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).


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?
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