Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can I skip Halloween and jump to Thanksgiving?

We had a busy yet incredibly productive weekend. A true team effort. The combination of getting stuff finally done around the house and an increase in chocolate intake has brought me back some sanity! Actually - I think it is getting to 30 weeks that has allowed me to step out of that hormonal homicidal stage and back to normal despite still being tired - a stage I am likely to stay in for quite a while. I am so looking forward to meeting little Gretchen Anne - but daunted by the idea of no sleep, midnight feedings and everything else that comes with a little one. Today John joined me for my OB appointment and we got a see our little gal in the ultra-sound. It was a good old fashion (ie. poor quality) ultra-sound so no great 3-D pics to share - but we got to see her. The hospital had requested that we do a "size" test at 30 weeks ....I am actually 29 weeks 6 days, and that is exactly what she measured in at. Doctor estimated that she is around 3.5lbs already. It was so exciting to see little parts of her emerge on the screen - an eye, a chubby little cheek and a nose. We saw her little lips moving in what appeared to be a sucking motion and I am certain she stuck her tongue out at us!

We are getting the house ready for her arrival. Michael moved into a room with Tommy and Jack. Not his first choice, but we are limited in options. Peter moved out and into Michael's old room. The room will be turning into the nursery Peter will share with Gretchen. So Saturday Peter and I did groceries and all our normal weekend errands. John - with intermittent help from the kids unloaded our normally too packed to be used garage. He sorted through stuff, re-packed and separated out things to get rid of....by the end of the day we can actually get the van back in the garage. Just in time as it snowed Saturday night and we were able to jump in a warm car and get to church on time. Celebration item #1!

Winter is coming - which to me means time to move around the family room furniture and getting the couch and love seat close to the fireplace, instead of the spread out against the walls that I like in the summer. In addition we are really trying to step up the therapy work Peter does. His toys often lost at the bottom of the tub that houses all toys. So now I had a double challenge - better set up for the toys and moving furniture around..... no new furniture as I just can't seem to find the bookcase I dream of on craigslist. So - now my project extended to the living room. Our house - built in the 70's - has built in book shelves in the living room. I put away the picture frames and nick-nacks we displayed on the shelves and converted it into our family library. Celebration item #2.

Once the books were moved out, Peter and I picked up a couple of baskets and Walmart, sorted through the toys and set up our old small book cases into what John describes as our "daycare corner". The toys are set up and now easy access for us and easy access for Peter and his therapists. A little too easy access as we are now picking up lego constantly as he can open the box and throw them. We also set the couch and love seat up close to the fireplace and the train table in the middle for all to enjoy. Peter could spend hours circling the table, pushing trains and disassembling the track. We also still have an open enough space for the kids to play the Wii on our old TV. I like the new layout and how we converted the family room into a functional playroom and cozy winter space. Celebration item #3.

John and the kids started to prep the nursery. We've got a way to go, but the walls are now painted! Our plan is to take the wall with the window and do a very basic mural - farm animals and red barns. I love red barns! There is something about red barns that inspire me - they remind me of simplicity - the life I dream of often. I hope that Peter and Gretchen will enjoy learning the names and sounds of the animals on the wall, and that one day red barns will warm their hearts as it warms me. So we have a bit to go - I am not going to include pictures as I want to wait until it is done .....but, finally taking steps to get it ready - Celebration item #4.

I've shared with you before that Peter has fought us like crazy to wear shoes. Well Celebration item #5 - we got Tommy's old baby shoes on his feet! Yay!! It has made it harder for him to practice taking steps - but a bit of a step back that will help us long term. Speaking of it, Peter has had great therapy sessions over the last couple of weeks. Just tonight as I was sitting here with John and Peter, Peter was trying to stand and take steps. He's not quite got his balance down as he wants to take off running - but this week we've seen him get on his feet and take three quick steps - yes, as he was falling forward, but none the less our persistence on getting him to walk assisted seems to be helping. I am so looking forward to him walking..... and hoping it is before I have to be carrying Gretchen around.

Now, Halloween is just a few days away. I have been meaning - since late September - to get out our fall decor and put some stuff up. Hmmm - didn't happen. So, as John reorganized the garage he pulled out my plastic tubs with fall stuff. The kids help me paste up some ghosts in the windows, a couple of halloween items for around the house and some pumpkins for the front steps. As I pulled the stuff out I found my favorite home decor - orange hanging style luminaries with an asian spin that we picked up for a couple of bucks at a garage sale around the corner, and the pilgrim couple I got on super sale at K-Mart after the holiday sale a few years ago. So - as I set them out in our dining room Sunday night - I found myself cooking up some comfort meatloaf and mashed potatoes, dimming the lights and lighting up the little tea light candles.... for that moment in time as I looked around at all the hard work everyone put into the house, reflected on my wonderful children and thought of our little one on the way I was reminded - I have much to be thankful for - and that is when I wished I could skip halloween and get straight to Thanksgiving.

Here is to finding the times to get things done, and times to slow down, dim the lights and celebrate our own little Thanksgiving for all the blessings we have any day of the year.

Hugs -

Friday, October 23, 2009

October - Down syndrome awareness month!!

It seems every month there is a national awareness month - but actually every month there are many valuable causes hoping for greater awareness in their communities and around the country. Well, October is Down syndrome awareness month. I had originally intended this post to be family update and get more pictures posted - but I think I will do that later this weekend. Today I want to share with you our family experience with Down syndrome and some amazing links I hope you will check out.

This December will be three years since we got the call letting us know Peter had DS. But to understand the influence on our lives we much go back to the start. Growing up I culturally would hear the term "The children pay for the sins of the parents" - so you can imagine where my natural reaction to guilt comes from. I didn't know or see people with disabilities. When we travelled and I saw a disabled individual I was uncomfortable - the child in me wanted to look and understand, but the other grown up side would say "don't stare". At 16 I had graduated high school, and went off to a two year boarding school in the UK. As part of the program we were to enroll and support a community service program. One such program supported disabled and troubled youth in the community. Guess what - it didn't even make my consideration. I admired the folks involved in that program but "it wasn't for me". Jump to 1995..... young married couple. We have one beautiful and healthy child. We thought we were done - our world was going to revolve around her and only her. Sitting on the living room floor of our 2 bedroom apartment - John at work and Alexandra had just fallen asleep for a nap. The TV was on in the background and I was pulled in to something playing around the Special Olympics. I just watched. It made no sense - in my heart I felt something familiar, I watched the families cheering on as these awkward kids with big smiles ran around the track. I felt like it was me but it made no sense. I figured maybe one day Alexandra and I would volunteer.... that moment was written in my heart and at times it would pop back up and I would wonder what about that small period of time made such an impression.

Fast forward to December 2006. We knew the odds and were waiting for the results of the amnio. I had taken the day off work after a doctor appointment and decided to run over to the mall. I needed a distraction. That TV program on Special Olympics kept coming back up in my mind - was that truly my fate? Then I see two young adult boys with DS walking and laughing through Old Navy. With them two very attractive blonde teenage girls. Hmmmm.....what??!! My motherly instinct kicked in - surely these girls were talking advantage of these boys somehow - getting them to buy them stuff? That was not going to happen under my watch. So waddling behind at a distance I kept a close watch - let's face it, pregnant women don't exactly make the best candidates for undercover work. I listened - and then I realized these young girls were mentors. These boys were shopping for their families. And together the four of them were having fun and laughing. What a long way from the days I was that age and didn't know a face with DS from any other face of disability.

Then the call - yes, baby is another boy for the Krause family and he has Down syndrome. I told John as we stood in the kitchen. Trying to get our arms around the words and what this meant. We now knew for sure - short of some miracle our fate had been declared. This wasn't something that would change in a week, a month, a year or a few years down the road...... this was our for ever now. This would be a part of our family - change our family. John finally looked at me, eyes moist and said "I used to make fun of people like that when I was a kid - now that is going to be my kid that other people make fun of...." We just stood there. I tried to say all the right things about being in the US, the awareness, the support, etc....but really? Could I believe those words? Would people really understand and support?

The simple and honest answer is No. Reactions were all over the board - from very loving support, to the very often "I'm sorry - how sad", to complete avoidance, to "at least you know early and can have an abortion". Lucky for me the very first person I called was my amazing pediatrician. His reaction? "Alleluiah! Amen Catherine!! I have been praying for your family and this is just the best thing that could happen. It won't always be easy, but I am here and we will get through it together. Your family is truly blessed". WOW!! That was when my little cause of awareness started. I told John - we will set the tone for how the world reacts to Peter - yes, Peter, our son conceived in love. If we loved him, others would learn to love him. If we smile, others will learn to smile. If we encourage and give him opportunities, others will too. We as individuals set the tone for how others will respect (or not) our loved ones every day - but that tone we set is heightened when your child has disabilities - because often we don't know what to say or how to react - and we look to the folks around us to set that tone. That night I wondered - will his heart be healthy enough for him to be an awkward kid with a big smile running around the track as we cheer on? Will we be one of those families, or will I truly just be a volunteer one day. Time will tell.

So I can throw the facts at you on DS - most common chromosome abnormality, happens in 1 of every 800 births, older women are at a higher chance but the average age of a new mom with a baby with DS is in her late 20's, there is a push to screen all babies pre-natally for DS, when there is a pre-natal diagnosis 9 out of 10 pregnancies are "terminated". Children with DS have a much higher chance of leukemia and other medical challenges, 6 out of 10 will have cardiac issues, some will talk - some won't...... but really - how much of that changes the way you look at an individual with DS? These facts give us intellectual awareness. I want us all to also have a "heart awareness". These individuals are as unique as you and I - they have their own interests and desires, they have their own strengths and weaknesses. They laugh and love more than you and I - but they also can feel sad, mad or down right stubborn. The color of their skin, eyes and hair will be like there families - it isn't determined by DS. Their shorter stature, lower muscle tone and almond shaped eyes unites them together. Why? I think it is God's way of showing us who they are so that we can learn and appreciate.

I know I have many, many, many more years ahead of me - and in those years additional challenges and frustrations will come up - as well as opportunities to rejoice and celebrate. Peter has blessed our family for almost three years now with the knowledge of his specialness and I don't pretend to have the knowledge and experiences that come to those with older children or adults. There is much more for us to learn and experience. So here (after a lot of babbling) is what I want to share with you for heart awareness of Down syndrome - this is what I have learned from my little boy and how he has changed our family..... Life isn't fair, but I still need to appreciate what I have...this one is hard!! Life can be hard and painful, but I shouldn't give up.... only imagine recovery from open heart surgery. Things can be hard to learn, but it is ok to ask for help...... we can all reach up our hand and ask for someone to hold it as we learn to walk our journey. When we feel down and want a hug, all we really need to do is open our arms and someone will fill the space.... and going along with that - short of saving a life - nothing is more important than to fill that space when someone is opening themselves up for a hug. When in doubt smile.... isn't it better to have someone smile back than frown back at you? If you try something you may fail, and fail, and fail again..... but true failure comes from never trying. There is no such thing as perfect - only perfectly you. If you truly want to make the world a better place - simplify your life - if we focus on loving, serving and embracing those around us how can we not make it better? Simply put - the world is our mirror - what we see is what we are...... Peter reminds us every day how special it feels to get a smile and a hug. He has taught us that things don't come easy - but we need to keep trying. We have learned that we are all imperfect - some on the outside, some on the inside - but we must continue to strive to be the best we can be.

Here is how our children have been changed - Alexandra wants to pursue physical therapy and work with children with special needs. She wants to marry a special man who will support her in adopting a child (or more) with DS from other countries and give them love and opportunity. Michael understands different and is proud of it. He takes pride in taking Peter out and introducing him to the world - and loves Peter the most because he knows Peter loves him just the way he is.... he too hopes to one day have a child with DS. Jack has learned that being the big brother means helping and encouraging - he has learned that a big smile, a huge hug and a lot of excitement can encourage people to do what they didn't think was possible - he is crazy loud, but full of love. His teacher just told us yesterday how during class sessions with the counselor Jack was the only child that could read people's emotions and needs by looking at their body language - and he responds with compassion. Tommy knows no world without Peter, and therefore sees Peter as anyone else in the family. It is with those eyes that he sees the world - just as the world if full of differently abled people, so is our family - so that is typical. Gretchen Anne will also not know a world without Peter - and I believe she will be blessed with a best friend who will love and encourage her as much as she will him.

I hope you will take the time to check out some of these other links. The first is a song I found by accident that I found truly wonderful. This is a youtube video/song called "God doesn't make mistakes"


For those of you football fans out there - you likely remember coach Stallings - mostly from his amazing success as a college coach. His only son (Johnny) had DS. He passed away not long ago. Coach Stallings wrote a book about the fears, challenges and eventual joy that came from his son. The link below is an interview he gave on his son Johnny and the impact on his coaching.


For those of you that are considering expanding your family I want to throw out a non-traditional thought. There are many children around the world with DS that are not as blessed as our Peter. They are left in orphanages and around age four are often moved to institutions where there life is significantly shortened by lack of care. One woman named Andrea has made it her mission to help these children find families. Single handedly she has helped hundreds of children find families to love and care for them. She is truly changing the world one child at a time. Below is a video she put together about her mission. Even if you aren't considering another child in your future, I hope you would consider a Christmas time donation to this organization that financially makes it possible for families to adopt a child with DS.


I do want to thank you - all of you - who continue to come and read our blog for your support and love and compassion. We are proud of all of our kids - and we obviously are very proud of Peter. I really do hope that traveling this road with us now has also brought you awareness on DS and the blessings we can obtain in life by embracing those that may seem most different from us.


Peter doing art on his new easel (thank you craigslist!)

Peter helping assemble the new train set - yes it is for therapy - keeps him on his feet, moving and stretching and coordinating fine motor for train movement. (thank you sale at Toys R Us)

Standing, stretching and putting dice in a cup....Disney Yatzee (thank you Tommy's friend for a fun birthday present)

Therapy on a tablet learning to draw lines (thank you Ms. Katie and fun games put together by the Air Force Academy to help special kids).

Thank you for Peter for sharing the joy you find in your efforts and accomplishments - we all celebrate those with you!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dreams and Fears

I don't think I ever sat down and shared the dream I had a couple of months back - and if I did, you get it twice! It warms my heart when I think of it. In my dream I was standing outside of church - looking at the grassy area that separates the church from the office. There was Gretchen (our daughter on her way). I knew it was her, and her back was to me. She had blonde hair and wearing a dress. Then I see Peter walk up to her and say "I love you Gretchen". She reached out her arms and they hugged. I heard her say "I love you too Peter". Then she took a step back and put out her hand. She said "Come on Peter" - he took her hand and together they walked down the sidewalk away from me. When I woke felt so happy!! Truly in my heart it was a sign of things to come. That Peter will always remind her how loved she is.... he will teach her laughter, simplicity, joy and love. She will hold his hand and help him navigate the world, she will love him back and together they will learn. I felt like she was telling me she loves him as much as I do - and that he will be safe.

Despite the warmth that dream gave me, too many days I have not felt warm and fuzzy and safe. I have not felt like the happy mom-to-be basking in the miracle of life. Instead I have been moody, and tired and worn out. At times I have been down right homicidal - and God blessed people around me with survival. I have felt guilt for not singing to the baby, talking to her, playing Beethoven and all those other things "good" and "happy" moms do. I have been so stressed out, and then I stress about being stressed. I drink too much milk and not enough water - and wish I could sleep all day and night. Despite my best of intentions I'm not exercising and after miscalculating my weight gain realized it was 10 more pounds than I had convinced myself.

Throw in H1N1 and the fact that half of Colorado Springs seems to be sick - I feel pressure! To immunize or not??!! Do I take the risk with Peter, Gretchen and me and not immunize? What if we get sick? what if we don't? This vaccine went to market so fast - contradicting information on mercury. It was developed in 38 days.....really? I'm scared to get it - scared to find out a year or five or fifteen down the road that Gretchen was hurt by the vaccine. Will it save us? hurt us? or end up being nothing? At times the pressure in my chest as I think about it is so tight that I feel like I can't breathe! I had a doctor appointment this week and during the drive in the car I had an epiphany on my stress....

I thought back to my pregnancy with Tommy. I was stressed then and traveling like crazy. Then he was finally born. All was supposed to be ok. At three weeks we found he was lower than his birth weight. The world came tumbling down for me. I took four showers a day just so that I could cry. I wanted to hold him all day and reassure him we would be ok, but at the same time I felt like I couldn't care for him. Well intentioned support just tore at my confidence "You're too stressed Catherine.....", "You just need to relax Catherine....", "You're not drinking enough....you're not resting enough.... you're not producing enough....you're not holding him right..... your not latching him on well enough....." AHHH! I just wanted the madness to stop. Then the "Just give it up" or "Obviously you can't do it this time.." or "I'm so sorry (you're failing)" or "breast IS best Catherine ". I seriously wanted to run away into the woods and never see the world again. I ended up breast feeding and formula feeding - we alternated feeds. He thrived, and I felt a bit better - as long as I didn't leave the house. I felt now stuck once again between opposing camps in the mother world. You know what I mean - we mom's like to take firm stands on what is best and God have mercy on anyone doing it differently. Instead of being stuck between the stay-at-homes that judge my working, and the working moms that judge the size of my family - I was now stuck between the breast feeding and not. UGH! Regardless I felt like such a failure that I figured everyone was judging me the same way..... all in my mind no doubt, but none the less not a happy feeling.

Just a few weeks before Tommy's birthday we found out we were pregnant again. Another bundle of joy! My first fear - would I be able to breast feed this baby or would I go through that all over again? My confidence was shaken and I hadn't quite got it back. A few weeks later the doctor at the hospital said "The baby isn't developing normal..." and a few weeks after that the phone call I took in the kitchen. John standing there as a female voice says to me "he has Down syndrome.....I'm sorry!".... followed once again about my "choices" to solve for the problem. Here I was - worried about weight gain, breast feeding and suddenly I'm hit by lightning - none of that matters - it came down to a matter of will he live or not? how bad is his heart? and what in the world can anyone do to save him? Then in those dark sleepless nights - the crazy thoughts we all get (don't tell me you don't!!) - the "what did I do for this to happen to him?" the childish thoughts of "God is punishing him for something I did - this is all my fault". Then during the day the grin and bear it as people avoid you, walk away or move to the other side of the room and hope you don't notice they exist. I got to the point that hearing "I am so sorry" and "How horrible" was more comforting than being alone. Tack on John lost his job, my dad got terribly sick and I couldn't be there, and I wasn't sure if I would have a job or not post merger. I honestly shut down and went into auto-function mode. Checking things off my to-do list became a drug - that sense of satisfaction that I was doing everything I could possibly do before he arrived so that he had the best odds possible. I researched conditions, asked questions, called hospitals around the country for second and third opinions on his heart, I stared at ultra-sound pictures, I interviewed doctors and had plan A through Z figured out. Surely I had done all I could and this would be ok..... well, for all of you who have followed this blog, you know what happened next - almost 8 weeks in the hospital, pulmonary hypertension, kidney failure, unexplained infections, bad blood counts, failure to thrive, feeding tubes, oxygen tubes, open heart surgery, therapy.....let's just say we were as best prepared as we could be, but you sure just can't plan for everything. The world caught up with me when Peter was 17 months and taken off of oxygen during the day. So three years and two months after I thought my world came tumbling down with Tommy not eating well, I finally felt like I could allow myself to break into a thousand pieces and just cry - cry for the stress, cry for the relief that finally some things were behind us, cry for the joy of having survived. Joy that despite it all Tommy still loved me regardless of the failure I felt, and that Peter could finally breathe on his own at least part of the day.

So..... I know that seems like a long way to get to my epiphany this week - but here you go.... I realized that with all we've gone through over the last four years I am having a hard time believing that all is ok with Gretchen. The stress I feel in my shoulders and back is from me constantly being in that bracing mode. Bracing myself for what I don't know.... that fear of what is around the next corner I can't see. That loss of confidence when Peter failed echos and that sense that we were being sucked back into the world of uncertainty. That need to just survive - and not feeling confident I can. Then in the darkness all those horrible little voices in my head....except I wish they would just stay at night..... but now they speak during the day too! UGH! I'm not the wife I thought I would be - happy, encouraging and support....nope, sometimes (often at times) I am the nag, the tears, the complainer. I'm not the mom I thought I would be..... I'm not at home, I don't school my kids - darn, I don't even color, finger paint or make the home made play dough! I don't do fun creative learning things (except we all pile into the kitchen to bake brownies and make ice cream when the good Lord knows if I don't get chocolate the world will end) ....I'm not the ever pulled together mom you see in the magazines with the capacity to be all things to all people and raise perfect kids. Now, to my little defense - I think my kids are great, I do get food on the table and clean clothes on their backs! None the less I dream of being so much more and I feel each day that passes is another day lost. I'm not the friend I thought I would be.... I get too tired to call, fail to invite people over, I forget birthdays and honestly I rarely go out. And yes, since I'm letting it all out...... sometimes I just want the world to go away so that for a day I can have silence!! And selfishly I wish the weight would melt away, my house would self clean, there was always a ton of money in the bank and I had an endless Starbucks gift card! I wish for time, wisdom and confidence to be the mother, daughter, wife and friend I want to be. And while we are at it - I wish for world peace and end to hunger and all the house projects to finally be done!! (All three feel like the same likelihood of being attained!).

So.... I promise I don't need to be committed.....this has been eating at me and on another sleepless night I knew I would feel better if I could just let it all out. As with all of us - I have good days and not so good. Days I feel like I can do it all - and days I feel I can't do a thing. Days I thank God for all the blessings, and other days I am so darn mad at Him that I don't feel like talking. I'm human - you're human - and sometimes I remind myself that even those picture perfect moms in magazines are just pictures and we all have our burdens and blessings. And as if to remind me of this - out of no where tonight an old set of keys I had was on my nightstand. Keys to the old PHS building in the Springs that closed some time ago (I bet I can still get in!). Attached was a keychain I thought was one with my name on it. I turned it over in expectation to see "Catherine" and instead what I saw was "God grant me the serenity to accept things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference". Yeah.....even when I doubt, He is there whether I choose to accept the grace or not. So here is to hoping for the wisdom I clearly am lacking at times as I try to change the world in all the wrong places - and wisdom to embrace and find the light in what appears the darkest corners. And since I am still on a roll - here is to going back to bed, actually falling asleep and quiet kids in the morning that won't wake me up!!

For those of you that read this far.....thank you for letting me feel like I can just let it all out in the middle of the night and that I'm not alone.
Love - catherine

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another Family Update

Ok - so I am going to quit saying I have no excuse for not updating the blog - so here is what I consider my semi-valid excuse - I'm a pregnant mom with five kids at home and a full time job - I am tired, worn out, achy and although every night I tell myself I am going to update the blog - when push comes to shove by the time I am done tidying up, putting away dinner, making lunches, cleaning the kitchen, setting out breakfast, packing up school stuff, putting away laundry and setting out little boy clothes I'm wiped out and bed sounds better. And then I guilt the next day that when memory loss kicks in I'll wish I had this blog - about as close to a journal as I have right now ....but so far every night the desire to roll my aching body into bed has outweighed everything else. Pregnancy is wiping me out - clearly I'm not the spring chicken I was when I was carrying Alexandra 15 years ago!!! Speaking of pregnancies - all is going well, the echo's and blood tests we had done all came back very positive. I chose to not have the amnio - and optimistic that all is progressing well. We did get confirmation the baby is a girl - much to the excitement of John and the kids. He's had the name picked out for many years waiting to be used - so our little girl will be Gretchen Anne Krause.....eta January 7th 2010..... however I intend on willing her into the world on December 31st 2009 - no! not for the tax credit, but because I have a PPO plan and I don't want to have to meet my deductible all over again!! Here's that latest pic of Gretchen Anne.

Working our way up the kid list - Peter. Little man looks like a unicorn right now. We don't know what happened - but he snuck away from Grandma to fight the table and lost some how. All of a sudden we hear his "I'm really really really hurt cry" - I was fighting Alexandra's hair and a curling iron - and could hear Grandma comforting him. By the time I saved Alexandra and me from being burned, poor Peter had a bump literally the size of a golf ball in the middle of his forehead. I seriously don't know how he could of done it!! However, once dinner was served he was distracted and on to new things. Our picky eater who survives on little has found an appetite in the last week or two. He must be getting ready for a growth spurt because I have never seen him eat like he has recently. He can now down a whole toasted cheese sandwich which is amazing for him - and tonight ate about a bowl and a half of mac-n-cheese!! Still will only have yogurt for breakfast - but we are going through it a lot faster lately!! He's still not walking - hints at being interested and then goes right back to bear crawling. He has however picked up quite a few more signs lately - we suspect he's doing more than we realize. Still slow on the vocalizing - but has a few times made animal sounds when we talk about animals - and has made ba sounds when signing book. So I am stretching but we have "da" for dog, "ha" for hi, "taya" for tired, and now possible "ba" for book. I am still very optimistic that one day I will hear him whisper "I love you" in my ear as he gives me his already world famous bear hug!

Tommy and Jack - well - I have to lump the dynamic duo together. They really are best buds like buds should be! They have so much fun together...... Jack is loving 1st grade and is coming along with his reading. He is doing flag football this fall - and much to my embarrassment I have to admit he's the hyperactive unfocused but extremely excited little kid on the team. He doesn't lack for energy - but is clearly lacking in focus..... just need to keep working on it. Tommy is at Corpus Christi with Jack and now has his own little group of friends. Of course he claims Jack's friends as his own too - and loves to see his big brother at school with him. Tommy has amazed his teachers with how smart he is - he was recently tested for letter recognition. While the other kids recognized 5-6 letters in the alphabet - Tommy had well over 20 almost nailing the whole alphabet. He can tell us how to spell his name and is constantly pulling out letters that others' names start with. He fights wanting to write or color or draw - but I think is ready to start working on sounding out letters and early reading skills. Tom-Tom did turn 4 just a few days ago - and we have his party tomorrow. Here is the Jack-Tommy team during one of their many play sessions.

Michael switched schools - and while I was very hesitant I must admit I have never seen him happier. He was mad about the move until about first day of school - and has since embraced the new setting. He's very excited about what he's learning and the style of teaching. Amongst his subjects is Latin which he is picking up so fast. Of course he loves to bring his book to the dinner table and test our latin skills..... thank goodness for my background in Spanish or I think I would flunk out of Michael's grilling us!!

Alexandra just called me to check in..... she's headed over to a friend's house for a sleep over following her first Homecoming Dance in high school. She too is really enjoying school this year - her group of friends - and playing softball. She's really picked up the sport - and we enjoy watching her play when we can make it (not always easy with conflicting schedules). She did get asked by a boy to the dance - which made her feel special. He's new to the area - but she considers him a FRIEND. All my brainwashing techniques are paying off as she let John and I know that she is not ready to date - doesn't want to date - but hopes to have a group of friends girls and boys that she can hang with. She's definitely on her way there. Here is is getting her corsage...... she looked beautiful. She reported in to let me know she was exhausted, headed over to the sleepover and will tell me ALL about it tomorrow.

Anyway - I'm pooped. John is up in the mountains fishing this weekend - and after homecoming, a softball double header for Alexandra and having a birthday party to organize tomorrow, I think Gretchen and I need some rest.

Love to all -