Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Wrap Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

Justin's Accomplishment

So this is one of those accomplishments that I cannot remember Travis accomplishing because it wasn't that big for him.  But it's HUGE for Justin!
Justin went into the stall of a public bathroom and went to the bathroom all by himself!

I am sure you do not understand just how big this is!  Justin has been all about "do it myself" and then having to ask for help because he just can't quite do it.  In some cases he is close, or he can do it sometimes and not others, but this was one I did not think he had any prayer of doing himself.

Going to the bathroom (for Justin) entails removing a shoe, pulling off one pant leg and half of his underwear, and hoisting himself up onto the potty.  Then carrying the shoe and dangling the pants trailing behind to find someone to help replace it all.

So I had to see what he would do, so I peeked through the crack by the door.   Mostly because I only brought one extra set of clothes and we had a long morning ahead of us.  He just pulled down his pants and peed standing up.  What a novel plan!  And it made it in the potty!   This was amazing!  I was so proud of him!  He even pulled everything back up.  I just had to snap his pants.

This is big.  Very big.  I am one proud mommy.
Yeah for Justin!

Code Pink

This is the time of year I like to wind things down and not plan a whole lot of non-holiday activities(aka: doctor's appointments).  I didn't do very well this year, although I already have 4 appointments for January, so I really did try to push off some of the visits.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I have 6 appointments, if no one gets sick.

Several of our appointments are in the Medical Center, which usually require some serious planning.  I have to wake the kids early and get out the door before it is light outside.  I have to lay out clothes and shoes and pack breakfast.  A couple of weeks ago we had to make one of these treks to see the endocrinologist (for Alaina; the doctor is worried she is a little small...have you seen Randy and me???)  It's fortunately the same doctor we see for Justin and his appointment was the week before so she (the doctor) was all ready to see us.  The staff had just started playing the movie Polar Express in the waiting area when Alaina's pager went off.  Since it wasn't very busy and the boys knew just where to find us, I went with Alaina and left the boys to watch the movie.  I came out and checked a couple of times: after Alaina got weighed in, after we got in our room, and while the doctor was typing notes.  They were fine.

Of course, the place that the endocrinologist has to start is with blood work.  The lab at the hospital is crazy busy and I hate waiting.  So I usually don't do Justin's blood work there.  I really like our lab out near where we live.  I can make an appointment and they usually get him the first stick.  But they just opened a little satellite lab on the endocrine floor.  I agreed to give it a try.  The boys were still watching their show and it was almost over so they didn't want to leave.  So I said I would be over by the lab and I left them again.

Alaina's name got called and they did the first stick.  Her vein rolled so the phlebotomist poked around to try to find it and after the 5th wiggle I told her to pull it out and start again.  She passed us off to someone else without another try.  Good call.  The next woman got her the first stick and after Alaina filled the numerous tubes allotted to her and her arm was wrapped solidly in an adorable pink bandage, we were free to go.

By this time the movie was over and the boys were playing.  Endocrine is on one of their favorite floors after all.  I guess I should say "boy" was playing.  After 2 laps around the now incredibly-busy floor, there was no Justin to be found.  I searched the bathrooms and did a sweep of the endocrine area and still no Justin.  Not truly alarmed yet, I casually asked the front desk check-in person is anyone had turned in a lost little boy.  She looked a little confused, perhaps at my nonchalant-ness, and asked for the details (age, what he's wearing, etc.).  She made a phone call and called for a Code Pink.  Then I heard it over the loud speaker, "Code Pink, Eleventh Floor, 5 Year-Old Boy, Red Shirt, Blue Jeans".  That's when I might have gotten a bit nervous.  Nurses started pouring out of the various departments asking questions, "What was he wearing?" and saying, "I'll check the bathrooms.  Has anyone checked the bathrooms??"

I was pretty sure he was somewhere back in endocrine because that's the area he knows on that floor.  I asked if I should check there but I was told just to stay put.  So all the parents are looking at me, wondering what the heck is going on, and I am just standing around looking like a dope, holding a screaming 18-month old with both arms wrapped in pink bandages.

It felt like forever, but it couldn't have been more than 2 minutes before someone came out of the endocrine area with Justin, walking ever so casually, not upset or at all concerned.  I confirmed that this was in fact Justin and hugged him tight.  Then he said he was scared, but now he was fine.  The crowd dissipated, except for the nurses who found him.  They said he was in a conference room by himself.  I guess he was getting ready for a meeting.

I was very glad to have Justin back and more than ready to make a quick escape from all the curious onlookers.  But we had to wait for security to come get some information and to clear us to leave.  That took forever!  They took Justin's name and my information, and then let us go.  I didn't even get admonished.  But I am pretty sure I got put on the bad mommy list.  There has got to be some kind of face recognition software that triggers something when I walk into the hospital.  Like the cameras keep an eye on me and my kids since I do such a poor job!

I was so glad to get out of there.  Alaina pulled off her bandages before we made it home.  She's none the worse for wear.  And I got my very first unsolicited, unprompted "I love you" from Justin before nap time that day.  That took away some of the sting of my failure.  Not all, but a whole lot!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas at the Bass Pro Shop

One of the special things Pop and Me-Me like doing with the boys is taking them to the Bass Pro Shop.  It is unfortunately quite a drive for us so I have just let the boys go and I stay home.  It's a treat for me too!  But it was decided that Alaina is starting to feel left out and she should get to go too.  But that's too much for Pop and Me-Me so I got to go too.  This trip was planned because every year the Bass Pro Shop hosts Santa plus they offer a bunch of games (like hunting, shooting, guy-type games) and snacks.  The boys and Pop and Me-Me usually go during the week when the rest of the kids are in school, but this year they couldn't arrange a time during the week so we had to go on a Sunday.  A very crowded, busy Sunday.  We got there right after lunch and the first thing I did was plant myself in line to see Santa with a very tired and squirmy little Alaina.  The boys and Pop and Me-Me went to enjoy the other activities.  They occasionally came back to see how we were doing and to take Alaina to go look at the fish and to explore.  Then we got up close enough to where they were playing checkers and I left the stroller to keep my place and I visited and took some pictures.  (By that time I was best buds with everyone around me in line.)
While we were waiting we passed some ATVs and Alaina wanted to ride.  A nice man (a future best bud) offered to take her picture.  She wowed everyone with her perfect "cheese" along with the smiley face.  He kind of missed the ATV though...
You can see the checkers games behind the boys.  They played checkers for probably a good half hour or more.  They found a sweet man and his son who played with Justin.  Me-Me called them angels, so they must have been very patient and understanding with him!

Alaina loves her cheese face and then she wants to see what she looks like in the camera.  You cannot help but laugh!

When we got close I brought everyone in to wait with me and about that time, Justin decided he needed to go to the bathroom.  Of course he did!  So I swept him up in my arms and darted around and through the throngs of people and skirted the various displays of toys and hunting gear to make it to the bathroom.  I admit that our handwashing job might not have been the best.  I raced back and arrived just as we made it to the front of the line, just on time....to see Santa leave for a potty break of his own. Oh, the irony!!

So we waited and checked out the caribou that make the perfect backdrop for every Santa picture.

And then we got our picture.

By that time it was well past naptime and so I drove around for another hour and a half while Justin and Alaina napped and Travis read 2 more books.
I so deserved the chocolate I ate later that night.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas at Bammel

Our church usually puts on a children's program for Christmas, but this year they did a whole church-wide extravaganza.  They called it A Day of Glory, and our usually traditional, no-instruments service was turned upside down for a little good, old-fashioned singing and praising our Father.  The performers (singers and musicians) practiced for a long time to make it all work so well.  The stage looked beautiful and they even had funky lights.   It was very impressive and I was so excited to see the show I had been hearing so much about!
But that's about all I can tell you because about 30 seconds into the first song Justin got scared, said then he said he had to go to the bathroom, and we hit the door running to make it before he got the pee scared out of him.  (It's the whole loud music thing...)   Fortunately Randy's parents were there so Travis and Alaina stayed in and watched the program.  Alaina loved it!  The little bit I was able to see Alaina was be-bopping and swaying to the beat.  I hated for her to miss it, so she sat on Pop's lap the whole time and stared and be-bopped!
This is what Justin and I did:
We found another little boy who couldn't sit still inside the program and we played with him.
 A little peek-a-boo
And then on to some wrestling 

The end of the program was the kids coming in with (battery-op) candles singing Silent Night.  So they all lined up waiting for their cue.  I didn't get to see this part of the program because I had to report for serving duty for the meal afterwards. 

One of the women in our Spanish congregation made about 75 dozen tamales, plus homemade salsa (3 levels of spiciness) and guacamole.
It was delicious!  I ate so many tamales!  I am glad I was a server because we had to limit everyone to just 2 so we wouldn't run out.  We might have had a few more than that...
Then it was pictures with Santa.  The most precious couple in our church dresses as Santa every year and we love them to pieces.  Since I was serving we barely made it to see Santa before he was finished.  And it was late so one look at Santa and Alaina started crying.  So I got to be in the picture.  I think I am in every one of the kids' pictures with Santa at this age.  But it's worth it!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sharing and Caring

Travis had a mini stomach bug this past week.  He never really got sick, but he ran a fever and felt sick to his stomach.  So during lunch he laid on the couch and he had the chills so I put a blanket on him.  Well, just like Alaina wants to eat whatever is yours, she wanted to share the couch with Travis to help him feel better.  Does this remind you of another similar picture a couple of years ago??

I love making ponytail poofs!  I have almost mastered doing Alaina's hair in a way that she cannot pull it out.  Almost...

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Love My Soup!

Alaina's favorite food these days is whatever is on my plate.  If I offer it to her she doesn't want it, but if I try to eat it, then it must be good.  She got my soup and my orange pepper.  She even got my spoon!  And she enjoyed it all very much!  I think I might just reverse our food and then I can get what I wanted in the first place...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

We hope your holiday is a special time with friends and family!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Alaina and Justin enjoy playing "sleep".  They love getting their blankets and pillows and laying down, usually right where I am working.  Like the middle of the kitchen.  But it's so cute!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Alaina's Favorite Socks

Alaina has decided her new favorite socks are these black socks with orange trim and kitty cat faces.  They match nothing she owns but she picks them to wear every time they are clean.

Randy is hoping she learns some fashion sense soon. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Buddy Walk 2013

It was Buddy Walk #6 for us and every year it has gotten bigger and better. It started with just a few face painting and craft booths and has morphed into an all-out carnival (aka: the Buddy Bash) with rides and games and inflatables and tons of food.  Now that the kids are older, the Buddy Bash before is as much fun as the Buddy Walk itself. 
One of the most highly anticipated moments in preparation of the Buddy Walk is the announcement of the design and colors of the shirts.  This year the colors were teal and white.  And our awesome friend Melissa again created a masterpiece for Alaina.  I'm kind of hoping she doesn't grow very quickly so she continues to get unique and adorable, one-of-a-kind Melissa outfits.  She even has a matching hair accessory!

So after the kids got the lay of the land, they scattered to try out all the different activities.  Justin spied the huge inflatable slide and he hurried over to test it out.  It worked very well!

After Justin went down and Alaina saw how much fun he had, she wanted a turn.  I told her she couldn't do it, but the volunteer Boy Scout who was helping out insisted that he and the Boy Scout at the top would help and she would be just fine.  So she eagerly began climbing.

So she got half way up and it got steeper, and then Justin started his ascent for another trip down and he got caught behind Alaina.  Now, Justin doesn't do very well climbing up by himself anyway, and with Alaina in front, it was impossible.

So the Boy Scout at the bottom managed to climb up the slide to get up to the top so he could help at the top as well.  So both of them were trying to reach both my kids, who wouldn't dare let go for fear of falling.  Alaina was crying and Justin was telling her to hurry up and the Boy Scouts were trying to get down far enough to help without falling themselves.  So mommy had to intervene and grab one kid under each arm and barrel up to the top without losing momentum and falling backwards.  We all tumbled up to the top and screamed with glee as we went tumbling down again, and again, and again.  The Boy Scouts were awesome!  We got a system going of handing one child up and then maneuvering the next one around and up without anyone tumbling down the stairs.  When we were done and ready to move on (mommy got tired...) I sat down to put on everyone's shoes and a woman commented about Justin and Alaina's orthotics.  It turns out that it was the mother of the Boy Scout who had been at the bottom, the one who was so anxious to help my children.  (He's at the top in the picture.)  He had been in an accident and he has a prosthetic leg.  He's the boy who struggled up the slide to get to the top and help.  And he mentioned over and over about the Scouts being there to help in whatever way they could.  Hearing that took my gratitude to another level.  It was precious!

And then we got more help from the Scouts.  Justin saw these tricycles and really wanted to ride, but he couldn't reach the pedals so the Scout pushed him around the track three times.  I couldn't get his face in a picture, but Justin had a blast!  He thought it was so fun.  And the Scout really went out of his way to help Justin.  There are TONS of volunteer groups who help at the Buddy Walk and they are all so excited and sincere.  It's the one big event where the kids with Down syndrome are the guests of honor, and everyone else is there to celebrate them.

Then we went to the rock wall.  Travis (and our friend Crystal) climbed up lickety split.

Then Justin wanted to try.  But apparently he doesn't weigh enough to trigger the counter balance that lets you down easily, so I had to help him.

Up, up...

Up as far as mommy could reach!  He didn't quite understand the concept of holding on to the wall and climbing.  And from underneath him I couldn't really see what was happening enough to explain.

Then I had to pull him back down.  Or maybe just leave him???

Nah, I'll take him home with me!  He's too cute to leave behind! 
There aren't a lot of pictures of Travis because his favorite activity was playing laser tag in the dark. They had inflatable "rooms" for the kids to play in. He had a blast with Melissa's son.  And Alaina enjoyed the bounce house, but again, not good pictures.
Justin's Jaywalkers 2013

Then we were off on the Walk.  Our balloons were nothing compared to this carriage.

Some of our team:


During the Walk the volunteers line the route with signs and shouting encouragement.  When they saw our sign they yelled, "Yeah, Justin!  Go Justin's Jaywalkers!"  Justin ate it up!
This is one of my favorite signs from this year:
The kids got medals this year, but some of them had left already so this was all I could muster.  By this time it was starting to sprinkle and it was close to 2:00 so we were all a bit tired and dragging.

So we piled back into our can and headed home.  The first thing Justin did was pull the medal off the ribbon and slide it into the slot in the car seat between his legs where the strap tightens.  That required a complete dismantling of the car seat to extract his precious medal.  It took quite a while to get it apart, but daddy was successful.  Not happy, but successful.  (You can see the screws laying beside Randy.  He had to take out 11 screws to get inside the bottom.)  He received quite a chastising and he is not allowed in the car with his medal ever again.

So another fabulous Buddy Walk is over.  Our team raised almost $2,000 and the total for this year's Walk was almost $280,000 which surpassed the goal of $230,000!  Thanks to everyone who made this Walk awesome.  We have more fun every year.  You're all welcome to join us next year!  If you're interested, let me know and I will send an e-mail when we start organizing our team.