Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Science Fair

Our kids are involved in a science class in the area which is awesome on a few levels.  One - we love the teacher.  Two - we love the curriculum.  Three - I don't have to teach it.  I LOVE science and all that, but frankly, I stink at actually letting the mess get made to do the experiments.  This set up is a win-win for all of us.

Every year, the teacher does a Science Fair.  (HA!  I just typed out Science FEAR)  Last year this caused some panic in our house as our kids weren't used to doing up REAL projects and presentations.  For me, it caused panic because it was 'mess' and 'craft' colliding.  Anyway, we all sucked it up and they did great.

This year, things went MUCH better.  First of all, we had a better idea of what to expect.  Secondly, everyone started on it several months before it was actually due.  (DUH)  I will say that we were all pretty excited about their projects as well and that made for a pretty great time for all  of us.

Riley did his on the science of how a silencer works.  Yes, on a gun.  Airsoft, but still....

Janelle did hers on Down Syndrome.  (LOVE the context...and she had the CUTEST visual aid)   

Natalie did hers on Worm Composting. I promise I have a child named Natalie.....she's always on the move though and apparently I can't get her on camera very easily.  :/

FUN TIMES and everyone is already thinking about their projects for next year.  Whew....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The 'Not a No Spend' Project

Wow - there's a grammatical error for you.  Ack.

Anyway....the other day we went to the local feed store and....picked up some chicks.  :)

I'm praying we don't have 22 roosters.  It's pretty hard to enjoy fresh eggs that way.

Monday, February 20, 2012

No Spend Projects

The beauty of buying a house and property that are 'fixer uppers' is the fact that you get to work to make it your own.

The real drag about buying a house and property that are 'fixer uppers' is you have to PAY to make them work as your own.

Of course, when we moved in plans were fairly set on how things would go and what projects would be done before move in, then listed in order of priority, and weather permitting.  It lined up so awesome on paper.

REAL LIFE doesn't like to be contained on paper and within set lists.  Why this still shocks me some days at the age of 38, I can't tell you. 

So - now we're revamping our priorities.  Of course most of these, in a dollars and sense fashion, revolve around paying for major medical surgeries.  (THANK YOU JESUS that we were able to get them for Charlotte!!!)  Yet, you can still do quite a bit of house stuff before you fork out cash.

Like rip out decks.

It had to come out anyway, remember?  Here we were before Saturday - Mudsville. (Actually, I told Alan the other day that we really hadn't taken out the deck.  What we really did was create a new, enlarged, bathroom-with-a-view for our cats. :/  He said, 'Oh it's always been's just that we can now see it. Ggggrrreeeaaatttt.)

So...we were considering what to do with this area when last week I read in our local community paper that the education foundation was GIVING AWAY bricks from an old school that they had to burn down.  The sparks went off in my brain and the date was circled on the calendar.  Saturday my AWESOME husband went down and picked up a F-350 load and we've begun our own chain gang at the Hayes zoo.  It's awesome.  I can't wait for someone to tell me they're bored or don't want to do school. 

We're chipping away old mortar from three sides of the bricks and laying them out in a walking path out the front door.  I was hoping that we'd have enough to do the path and finish out the entire area where the deck was, but with just this one load we'll be short.  I've sent an email to find out if there will be another opportunity to salvage more bricks.

I love having a piece of community history and re-purposing a great material.  Since we have to build monster steps it may not be exactly a NO SPEND project, but the bulk of it will be just sweat and tears with as little bloodshed as possible.

Friday, February 17, 2012

This Is What You Get....

when you make an AirOne junkie listen to Mozart.

If you don't know what AirOne is...consider yourself blessed.


I want this book.

*forgot to mention that I STILL don't know how to imbed a video into this blog so FYI, the link is to the book trailer.

I remember reading Kelle's blog post about the birth of her second daughter, Nella, while we were still in Mexico.  A friend had sent it to me.  I can't exactly remember the context but timing wise, I'm guessing it was when we were expecting our 4th baby, because I can remember exactly where I was sitting while I read it.  Cried buckets.  Beautiful post.  Had nothing to do with me though.

Little did I know.

That baby we lost to a miscarriage in April.  That year we wound up not being able to return to the mission field.  Seemed like doors shut right and left and we wound up back in Washington.  Not in my plan, people.

Then Alan found a job.  Great, but that meant we really WERE going to be here.  Then in January, we found out we were expecting again.  Excited but nerve wracking.  Every day was filled with some moments (fleeting for the most part) of dread of the possibility of losing another baby, but as each week passed, that eased.  All along fetal testing was recommended but finally, I said it won't matter and that was the end of it.   Then at 18 weeks we had our high level ultrasound because of my age.  Everything checked out fine except for one element on the baby's heart.  It wasn't a huge deal and no other 'markers' for anything scary were showing up.  We declined an amnio and off we went.  The rest of the pregnancy went like clock work and life moved on.

October 4th, 2011 at 9:31 am Charlotte arrived.  Gorgeous, crying, and big.  As I looked at her though, some red flag went up.  She looked so much like Janelle but her face seemed a little 'off'.  I remember asking Alan over and over again if she was okay.

When they handed her to me, she was wrapped up like a babushka and I remember thinking that was odd how covered up she was.  I couldn't seem to get her unwrapped.  I chalked it up to the way things were done now-a-days in the medical field.  It'd been 10 years since I'd had a newborn and frankly,  all that was a blur. 

Several hours went by and finally a pediatrician came in and checked over Charlotte.  When the words 'Down Syndrome' came out of her mouth something inside me cracked.  It was so strange.  I had been concerned that something wasn't right but HONESTLY, Down Syndrome never even entered my mind until she said that.  All the sudden things clicked into place.  Something like a puzzle piece finally fitting after working to shift the angles - only that wasn't the picture I'd expected.

I remember feeling like two people.  On the one side, the mother who feels like life is suddenly over.  The other side - knowing that it will be fine and we will love her.   Postpartum hormones are a rather sucky roller coaster. 

Other details began happening and crashing around us but that is for another day.

As we came home and began living and processing things, several people sent me Kelle's blog post again.  I re-read it with raw context now.

*PSA:  IF you're going to read that in the middle of the night, postpartum, scared spitless, sleep deprived, and feeling lousy, you may want to bring a box of Kleenex to bed with you instead of using the sheets to mop yourself up with.  :/ * 

That was messy.  Some element of me felt irritated with myself of how casually I'd read it before.  Cried, sympathized - but it felt cheap compared to how I was reading it now - as a mother of a newborn with Down Syndrome.  She does a beautiful job of 'letting it all hang out' for a bit.  Then you get to watch the rest of the story unfolding and for me, with a new sweet one on the verge of a road I'd never even thought I'd take and shadowy places ahead, it has been a bit of a promise.  Every day I grow a little more grateful to those who've written their stories.  

We are working on blooming.  We've accepted the reality of our lives for the here and now.  I will say with all honesty that we are still working on rejoicing in it continually.  We are gaining glimpses of the great joy that there can be in each day.  There IS great Charlotte Joy in the midst of Down Syndrome.

Some days, I think it's even greater because of those shadowy places.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

THIS is why I want my children to love books.....

Breath of fresh air, imagination, inspiration....Enjoy.

Oh's not working.  Can't quite figure out how to make it work so I'm linking you to my friend's page who is smarter in the techy world than I am.  I'd need another latte to work out this problem and my barista is at work.  

HERE you go....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

Here we alert.

 Tummy Time

Practicing our rolling over using our cute legs and not our big head.  

This is the 'nuk' do-dah that I mentioned before that helps with the tongue thrust Charlotte does.  Oral stimulation in a really good way.

Fists....soooooo cute.

Thumb = Happiness

Toy Time

 Sitting up practice as well.  Siblings are great motivators for looking around and holding our head up.  (She's watching Janelle in this one...)

For your entertainment, the following series of shots shows how stinkin' hard it is to get a picture of the 4 zoolets where they all look...decent.  Personality is thick here.  :)

 The Fantastic 4 are at it again. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Download

I've not been here in a while.

Ack....this is why I worried that starting a blog would be worse than starting a journal was for me as a teenager.  Just another guilt project that taunts me from the shelf.  I'm going to just let this happen as it happens.  I'm not setting limits or requirements on it.  It will be hit and miss; real and chaotic - mostly because that's just how things are now.  :)  We are re-defining perfect.  On that subject there is much to be written, but I'm not ready for that to go down in black and white yet.

Charlotte and I stayed home from church this morning for one more week ('till after her ped. appointment) but we went to church with Auntie Jen in Maine via the miracle of the internet.  :)  Charlotte paid close attention.

The week's Charlotte news is that she is OFFICIALLY OFF THE LOVENOX INJECTIONS!!!  We went back to the vascular surgeon for a new ultrasound on her arms.  The artery now has good flow and things look fine.  Whew.  Now she's only on a 1/2 an aspirin per day for a while.  Pretty amazing recovery from open heart surgery.  We are now watching the real Charlotte emerge.  I realize that new bitties are pretty sleepy and slowly develop their personalities but it's been like night and day for her.  She's kicking up the growing notch and has now blown out of all the three month clothes.  :)

As of last week, she'd gained 2 pounds since the day before surgery.  Tomorrow is her 4 month check up and we'll see how much further she's come since then.  As for therapy appointments and such, she's working hard.  Practicing exercises for holding her head up, bringing hands to mid-line, and now we've introduced something call a 'Nuk' for some oral stimulation that helps with tongue lateralization.  Practice, practice, practice.  The big kids are great help in keeping her busy and entertained.  :)  Natalie's phrase again this week is, "You can't ever give her too many kisses."  So. True.  It even reminds me to kiss my 'bigs' in spite of the fact that they are quickly becoming taller than I am.

In other life news, spring is in the air and we are looking outside more and more.  Through a fairly good snow dump we had last month, the back 40 (not really) is now semi-flattened.  Nature is quite effective.  When we bought this place last summer you couldn't even see the back fence line.  Blackberry bushes were taller than my hubby (6'4") and wicked sharp.  I just never went back there.  Alan has taken to spending some time most mornings with a machete and thick pants to carve his way to the ends of the fence.  Think Prince Philip and Sleeping Beauty climactic scene.  :)  I have actually gone on an explore in my own yard - 6 months after we bought it.  We may find the end of it yet.

This weekend involved trimming up fruit trees, ripping out the rest of the deck*, ordering chicks, cleaning out the chicken coop, and getting sucked into buying the 'cute' bunnies.  The girls waved some of their cash, batted their eyelashes, and off they went back to the farm store with daddy.

*The deck needed to come out.  I did NOT suggest we start a project and get into it and wonder "What the heck was I thinking starting this now?"  Nope.  Not at all...  We're using the wood for garden boxes out in the front and will be getting pavers or brick to make a better surface for the front area. 

Anyhoo....During all this clean up and discovery, I found some REALLY COOL window frames.  Apparently, Alan had found them early on in his clearing project buried under dirt and berry bushes, but being resourceful he saved them and brought them to the back of the shop...which is where I came upon them.  Oooooohhhhhhhh.....I feel a decorating project coming on.  This is saying a lot for me.  I despise crafts and feel that 99.99999% of my creative energy goes into house maintenance, child rearing, and home schooling but somewhere deep down I saw some potential.    Snagged two of them and THIS is what I did with one of them.  Didn't buy a single thing.

The other frame is feeling like a laundry room whimsy piece and there is one more out there for future inspiration.  I'm just going to let it weather a bit more.   

Now I just need to get those family pictures printed off.....(has been on the to-do list for a reeeaaaalllly long time) and hung up in the panes.  Will post the full after pic soon.  Promise.  Pinky promise.

*Yes, that is the color blue that you see there in that picture.  It is rather well-know that I have a passionate distaste for the color blue and most of it's shades.  That said, I am noticing that having almost every. single. room. be based in black, white, and red might become somewhat tiring for my family.  I'm branching out slightly in color schemes.  Only slightly though.  It's taking EVERY. OUNCE. OF. SELF-CONTROL. I have to not rip up the kitchen due to the 'bathed in blue' theme going on there.  It's on the list....just later.  Or sooner if I run out of projects to start....

Sunday, February 5, 2012


This is what happens when you get sunshine in February and a mom who's been cooped up in the house too long, albeit for a really good Charlotte...I mean reason.

Did I mention we were going to remodel the kitchen?  Houston, this isn't the kitchen.

I've heard personality descriptions in the past of visionaries.  They're like comets that shoot across the sky carving a path.  Then there are the ones that have to come along and clean up the 'fall-out'.  I'm becoming more visionary in my addled state.  Pray for my husband.

Me thinks eating the giant Hersey's bar might've been a better idea.  Then Riley can have a life skills class in construction.  That's what I meant to do...yup.

Friday, February 3, 2012

January 3 - February 3

One month in time.  Quite a whirlwind of a month I might add...

Charlotte is officially having her one month open heart surgery anniversary.  We're not necessarily throwing a party or anything but the date has struck me.  It's almost the same time frame in which we were able to see her again after handing her over to the OR nurse.

Here was our first view of her.

And today....well, today my phone won't let me upload a new picture so I'll get you that as soon as I figure out why. 

Thank you for her today, Jesus, and the manner in which you got her to this point.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

4 weeks post op

Open Heart Surgery post op 4 weeks.  

Charlotte doesn't even seem like the same baby.  She's a busy, growing, chubby, engaging girl now.  I'm SOOOOOOOOOOOO glad we didn't wait any longer to get her surgery done.

She looks AMAZING.  See????  You can hardly see where some of the smaller chest tubes were!  What a difference a few weeks makes. 

We go in for the first post op appointment with the cardiologist today.  I'll be excited (nervous) as to what her ECHO looks like.  Watching them before was disconcerting.  I can't REALLY tell what's going on other than the big, basic scene but I can tell where chambers are and when they flip the coloring on - there is blue and red.  Prior to surgery, with the coloring 'on', her chambers looked like paintball splatter.  Red and blue all mixed and mashed together.  I'm not a doctor, but I knew that wasn't right.  At her discharge echo one week post op, I watched as they put the colors on.  Red on one side, blue on the other.  THAT'S more like it....I'll be glad to see and hear what her doc has to say.  Hopefully no leaks.  Hopefully the patches are still holding and looking great.  Hopefully the pulmonary hypertension is still going down or is all ready down and in perfect ranges.

The whole arm thing is another issue.  We'll see a vascular surgeon right after the cardiologist and they'll do some more investigating as to the healing of her artery.  I imagine there will be another ultrasound to look at her arm and do some comparison to watch for healing and/or change.

Then it's onto the weekly blood draw.  Charlotte is still on twice daily injections of Lovenox, and while I'm REALLY grateful for the medication, I'd love for her to not need it.  We have to have her levels checked at least once a week, then adjustments are made, if needed, in time for the next week's dosage. This may or may not be a long term issue.  From what I can tell, it's not related in any way to the cardiac issues or Trisomy 21.  Just a 'thing' that showed up. We shall see what that means for down the road.

In the mean time, Charlotte is doing all kind of wonderful baby stuff.  She has biweekly therapy appointments where we make her do all kinds of funky things that I just took for granted with my other kids.  It's a pretty amazing learning experience.  Right now, we're watching her vision (PUN!) because she's mostly looking through things and people.  Some of that may be a sensory issue (does. not. like. noises.) or it may be a vision problem.   We're working our way through all the specialties.  Audiology is later in the month as well.  

Here's a photo shoot during her morning exercise routine.  She gave Riley the BIGGEST smile....lucky guy.  

She's also MOVING.  As in scooching.  (HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU SPELL THAT???  I tried a few different ways and it wind up looking like I can't spell "school" or that Charlotte is into drinking Scotch.  Which she isn't.)   You know what I mean, right?

This is the scene we woke up to this morning.   Note:  Charlotte starts the night out on the big wedge with her head and body making a straight line down the length of the wedge. It's more of a guideline apparently. :)

Charlotte is perpendicular to her starting lane.

Blankets off and waded at the end of the crib.

Happy as all get out but the legs were a pumpin' like she was in a race.  

The girl is going doubt about that one.