Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas

Christmas was a ton of fun!  Every year it's different as the boys are growing and learning more.  Travis is completely aware of everything going on around the holidays.  Justin does whatever Travis does.  That makes it completely humorous as Justin cheers or acts excited just because he sees Travis doing it.  Justin figured out how to open presents this year.  All I need to do is rip a little bit up and he can tear off the rest.  And now he is concerned with what's underneath the paper, although not totally.  He rips off the paper and he's ready for another.  Travis was excited about all his presents and he even got distracted enough to leave unopened presents so he could play with the most recently revealed.  Watching the boys is still the best Christmas present I get as a parent.

 The boys were beside themselves waiting for Me-Me and Pop to arrive on Christmas morning.  They came after breakfast to watch the boys open their presents (from us) before church.  They get a kick out of watching the boys just like we do!  This was the only shot of both boys together all day.  After this, they were off and didn't settle down until bedtime.



Santa brought Travis a scooter.  It's his attempt to teach Travis balance so he can ride a bike.  Isn't Santa thoughtful?


Santa brought Justin Buzz Lightyear toys.  He does some great flying with Buzz!



Did I mention that Justin woke up with another eye infection on Christmas morning?  Oh yeah, just like in July when it looked like we punched him.  You can sort of see how his right eye is puffy.  Fortunately we still had some of the medicine from that incident, which we quickly instilled in his eye in hopes of averting another huge flare up.  Justin also received a Larrymobile (Veggie Tales).  It's pretty cool and Justin in enjoying it (Travis too!)



I love buying books, and Christmas is the best excuse I know to stock up on books.  My kids never turn down an offer to read to them.  Justin picks his favorite and we read them over, and over, and over!


After the morning present-opening session, we went to church and then home for nap.  All of us!  Then we went to Randy's parents for more presents and Christmas dinner. 


Justin received a pirate dress-up costume. 



He looks scary, doesn't he?


Travis received a light saber. 



Here is something to be scared about!




Travis received some fishing items for his tackle box for the next fishing excursion with Pop.


And Justin received a Thomas book and play mat with trains.  Travis already broke Harold the Helicopter!  (Fortunately, superglue is one of those holiday staples along with batteries!)



Christmas was very relaxing and low-key.  We enjoyed celebrating with our church family and being at home with our immediate family.  Definitely a holiday to remember!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's a.....

I know I haven't posted about Christmas yet, and it's coming, but today we went to the doctor and found out that we are having a...




































Girl!




 This is Travis' picture...





 And here is Justin's!




And she's healthy and growing just beautifully.  We're excited!  Can you believe it?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve

Randy's family has a long tradition of getting together on Christmas Eve.  They take turns hosting and everyone contributes to and eclectic and delicious dinner.  The past few year they have fallen out of the practice and this year they decided to try and revive the tradition.  I didn't take many pictures since we arrived late and Justin spent most of the evening eating!  He loves his ham!


The "kids" did have lots of fun hanging out together.   Our kids are by far the youngest as Randy's dad is much younger than his brothers.  Justin and Travis were the center of attention, hamming it up for everyone.  The older kids enjoyed egging them on.




These are the grandkids from Randy's dad and his 2 brothers.  There are 4 missing, but we still had a great group!




This was before we got ready to go.  Justin was telling Randy that he is sleepy, and Randy repeating it.  To the right is Randy's cousin Morgan.  She is trying to decide what to study in college and she is fascinated with Justin and his sign language.  She wants to work with kids and speech, so we spent lots of time describing what Justin does in therapy.  I hope we made a convert since speech paths are in such high demand!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Live Nativity

One of our holiday highlights was our neighbors' live Nativity performance.  This is the second year they have done it, and also Randy's second year to participate.  The show features a person reading the story and the "actors" doing what the story requires (shepherds are visited by angels and wise men see a star and go find baby Jesus, etc.)  The cast repeats the performance for a half hour and then they switch with another group for the next half hour.  This goes on for 2 hours.  They advertised on the local Christian radio station and they got over three times as much traffic as last year (more than 300 people)!  They gave out candy canes and Bible tracts.  Some people just drove by and others stopped and watched.

By the last half hour, the cast was primed and having fun!  The shepherds were very afraid, the sheep baaed, and the wise men were very excited in offering their gifts to baby Jesus.  One of the funny highlights was a real baby Jesus!  My neighbors had their 10th child this year so she played the role of baby Jesus.  Baby Halley had to get replaced a couple of times when she got fussy.




We had some of our friends come and help. They were wise men and they actually did about three rounds of wise men performances.   They really got into it!  They were high-fiving and making a circuitous trek around each other to get to the stable. Very funny!





Randy was Joseph for an hour.  He just stood there and shivered.  (It was kind of damp since in rained all morning.)  He is such a good sport!  He wants a moving part next year though!


Towards the end my neighbor came over to me and said that next year they want me and the baby to be Mary and baby Jesus!  I laughed and said we would see about that!  It was a fun evening and lots of people enjoyed the show.  It was a good way to remember the meaning of the holiday.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Program

The boys were in our church's Christmas program this week.  The little kids sang some songs and Travis group acted out the nativity story, and the bigger kids did a skit about the 12 Days of Christmas song.  They have been practicing for several weeks and I got glowing reports of Justin's practice performance, so I was really excited to see how he did.  We didn't practice the songs at home because I knew he couldn't really sing them anyway, and he picked up the tunes very quickly.  He was swaying and rocking with all of them!  He did very well with the motions when he was standing up, but he did spend a good portion of the performance sitting down.  He was super cute either way!  He fit in with all the kids.  They alternated between singing and doing the motions and:

picking their noses...



...whispering to each other...




...and checking out what their neighbors were doing.




It was precious!  The cheering always seems to be the loudest for the littlest kids.  And the smiles are the biggest.  The kids even bowed at the end.  Loved it!



Then it was Travis' turn.  He was a shepherd.  Those are their sheep in front.  That's the angel making her way up on the stage to give them the good news of Jesus' birth, and the rest of the "heavenly host" coming to join her in a minute.



Travis did a good job of acting very frightened.  He knew exactly what to do and he made sure the rest of the shepherds didn't go see Jesus until it was their cue. 




I think those were the animals in front of the manger.  They were fairly disinterested, but really cute!




After the story, they sang Away in a Manger.  They did a great job singing loudly and doing the appropriate motions.  Travis practiced a long time to learn the first two verses.  He really enjoyed doing the program!



The "after" pictures of Travis, Justin and out friends Clara and Robert.  Clara was the angel who brought the good news to the shepherds.  Robert was the cheering brother in the audience.





After the show, there was soup for dinner and crafts for the kids.  Plus, Santa made a visit to hand out candy canes and listen to Christmas wishes.  This was our only Santa picture of the season. I was slightly uninspired this year.  Randy's parents took the boys to Bass Pro Shop earlier this month and got pictures with their Santa, and a large elk and various other woodland creatures in the background.  Very cute!





It was a good evening and we all had lots of fun.  It's always great when our church family spends time together.  And celebrating Jesus' birth and the holiday season is a wonderful reason.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

CPAP Update

The CPAP machine seems to be controlling my life these days.  I have not been sleeping in Justin's room, but I spend a large part of the night walking back and forth between his room and mine, making me think it might be better to sleep in with him.  He still cries a bit when I put on the mask, but as soon as it's on. he's ready for me to turn it on and then he gives me the fist pump so I know that it feels good.  He lays down just fine and goes to sleep, but then he wakes up about 6-8 times per night.  Given that many wakings, it seems to me there is no way he can be getting better sleep.

His wakings vary from the mask having slipped and needing readjustments (those wakings are heart pumpers since I am woken by piercing screams) to just sitting up and needing to be told to lie back down.  He is trying to sleep on his side, and that tends to push the mask slightly askew.  This new mask has a swivel hose attachment and sometimes it gets slightly kinked and that makes the air flow interrupted.  Wes (at the sleep center) told us that the CPAP machine adapts to some of those interruptions, so I am somewhat comforted by that, but I am not sure what that does in the long run.

I have been brain storming ideas to see how and what to fix.  Every aspect of the set up needs consideration:  Is his pillow too soft causing the mask to shift too much?  Is the mask too loose?  Too tight?  Is the mask fitting well enough?  How can I adjust a mask clearly made for an adult to fit well on a small child with a flat face and low nasal bridge?  I have been thinking about how I can revamp the straps to fit tighter and yet still make it flat enough to be comfortable when he lays on it.  By tighter I mean more securely, I guess.  Is Justin just convinced this is temporary and he's trying to hold out for us to give up?  Is this really not the right therapy for him?  A million possibilities.

I have plenty of time to think about it since I am awake so much at night.  I usually get up early to get ready before the boys wake up, but with Justin being so unpredictable I haven't been able to keep my routine very easily.  This morning I woke up and the coffee Randy was making (which I have been trying not to drink) smelled so good, and the peppermint mocha creamer called my name.  (I am drinking as I type...)  Please pray that we can pinpoint the problem and solve it quickly.  Thanks!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Ornament

I finally got around to making our Christmas ornament this year to give to the grandparents.  I was planning to use an idea a friend had shared last year about putting the kids handprints on a ball and making snowmen out of them, but my creative juices were not flowing enough to think I could create anything out of handprints so I opted for hot glue and dried beans.  I found the idea in a library book (175 Christmas Crafts) and it appealed to me because I had everything I needed already in the house.  I know, lazy of me...

The idea was to cut a heart shape out of poster board and glue beans around the outside, working in until the middle where you glue a bunch of pearl barley.  I didn't think I wanted a heart, and I thought the wreath shape would give us more rounds of beans to glue.  And I had no poster board, so cereal box it was.  Randy and I cut the shape with a bowl for the outside circle and a glass for the inside circle.  Then we painted them green so that would be the color that showed through the beans.  It took several coats of paint to cover enough, but this was the part that Justin helped with so he enjoyed it.

I had a bag of 15-bean soup which worked perfectly!  We sorted the beans into small bowls for ease in gluing.  An awesome toddler activity in itself!  The mix I had was a great combination of small/large and dark/light colors.  I was surprised that it had very few black beans though.  I had to break into another bag to find enough of those for our purposes.  We made three wreaths out of the bag I had and there are plenty left for more ornaments.  Each one is different, which is fun.  Someone suggested putting a picture of the boys in the middle, but that kind of would make it a large picture frame...  Maybe another time...




So after the paint was dry we started gluing.  Travis did this part by himself.  Justin supervised.  I was glue master.  We used a hot glue gun to ensure sufficient stability.  I highly recommend a glue gun.  It worked very well.  Then we just picked our design and glued.  Only put glue in a small section at a time.  Children are not quick in attaching beans given their (the beans) small size.  Otherwise the glue dries too quickly.

When it was dry I cut some ribbon for a loop for hanging and made a bow for the bottom to make sure everyone knew it was supposed to be a wreath.  I would use thicker ribbon next time, but it's what was in my house and available.  Using two thinner ribbons worked just fine.  And the red/green thing helped my identity concern I think.

(Travis was playing pirate, thus the camouflage headscarf.  (?)  Good thing I didn't take the picture later when he had taken off his shirt because "Pirates don't usually wear their shirts, Mom.")

 


I was very impressed with Travis sense of design and color combination.  He picked everything, with a little help from the peanut gallery/supervisor.  I thought the large/small alternating was nice on the outer row.  One more fun Christmas activity, check!  Down to 7 more chains to cut off before Christmas!



P.S.  Nana, I hope you like this ornament...It's yours to claim whenever you come back to see us!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CPAP: A New Mask

I got a call from the sleep center last week asking how we were doing with the CPAP.  We had a pleasant chat about the medical equipment company who delivered the machine and helped us set it up.  I have not been 100% pleased with the mask Justin has and the way it fits.  The sleep center informed us that we have 30 days to return the mask and request another one.  Well, that would have been good to know!  I thought we had to wait 6 months until insurance approved another one.  The man (Wes) from the sleep center also said that we could come down for a mask fitting and check of the machine any time we wanted.  Another good piece of info to know.  So I made an appointment and we went today to see what we could see.

Right away Wes agreed that the mask wasn't a good fit.  He also said that there aren't a lot of pediatric masks available and that is their constant struggle.  He found us another one that we could try to see if it works better so Justin is sporting it tonight and we'll see how it goes.  The problem is fitting something in the small space between his upper lip and the bridge of his nose.  And we want a good seal so air doesn't blow out either the top and irritate his eyes or the bottom and irritate his cheeks or chin.  Winter is brutal on Justin's cheeks and face anyway and he always has red skn no matter how much vaseline and lotion we put on.  Nightime was always our time to grease him up, but now we can't with the mask.  Wes also said we need to make sure we wash the mask every day since facial oils will eventually cause the mask to slip and leak.

My other huge dilemma was the humidity setting on the machine.  I was wavering between the lower end settings, but last night I noticed the mask leaking and the air being so cold that it made Justin's cheeks cold.  (He woke up several times last night.  I spent the first night back in my bed but I went back and forth a bit.  About 4 times I think after we finally went to bed.  And then I took the machine off around 5:30 am because he was groaning and Randy was awake and I didn't want Justin to stay awake too.)  Wes said that it's better to err of the side of too moist because too dry will cause stuffiness and nasal swelling.  He did a great job to explaining the purpose of everything so I can understand it all and make better decisions. 

And I have to say, for a guy Wes was extremely patient and encouraging.  He even said that he could tell based on how Justin tried on his masks and used the machine for him to listen that we have been doing a good job.  He wasn't even upset when the first thing Justin did was pee out the side of his diaper and all over my leg.  He got me a towel and left the room for Justin to calm down.  And after listening to all of Travis' peanut-gallery comments and putting up with all of my million questions, he still thought enough to get both boys foam gliders and stickers to have as prizes for being so good.  Justin trotted out of there mighty proud with red puffy eyes, glider in hand, wearing no pants.  I am glad it was a warm day! 



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another Gingerbread House

We have friends who have a gingerbread making party every year around the holidays.  They use it as a chance to spend time getting to know people from different circles of their lives.  They try to get a good mix of people, some older, some with little kids, some who have never made a gingerbread house before.  They have snacks and drinks and provide the houses, the guests bring some candy to supplement what comes in the boxes.  It is usually a great time to get to know friends and relax around the holidays.

Let me begin by saying that we do not get invited to this.  Not because they don't like us, but because they know us too well.  That's what I keep telling myself anyway.  So last night we get a call from them saying that it's gingerbread house party night and two of their three families cancelled and were wondering if we would be a last minute substitution.  Now that would put most people off, but knowing the thought that goes into this party, I understand the last minute call.  And being totally aware that we were not first round picks, we went to discover the mystique of the gingerbread house party.

The other guests were a little late, so we started in on the snacks.  Chris made real egg nog, which I didn't get to sample, but it looked delicious.  I stuck with the chips and rotel.  Justin ate his share too, since he didn't like dinner.  Kelsey had everything laid out beautifully down to the holiday paper plates.  The other couple was Chris' boss and his wife so our kids were the only other little ones.  The kids got their own pre-fab house to decorate so they went to it.  Justin and Robert just watched, but Travis and Clara got into it.  It was hysterical listening to them jabber about what to put where and how to decorate their house.  They worked really well together and they didn't even fight once. There was quite a bit of whispering and giggling though.


I did the top row of swirls on the roof, but they did the rest.  I was impressed!


The adults turned out some fabulous homes complete with candy rock paths, shutters and shrubbery.  Randy and I didn't attempt our own house, which was good in retrospect.  Ours would have paled in comparison.  My lack of sleep was catching up to me!


After Justin ate his snack he went and played and did some light reading.


Here's the finished project.  Most of the candy ended up on the house along with lots of extra frosting.  They even created snowmen/gingerbread people to go on their house from cookies Kelsey bought for us to eat. They had a great time and they ended the evening watching the Grinch on TV.  An all-around good time!  We appreciated the invite and even though we were second-tier, we had first-rate fun!

Back to the CPAP

Justin's nose finally dried up enough to restart using the CPAP machine this week.  I wanted to try it the night of Cookie Day, but I had the cookie exchange and I couldn't get home in time for Justin's bedtime and I didn't want to wake him up and try to put it on later in the night. 

So, we started up the next night and it was just as bad as the very first night.  I wasn't surprised.  He let me put it on with no arguments, just a few tears, but he woke up quite a bit.  The first stretch was from 9 pm to 10:30, and then he woke up every half hour from then until 3:15 am.  Most of the wakings only lasted a minute or two, maybe up to 10 minutes at most, but at 3:15 he was up for an hour.  And I had to get up at 5:45 (which is late for me).  I was prepared for a tough day since I had to go to work.

Night two was better.  He slept for longer stretches, but he was still up about 6-7 times.  This time his wakings have been different than before.  The first time we tried the CPAP he would sit up when he woke.  Now he is just staying down on his pillow, but he moans and waves his arms.  So a few times after a minute or two of moaning I had to sit him up and wake him completely so he would stop and go back to sleep.  I didn't sleep very well, but I think Justin did better.  I had to work again that day and I was pretty tired!

Night three was amazing! He slept the entire night straight through!  I woke up around 4 am (I had to go to the bathroom, go figure...) and realized that it was almost time to wake up (for another day of work for me) and Justin hadn't stirred.  I was thrilled and I almost wanted to wake up Randy and tell him.  I thought better of it and went back to sleep for another hour or two.  I went to get ready for work and checked the computer just to see if someone had taken my trip.  (I was trying to get rid of it since it was Sunday but I wasn't holding out much hope.)  But someone did take my trip so I didn't have to work.

What a fabulous day!  Great sleep, no work, and I was able to go to church and spend the day with my family!  There were a few tears shed while singing today at church.  God is so good!  I have high hopes for getting back into my own bed again soon.  One more night on the floor and I think I will attempt going back to my bed.  Please pray that's a good (and easy) transition.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Activities

This week we did some things to get us in the holiday spirit.  It was Cookie Day this week and Travis and Justin built and decorated a gingerbread house.  I love anything that involves eating and yummy smells, so these were both great activities!

Cookie Day was slightly less lofty this year.  I perused my cookbook and searched for some tasty treats to make for our neighbors and therapists and I realized that this would be my first solo Cookie Day.  I have always had either my sister or my mom (or both!) here to help and they are both gone.  I even broke down the day before and called my mom and asked her to come down for the day.  Cookie Day has become one of my favorite mother/daughter activities and I was missing her even thinking about it.  My mom was a Home Ec teacher and she always taught me so much about dough consistency and flavor combinations and substitutions and more.  She couldn't come despite her best efforts, so I had to do it on my own.  I decided to do better planning next year and have lots of people come help to make it more fun.  It's just more fun baking in groups!

I settled on 7 different kinds of cookies, with some bars, some drop, and one refrigerator variety.  Not all chocolate (but some of course!) one pumpkin, one cranberry, one lemon, one gingerbread/apple.  I even attempted my first meringue cookie!  (No wheat, so Justin-edible.)  Only one smores bar failed for lack of proper extraction from the pan, but it tasted good as we scraped it out with knives and fingers.  The rest were really tasty!  I didn't take pictures since I was too busy and on a deadline.  The kids watched too much TV, and I forgot to eat lunch (I did feed the boys!)  I went to a cookie exchange that night and traded a few white chocolate pumpkin cream cheese drops for everything under the sun.  Fortunately there was hearty soup at the cookie exchange to help rejuvenate me and bring me down from my sugar high!  The cookies I traded for were the only ones Randy and Travis could eat until I got the rest packed up and delivered and I knew what would be left over.

The next day I let the boys assemble the gingerbread house we bought last week.  Justin didn't help much last year so I was curious to see what he would do this year.  Well, he ended up digging right in!  After I got the walls erected and it was candy time, he enjoyed it just as much as Travis.  Justin is not a candy eater, which surprises me.  He puts everything small in his mouth, except candy.  Don't get it.  Travis did the top, and Justin managed the bottom.  Justin is very precise and Travis just sticks on the candy.  The result was a beautiful masterpiece!  What a combination of brotherly love!  (Oh, and you can see some of the cookies in the background of the pictures.)



Saturday, December 3, 2011

Buddy Walk

Today marked our fourth Buddy Walk (Houston's 11th) and we had a great team gathered.  I think it was one of our largest.  We had a great turnout from our church, plus therapy and family.  We were at a new location around Minute Maid Park, which wasn't near as pretty, but it relieved our overcrowding problem at the other location downtown.  It took some phone calls and direction aid to get everyone to our meeting point, but it turned out to be okay with lots of room for the kids to run and benches for the older folk to rest prior to the Walk.  The weather was perfect: sunny, light wind and mid-70s.  Great for early December!

Here's a few pics prior to the start:

Cheyanne and Justin




Pop and Justin



The whole team:  There were a few returnees, but lots of new members too.


During the Walk the kids had lots of fun.  The street is wider than the path we've been on in previous years and made it easier for the kids to goof around.


There were more than 6,500 walkers and we took up the entire block around Minute Maid Park.



The level street made it easier for wheelchairs and Me-Me's scooter.


Our friends from therapy (and the movies), Melissa, Cheyanne, and Cody.


The girls loved hanging out together. The five girls in the front row are all the same age and used to go to church together with us.



We got medals for the kids again.  Justin was fascinated by his medal.


The kids and their medals


A friend took this picture.  Isn't it the cutest?


Next year's Walk is scheduled for December 8 so mark your calendars now!