Friday, December 10, 2010

Can you tell who is who?

We've been told, and we see ourselves, that there is a strong resemblance between Calvin as an infant and his new brother Miles. So, just for fun, can you tell who is who?

Photobucket



Of course the first picture is Calvin taken in the first weeks after his big arrival (not sure exactly how old). The second is Miles taken yesterday, he is 3 1/2 weeks now. By no means identical, but a little uncanny none-the-less.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Enveloped

How can I describe the last 21 days? Maybe, "Whoa!" or "Phew!" or "Wowzer!"


The very short version is this:

Difficult birth that did not go as hoped or planned,
beautiful baby joins our little family,
recovery from birth that did not go as anticipated or envisioned,
very sick toddler then complicates an already emotional and physical recovery,
toddler needs lots of care (and lots of sanitizer),
baby and toddler need to be kept separate (somehow),
superstar daddy takes extra time off work to look after the needs of his family,
amazing community of friends and family completely envelop family
and make one very difficult 21 days into something more than doable...
In fact, I'd call the whole thing down right blessed.

I'll tell you a little story. This year we have been lead to pray for direction for our family. Sometime in October our conversation revisited the subject, as it often has in recent months, and Raymond told me he felt that "things are just going to start happening after the baby is born." As in, we'll find clearer direction, somehow, after his arrival.

Then was the birth of our son. A very difficult birth. And I'll confess something to you: As the main participant in that event, the one going through all the intense fear and pain, in the days immediate following, I found it difficult to want to trust in God. We've all heard the the quip "God will not give you more than you can handle." (It's really just a spin off of 1 Corinthians 10:13, and perhaps a poor one, but it's a popular sentiment.) Well, the birth we had was what we got gave, and yes, I did 'handle' it. I mean, I am here, whole, and well, but if God thinks that I can handle something like that, then to be honest, I began to feel like I did not want to entrust myself to His will. Why? Well, I'd just rather not have to 'handle' anything like that ever again.


In addition to my fragile feelings in the days following Miles arrival was a confession Ray made to me after we'd come home from the hospital. He told me he had had a vision during the labor that disturbed him. It was a vision of a menacing storm rolling in. Now, anyone might certainly be prone to such a vision during such an event, as intense as it was and the number of scary unknowns we were dealing with at the time. The thing is, Raymond has a gift beyond anything that anyone would call naturally given for these kind of things. A spiritual gift. So when Ray has a vision like this, or a feeling about something, we tend to look at each other wide eyed and consider ourselves admonished to vigilance.

Now, when you tell an already shell-shocked mommy about an impending storm... I'll tell you that I did not take that information well. Not well at all, and I really let it scare me. We were both nervous. And when Calvin came down with his illness (it was oral herpes), Ray called on our pastors, our good friends, to come over and pray with us. Peter and Gale reminded us of what Paul shares in 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." Perhaps Ray's vision was being used by the enemy to steal and destroy our joy, but if it was from God, then we need not be afraid of anything.

Well, I will tell you of the outcome. We did weather a storm. It could have been menacing. But, we hardly noticed, shielded as we were by our community of friends and family.

Ray's parents graciously cared for the boys and had them stay at their house as we recovered in the hospital. Our home birth midwives, and our midwife who delivered Miles at the hospital, have helped us to understand our birth and have supported us so completely, physically and emotionally, as we recover and adjust. Melisa and Nick, and Isaac and Becky hosted Calvin at their homes during the first few days after the birth while Charlie went to school. Amber and Kiko got busy organizing meals for us, and continued to do so for an additional week as we dealt with Calvin being ill. So many people volunteered to bring us meals--really awesome meals, and we've quite a few new recipes we need to try. Our dear neighbor, Chelsea, helped me with bedtime while Ray was away at a gig. My sister-in-law, Renee, came and spent an entire day with me to look after Calvin when Raymond absolutely needed to work. Ray's brother Russ took time off from his job to work in place of Raymond at Ray's job. We even had a friend give us his tithe (which rounded out our budget perfectly--perfectly!--for the month).

From every direction our family, our church, our community has surrounded us with help and food and prayer and, well, anything we needed. The storm came and went, and we have hardly felt it's severity. If anything, we have been shown what we certainly knew to be true but is now confirmed to us intimately, that our community is the kind of place we can confidently face any kind of trial, because even if we feel we cannot handle what is put before us, we don't have to face anything alone.


So, Thank You Community! Thank you so much for your care. Thank you for lifting some of the burden (and for just plain making it possible) for Raymond to care for our family and our home and all the little extra things we didn't anticipate. You brought us meals, cared for our boys, did our dishes, ran our errands, and more. Thank you for the prayers, the remedies, the phone calls, counsel, and generally lifting us up and loving us. Thank you for walking beside us during such a tender and special time as we welcomed our dear little Miles Benjamin.

And mostly, we thank you for embodying the guiding direction we've prayed so intently for all year... for helping one little family understand so clearly the place and direction that is Home.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Baby Boy is Here!

He's here! Our son, Miles Benjamin, was born to us Tuesday morning, November 16th, at 2:04am. 8lbs 11oz, and 21 inches long. He is beautiful as can be. We, his entire family, are so in love.



Miles Benjamin is a special name to us. One hand picked for him by his daddy and mom, and one that fits our son well. "Miles", his first name, means "Mercy" in old German. The Mercy of God to give us a son at such a time that we would turn our faces toward our Father and seek Him deeper and truer than we had. And of course "Miles" makes a person think of a journey--the miles we must cover, the adventure to be had... the adventure we have had. Benjamin is a Hebrew name that means "son of my right hand". And, I think, in modern English "son of my right hand" could simply mean "my boy". Miles Benjamin is "our boy". His spirit is so sweet, and we love him very dearly.

The birth of Miles Benjamin.
It was an adventure, and did not go as "planned". I do want to share it, and really, as wild a ride as it was (and as much as I would not care to have a birth like that again...), Miles' birth was something I will forever treasure. It is good to remember and be thankful.

We had been planning a home birth with the same beautiful midwives who attended Calvin's birth at home. Both of our older boys arrived before their due date, and we had casually assumed Miles would arrive on the early side as well. Well, we waited and waited and (impatiently) waited, and finally, quite surprisingly to me (as I think I had simply come to assume he would never leave the womb) I easily slipped into labor Monday afternoon around 2pm, the 15th of November.

The labor progressed very quickly and easily to about 8cm (around 7pm), and again very easily to 10cm after my water was broken, but with a cervical lip in the way. Baby was doing well, and I was feeling well. It was odd to me how easy things really went. I felt calm and present with all that was going on. I enjoyed laboring in the boys quiet bedroom the best, and also enjoyed the birth tub set up in our kitchen. By 9pm, or was it earlier, everything was laid out and ready for us to birth our baby. Except that pesky cervical lip.



For some reason the lip would not let me labor it away. In fact, it seems my dilation was regressing a bit, and during the contractions, no less. I began to feel more and more intense, and a fear grew over me about the labor and about my ability to do what I was going to need to do to get our baby out. I felt unsafe and unsure, for no apparent reason other than fear of a repeat of my last labor that was long and painful and felt overwhelming to me at the time. I think around 9pm I began to apologetically insist that we go to the hospital. I was very scared, and my feeling at the time was that I was going to need some medication to help me deal with the labor if I was going to be able to relax enough to labor away that stubborn cervical lip and push our baby out. We briefly talked about what was and was not possible as far as pain meds at this point in labor, and what transfer might entail (i.e. relief would be limited and not immediate), and I was asked if I felt I may later regret the decision as there was really no medical need to go in. All things considered, I felt very in control of my decision and able to express that I felt I needed to go, and I would not regret it.

Next was a bustle of finding clothes for me, throwing a couple essentials into a bag, and shuffling out to the car in the dark in the throws of transition to get to the hospital. Thankfully by car the hospital is a mere 2 minutes away.

We were ushered into the birth center, and offered our choice of rooms (no other patients that night). I chose the room to which I was bracing myself in the door jam during a contraction. "Good enough," I said, and we waddled over to the bed.

Somehow I was changed from my sweats to a gown, strapped to the monitors for a brief strip, and an IV with antibiotics (due to Group B Strep status) was started. I was also given a dose of Fentanyl at my request for pain management. Fentanyl does not actually dull the pain, and I've heard makes people feel really dopey and euphoric. I did not notice that at all, what I did notice was that it helped relieve some of my intense anxiety and fear that I had been feeling--an effective strategy for me at the time, and I am thankful for having that choice available for this birth.

Soon the midwife from the clinic was there, and I began to feel like I needed to push. She found that I was again 10cm dilated with a cervical lip. She had me begin to push when needed and tried to hold back the lip so the baby could slide past. We tried this at home previously as well. It was not working.

Gosh, everything is so hazy, but what ended up happening is it soon became clear that our baby was becoming very stressed by the contractions. I was feeling an intense urge to push, but when I pushed (which was not doing much to bring him down) his heart rate would plummet. The midwife called in a local OB doctor to come help. Internal monitors for the baby and for contraction strength were placed. The baby was bobbing up and down and moving all around trying to find a way through (it is a miracle to me that babies have the wherewithal to do this), and handling contractions very poorly when I pushed--his heart rate plummeting into the 50's or 60's... even the 40's at times--so I had to pant instead, which was overwhelming and painful and felt very frantic. I was very afraid for our baby, and afraid I was not going to be able to pull off what was being asked of me in order to birth him safely. I just remember saying over and over again, please help me and I want our baby to be okay and I'm really scared. I am so thankful for my husband who sat beside me and held my hands and let me stare into his face when trying to keep myself from pushing. I am so thankful for all the good support and instruction I received during this time. There was a lot going on.

I never remember hearing that the cervical lip was gone, I just got to a point where I could not hold back any longer. The doctor wanted to start pitocin to help make contractions stronger. I refused and cried and asked that they simply take him out via c-section. I was given another dose of Fentanyl, which helped enough with the fear and hesitation that I simply began to push. I could not help it anymore. I could hear and see on the monitor how dangerously low our baby's heart rate was plummeting, but it seemed this time that he was actually moving down. Pitocin was started, and to my surprise it was a total relief to be able to have my uterus pushing as hard as I was wanting to will it to push. I pushed so incredibly hard for our baby. Finally I could feel him crowning. The midwife was pulling and I was pushing and a small staff waited for him to come out. Finally he was out! I caught just a glimpse of him before the his cord was cut and he was whisked over to the warmer where the nurse began to work on him. He was pretty blue, and they were needing to help him begin to breath, and suction him out. He was born with lots of meconium.





Well, it turned out our Miles was in respiratory distress--he just couldn't get going breathing well. The pediatrician was called in (he was born at 2 in the morning, so we ended up waking a lot of people that night). She ordered chest x-rays and blood work. The staff continued to work with him. He could breath, but not well at all. He was grunting, and not keeping his oxygen levels up when not being helped along. He was pretty frantic. But there were good signs, too, like his color was improving, and he was fighting all the commotion.

These women are our incredible home birth midwives who encouraged and supported us during our birth, and afterward as we recover.


I was so relieved that my baby was okay--not well enough to be with me, but he would be okay. So relieved to be done. My fear began to lift, though I wanted to hold my boy. The experience was so intense. The midwife stayed with me to help the placenta be born (is a placenta born, or does it just 'come out'?), and to help patch mommy back together. I was shaking fiercely from all the adrenaline, and I just lay on the bed and watched as all the different people came in to check on our boy, to draw blood, to attach electrodes, to take turns pumping the ambu bag... I could only get glimpses of him through the bodies and machinery in the room. I excused Raymond from my side, instructing him to remain with our son. What a faithful and wonderful Father, you have Miles. Raymond would speak to Miles, and Miles would look directly at him, fixing his deep blue eyes on that daddy of his. I credit Raymond with so much of how our scary start turned into something so reasonable for us all.

Finally, I needed to get up to use the restroom, and the team of folks helping our boy decided to take him for x-rays and other stuff in the nursery. When I came out of the restroom, the delivery room was empty but for the nurse in charge of caring for me. It was a mess, and seemed very lonely and sad. She helped to situate me in a wheel chair, and took me over to the nursery to see my boy.

The staff had a Cpap started on Miles, which he just fought and fought. The x-ray had been taken, and was thankfully found to have no indication of pneumonia or meconium aspiration. Soon the blood work came back, and was also normal. Other blood work was sent out to be cultured for GBS disease, but would not be back for 48 hours. Miles was fighting all that was happening to him, which was not helping his oxygen or heart rate to be normal despite the cpap. I was able to be close enough to hold his little hand and pat his chest. He was just beautiful, and reminded me so much of Calvin.

During this time in the nursery during regular vitals checks it was found that I had spiked a fever of about 103 degrees. Not a good sign with the entire situation considered. I was started on another antibiotic as I sat in my wheelchair nest to my boy. I think another hour passed as Miles was fussed with and attached to this and that, looked over with a fine tooth comb, and his daddy soothed him as best he could with his pinky finger to suck on and his strong voice speaking peaceful words. It was beginning to look like Miles would be headed to the NICU at St Joe's hospital, and I was urged to go rest so I would be able to be well enough to care for Miles at the earliest possible. I agreed. I took Raymond's phone with me to the room so I could text people for prayers. And then, our night began to turn around.

I was just out of the chair, making my way to the bed when I was told our pediatrician wanted to try one last thing. It seems Raymond was so convincing about how much Miles was being calmed by being able to suckle on his finger a bit, that the doctor decided to try to let Miles nurse to see if he would calm down enough to allow them to monitor his breathing and pulse without his being too frantic.

I was wheeled back to the nursery where I promptly opened up the front of my gown and was given my boy to hold in my arms for the first time. I tucked him inside my clothes and began to hum old and comforting hymns to my boy. I latched him on the breast, which he took to very well. Raymond stayed by our side, and began texting dear friends and family asking for middle of the night prayers. And, do you know what happened? Our boy, our Miles Benjamin, melted and calmed himself. He satisfied himself at the breast, and very quietly dozed in my arms. His oxygen levels were not perfect, but were far from needing special assistance. His grunting was not gone, but significantly diminished. And do you know what our pediatrician said? She said, "Call St. Joe's and tell them we will be able to keep this baby here. We can handle this level of care if mommy doesn't mind holding her baby to keep him calm."

I didn't mind at all.


The next couple days Miles improved and improved. He was given antibiotics "just in case", but at this point it appears his rough beginning was mainly due to a traumatic and difficult birth, and not infection. We found out during Miles last exam at the hospital he also has a fractured right clavicle (which was apparent on the chest x-ray, but had not been told to us by the pediatrician at the time--guess we had bigger problems then). Finding that out made a lot of sense to us as he is very fussy when being moved about, and cries in pain when you touch the area or move his right arm. Just one more thing we are now being mindful of as we recover at home.



I have also improved, and have no further signs of infection very thankfully. I am extremely sore, though. My arm muscles, back muscles, stomach muscles are all very stiff and sore. I've also a few stitches, and sore veins from so much IV medication. What a work that was.

Miles is asleep next to me on my bed right now. Such a peaceful and beautiful boy. My heart is just full of compassion for this little fellow who endured such a journey with us. In the end all indications seem to be that he simply had a difficult time finding his way into my pelvis, and out the other side. He is a couple ounces larger than Calvin was, who also had a long difficult labor, but an exceedingly more easy time pushing him out. Miles struggled much. I don't know if the two could be related to my anatomy, or were independently difficult for completely different reasons. Both boys were said to have acynclitism--which means they were crooked during their births.

Edited 1/12/11: After further conversation I found out the OB and hospital midwife feel Miles' struggle during labor (as evidenced by the heart decels) and his respiratory distress, and also my fever, were due to chorioamnionitis, an infection in the uterus. They feel it was most likely caused by GBS bacteria, as I was GBS+. They feel our quick recovery was likely because we had antibiotics during the last part of labor, and for a couple days afterward, and also due to our excellent overall health that allowed us to bounce back quickly. Miles' difficulty finding his way through my pelvis, and his collar bone injury, are another issue separate from the infection. I've talked at length with all my midwives about all of these things, and we suspect my pelvis is oval shaped at the inlet, and perhaps in a way that our babies need to enter the pelvis in a posterior position.

The view from here.


I don't regret my decision to transfer to the hospital... obviously. We would have ended up there one way or another with the danger signs Miles was showing. It was good to have gotten there before he began to struggle, I think, so the OB doctor could be called and things were able to begin to be trouble-shooted and managed from the start. We have come to think of the reason for our transfer as being "Mother's Intuition." I certainly could not have predicted the events of the night, especially after having such an easy time laboring up until that darn cervical lip refused to go away, all I knew at the time was I was too fearful to stay at home.

THE CREDITS
I am grateful for the tender hand of Jesus that was ever present, to guide mommy to the hospital before anything became emergent, to give our birth team and my husband the right words and touch to support me through to the end. Thankful for our home birth midwives who supported me as we labored at home, and also in my decision to transfer. Who continued to help me through the difficult birth with their assurance and affirming presence, and who help me to feel validated as a mommy who simply acted in what was best for herself and her boy. I am so in love with my husband who endured with me and did his honest best to help me to feel safe and to keep struggling for our boy. Thankful for my sister-in-law, Renee who did so much of the "dirty work" helping us to set up, clean up, get ready, take pictures, offer support, and continues to offer anything she can give. I am thankful for the hospital birth attendants who helped get our baby out safe, and who helped him to get going in life doing all those necessary things people do (like breath). Gosh, it's funny, you wouldn't think an experience like this would have so much redemption, but I feel oddly built up by our journey. I feel assured of my ability to mother, I feel deeply bonded to my new son. I feel grateful on so many levels, and most of all, so deeply in wonder of the Hand of God that keeps us and watches over us. Our Abba Father whose great wisdom it was to give our family this little guy, Miles Benjamin, and who carried us and him as he came into the world.

Well, if you made it through all of that, then congratulations to you. It almost feels like too big of a tale to tell... for me anyways. The experience was so much bigger than I could ever think I could make it through. I thought that of Calvin's birth, and now with this one... gosh. It really is the strength of Jesus that helps us to do anything set before us, and not of our own, so long as we believe.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

While We Wait...

We have no firm middle name for this baby, but at this point are leaning toward "Late-for-Dinner". Yes, we are still waiting for our sweet bundle to decide to arrive. Officially, he is a week overdue. According to when I was *sure* he would come, it's been more like a month. A month of waking up every day thinking "Darn. No Baby." (As if I would simply find him in our bed in the morning.) I admit, after having two boys so graciously arrive before their due dates, this one is, hmmm... refining my patience. Oh, but he will be worth it.

Calvin putting on the fetoscope to check the baby's heart rate at our home visit a few weeks ago.


You know, we have been blessed to an extreme with our boys, our pregnancies, our births, and the support for women and families in our, well, "Hippy" Northern California Town. This will be our second home birth, and we have always only received support for our family decision. I feel so cared for and respected. I feel so much confidence in the hands that are helping us to bring our son into our arms. Our home birth midwives are excellent practitioners who care very well for my body, for our family as a whole, for our emotional well being. Whenever we have an issue we are able to dial them up directly and receive on the spot counsel about what to do. When I was having preterm labor worries, I was so grateful to have their advice and care so at-the-ready. And now as we navigate all the feelings that come with unexpectedly having to wait so long for our babe, they are there to walk us through it, and to encourage us greatly. We are very blessed indeed.

I've also felt frustration with the end of this pregnancy. Lots of small discomforts. My parents came two weeks ago to help after I had injured the front joint in my pelvis. I was having a hard time walking, let alone caring for the boys. Their availability and help was invaluable. And between all their service to our family, giving me a break from "kid-wrangling" and chores, and a timely visit to the chiropractor, I have all but healed from the injury. Still not taking any long hikes (as I would like in order to jostle this content baby out), but I can walk, and I can get dressed, and I can clean house, and play with the boys again. Unfortunately, baby did not come during the time they could be here, and now they have left. I feel sad they did not get to meet him, yet hoping they will be able to make it up for his debut as "Baby Jesus" during the Christmas Service at church. :)

Charlie's turn with the fetoscope.




I've been thinking a lot about waiting. About what it means to "be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." (Matt24:42) (Pregnancy is full of little object lessons for faith.) Of course for a woman busy making her "nest", being prepared--on alert--means keeping the house clean, organizing everything (and I mean everything!) in order to make space for a new little person, preparing ones heart for the work of labor and birth, and preparing the family for coming adjustments. For a Christian, being prepared is also full of physical work and heart work. We work on our hearts, seeking God's will daily, and then we live it out in our lives as we work with out hands to serve God, our families, our neighbors, our communities. It has been interesting to so obviously be continually preparing for our son's arrival (which involves a lot of repetition with a longer wait: re-preparing the home as things fall out of order, re-preparing my heart as it drifts toward disappointment or anxiety), and to wonder each day as I nest and re-nest how I am also making myself prepared for the day of the LORD. It is a continual work before us.

Calvin helping the midwife take Mommy's blood pressure.

Of course, some of my waiting has not been so gracefully filled of heavenly thought. Some days I simply awake to a feeling of depression. I am still pregnant. Surely, I will be pregnant forever... Please, Lord, please let this baby come soon! And so forth. The baby area in our bedroom has been ready for so long I am having to dust it off as it continues to go unused. It's felt like a long wait, and I do wonder just how much longer. Sometimes I'm at peace. And sometimes peace feels so far from me.

Anyway, these are just a few of the rambly things on my mind as we wait it out. Really this is a win/win situation. No matter when he comes, we are having a baby! Such a beautiful blessing for us all. He WILL come, and at this point we can safely say it will likely be soon.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Due Date to Me

I've accomplished a personal record today--I've been pregnant the longest I've ever been! (Charlie arrived 10 days before, and Calvin 3 days before their due dates.)

I'm looking a lot like this these days...


Nope, that is not a basket ball under there. That is our little boy who is content to cook a little longer. We all thought for sure I was headed for an early delivery. It has been a bit of an emotional challenge, not to mention a physical challenge. But, we are enjoying time with a gracious Nana and Papa who have come to town despite no new baby, to help a very pregnant and uncomfy mommy out.

When will he come? Well, it is impossible to tell, but we continue to pray for his health and safety and an easy, joyous arrival.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Patch!

The children have been waiting for the big pumpkin patch visit for a long time. The Calendar we have in the kitchen has pictures of last year's pumpkin patch excursion, and Charlie has been pointing it out daily, looking longingly at the photos and saying "Punkin Patch?!!"

Calvin atop the Hey Maze.


Well, we finally had our day at the "Punkin Patch" weekend before last, and it was great. It always is! The Punkin Patch has a Hey Maze for young children, which the boys run through (or on top of) with abandon. There are concessions, pony rides, face painting... all this from a small family owned farm. We usually skip all the money-costing things and focus on the hey maze and the... dun! dun! dun!... TRACTOR RIDE out to the pumpkin fields. Oh boy! The kids are SO excited about that tractor ride. You just can't get Calvin to wipe that silly grin off his face.

Charlie and Daddy on the Hey Ride.


This year we went with our new friends from church, L and her awesome boys, J and J, who are just a bit older than our boys. Uncle Russ and Auntie Renee also came, and we went to their house afterward for some yummy home-made nachos, and a chance to play with their dog, the ever so popular, Jefe.

Hmm... How 'bout this one?


Or this one...


The kids ran all around in the pumpkin fields, tripping over vines, digging in the dirt, and searching for the dirtiest pumpkins they could find in order to be able to give them a "pumpkin bath" later on. Our boys had a particularly difficult time finding a satisfying pumpkin. We tried all shapes and sizes. In the end, mommy and daddy ended up with two classic round pumpkins, while Charlie chose a tiny, yellow pumpkin about the size of a walnut, and Calvin chose a small, green, oblong pumpkin with a pointy bottom. All came home very satisfied.

My Boys!

Hint: If you click on this photo it will enlarge and you can just see Charlie's tiny pumpkin in his hand, and you can see how filthy Calvin is from the adventure. Filthy and oh so happy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Things He Says

I post these little gems on facebook all the time, but need to put them here too for family who don't FB. Little things that Calvin says. He is such a precious, funny boy. I love him so much.

Last week while riding in the car:
Calvin: I have a question, Daddy.
Daddy: Okay, what is your question?
Calvin: It is a question about Trucks.
Daddy: Okay, what do you want to know about trucks?
Calvin: How do you say "Vroom! Vroom!" in Spanish?


A few nights ago during our bedtime prayer time:
Daddy: And, did you know that God is always with us, all the time, even when you are scared?
Calvin: Yeah... I'm so proud of Him!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The BIG Down Syndrome Awareness Post for October

It's Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. Little known fact. I have many bloggy friends who have dutifully devoted themselves to blogging every single day about Down Syndrome in the month of October. Please scroll down to the Blog List and check a few out. As for me, well, I confess that there is so much on my mind other than Down Syndrome this month (say, a new little family member who is getting ready to burst onto the scene). But, I did not want the month to slip by without a Down Syndrome post.

Charlie. One day old.

What shall I say about Down Syndrome. You know, we did not know Charlie had Down Syndrome until we had already enjoyed him for 2 months. Those two months had stress of their own: a difficult birth recovery (after a very easy birth, go figure), a difficult start to our breastfeeding journey (it is hard to learn, and more so when your baby doesn't seem too concerned with the fact that he should eat from time to time), a bunch of hearing specialist appointments (in which I was asked to nurse him to sleep for testing--yeah, no pressure there!), learning Charlie was hearing impaired, Ray returning to work the same week in which Charlie was born. It was a sweet time for us, but also a whirlwind of activity and stress, so you can imagine how my jaw hit the floor at our 8 week check-up when the doctor said to me he thought we should test Charlie for Down Syndrome. Oh boy. That was quite a day.

That is where we started out on this journey, and I have such a tender spot in my heart for new parents just hearing the news. Hearing the news, reading the books, and wondering what life is going to be like. Wondering what life would have been like.

Baby C and Mommy.

I'm not going to revisit every place along the path that we have been so far. There have been highs where I just felt like my heart would burst. There have also been lows where I really have struggled to just be okay with Down Syndrome and the ways it can complicate life.

Presently Down Syndrome and I are at place of peace. Charlie's sweet, round face that smiles so big at me in the morning. His low little voice greeting me with "Kim-ma!" as he wraps his chubby arms around my leg. I love this boy.

Daddy and Charlie playing some music together.

There are challenges to parenting Charlie, like attachment (on my part, not his. I think he feels good with things.). Charlie is a cuddly boy (the best cuddles ever!), but he certainly does not seek attachment like Calvin does--you know, in a typical way. He does not compete for attention with his brother, which may be part of the problem, and something I am still adjusting to after Calvin's birth. Also, Charlie does not call me Mommy, he calls me "Kim-ma", which is fine and sweet, but sometimes makes me feel more distant to him. So, I work on attachment and bonding deliberately with him now, and it is good... at least for me. I make sure to sit by him more often, be the one to hold his hand when we are out and about, have patience with him when he is having a sensitive day, spend one-on-one time with him whenever possible, remind him to call me "mama". These deliberate actions have helped me to feel more connected to him, which in turn helps me to enjoy him more for who he is. Quirks and all.

Other challenges are simply his slow development, which means we are giving him a higher level of care for longer, and that can be a very physical job when accounting for his size and hypotonia (at 40 pounds we still need to change his diapers, dress him, lift him into his car seat, help him up and down stairs, etc.). It is also difficult to communicate at times, though within our household we do pretty good getting our points across, however that is accomplished, both us and him. We worry about him running off, and have to be VERY diligent to make sure he does not wander away.

Big C and Little C. An awesome big brother.

I've spent a great deal of time lately studying sensory issues in hopes to understand some of Charlie's quirks--like why he chews on everything. He is driven to chew, and we have a multitude of "chewies" about the house for him to satisfy his need without ruining toys or blistering his hands. He just needs that oral stimulation--he also loves crunchy and spicy foods for the same reason. He gets overwhelmed by certain noises, and some days are better than others with this, but often Calvin will have to put off playing with certain noisy instruments until times Charlie is away.

Then, there are parts to raising Charlie that have caused many permanent smile lines to form on our faces. You should see Charlie dance! Yesterday he put on his groove in front of the entire church, pulling some amazing, gymnastic dance moves to the song "Great Big God." Charlie tells a pretty mean knock-knock joke, which most often ends in an impressive dragon roar. I wish everyone had the chance to enjoy his imagination as he involves you in one of his games. You may not understand just what is going on because of the language barrier, but you know it must be fantastic, and you feel so special to have been included.

Posing with Grandpa after the 2009 Buddy Walk.

Charlie is a tender boy, so gentle and giving to those who are smaller than he. If you want your baby looked after and doted on, call on Charlie to sit with her. He will offer toys and soft pats and kisses.

Our life is so amazing with our boys. I love to watch Charlie and Calvin pal around in the yard at dusk, wondering at times who is who. Charlie is generous to his brother, and will share a toy when first asked. He loves to climb into Calvin's crib in the morning to share a game or a cuddle (or a tackle... ahem). They have dance parties together, and put on imaginative music shows using various props as their guitars, banjo's, basses, and drums. Charlie will often tell me he is playing "bass guitar." Truth be told, he excels most at keeping a steady rhythm, and I am excited to see him bud as a percussionist in time. He is developing an on-key singing voice as well. My favorite song to hear him sing is "Happy Birthday" as he performs it with such abandon.

My boy is getting so big!

With mommy and daddy he can be very stubborn, but we are learning he understands so much, and if you look at him with a stern face and sign "obey" he will get that you mean business. We have learned that he is capable of understanding discipline (a new development), and we are able to hold him accountable for his actions in ways we never were really able to get across to him before this summer and fall. Not only does he understand his actions and consequences, he also understands forgiveness. He seeks and gives forgiveness with an ease that I only wish I had (and wish Calvin had too! Sheesh.). He has become very good at his evening clean-up job of putting all the vehicles in their "garage" (the bottom toy shelf). He is working on memorizing some Bible verses, and will recite portions of them, but has not yet mastered the entire verse alone. He loves to draw with us, and pretends to write words, spelling them out loud as he scribbles.

All of these things are part of our family life. Ray and I look at each other sometimes and think, "Can you believe we have a boy with Down Syndrome?" I mean, we are under-the-radar kind of people to whom significant things don't seem to happen. It is just kind of wild, and shocking, and wonderful all at once. And, gosh, it is a challenging journey we are on, and I think it is fine to be at the mountain top and in the valley at different places along the way. Point is, we love our boy so deeply, no matter whether Down Syndrome is stumping us or blessing us at the moment (though we count our trials as blessings, to be honest... or at least we try).

Brothers!

So, there is some Awareness for you. Don't forget to check out what others have written this month to bring Awareness to Down Syndrome. And also, check out the Reece's Rainbow blog and organization, and considering sponsoring one of the beautiful children during their upcoming "Christmas Angel Tree Project".

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Grandma Collins

My beautiful Grandmother Alice Collins passed away on Tuesday. She would have been 100 years old on the 21st.

It is hard to describe just who my Grandma was to me. An inspiration to be sure. I would not describe her as tender or gentle, though she was both of those at their proper moment. I would not describe her as overly humble, though a genuine humility permeated her living. I would not describe her as feisty really, though she was so in all the right amounts, and as comedically as possible to put you at ease. Grandma was full of so much grace. Grace is how I will remember her. Grace and gratitude.

Her grace was available to anyone, and grace and gratefulness was how she lived her life. As my dad said, "No one could not-like Grandma Collins. You couldn't help but love her."

Now, I did not know my Grandma when she was younger, raising her children, being a wife. I only knew her as a woman so gracefully aging. Through knee replacements, minor illnesses, a couple scares, but an overall strong constitution, and a body slowly, slowly growing so old (and she would often agree that she was quite old!). She did all of this in perfect balance. The grace to accept her capability and need, the control to be in charge of her well-being as she first knew it was time to sell her home and move on to places where she could receive increasing assistance. Somehow always submitting with a cheerful heart to time and ability. Somehow maintaining a joy and gratitude in life as one by one her family and friends passed on before her. Always open to the prospect of friendship and the opportunity to treat others with kindness--even if that was limited to demeanor and expression in her later years.

Her life was full. And she did it with grace. She received it with gratitude.

For me, the end of her life has a couple regrets. Just the simple regret that time and distance made visiting an impossibility, or at least more difficult that I was willing to hurdle. Her hard of hearing, and my prolonged absence, made phone calls difficult as she seemed not quite able to figure out which grandchild I was. Perhaps I was too sensitive, and really, I know she would have told me so. Told me to not worry so much about an 'old lady'. Still, I would wonder when I heard an update of her if I was slowly slipping from her memory. I don't know, but I sure have thought of her a lot. And, I am glad of the promise that I will see her again in heaven, and that when I do I will not need to say the words "you are an inspiration to me," because she will see it so simply in my face.

I miss her. I have missed her. And I am so happy for her to be Home now.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

If it's not one thing...

My beautiful Charlie is broken out in a nasty, itchy rash. Poor Bub.

This school year has been a little rough on his health, so far. Well, a little rough on all of our health.

He ended the Summer session with a nasty cold that lasted all of August. This cold cleared up in the first week of school or so and we enjoyed about 4 days of a clear nose and well feeling boy. Then he came down with a new virus. Fever that lasted a day, runny nose back in force, a cough. That was probably during the second week of school.

Well, the nose continued to run, but he was back in school because that nose seive is a "Down Syndrome Thing", and what are we to do but wait it out. Of course he then presents with another fever, and throws up a couple times. I think this was week three or so. Runny Nose ever present (and folks, by "runny" I mean we are running for tissues, because thick, green snot drips from his face all. day. long.).

So, he recovers from the fever and tummy illness quickly. (Nose still going!) Then in week four, or were we to five by now, he develops a rash on his bum. I hear second hand staph is going around the preschool classrooms, so I take him in to have it checked. Oh yes, it is staph, and by the time we have our appointment one of the spots is on it's way to becoming a nasty boil. Oh, he also has impetigo (staph) on his nose and chin. Nice.

Now I am at my wits end, and beginning to wonder if school is having issues with keeping the classrooms clean, hand washing, etc. Or maybe it is just beginning of the year immunity shock. Or maybe something else is going on.

Anyway, the staph clears up pretty quickly, no boils form (thank goodness!), and now that we're in the clear, I am even able to nab a spot on the clinic's busy schedule to get the boys flu vaccines yesterday. They were both good sports and got goodie bags to-boot. (We are being very proactive, and even ahead of schedule this fall with a tiny newborn about to join us soon. I feel accomplished!)

Now to this morning. I go into the boys room to get them up. I un-zip Charlie's jammies and find he is COVERED in a rash. Big, deep, sigh. It is a good thing I have low blood pressure, or I would be having serious health issues myself. Turns out the rash is drug related, as in an allergic reaction from the Sulfa based antibiotic he was just finishing up. I guess I would have thought he would develop a reaction right away, but the NP I spoke to on the phone said the reaction is often delayed. Thank goodness it is not worse than the rash (which is bad... really bad and itchy. poor Bub). His airway is blessedly unaffected. Of course the antibiotics did dry up his snot issue. Go figure.

Sigh... again.

Now what? Well, we're going to try to ride this out a few more weeks, but if our boy keeps getting sick (and I should say, he went to school three of four days this week and has not come down with any new illnesses... just the allergic reaction... so that is an improvement, believe it or not) than I don't know what we are going to do. I suppose we will have the doctor run blood tests to see if something is out of whack. I suppose we may consider building his immune system up naturally (he takes great quality vitamins, but maybe there is something more to do). Once we have our baby we will have plenty of breast milk on our hands, and I'm thinking I will pump to supplement Charlie (I'm serious, I think it could help... and it would be cheap). I suppose we may consult the school to see what we can do to try to minimize his exposure to germs more than is done now. And really, all of this is just me getting ahead of myself at this point. It's just been a rough September, and now we are covered in itchy bumps, head to toe, back and front. That immune system needs to buck-up a bit, and the sooner the better with tiny Mr. Robinson number 3 due to arrive very soon.

Any suggestions? How can we help our sweet boy stay healthy?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A School Update

Just had to post this e-mail I got from Charlie's teacher this evening. He is doing so well.


Charlie had a lots of fun today. He and ----- and staff played “Ring Around the Rosey” at recess—I think they would have played all day—but staff did get a little tired. Very cute! Charlie has been playing a lot with the big trucks on playground and rode in the car as well.

During circle, we used our dog puppets to bark the alphabet when we sang, “There’s a Dog in the School”. Charlie also picked using Lummi Sticks when it was his turn to choose activity and we did “Tap Your Sticks” and Charlie is able to follow directions such as tap end to end, put them behind you etc. Generally, he just follows directions and enjoys activities.

He’s definitely not shy about talking. We worked on his “I Like Pets” book and he told me what each animal was without problem—of course!

At lunch, I asked him what he wanted to eat first? “Grapes” without hesitation. At lunch and snack, I often given students choice of milk, chocolate milk, or juice. Do you feel comfortable with that—I know some people like to restrict milk products and thought it might be a good idea to check with you.

We had APE yesterday—scooter boards, running, walking, jumping, galloping, and tip toeing around the circle. Lots of fun! At the end, Linda asked who wanted to do a log roll—Charlie raised his hand and got up and laid on the mat ready to go. He is quite the APE star!

Hope things are going well at home. Isn’t it almost time for the new baby—are you all ready?

Talk to you soon.

C.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Buddy Walk, Uterine Fun, Back-to-School, Crazy Sum-Up

Well, at this point it may be too far past to share about our amazing Family Day out on a little farm in Southern Humboldt with new and old friends on Labor Day Weekend. The apple picking, the river, the barn, and home grown burgers.

And, perhaps a little too much time has elapsed to share about my thirtieth birthday party spent with our family. How I was honored at church not only for my birthday, but for the small ways in which I have served in the past (stepping back recently as I'm anticipating being a little bit busier!).

Oh, and Charlie started school, and though he loves it, he has been wiped out. Poor guy. So far he has managed to pick up a new virus about every other week. This most recent cough just lasts and lasts. Also, we are wondering if four full days in a row is too much, but we're going to wait it out a bit and see if things improve if he can stay well for a while. The big problem--besides him feeling run down with colds--is that he is really hard to live with when he is so worn out. I feel bad for him. He just can't keep it together during the week. Also, he is not napping on the bus as I had hoped he would. He has made some buddies on the bus and I hear plays peek-a-boo, and jokes and laughs the whole 1+ hour ride home. Anyway, that is what is happening with Big C.

Little C get's to do "home school" with mommy. He's 2. No need for academics yet. Not even close. But he has a 'need to be like brother'. So, we do a little "formal" home school time each day. He asks me to do it. So, we are doing little work books for two year olds, which focuses on tracing lines and doing simple mazes (think, fine motor skills building), identifying colors, following instructions, comparing pictures. We do that for about 5 minutes. Then we do a little project, write a letter to family, read a longer story (good "sitting still" practice), or go to the garden. I am hoping to very soon start taking a city bus ride to the town Library for story time. He would absolutely flip a lid for an opportunity to ride the bus.

Me, and the littlest Robinson continue to do well. I've had some uh, interesting days, with a uterus who is really eager to get things going. One day of many contractions, and a bit of worry. So glad to have super care with our home birth midwives who I can personally call and get sound advice. They helped me to get things calmed down with home treatment, and while I've had to watch it so as not to over-do things, that day so far seems to have been a fluke. I am resting tonight, though, because I am just achy. Achy and big, and at the very least I still have 4 weeks to go--9 at the most, and I'm thinking 'how am I going to do this?'.

I think the toughest part right now is child-wrangling. Calvin is very instruct-able. I can give him complex directions, and he will follow through. He has become a fairly well-trained child, I would say. Cheerful most of the time. I am so thankful. Charlie, well, I am beginning to see he understands way more than I was crediting him for, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us. In the mean-time, I am having a difficult time with caring for him in simple ways, like changing his diaper (he is a big guy!), helping him in and out of his car seat (he is getting better at this), or chasing after him when he decides to bolt (though, for a pregnant woman I think I can sprint pretty fast). I keep telling this baby he would be very welcome to come on the early side of normal, so please hang in there until 37 weeks, then by all means come. I need my body back.

Let's see. Almost caught up.

We had our Buddy Walk this weekend. Love the Buddy Walk. The kids had a fantastic time playing, and walking. You should have seen Charlie take off running with his daddy during the walk, high-stepping it and giggling the whole way. We got to visit with dear friends, and perhaps the most precious part was meeting a new little baby boy, red hair and all! He was the most darling little guy, just a year old (nearly), and such a blessing to meet. He has great parents who are Ray and I's age (So good to meet you M and T! Hope B's birthday is a super special day!). And wouldn't you know with all the excitement, I did not snap a single photo. Not that I could have shared it, with our computer memory issue and all (1GB seemed like sooooo much memory at the time we got this old machine).

Anyway, wow! It feels so good to blog this all out. And, despite the general lack of pics, we did manage to upload this silly family pic we took the other day. Here we are!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Update

Blogging is falling by the wayside just lately. I don't want to let is slide for too long, though. We've been busy--I've been busy. Charlie started school, Labor Day weekend fun, sick, sick, sick, Preterm Labor-ish moments, darling boys, and home school.

I've so many beautiful photos to share of our family times together, and a little computer that has no memory left to store them. We plan to purchase a new computer soon (we already to the external hard drive thing, and need a new computer simply because this one is wearing out). We plan to make that purchase in February, so we are limping along until then. We are trying to remedy the picture problem in the mean-time, but that project has taken a back seat to other things.

Anyway, will update soon, but am trying to get out the door at the moment. I need to get out, the boys are both ill today, so I am piling them in the stroller with some blankets and juice, and out we shall go! Even if my walks only last 30 minutes these days, limited by the size of my poor little squashed bladder!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just another Calvin-ism

Calvin: Where's our baby?

Mommy: Where do you think he is?

Calvin: He's in his belly-button house!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Big Wowzer

Daddy: I bet you can't eat this huge bite, Charlie... I bet your can't... Oh my gosh! Oh my!... Oh!...... Big Wowzer, Charlie! You ate that huge bite of beans!

Calvin: Where is Charlie's Big Wowzer?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Piracy, please, Mommy

Lately, when using the potty Calvin asks to be left alone. I taught him that he can politely ask for "privacy" in such cases. Well, he has done just that, and has begun to very politely indeed ask us for "Piracy" so he can use the toilet in peace and quiet.

He's the sweetest thing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Conversation with Daddy

While Daddy and Calvin are in the bathroom getting ready for bed:

Calvin: Where's my medicine?

Daddy: Huh? You don't take any medicine, Calvin. You are a very healthy boy.

Calvin: Oh! Well, sometimes I do.

Daddy: I suppose you are right. Do you take medicine when you don't feel well?

Calvin: (Very seriously nods head) Yeeessss.


It reminds me a bit of stories I have heard of Calvin's uncle Russ when he was a very young boy. Here is one scene that took place at a Chinese Restaurant when Russ was around Calvin's age:

Waitress brings little Russel a tea cup with out a handle.

Russ: I don't want a cup without a handle.

Kind waitress substitutes the cup for a tea cup with a handle.

Russ: (Pauses to contemplate the difference between the tea cups) Some do, some don't!


I don't know if everyone gets as big of a kick out of listening to two year olds philosophize... I could listen in on little conversations like these all day long. (And well, I do! Love my occupation. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Baby Update

Well, the kids are sleeping. The kitchen is clean, the laundry folded (I know, crazy, right?). And, I just learned via Facebook that Raymond, though finished with band practice, is engulfed in performing late night surgery on a Mellotron. Anyway, the house is quiet, and here I have some time for a baby update.

We had an appointment with our Home Birth midwives yesterday. Well, Raymond was working, so I went with the boys. Baby and Mommy are oh so healthy, and feeling so thankful. Allergy season is ending, and so for the first time since March I am feeling like a normal--although very round--person. Our baby--well, my belly anyway--is measuring exactly right on for this point in pregnancy. The heart rate was 136, so it seems this boy is taking after his mom on the low pulse. Maybe he will be a mellow boy. Mellow would be good.

Charlie and Calvin were so cute "helping" the midwives any way they could. They have the whole routine down, and know just what each "midwife tool" is for. They took turns listening to each others bellies with the fetoscope. Calvin did a good job measuring mama's tummy, and holding the watch for our dear midwife.

We are now to the third trimester, and although I am beginning to feel fairly third-trimester-ee (heartburn, not sleeping well, yet pretty tired at times, oh, and big), I am feeling so optimistic and excited. Gosh, the first months were such a journey--a time of feeling like life needed some readjusting and redefining. It seems all at once things are settling, and at least feeling much more "figure-out-able".

Charlie has somehow seemed to get some things figured out for himself, and caring for him no longer seems to be the daily mystery it was at the beginning of the summer. Or maybe, he and I together got some things figured out. But really, he seems a little more collected and calm and reasonable. Wouldn't you know Calvin is the one I am pulling my hair out over now. He is so 2. Sheesh. But we're getting things figured out in that department as well. A dear friend whom has given me encouragment in parenting just lately (thank you, Tracy) had had her son memorize Ephesians 6:1 as a two year old, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for it is right." I started teaching it to Calvin, and wouldn't you know a two year old can do it! His version goes something like this: "Children! Obey my mom and dad in the Lord, it's right! Ephesians! 6:1!" He likes to run across the room as he says each part, thus the exclamations.

Ray and I are feeling like we have a little more breathing room to be a couple and discuss things like "What DO we want to be when we grow up?" Or maybe a better question is "HOW do we want to be?" This new baby has caused us to think about these things a lot. Thank you, sweet baby.

And last, a name. We think we have one nailed down for this guy, but you are going to have to wait for that announcement. Ray believes a person needs to meet their child face to face before deciding for certain who that person is. But really, I think we already know this little person well enough to be confident about who he is. I would not have said that about our other boys who felt like little mysteries until a good time had lapsed after their birth, but for some reason, this little one already feels so familiar.

I will say, we jumped off the "C" boat for this one. Really, it is pure coincidence that Charlie and Calvin are both "C's". Charlie is a family name, and Calvin is literally named for the cartoon strip "Calvin and Hobbes." (We just liked it.) Naming this boy was a journey in itself. We have never not-known what we would name a child (goodness knows we have a row of little girl names all lined up ready to be used one day...), but this time we had to search and consider and ask ourselves about things like meaning and significance, oh, and how well a name could hold up to the two best names in all the world for which our other sons possess (wink). What we ended up with is a name that will remind us of this significant year in our marriage, and all that this darling baby jostled into action in our lives.

Well, I hear that old Toyota pulling into the driveway, so I'm going to sign off for now. (I want to hear about the Mellotron repair!) We are waiting with so much excitement for our new little guy to join us in October/November. Getting close!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life According to Calvin

Calvin. He's just, well, entertaining. Challenging, too, these days.



He has developed the art of negotiation:

Mommy: Calvin, it is time to get your pajamas on.

Calvin holds up all five fingers and with his most serious face says: Two more minutes.


Uh, I guess I can wait two more minutes.



His sense of logic and language is coming along nicely:

Calvin: What is this?

Mommy: It's a squash.

Calvin: Oh! It's for squishing!



He is testing every. single. boundary.

Mommy: Calvin, do you want to get into your car seat all by yourself, or would you like my help?

Calvin: By myself!

(A minute passes while I get Charlie buckled in.)

Mommy: Calvin, you need to get into your car seat.

Calvin: No! I'm driving, mommy.

Mommy: In three seconds I will help you get into your car seat. 1, 2, 3...

Magically he is in his seat by three.


When did I become the mom who counts to three?!



He's got his priorities. If he had them written out it might be something like this:

Play with trains. Run fast! Play with tools. Run fast! Use tools to fix trains. Stop to eat--or eat on the run. Play music. Run fast! Get hug. Tackle person giving hug. Run away. Play with large trucks...

You get the idea.


He is independent:

Calvin: No help me mommy! I do it all by myself!


He looks out for others:

Calvin: Its all good, Charlie. (While patting his upset brother on the back.)


He knows when he's crossed the line:

Mommy raises eyebrows at naughty boy.

Naughty boy says, "I have time out."



He is a sweety little boy who still asks for hugs and cuddles from his mommy... So long as it is his idea.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Family Vacation

im·promp·tu
adj.
1. Prompted by the occasion rather than being planned in advance: an impromptu party.


We arrived home last night after a lovely impromtu vacation to Truckee, California, the town in which I grew up.

The entire affair was allowed by the opportunity for Ray to attend a worship leaders conference in Sacramento for our North West Vineyard region. Add to that the 'blessing' of a day with no work scheduled for his Electician (day) job, and the warm invitation of family friends who opened their home to us in Truckee. Also, my family--my entire family, mom, dad, and little sister--happened to be in T-town the same weekend.

It was a dream. And, we needed it.

The thing that will always stand out to me about this vacation was how it seemed entirely ushered in on the wings of angels. Everything went right. Even the weather seemed to know just how warm was too warm, and that a bit of afternoon rain would hold the pine pollen at tolerable levels. A freight train was right on time as we unloaded in down town for breakfast. We were able to walk across the street to witness it pass by and enjoy the excitement of the event on the faces of our boys. The beach we returned to again and again had pine trees right up to the waters edge, so our north coast skin could avoid too much of the intense High Sierra UV rays. Our hosts who put us up for three nights have an amazingly baby proof home, toys for our kids to play with (they are grandparents), and hospitality to travelers that allowed us to truly let loose for the days we were there. Old friends happened to be passing through town during the same weekend, and also stayed with our gracious friends. There was encouragement and so much time to just feel care-free.

It was more than a vacation. We were ministered too.

For one heavenly weekend we forgot everything, or at least, we were able to think about, and pray for, direction without the pressure of our current lives pressing in on that process. I'm not sure we came home with any answers, but the call to wait with Hope and Assurance, and Eyes Wide Open.

Now back in the fog, we are trying to hang on to that bit of weightlessness and perspective as we continue to pray and renew our Hope daily.



Monday, July 19, 2010

Of Strollers and Things

We've been through our share of strollers.

Oh boy, have we.

When Charlie was born, my mother-in-law and her circle of friends got together to buy us an amazing BOB utility stroller. It has been a wonderful thing for us with all the walking I do.

I walk. For exercise. For peace of mind. It is like knitting, that repetitive motion, one foot after another, my mind clears and I feel like I can think. So a stroller is important to me. We still have that BOB stroller, and will until Charlie passes the weight limit for it, which is a whopping 70 lbs.

When Calvin was on the way, my friends all went in on a great double stroller that I hand picked. It seemed like the perfect thing. It was a one in front of the other stroller, and for taking to the mall it worked great. Trouble is, you rarely find me in the mall. I am usually walking around town or the pastures near our house, and the double was hard to manage. Then Charlie outgrew it. And we let it go.

Next was a bike trailer that could also be used as a stroller. We bought it second hand. This one would hold the kids for some time. It was better for walking. Trouble with this one was the kids sit next to each other with nothing in between them. Charlie has keeping to himself issues. He is very loving, just huge and over loving. I had to stop my walk every couple minutes to pull big lovey brother off little Calvin and re-situate them both. And, as Emperor Cuzco says in Disney's Emperors New Groove, "Um, he threw off my groove!" We off loaded that one in our garage sale last weekend.

At the beginning of summer I knew I would need something to take both kids in so they would a) not pummel each other while I walked, and b) both fit in so I could take a walk in the first place. I looked at many models and read reviews. I decided against a double jogging stroller because, well, they are SO expensive. I chose in stead a model where one child sits in front, and the older child either stands on a platform in back, or sits on a little bench. It was inexpensive, and a good idea.

Sigh. It works okay. Again, it would be great in the mall or Disneyland, but I needed something that could handle rough roads, meandering sidewalks, and dirt trails. Also, it turns out when all that is holding Charlie in is a lap belt on a bench seat, his little flexible body can maneuver into brothers space just as easy. Sigh. That one is parked in the shed, ready for craigslist.

Fast forward to this morning when what should pop up on Craigslist, but the very stroller I passed up because of it's expense. I called praying this would be the one for us. I was answered by a woman who was so happy that I had called, almost relieved. She said when she posted the add last night she prayed someone would wake her up wanting to buy the thing. Well, I would have done that had I called her when I saw the add, but I restrained myself! Her family is moving and could use the extra cash for all the expenses that moving involves. That, and who wants a huge stroller hanging out in the garage when one is finished needing it. She is so glad to sell it to us, and she wants to drive it an hour to deliver it to me... today, if I want it. YES! I WANT IT!

Gosh, I am so blessed. Blessed that I could bless her and she me, all at one time. The enormous BOB Duallie stroller is now easily stashed in the trunk of my car. I already took Calvin for a walk in it, and can't wait to show Charlie what we have for him as well. The ride was amazing--did great over all the bumpy roads and curbs, it fit through the door of the coffee shop down the road, and it folded up small enough to fit in the trunk easily. I can't believe our incredible blessing this morning.

Wouldn't you know how God works that this second-hand stroller cost me just as much extra that we had already budgeted for large baby expenses--we will still have enough to finish paying our midwives by our due date and buy the home birth supply kit we need... exactly enough. And where a new stroller would not come with a wonderful story of two families being blessed at once, this one will always remind me that if I am willing to wait for God's provision, He does so, more perfectly than when I try to fend for myself.

P.S. This blog has a serious lack of recent photos because our poor little computer is out of memory. No one tells you when you become a parent that you need a computer with a humongous memory for all the photos you will take. Well, we are in the middle of a big project to archive our photos onto an external hard drive, and also onto disk. When that is done we can clear some space and upload all the photos on our camera, which could include, say, a photo of our beautiful "new" stroller with happy boys in it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An Update to the Previous Post

Just an update from this sad and sulky post.

I "put on my big girl panties"--as one friend puts it--and loaded the car and the kids and headed for the river. Unfortunately, our time line turned bad with traffic (there is hardly ever traffic here, but wouldn't you know there was today), plus needing to be back in time to clean the house for Bible Study (which is now canceled because my eyes are all swelled up with allergies and I can't stop leaking snot all over the place). Anyway, I ended up turning around and coming back home--which broke Calvin's heart (and then mine, too). (Dustin, if you see this, Calvin was talking about you and hoping that you would be at the river. I think he likes you well enough!) I made a valiant effort, though, and it is a step. A big girl step.

You know, I can't imagine Charlie any other way. He is who he is, and it sure would be weird if he were not. (So there!) And really, life is not a crazy as it felt like it was earlier today. (Ah, pregnancy!)

I think at this point it is an energy thing. I am worn out. Charlie takes lots of energy--mental, emotional, physical--to parent. It is summer. He is home most days, and I am just really tired. Tired of being at a loss of how to manage him. He is both sweet as sweet as can be, and also stubborn and on a different wave length and hard to understand. Today was a hard day for him. Certain noises were sending him over the edge. He was feeling extra possessive of his "collection" (every day he gathers up a bunch of toys and places them carefully on the futon on some other place in the living room. We call it his "collection" because he becomes very possessive of the toys for the day and will play with them almost exclusively), yet Calvin really wanted to play with the monster truck Charlie was hoarding. It was disaster at times. He chewed his poor hands all day, and a few match box cars. Almost chewed up my stitch counter, but I caught him in time. It was just rough. He didn't even want to hug me goodnight, which is rare. Maybe he is not feeling well. I hope tomorrow is better.

And I hope tomorrow is better for mama, too. I was over emotional. I was resentful of him, and he certainly does not deserve that. God calls us to a level of compassion that the world does not know, or does not willingly bend too. I am blessed to everyday have the chance to so easily give tender compassion to a person who needs me so deeply. I think the part that I resent is not Charlie, it is not Down Syndrome. What I resent is the part where Down Syndrome knocks me off kilter and makes me feel like I don't have it all together, you know, as a mom. It is humbling. So, sometimes it hurts. But, really, this is in the realm of deep, deep blessing.

Well, I hear my boy fussing about something in his room, so I will sign off and go snuggle with him for a while. I think after today we both need that.

Missing Some Normal

If I write about this a lot, it is because this is a process for me. Charlie develops by inches and half-inches, not by stepping stones and stages. My development as Charlie's mom also goes by inches. Together we inch along. And a lot of times, it isn't easy.

This past several months has been hard. Charlie, somewhere along the line, became a two-year-old in his world view. This is good. He is inching along. But, being 2 is frustrating at times. Compound that with having many skills that are not up to 2-year-old level (motor skills, communication skills, self care skills) and you end up with a boy who is sometimes over the edge with frustration. Add to that little idiosyncrasies like sensory integration differences that make life a little unpredictable. Add to that the fact that this boy is not two-year-old size. He is more like three year old size. A hefty, floppy three year old. Oh, and one more thing, a pregnant mommy who is feeling pretty worn down.

It's been a challenge. And, I find myself once again at that place where I have to become okay with Down Syndrome. I can't say I am actually totally there. But I realize I am at that place. And, I'm working on it.

You see, all the above mentioned factors are making for a life far from normal these days--especially during the summer when we are supposed to have free time to do things like go to the park or beach.

I've had an incredibly hard day today because, well, I'm a little bitter about something. You see, I've been invited to meet up with friends at a river spot. My one problem, Charlie. I don't know if I can go because I don't know if I will be able to handle him alone. What if he runs off as he is prone to do? What if he decides he is overwhelmed and will not walk on his own. I can't carry him anymore. I can't simultaneously contain Charlie and all his emotions and subsequent actions, and supervise my two-year-old son, who although very independent and amazingly compliant, is still just two, with two-year-old impulses and two-year-old common sense.

I want to see my friends, to get out of the house, but when I have Charlie with me, that means needing safety and options and easy access and an extra set of hands. And well, it is things like this that make me look at "typical" four year old boys and imagine all the "normal" I am missing out on. Ya, I feel a little sorry for myself, I guess.

It is hard to say, or hard to describe. I love my boy. I love him just as he is. I often say every household should have this gift--this gift of Special Needs. It is wonderful. But, it is sometimes really hard, and often requires energy and courage that you just don't feel like finding some days.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Potty Training Progress

Well, we have had some real potty training progress in our house! It is unexpected and such a wonderful encouragement to, well, to ME!

Calvin peed in the potty at his little school on Thursday, and stayed dry the rest of the time. I have been working with Calvin from time to time to determine if he is ready to start. So far we had had no success. He is such a bright little guy, and I had the feeling that if he could just have a little bit of success that he would really take off with potty training. Well, when his teacher told me he peed in the potty, I had a feeling that was just the success that he needed to begin the process. I was right!

We started making trips to the potty that afternoon and evening, and he did it again. The next day he went in the potty three time, using his diaper only twice. On Saturday he went many times--had a couple accidents too--but he became very efficient. We took him to the potty and he knew just what to do, did it, and was done. Today has also been a great potty training day. He only went two times in his diaper.

This is such unexpected success. I am very happy. I was going to wait until Charlie started school in the fall to start working with Calvin again. And now, it looks like we have a big head start! I will be thrilled if we can get Calvin to a point where he is minimally dependent on mommy to change diapers by the time our baby arrives. I really would like to keep the number of children in diapers to two in our household.

Also on the bright side, and as I predicted would happen, Charlie has taken more interest and initiative in his own potty training saga now that brother has started. Charlie has been willing, even desiring, to sit on the potty more, and has had quite a few successes himself over the past couple days. Trouble with Charlie is he does not have near the bladder control as Calvin, and I think he just does not have as big of a grasp on the sensations of potty learning as little brother. Really, though, he is more interested and has been a great cheerleader for Calvin. They cheer each other on, and help to give each other treats for their success.

You know, after months and months of working on pottying with Charlie I must say I had begun to think maybe I was going about it wrong. As usual, when Calvin hits a new developmental stage I realize how normal Charlie's development is, just it is in super-duper slow-mo, so hard to gauge. And, while Calvin is having so much success, I feel like I am having success as well. It is real encouragement to me to keep working with Charlie. I really do think we are on the right track, it is just going to take a long, long time.

Anyway, praying that Calvin will soon figure out how to do number 2 in that potty, and how to 'hold it' while he sleeps. Also we need to get those fine motor skills up to snuff so he can pull his own pants up and down. Seems he is much more concerned with how high he can jump, and less about how well he can dress himself. Also, he has yet to take initiative to tell us he needs to go. Tips anyone?
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