What we did and when we did it. Sometimes.

What we did and when we did it. Sometimes. People, places and events to remember.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New (Old) Routines

We are enjoying this season of new beginnings and re-starts.  

Last year, we lost a lot of our bedtime routines with Evan and Corrie.  I was pumping and with Ben, so Emmett managed baths and bedtime on his own.  He did a stellar job, but we got out of the habit of reading the Bible at bedtime - Evan and Corrie listen differently, so it was hard to do it with both of them together.  We tried reading as a family at dinner - and that worked sometimes, but we weren't great at having regular mealtimes.

So ... for back to school, we had a family dinner on Sunday night, talked about being compassionate at school, and presented each of the kids with a new Bible.  (I didn't think to take pictures till after baths).

They were both excited to read at bedtime again, and I'm glad to be more involved. Ben is going to sleep around 7:30 now, and the big kids' bedtime is between 8:00 - 8:30, so I can read and snuggle with Corrie while Emmett and Evan read together.  

Another new/old thing is my time with Corrie.  I've missed having one on one time with her over the summer.  Now that Evan is back in school, Corrie and I definitely get to hang out during Ben's naps.  For the first day of school, we made chocolate chip cookies.  Corrie put on her apron - and tied it - washed her hands and came to the kitchen all ready to cook.  Do you see the spoon sticking out of her pocket?

It's an adjustment to get back in the school routine, but I'm thankful for it.  

I think this will be a great year!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back to School - Second Grade!

Evan started school yesterday.  He's in the second grade.

A few comments:
(1) I have no pictures of day 1.

(2) We missed registration at the school a few weeks ago because we had just returned from our big trip and the kids were all sick-ish and out of it.  I didn't want to drag the three sick and grumpy kids to school to wait in line for registration.  BIG MISTAKE.

(3) When you take your whole family to school to see the oldest one off to second grade, it would be better to be REGISTERED.  If you are NOT registered, you will arrive early (say, 7:15 or so), then learn that registration won't start until 8:30 a.m.  By the time your child is finally registered, it is after 9:00 a.m.  School starts at 7:55 a.m.

(4) While we were waiting in the registration line, we realized that Evan's school supplies were at home in the living room.  Emmett took the two younger kids and drove home to pick up the bag of notebooks, glue, etc.  He also made PB&J sandwiches for the children, since we had figured Evan would be eating breakfast in his classroom.

(5) Evan finally made it to class - hooray! - and most of his classmates from last year are in his room again.  He got an enthusiastic welcome from the kids, and a very businesslike greeting from his teacher.  I may need to send some kind of teacher appreciation treat next week to make up for our extreme tardiness.  Any ideas?

(6) Evan's response to his first day:  "It was fine.  I prefer first grade to second grade."  Why?  "Second grade is just talk, talk, talk, talk."  Ha!

Today is day 2.  Emmett took Evan to school this morning.  On time.  :)  And I got a couple of pictures:

Before he left ...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fx4 2012: Weekend Blitz

It was a busy weekend!  We started at Medieval Times:

We cheered for the yellow knight.  He acquitted himself well in the ring - won lots of flowers from the princess for horsemanship, but did not emerge victorious.  Bummer.  Corrie got a flower from him, though, and she was pretty pleased about that.  Evan wasn't very enthusiastic about going until we got there.  I think the castle impressed him, and then he loved all the riding and sword fighting.  Ben was great - watched, took a bottle, and slept.

Then we headed into the city for Mediterranean food and tasty dessert with friends from First Free.

We had dinner at Andie's.  Left the kids (except Ben) at Matt & Sylvia's place.  This was a big splurge: saganaki, hummus, kefta and steak kebabs, and a spinach and gorgonzola crepe.  YUM! 

Then we picked up some baked goods at Taste of Heaven.  Have I mentioned yet how much we miss the food in Chicago? 

Here are the guys.  They skipped dessert.  Ben did great throughout dinner, but knocked out on the walk around our old neighborhood.  I think I have "Ben sleeping" pictures from just about every place we stopped on this vacation.  He's amazing.

If you look carefully, you can see Corrie hiding behind Emmett.  I'm a little bedraggled; Sylvia and I took a walk in the park when we first got to their place, and it rained!  We stood in the doorway to an apartment building until the rain stopped.

I used to babysit Nicholas when he was a baby.  Now he's nine.  How did that happen?  

Evan and Adaline were born only one day apart.  We did birthday breakfasts with them for the first couple of years.  And we celebrated Thanksgiving with them several times.   This family also used to dogsit Rosie when we would go out of town. 

It was great to just sit and talk with them.  Even though we're not the best at keeping in touch, it's easy to pick up right where we left off.  I love friends like that!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fx4 2012: Friends Old and New

As I've been going back through pictures and thinking over our trip, it struck me that the best parts of this vacation were the people.  We saw family and friends from different seasons of our life.  I appreciate more and more how good it is to be known.

The last year was lonely for me.  Even before Ben was born, I knew that my world would be shrinking.  Some good friends moved away and I was going to have a baby.  I stepped away from MOPS leadership temporarily and anticipated a time of adjustment.  It was time to concentrate on home and family.

I did NOT anticipate extra doctor appointments, therapy, and pumping for a couple of hours every day!  The kids and I spent a lot of time at home, in front of the TV or computer ... and I felt like I was surviving and reacting to events instead of being intentional.

Many of the people that we saw on our trip are people that I called when I had a hard day.  They listened and prayed and encouraged me from afar.  These are the people that were our friends and support when our first baby was born; they've watched our family grow from two to three to four, and now to five. 


We spent Thursday evening eating Rosati's Pizza with friends from Northwestern.  We met through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at NU, then stayed in Chicago after school.  Emmett and Chris were roommates for a year after college, and Emmett and Dan worked together for a while.

Jo and I were close friends throughout college, and we've continued to be phone-buddies since graduation.  Kindra and I used to trade babysitting when we each had one child.  :)
 Look at those kids!  Ben must have been asleep already when we took this picture.  Evan's the oldest in the group. (Abby, Caroline, Elias, Ben, Corrie, Bethany, and Evan).

Here are the parents.  Our only available photographers were children.  :)


While I was online this year (during all those hours of pumping), I found some wonderful resources about Down syndrome.  The first connections I made were through babycenter.com.  They have forums for all sorts of parenting situations, including a group for parents of kids with Down syndrome.  It was great to read other people's thoughts and questions and answers.  I followed some of those women to their blogs, where I devoured birth stories and diagnosis stories and felt not-so-alone.  I even emailed some women personally. 

Two of the women I "met" live in Chicagoland.  Chris is very involved with her local Gigi's Playhouse, a Down syndrome awareness center.  She invited our family to come for a visit while we were in town.  It was GREAT.  Of course, it's the one activity we did that I didn't really take pictures of.  Here are a few.

As you can tell, there is a ball pit at Gigi's Playhouse.  :)  There are also lots of toys, a stage, comfy couches, computers, climbing equipment and educational tools.  It was fantastic.  I wish we had one in the Valley!

Chris gave us the grand tour, and then she and I had lunch together while Emmett and the three kids played at Gigi's.  It was so good to meet her in person.  We talked about breastfeeding and pumping and schools and speech and labor and delivery stories.

The other mom that I hoped to meet while we were in Chicago is Gillian Marchenko.  She has a blog: www.gillianmarchenko.com, and I'm a big fan.  We attended the same church (at different times), she does a lot of writing and speaking to moms, and she has four kids (two have Down syndrome).  I sent her a creepy stalker email, and she bravely agreed to meet me.  :) 

Unfortunately, we only had one morning available and her family was on vacation most of the time we were in the area, so we didn't get to meet in person.  Maybe next time! 

That was Day 7 of our trip.  I promise to speed up the rest of my vacation posts so I can get back to just posting about life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Forward Motion

We interrupt this scintillating vacation series with important news:

Ben can MOVE!

He's not doing a 4 point crawl, but he can now move forward deliberately instead of rolling everywhere.  One of our goals for PT this year was for him to crawl at a year.  Well, here we are at 12.5 months and he's just now army crawling.  I love his big smile.  He's ready to GO.

Yay, Ben! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fx4 2012: Arlington Heights and NU

I think it was Sunday night when we got the call.  The very first family we planned to see in Chicago could not see us on Tuesday.  Their son had just gotten sick with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, and the parents worried that their girls would get it, too ... then give it to us, and then we would spread infection willy-nilly over the Chicagoland area.  We talked about it for a while and decided it would be better for us to stay elsewhere.

After many phone calls to several families, we found an alternate plan.  Our good friends in Arlington Heights were willing to let us extend our stay by a few days.  Yay!  Thanks, Voelkers.  :)

We arrived on Tuesday night and headed out for dinner.  The restaurant had all the classic Chicago diner food: Polish sausage, brats, etc. but they also had a bulgogi sandwich and teriyaki on the menu.

It was close enough that we could walk.  Yay!  

In Texas, we don't walk anywhere.  It's just drive, drive, drive.   It's probably partly because of the heat and partly because everything is so spread out.

The next day we went to visit our old stomping grounds in Evanston.  Here's our friend Dan with all the girls.  I love how they're all wearing pink shirts and ruffled skirts (um, except Dan).  Corrie enjoyed all the girl time.

Finally some faces!  Jo and I were neighbors at Northwestern University.  Here's one of our dorms: good old Rogers House.  And the Rock.  Different campus groups paint the rock throughout the year.  The purple and white "2012" was classic - a good place to do some family photos.

It was crazy hot that day.  By the time we got to Norris (the student union), we were all sweaty and tired.  But did we stop?  NO!  Well, we paused for a bit.  We recuperated in the A/C for a little while, then headed back out to see Lake Michigan.

Ben was awake in the A/C, but the hot sun lulled him to sleep.  :)  Emmett and Evan enjoyed climbing on the rocks together.

Abby looks thoughtful.

There was a cow in Norris.  I can't remember why.

So happy to be back in the air conditioning!

Other culinary highlights from the day: Chipotle and Buffalo Joe's.  I'm an awful south Texan because I looooooove Chipotle.  It is terrible to admit that I live about half an hour away from Mexico - and can get good Mexican food easily - but I still pine for the yummy goodness of Chipotle.  I am ashamed but unrepentant.

Note: I have no pictures of Chipotle because (1) they all look the same and (2) Jo and I took the 5 kids to Chipotle so Emmett and Dan could have lunch in peace.  Our lunch was not exactly peaceful.  Yummy, yes.  Peaceful, not so much.

Buffalo Joe's is Dan's favorite restaurant.  When he and Emmett were both working at Northwestern, they would have chicken wings at BJ's once a week.  I hoped that the guys from BJ's would recognize Emmett, but they didn't.  The guys still enjoyed the wings.  :)

We weren't sure if we were going to see Northwestern at all, so it was a real treat to spend the morning there.  I can't believe we graduated 15 years ago.

This was Day 6 of our vacation.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fx4 2012: Memphis and More

We left Vicksburg on Monday morning.  We've done the drive from Vicksburg to Chicago many, many times - and every time we have driven through Memphis, we have noticed the sign for the National Civil Rights Museum.  Who knows how many times we will drive this way again?  I figured this was finally our chance to stop.

The museum is well-designed and full of information.  Corrie and Ben were too young to appreciate much of it - there was a lot of reading involved - but Evan took it all in.

When Emmett was explaining nonviolence and what happened in the Montgomery bus boycott, Evan commented "the black people sure were smarter than the white people."  It was striking - and disturbing - to see images of fire hoses and dogs, and videos of people hitting and jeering at students as they sat quietly at lunch counters.  It was hard to know how to explain those actions to our kids.

The tour ends at the hotel room that Dr. King was staying in before he was shot.  The wreath on the balcony marks where he stood.

I highly recommend this museum for anyone visiting Memphis.  


That night, we stopped for pizza to honor Emmett's brother Elliott's birthday.


The next day, we drove to Chicago! 

We stopped along the way for lunch at a rest area.  This was actually one of our best decisions for the trip.  In an effort to save money, we planned to buy only one meal a day while driving.  Otherwise, we would eat the free continental breakfast at the hotel and carry snacks and a picnic lunch.  This worked GREAT.  I bought juice boxes, goldfish crackers, fruit, chips, etc. and we made sandwiches each morning.  Our daily drives were shorter because we weren't stopping as much, and our gas station visits were a lot quicker (and had much LESS whining!) because we already had snacks available.  The rest areas also gave the kids a chance to stretch their legs.

 Do you think the kids were tired of sitting?  :)

Memphis was Day 4 and the drive to Chicago was Day 5 of our vacation.  Next up: Arlington Heights.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fx4 2012: Vicksburg

After our semi-eventful drive, we were glad to hang out in Vicksburg for a couple of days.  My Aunt Sandra and Uncle Bobby joined us for dinner on Saturday night.  Mom spoiled us with a big home-cooked meal: pot roast, rice and gravy, lima beans, field peas, rolls, and I think there was more.  I know there were brownies and banana pudding for dessert.

Uncle Mark!
So glad to see Grandma.
Sunday we saw the good folks of Gibson Memorial.  We stayed for potluck after the service.  Yum. 

Here we are before church:

Aloha shirts!
Corrie and blue blankie

The sun!  The sun!  Ben and I are squinty.

We split up for the afternoon.  Emmett and Mark took the big kids to the Vicksburg National Military Park to run around.  Evan loves to pretend he's a soldier, and he roped everyone into a big game of war.  Although I guess he got a little confused ... when Mark and Corrie attacked, Evan warned Emmett to "Watch out for the Germans!"  Wrong war, sweetie.  It was crazy hot that day, so Corrie mostly hung out in the air-conditioned car while the boys explored.

The one picture the guys took at the park.

Mom, Ben and I spent a couple of hours hanging out at Walmart, waiting to get the battery replaced.  One of the women who works at the WalMart Tire Center has a young daughter with Down syndrome, so we talked briefly.

For dinner, Rowdy's!  I had to get fried catfish (and batter fries) while we were in Mississippi. 

We usually play games when we're with my family.  After the kids went to bed, Mom and I took on Emmett and Mark in a Sequence tournament.  The guys won.  Shady business.

Another Evan story:  Mom likes to get books for Evan (The Magic Tree House series, Rikki Tikki Tavi, etc).  This time, she gave him Stone Fox.  She warned him that the ending was surprising.  Evan started reading that afternoon, and took it up to bed with him.  "Grandma, thanks for this book.  I really like it."  Mom and I got to talking about the book, and she said that when she read it to her 4th graders at school, she cried.  Why?  Spoiler alert:  it's about a sled race, and at the very end of the book, the boy's dog dies, and he has to carry the dead dog across the finish line to win the race. 

Note: A year or so ago, Mom gave us the movie Eight Below about stranded sled dogs at the South Pole.  She also recommended Old Yeller.  

Despite his affinity for weapons and war, Evan's kind of sensitive.  Sure enough, later in the evening, he came downstairs, holding the book, looking totally shell-shocked.  "It's the second saddest thing I've ever seen," he said, tears in his eyes.  What was the first?  "Eight Below."