Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy birthday, JESUS!


We try so hard to instill generosity into our boys this time of year. It gets to be so much, doesn't it? The gifts and hosting and baking and cooking and everything, heaped onto everything else?! It can be so hard to manage it all. This year we gave our boys one "big" gift to share (which they LOVED) and two individual gifts. (I have dreams of lessening next year's gifts even more.)

Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, Dan and I took the boys out to buy a plentiful amount of toys and books for "the kids at the hospital." We picked out all kinds of things and had so much fun with it! Then we drove to Children's Hospital and delivered our goodies to "the kids." This will be a tradition we will carry on forever as a family. This time of year does not have to be all about receiving. There will always be families and children who will have to spend time in the hospital during the holidays, and they will always need extra love.

Elijah and Sammy before our Christmas Eve service yesterday..

We had an incredible Christmas celebration with family and this morning we declared JAMMIES ALL DAY! :)

The boys were happy with their gifts and we spent the entire day enjoying each other and playing games and cuddling and watching movies. We began the day by singing happy birthday to Jesus!

This police/fire-station was our "big" gift to the boys and they loved it so much!

Sammy is so much more hesitant to enjoy gifts. "Really, Mom?! This is for ME? Do I deserve this?"

Whoa! Look at all the Santa and Mommy/Daddy gifts!

Bible reading with Grandpa on Christmas Eve!

One of my favorite Sammy faces. :)

Legos is the ONLY thing Elijah asked for from Santa. He was happy to see a box in his stocking!

Merry Christmas, everyone! We wish you all an amazing Christmas. Please remember Jesus' birth during this crazy season!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Out of the mouth of Sammy!

Starting literally the minute we departed for our trip, as we were being driven to the airport in a limo (so so cool!), Sammy began spouting funny lines. I typed every one of them into my phone during our trip. So here you go...quotes from our 3-1/2-year-old, funny, creative, imaginative Sammy. They will make you laugh!

We had just gotten into the limo and the boys had many questions. "Is this a bus?" "Is this a house?" Silence....then Sammy said, "When are we going to outer space?"

Two minutes later: "What if there is snow on the plane?"

Then: "My eyes are getting cold!"

Then: "Maybe we will go on a talking airplane!"

We found a playground in the airport for the boys to play in while we waited for our plane. I asked Sammy if he was going to go down the slide and he said, "That is NOT a slide! It's a drain!"

On the airplane, I sat across the aisle from Sammy. Just after take-off, he leaned over to me and said in a super cute whispery voice, "Mommy! Please do me a huge favor! Ask the pilot to get me some juice!"

Later in the flight, Sammy used the same whispery voice to say, "Daddy! I think you should wake that guy up!" as he pointed to the guy sitting in front of me.

On our way through the Orlando airport I tried to hold Sammy's hand and he said (just after taking his thumb out of his mouth), "HEY! I have a wet thumb here! I canNOT hold your hand."

Randomly, in traffic, with no obvious concerns on the road around us, Sammy said heatedly, "Daddy! Honk the horn NOW!"

We got a ride to our Villa for the first time on a golf cart. On the way there, Sammy said loudly, "Mommy, I think this cart is running out of gas!"

"I want ice burgers for breakfast tomorrow!"

"Look, there's a squirrel! Is he going to eat the owie on my knee?!"

The next morning when I got him out of bed: "Mommy! Monsters didn't take Cowwy (his beloved stuffed animal) in the middle of the night!"

After someone complimented Elijah on his glasses, Sammy said proudly, "I have sunglasses!"

On our way to one of the parks, Sammy said cooly, "Roll out the roof!" (i.e., open the sun roof!)

Getting ready to go to the waterpark: "Mommy! You have a swimsuit on your boobies!"

After we got a behind-the-scenes tour of the waterpark and we were walking past whooshing noises coming from the pipes and inner workings, Sammy said, "Nice air!"

Stopping at the edge of a sandy beach and looking at the footprints in the sand, he said, "Look! Someone's feet are broken!"

After taking a sip of milk: "I'm drinking moo juice. Also called cow coffee!"

We were in the Castle of Miracles, looking up at Elijah's star that had been placed on the ceiling. Another family walked out the door next to us. Sammy looked over as they were walking out and yelled behind them, "It's dangerous out there!"

"Mommy? I love you more than a banana and a slug!"

As we pulled out of the parking lot of Animal Kingdom: "Hang onto your helmets and lock your doors!"

As we were going through a tunnel on the little train at the Village (in a whispery voice): "Mommy? I don't think the tunnel is strong enough for Daddy!"

"I have three legs! One, two, three!" (pointing to each leg and an arm)

Dan said, "Sammy! Where is my KISS?!" Sammy: "It's GONE!"

As we were leaving Magic Kingdom, Sammy yelled to the teenage(ish) girl walking next to us, "HEY, young lady!"

After he got in trouble for using potty talk, he said to me in his hushed and whispery voice, "Mommy! I begins to punch Daddy!"

Waiting in line to park at Universal Studios, Sammy said, "This is a GREAT spot to park! Do it! Park HERE! NOW!"

"Elijah, tomorrow I'm going to have two heads!"

Sammy had been pouring loads of antibacterial soap into his hands in multiple batches and rubbing it in. Over and over. I told him he was nice and clean and that he didn't need any more. He said, "But it keeps falling into my hands!"

Sam has very sensitive eyes, especially when tired and even more so when the sun is shining in them. While we waited for Dan and Elijah to get out of the Shrek ride at Universal, Sammy rubbed his eyes and said, "Maybe sometime we should come here when the sun is not shining in my eyes!"

"It looks like a giant brown banana!" (use your imagination....heard coming from the bathroom)

"Mom! Somebody painted an M on here!" (pointing to an M&M)

In the car one day he said, "I was just taking a nap with my eyes open!"

After I explained to him that his beloved blankie needed to go into a bin at security, he held two corners out with his arms as far as they could go. "My blankie WON'T fit in the bucket if I hold it out like THIS!"

This is the ONE Elijah quote from the trip and a great one! As we were coming in for landing in cold, snowy, grey, gross Minneapolis, he said, "Coming into Freeziac with an order of MINNESOTA!"

And a few more Sammy funnies since we've been home (I can't seem to stop writing them down!):

"Turn on the water! My toothbrush is thirsty!"

Me: "Sammy, you're the cutest!"
S: "Mmm hmm! I AM!"

"Mommy? Is purple water hot?"

I called into the other room to ask Dan what he was doing and Sammy said, "He's jumping in the sea!"

Friday, December 20, 2013

Back from the land of magic!

We are home from our amazing Florida trip! I actually don't even know how to describe our adventure in words. It would be impossible. It was the most magical, amazing, memorable vacation I have ever experienced in my lifetime. I only pray that our boys will take the good memories with them forever! 

Give Kids the World Village was our "home base" for the week, and I cannot say enough good things about this amazing place. They treat children like celebrities 24 hours/day. Our boys have never gotten so much love and been so spoiled ever before (and that's saying a lot!). Around every corner was a surprise. A cookie truck handing out cookies and lemonade. A generous group of people randomly handing out Christmas presents. Gifts being left on our kitchen table daily. Free food and ice cream whenever we wished. Rides on trains. A huge party every single night, in which EVERY child was made to feel like the most important person in the world. A carousel to ride any time of the day. A tree that snored. Access to a pool and splash park and mini golf and arcade games and a magical castle with a wishing well that burps (this was the boys' FAVORITE place and we visited it twice/day minimum). I could go on and on.  

In addition to everything at the Village, we were given passes to every theme park in the Orlando area. We made the most of those passes and managed to hit most spots on our list. Elijah's main wish was to go to Aquatic Waterpark, and we got the FULL treatment there. We felt like celebrities!

Not only did we get our very own dolphin show at Aquatica (seriously!), but we got our own HUGE cabana. We had our very own, private space for the day, which was stocked with goodies (a TON of goodies), a fridge filled with water and a couch and comfy chairs and the whole works. As the generous man from Aquatica walked us back to our area, I began to cry. I really didn't expect that sort of treatment. I felt overwhelmed and grateful for the experience and everything that was being done for us. Then we received two huge bags of goodies, including water guns for the boys, a framed photo of the four of us from the dolphin show, towels and candy and chips and seriously it went on and on. That wasn't all! We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the waterpark, where we learned about the inner workings of the park. Elijah and Sammy got to "line a backwash" by turning a giant wheel, which meant they helped to purify the water in the park that day! 

(taking a break in our cabana to eat mid-day...can you tell Elijah was tired?!)

We went to Magic Kingdom on Sunday and had a BLAST. I think it's safe to say it was our favorite place. One of the perks we received was having a Fast Pass that put us in the front of every line in every park. We took full advantage of this, as we knew we would never have this opportunity again. I think we made it on 10ish rides that day alone. They were all incredible! We walked for about 7 hours straight. The boys got to meet Mickey Mouse (Sammy loved this). Elijah got super duper special treatment and was sent back to meet the other Disney characters (Sammy ran screaming).

Elijah and Sammy bonded with Mayor Clayton and his wife Ms. Merry at the Village. They appear at the parties every night (there is a different theme every night of the week...pirate/princess, pool party, CandyLand, Halloween, birthday, Village Idol, Christmas) and at other various events during the day. Elijah especially was enamored by these two and was ready to pose with them for a photo at every opportunity. The last night of our trip, the boys got tucked in by Ms. Merry. I got video of that and Elijah has watched it about 100 times.

Elijah decided he wanted to be a contestant on "Village Idol," which is the Village's version of American Idol. He sang the Alvin and the Chipmunks version of Jingle Bells. He asked me to PLEASE come out on stage with him, so I did. I coached him through the song and he did GREAT! It was one of the cutest things I've ever seen and I'll never forget it.

We also made it to Animal Kingdom, although that was our roughest day. Elijah did not sleep well during most of the trip, and the night before AK was the roughest night. Our AK day was rough for all of us. We were running on fumes and we were all grumpy and totally spent. We did enjoy the Festival of the Lion King show, where we were again treated like royalty. We sat in the front row! Dan was called on stage to demonstrate a warthog noise (super funny). Then Elijah got to run around on stage with the performers! It was an incredible, colorful and enjoyable show. Sammy hid his face in my lap for most of it, in fear that someone would ask him to come on stage. :)

We went to Universal Studios one day and had a blast there. This is where we were introduced to the world of 3D! Elijah did great with it, which surprised me. Sammy was terrified. All of us except for Sammy loved the Despicable Me and Shrek rides. I rode on the Harry Potter ride by myself and was in HEAVEN. I was super happy to walk through Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. :)

There are so many other things! We went to Hollywood Studios and loved (all except Sammy) the Toy Story ride. We also attended a live Disney Junior show, which the boys loved. We went to Sea World and watched the Shamu show, which we thought was really cool until we watched the Dolphin Show. AMAZING! That was one of the highlights of our trip.

I'm hoping to put together a video of our trip in the next few weeks. I also have a huge list of Sammy quotes to share that are hilarious!

Elijah's sleep on the trip was sporadic, but mostly poor. He was up early (4:00ish) on most mornings. We tried the medication for a few days that his sleep specialist recommended and the following couple of days were VERY challenging. So we stopped the meds. We are praying so hard for answers in this area. I am dreading sending him back to school because I cannot stomach anticipating calls/emails from teachers and the principal. It makes me sick to think about it. Something needs to change and we are praying about what that might be. I have a few other things in the works that could help our boy. More on that to come (hopefully soon)!

We are SO GRATEFUL for our amazing trip, but we're also dealing with some major post-trip blues. Thanks for checking in! We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's complicated

This week I keep thinking of Facebook and how under "relationship status," there is an option to select "It's complicated." If Elijah were to choose a status for his life right now, that's exactly what it would say. It's complicated!

I attended Elijah's special education planning meeting this morning. I got to hear all about E's "horrible" behavior. It was fantastic! (sorry for the sarcasm....have to laugh or I'll cry!) In a nutshell, we need to find a new special ed category for him to fall under in order for him to keep receiving services after age 7 (which he desperately needs). He's a tricky one. He doesn't fully fall under any category. Like the school social worker told me, it's like fitting a square peg into a round hole. He has a little bit of every issue, but nothing in full.

Most likely, we'll be able to figure out a way to continue his special ed services, although it is going to take some thinking. The team gave some brief thoughts about which category would be best for him, and then a member of the team (who I had never met) suggested that Elijah receive the EBD label (Emotionally and Behaviorally Disturbed). Sirens blared in my head. I remembered Dan telling me stories about subbing in EBD classes. Not good. Not good at all. We do not feel this is necessary for Elijah. It doesn't fit him. I will not allow them to put that label on him. I'd rather pull him out of public schools and home-school him.

Elijah has had a ROUGH week. Really rough. Multiple calls from the principal rough. We don't know what to do to help our boy. We do feel like exhaustion is still a major factor, and we are working so hard to get that under control. We also feel like he's not feeling totally understood at school. Like maybe he's not getting the magic combination of warmth/firmness that he needs to succeed.

I was thinking of examples of how to effectively interact with E on my drive home tonight. Here's one: I cannot hand Elijah his clothes in the morning and tell him, "Get dressed!" If I did that, a 30-minute battle would ensue. Instead, I wrap my arms around him and snuggle for a few seconds. I tickle him for a bit and say something silly. Then I say, "Pick the ONE piece of clothing that you'd like me to help you with. You will do the rest." Done. I give him minimal assistance getting his shirt or socks on (his usual picks), and he does the rest with no problem. A unique combination of warmth and connection and firmness is needed for this boy. This applies in all areas of his life.

SLEEP! I have been chatting with E's sleep doctor this week since he has been struggling so much in school. Again, things get tricky because we cannot give E any meds that are typically prescribed for pediatric sleep disorders. They could interfere with heart and kidney issues, which we definitely want to steer clear of. The sleep doctor did think of a medication to give him to help him sleep better in the early morning hours. It's basically a delayed antihistamine that would be given at bedtime and hopefully make him feel sleepy early in the morning, when he always wants to get out of bed and play! We plan to start this tomorrow to see what happens. It'll take some time to tell, and the hope is that eventually he will "grow out" of this. 

I honestly could go on and on. There are so many components to our oldest boy that seem super complicated right now. We just have to keep holding on to our faith. We know it will be ok. It is overwhelming right now, but everything will be ok.

After all, we do leave for E's Make-a-Wish trip on Friday morning! We can't wait! We all need miraculous sleep before our limo picks us up at 5:45 AM! :) We have not even begun to start packing! 

Thanks for checking in and please pray for our oldest boy! Pray for answers and for peace/rest in his mind and body. Thank you!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Chipping away at life and an AMAZING send-off party!

We have been chipping away at life. It seems like so much sometimes, doesn't it? Work, work, work and everything else. I don't mean to complain. I am GRATEFUL for work and busy-ness.

Today we surprised the boys with a Make-a-Wish trip "send-off" party. Our amazing wish team hosted the most incredible party at our house, and we were supported by our amazing family! It was a day to remember for all of us. We will never forget it.

I knew guests were showing up at 2:00 and the wish team was arriving at 1:15. I left the house with the boys at 12:30 with a destination of "the mall" in mind. The roads weren't ideal due to snow, so we ended up driving around on back roads (I wanted the boys to nap in the car) and then going to Target. When we arrived back home and drove by our driveway, we saw my cousin Trevor and his cuties walking along the snowy sidewalk. Elijah said, "Hey! Who IS that?!" I said, "Our neighbor Tom" (I knew he'd ask a name). "Why is Tom going to our door?" Uhhhh...  "What is Tom doing? Does Tom have kids?? WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE? WHY ARE THEY GOING INTO OUR HOUSE?!?!?"

Elijah was onto me, but both boys were genuinely surprised when they walked into our home to find so many people saying "SURPRISE!!!" The party was a huge success. Its official name was Surprise Snowy Sunday Sundae Send-off Party (SSSSSP). The wish team had an extensive ice cream sundae bar set up and the kids played fun sundae-related games. It was a blast!

Sammy insisted on sitting RIGHT NEXT TO his brother...on the same chair. Those boys love each other so much.

The games the kids played were so much fun!

Here's a photo of all the kids on the stairs. HIIII! I'M ELIJAH! :)

The complete opposite of his brother, Sammy had to be physically forced into the photo.

Dan is flying out of town as I type. He will be gone until Wednesday morning, so I'll be playing the "single mom" role for a few days. Getting S to daycare, E on the bus, driving down to Cannon Falls to work, getting E from bus and S from daycare.. Please tell me we will survive the week! I can't quite yet envision that we are leaving for Florida in a few days. WE ARE LEAVING FOR FLORIDA IN A FEW DAYS!

I don't think I've mentioned Elijah's ear issues of late. He has had a bit of blood oozing from his surgery ear (along with an occasional low-grade fever), causing some concern. We are praying for minor issues, and his ENT doc does not seem worried. We are giving him ear drops a few times daily, in hopes that he had an ear infection after his last round of strep.

The sleep/behavior saga continues. Last week was a grueling one at school for our oldest boy. We continue to try to find the perfect formula for him. Things seem so complicated sometimes. Every little piece ends up affecting other pieces and it gets so tricky. I just hung up the phone with his sleep specialist and she told me, "He is such a tricky case!" Uhh, yep! In every aspect. But we love him unconditionally and we will continue to do our best to find the perfect formula to make him the happiest person possible, along with his precious brother, Sammy.

That's all for now! Have a great week and thank you so much for checking in!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Light at the end of the tunnel

I am titling the next 10 days THE END OF INSANITY. An end to the madness is finally in sight.

One of the catalogs I've been putting together for my freelance job is going to press this week, which means lots of hours. I have 2 food blog deadlines to meet and 3 photography sessions to edit. Both of our cars are causing us trouble, so we have to bring them in. I have skis to service (so excited to share about skiing opportunities coming up) and physical therapists to call and Christmas shopping to do and a party to plan (excited to share about this, too!). Elijah has his usual stuff going on this week, along with an appointment with his psychologist. Oh, did I mention Dan's birthday is on Thursday?! We'll try to get out for a date that night.

Dan will be out of town for a few days for work early next week and we have E's special ed re-eval meeting next Wednesday morning. But work will be dying down for me by then (I hope) and we leave for Florida next Friday. I plan to do ZERO work in Florida and focus only on my boys and having a ton of FUN with their cute selves! I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm embracing it, hugging it, calling to it! Come closer, light!

Elijah did a photo shoot with the Make-a-Wish photographers a few weeks ago. Some of his pics may be displayed in their booth in the Mall of America (we haven't seen it yet, so not sure if he's there). We just got an email from his awesome wish team today with this link! Check it out!

I know, I know. We are NOT the only ones who are stretched beyond measure this time of year. It is fairly normal, which seems wrong somehow, doesn't it?! We wish you all grace and peace in order to get through this "season" while keeping smiles on your faces and keeping your focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

Thanks for peeking in! We wish you all a wonderful December!