Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Merry Christmas & happy end of 2008!

It is December 31st, 2008.... where has the time gone? Today John said to me "Remember Y2K?" It seems like so long ago. It was my full time job helping our company prepare and test and test and test some more for Y2K. And honestly it was so anti-climatic when it came and went. And here we are, 9 years after computers were supposed to stop working, we would have no water and the world would come to an end. I wonder sometimes how the people who bought bunkers out in the plains feel today. Anyway, I digress because I am tired and a simple thought process seems quite challenging right now. And of course the kids want to stay up to ring in the New Year. I think we will be half zombies at Mass in the morning. 

But, I did want to update the blog and let you know what a wonderful Christmas we had this year. Unexpectedly John's parents were in town to help my brother and sister-in-law move to a new home (a totally awesome, beautiful dream home with an amazing kitchen!) so we had a wonderful big family Christmas.  

Christmas Eve we had a small dinner - just John, me and the kids - and we had ham dinner. I grew up in Peru and having a big hot meal on Christmas (in summer) just seemed insane - so we always had our dinner on Christmas Eve. John and I adopted a modified version of this Mortimer tradition. I cooked dinner while John and the kids delivered all the goodies we had baked. We enjoyed dinner, and then went to Mass where Alexandra was Altar serving. We came home and in a tradition John and I created for the family - the kids got one present to open. Now, the get excited every year but they know exactly what it is - pj's!! Two reasons - a) they normally need new winter pj's by this time of the year; and b) they are guaranteed to be clean and decent in pics from Christmas morning!! We did our Advent readings and off to bed we went. 

Christmas morning we had promised to keep the kids out of the gifts until John's parents could get here to celebrate - which was around 9am. Fortunately the little ones slept in but the big ones hid in the basement to contain their excitement. Grandma is always very generous and stocks the tree abundantly. The kids love this! They know that from John and I they will get three gifts.... after all, we are celebrating Christ's birth and Jesus himself got three gifts. Another family tradition I guess! Usually the gifts are an outfit, a book or movie, and a game or something fun. Then Santa brings the kids one big gift each. This year Santa gave in on their repeated request for a game system - so he brought one gift for the kids to share - a Wii game system. Talk about excitement, and screaming and jumping and now endless hours of playing Wii tennis, bowling, baseball and Mario-something-slugger.  We were also joined by my brother and sister-in-law (Greg & Brenda) and together enjoyed a wonderful turkey dinner. Brenda has the reputation of making the best deserts in the family - and she baked a delicious cake and yummy cheese cake. 

Now to share some of the kids favorites this year - 

Peter - light up Christmas socks - 

Alexandra - snicker doodle scented candle

Tommy - the remote control helicopter that Jack got from his godparents

Jack - the heli, a foam disk shooter and a maze book + computer game 

Michael - hands down...the Wii

And on an embarrassing note I must confess my own lack of being in good shape. This last summer after Peter turned a year I started exercising again. I went out every morning and was doing 4 - 5 miles a day part walk and part run. I felt great! I lost weight! I felt good!! Then school started and my life went crazy. I didn't have time to exercise, I never got back on top of laundry and felt like I was constantly flying by the seat of my pants keeping up with home, kids, husband and work. Ahh! Well, I recently recognized my need to start exercising again - so I've been getting up early before everyone else to fit in prayer and exercise. I have become somewhat fanatic in the last couple of weeks in my useless attempt to look more like Heidi Klum before my trip to Peru. I am failing terribly despite being up to 6 miles a day, eating little and drinking lots of water - I'm cursed! Anyway, I digress again. I was started to feel more comfortable that I was getting "fit" again. Michael challenged me to the Wii. "Sure" I told myself "just a kids game - how hard can it be?" Well, he kicked my @$$ at tennis which was embarrassing. I decided to move onto bowling - you know - a sport more suited for us maturing parents. Well, he double kicked my @$$. My competitive edge kicked in and I was bound a determined to master the bowling. In a less than stellar parenting move, I sent Michael off to bed and stayed with the Wii. I bowled for an hour trying to beat Michael's 203 score. I maxed out at 185. It was midnight and I went to bed. I should have iced my shoulder because my right arm was so sore I could barely move it for three days. I have not yet taken on the Wii again!

Anyway - it is 2009 in half the world, so I better wrap this up and just say THANK YOU GOD for a wonderful 2008! please continue to guide us and bless us in 2009!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Dream Kitchen?

Ask me how I would describe my dream kitchen - and likely I would tell you all about the design. Almost opposite of what we have now! I dream of a big kitchen, center island, country sink, double oven, etc. You know - the kitchens we see in TV or in magazines. But, reality is I have a small galley style kitchen that requires creative packing to get everything into it.... especially since I have somewhat of an addiction to small appliances - I will unfortunately never have enough! 

This is what my kitchen looks like right now.... and yes that is a glass of well deserved wine after a long day! 

So, this is not how it looked all day. And that is where the true dream kitchen comes in. While my kitchen is not my fantasy kitchen design, today it was my dream kitchen. All my kids piled into our little kitchen - each with their well-used and somewhat stained apron on. Each with their own little project. But, each project perfectly intertwined with every one else's project. The perfect timing of baking. And, through it all there was laughter, teasing, a lot of fingers "taste testing" and a smidgen of drama. Would hate to imply we are a perfect TV family because Lord knows we are not! (You will see the evidence of taste testing below)

But, at the end of a long day, and a kitchen that took over two hours to get free of a couple of loads of dishes, dropped M&M's, finger smudges and stuff I don't even recognize - we have a recipe for family togetherness and a lot to show for it!  So here is a bit of the magic everyone brought to the kitchen - 

Alexandra made peanut butter and swirl kisses cookies:

Michael whipped up a double batch of brownies using the same recipe I learned in summer school at his age:

Jack made is very own double batch of M&M cookies. He also helped mash the bananas for our banana bread:

Tommy carefully made a batch of vanilla ice cream and lent his expert "taste testing" to everyone's special projects:

Peter was in and out of the kitchen sprinkling us all with love and giggles. And I made up another batch of blackberry jam (yes - the berries were still on sale!). 


We tied all our projects together and have goodies for our neighbors that we plan on dropping off tomorrow. 

So, back to the dream kitchen - today I had my dream kitchen! I had the kitchen I close my eyes and dream of when I am at work missing my kids like crazy. Today we spent the time together creating with our hands - and at the end of the day (even if super late) can put our feet up and smile. 

God bless you all as we continue to prepare for Christmas.... and let our recipe for life this week remind us the real reason for the season. As my kids say - Happy Birthday Jesus!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Peter - CarePage - December 22nd, 2008

PT @ TCH - 

Peter had his physical therapy assessment at The Children's Hospital - Denver today. We again were able to see Pat Winders who I told you about many months ago. She is the number one PT for kids with DS in the world. She is so inspiring and so positive! She was thrilled with Peter's progress since last time she saw him. He has come such a long way. I think she was equally as excited to see him off of oxygen and getting so healthy. She was surprised at his agility and speed in the army crawl arena - that kid burns rubber - think he gets it from my dad who used to race cars.... love of speed runs in the family. Alexandra and Jack came up for the session too - Jack wanted to escape Colorado Springs, make new friends and unfortunately spilt water all over the computer in the evaluation room. Oops! The thing was still running when we left - so hopefully no bill for that repair - yikes! He was his normal chatty self - he really knows no strangers. Alexandra really wanted to fully partake in the session and share her observations on Peter - but was frustrated that Jack needed some entertaining at times. 

Peter now has his new goals to get to the next level - the first being working towards independent walking. She wants him to take steps forward. We've worked on it some up until now, but he somewhat resisted it, and keeps his knees locked. Pat said we shouldn't worry yet about the locking knees or position of feet since he is at this time insecure and not pulled together. He doesn't have good balance at this time for walking, but she believes that as he gets stronger and more confident in his moves he will take off like he did with the army crawl. 

Pat also wants Peter to work on cruising to the right. While he doesn't really enjoy cruising, he will if it is to reach something on the couch - but generally he will go to the left. We need to work on going to the right. She also wants us to work on crawling on all fours. I've noticed recently that he has been pulling his knees in more as he army crawls - but he doesn't want to push up and walk his hands. She used the same technique that Kerry (our PT) has used - so we need to work on that more at home now. 

The last thing we need to work on is reinforcing the turning and sliding to come down stairs or off of furniture. Right now he does pretty good coming off furniture, and sliding down if he is half way climbing the stairs. However, if he is already at the top he won't turn onto his tummy and slide down naturally. She talked about using single word commands per se. So instead of saying "now turn and climb down the stairs" we should just say "down" and point. She called it "labels". So single word labels that let Peter know what to do. So we need to teach him that down means "I turn onto my tummy and push backwards". Admittedly this was somewhat of a new concept to me. I know that I have used single words or short commands in the past with the other kids, but by nature I am a pretty chatty person (I know - gasp - what a surprise! catherine is NOT a person of few words??!!). As a result I tend to talk a lot to Peter. I guess I just figured he was learning vocabulary and sounds in the process of me talking to him. And I am sure he is - but now I must rethink when to be chatty and work on sounds and vocabulary, and when to use single labels to teach an action or response. As a side note - our older kids teachers have often commented on their vocabulary as young kids - don't take me wrong- they are not users of the finer form of English - but they used a lot of words to communicate or tell stories. I think that is as a result of John and I both NOT being people of few words. Hmmm.... I guess that explains Jack and his addiction to talking. 

Anyway, I digress once again. But, honestly Peter is doing great! She was gracious to not compare Peter to any other child - a sign of professionalism if you ask me - but I would suspect he is in the middle of the pack. Which honestly is fine with me.... as long as he is progressing the speed is less of an issue. My pediatrician has always told me speed is not reflective of how far you get - and some kids are slow persistent little turtles that will eventually surpass the hares in group. I like to believe that is Peter..... the little persistent bear (not turtle) who smiles and keeps trying and trying and trying. He obviously isn't the fastest but he might just go the furthest!

Here are a few pics from the session. 
Love to all - 

Here Peter is playing on a cool toy which she would gentle push to make him walk. Since he really didn't realize he was doing it he was more cooperative - but she still positioned behind him so that he wouldn't flop on his butt like he does when he doesn't want to stand

"Seriously?! you think I am going to walk??!! ha ha ha!"

Putting a motivator in front of Peter (the toy) at a higher level - so higher than floor level which he could army crawl to, but lower than a couch which he would just cruise or reach standing.  You can see the positioning, the encouraging forward and celebrating the victory. 


"If I go floppy can I stop?!"


Beautiful sis Alexandra

Friday, December 19, 2008

Alexandra's Birthday Party!

Alexandra had her birthday party this evening. It was simply ten girls having a great time! The theme was a Christmas based cookie exchange. We changed the rules a bit, but each girl brought two dozen cookies - and almost all of them clearly made the cookies themselves which was exciting to see. The evening started off with just a lot of laughter and goofiness - then the girls enjoyed pizza dinner with salad. They headed down to the basement to watch "Mama Mia". Sidebar - we did question having girls this age watching it but each of the parents was fine with it - we did have some back up choices should the underlying story line be uncomfortable for some parents to address. 

I think with this group of teenage girls Edward (from Twilight) has temporarily been replaced by Skyler in the movie. The girls snuggled up under quilts and watch the movie. I could occassionally here them laughing, uhh-ing and the breaking out into dance. Funny how Abba music lives on!

While the girls were watching I cleaned up the dinner table and set up the cookie part of the party. I made party favor bags with one of each cookie in it, and then sealed it with a sticker and an old fashion rusty metal bell ornament. I'm biased.....I thought the table looked great with the cookies and the gift bags. 

Took about 3 seconds, maybe 5, for there to be flying cookies, crumbs and chugging down of hot apple cider! Tommy and Jack joined the girls for this part of the event - but they can not be blamed for the mess left behind by a feast well enjoyed. 

Alexandra said she thought the party went off really well - which is really the seal of approval any mom needs! She had friends from school as well as outside of school at the party - but they did a good job integrating with each other and making sure no one was left out. Not sure what silly game they were playing but I've never seen so many teenage girls giggle, laugh, and chase each other up and down the stairs like they did when they were in Kindergarten. 

I'm exhausted - so off to bed.

Good night!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas & A Blessed New Year! (yes - our family letter now online!)

From our family to yours - we wish you a wonderful Advent season, a very Merry Christmas, and a joyful 2009!!  In tradition of our letters - here is a little something on each of our beautiful children this year. 

Peter - well, what a year! He has really grown and got quite strong. He is sitting and pulling to stand. He is army crawling and climbing onto stuff. He can sneak up the stairs and is working on coming down. He is saying a couple of words - and signing others. He is eating and enjoying it. He still prefers puree food with textures, but he will feed himself finger food. The greatest gift of 2008 was healing - his lungs are getting healthier each day! His pulmonary hypertension is resolved and he is now on oxygen only at night! Wonderful!!  We know that 2009 will bring so much more development and we are excited to see him continue to grow and challenge himself. 

Tommy - he’s three now! He is such an interesting, quirky, funny and incredibly smart little boy. He doesn’t want to potty train - but we are confident he will before college! He loves his role of big brother to Peter, and is teaching him much. He has a very active imagination - and with his major accomplice: Jack - can turn blankets into forts, cushions into bridges, chairs into trains, and invoke guardian angels to battle in the middle of the night. He shares a room with Jack, but sometimes finds himself in our bed in the middle of the night - when I asked him why he said Jack’s dinosaurs were too noisy and waking him up at night. And, when in doubt the remote control makes a great phone for calling “friends”. 

Jack - our little future Bronco’s player turned 5 this year. He graduated up to Kindergarten and talks about school every day! He is still “dating” Elizabeth whom he plans to marry one day and they plan to have 8 kids! He took football camp this summer and had the most fun of any kid. He has the fastest little legs in the west - and loves running into the wind. The volunteer coordinator at school is recruiting Jack into track in first grade because of his speed and stamina..... during a school fund raiser he out ran most of the older kids. He enjoys being read to before bed. He prays at night for another sister - a testament to how much he loves Alexandra. 

Michael - now in 5th grade! And turned double digits this year. He will be 11 in January and is turning into a strong young man. His sport of choice seems to be basketball, and he really enjoyed some camps this summer. He visited Peru earlier this year, and experienced a world so different from Colorado. While on a trip into the Amazon jungle with his grandparents, they encountered some rioting during a national strike. Boulders on the road, burning trees and being surrounded by an angry mob that threw rocks at their car was more than frightening. They obviously eventually got home safely - but I think Michael has decided traveling the world might not be for him!

Alexandra - she is wrapping up middle school and will be going onto high school next year. Where have the years gone? Seems like yesterday she was in our arms as a newborn. She is now 14 and keeps growing like a weed. She is easily 5’9” and not showing a sign of slowing down. She played volleyball again this year, and continues to improve and develop. However, she has found her true joy is acting. She took some acting camps this summer and this fall was in a local production of “The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe”. She hopes to participate in more plays and get involved in drama while in high school. 

John coached the Colorado Springs School boy’s golf teams again this year. The boys have such admiration and respect for John - it is great to see what a positive influence he has had on them as players and individuals. One of his players made it to State Championship this year which was remarkable for his second year. They are looking forward to doing even better next year under John’s guidance. John continued to teach privately and will possibly pick up a girl’s golf team in 2009. The highlight of the year is always his ice fishing trip - which is coming up in January. So should you want to escape for a weekend of camaraderie, fishing, grilling, and of course a beer - pencil it in for President’s Day weekend and call John!

Catherine continues to work for UnitedHealthcare and is not sure what 2009 will bring to the industry. She volunteers cooking meals for a local foster family, and recently was elected onto the board of the Colorado Springs Down Syndrome Association - she is very excited to develop awareness in the community for our children, support for new parents, and help promote understanding in our medical community. 

Peter and Catherine (if all stay healthy) will be headed to Peru in January to celebrate a milestone birthday for Catherine’s mother. While only going for a week, they are planning some relax time on the beach. A much needed break after a hectic 2008. 

We hope that this finds you well - and that 2009 will bring you much joy, laughter, love and blessings! We hope if you are in Colorado you will look us up!

God bless, 

John, Catherine, Alexandra, Michael, Jack, Tommy, Peter and Angel-Dog



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Michael's First Jam!

Just a quick post to share that we now have 3 jam makers in the family. I learned from a dear friend (Barb) several years ago and it fast became a family favorite. We are besides ourselves when berries are on sale - as they were just recently at our grocery store. I stocked up on Raspberries and Blackberries to whip out a quick batch. Michael has in the past helped me crush the fruit, and offered once again to help tonight. I was cleaning up from the raspberries and getting ready for the blackberries. Well, one thing led to another and Michael made the batch himself from beginning to end.... and he had fun doing it! Alexandra is hoping berries will be on sale again soon so she can make more, and I hear John in the other room saying he wants to help.  It is just one of those warm and fuzzy moments knowing you've shared something your children will take with them and teach their kids one day. Once Jack, Tommy and Peter all learn how to make jam we'll be able to open a jam store! And it all started with Barb teaching a group of ladies how to make strawberry jam four years ago! Thanks Barb!!

Good night -