Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Family Vacation

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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