later. Suffice it to say that some of my worst trips have included spending 2 1/2 hours holding Travis' feet down to prevent him from kicking the seat in front of him. I thought I was going to scream!

So, we made it in and the weather was gorgeous! Sunny and warm, and my dad promised Travis a surprise so we stopped at the grocery and picked up a "Welcome to the Cabin" cake for him. (You recall his cake fettish...) It has race care on it because when she asked for animals to be on the cake (you know, like woodsy and all) the woman replied, "Sure, like elephants and zebras?" Not very outdoorsy, so race cars it was!

We enjoyed the sun and grilled some steaks and enjoyed a fabulous dinner! I think it's good we don't live closer to Tammy and Dad because I would weigh 1,000 pounds from all the great food she makes! She is from Wisconsin, like we are, and everything tastes better with CHEESE!

My dad and Tammy live on Parrot Mountain, right up from Dollywood, and the view is fabulous. Excuse the person in front, and you can see what I mean.

Tammy and dad are into feeding the birds and other wildlife in the area, so the deck is home to about 7 bird feeders. I didn't quite get the scope in the pictures, so you'll have to take my word for it. Tammy found a little broom or Travis to help sweep off the sunflower shells after the birds, etc. eat the seeds out. And Justin got into the spirit a little too, when Travis was otherwise distracted.

They also feed the other more "wild" life in the area, like coons and foxes. I wasn't so keen on that, given our run-ins with the varmints, but Travis loved it! Tammy feeds them leftover food from meals, peanut butter sandwiches, marshmallows, doughnuts, moon pies, and apples. She prepared all of this, and then Travis helped throw it off the deck to the area below. He threw it as far as he could, so I think the coons had to do more searching than they even had before. Plus there might have been a few sandwiches hanging in the trees. It nearly killed Travis the first day to see all that "good" food going down, but after numerous assurances that Tammy had more even better snacks for Travis was he convinced that it was okay to throw it down. Travis even decided that the coons ate really well, and so one morning Tammy made Travis a "coon breakfast", which he thoroughly enjoyed. Here Travis is throwing the food off the deck. By the last day he decided that it took too long to throw each piece off individually and he should just dump the whole bowl. Dad and Tammy said that the food shouldn't all be in the same place, but he could throw handfuls instead. So he grabbed and threw huge handfuls and flung it over and then when he saw his hands were all messy he proceeded to lick each one off. When he finished he said, "Oh, was that okay to eat?" I guess it is now!

We also did a little peanut slingshot. Travis enjoyed this game too. He quickly learned that the smaller peanuts are better for the slingshots.

I even got into the action. Do you like the face? Justin doesn't know what to think of me... To give me credit, you try using a slingshot holding a baby!

Our big adventure (before Justin got sick and we had to take him to the Walk in Clinic) was to go to the Dixie Stampede, Dolly Parton's dinner show. Now that is pronounced, Staaaampede, with a little southern drawl. I am not sure you can say it without the drawl. It doesn't sound right. So the theater has the center ring for the rodeo, and they do a little show pitting the South against the North, contests like pig races, lumberjack tree climbing, chuck wagon races, etc. A lot of audience participation too. It was so fun, Travis didn't eat much of his dinner. That's okay, we just took it home to the coons! And Justin ate so much of mine that I had to nibble on Travis'! Dinner was served "cowboy style" with no utensils. So we drank our soup, and then pulled apart our little chickens and ate corn on the cob. Dessert was apple turnovers. And lots of sweet tea to wash it down. Dinner was very good truly. At the end we visited with one of the riders in the show and her horse, Shorty. Now our rocking horse at home is called Shorty and Travis brushes it with my hair brush. Too cute!

While we were there, Justin started doing his version of the "cheese" face. Not sure what's up with that...

That's to go with Travis' "cheese" face...

Tammy bought some window markers. I had never seen them, but this is the best picture of Nate and Travis drawing on the windows. I suspect Travis' art will grace the windows for a while. That and Justin's wet kisses at the bottom!

Justin got an early birthday present: a tie blanket to match Travis'. Justin got puppy dogs. It's adorable! Tammy made it! She even made a John Deere one to go in the tractor room in the cabin. Travis napped with it every day.

And this was just a cute pic of my dad and Travis. When we were out eating lunch one day, the waitress said, "Wow, there's no question who he favors!" referring to my dad. This picture catches that look that makes genetics undeniable!

We also got to visit Nate at college, eat some fabulous food, and of course do lots of hanging out in the cabin. I am sure there's lots I have forgotten! It was such a great trip and my dad and Tammy enjoyed visiting with the boys. I am sure we will be back this summer! The weather turned by the time we left and we drove out to head back to the airport in the snow! Isn't weather interesting? And beautiful!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

His Very Own

So the thing that has been consuming most of my waking hours for the past few weeks and months has finally come and gone. Today was our women's event, His Very Own: Becoming a Titus 2 Woman. It was born from the verses in Titus 2: 4-5: "(Then) They can teach the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, busy at home, to be kind, and subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

What I envisioned was women of all ages sharing their experiences and wisdom, helping each other to grow and become more like Jesus. There have been so many people who have helped me in various points in my life, and they are all so different. I hoped that other women would be willing to be open to each other and allow for some exchanging of ideas and thoughts that would be helpful when we face troubling times.

It can be incredibly intimidating for some people to stand in front of a group and speak, but those people still have valuable insights and I didn't want that to stop ladies from participating. So we made it a panel discussion with several ladies sitting in front of the group together and each taking a few minutes to share their experiences in a certain area. We used the subjects from Titus: Loving our Men, Loving our Kids, Toward Self-Controlled Living, Desire for Pure Living, Home-making, not Housekeeping, and Called to Goodness and Kindness. (We narrowed it to 6 instead of 7 so we could have an even number and they could run 2 at a time.) And my favorite part was the resource fair: The ladies from the panels shared books, web sites, Bible passages, and seminars that had been helpful to them in their pursuit of these qualities. We assembled that and printed it out for each person to have as a place to go beyond the Bible. The ladies who did this were amazing! They called it "The Other Books on the Shelf". We also had almost all the books available that day for ladies to peruse and consider before purchasing them. Our goal is to have a women's library and have all these books available for people to borrow from the church. Someday soon I hope!

The ladies in our group are very talented. Kimberly designed our logo, Shellie and Melanie created some ultra cool decorations, and Jennifer, Daicia, and Ashley assembled the masterpiece of a booklet for the resources. There were ladies who arranged for food, some who did readings, and all the panelists who shared of themselves. For me, maybe the most important role was played by Sherry, who was my cheerleader. She encouraged me when I kept toning down my expectations and praying that I wouldn't get hung up on numbers and that if one person was touched, it made it all worthwhile.
Well, it was beyond all my expectations! While there were flaws that I saw, and some panelists who called me this morning with a stomach bug, it turned out fabulous! God had marvelous plans for this day far beyond what I could have imagined. Most of the ladies had such good things to say and they were blessed by the words of the panelists. Many women wished the day could have lasted longer! I am praying now for continued connections and bonds to be formed among the women of all ages. That is the ultimate goal, for women to do as Paul commanded in Titus: teach each other and grow in love.

Sherry, my cheerleader!

Table decorations: They used red, pink and yellow and planned a "candy and gift" theme. They thought about us all having gifts to share and this was a way to pass them on, and then they spray painted fortune cookies because we are fortunate to have these gifts, and we have to be willing to be used, "broken", to get them out. They spent hours stuffing little slips of Bible verses into the cookies! Amazing!

This is Shellie showing off our resource booklet!

And this is our too cool book nook! The ladies decorated the tables with little lamps, picture frames, flowers and greenery. It made me wish there were some recliners to sit in and curl up with a book!
I felt God's encouragement to plan this day because I have been so blessed by some of the ladies who have taught me. And I have always felt like I have nothing to share and teach, but I quickly realized that that wasn't true. Not only do I feel that I have something worth teaching, but I am not being obedient if I don't share it! I was amazed by the stories I heard from women I know! There was the story about a family that lived separated from each other to help a child fulfill a sport's dream. And a women who sold her home in Texas and moved to California to care for her dying ex-husband of 30 years prior. For 5 years! Discussions about modest dressing, ministering to those dealing with death, and jealousy toward women who have the privilege of staying home with their children. It felt like this day was a drop of rain on a thirsty crowd. Several women said that they wished something like this was available when they were younger. And one of the evaluation forms said that she wished she could spend more time at these women's feet. Both the older women and the younger women recognized each other's value in teaching and clamored for more.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Visit

So I have an excuse for missing the entire last week in the blog world: I had house guests. So fun, but not much time left for blogging. So here I am trying to catch up before I have to abandon you again as I leave town for a visit myself.

My wonderful cousin and his precious wife and daughter came for a great visit last week. It started a little earlier than planned when they called and warned me that they had left a little earlier than they had planned and thus they would be arriving sooner. Like a day and a half or so. Yikes! So it was a flurry of activity as I cleaned up the party gear and switched to hostess mode.

I made a trifle for the first time ever. It was a Valentine's/birthday trifle, since my cousin's birthday was during the drive down, and of course, Valentine's Day was coming. It has: red velvet cake, homemade chocolate pudding (SO good! Did you know there was another kind other than from a box?) strawberries, whipped cream, and strawberry cake. And on top mini chocolate chips. Justin helped me lick the spatula after spreading the pudding and whipped cream. He approved! And the trifle got rave reviews. I might have to repeat that one.

Then I tried to get a picture of the boys and my cousin's 7-month-old daughter, Lexi. I think it shows their personalities. :)

We went to the Museum of Natural Science. They have a great butterfly dome. They also have some fun exhibits so we decided to check them out. My cousin, an artist, wanted to see the Faberge egg exhibit. His wife and I decided to go to the Bug movie in 3D instead. Lexi got to eat and Travis and Justin watched a caterpillar become a butterfly and then get eaten by a preying mantas. Travis refused to wear the 3D glasses, which worked to my benefit. I am not sure if I could have prevented the nightmares stemming from those images. Instead I heard questions all through the movie like, "How come that lizard has 2 tongues?" Travis actually enjoyed it. Then we went on to check out the butterflies.

In the butterfly dome. Travis was scared of the butterflies and Justin enjoyed them. Every time it's something different!

My cousin, Kurt, pointed out some bugs to Travis. The spiders were actually more enjoyable for him. I think because they were behind glass!

Mary with Lexi and me with Justin and Travis. I have to mention that while Kurt took the picture, he is a potter, NOT a photographer!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Just Like Jack

When I went to the meeting last month at the DS Association about teaching kids with DS, one of the first things Bridget Murphy said was, "I am here to tell you how to help your child be like Jack (her son)."

I couldn't help but immediately get a little defensive.

I don't like it when someone tells me how to be. I don't like it when I am told what my goal should be when it's something so objective as that. It took a few minutes for me to step back and tell myself that she didn't really mean it quite like that, and that she did have some valuable things to share that were worthy of my time and attention.

What Bridget was referring to was their family's goals for Jack: to live independently, to have meaningful employment, and to have a satisfying social life. She wanted us to see that those things are possible and that a child's schooling and preparation should be considered through the lens of those goals.

I have to admit that that was one of my very first fears: that Justin would never leave home. I have always imagined the glorious retirement years: traveling and frolicking like only a woman who has put in her time at a job and raising kids deserves. Pretty shallow, I know. But it was there none the less. I felt that being ripped away in the instant we learned about Justin. I felt like I would be parenting at a fairly intense level until the day I died. Truly.

It didn't take long for me to move through the following stages:

1. It's not quite the life sentence I imagined.

2. It might actually be pleasant always having family around.

3. Leave? Justin's never leaving me!
So silly!

I am still not sure what to think of Bridget's goals. They are basically the same goals I think we have for all our children, but at a more basic level. I expect both of my children to have some sort of employment, Travis probably more gainful than Justin, but still work. And Travis already has an active social life! Justin gets cuddled and adored equally too.

But the living thing still leaves me wavering. I have talked to people on both sides: adults with DS still living at home and also ones on their own. Living at home is an advantage for both because as parents age the person with DS can help with things in the home that are physically more challenging, making it possible for the parents to live independently longer. And for the adults with DS living independently, it's often in a group home, or someplace with some extra support so they have a community of friends with whom they share life.

I don't think that is something I need to worry about now. I plan to teach both of my boys the same things: service to others, compassion, forgiveness, generosity. And I'll probably throw in a little math, reading, and writing as appropriate!

I don't want my sons to be like Jack. I want them to be like Jesus. I think if they achieve that goal, the rest will fall into place. I don't think I need goals like independence or socialization. I want them to be loving and kind above all else. Where they live and who their friends are will take some figuring out later. I am okay with that.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Travis' Birthday Party

We had Travis' Big, Big, Firetruck Birthday Party today! I am not sure if I am emphasized enough just how long we have been talking/preparing/planning for this party, so the best part for me is that it's over! I know, that's such a mom thing to say. This is just turning out to be a very busy month for us and being able to check off one thing helps ease the stress level and the general craziness.

We spent the morning getting ready for the day: Randy took care of outside, I took care of inside, and Nana (my mom) took care of errands. It worked well. Justin enjoyed watching daddy use the blower to clean off the patio. He sat like this the whole time Randy was in view!

Of course, Travis' party was all about fire trucks. My cousin is a fireman in Scottsdale AZ, so he hooked us up with hats and sticker fire fighter badges for all the kids (and some grown ups!) And then we started with the pinata! He said that was his favorite part. We let all the kids take a turn hitting and then Travis broke it after we took his blindfold off.

Travis got some really wonderful gifts. He is finally getting more into crafts and drawing/painting so he received lots of paints, paper, markers, and other fun art supplies. My mom made him some art smocks for Christmas so he was all ready to dive into his new endeavor. I love this one set of paints that doesn't require a cup of water to rinse out the brush (for obvious reasons!) It has been great so Justin doesn't make a mess when he tries to help. Sorry for the eyes closed, but it was the best picture besides that so...

And this was Travis bestest gift EVER! He has been wearing it every day since his party. He gets very disturbed when it's cold outside and I require that he wear a real coat on top of his fire coat. Then no one can see it, you understand. He has a badge and a fire extinguisher that shoots REAL water and the best part, a horn with a siren that sounds like a real fire truck! It's so great! It has a sliding switch that turns it on so you don't even have to hold it to keep the sound going. And the reflectors are just like a real fire jacket. My favorite part is that it is washable. We've had to do that already.

And Me-Me and Pop went out of their way to take the fire truck theme to the next level. They got a fire truck card, a fire truck picture frame, they are the givers of the fire costume, AND when they couldn't find a fire truck gift bag....they MADE one! They got stick-on letters and drew lines to ensure proper placement of each letter and even downloaded a picture of a fire truck from the internet. I think I need to frame it!

Justin even had a playmate at the party. Our friends have a son born 3 days before Justin and the two boys played ball in the kitchen for quite a while. Carter threw the ball and Justin cackled and crawled after it. Carter laughed and Justin threw it back to him. Too funny! They had several balls going at the same time. I loved watching it.

And of course we had to have cake. It's just not a party without cake. And we found the perfect fire truck cake for Travis. Four candles blown out and now our boy is four. He is becoming a boy, not a little boy anymore. He is so much fun and a perfect delight. Always full of opinions and ideas. I can't even express how proud I am to be Travis' mother. His smile is infectious and his enthusiasm is contagious. It was a great party with lots of kids and lots of fun!

Endocrinology Visit

We visited the endocrinologist this week. It was a success and a failure at the same time. The doctor was very helpful and she explained that Justin's TSH level was high. (We knew that already...) But there is really no way of knowing why it's high without more testing, which isn't really warranted at this stage. It could just be that he was coming off a virus when the test was done, and that caused the level to be elevated. She ordered some repeat labs and now we wait to see how those turn out. She will continue to track his progress and we will have to continue to see her, right now we go back in 4 months, especially since he will almost definitely need thyroid treatment sometime in his life.

She did list some of the signs of hypothyroidism: being cold, constipation, low energy, trouble sleeping, dry skin, etc. As she was listing these, Justin was crawling around the floor cackling as he played with one of his toys. It's hard to convince a doctor to treat your child when he acts too healthy. Healthy is good, but we are still struggling with the being cold, constipation, and sleeping. What it comes down to is that it's not his thyroid, so it's not her area. There is a range in which thyroid levels are considered "normal" and there is no treatment if thyroid falls within that range. But there is a range because everyone is not the same. So maybe Justin needs more thyroid even though he still fits in the range? It may require more research and questioning to get more satisfactory answers.

I am glad he doesn't need intense treatment and monitoring, but I still hope we can find ways to help Justin be more comfortable. I am just thankful one more time that we live in a warm climate and we don't suffer from extreme cold temperatures. That is a huge blessing for Justin!

January Follow-Up, February Prayer Requests

Here's how our family is doing:

January prayer requests:
  • Justin is doing much better with his separation issues. He still cries when he gets left, but we have learned that his lovey works very well to "tide him over" until we return. I didn't really want it to leave his bed, so I try to limit when we take it out of the house. So far, it's mostly the gym kid's area, and Wednesday night church when all the kids are so over tired since it's late. A couple of weeks ago he even had a good time laughing and sharing his lovey with another child in the nursery at church. Justin jabbered and told him all about it! Too funny!
  • Travis' sleeping is getting worse. He is scared of something and I am not sure what. He thinks that ghosts all come through his windows during the night. It's much worse the first few hours of the night, before midnight, and then somehow it settles down. That's good for our sleep, but we're not sure how to help Travis sleep better.
  • Our resolutions went very well for the first month! Randy and I got our 2 dates, and I had a great Travis Day. Poor Justin got sick on his day, but we still spent time together.

February Prayer Requests:

  • Justin weight bearing on his legs: This has been a big issue for a long time. Our trip to the DS Clinic reiterated Justin's lack of desire/ability to stand. And last week Miss Penny said that we really need to focus on this. She had him wrapped in a theraTog suit and added some velcro straps to give Justin some stability. Well, in just this one week, Justin improved already! That's why the previous post is such a big deal! He never did that before, and now he has been pulling himself up a lot! It's only on things that he can lean over, like stools and steps, but that's progress. Please pray that he keeps it up!
  • I am planning an event at our church for the ladies called "His Very Own: Becoming a Titus 2 Woman". It's going to be fabulous and I am super excited for it, but it's a lot of work. It takes time and I just want my family not to be slighted in the preparation and planning. The date is February 20.
  • I think one of the hardest times to show Christian love is when you are having work done in your home. The windows are still not finished and it appears it will be a few more weeks, maybe more before it's done. Please pray that the work gets done right and that we continue to be patient and understanding through the process.

You are all fabulous to be praying for us. We know that God hears our prayers and answers his children. Thank you!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Travis is Four!

Today was Travis' birthday and now he is four years old! Travis didn't quite understand yet how he could be born this day but another year, because he's already here. His reasoning is sometimes uncanny, and other times so...far...away... Anyway, we had an awesome day. We started out at 3 am when Travis woke up and said he wanted to come and sleep with me. Normally I would have said no way, but it was his birthday, so sure, anything goes today! So the day started out way late, (or early?) since I didn't get the head start on the boys. I even had to use the card I picked up from the doughnut shop to call ahead and reserve a long john. I am not sure how I could have explained to Travis that he wouldn't get a long john on his birthday! Tragedy #1 averted!

We made it to get doughnuts and Travis picked out a strawberry-filled to accompany his long john. While we were eating our favorite doughnut shop worker packed a box full of doughnuts to give to Travis as a special birthday treat. She even wrote "Happy Birthday Travis!" on the box. We gave her some cupcakes that Travis had made for all his friends on his birthday. He stopped inviting people to his party since he was worried we might not have enough cake. So instead he wanted to make everyone cupcakes who wouldn't be able to come to his party. I thought that was a good compromise! Travis had to ask as soon as we got in the car if the doughnuts would last more than one day since that is the rule with all the doughnut holes we usually get packed in our "to go" bag. We get so many that they would last for several days if I did not put the "one day" rule on them. (One more breakfast of doughnuts and what is left goes in the trash.) I laughed and said that I thought they might make it a couple of days!

Then we went on to church for Bible study. We stop in the church office to drop off some things and Travis broke out his cupcakes. He nearly passed out a dozen cupcakes before he made it to his class. The ladies in the church office gave him a cool tractor and a sticker page, which he thought was so very special. He had been very bothered that he couldn't open up any more presents before we left the house this morning, so it was nice that he got something to open before we returned home. Then it was on to his class and his teachers got him some party horns (gotta love that!) and stickers and a chocolate bar. It's already very clear that the way to Travis' heart is through his stomach!

When I picked him up after class he was excited about all the cupcakes he was able to deliver, and he wanted to carry the leftovers out to the car. I told him to be very careful, which lasted long enough for him to turn around and see one of his friends. He took off running and used the container to open the door. This is what it looked like when we got home:

Fortunately, I am not one who is overly concerned with presentation. Travis said we could just put ice cream over the top and it would be TASTY! So ice cream covers a multitude of sins. I never knew!

Travis scored some pretty cool gifts today: He got a Lightening McQueen blanket and pajamas from my dad and his wife Tammy.

And our totally cool, wonderful neighbor got him a REAL hard hat and a light to go on your head while working, so combined it makes the best mining hat! Travis absolutely adores it! He has had a hard hat for a while, but this one we can tighten so that it doesn't fall off! He thinks that is great.

Justin enjoyed the blue tissue paper that came in all the presents. It was delicious! And he wanted to share too!

Then we let Travis chose his dinner (pizza!) and we went to a high school basketball game with the DS Association. They were receiving a donation and they wanted some members to come and participate. While the players were being introduced, each person with DS (mostly it was kids, but one adult) went up and got a basketball signed by all the players. They had some extra ones and so both Travis and Justin got one. Travis barely let go of my leg and Justin was too tired to do much more than wave, but everyone thought they were cute, and they posed for some good pictures so it was a fun night.

I am sad to see three go. Three was a great year. I don't remember feeling this was about two since there was still a lot of baby then. Now he is really a little person. Not grown by any stretch, but so fun! We had a mommy/Travis day last Friday and I found myself really looking forward to it! When my Justin sitter almost fell through, I was a little disappointed. We are at the point where it is exciting to do new things with Travis because he gets them now. He's fun and enthusiastic. When I go to the chiropractor, the ladies in the office say a sincere "thank you" for bringing Travis in to see them. They say that he brightens their day. And I know the women in the church office say the same. They get a little sad when Bible study ends for the summer because they miss their "Travis fix" every Tuesday morning. As his mom I feel that way of course, but when others say the same thing, it almost gives me my own little "fix". It's like being confirmed in the job that gives some of the fewest, but the best accolades in the world. I know that I cannot stop time, but I want to be sure to enjoy each day, good or crazy, lazy or busy, rainy or sunny because that's the only day just like that one I will ever have. Each day is unique, one-of-a-kind, unduplicateable. Just like my big boy Travis!

Happy Birthday Travis!