Monday, November 28, 2011

Vacation! (Part 1)

Good morning! It's been another little bloggy break for me, but I have a good reason. Let me start from the beginning...

As you may remember, Mr. Fantastic and I went away for the weekend at the beginning of the month, just the two of us. It was a wonderful weekend, which culminated in our rushing out of the movie theater mid-movie to head to the ER back home, where my mother-in-law had taken Roo because he was choking. WELL, during the movie (spoiler alert--if you have plans to watch "Tower Heist", this will give away part of the plot... but not the ending, because I haven't seen that part...) a robbery takes place in New York City during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. My hubby leaned over to me and whispered, "We should go to that sometime." (This was literally about 30 seconds before we got the phone call, because we actually had to leave during that scene, also known as the-climax-of-the-movie. ;-) )

Well, about a week later (which, for those of you who are keeping track, was less than two weeks before Thanksgiving), he came home from work and said, "I have a new plan! I think we should go to New York City for Thanksgiving!"

I wish I could say I responded with enthusiasm. I can't. You see, there were a few factors working against me. For one, I am a planner, and two weeks before a major holiday, I already have it planned. I don't like to change plans. Second, I am sentimental and love traditions--and there is no way in which a last-minute trip to New York City is "traditional" for me. And third, we have THREE small children, and the idea of fighting for sidewalk space with 3.5 million people (yes, that's how many people watch the parade each year) was NOT appealing to me.

But I tried to be as supportive as I could in a this-ain't-never-gonna-happen kind of way.

So guess what happened next...? I got outvoted.

We alternate our Thanksgivings, one year with my family, one year with my husband's. On his family's years, it is mainly his mom that we coordinate with, and we go along with whatever she would like to do for the holiday. This was her year, and she and Mr. Fantastic were both very much on-board with the NYC thing. I decided to wait and see if we could actually find a place to stay that was close to the parade site AND within our budget, which I figured would never happen.

It did.

Now, to be fair, I did NOT go into this with a bad attitude. I expressed my concerns, I whined to a friend, and then I turned it over to God and said, "You're going to have to be in charge of this." And I decided that if we were going to go, I was going to go with a great attitude and have as much fun as possible. So it's not like they dragged me kicking and screaming.

ANYWAY, once we knew for sure we were going, there was tons to be done in a short time. Since I normally decorate for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, I decided that my decorating HAD to be done before we left. So I cleaned the house, put away all of my fall stuff (some of which was still waiting to be put out!), and decorated the entire house for Christmas, along with doing all of the normal household stuff, AND packing myself and all three kids for the trip. It was a crazy 7-10 days before we left!!!

But everything got done (well, almost everything), and we left first thing (OK, not FIRST thing... but 9 AM) on Wednesday morning. And can I tell you something? It was FAB.U.LOUS. Amazing. Fantasting. A HUGE success.

We got there Wednesdsay around 5:30, and then had a minor mix-up with the condo we had rented, so it was around 7:00 before we got in and settled. Our place was small compared to what we are used to here in Ohio, but we were very thankful to have 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms in downtown NYC. We basically just threw our stuff down, then took off to grab some dinner and see the parade balloon inflation.

The inflation event goes from 3 PM to 10 PM the day before the parade. By the time we got there it was after 9:00, and the line was HUGE. We were only able to see about a third of the balloons before it was over, but it was cool to see them up close.

Lamb & Monkey waiting to see the balloons

Buzz Lightyear was huge!

The inflation event was fun, but if I had to do it over again, I would skip it. The kids were out until around 11 PM, and then we had to wake them up early the next morning to get to the parade.

Luckily, Mr. Fantastic and his mom volunteered to get up REALLY early and be at the parade route with our chairs and blankets at 6:00 AM. They left everything set up and came back to help me get the kids ready and loaded up and head back to the route. We weren't close enough to walk easily, which was a little disappointing, but the subway was only 2 blocks from our condo. By the time we got back down there, it was a MAD HOUSE. I was really starting to forget about my resolution to have a good attitude when I realized how hard it was going to be to get back to our seats, especially when the road we needed to walk down was closed off and guarded by police...! But then a very nice officer listened to my husband explain the situation, and he let us past the blockade to go to our seats--which we found were still set up and waiting for us, even though people were PACKED along the street for as far as you could see!

We weren't right in the front (even though they had gotten there at 6 AM!), but there was only one row of people in front of us, and they were VERY nice to let our kids go in front of them to be able to see better. (Don't worry, we could still see them the whole time.) Once we got to our seats, it was only about 15 minutes before the parade began! It was SO MUCH FUN! Oh my goodness, it was great. I'm still getting my pictures sorted out so I'm not going to post a ton, but here are a couple...

Roo is ready for some fun!

Buzz looks much better "in action"

Scotty McCreery, for you American Idol fans :-)

Spiderman was the 2nd biggest hit of the day, next to...

The big guy himself! When Monkey saw him coming down the street, he started yelling, "He's real! He's real! Santa is here--it's really HIM!" :-)
 And you know what? I'm going to have to stop here for now. Roo graciously gave me a few extra hours to my day by waking me up at 3:45 this morning (and let's not forget to give some of the credit to Mr. Fantastic as well, whose snoring kept me awake even after I got Roo back to sleep), but I have used up all that time now, blogging, catching up on e-mails, and checking out some Cyber Monday deals; and now I must get back to reality. Vacation Part 2 to follow tomorrow!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Catching you up...

So it's been a little crazy here at the zoo, which I've come to realize is something called "life in our house." It is always crazy, and I don't really see any end in sight. So I probably need to stop thinking of it as being crazy and just learn to take a deep breath and go with it.

I feel like I have been a little lax in my posting lately. Honestly, there has just been so much going on! I don't even know where to start...!

First of all, Mr. Fantastic has been home more, which is heavenly. He typically works late one night per week, every Saturday, and has commitments another 1-2 nights per week. But he took off two weekends ago to go away for our couples' weekend, then took off this whole last weekend to work on projects around the house. And THEN he took off the whole day yesterday to work around the house, too! It has been SO NICE to get to see him so much--not to mention getting projects done!!!

And then there are the projects themselves. We are finally making some great progress on the kids' rooms! Lamb's room is cleaned and painted and getting decorated--I even found a super-cute desk for her on Craigslist yesterday for $20! In the meantime, all of Roo's stuff that used to be in that room is spread out all over our second floor. I am anxious to get it all put back together, and even more anxious when I think about what it is going to be like when we have to find room for all of Roo's stuff AND all of Monkey's stuff when it's time to do the boys' room...!

Also, I haven't really talked about this on here, but I have been given the tremendous opportunity to start and lead a new moms' ministry at our church. We will be starting weekly meetings in January, but we decided to have a few "kick off" events this fall. Our first was last week, and it was GREAT! Wow, what a fantastic turnout! We had told our kids' ministry to expect about 20 kids in childcare, and we ended up with 47!!! We have our second event in a few weeks, and I think we will have even more for that. It is exciting and amazing and fun, and lots of work. :-) Fortunately, I have a fantastic team that I am working with, and God has really blessed this ministry all along. But I still have LOTS to do, and when I stop and think about it for too long, my heart starts to palpitate a little...

On another note, I got a phone call last week from the school nurse. She said she was going to do routine vision screenings on the first-graders, and Lamb's teacher asked her to start with Lamb. Apparently Lamb had been having a hard time seeing the board, and she called to tell me that Lamb had done "very poorly" on the screening. Very poorly! How could she do "very poorly" when she hadn't even mentioned this to me?!? I was able to get her an appointment for that afternoon, and sure enough--her vision is 20/80 in both eyes! Geesh. But can I tell you, I have never seen a child THIS EXCITED for glasses! She was going crazy waiting for them, and was ecstatic when they arrived 5 days early. Here she is with her new accessory:

She also has a pink pair, which I think are even cuter, but they both look nice on her. And the whole way home on the night she got them, she kept saying, "Mommy! Do you see how big that truck is? Mommy! Did you see the words on that truck? Mommy! Look at that car!" I think she hadn't been able to see the other cars before--I had no idea!

And you know, there are so many bloggers out there who have every bit this much going on, and yet they write thoughtful, deep, daily posts... How do they manage that?!? I do not seem to be one of those people. Today, however, I managed to post... AND shower. Victory.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I know, it's cheesy to post about Thankfulness the week before Thanksgiving. Would it make you feel better to know that this post wasn't really inspired by Thanksgiving, but just by the recent events in my life? Well, either way, today's post is about thankfulness, so just go with it.

A few months ago, I heard an interview on Family Life Today (I'm an addict avid listener of this show--I think Mr. Fantastic must get a little bit tired of hearing me talk about it...) with Barbara Rainey, whose husband is the president of Family Life. She is in the process of writing a series of family devotional books about different virtues, and has so far published Growing Together in Courage and Growing Together in Gratitude. (Blogger has changed their interface, so I no longer know how to post the little pictures of the books with the price and stuff right in my posts...) I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the books and wanted to check them out. And it just so happens that the Weekend to Remember that Mr. Fantastic and I recently enjoyed was put on by Family Life and had a fabulous "resource center." (This is a dangerous spot for me to be seen, because I love resources. I could have bought out that place!) And it just so happens that they had the Gratitude book in their resource center--which I'm sure had nothing to do with the fact that Thanksgiving was just weeks away. ;-) And it just so happens that I walked up to the register with the Gratitude book in my hands... along with a few others... and gave them money... and they let me leave with it! Go figure!

So Mr. Fantastic and I are in the process of reading the book with the kiddos this month, and it is very worthwhile. It is a collection of 7 real-life stories of people who showed thankfulness in a variety of situations and circumstances. It may be just a teeny bit over my kids' heads--the first story is about Corrie ten Boom and her sister, who were in a Nazi concentration camp--but it has still been a good thing for them. And the overarching theme of the book has been: Give thanks in all circumstances. Good lesson. One that I would definitely like my kids to learn. Right?

It's dangerous to try to teach your kids a lesson, friends. Often that lesson finds its way home to the heart of the momma...

Which brings me to earlier this week. As I have mentioned, all three kids are sharing a room while we redecorate, and Roo is a big fan of being in the same room with the big kids, but has not been doing great with sleeping since we moved him. Specifically, in the last 11 days since we moved him into their room, he has been up between 5:00 and 5:30 EVERY MORNING (except the first morning, when he slept all the way until 6:00). Let me just tell you... I just do not comprehend why anyone would chose to get up that early. Ever. OK, maybe on Black Friday. But that's it.

Anyway, after a few days, I had had enough of the early wake-up call. I was tired. I was frustrated. I was just plain angry. But I didn't want to be angry. I wanted to be happy. I took deep breaths. I thought positive thoughts. I looked forward to naptime. But I still couldn't quite shake my "grumblies."

On that particular morning, my attempts to get Roo back to sleep had also roused his sister. Fantastic. Thanks, Buddy. Now I'm doubly frustrated. And I'm rethinking our "remodel", which involves putting Roo in with Monkey and giving Lamb her own room. And I'm rethinking my decision to have children.

OK, maybe it wasn't quite that severe. Maybe.

But I was determined to beat this bad mood. And as I took Lamb and Roo down to get breakfast, I spotted the book. Growing Together in Gratitude. "Give thanks in all circumstances." Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom found a way to give thanks for fleas in their barracks. Another man found several ways to be thankful for a mugging. Surely I could be thankful for sleep deprivation a child who wakes up early.

So I decided to make it into a game. "Lamb, what is something that you're thankful for?"

"God and Jesus."

"That's awesome, Honey. Let's see... I'm thankful... that we have plenty to eat," I said as I looked at the assortment of cereal boxes in the pantry. "What else? It doesn't have to be anything big."

I don't remember what she answered that time, but we went back and forth for a while. And you know what? It really worked. I told her I was thankful that she woke up early, because I always feel so guilty when I have to wake her up for school--I want her to be able to sleep if she needs sleep--and because I got to spend a little extra time with her. It was good to gain a little perspective.

And then she said, "I'm thankful for Down syndrome."

Pause. "You're thankful for it? Why is that, Honey?"

"Well, because that's the way God made Roo, so that's how He wanted him to be. And also, if it takes him longer to learn things, that means we get to spend more time teaching him things, and I like teaching him."

I love it.

Exactly one year ago today, I wrote a post called Thankfulness & Down Syndrome. I was healing, I was seeing that things were going to be OK--but I stopped short of saying I was actually thankful for Down's. I couldn't quite get there.

Today, thanks in part to my beautiful 6-year-old girl and her love for her baby brother, I can say it.

I'm thankful for Down syndrome. It is a blessing. It is a blessing that has come "through raindrops", as Laura Story says in her song "Blessings" (which, I'm pretty sure, was written about my life over the past year--I've never actually met her, so I can't confirm that, but really, how could it not be?). But it is absolutely a blessing.

I'm thankful for Down syndrome. What a difference a year makes.

I'm thankful for Down syndrome.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Of bedrooms & babies

Last year for Christmas, our kids' "big gift" was redoing their bedrooms. When Roo was born, we moved Monkey into Lamb's room (which is decidedly girly) and gave Roo the nursery; and we decided to go ahead and move the boys together, give Lamb her own space, and redecorate both rooms.

Yes, that was eleven months ago. It's not done yet.

So finally this week we are moving ahead with the plans. Roo's room is cleared out, and last night Mr. Fantastic patched the holes in the drywall. Yep, we're going lightning fast now, folks!

All of this means that our three children are now all sleeping in one room. On Monday I tore down the crib, moved it into the big kids' room, and put it back together. It was no small feat, and I'm pretty darn proud of myself.

Meanwhile, Roo thinks that sharing a room with his siblings is the coolest thing ever. He does not, however, feel the need to sleep in there. The first night, he kept everybody up until 9:00. (Bedtime for Roo is 7:00, and 7:30 for Lamb and Monkey.) The second night he went to sleep fine, but woke everyone up at 6:00 AM--and by everyone, I mean our entire family. And this morning I am sitting in the darkness of my living room, pouting and typing while he hops all over and has a blast. He woke me up at 5:10.

Until Monday, if Roo had gotten up at 5:10 (happy, not crying), I would have given him his binky, rubbed his back, and left the room. I would have gone back to my room, crawled back in bed, and turned off the monitor. He wouldn't have gone right back to sleep, but he would have eventually. And if he didn't, he would be safe in his crib, and I would have gotten some more rest--and I could have heard if he had started to get upset, which he wouldn't have.

But now that's all changed. Now if I just let him stay in his crib, he'll wake up everyone in the process. And I'm being a great big giant baby about the whole thing.

I see on Facebook when my friends get awakened bright and early by their kiddos. They're not happy, but they make the best of it. So why am I so darn frustrated? I'm worried, for one thing, that this is going to become his new "thing", and I do NOT want 5 AM to be a "thing". But seriously? Between me and Roo, one of us is going to have to act like a grown-up here, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be me.

I'm realizing more and more that I can be like a toddler with God when things don't go my way. Somewhere inside of me, I believe that I will get my way if I throw a big enough fit. That's what I did when we found out that Roo has Down's--I was angry and pouty for MONTHS, trying to "prove" to God that He was wrong to allow this in our lives. And now I'm doing it over an early wake-up time. The problem is... it doesn't actually accomplish anything. My kids' tantrums don't make me want to give them what they want, and I'm pretty sure it's not going to work for me either. So it's probably time to get over myself and move on, right?

It's sort of a vicious cycle... I get mad about the situation... I realize how silly is it and get mad at myself for BEING mad about the situation... and then I get mad that I'm in the situation all over again.

Someone please tell me I'm not the only one who does dumb stuff like this...!

By the way, I read somewhere that, if you're upset over something that you know is not a big deal, verbalizing your feelings can help diffuse the situation. So I looked at Roo and said out loud, "I'm angry at you. I'm angry because you woke up two hours early, and I want you to sleep longer." And that definitely worked--hearing it out loud helped to put things in perspective.

So tell me, what pushes your buttons but shouldn't? Help me out here, friends, so I don't feel like the only kook who gets upset over the little things.

And now that I have sufficiently vented, I think it's time to turn on some lights and face the day. The dishes aren't going to do themselves--I know, I've tested that theory.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making connections, spreading the word...

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  --2 Corinthians 1:3-4

More and more, my prayer lately has been that God will use the journey He has put before me to reach others. I don't want to just say, "Wow, thank you Lord for providing for me" and keep it to myself--I want to show others the love and support and encouragement I have been shown along the way.

Today, friends, I have a big bloggy announcement--a chance for me to reach other moms with the story of Roo!

Long story short... I have been given the chance to do some guest blogging on MOPS International's Momology blog! They already have a fantastic panel of mommies who are blogging for them, but none of them have children with special needs. I know that I can often feel alone when I am surrounded by moms who only have "typical" children, so I am thrilled to be able to connect with other moms like me who find themselves on a unique journey.

My first guest post is up today, and you can find it here. It is likely one that you have seen before, either at Zehlahlum Family or here--my post titled Different. It seemed like a good way to introduce our family to a new group of readers. But I have another post coming soon, and hopefully more after that.

BUT I need your help. I am much more likely to get to continue this relationship with MOPS if there is good response--which, in blog terms, means lots of comments. So will you please go over to the Momology blog and leave a few nice words for me? Thank you so much!

God is using Roo, one tiny baby boy, in mighty ways.

And speaking of Roo, I think I should go play with him instead of just typing about him. Talk to you soon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Weekend to Remember...!

It is November, a month in which we give thanks, and tonight I am thankful for my husband.

We had a fantastic chance over the past three days to reconnect and focus on us a little, thanks to my mother-in-law and Family Life. I've been needing just a little break from the zoo animals lately, and in August, Family Life ran a half-price special on their Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. Fortunately, my hubby knew how much I needed to get away, and he told me to grab the deal. And my wonderful mother-in-law offered to keep the kiddos for the entire weekend.

It was an awesome time of refreshing our marriage, spending time together, and relearning things that have gotten a little dull over the last 10 years... like the fact that marriages work better when you put your spouse's needs ahead of your own. Who knew? ;-)

Seriously, though, it was exactly what we needed. We had long conversations with no interruptions about Hot Wheels, Barbies, knock-knock jokes, or play-by-plays of who is annoying whom in the back seat. We went on a date to a fancy restaurant. We went for a long walk on a trail near our hotel. We were uplifted, encouraged, and instructed at the conference. We laughed and cried and just had a great time.

(Just a little aside: If you are married and have a chance to attend Family Life's Weekend to Remember, I highly recommend it. Whether you are engaged, newly married, just need a tune-up, or you feel like your marriage is on its last legs--this is worthwhile. I don't know the specifics of scholarship options, but it is definitely something that they talked about, so if cost is a factor, contact them and ask. I know that they provide scholarships for military families, pastors' families, etc, but I don't know what all is available.)

During the closing session, the speakers warned us that the weekend was a bubble--not reality. But they assured us that reality would find us soon after the conference ended. Couples may get in a fight on the way home or run out of gas or... who knows.

Darn that "who knows."

Before we left on Friday, my mother-in-law had encouraged us to stay a couple of extra days. She told us she could get the kids where they needed to go, we didn't need to worry. I knew that I needed to be home by today, because I have an event tomorrow (which I haven't even talked about here, but I'll fill you in on it soon), but we thought about staying at least one extra night. We decided to go ahead and check out of our hotel, though, go to lunch and see a movie, and then we would try Priceline to see if we could get something cheap.

We didn't make it that far.

As we were sitting in the movie theater, 3/4 of the way through the film, literally at the climax where you're sitting at the edge of your seat... Mr. Fantastic's phone rang. It was his mom. I have no idea what made him decide to answer the call while he was still sitting in the movie theater, but he said something just didn't feel right.

His mom was pretty panicked. Roo was coughing and crying hysterically, and she was afraid he had found soomething on the floor and swallowed it. She couldn't see anything in his mouth, but she couldn't settle him down either. (We were, by the way, out of the theater at this point.) We had her try a couple of things, but ultimately told her to take him to the ER. I called our neighbors and asked if the big kids could come over, and she dropped them off and got Roo to the hospital.

Let me tell you, that was one LOOOOONG 1.5 hour drive home. But you know... I can't say I was nonchalant about it, but very shortly after we started driving and I was all upset, I heard God's still small voice. Katy, I've got this. You know that I am in control. It will be a lot less painful if you rest in my arms and trust Me NOW, rather than fighting me until it's all over and then realizing that you should have trusted me. I've got this. I've got a plan for it. Trust Me. And that did it. He was right (and He usually is)--I needed to trust Him. Whether it was an overreaction or whether it ended terribly, God was carrying out His plan, and I needed to rest in that.

That sounds rather melodramatic, doesn't it? I know that you're all thinking that this isn't that big of a deal--and as it turns out, everything is fine--but ever since Down syndrome came into our lives, my perspective has shifted. I used to think that bad things wouldn't happen to us. I used to think that God would at least somehow prepare you for bad news, so it wouldn't knock you off your feet when it happened. But after last June, I've realized that you never know what's waiting around the corner. And so little things quickly turn into what ifs. But not this time--it was just seconds after my mind started to race that God reminded me to trust Him, to rest in Him, to stop trying to take control from Him, because it was futile anyway. He was in control, no matter what I let my imagination dream up.

So after our whole big adventure, we went straight to the hospital and found an empty ER room where Roo was supposed to be. Turns out he was getting an X-ray. They had already made sure that nothing was blocking his airway, and then sent him to X-ray to see if they could spot anything in his throat or lungs. We waited for about 25 minutes before my mother-in-law came walking down the hall, carrying my baby boy. It had been a little over 2 hours since she had called us, and he was much calmer (he had actually fallen asleep at one point), but was still crying (mainly because he had been asleep until they laid him on the cold X-ray table!) and seemed to be trying to catch his breath.

But don't you worry, this Mama Bear wasted NO TIME grabbing that baby and snuggling him! And he wouldn't go to anyone else once I got him! Oh, let me tell you, that felt good. I sang and sang, and Daddy did Pattycake and played with him, and we finally got him to settle down--and even to SMILE and LAUGH a little. I realized that he had been short of breath when I first saw him mainly because of the large amount of crying he had done--and I'm guessing he also had a sore throat from whatever he swallowed.

We talked to the doctor, and basically... we just have to wait it out. It doesn't appear that there is anything in his lungs, although not everything shows up on X-ray. We have to keep an eye on him, and if he gets a fever or persistent cough or just is acting sick, we should call our doctor and mention the incident.

So yeah, reality found us after our little romantic bubble. But we're home and fine--and this morning, he's been hopping around as happy as can be. :-)

Definitely "A Weekend to Remember"!