Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two Special Visitors

The kids got to see two very special people this weekend, Santa and my older sister, Ann. Ann and her husband, Blake, came out for a weekend visit from Wisconsin. They narrowly missed blizzard weather to spend some time with us. It's been bitterly cold and crazy windy all weekend, but I suppose that's still better than a blizzard!

We take the kids to visit Santa in his little glass house in the park every year. Sean rushed right in to go first and just loved on Santa!

Aidan went next, and I caught this coy smile when Santa said, "Have you been a little naughty this year?"

Ella wasn't willing to snuggle up to a stranger, so she let Daddy sit near him. :)

We drove halfway to my parents house to meet up with the family. I thought a lunch together and some playtime at the mall would give us a chance to catch up, but the mall was busy and the two littles took off in opposite directions every second they could. Did get to take a few pics while waiting for our food.

Mom (aka Nana) and her first-born, Ann.

Ann with Aidan and cousin Adam (my sister, Tanya's son.)

And then Sean took this one of Ann, too cute!

I wish we could get out to Wisconsin to visit them sometime, but not in the winter! :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Salt Dough Ornaments

I decided it might be best this year to make a toddler-friendly tree in hopes of avoiding broken glass ornaments. The kids and I spent a couple of days working on a batch of Salt Dough Ornaments to use this year. I wanted to venture from the usual ribbons and orbs, and instead bought inexpensive strands of beads and some glittery snowflakes to accent our homemade treasures. The kids really loved each step of the process.

Cutting out the dough

Painting the ornaments

Decorating the tree

And enjoying the finished result!

Classic Salt Dough Ornament Recipe

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water

1. Mix salt and flour.
2. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water.
3. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.
4. For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough on baking paper
Or be creative and make odd shapes and wreaths (takes longer to bake)

Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.
Dust dough with flour and begin to add details to the ornaments with a toothpick, popsicle stick, and knife.

Don't Forget:
Use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament.

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325 degrees
Time: 1 1/2 hours - or until dry

Decorate: Let cool before you begin
Paint with acrylic paints
Glue on beads, buttons, or any fun accessory

Preservation: Making them last a long time
Coat with acrylic varnish when everything is dry

*** Color Variations ***
- Substitute coffee for water - great for gingerbread people
- Add food coloring to make dough a unique color - white, blue, red, etc...

Monday, November 29, 2010

2 More Dolls Dressed!

Finished up another knit doll outfit last night, so I thought I'd update progress again.

This outfit was made using the yarn leftover from my Hudson Hat giveaway. I barely had enough to get it done! The pattern I had for this set was terrible, in fact is was missing directions for the sleeves and pants. Plus the calculations were off in several places, requiring me to rip out (aka "frog") sections a few times until I reworked the pattern. Backtracking caused me to take a week to finish it, but the end result works out. Now Dolly has a cashmere sweater set. :)

Speaking of that yarn, Cindy posted really fun photos of Johnny in his hat on her blog. What a sweetie!

I also knit a dress for Ella's Cabbage Patch doll. This was another pattern that I had to make some changes to in order for it to turn out right. Plus I had to learn how to crochet a hem, so it was neat to learn a new skill.

One more doll outfit left to make, but first I need to finish up a scarf I am working on for another person. I also hope to get Hudson Hats made for my three kids by Christmas. I think it might be a close call this year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Letter to Santa

"Dear Santa,
I hope you can read my handwriting. I wish you a happy Christmas and I hope you aren't so busy but I was wondering if you can bring me a snowman kit, stacks of pumpkin pies, and a real robot. Thank you. I love you very much. Aidan R. M."

Oh, and he drew his own stamp & labeled it, "Me, Snowman and Santa"

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In Thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to re-post my guest blog from A Little Bit Downsy on to my blog, to express how thankful I am for the community of families touched by Down syndrome. We all come together, from different parts of the world, with different beliefs, and join as a family to help each other. Many blessings to you!

Goodland, Kansas, population 4,948, is the county seat of Sherman County in Northwestern Kansas. The town is just 4.4 square miles big. It sits just 17 miles from the Colorado border, but is 176 miles from Denver, the nearest major city. The closest major city on the Kansas side is Hays, 212 miles away. Goodland is known for it's vast open fields of sunflowers and wheat.

In a small rural community such as this, it's very easy to feel alone. The nights are quiet, the days pass slowly. Socializing is most likely to occur in the aisles of Wal-mart. Everyone knows you, knows who you dated in high school, where you went to college, and which bank you use. The same doctor delivered most of your classmates and if you have a cough, he'll whip up a special syrup for you to take. "Newcomers" are defined as someone who moved into the city in the past 15 years, versus being born there. And it takes years to branch out past relatives as friends when you are a newcomer.

When my husband, Doug, and I decided to move to Goodland, we knew we'd go through an adjustment period. We were so used to our busy social life in the town where we graduated from college. Our life had been so hectic and stressful, we relished the idea of a calmer way of life. We comfortably made the transition, learning to eat most meals at home, instead of at our favorite restaurants, watching videos on Friday night instead of going to see live bands. Enjoying family gatherings with his parents, watching football or basketball together while our baby crawled around the house. We slowly started meeting people through golfing at the country club, and participating in MOPs. This was way before the days of Facebook and high speed internet. We rarely used the old lap top computer at home with it's painfully slow dial up internet connection. Occasional trips back east to visit my parents gave us time to catch up with friends.

So when our second son, Sean, was born and later diagnosed with Down Syndrome, our support network was scattered and loose. Of course we had the love and support of our families, but we searched for the strength from others like us. Other parents of children with Down Syndrome or other disabilities. Since our local hospital wasn't able to meet Sean's medical needs, we went to Denver to see specialists. The Mile High Down Syndrome Society offers great resources to Colorado families, but since we'd be returning to Kansas, they didn't have information for us. We got a few pieces of paper printed off and stapled together telling us medical facts about Down Syndrome and included a list of online resources to read.

When we returned home and connected with our family doctor, he referred us to the Early Education Service Center that would offer therapy for Sean until he was old enough to go to school. One of the first things we asked them to do was to connect us with another family. Unfortunately, we learned that he was the only person under 18 (that's as old as they had service information for) in the entire northwest area of Kansas that had Down Syndrome. Their service covers 13 counties, a total of 12,000 square miles, and Sean was the only person with Down Syndrome in that area at the time of his birth. Talk about feeling alone.

We were sad, scared, uncertain, uneducated about Down Syndrome and we felt like the only people we'd ever known in this situation. We grasped at straws to think of who else might offer us advice. I had a vague memory of a person I once did a committee work with that had a daughter with Down Syndrome, so I did track him down and email him a couple of times. My dad surprised me by telling me that his first wife has twin boys one of whom has Down Syndrome from a prior marriage. and that he had lived with them during their marriage. I'd always known of his first marriage, and the twins, but had never realized one had Down Syndrome. I pulled out the old 35 mm photos from the late 60's and closely looked at the faces of two six year old boys. Yes, I could see it now. They looked to similar, but one was slightly different.

Yet we still had no one close to us, no one raising their child the same age as us, no one to ask questions that ran through our minds and we were afraid to speak aloud. We pulled out the pages from the Denver hospital and looked at the resource list again. We wanted to find people, not facts. We wanted stories and photos, not statistics and charts. One caught my eye: a parent-to-parent support website, it said. I plugged in the old lap top and slowly watched the pages load. The peach colored backdrop, adorned with cherubs, appeared.


Any and every question I could think of was asked and answered. Photos, videos, stories, resources, reviews, opinions, SUPPORT. Warm open arms. Suddenly, we were no longer alone and I was so thankful. I leaned on for support so much of Sean's first year of life. It was the lifeline we needed in addition to the love and support we had from our families and friends.

When Sean was 12 months old, we finally saw another person with Down Syndrome in person. We had gone to a nearby small town to visit their fairgrounds. While watching some horse riders performing various cowboy competitions, a family with a teenage daughter with Down Syndrome walked past us. They stopped for a few minutes just rows away to watch the horses. Doug and I no longer watched what happened in the arena, but instead intently observed the family in front of us. We stretched to hear them, to hear her talk, to see what they said, to wonder what their life was like.

A glimpse into our future?

How desperately I wanted them to turn around, look into Sean's eyes and see that he was a part of the T21 club! Instead, they moved along and as much as I longed to chase after them, I held back.

A few weeks later we went to the Mile High Buddy Walk and completely surrounded ourselves with families like ours. The experience was overwhelmingly emotional and moving. Months later, we moved to our current city and joined a Down Syndrome support group that meets just an hour away. We quickly met other families and built in-person support.

No matter where you are and what stage of acceptance you are at, there is always help out there. There is comfort in those connections. I hope each parent that feels alone can make a connection.

Images of Goodland, Kansas, used in this post were found on google images. I left watermarks as they appeared and thank these photographers for capturing the Western Kansas beauty!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful we are not Alone...

I guest blogged at Just a Little Bit Downsy today!

"No matter where you are and what stage of acceptance you are at, there is always help out there. There is comfort in those connections."

Thanks for letting me blog-crash, Tiffany!

My Breastfed Daughter wants to Bottle feed her Babies

Playing with her baby dolls is Eleanor's favorite thing to do. She likes undressing them and giving them pretend baths in her play kitchen sink. She uses her doll brush to make their hair pretty. She wraps them in old receiving blankets and rocks them to sleep. They take turns sitting on her potty chair and making pretend tinkles. Nothing is funnier than seeing her lay her baby down on a prefold diaper and watching her carefully attempt to attach it with a Snappi! Her babies also enjoy horse back rides through the house on her shoulders while she yells, "Yee haw!"

Dolly goes with us on car rides to get Daddy and the boys or shopping at the grocery store. Sometimes she takes Dolly for a walk in the stroller, with her purse hooked on her arm, cell phone and keys tucked inside, and a wave "Bye bye, Mama. I goin' shoppin'" Other times she snuggles them in her doll sling for a trip around the yard.

Recently, she discovered a new way to play with Dolly. I've been babysitting in the two-year-old room for the local MOPs group. Usually, we have about 5-6 girls and one or two boys in the room. Luckily, there are plenty of baby dolls for all the girls to have one. They work on taking turns pushing the dolls in the two strollers or on the one swing. They cook up snacks for their dolls in the play kitchen and they remark on their stinky diapers. But there's a new toy for Ella to use with her dolls at MOPs that she hasn't had at home. Doll bottles filled with fake milk or orange juice. It didn't take long at all for Ella to follow the other girls' lead in feeding and burping the dolls with bottles. After a couple of times at MOPs, Ella was quick to secure one of the three bottles for her baby to use each session. I sat back and watched her holding and bottle feeding her baby. So odd to see from a girl that never had a bottle or pacifier!

I didn't make a big deal about it at MOPs and figured it doesn't mean much, she only plays with them there. At home, she tends to nurse her babies or uses the little cups from her tea set to give them drinks of "water". Lately, however, she's been wanting a bottle for her Dolly. She found a small bottle of cleaning fluid Doug uses for his guitars, I think, that has a pointy tip like a bottle on the cap. Instantly, Ella began using it to feed her baby. Then Aidan decided to wash out a small chocolate milk bottle, removed the label, and gave that to Ella to use as a bottle. I had to take the cleaning bottle away from her because I was worried about her getting it open.

I am starting to see how important she thinks a bottle is to her favorite form of play.

Most people wouldn't think twice about whether or not a child played with a bottle and a doll. To me, it matters. I've consciously avoided bottles and bottle imagery in reference to children and babies for many years. I actively avoid baby congratulations cards or wrapping paper with bottles and pacifiers. I feel like it sets up bottle feeding as the norm in baby care instead of as a secondary tool. It's very important to me that my children are raised to believe that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby. I want them to see bottles as just a tool to feed babies when mother is not available. I think it shapes them for how they will parent in the future. I want my son supportive of his partner breastfeeding and I want my daughter confident in her ability to breastfeed her children, should they have them.

Doug isn't on the same page as me regarding toy bottles. Maybe because we bottle fed expressed milk to Sean in addition to nursing. Maybe because he thinks I'm just making too big of a deal of it. Maybe he's right. Or maybe I am.

Right now, I am confident that she does know what breastfeeding is and how it helps babies. While playing dolls with the other girls at MOPs, Ella's doll fell out of the swing. She exclaimed, "Oh no! Baby hurt!" ran around the swing to pick up her doll, immediately lifted her shirt and held her doll to her chest. "Baby needs Ni-Ni!" she said, while kissing her doll on her head, in full view of all of her friends.

While the bottles may be a fun way for her to give Dolly a drink, breastfeeding is what Dolly needs for comfort. Maybe Santa will put a toy bottle in her Christmas stocking after all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend without Daddy

The best thing to do when Daddy's gone is keep busy with fun, out-of-the-ordinary activities. So Friday evening, the kids and I had a PJs, Pizza and Movie Slumber Party. I piled lots of blankets and pillows on the living room floor, got Papa Johns delivered and ordered Cats & Dogs: the Revenge of Kitty Galore on cable. It's pretty rare that we all sit down together and watch a movie, so it was really fun for all of us. And the movie was pretty funny, too.

After a fairly good night's sleep, I made eggs, sausage and toast for us for breakfast then bundled us up to go see the Annual Holiday Parade. The last year we went, it was super cold and we barely lasted 15 minutes before the kids wanted to sit in the car. This year it ended up being much warmer than I expected, so they didn't complain about the temp at all. Sean had problems with the loud noises, but managed to enjoy some of it. After an hour, Aidan had filled his coat pockets as well as mine. Sean was beginning to get restless, wanted to go sit inside the coffeeshop instead of watch the parade, so we didn't last until the end. In all, it went a lot better than I expected, especially since I some how managed to get a kink in my back and can't quite more very well.

I might try to get them to a park after lunch and naptime this afternoon. With it getting dark at 5:30, it really puts a crunch on our outdoor playtime. It's up to almost 60 degrees so I want to get out before it turns cold next week!

P.S. I searched back in my blog to find the link from when we took the kids to this parade before and I think we might of skipped it last year. When I found the previous year's post about it, I had to laugh because Sean is wearing the exact same outfit today that Aidan wore when we went when he was 6. Hee hee.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy 8th birthday, Aidan!

Today my first born is eight years old! What an amazing boy he is!He's hard-working, clever, caring, energetic, funny, sensitive, and loving. While we may have days where Doug and I fondly look back to when his favorite activity was pushing his toy jeep around the block as fast as his chubby little 2 year old legs could move him, we also have our days where we appreciate how much he is learning and and how independent he has grown. He can frustrate us so quickly with his need to test boundaries and question authority, yet he can make us so proud when he steps in to lead his siblings in play or working on tasks.

The past eight years have flown by so fast and it is almost impossible to imagine that in eight more years he will be on the cusp of adulthood. One thing that he is excited about this birthday is that he is legally aged out of car seats. He started calculating how many years until he can ride in the front seat and how many years until he can drive. Oh my! Thoughts like that make me want to curl him up close and hang tight to age 8!

This year we celebrated his birthday with family from both sides, a rarity with all of the traveling Doug's parents do and all of the extra-curricular activities his cousins do. He chose a few friends from school to take to an indoor inflatables place, called Jumping J's. They had a blast jumping and sliding, as well as playing arcade games and "cosmic" mini-golf. What a fun group of friends! Sean and Ella had just as much fun as the big kids, Ella jumpied herself to the point of exhaustion.

Today, Ella and I are baking chocolate chip cookies and taking them to share with his class this afternoon. His Grandpa Larry called this morning to ask if he could give Aidan a ride to school on his motorcycle. What a fun start to his 8th year!