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
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