Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Happenings

I think Halloween is so loved among children because for once everyone around them including adults allow the magic of dressing up to bring to reality their dreams - even if it is for one brief night. Mind you the candy is also a worthy incentive!

This year Isaac chose to be a ninja. He and his preschool friends play it everyday with such exuberance that there have been one too many accidents and Mrs Black has 'banned' it so to speak. Of course we all know they still play it but its brought the opposing sides together and now they sneak around the teachers confident in their invisible movements! Apparently there are different colored ninjas (I've been thoroughly educated by my son) and he elect to be his favorite color - green. Of course this entails a little work on my end. With everything I had going on, it was only the day of our trunk or treat that I managed to scrounge up a few hours to put this together. I spent $5 on a yard of fabric, used and old black shirt and some iron on stuff for applica and of all the things - an old changing pad. Three hours later and this was the final result:

It was rather stressful but I'm very grateful for the inspiration that made it possible, Isaac was thrilled with his costume and eager to show it off. That made me one happy Mama.

Keila initially wanted to be a black and pink kitty but changed her mind the few days before. Thankfully it was something we had in the dress up box. A flat iron, bobby pins and a ribbon finished the look. Bibbidi bobbidi boo!

Elias was our last pea in a pod. It kept him cozy while I handed out treats.
Can you just see his thoughts, "This is so not dignified!"

We had lots of fun together and the kids managed to get out the actual night of Halloween to restock a dwindling supply. While some places had rather frightening decor, my children would not be daunted in their quest! 'Tis the seasons for sweets! Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Family Night at Stepping Stones

This time of year is just crazy with how quickly it goes. Family night at Stepping Stones was a blast! Isaac took us to his classroom first and his teacher Mrs Crabb was very proud of his work with writing and his attention to detail, colors and carefulness (especially with cutting out figurines of his family). He's really blossomed in the way of art and proudly shows off his work.

Fun art project for the kids that night

Isaac's self portrait. I had to chuckle at it a little, who'd ever seen an asian with an afro!

Keila also has her own class and loves her teacher Mrs Klunk. Obviously dress up is one of her favorite things along with her very own friend, Lexy. She loves all forms of art as well and we're so grateful to see she's found her own niche!
Her nickname is 'Bug', 'Bug-love', etc. I find it ironic she looking at a book about bugs.

Mrs. Klunk her new teacher that she adores!

Even Elias got in on the fun and chewed on every toy he got his hands on.

Hooray for a wonderful preschool and teachers who care!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Unexpected Gift

On the second to last day of the cruise I met up with a family from Payson, AZ. I was impressed with my discussion with them and wrote a little journal entry. The following is an exerpt:

"I just met a family from Payson, AZ. We were just chatting about the pools and when the best times for swimming were for families with young kids, when the mom mentioned their middle daughter having passed away back in May. She mentioned it a few more times in the course of our conversation so I felt comfortable in asking more details. Her daughter Hannah was born with Cerebral Palsy. She'd contracted a flu and given all the other medical treatments at the time, her kidneys had failed and she had passed away on the way to the hospital. They had bought the cruise before she had passed away and her mother in-law came to take her place. She was battling many emotions on the vacation and had much to share. We talked about the miracle that all children are but also about how children with special needs are our greatest teachers.

I really enjoyed our conversation and at the end we were both in tears. There was an instant bond and a sense of more to this life than mortal eyes can perceive. Given some of my experiences of the last ten years I'm not one to open myself easily to others and yet having Elias has made me more tender and more willing to be vulnerable. In so doing life is richer. Such is the gift of my son."

Just wanted to post this to count some of the rich blessings in my life!

Here's my little man, wiped out the last morning of the cruise. I miss all the snuggling we did on the trip and our early morning conversations!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cruising on the Splendor of the Seas

Note: This post took a long time to get to mostly because I struggled with how much honesty I should express. This blog is our family journal and with it there are ups and downs, but mostly ups in the end.

We took a vacation, or so we thought we would be doing. It turned out to be more of a lesson on 'blessings in sacrifice'. The actual vacationing came later.

Everything is about food! This is breakfast, a daily feast of bacon, Lucky Charms / Fruit Loops and sweet bread! Below are some shots of the Chocolate Feast we enjoyed on the last full day at sea.

We originally had hoped to do Disneyland for the first time, but with Elias' birth we thought we do something 'low key' and dished out for a 7 day cruise to Cabo San Lucus and Puerto Vallarta. We drove out a day early and enjoyed some time in Irvine. I had a chance to meet up with an old college friend and caught up with nearly fourteen years of news. The kids were tired though and the excitement of the cruise ship was rather overwhelming. I suppose a child's view of heaven is endless Fruit Loops and ice cream cones at any time of day. Sleep was difficult for them and made them rather clingy. This was especially true for Keila. We had hoped Camp Carnival (a play camp designed for kids) would be our ticket to some time off from the older two but we found ourselves answering a Camp Carnival issued cell phone to come and comfort Keila nearly every fifteen minutes.

A look in the Camp Carnival room for 2-5 year olds. They had time for babies early in the morning so even Elias could enjoy some of the toys there. Isaac it LOVE IT!!! He made his own friends and would run around saying hi to them whenever he saw them. Keila liked it so long as Kent and I were there. She and I had fun jam session on our instruments, "Rockin' it OUT!" as she would say.

Our difficulties were compounded by Elias' response to the new environment. EVERYTHING was too much. The LSD inspired patterns on the walls and the lights made the poor kid cry (i swear you could hear the colors around you!) let alone the music or people who tried to get my son's attention. A quick side note, making the noises you make to a dog or a bird is not the most flattering thing you could do to a baby - he's a human folks, talk to him like one! its common for children with DS to be more sensitive to stimuli and since he is not one to cry too much we knew he was truly distressed. The best time to be out with him was the early morning and anything beyond a half hour was too much unless he fell into oblivion while I carried him in the baby carrier. We took to staying in the cabin from lunchtime and on.

Elias ate lots of oatmeal and yogurt (Mama was generous with the brown sugar) and spent lots of time close to one of us. Love how the sunscreen really had his faux hawk stylin'!

The only thing that Kent and I had really wanted was a little time to ourselves and to savor our meals in the dinning room in the evening. I concocted a plan to give us a little of what we had hoped for. The senior matrie'd gave permission for our dining room meals to be served to us in our cabin. So once Isaac and Keila were asleep in the cabin across the hall, Kent and I could finally enjoy our meal and some quiet time.

But until we made this arrangement I was in despair. I literally cried the second night of the cruise, more stressed with trying to help everyone adjust and calm down while irritated that we might have spent a fortune just to throw everyone off schedule! It was the first time I truly resented having a child with DS. Along with that was a flood of guilt for even having such feelings and thoughts. Frankly I was overwhelmed from doctor visits for both Elias and Isaac (Elias needing to get established with specialists and Isaac with his major allergies and ADHD), to the self biting and scratching Keila was exhibiting as she struggle to adjust to the lack of attention, let alone the day to day work of maintaining a home and family.

In my rather melodramatic fashion I began envisioning life much the same way I was stuck in our cabin - with only a window to view the world. Looking back I know it wasn't reasonable to think that way but I was in a selfish sort of way and couldn't see past what I so desperately wanted - freedom from needs I was incapable of meeting and the guilt that accompanied it.

A veiw of Cabo San Lucas and Elias wiped out on the quiet of the beach.

I took to reading a book that Gina from Sharing Down Syndrome of AZ gave when she came to visit so many months ago. At that time I had devoured every factual book she gave on DS, but had left "Gifts" by the side. It was a collection of essays from mothers with children with DS. I didn't need warm and fuzzy, I need facts and information I was too busy for something insubstantial. What a silly judgement to pass. Now I was grateful that I brought it on a whim, it was exactly the nourishment I needed.

Daily ice creams, a friend (Dokey) made from palm leaves and a view of the ship.

I savoured each story as women share their raw emotions before, during and after the births of their children. The massive guilt I found weighing on me lessened as I realized that I wasn't alone in being overwhelmed by needs. No I would not be able to do everything but somehow everything will be alright and better than I imagined. In the lines from a popular song , "I gotta have Faith!" (Sorry to all those who now have George Micheal running through their heads!)

The women spoke of how their worlds had been turned upside down and yet they ended up with greater gifts then they could have ever imagined for themselves. No, they did not have perfect homes, orderly children or even a sense of being 'on top of it' but they had Better things. They had learned to slow down, enjoy the small things of life, their children learned sacrafice, strength and love, their family was closer. In the end that's what matters most.

We paid for a shore excursion from Puerto Vallarta to Las Calletas, a 45 min boat ride to a much more remote beach. Absolutely gorgeous clear waters, so clear we could easily see the tropical fish swimming beneath our boat.

So by day three I let go of my expectations and just went with it. Elias still woke extra early in the morning so I began ordering an early breakfast from room service and we went for walks on the deck enjoying the sunrise. Keila and I spent time in the cabin playing games or watching movies, getting in some much need snuggle time. I enjoyed watching Isaac drop on to the deck out of the blue and make water angels. Our shore excursions went well, particularly Puerto Vallarta and we had fun. The vacation wasn't waht I planned for, or what I'd imagined but it was still good.

In Las Calletas they allowed us to get close and personal with a few of the native animals there.

Absolutely LOVE Keila's expression here!

The jungle was beautiful! It was an area so untouched and I was surprised to see bamboo in patches all around. There was a kids area where they could zip-line through the foliage. The beach area had kayaks, snorkling equipment and flatboards for you to play with. It was all included in the cost, nothing for those super serious into the sports, but perfect for a family who just wanted to try things out. Kent did the flatboard and kayaked with the kiddos. Wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but they have the memories.

The fun towel animals that were made for the kiddos. My personal favorite is the gorilla. It was so cute to see the kids rush in to see the latest 'gift'. At first they couldn't find the gorilla and Keila was so sad, "He forgot ...." but she turned around and looked up and squealled with delight.

So it was fun after all, just very different from what we were hoping. And while we didn't get to spend the time together that we wanted, both Kent and I were able to enjoy the kids and their wonder and excitement that we would have missed otherwise. It was also a chance for me to 'breath and grieve' if you will. I know I started the post with saying it was a lesson on sacrafice, but in the end, the things I felt like I was sacraficing weren't really things that matter in the end. The dancing, the meals or shows are nothing in comparision to my husband and children. I wouldn't change having Elias for anything because everything pales in comparison. Mind you if you ask Kent and I when our next cruise is, we'll smile and laugh a little ,"probably not for many years from now"!