Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To Our Friends at Christmas

Dear Friends, Family, Guests,

I would have hated to get a Christmas blog up on time, lest you begin to think that I'm on it.

A Christmas letter is such a satisfying thing to write, but regular ol' family life has really kept me running all December long.  Let's see... There were two different incidents of stomach flu early in the month, then my parents came to town in time for Ray and I to get it.  We were practically in a coma for a whole day, I think, which may have had to do with the fact that we couldn't stomach coffee at the time.  Um.  So...

A Snowman!
Then Charlie came down with my least favorite childhood illness.  Oh, how I  abhor HSV-1.  HSV-1, oral herpes, is the virus that folks get that eventually causes cold sores.  Google assures me that 90% of the population carries the virus, while only 60% who get it actually go through the initial illness that involves high fever for a few days, then blisters appear.  And not just a cold sore here or there, but blisters on the tongue, the gums, the throat, the face.  It is terrible.  You may remember Calvin came down with this the week Miles was born.  (Shudder)

He fell asleep just like this, while playing with his animal friends.

Well, Charlie weathered it very well.  A high pain tolerance is a feature common in folks who have Down syndrome, and I'll tell you what, for better or worse it really works for him sometimes.  He had one really painful day, and after that was only expressing pain when he needed to eat.  Still, he found things that worked okay, and marched on.  He felt pretty lousy the whole time, though, pain or not.

Indiscriminate cartoon watching ensued.
Then Miles came down with it.  You guys, he did not take it so well.  It it going rough.  First, there were the fevers.  HSV-1 can cause high fevers.  Combine that with the fact that Miles little body has a history of letting fevers go very high meant that we made a few trips to the bathtub in the last weeks.  The highest we saw was 105.5 F, which was alarming and not all in the same breath.  This kid really knows how to party.  Then the blisters came, and he couldn't eat. Thank goodness for gatorade, his constant companion.  Now the blisters are healing, but his gums and lips keep swelling up and bleeding.  This poor guy cannot catch a break.

Calvin is one healthy boy. Here he is, beaming with pride at his Christmas school performance.
I appreciate his patience and concern for his brothers these last couple weeks.

You know, Christmas is a rough time for difficult things to happen, but I'll tell you what, of all the hard things people experience at Christmas time, I'll take normal childhood illness any time.  It's been a strenuous few weeks, and Christmas packages and letters did not get out on time, but we're okay.  We were still together as a family.  My parents came to visit, and willingly helped with household duties.  We had a wonderful time with our family that dropped in on Christmas.  Charlie, thankfully, had a pretty light case and is doing fabulous now.  And Miles, well, he is still in it, but I have had the privilege of cuddling that sweetie to sleep every night--all night long--which is totally exhausting, but very special for a mama to do.  We'll count our blessings.

I'm thinking, next Christmas, Miles will not fit so perfectly under the mantle.
I hope your Christmas was wonderful.  Miles and I have had a lot of chats about Jesus this winter break.  He is trying to wrap his mind around all of it, and mostly coming up blank.  He is very deeply mystified, but he understands Jesus' actions and purpose:  Love and redemption.  Indiscriminate love that would hold you through the night while you cried, even if he was tired, even if your breath stunk like oral herpes, if you were good or bad, easy or difficult, he loves unendingly.  He will love you right into his arms.  He loves you until you are well.  He walks with you your whole life long.  He's gotcha.  Our boys know that we celebrate the initiation of this love and redemtion on earth at Christmas time.  We celebrate that He came.

So, "Very Christmas" Friends!  (As Charlie has been saying.)  I hope, in whatever you've been up to these couple weeks, you have had a chance to experience Jesus love for you, just as you are, in whatever state you are in.

And Happy New Year!  May it be our best yet.


Kim, Ray, Charlie, Calvin, and Miles

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Charlie Does

Charlie is a busy guy.  When Calvin and Miles talk, it's like a little window that opens up and lets me into their world for a moment.  But for Charlie, it is what he does.  Charlie is, by far, our most imaginative, creative son.  He is constantly creating and pretending.  Each of my kids have qualities that remind me of myself when I was a child.  With Charlie it is this unending flow of ideas, and the impulse to bring them to life.

When Charlie was about 3 or 4 he started making "collections".  He would gather an assortment of items, and arrange them, or sometimes carry them in a bag.  We thought of it as a phase at first, but as the years pass, this collecting has evolved into an art.  It often has themes, or serves a purpose in a game he is playing, or simply exists to add a certain asthetic to Charlie's life for that moment.  He gets a lot of satisfaction from this activity.  He arranges, steps back to examine, moves back in and re-arranges until his eye sees perfection.  He is proud of his creations, and will come get us to show us his finished installation. 

Over the past year or so I have snapped photos of some of Charlie's creations.  All of these are Charlie's sole works, inspired, built, and completed all on his own, with no help or hindrance from mom or dad.  Charlie utilizes materials scavenged from his day to day life.  And yes, he really does name them.

This one is called "House", and was created with moving boxes.

This creation uses common household items, and is called "Lemonade Stand".

A sculpture made from the ordinary play things of childhood.  Aptly titled "Monster Trucks".

This is a wearable installation consisting of cowboy boots, two baseball mitts, and sound dampening ear muffs.  Untitled.

This one is a pile of squash and melons arranged beside the grandfather clock.  The original installation also included two beer bottles (promptly recycled before it could be photographed) and was titled "Breakfast".

Sometimes Charlie uses materials he finds in the natural environment.  Here he works on a wall made from stones from a creek bed in Truckee, California.

This is an arrangement of food representing a nutritious snack, aptly named "Snack Time".

This sculpture involved precision, balance, and variety.  It is called "Garbage Truck", and seems to represent the temporary nature of "things".

This is Charlie's most recent creation, which he whipped up while we were visiting family over Thanksgiving.  It is titled, "Christmas", and represents the importance of play-things in the life of a child.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miles and Miles...

This post is about a boy who had a birthday last month.

A birthday duly celebrated, and yet unrecognized on the family blog.

No longer, my dear, sweet 3rd born son.  We will recognize you today.  But then, there has not been a day in your 3 years that you have known me to be a Mommy who has it together.

Oh no, my sweet darling Miles, you are the one who pushed me straight over backwards.

And how wonderful it is, life with you and your brothers, always behind on things, always dropping the ball.  Laughing and laughing and feeling oh so irreverant about life.

You.  The boy we named for the journey we are on.

Happy Birthday, plus 17 days, my son.

Miles, you were just who we needed when you came into our lives.

You were a snuggler and a mama's boy from those first fretful moments you were placed into my arms.  In a cold hospital nursery I sang to and nursed a very frantic baby boy--a boy who couldn't seem to find his breath.  A boy with a broken bone from a rough passage.  It was 4am, and text messages were going out to family asking for prayer for you to be well.  I felt as if I rescued you right then as you miraculously settled.  You began to breath deeply, and find peace to keep going.  I felt redeemed--my body seemed to want to do us in during your birth, but was now giving you life and safety.  I think, right there in that strange place, we both decided we could be okay if we had each other near. 

Baby, I've been holding on to you ever since.

Miles, you are three now.  This has meant a few things this year.

You talk!  I thought you would take your time, hardly uttering a word before your second birthday.  But the words came in a flood, and people say things of you like, "Wow, he is really articulate" and "I can't believe how well he speaks."  But you know what I think of that, Miles?  I am simply grateful to know what is on your mind.  You have a lovely, silly view of the world.  I'm so glad you are able to spell this out for me so I can understand despite my grown-up ways.

You are so brave and spunky and wild.  Gone is Mellow Miles and the boy who used to hide behind my knee.  You meet your world with such confidence.  I love to watch you.  You know just when to crack a joke, stick up for yourself, or let something slide to promote peace.  You also know how to skillfully push my buttons, and how to throw a wild and effective tantrum just to help me grow in patience.  Really, boy, you are an instrument in God's hands, I'm convinced.  But I'm thankful, Miles.  I will take all of it and be glad for you.

To top it off, you love me in my language.  You love me with your tender, scratchy little words, "Mommy, I wuv you."  You tell me so often.  You pat my cheeks, and you hug my neck.  Buddy, you're the whole package: stereotypical toddler with all the emotional baggage that comes with a prefrontal cortex that is still, how should we say, "in process".  And at the same time you are darling.  Completely endearing and cute and funny and genius.  You are fun. 

We are so happy to witness your life, to guide it and shape it.  We are so blessed to have you as our son, Miles.  Miles Benjamin.

Happy Birthday, baby.  May your sweetest dreams come true for you this year.  And... may you finally begin to understand the space-time continuum so your life is a little less frustrating.

We love you, Miles.

Mom and Dad

Saturday, October 26, 2013

On the sick bed.

I spent a good deal of the morning working on a knitting project and watching Toy Story with this sweet boy.  He's not feeling very well this weekend.

I can remember the way my parents took care of me when I was sick.

For my sister and I, being sick meant snuggling up on the couch.  It meant videos from the rental store.  It meant soup, and orange juice, and Mom or Dad all to yourself. 

For my kids, illness means being tucked into mom and dad's bed for the day.  It means books, netflix, naps, and lots of tea with honey.  It means everything stops--as much as we can make it stop--and quiet, close moments follow.

 As much as being sick is, you know, the worst, there is something about the ritual of care  during an illness that is at times a welcome pause.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In case you were wondering.

I feel like there is something you should know about me. 

I'm not graceful.  I struggle a lot.  And when I do, there's a lot more thrashing than there is grace or integrity or courage.  Really.

I say this because this blog--the pictures and stories--sometimes they come off as seeming like 'a beautiful family' and 'an amazing mommy'.  I get compliments from folks who read along.  And I'm ever so grateful, you guys.  Very blessed by you.  But the truth is, my life is messy: 

I've always felt like I should be on the path to somewhere, but mostly I spin in circles, revisiting ideas and passions that never go anywhere.  I get lost.  I forget things like 'one foot in front of the other' and 'fall down seven times, stand up eight'.  I'm not as far in life as I could be.

I make a good deal of decisions based on fear, and then have to back-track, which is embarrassing.  I drop the ball a lot, too, which is also very embarrassing, and frustrating.  I've mastered the art of being witty and likeable when asking politely for a do-over. 

I love my life--3 kids, 10 years married to my very best friend--ya, I absolutely love it.  Still, in the face of so much blessing, I fall apart a lot.  I fall apart in front of my children, and I'm pretty sure I'm a hand-full of a spouse.  I've become quite proficient in apologies and asking forgiveness without delay. 

But I think all of this is sort of the point of Charlie's Up To, you know?  I mean, if there is a message here, a theme that comes up again and again on this little internet space,  it's that life can be hard or different or not-what-you-thought-you-were-capable-of, and still be good.  I'm just a woman with regular challenges, normal intelligence, average resources, and I'm not graceful at all, yet here I am, falling down over the speed bumps, and still finding joy.

Being a mother bends you.  If ever you were a tree who grew straight and decisively skyward, now you are a willow.  Now you bend, you sway.  You loose stature, but give more shade.  My point is, I didn't get here on a painless path, and I don't handle life's trials with a lot of grace or decorum.  And though my words and stories are reflections of the admiration I have of my children and the joy they bring to me, behind the words there is a tangled, messy life that isn't always a lot to look at, but I would never change.

Just so you know.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Death is consuming a corner of my garden.

The last crops of the summer season--the corn, sunflowers, beans, the gourds and squash--give that final, valiant push for the harvest.  Their energy singularly focused on the purpose of their labor and existence. 

They are literally killing themselves for the sake of the fruit.  The seed.

A month ago this patch stood tall and green, and we all watched it with an inspired sense of it's potential.  Now, with the change of the season, that potential is realized in a  bounty of crops, but the garden herself... 

She's mangled.  She's spent.  Sunflowers bow low beneath the weight of their massive heads.  Squash vines march across the lawn as if lost and wandering.  She's a wreck.

I find myself empathetic with this active passing.  One corn stalk now grows vertical to the ground, the last ear of corn nearly ready.  I whisper, You are so close.  Don't give up now.

The sunflowers are propped up on bits of fence and random garden objects.  One now leans solidly on a neighboring tree.  Where would they be without the things that literally keep their faces out of the mud?  I know how you feel, I tell them.

I want to high five that garden every time I walk past her.  I speak to her tenderly because I know she needs that right now.  I do what I can to help her keep going until her work is finished.

And when it's over--when the last of her harvest is plucked and gone--she will stop.
She will lay herself down in the soil.  and rest.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Big Guy!

Did I tell you 'Big Guy' started preschool?

Well, he did!

He feels pretty great about it.  This 'Mellow Miles', our shy little cuddle bug baby who just decided to be big this year.  And by big we mean confident.  Outgoing.  Talkative. Walk into a room and own it.

These Robinson boys blow us away with their wonderful awesomeness and knack for developmental surprises.  I don't get it.  If it's good and it's coming from my kid, I assure you I don't know how it got there, but I'm just as struck as you.  If it's something naughty, well, they could at least change their tone of voice to not sound so much like mine.  No, I'm kidding (a little bit).  I'm just trying to say, wow.  I love these guys.  Daily I watch them unfold into these people that I not only love, but I really like.  And I'm proud of them--all of them--from big brother Charlie, to Mr. Mastermind Calvin David, right down to our sweet baby Miles.  Not so much a baby anymore.  But don't tell him, k?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Did you ever have a friend?

Did you ever have a friend who  just "got" you?

Friendships are an investment in learning about one another.
 But maybe you are a complicated person. 
Friendships require understanding and compassion.
But maybe you need a lot of explaining.

Friendships may be built around shared interests.
But maybe your experience isn't typical.  

The best friendships help you to know that
you are not alone. 

Part 2:
These pictures are from our Buddy Walk last Saturday.  Pictured is Charlie and his BFF, "B", and also me and B's mom--one of my very best friends.  

Charlie and B... They both have developing friendships with classmates, which is valuable and wonderful and... can take a lot of mediation and energy to sustain.  You see, they have good days and bad days, these two--days where they are keeping it together like their 1st grade peers, and days where they roar like a dinosaur when they actually meant "hello" or "thanks for the present" or "please give me space".  But to each other?  No explanaition needed--they get that about each other.  They are each other's "safe" person whether their worlds are making sense or not.  Do we not all need a friend like this? 

 And B's mom?  Well... she's my safe person, too.  She rescues me with extra trash bags and wipes in the school parking lot (or at church) when things go south quickly, and she understands exactly what I mean when I say, "This is all so hard.  I don't know how I am doing this or how I will go on.  But I'm so glad for it.  I don't want anything else."

If there is one thing the Buddy Walk makes me feel every year it is Thankfulness, and the feeling that not only am I not alone, but I've gained a family I never knew I wanted to have.  All this Down syndrome stuff.  It's kind of a big deal.  

It's hard.  It's special.  Difficult and wonderful.  And it's all wrapped up together with a community of people on the same inspiring ride together.   It really is a blessing. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What makes me happy on my birthday? This Does.

Last week we were headed up to Auntie Kassi's ranch where we sometimes go swimming in the creek.  The boys wanted to know if we could go swimming that day, and we told them no, the creek was too shallow now.  Miles was trying to figure out what "shallow" meant, so Calvin explained, "Miles, 'shallow' just means there is not as much water.  Kind of like.... shorter than a mountain, but higher than a rat or a mouse."

Well, that solves it!

New coat rack the boys helped make.

On our vacation to Truckee, we were gathered around with some close family friends, and Cathy, our friend, was teaching Calvin how to count to ten in French.  Calvin was repeating after Cathy, "un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six," when Charlie burst into the group to add, "Fee Fi Fo Fum!"

Sounded like that to me, too, Charlie. :)

Ranch dogs make good friends.

Calvin, Miles, and I were reading a book about the human body.  We were in the section about digestion, just finishing up what happens in the small intestines.

Mom: Once the food is finished traveling through the small intestines, then it enters... where?

Calvin:  It goes into the large intestine...  And that's where the magic happens!

Mom: What do you mean?

Calvin:  The leftover food is transformed into poop!

Voila!  Magic!

He's trying to close his eyes.  He looks like this when he prays, too.

A few from Miles:

1. He calls himself "Big Guy."

2.  He starts most sentences with the word "even", as in "Even I like to play trucks," or "Even we went to the store."

3.  When called upon to give a reason for something, he often uses one of these go-to answers:  "because I'm Big Guy," or "because I like green."

"Miles, go to bed."  "Why?"  "Because I'm Big Mom!"

He's pretending he's a short little corn stalk to show off our big tall corn.

The other day we were playing in the yard.  Charlie was taking a turn kicking a ball and was saying, "Watch me now!  Watch me now!"  In Charlie's imperfect annunciation it sounded more like, "Watch knee how!"  Anyway, Calvin looks at me very earnestly (as only he can) and says, "Mom, what Charlie is saying is 'Watch me now', even though it sounds like he is saying 'Ni Hao'.  What he really is trying to tell you, mom, is he wants you to watch him, even though it might sound like he is saying 'Hello' in Chinese."

Ohhhh.... I was so confused.

And last but not least, a conversation between our left brained realist, and our right brained dreamer:

Calvin: Charlie, will you play with me?

Charlie: No.  I'm going to the moon.

Calvin: You can't go to the moon, Charlie.  You don't have enough money to buy a rocket ship.

Charlie: I have coins.

Calvin: How many?

Charlie: One.

Calvin: You can't buy a rocket ship with one coin. You need at least 200 coins to buy a rocket ship, Charlie.

Charlie: But it's reeaaalllllly big! (Demonstrates size of large coin with his arms.) Bye, Calvin! (Blasts off.)

Calvin: Mom, Charlie can't play with me 'cause he went to the moon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

They see each other at lunch time

We have a couple brothers who started Elementary school last week!  Charlie is now in 1st grade, and Calvin is in Kindergarten.  What big stuff!

They each had a great week.  Calvin is in a K/1st combo class, which along with the new "transitional Kindergarten" year for many students, means he is familiar with many of the students in his class from Charlie's Kindergarten year last year.  Cal is a guy always rearing to go, and has had a great time so far, with a few small adjustments and warm ups.  He told me after the first week that he played in the sandbox at every recess because "I just think three classes of Kindergarten is too much on the playground."  I was flabbergasted to hear Calvin having any issues with anything at all (however small it was), but suggested he find a boy he knows from last year, and tag along with him.  He did that on Monday and was so, SO proud to tell me he had a great time on the playground playing with his friends.

Charlie is in his special day class for most of the day this year.  We are pleased with this change for him as his academic learning most definitely needs focused attention on his part--much easier to do in a smaller class with even smaller work groups.  And really, much more emotionally comfortable for him as the introvert that he is.  He spends the last couple hours of the day with a mainstream class, and is doing just wonderful in there as well.  His classmates are glad to have him back, and most important, he feels very comfortable at school this year.  He feels confident. 

At the end of his first day I asked Calvin what his highlights and disappointments were about the day.  He couldn't think of any disappointments, but he said, "My favorite part was seeing Charlie in the cafeteria at lunch time!"  In fact, it is a daily highlight for these brothers who wave and hug in the hallway, and who share many of the same buddies being just one grade apart. 

When we were making the decision about what to do for Calvin for school (choices, choices!), we ended up making the decision to make school a family affair.  There are so many neat schools and home school groups in our community we could have chosen from, but our reality is that big brother Charlie benefits very much from his educational placement in our local public elementary school.  Our reality is that our local public elementary school is a really fantastic school that, in my opinion, is under appreciated in the community.  And our reality is, we have an opportunity as a family to add great value to this little school as we invest in it with our efforts, presence, and prayers.  We have not yet had a chance to have a physical presence in the school beyond the fabulous addition of two energetic, curious, brave-hearted boys, but I hope very much to volunteer in the boys' classes very soon with the scrap of spare time I now have on my hands (more on that later).  In the mean time, I am just so thankful for a new school year that is beginning so very positively.  I'm prayerful about the challenges we will face as our guys learn how to make good choices in their lives, as they learn how to love their neighbors and respect their elders, and work hard at the blessing of an education.  It is going to be an exciting year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Summer Vacation

And just like that, summer has come and gone.
Wow.  How did that happen?!

Oh, I know how.  Three wildly energetic boys soaking up life in the sunniest summer we've ever experienced.  Hardly a minute or a second to blog about it.  Well, there may have been some minutes, but I'm pretty sure I spent them laying on the deck in the hot, welcome sun.

Summer was good this year.  Typically summer break is a time where we sort of feel our limitations more acutely than at other times.  The reality of our oldest sibling having a developmental level about half his age, combine with the young age of all three of the kids, has meant turning down invitations to do things, or else failing miserably if I tried. 

This year the gang just seemed to reach a stage where things started to be possible for us.  Miles is more boy than baby.  Our big brother Charlie is getting some real maturity and self control to him, which means words like "park" and "river day" and "grocery store" do not automatically raise my blood pressure anymore.   And maybe I am getting better at the mom-thing, too (I may have sprouted another arm or eyeball somewhere?).

This summer, we actually did summer time things.  It was a lot of work.  It wore me out, really, but it felt like, I don't know...  It felt normal.  And the kids had a great time.

We went to my home town of Truckee, and we visited Uncle Russ and Auntie Renee in Reno.

Nana and her boys at my childhood hang-out.  

We spent some weekends at Autie Kassi and Uncle Ryan's ranch.

Harvey's race car getting repaired in the barn.  Always a highlight of going to the ranch.
Calvin telling Uncle Ryan everything there is to know about life.
Quad rides!  "We saw baby horses!" he says.

We didn't actually go to the river, but we did go to the beach!  And it was sunny!

We went to the races.

We spent a lot of time running through sprinklers, and doing "cannon balls" into a rubbermaid bin of water.

We had a HUGE garden, and daily snacked on snap peas and raspberries right off the vines (and whatever else was ready for pickin').

We hung out with our dog.

We also read a ton of books, let all necessary projects fall by the wayside, got a little tan (unheard of on this foggy coast!), went to the park a bunch, and thoroughly neglected a blog.

It was exhausting, I tell you!  But it was also very good.  So good that I don't think I'm afraid of summer anymore, or being alone with my boys on who-knows-what adventure.  Maybe even warming up to road trips.  (I know, right?)

And now, school is in session.  Charlie in 1st grade and Calvin in Kindergarten, and little Miles is doing a preschool program just a couple hours a day--a perfectly delightful playtime for a vivacious little boy loving the idea of being "big".  Me and Buster hang out in a quiet house for a couple hours every morning, ticking things off a to-do list that grew much too long, and giving our senses a rest from a baffling level of activity.

I love those boys.  I love their energy.  I love everything that they are about.

And that is it!  My Summer Vacation.
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