Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grateful for it all...

When I see these photos (a huge thank you to my friend, Danielle Parker!), I am reminded why I do what I do and why God chose for us to have a larger family.

I count my blessings every day...
but sometimes, I get caught up in the craziness of everyday life with 5 kids going in 5 directions, that I don't truly appreciate what I have.

This big 4 year old is the reason I have a blog.  His arrival rocked our world in both a scary and profound way.  We brought him home from the NICU on Thanksgiving Day, 2007, and will forever be grateful to God for giving us John Michael.  In four years, I have so much more clarity, so much more purpose, and I continue to be amazed at the journey we're on, the people we meet, and the experiences we encounter as a result of having a child with Down syndrome.  Life forever changed the moment he was conceived, and yet, we didn't know to the degree that that would be so true.

We find greater joy in the simple things.  I was giddy over the fact that he could climb up this fence and hang on!

I feel extreme gratitude at the bond these 5 share with one another.

The kids were apprehensive when I announced that we were going to having a 5th child.  That announcement came on Thanksgiving Day 2009.  I cried when I told them and told our family.  The idea of it was overwhelming, but looking at Nic, my oldest, and Luke, my youngest, bonding makes the crazy moments all worth it.

Truly, I have been blessed beyond measure!

 Nic is an amazing big brother to both John Michael and Luke.  But, the bond he shares with John Michael is stronger than any I've ever experienced.  I know they will always be close.  Nic has always been service-oriented, but I think John Michael has opened him up to being accepting of all individuals who have a mental or physical disability.  Seeing Nic at the NDSC convention this summer dancing with a teenage girl with Ds brought huge tears to my eyes (and my friends around me!).  Before John Michael, I hate to say, I don't think he would have done that. 
My heart melts when I see these two hugging and being sweet with one another.  John Michael is becoming a very good big brother and is enjoying his role.

Luke, Luke, Luke...  all boy... all love...
You better be sweet when I'm old and you're still in high school.  LOL!

I  LOVE this image!  Two years ago we were thrilled that John Michael was walking more steady.  Today, we cannot keep up with his running.  Luke loves to play "Follow the Leader"...

"I'm gonna get you..."

You girls have the biggest hearts for John Michael.  I don't know yet what you'll "be" when you grow up, but I already know that having John Michael as a little brother has already shaped you into compassionate, open-minded girls with a heart for serving those in need.  That's HUGE!

My ROCK!  My sweet husband, Doug, of 17 years.  I cannot imagine life without him.  These 5 kids give us a serious run for our money, drain our energy, and yet, fill us with pride and love that makes it all worth it.

My favorite people in the whole wide world!

I leave you with a few more photos.  Ring Around the Rosie is a favorite  :-)
We all fall down!

Sweet Luke... I could eat him up!

John Michael, you fill my heart each day with more love and pride and hope and joy...  LOVE you to the moon and back, little man.

 A Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to you all.

  I know you're out there and reading... Won't you leave some blog comment love  :-)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

John Michael turns 4

John Michael turned 4 this past Monday! He had a super fun birthday party last Friday, but the camera I brought took horrible photos in the low light. So, I leave you with this short video clip of his actual birthday.

John Michael has changed so much in one year... too many things to list. The biggest change I see is his verbal communication. He is a chatterbox and is learning to ask for things in complete sentences; e.g., I want to ____, Can I please have a _____. This video doesn't show his verbal skills, but I'm so impressed! His vocabulary has increased exponentially this year and he's not afraid to repeat words that I don't understand. He is also starting to sing... really sing. Sometimes, while driving in the car, I'll sustain a note and ask him to sing it. He is matching at least 5 pitch changes, which tells me he can and will sing! Again, a thrill for me. He can sing Happy Birthday (with a little help), Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star and other simple songs, leaving the connector words out, but getting the message across. He is holding his crayon or pencil correctly and is taking more time to color. He can identify a few letters and numbers and knows the basic colors and shapes. He still remembers many signs, which is very cool! He says, "Hi, Lady" to women in stores (very charming) and freely gives hugs and kisses. He wants to help and be involved in what the family is doing. He has turned into a real "big brother" to Luke and often comforts him or hugs him when he's grumpy or hurt. He stays dry and uses the potty (although I have to take him every 1 1/2 hours since he isn't telling me on his own very often, but will say, "yes," if I ask him if he wants to go). He isn't pulling hair or hitting and rarely pushes anymore. He does steal toys and his new phrase in a serious voice is, "not funny!" to which we usually bust up laughing. He runs fast (arms flying wildly), jumps from a 6" footstool with both feet on the ground, does the Chicken Dance (oh, it's so cute!), and says his prayers, including making a sign of the cross and saying, "In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."  He can also say the litlte "Now I lay me down to sleep..." prayer, leaving 1/2 the connecting words out.  The sweetest is when he recently said at Mass, looking up at the crucifix, "Jesus, love me," while patting his chest. Yes, John Michael, Jesus loves you! And everyone else who meets him...

It's been a great year. Can't wait to see what lies ahead, but I'm in no rush...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

(Not so) Worless Wednesday -- FUNDERLAND!

We had an awesome time at Funderland last week! It was John Michael and Luke's first time and it had been a couple years for Greta, too.

Luke hitching a ride with my singing friend, Gaw.  I needed another set of hands to pull this off!

By the size of their smiles, I'd say the old fashioned cars were a huge hit!

But I wasn't sure how he would do on some rides...

Let's just say... they were both happy to get off the boat!

Whooooo whooooo.........

John Michael didn't want to go on the airplane at first, but once it was moving, he had a blast. Greta got them up in the air, too...

More fun on the carousel...

Cars again... solo, this time.

It was so great to see him do this alone!

Greta was scared the first two times on the rollercoaster, but by the 3rd try, she was ready to go solo!

Finally, his favorite... the fishies. Luke cried instantly and had to get off... John Michael could've stayed on this ride all day!

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