Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Few Random Firsts

Now that I am almost caught up I have to fill in a few gaps:
Alaina went swimming for the first time on Memorial Day at a friends' house.  She wasn't quite sure she liked it...

Her first trip around the house in a plastic tub... 

First horse ride...

First beater-licking...  (I love that curly hair!)

Friday, June 28, 2013

One More Birthday

As soon as we got back from AZ it was time for another birthday.  Randy's mom was our last 70th this year.  More that anything she wanted a blizzard for her birthday so we all headed for DQ for the big celebration.  I got her candles for her blizzard, but I forgot to bring a lighter so we just sang and then pulled them out. 

Justin conned Pop into telling more stories, and Alaina got her first real dose of stories.  DQ may not be your first choice for a big birthday, but it was actually a lot of fun.  And if you haven't been to DQ this summer, you have to try their s'mores blizzard.   So good!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Trip to Arizona: Part 3

After the party weekend, we spent a couple of days with my brother and his wife who live in AZ.  Jon and Olivia got married almost 2 years ago and she is pregnant with their first baby, a girl!  They have a great pool with a shallow area perfect for the kids to play.

Did I mention Justin loves his hat?

Olivia is a game person and Travis and Justin are both really into games so they had so much fun.  Travis learned a couple of different domino games.  We started out playing just up to double 10 but he liked so they went all in and played with the double 16s.
Then Justin got out his matching game and he and Olivis played pirate matching.  What a good sport!

Phoenix has something that Houston does not:  Krispie Kreme.  I love Krispie Kreme!  One of our early morning we went out for doughnuts (and coffee)!  Alaina got cheerios.  She didn't mind.  And Justin really wanted a doughnut so since it was krispie kreme...

And lots of swimming!  Jon even joined us for a dip.  He and Olivia are going to have so much fun with their little girl!
See how perfect this pool is?  The hole for the umbrella was perfect.  It's not very deep and there are several benches around the sides.  The perfect place on a hot summer day.

We had a great time visiting Jon and Olivia.  The time was way too short.  We are going to get to go back for a baby shower next month.  Too exciting!  Lots of babies!

The tough part is always leaving AZ.  I am not sure why we can get there okay, but the flights out are always full.  So we had to go through Denver and we missed the first flight.  The second flight was delayed 3 hours which meant we missed our connection to Houston.  So we got to spend the night in the Denver airport.  Me and three kids.  Six hours.  But lest you think it was terrible, it was not.  We were able to spend the night in a lounge where it was dark and quiet and safe.  Oh, I didn't sleep, but the kids did.  And all our luggage went on the first flight we missed but God arranged everything perfectly so I had PJs for Alaina and Justin and more importantly, a diaper for Justin to make it through the night.  And I had pillows and blankets for the boys and Alaina slept very well (once she got to sleep) with me.  I had plenty of food for everyone and Alaina transferred from my arms to the carseat without waking and Justin fell back asleep once I dressed him so the kids were all relatively well rested by the time we got back to Houston.  Me, on the other hand, not so much.  Randy was my angel!  He took off work to come get us and take care of the kids so I could get some sleep.  I was so grateful!  I just spoke with a friend who just took a vacation with her husband and three boys.  She said this was the first vacation that felt like a vacation.  Her youngest is five.  So I guess it will be possible some day.  I have four years to go, right?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Trip to Arizona: Part 2

Tammy and my dad planned some fun events for all of the party goers.  It started with a dinner and then a day at the water park, a brunch, baseball game and then the party.
We missed a dinner but we arrived in time for the day at the water park.  I didn't take my camera, since I wasn't sure what to expect, but Tammy did send this one of my dad and Justin on the Lazy River.  The Lazy River was the perfect speed for us.  Justin and Alaina needed companions to ride, but Travis was good by himself.  Justin got plenty of offers so it worked out great.  Alaina and I lounged in one tube floating along with whichever boy/s wanted to go along.  It was really hot and it has been a long time since I have spent a lot of time in AZ so it's easy to forget how hot the cement gets!  I was carrying Justin and Alaina and running from shadow to shadow to get from one place to another.  We even jumped into the hot tub for relief one time!
Of course the kids were exhausted after 4 hours in the AZ sun so they were ready for bed.  What time did they wake up?  Any bets??  Alaina woke up at 4 am.  At least we had a suite so I could go out into the other room until the next one woke up.  Justin slept until 5 and Travis was up at 5:30.  So we went out and got some breakfast.  Our first breakfast since the brunch was at 10:30.  And I might have had a little coffee too.  Here's the kids watching the Ipad while I try to get myself together in the morning. 
After Alaina got a little nap we visited my dad in his room.  They enjoyed a friendly game of keep away with Justin's bee.  The kids loved it!

Even Alaina got in the game.

At least we got everyone settled down for a picture and more importantly, a nap, before the evening's festivities.

The party was at one of the restaurants/party areas at the conference center where we stayed.  We traveled around the grounds by golf cart, which the kids loved.  The kids got party wear so they were excited to wear their new gear, especially the hats.  On the golf cart ride we rode with a woman going to the water park and she said she felt like she should offer me her straw hat to match the boys' hats!  The hats have been (and still are) the favorite.
The party area had an center upper bar and around the lower area was the restaurant.  The tables were all removed and they used one side for the kids to play.  Tammy hired babysitters who brought a ton of toys plus Build-a-Bears for all the kids and glow necklaces and glasses.  The kids also got to hit a pinata.  They had a blast!  I just thought this was so fun of Justin picking out the pink boa to wear.  It is going to get fun when Alaina gets older!

The boys wore their hats all night long.  So great!

Dinner was delicious and afterwards there was cake.  The kids all got their own cupcakes, complete with candles to blow out.  But when they came with my dad's real cake, Justin wanted to help blow out the candles on it too.  The photographer needed to get a good picture so he ended up getting to blow out the candles several times.  He really gets into his blowing!

Afterwards we went outside for some entertainment.  The boys were enjoying letting off some steam playing hide and seek.  They were pretty easy to find in their hats! 

Elvis made an appearance.

The boys didn't know what to make of it.  Elvis might be slightly before their time.  Or mine, for that matter!

It was a great weekend and the kids had a great time.  It was fun getting to see some people we haven't seen in a while.  And it was fun celebrating another big birthday!  Tammy made some fantastic posters with pictures of my dad through the years.  She got some beautiful flowers and balloons and other fun decorations.  There was an amazing steel drum band and of course, Elvis.  It was months of planning, and it was well worth it.  We all made some special memories celebrating a big birthday!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Trip to Arizona: Part 1

The end of June brought another big family birthday:  My dad's 70th.  There was a big party planned for him in Arizona so the kids and I headed to the desert for some celebrating.  Unfortunately Randy had a big project at work going on and he needed to work all weekend.  So it was me and the gang.  We had a whole slew of events for the big party, but in between I managed to fit in a little visit to a friend. 
Marla and I were suite mates in college and we have stayed in touch ever since.  In college, she and I went to breakfast every morning before the sun was up.  I taught her how to crochet and now she creates beautiful masterpieces.  I don't get to see her near enough, so I have to take advantage of whatever chance I get.  She moved to Arizona several years ago and the last time I saw her was the last time I went to AZ four years ago.  So we had a lot of catching up to do.  I got to meet her daughter Hailey, who was born about a week after I last saw her.  I missed her husband, Rob, and middle son, Preston, but the rest of my gang had a great time visiting with Benjamin and Hailey.  I love how no matter how much time passes between our calls or visits, we are still connected in our hearts.  She knew just the things to say to encourage me.  She played every board game she owned with Justin and Travis.  She filled my belly and my spirit.  It was just what I needed.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Down Syndrome Clinic

It was time for Justin's annual appointment with the Down Syndrome Clinic.  I am always a little hesitant about this appointment.  It's one of those times when you have to weigh the positive against the negative to make sure that it's worth making going.  I pour my heart into Justin's appointments and make sure that I can report accurately what is happening with Justin so that I can get an accurate assessment.  I know they only get him for a few short minutes so I need to fill in what has happened since the last visit.  For the first time I left the appointment very encouraged and affirmed.  I know that's probably a little silly, but this is our everything appointment, the appointment where we go over every aspect of Justin's care and then I get a "report card" if you will, regarding their opinion of Justin's progress.  At this point it's all about our progress and choices since Randy and I make the decisions about his care.  I don't know why I get myself all in a flurry about this appointment but I do, and I know Randy just shakes his head at me when I gather all of my notes and therapy assessments but I want to get the most I can out of this appointment.  For the first time I felt like this was an A+ visit.  That keeps me going!

So, here's the highlights:  We always get a doctor, speech therapist and occupational therapist in the appointment.  The doctor is the point person and while we talk, the speech path does her visiting with Justin.  The doctor and I talked about the status of all Justin's issues: sleep, constipation, heart, thyroid, hearing, vision.  I think those are the biggies.  I am really getting the lingo down and I think she believes me a little more when I relate Justin's current status.  She loves that Justin wears his CPAP mask so well and that had earned me lots of points.  And we talked a lot about therapy and insurance because around the beginning of June we had a huge insurance issue.  I spent lots of hours on the phone working it out and so far we have it worked out.  It put this appointment in jeopardy so I spent a lot of time talking with their nurse at the clinic to get it resolved.  I think my persistence earned me some more points.  (Points are good by the way!  :)  I felt more like we are on the same side for the first time.  One of the key issues has been our decision to homeschool and I think she heard me at the core level.  It's not an easy decision and we know we are sacrificing some things to gain others, but I think she understood that we recognize that and have made our choice after weighing everything.  She finally seemed to be okay with our choice.  We'll see if that continues...

Both the speech therapist and OT were impressed with Justin's progress.  They "aged" Justin at a solid 36 months in speech with skills up to 42 months.  I haven't gotten the speech therapist's full report yet so I am not sure all what she says.  The OT said he had solid skills at 42 months with a smattering up to 44 months.  The OT was new and I haven't worked with her yet so I will be curious what her report says too.  They both were very positive and pleased with his skills.  I haven't directly compared the reports from last year to this year, but in my free time :) I will get to it! 

There was one line in the report that made me smile: Justin visited the clinic with his mother who is an excellent historian.  Okay, that one line made all my detailing and reporting and cataloging worth it.  Big smile!

Saturday, June 15, 2013


The beginning of summer brings VBS.  This is the third year the boys have gone to VBS at one of the other churches in our area.  Travis loves going and he looks forward to it all year.  Justin wasn't all that excited about going but I wanted him to go because I knew he would have fun once he got there.  And he did.  Part of it was because of his special friend, Corren.  Justin met her the first year he went and they have been buddies ever since.  This year, Corren went above and beyond the call of duty!
Whenever I leave Justin around people who don't know him well I try to make sure they get all the information they need to understand him and help him with whatever is going to happen.  I always bring extra clothes and a snack that he can eat.  This time I brought 2 extra sets of clothes and a snack!  Well, Justin has started being uncomfortable around loud noises, and I am still trying to get used to remembering to tell people that because I don't always know when it is going to happen.  At VBS all the kids have a big singing sessions before the day starts and it is very loud.  And Justin got scared.  And he started crying.  And then he got sick.  Like throw up sick.  Several times.  And then he had a potty accident.  It was bad.  I actually got a call to come and get him.  I found him up in the balcony of the auditorium with Corren and another boy and they were telling him stories and asking him questions and comforting him.  It was very sweet.  It turns out Corren got hit by the vomit but she said, "It didn't really matter because it was Justin!"  And she was concerned that he wouldn't come back the rest of the week.  Well, he went back and Corren was ready with an extra set of clothes, just in case!  We decided that he wouldn't go into the group sessions and instead he would sit with Corren out in the foyer until it was time to join the group for classes.  That worked great!  No more problems.  And I got a chance to talk with Corren.  I found out that she just graduated from high school and she is going to study special education next year when she goes to college, because of Justin!  How cool is that?

It was a wonderful week after all.  The boys learned about Moses and their favorite activity was crossing the Red Sea (an amazing set-up with cloth and a pulley system to make it very realistic).  They were able to walk through it and everything.  At the end of the week they had a cook out for everyone who had attended and we went to see Corren.  Travis had a blast dunking the big kids in the dunk tank.  And Alaina took her first steps!  She took 5 steps before falling.  She is well on her way to being a big girl!  And Corren got an award from the youth minister for being the most dedicated helper.  I think she earned it!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Alaina's First Birthday

So this is definitely the year of big birthdays for our family: 3 seventies, 1 forty, 1 ninety, and 1 one!  Of course our one is Alaina!
After Justin's big one-year birthday bash, I am afraid there is nothing that could compare, but we had the perfect birthday celebration for our little girl.  I realized that I didn't get any pictures of the decorations but we had fun with the pink and purple butterflies and flowers.  So girly!  Alaina had so much fun and she even supplied the obligatory oohs and aahs at the appropriate times.  She is so expressive, it has me a bit worried!  Alaina surely loved all her presents, even though Justin wasn't patient enough to let her open them all herself.  We ended up having to hold him down!

I made her a caramel cake (which pared beautifully with Caramel Olympic Mountain ice cream!) which doesn't look very pretty, but it tasted delicious.  And Alaina liked it, which is all that matters.  She sat with me and ate my cake and Daddy's ice cream.  Certainly the best of both worlds.  And we had to sing twice because my mom wanted to participate by phone but she didn't answer the first time.  Alaina figured out the blowing by the second time so it all worked out!

Happy Birthday Alaina! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trophy Tour

In some of our recent purging we came across some old trophies that we really didn't need anymore but I wasn't sure what I could do with them.  I started looking for a place that would recycle the trophies and a quick search on the internet turned up a company called Revived Glory Awards.  They take donations of old trophies, disassemble and clean them, and then reuse the parts to create new trophies to sell.  The best thing about the company is that their employees are all young adults with special needs!  We are always interested in how adults with special needs use their time and are employed so I was beyond curious about this company!  I called to see if we could come check out their operation and they quickly agreed!  We also did a little trophy drive and collected about 65 trophies to add to their supply.
I invited my other homeschool friends and another family was able to come with us for the tour. It turns out that their company is fairly new (less than a year old) and they are still working to get their name out.  They are also very small, so they work out of their home!  In spite of everything, they put together an amazing program for the kids.  The family that started the company has a son who uses a hand-held machine to speak (he types in what he wants to say and it "speaks" the words).  He prepared a welcome and an introduction for us and then one of the other employees explained the process that they use to disassemble, sort and prepare the trophies for reuse.  They keep an inventory of parts that they pull from to fill orders for "new" trophies.  They also buy new pieces to supplement their stock.  They showed us their parts area. 

They showed us how they use the computer to engrave new name plates for the trophies.  The kids thought this was very cool!

They even prepared an activity to teach the kids about inventory.  They collected a bunch of rods that go inside the trophies and had the kids measure and sort them.  It was the perfect activity for our group.  I loved how excited they were to help.

Then they let the kids use the machine to cut the corners of the name plaques (like a corner-rounder for scrapbooking).  It took some umph but they all got it.

They were working on a large order of swim trophies.  Everything was done except attaching the name plates.  The kids had some good questions at the end. We thoroughly enjoyed our morning with them.  Of course it was more than just something for the kids to learn.  It was a little peak into what Justin's future might be like.  It was really encouraging to see the young men having such a good time.  We had a great time learning about their work too!