Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Day(s)!

Do you know what happened this week?

This happened...

And this...

And this...
And this...
And yes, if you're paying attention, Roo is wearing 2 different shirts in these pics. My big kids actually started school yesterday, but Roo's first day was today. I still wanted to get a pic of the three of them together, though, because it's just so darn cute with all three of them there.
And then, because they continue to be so cute, I have to share some more photos with you.

He loves his big sister!

One year we'll get one with ALL FIVE of us smiling at once. I refuse to believe otherwise.

Me: "Roo, say 'Cheese!'"
He's a stinker.
 Singing "Old MacDonald" with Papa
Time for the bus...

And they're off!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Heart to heart

We had a serious talk this week as a family. I was sharing some parts of my story with my kiddos, trying to figure out how to explain without oversharing, wondering what they were ready to hear, wanting to make sure they had a clear picture without, well, trauma.

At the end, I took a deep breath and asked, "OK, guys. Do you have any questions?"


Monkey looked up at me and said, "Well... Mommy?"

Half-glad and half-nervous, I said, "Yeah, Baby?"

"Can I take skateboarding lessons?"

Oh. I guess they're handling it OK.

Monday, August 11, 2014

And then there were sirens...

File this under "Strange but True":

On Thursday I took the kiddos to the grocery store. Just a quick pre-vacation trip to grab some snacks for the plane. In and out. No biggie.

About three-quarters of the way through, Roo got a little fussy. I asked him what was wrong. And he ANSWERED ME, "I stuck." I looked down, and he had shoved his heel between the bars of the cart and couldn't get it out.

Those of you who have a child with Down's may understand how amazing this little exchange was. Roo isn't great at understanding questions and knowing how to answer them. I also had no idea that he knew the word "stuck." While I felt bad that he was uncomfortable, I was ASTOUNDED that he had been able to communicate so effectively. And I was able to just pull his foot out of the bars easily, so all-in-all it was a pretty positive outcome.

Until we got to the parking lot.

The big kids hopped in the van while I threw our couple of bags into the back. Then I picked Roo up to get him out of the cart... and he didn't come. Sure enough, he had shoved his foot back between the bars again. Only this time, it wasn't coming out. I pulled and pushed and wiggled and massaged it, but it was stuck.

I called the big kids out of the van, and we walked back up to the sidewalk. I don't know why exactly, I guess just so that I wasn't standing in the middle of the parking lot while I worked on his foot. I was trying to be calm--he didn't seem to be hurting, and it's not like it was his head or anything--but honestly, it was a little scary.

A kind, sweet gentleman who regularly bags our groceries was outside, doing something with the carts. Let's call him Milton. He came over to try to help. Then a man going into the store with his elderly mother stopped to help. They tried to pull the bars apart enough to disengage the foot. No luck.

Then the man who had stopped with his mother said, "Oh there's a cop, maybe he can help." I looked up, and a sheriff's deputy, who just happens to be the husband of a friend of mine, was walking toward us. He just happened to be heading to the store. It was so nice to see a friendly face! He, too, tried to pull the bars apart before heading back to his truck to see if he had any tools that would help.

More customers stopped.

More employees came out.

Before I really knew what happened, we had attracted quite a crowd.

Roo, who normally loves attention, was not amused by this whole situation. I don't think having his foot stuck was especially bothering him. He just didn't like that everyone was tugging on it and messing with him.

Someone suggested putting butter or oil on it. Milton went in to get it. Someone else suggested calling the fire department.

Then Milton came back out... with maple syrup. Bless his heart. A lady said, "I think I'd put oil on that before I'd use syrup."

Poor, sweet, discombobulated Milton cried out, "I couldn't find any!"

He couldn't find any oil. In the grocery store. Bless. He was so panicked.

A cashier who had come out then went back in to call the fire department. A minute later, the store manager came out with a big ol' jug of vegetable oil, and right there at the front door to Giant Eagle, my son had his foot anointed.

There was pouring and rubbing and readjusting... and then it was OUT! There might have been applause. Maybe it was just me.

Instantly--and I mean INSTANTLY--Roo's fussing and crying stopped. He smiled, looked at his rescuer, and said, "Thank you. Bye-bye!" Stinker.

The crowd (OK, I'm using that term loosely, but there were probably around 10 people out there watching this all go down) dispersed, and my friend's husband told one of the employees to be sure they called the fire department back and told them not to come.

I got my children all loaded into the van, free of the confines of any grocery carts.

And then there were sirens.

I've never had the fire department called for my family before. They take it seriously.

A rescue ambulance came rolling into the parking lot of Giant Eagle as I blushed with embarrassment. The EMTs who had come out were very kind and understanding.

They asked that I fill out the paperwork anyway.

One of them asked if Roo (who was in the van by this time, so they couldn't see his almond eyes or his bald head or his overall I'm-rocking-an-extra-chromosome personality) had any other medical history. I replied, "Related to getting his foot stuck in a grocery store cart?"

He nodded. "Fair enough. Nevermind."

It is never a dull moment with Roo.

By the way, I totally thought about taking pictures while it was happening JUST SO THAT I COULD BLOG ABOUT IT... but I really thought the people helping us might vote me the worst mom ever for that. So I held back.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Five years ago

I turned 35 on Sunday. I've never had much of an issue with age. I've joked about it--approaching 30, turning 30, saying goodbye to 30--but it never actually bothered me. But 35. Oh, 35, you make me feel old.

But I digress.

It hit me today that it has been almost 5 years since I first knew about Roo. It was at my 30th birthday party--which was actually a few weeks after my birthday--that I whispered to my best friend, "Honestly? I haven't been feeling the best... and I'm wondering... if baby number 3 might be on the way." My hubby and I were not trying--in fact, we were actively preventing a pregnancy. But God had other plans.

These five years have been an unbelievable roller coaster, from the pregnancy right on through until now. If you had told me then that I would be loving life as a special needs mama--that I would dream of one day adopting a SECOND child with special needs--I wouldn't have believed you. I truly believed in my heart that God did not make me able to handle a child with special needs. Then again, I still believe that--He chose to equip me as we went, not prepare me ahead of time.

I don't feel like I bear a large resemblance to the me of 5 years ago. But I like the me of today. I love my life. And I absolutely love my Roo.

It's amazing the difference 5 years can make.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just one boring summer day

I am a big believer in free time. I don't like to overschedule my kids (though I struggle with that in my own life). I'm all for church programs and sports teams and piano lessons, and even trips to the zoo and play dates and other activities to keep them well-rounded and create memories. But I also think there is tremendous value in just being home. No agenda. No plan. And sometimes, Mommy isn't available to drop everything and solve all the world's problems--sometimes they have to figure it out while Mommy folds laundry. I think this is good. Important, even.

Do I sound a little defensive? A little like I'm trying too hard? Because I really do believe that, but sometimes I have to remind myself. Sometimes I have to say, "Remember, my heart, we do not HAVE to leave the house every day. I am NOT a bad mom just because Monkey's eyes plead with me when he says, 'I just can't find anything to DO.'"

Yesterday I was reminding myself. We are leaving for vacation in a few days, the boys had both been sick, life had been busy. I needed to catch up, do laundry, wash dishes. Monkey and Lamb were bickering, snarking. I sat them down and read out loud to them for a while, then gave them required separate play time. "You can play anywhere in the house, but not together. You cannot pester each other or ask each other questions or even comment on what the other person is doing. Play by yourself for a while, and I will let you know when you can play together."

There was eye-rolling. Followed by a little bit of moping. Maybe even a door closed juuuuuuuuuuust shy of slamming. There was silence, broken only by a sigh here and there.

I decided to make myself scarce, closing myself in my room with a big pile of clean clothes. And I wondered. "Maybe we do need to be out every day. Maybe they need me to keep them busier. Maybe I need to make them a list of things they can play. But I don't want to squelch their creativity. Do they have creativity, or have I already squelched it by scheduling too many things for them, and now they are ruined for life?"

I emerged to find the start of something wonderful, although I didn't realize it at the time.

Monkey had begun a game of "stuffed animal bowling." My kiddos have a couple of stuffed animals that are basically plush balls with faces. He was using those to knock down other animals, and was quite delighted with himself.

I lifted the ban on playing together, then went back to work.

My friends, what happened next was absolutely amazing. My two kiddos (Roo was at camp) put together their own obstacle course of fun, complete with six different stations. They used stuffed animals, empty paper towel rolls (from the recycling! no piles of unused towels laying on my kitchen floor!), markers and crayons, paper plates--all kinds of things that were laying around the house. They made six different stations of activities and games. And then they went through all of the stations together, laughing and giggling through the whole thing. They kept score of sorts, but it was sort of like "Whose Line is it Anyway?"--the points didn't seem to matter.

They laughed more than they have all summer. They created something--a whole assortment of somethings--and they worked together to do it. They brainstormed together and helped each other.

And I. was. vindicated.

Just one boring summer day. Probably the best day of our summer so far.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Just checking

"Buddy, you have got to go to sleep."

We are still trying to transition Roo to the "big boy" bed, out of the crib. He still loves it--has started to ask for it, even--but he will still lay awake in it for HOURS after we put him to bed. My tolerance level is generally somewhere between 1 and 2 hours (checking on him--and putting him BACK into bed--several times in that span) before I give up and put him in his crib (where he drifts off almost immediately).

"Night-night, Sweetie."

It was not the first time that night I had been in there to tell him to go to bed. It was not even the second or the third. I was ready to move him to the crib, but when I had picked him up (out of the pile of books that he had dumped on the floor), he had pointed to the lower bunk and said, "Bed? Mommy, bed?" I couldn't refuse.


"Night-night." (I may have gritted my teeth just a little.)

"Mommy?" He sat up.

"Buddy, please lay down and go to sleep. Night-night."

"Mommy? Night-night, love you?"

My heart skipped a beat. Every time I put Roo to bed, I walk to the door and say, "Night-night, Roo. Love you." But this time I didn't. I had forgotten the "love you."

He didn't.

I smiled.

"Yes, Sweetie. Night-night. I love you."

He laid down with his hands behind his head, his ultimate pose of relaxation.

He was just checking.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's a girl thing

June isn't even over, and I am already exhausted from our summer "break." Don't get me wrong--I am not complaining. I'm just amazed at how much fun we have managed to cram into just a few weeks' time. A quick trip to see some old friends (and for our kids to make new ones), VBS, ice cream, play dates, date nights for the grown-ups, and the list goes on. Big on fun, low on sleep.

In the middle of it all, we got a call from Roo's school that the local Rotary Camp (a camp for kids with special needs)--which happens to meet at his school--had an opening after a student dropped out, and they offered it to Roo. It is free.of.charge. Transportation is included. The only downside? It is Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 3 PM (no naps), for SIX WEEKS. Did I say that was a downside? ;-) Seriously, it is exciting to have the opportunity, but that is a lot for a little guy. He missed the first week because the other student dropped out partway through, and then we went on vacation; but he joined in last week, and is back again this week. He is completely bushed, but he seems to be loving it.

So Roo is gone during the day... and now this week, my sweet Monkey is at church camp (during the day) too! (Last year the big kids went to camp at the same time, to make life easier for Mama. This year, though, Lamb is going to SLEEPAWAY CAMP! For real! And the way the schedule worked out, it was better to send them on separate weeks.) So all week long, from 9 AM until 3 PM, it has been just me and my girl.

On Monday we did some boring stuff (grocery shopping, laundry, etc), but then hit the library and went swimming at a friend's house. On Tuesday she gathered up some spending money, and we went shopping. You've gotta cover the basics, you know.
Yesterday was the second in our series of 8 mother-daughter dates in the Secret Keeper Girl series. (There are 2 books of dates. This is the one we are doing right now...)
A few weeks ago we went to a fancy tea house to have (of course) tea, and to remind Miss Lamb that
she is a masterpiece created by God. Yesterday we had facials and talked about real physical beauty, and also proper skin care, since she is coming to the age where her skin will be changing. I had originally planned to take her to a spa to get facials for the two of us, but My budget was not built for that kind of abuse. Instead, we called up a friend who sells Mary Kay, and she came to us. It turned out to be a great choice, because she could walk Lamb through the steps she needs to do to care for her skin--and Lamb said that she preferred putting everything on herself instead of "just laying there" while other people did it for her. (Whose child is she, anyway?!?)

And today we are wrapping up our girl time in one of our favorite spots: Starbucks. (Ready for some irony? Neither of us drinks coffee.) My hubby asked what we were up to today, and I told him, "We're going to drop Monkey off, drive straight to Starbucks, and stay until we have to get Roo off the bus--or until they kick us out, whichever comes first." And he gave me a look that said, "Why on earth would you do that?" But wisely he actually said, "Great! Have fun!"

No, we're not just sitting around watching the clock. We came armed with great ways to spend the time... books, notebooks, magazines, a Bible study that we are doing together, my laptop, and the best part...

board games. We brought Sorry, Skip Bo, a deck of cards, and, well, who knows what else is in my big Mary Poppins bag. It has been a great way to connect with my little mini-me.
Tomorrow Roo will be staying home from camp, since he is turning into a train wreck after days and days of no naps (and nights and nights of refusing to go to bed). Our girl time will be done. The laundry will need folding, the dishes will need washed, the carpets will need swept. But I do not regret one.single.minute of this week. Because yesterday she was a tiny little baby all swaddled up in my arms, and tomorrow she will be a mysterious and moody teenager, but today she is OK with--no, she craves--girl time with her mommy. And I am going to soak it up.
Library, swimming, shopping, facials, Starbucks. It's a girl thing.