Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blueberry Picking

Travis and I went this morning to pick blueberries. I had gone picking myself before the kids were born, but I haven't been back since. I tried going last year but the weather made it an unfavorable blueberry season so I was really looking forward to going this year. I wasn't sure how Travis would do, but I thought I would give it a try. They open for picking at 7 am, and it's about a half hour drive from our house. I hoped we could get there early so it wouldn't be too hot. This was one of those times when I was thankful for my kids' early-rising tendencies. Travis came downstairs at 6:05 and said it was 6:30. Not quite, but this morning it was okay. We hit the doughnut shop and we were on our way. Travis was excited to pick blueberries and he did really well actually. He had his own bucket and he picked on and off for most of the time we were there. The mouth-to-bucket ratio was fairly high so his tummy was full of blueberries, but not so much the bucket. He did some singing and exploring and towards the end he found a great patch for us to pick some of the best and sweetest berries.

It isn't easy picking blueberries since they don't all ripen at the same time. A cluster can have one ripe berry and eight that aren't. And the best ones always seem to be highest. But Travis was a trooper and I was really impressed with his patience. (I did quite a bit of prepping on the way to the blueberry farm.)

"Look how many I have Mommy!" Every time he put one in, that's what I heard, followed by a plea to put some of mine in his bucket!

This was his take at the end of the day.

It's curious the way Travis was an example for Christ in the berry patch. Travis would tell me that he was going down to the next patch (really just further down the row) and I told him that he always needed to make sure he could see me, and then he could go as far as he wanted. He would go down and then come back, talking the entire time. The berry bushes make it difficult to see through to other rows, but we could hear the other pickers. We heard a voice from a few rows over saying, "What a sweet boy! He's so polite and helpful." And she was referring to Travis! He was singing Bible songs and reciting his Bible verses and we heard the occasional chuckle in response. My favorite was, "Mom, I am going down to the next patch. No, I want to stay with you. Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God." He was quoting the book of Ruth! I laughed so hard and he grinned the cheese ball grin I love.

On the way home we had to stop back at the doughnut shop to give our favorite doughnut lady some blueberries from Travis' stash. He did eventually cover the bottom of the bucket, but there were a few less-than-ripe ones in the mix. And he wanted to give her some. Four blueberries in fact. It was too funny! She loved it, and we got a bag of doughnut holes in return!

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Accomplishments

This is another one of those usually "take it for granted" accomplishments, but I am so proud of my little man so I had to share.

Let me begin by saying that it has been at least two weeks since we have been to any fast food restaurants, but now in the past two days we have been twice. I've been saving up.

Ok, now: We were at McDonald's last night with a friend and her two kids and it was an unusually calm evening in the play area given the rain and heat. So I was able to let Justin play by himself fairly safely. Only a few interventions when he tried going up the big slide. This McDonald's had a little kids area that had a little slide and Justin crawled up the stairs and went down the slide several times all by himself. He was so proud of himself as he went down the slide...very...slowly because his shoes have some pretty serious tread. One of those big grins that says he knows what he's doing is good. I was so pleased watching him and seeing him as a big boy!

And today we were at Chick-fil-A with friends (see there's a reason we go fast-fooding!) and it's the big play area with the round-about stairs that I told you he is now big enough to climb. It was SO busy, but the kids were really good at helping him and watching out for him so I decided to let him try it by himself. This was after assessing the conditions and determining that I was capable of climbing up and rescuing him should it become necessary. He went up and we sent Princess TD after him to make sure he didn't cause a back up or get stuck. She managed to get him down the curvy slide! She did great! So I let him stay and he went up again. The next thing I knew another little boy came out to tell me that Justin was blocking the slide. Well, he hadn't come down the stairs and crawled over there, he went up the stairs and down the slide all by himself! And he did it at least one more time! This week at therapy he has been wanting to go up and down the stairs between the two floors by himself (about 30 stairs), so he has been practicing the stairs and he navigated those like a champ. In the play area sometimes he went down the slide, and sometimes he went down the stairs, just like he should. And he did just like the big kids do: he would play a while and then come out for a drink. Of course, not being able to open the door made it difficult so he had to piggyback when someone else would open the door, which made some parents worried about his head and fingers, but he managed to escape unscathed.

I think some other parents were a little concerned and I might even say appalled that I would let my "baby" play alone in the play area. I feel like posting a sign on his back that says "I am two years old and I want to do it myself!" The other kids seemed to do better than the parents. In the past two weeks alone I have had more kids come up to Justin and ask him to play that I ever thought would in a year. And they were all older than him! One boy kept asking if Justin wanted to play. I said that I thought Justin would like playing with him and then the little boy dropped to his knees and chased Justin all over the hospital play area. Justin is quite the speed demon! The two shrieked and played until it was time for Justin's blood draw. It was good to see. I am trying to walk the line of protection: just enough, but not too much. It's a daily challenge, and I am trying to take the lead from Justin. Sometimes I expect too much of other people and I need to work on an easy and complete explanation plus covering all my words with grace.

It's been a fun few days, and I love when the accomplishments overshadow the obstacles. It's been one of those times and I am enjoying it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trip to the Fire Station

I told you that Me-Me and Pop arranged for a trip to the fire station and they did not disappoint! We went to a fire station that has an antique fire engine (a 1937 pumper/engine) that they use in parades and at birthday parties to promote the fire department. It was amazing! They bought it for $6,000 and then worked every Saturday for 3 1/2 years and spend over $180,000 to restore it to off-the-line pristine condition. The siren works, the lights rotate, it has the ladders and hoses (although not the original hoses) and it is the shiniest color red you have ever seen. And we got a ride on it! I got to ring the bell (Travis was too scared) and our chauffeur ran the siren and the lights for us. I was a little scared with both boys and no seat belts or doors, but we didn't go more that about 10 mph! And with no power steering we couldn't take the corners too quickly! The man who gave us the ride is the man who worked as the mechanic repairing it. He had lots of stories about the process.

But really, the best part was being at the fire station and seeing all the equipment. Travis was bothered that there was no fire pole, but apparently the insurance company vetoed it so they are lacking that important piece of fire equipment! The firemen were impressed by Travis' fire gear, which Me-Me and Pop added to with a shopping trip during his stay with them. We now have 2 fire axes and three extinguishers. We should be covered in the event of a fire now!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

We celebrated Father's Day with a little relaxation with the family. Not sleeping in, of course, but lounging in the bed after a normal 6:15 wake-up call, courtesy of Justin. (Actually, a little later than usual, so I guess that was his gift to Daddy.)

We ate lunch with Randy's parents and Justin had his first taste of corn on the cob. He didn't want any of the stuff I cut off the cob. He grabbed mine and ate a good portion of it. I ended up with the corn off the cob. You notice the little smudge above his right eye. That's baked beans. That's what he ate for lunch: baked beans and corn on the cob. At least the beans had some ham in them!

Oh yeah, and some Blue Bell ice cream. Like father, like son. Really, who doesn't like Blue Bell?

Then Travis stayed with Randy's parents to spend the night and we came home and enjoyed a pleasant evening at home. Justin got a dose of "only child". He got the bath all to himself tonight. He could play with any toy he wanted without anyone grabbing it and saying, "Mine!" A breath of fresh air for our little boy. Travis was looking forward to dinner all by himself at Me-Me and Pop's too. And tomorrow promises a trip to the first station. I am sure we'll have some stories about that!

We are so blessed by Randy. He does great things for our family, things that used to be taken for granted, but now have become more rare and precious. He plays with the boys when he gets home, even though he is tired and ready for a rest. He reads stories and gives baths. He accepts their help with his projects, even though it takes longer! He teaches them and feeds their curiosity. The boys have a great example and big shoes to fill one day as fathers themselves. It doesn't seem fair that we tend to praise mothers and mock fathers, so today I want to make certain that at least one father knows that he is loved and appreciated to the max!

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


A few things:

  • We visited one of my friends from work who has an overabundant garden. She gave us some tomatoes and a cucumber the length of my arm. Her husband is Mexican so she makes tortillas for dinner most nights. We went over after our dinner, but before theirs, and my kids started mooching her tortillas. They each ate at least three tortillas before I cut them off. I am pretty sure she thinks I don't feed my kids. Travis convinced my friend to give us a bag of tortilla flour to add to our stash before we left. Interestingly enough, my friend had already given me a tortilla press, so last night we made our first batch of tortillas. Justin ate them hot out of the pan, but Travis waited for them to cool. As you can well imagine, we ate them all!

  • Justin is starting to balance on his own. He can pull himself up on our legs and then he lets go and it takes as long as three seconds before he falls. When he stands next to a table he is able to let go and use both hands to play. Usually he leans against the table for supprt, but lately he has been shifting his weight and attemping to balance on his own! He loves the bath tub and when I run the water he crawls over and stands up, trying to get his foot over to get in. So while I take his clothes off, he stands without holding on to the tub. It's very exciting! Every day I can see improvement.
  • Justin is picking up more signs all the time. He really only cares about the ones that get him things, like "please" and "more". He also loves to wash his hands, so that one came quickly. But I am working on "mama" and "dada" and a few more meal-related signs. He tries to make the signs, but it hard for him to use his fingers independently, so some of the signs are harder than others.

Another Endochrinology Appointment

Justin and I went back to the doctor today. It was mostly a routine check-up, but also I hoped to get the results of his thyroid ultrasound from April.

The doctor said that the thyroid tested normal meaning that there are no physical defects that could cause it to "malfunction". His TSH levels are still high, so we will continue to be monitored every 6 months. If his levels of T3 or T4 are out of range, then we will be called in sooner for more testing and treatment.

She also is checking his growth, because that could be an indicator of thyroid problems. He did tip the scales over 20 pounds today, but barely. His energy level is also something to watch, which is challenging for me because his sleep is still off which makes him act lethargic and cranky. I am not sure how to differentiate between the two. I am still hoping to find something that can help us with that.

He had another blood draw to check his levels. They opened a satellite lab to draw blood in the endochrin department, which I hoped would get us in and out quicker, but it didn't work that way so much. Justin knows exactly what they plan to do to him now, and he is not happy about it. They wrapped him up in a sheet to keep his other arm down and that made him scream from the beginning. So when they tried the second time, I was able to hold him and that went much better. I wish there were a better way to draw blood from a child.

Now we are done with most of our hospital doctor appointments for a while. We have ENT next month, but that is at a satellite office so we won't need to trek down to the Med Center. Thank you for your concern. Justin is doing great!

Music Therapy

We started music therapy yesterday. Both Travis and Justin are able to participate and Travis was surprisingly excited. He was thrilled to be getting to go into the therapy room too. I have been considering this and I am not sure how to respond to his enthusiasm. (Maybe calling something else we do "therapy"?) Anyway, there was only one other boy in the class, so the boys had fun. The room was small, so forgive my close-up pictures. I really enjoyed it through them. (Weird way to say that, I know.) But they were very involved and the activities were changing and not too long for them to lose interest and the time went quickly. (Nice run-on sentence, I know. I am not really in a "grammatically correct" mood. Sorry!) She played her guitar and even let them strum while she did the chords and sang "You are my Sunshine". They did counting activities, color identification, songs with hand motions, and they played their instruments, which she let them chose. It was good for me to see how she adapted regular songs (like "The Wheels on the Bus") to involve more action and thought. It gives me more courage to think that I can be creative and stretch my boys to think new ways and try new ways of doing things.

We have three more classes, and Travis left the first one all ready for the next one. This is one of the things we may be able to do with Justin when his name comes up on the Medicaid waiver program lists. (Like maybe 5 more years.) Little opportunities like this are good ways to make good use of the wait and to give me ideas to try at home. Very good experience!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Laughing at Myself

I did something this past weekend that I haven't done in at least four years: I browsed the fiction section of the library Big day! I don't think my kids even know that there is another section of the library. All my books usually come in blue envelopes off the "holds" shelf (which I absolutely LOVE!) But this time I was solo and it was glorious. I think I might live off this adrenaline rush for quite some time.

After my library visit I had some new books I wanted to read. I don't get many uninterrupted opportunities to read, so I often have a book lying open somewhere in the house so that when I walk past I can read a few lines or maybe a page. But yesterday, I reached an all-time low. When I was getting ready in the bathroom, this was the picture of the counter:

I had my Bible and my 2 new books open and I was trying to read them ALL at once! I would read some of one and then remember what was happening in the other and I would switch to it and then back again and suddenly I stepped back and saw what I was doing and I laughed out loud at myself! And then I took a picture...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Water Play Day

Today was the Preschool Water Play Day at our church. This has become an annual event and the kids really look forward to it. They blew up some pools and water slides and the church interns got in and got wet with the kids. It's always a bit crazy as the kids don't always get out of the way for the next one to come down the slide, and one child grabs the hose and douses another unsuspecting child, and we always seem to have dirtier kids when we leave than when we came. Strange, given the whole water aspect...

The water always starts out sparkling clean and really, really, cold! In about 12.5 seconds it becomes filled with grass and dirt and heats to the temperature of bath water. All the mothers spend the time keeping all the heads above water (Remember, this involves babies too!) and all children out of the nearby parking lot. There was a brief second during which I had an adult conversation with one other person, but then Justin went head first over the high-walled pool, scaring himself and needing a bit of consoling. Both boys had fun, but it was a little too much activity for Justin. My left side was soaked from holding him, which felt really good when I had to sit outside in the heat for Travis' swimming lesson afterwards.

This is obviously before the 12.5 seconds passed, look how clean the water is!

Travis enjoyed jumping over the wall into the pool. I cannot imagine how his shins felt after doing this repeatedly. Can you see him w-sitting even in the air??!!

Having too much fun!

Mommy, are you sure this was a good idea???

Look at my feet!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Riding in the Car

We do a whole lot of riding in the car, and Travis does his share of making sure it's an enjoyable experience for all. This particular week last month he was taking his doll with him wherever he went. His doll's name is Melissa, which is also the name of the receptionist and our friend at therapy. She was so touched that he had named his doll after her, so she asked if he took good care of the doll. Of course he said no and he threw the doll on the floor. She groaned and said that at least she knew why she always had so many headaches! Then Travis got a sticker because Justin did so good in therapy. (I tell you, he's got them all wrapped around his little finger!) He wanted to put it on Melissa, but he didn't want to cover up the pretty flowers on the front of her outfit, and he couldn't put it on her back, because then he couldn't get the clothes unbuttoned, so he decided that her head would be the perfect spot. Of course Melissa (the real person) didn't like that which made Travis rush to put it on her head as quickly as possible! So here we are, all safe leaving therapy. I have one creative kid!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Some recent events made me start thinking about when I was back in high school. Do you ever wonder why you are the way you are and what shaped the way you approach life? I probably do way too much. There are just some incidents that just click together to make me see something in a whole different light.

It would probably surprise you to learn that I was on the diving team when I was in high school. In my defense, it didn't last very long, and it was only during the summer. You would have to know about my family to understand the absurdity of this endeavor. You see, two of my siblings were gymnasts. Very good gymnasts. And gymnastics translates very well to the diving board and with very minimal effort they excelled at diving. Me, not so much. I was mostly a dancer, and while I could prance down the board very gracefully, once I launched myself off, all bets were off. I decided to join the diving team because I was going to have to sit through all the meets every Friday night through the summer and it was much cooler in the water than on the side. And also, by the time most team members reached the 15-18 age category, diving was not cool enough for them and they quit. So just by getting myself off the board and into the water in a relatively graceful fashion, I could potentially earn some points for our team. But once I decided to do it, I worked hard at making it less embarrassing for myself. I went to both the morning and afternoon practices every day. Remember, when other teams heard our last name their knees would quake because my brother and sister were that good. My brother rarely came to practice and routinely the coaches would ask him if he could do a new dive during the meet. So he would try it during warm-ups for the meet and then compete it and blow the competition out of the water. (Pun intended!) My sister won nearly every meet she entered and she was interviewed for the evening news and her picture was in the newspaper.

I never got that good. Most of the kids in the 10 and under age group were better than me. One of the big dives the coaches always pushed the kids to try was a double somersault (Did you know that a feet-first entry is actually considered a dive? I didn't until I joined the team!) I am still talking about the 10 and unders here! One of the ways they started working towards the dive was by wearing a large sweatshirt to dull the sting of slapping the water on your back when you didn't quite make it all the way around. I spent many mornings with one particular little girl trying to coax her off the board to try a double. Telling her it wasn't going to hurt didn't help. We had to be creative in our efforts. Rewards were useful too. We would offer "double bounces" off the board, using our own weight to catapult the person higher into the air than normally possible. By the end of the summer she was more willing to try the dive, but she still hadn't mastered it. But we bonded through those efforts.

My diving career never made me famous. I only won one competition (never mind about how many people I was competing against...) There was never a "triple threat" with my siblings. I faded from memory very quickly as more talented divers came up the ranks. But for some reason I really looked forward to going to the awards banquet at the end of the summer. I certainly wasn't getting any awards, but I was hoping to see some of the younger divers receive their well-deserved accolades. Plus my siblings of course! Their names are probably still on the "Records" board at the pool. But the very last award of the night ended up being a huge surprise to me. I remember the coach getting up and beginning to describe the person who was going to get this award and how she always was so encouraging to all the divers and she always came to practice and tried so hard and at the meets she always rooted on every member of the team. And I remember thinking," Wow! That is so cool! I wish I could be like that!" You can already guess what happened next. They called my name and named me Team Captain for the next season. I could not believe that was me. That they had seen me like that. I don't think I have ever been prouder of any award I have ever gotten. That plaque with a diver on it hung on my wall for years.

My mom mentioned the other day that when we were younger, she had required us to participate in some activity in which we didn't excel to help us learn something about not being the best. I am not sure what my siblings "failure activity" was, but I can say that diving definitely qualified for me! But that caused me to think about the value of requiring that of all children who tend to be particularly gifted in one area. This past month we had a continuation of the "His Very Own" program we did in February. We just picked out "Loving our Kids" and we had panels on different age groups each week. During the jr. high/high school age panel, several of the parents mentioned how foundational that age is when it comes to forming self-esteem. One woman said that girls' self-esteem tends to be grounded in appearance and guys' tends to be in performance, especially athletic performance. Do you think that it is good for boys to do something they are NOT good at during a time when their self-esteem is so fragile? Or is that just what they need to help see outside themselves?

I ask this because the light bulb that clicked for me in this whole thought process was that what I learned during this amazingly humbling time in my life is that I have the gift of encouragement. I love helping people see the value of pushing through the hard times for the rewards on the other side. Of looking for the lesson in both the good and the bad. Of celebrating the successes and admiring the qualities I appreciate and highlighting the way I am touched by other's words or actions. I know the value of encouragement in my own life. I could not have survived Justin's surgery without your words to lift me up. I can see the way I have carried that lesson on through my life in the thousands of letters I have written, the hugs I have shared, and the shoulders I have offered for tears to be shed. I never made the connection before, but I am thankful that now I see and that I can look for more ways to use this gift for God's glory. I love it when He helps me to see something new in old memories. It helps me to think that even things that I see as ordinary and even boring are actually foundational for what God is teaching me and what He wants me to be. It makes me look for other lessons I have been missing!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

May Follow-Up/June Prayer Requests

Another month down. Is the year really almost half over? Now come the hot months in Houston, so we are already planning our summer get-aways to the cooler northern states.

  • Justin's Orthotics: I cannot be happier with how he is doing! Not only does he not mind them, he actually likes them. He crawls over every morning after getting dressed since he knows that is the next step and he picks he shoes and tries putting them on himself. He doesn't mind the cinching up or the weight of them. And this is one time I am glad for his cold nature since I cannot imagine wearing three layers on my feet in Houston in the summer! Now the one problem I have found is that his feet are dangerous when it comes to playing around on the floor. There's some punch behind those feet when he flails around! He doesn't walk on concrete to wear down the tread at all. And my biggest complaint is diaper changes. He likes to kick and I have gotten a few feet in the face while I am cleaning up. I am trying to get him to understand how it hurts so I just stop working until he stops kicking. Still only mildly successful!
  • My job: Nothing new here. It seems like it will be at least several months before we hear anything. But for now I am doing well and taking things one month at a time. (That's how we get our schedules, one month at a time.) That's what I will do until we get any news.
  • Justin's sleep: Slightly better. He still gets morning naps if they are warranted. I think it might have to do with teeth (We have 2 of the 2-year molars in to the best of our judgement. Anyone who wants to volunteer for sticking their fingers in his mouth to find out if there are more, let me know.) Some days are better than others, which is better than before. This week has been starting out badly, so please pray for my patience.

June Requests:

  • Summer is here! And so is the heat. We are enjoying the change of pace that summer brings, and we are hoping to do some traveling as well. Actually, a lot of traveling. And Randy will be going with us for some of it, which will be a treat. We are going to Florida, Washington, and Wisconsin. Please pray for smooth, uneventful travel. I am looking forward to Justin walking mostly for ease in travel. It is HARD to arrange a way to carry a boy, pull two car seats, and lug all the items we need for the flight.
  • Continued progress toward walking: Justin is doing better every day, so we know we are on the right track. He is cruising holding on to furniture, but he won't let go even to turn around and regrab the coffee table. He is walking holding on to our hands, especially with his orthotics.
  • Words! His receptive language (understanding what is spoken to him) is great. He's like most 2-year-olds: he understands but doesn't always comply. But he doesn't say anything and won't even really try. We are trying to work on imitation of sounds, like "vroom" or "uh-oh" but he won't even do that. In speech therapy he will sometimes form his mouth to try to imitate a sound, but he can't get it out. I am sure I will cry when he finally says "mama", but I think I'll cry even if he says "Travis"!

Thank you! You are so valuable to us! I never really felt the power of being prayed for until Justin was born, but now it's unmistakeable!