Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jonathan!!

Happy Birthday, Jonathan!

Today is my husband's birthday. He is 25 - again! =)

As we celebrate, I am reminded of all the things I love about my husband....

- He is strong
- He is honest
- He is fair - but firm
- He is handsome
- He is funny (at least I think he is)
- He is handy
- He is 'outdoorsy' (except when a canoe is involved)
- He is romantic
- He is smart (but, like me, is out-witted by our children daily)
- He is a hard-worker
- He loves me and our children
- He loves his family
- He is passionate
- He is a man of God
- He is a great father
- He is not patient - but is trying very hard to be
- He is great at Trivial Pursuit and learning the ropes of Scrabble
- He doesn't like to lose - especially at board games
- He knows all the lines to "The Breakfast Club" and laughs himself silly each time he sees it
- He also laughs himself silly at Seinfeld despite having seen each episode at least 10X
- He is a maverick (Hey - John McCain and Tom Cruise aren't the only ones)
- He is brave (my rock)

He is more than words can describe, and I thank God for him each day!!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Therapist

Our new therapist started today - Ms. Cynthia. She is a Special Ed. teacher and will be focusing on Anna's speech and communication, fine motor and self-help skills.

Anna was very excited with Ms. Cynthia and was quite engaged in her session. We look forward to seeing Anna grow and progress! =)

Outside - That's Where It's At!

I haven't posted in awhile because I have been outside enjoying the summer-like weather. Today it is back to being Spring, so I am back indoors.

We haven't been up to much - but have somehow remained busy. This past weekend we went 'garage-saling' as our town was having its annual town-wide garage sale. (A lot of people with a lot of junk! ha! ha!) We also did a lot of playing outside, working outside, cooking and eating outside, giving the dog a bath outside =). Outside -- that's where it's at! (Those are lyrics from one of the kids' songs)

We have recently made our outside more comfortable by adding a 'conversation set' of patio furniture. I have enjoyed sitting in my 'outdoor living room' and enjoying a beverage and just relaxing.

And - completely unrelated to being outside -- but here are a few pics of Paige's new haircut. So cute (and curly?)!

And I would be remissed without a picture of the Pants =)

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Therapy - 4/24/09

We had two therapy sessions this week, yesterday and today, to make up for missing last week and the week before.

Yesterday's session was also an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) meeting where we set new goals and recommend new therapy for Anna. Starting next week (or the next), Anna will be getting therapy 2X/week. Ms. Jeannette will continue working with Anna on all skills - gross motor, fine motor and speech. The new therapist, Ms. Cynthia, will be really focusing on speech and fine motor skills and self-help skills (like eating, etc.).

We are adding the additional therapy because of all areas, Anna is most delayed in speech and fine motor skills. In fact, the OT that came to do Anna's assessment reported that Anna is at about 5 month skill level with sporadic 8 month skills.

Ugh! It is one thing to know that Anna has delays, but is quite another to see them qualified in such terms. I would be lying if I didn't say that the report from the OT took a little wind out of our sails. But, we know that God is at work, so we have to trust and be patient.

A New Hairdo for Paige!

Paige got her hair cut today for the first time ever!

I have been wanting to get it done for awhile. Her baby hair was starting to look pretty scraggly - with long straight pieces on top laying over curly pieces underneath. I just wanted to even it up so it could grow out more evenly.

It is shorter, and we may not be able to get pigtails in it for awhile, but I think it is totally cute and looks a lot more groomed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tea and Treasure

Today at MOPS (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) we had our 'Tea and Treasure' meeting. We have a fancy tea with real teacups - something that mothers of young children don't get to enjoy very often, and someone shares her 'treasure' - something that is dear and close to her heart.

Today, I shared my 'treasure'. I gave my testimony about how God has been working in my life over the past year. In particular, I was talking about Anna - her diagnosis, my struggles, etc., - and how God is faithful and good, and always there for us.

Attached is a video of my testimony. Just remember, I am not a public speaker, so don't judge my delivery =). Also, below is what I had written out as my notes - not word for word with the video - but same message (a lot shorter than the video - apparently I am long-winded and spoke for about 15 minutes!!)

We usually reserve April as our ‘Tea and Treasures’ meeting…the Tea being, well, tea, and the treasure being a something special to my heart. I am not a public speaker – in fact I usually avoid it all costs, but as we were planning our April meeting, I really felt God calling me to be the speaker this year…Our meeting was supposed to be last week – April 15 – which was Anna’s 1st birthday – thus the party decorations and the ‘celebrating life’ theme. It just all seemed to fall into place.

My message today is supposed to be one of encouragement. I am not going to go into how I came to follow Christ – we can chat about that another time, but instead I am going to share with you a little of what I have been going through this year, and what has kept me going. Hopefully you will find hope in my message. I am going to be talking about my life and specifically about our struggles with Anna, but I am certain you can apply it to yours as well.

I’ll begin with Anna’s birth – one year ago. She was three weeks early – in fact, I missed the April meeting last year because I was in the hospital. April 15, 2008 will never be forgotten by me. Not just because it is Anna’s birthday, but because it is the day that our world changed forever.

As most of you know, Anna has Down syndrome. We didn’t know until she was born that she had Ds – there were a few indicators when I was pregnant, but we declined an amnio to verify. We decided, instead, to trust what God has planned for us, and trust that He will provide for us. Where God leads, he will provide.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34

After the doctor had told us that Anna has Ds, and what that meant in medical terms – because I really had no idea, I was speechless. I literally didn’t know what to do. All I could do was cry for about 2-3 days. I went through every emotion in the book – from being in love with my baby girl, to wondering what I did wrong, to being jealous of other people and their normal children, even to wanting to give her away. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know how to tell people, or who to tell, or what to say – mainly because I couldn’t talk about it without crying – and I was getting really tired of crying (I am not a crier – at least I didn’t used to be!) – And don’t misunderstand – I was not crying necessarily because I was sad – but I was lost and scared and had no idea what to expect for our future.

I was clinging to Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. I wasn’t dying, but at times it sure felt like I was.

And then, one night as I was nursing Anna at 2 am, I was questioning God for the umpteenth time as to why he had chosen me to be the parent of a special needs child. Why me? Why her? God answered by reminding me that he will always be here for me -- and for her. That is the night I wrote my poem for Anna – which you have been given as a bookmark.

God spoke to me, and reminded me that He is perfect. His will is perfect and He does not make mistakes. Psalm 139 tells us that God knit us together in our mother’s womb, that His works are wonderful – that Anna having an extra chromosome in every cell in her body is NOT a ‘genetic mistake’ as the medical world likes to call it – but rather a miracle of God.
“Every Good and Perfect gift is from above” James 1:17

Finally – I had some peace. God had calmed my fears, and I could start moving forward.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34
I could finally see that God has given Anna to us for a purpose. Not only has God blessed us with a beautiful little girl in Anna, but her having Ds is also a blessing that we never expected. God shows us his love daily through Anna. She just radiates goodness and love and innocence. The outpouring of love and support we have received from our family and friends has been overwhelming. And, if not for Anna having Ds, there would be a whole community of people that we probably would never know. God is definitely using Anna to teach us about His love, and about patience, and trusting in Him. And I am certain He has a lot more planned for her, and for those who are fortunate enough to know her.

And, I finally realized that the task of raising Anna is not the impossible task that I kept imagining it to be. I could worry myself sick thinking about Anna's future (health, development, acceptance), but instead I know that no matter what is thrown at us, God is in control and He can handle it. Matthew 6:27 reminds us,
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Leslie always asks and teases that she doesn’t know how I do it – 3 young kids and a husband that is out of town most of the week. Well, Leslie – here is your answer – It is not me – It is Jesus. I, Lori Russell, am incapable of making it through each day, let alone each week, on my own. "Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”. I can’t, but God can.

I was raised in a home where ‘God helps those who help themselves” was a common quote. If there is one thing I have learned this year, it is that this quote is NOT true – it isn’t even from the Bible. Benjamin Franklin said and it appears in the Poor Richard’s Almanac. I am pretty sure my mom liked this quote because it squashed a lot of whining. The real quote should be – “God helps those who ask for help”. “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

And this is something that I need to remind myself of daily. I won’t lie; it is tough. It is exhausting physically and emotionally. In fact, just a few weeks ago I found myself crying to my husband that I needed help – that I can’t do it alone…and as I was saying those words, I was reminded again that they couldn’t be more true. I have no choice but to lean on Christ.

It is not always easy, nor does God promise it to be. But, he does have a purpose for our suffering – so that our faith may be refined. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7. And in James 1:12 we learn the ultimate reward for our perseverance – life everlasting.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Today we are ‘Celebrating Life’. Not just the precious life of our sweet Anna, or of all our children, but also the promise of Life Everlasting with our Father in Heaven.

So, each time you look at your bookmark – Praise the Lord for Anna. Praise the Lord for your children. And Praise the Lord for your trials that will refine your faith and earn you the crown of life that God has promised.

Please pray with me…
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are an awesome God. You are always good and always perfect. Every good and perfect gift comes from you, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Lord, thank you for the precious gifts you have given us in our children. Each one of them is perfect. We praise you, Lord, for your handiwork.
Father, you know that raising children is not an easy task. You know that we are not capable of doing it on our own. We need you Lord. We need your strength, your wisdom, and your love. We cannot do it alone, Lord, but through you, all things are possible.
Dear Lord, thank you for the hope you give us. Yesterday may have been miserable, and today may be rotten, and tomorrow’s outlook may look glum – but Lord, we know that our trials here on Earth are only temporary. We know that there will be a day when you will wipe away all our tears and we will feel no pain.
Father, please be with each of the mothers here today. May she feel your peace and love and hope. And Lord, when things seem to be falling apart, may she look to You for the help that only you can give.
In Jesus’ name we pray

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hooked on Phonics Works for Him!

Charlie got Hooked on Phonics for Christmas. He has been talking about learning to read for some time now, so Grandma and Grandpa thought it would be a nice gift.

Well, today, Charlie told Daddy that he wanted to learn how to read. So they sat down with the CD and workbooks and have been at it all afternoon and evening.

So far, Charlie has earned 9 stickers. He is learning how words are put together and how changing just one letter can make an entirely new word.

It is really fun to see him so excited - and he is doing great! Charlie will be reading books to Anna in no time!

In addition to learning how to read today, Charlie also learned how to swing by himself yesterday. He learned how to pump his legs back and forth and lean back and forth to make himself go.

My little boy is growing up so fast!!

Best Buds

Charlie's best friend is his Pooh Bear.

Charlie loves his Pooh Bear. He has had him since he was born. He sleeps with him, plays with him, talks to him, hangs out with him and treats him like he is real. When Charlie is upset, he wants his Pooh Bear. When Charlie gets home from school, he likes to go to his room to say 'Hi' to Pooh Bear. When Charlie is in trouble, we take his Pooh Bear as punishment.

It is funny to watch Charlie play with Pooh Bear. He loves Pooh Bear's hat. He likes to rub it across his cheeks and tickle it between his fingers. Our favorite thing that he does, however, is to put Pooh Bear's hat on his foot and swing Pooh Bear around. I have had to sew Pooh Bear's hat back on multiple times in the past 5 years.

Pooh Bear is only allowed out of Charlie's room for special occasions, like when we are travelling, etc. Mostly because we don't him dragging a stuffed animal around everywhere, but also because we don't want him to lose Pooh Bear!

Today was 'Veterinarian Day' at Charlie's school. All the kids were supposed to bring in their favorite stuffed animal so they could practice taking care of animals. Charlie, of course, took in Pooh Bear. He was very excited. In fact, Pooh Bear has been to school a number times this year...He was there for Teddy Bear Day, Slumber Party Day, and My Favorite Thing Day. Pooh Bear will definitely be ready for Kindergarten in Fall!

I am glad Charlie has his Pooh Bear. He will probably be teased about by kids in school in a couple of years, but until then, he has a great tool for comforting, calming and entertaining himself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Off the Charts!

That's what Anna is!

We had her 1-yr. check-up at the doctor this afternoon and Anna's height and weight are off the charts. Because Anna has Down syndrome, they use special growth charts to track her growth. So, on the Ds growth charts, Anna's height (30 in.) and weight (20.5 lbs) are both above the charts' threshold. Her head circumference (17 in.) was 10th percentile.

On a typical growth chart, Anna would be coming in at 75 percentile for height, between 25 and 50 for weight and 5th percentile for head circumference. All my kids have pinheads...even Paige, despite her big forehead =)

All-in-all, a great check-up!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Anna!!! (Part 2)

Happy 1st Birthday Anna!!!

I can't believe it has been a year already! I remember Anna's birth and the pediatrician telling us she has Down syndrome like it just happened. Can my little angel be 1 already?

So much has happened over the past year. God has blessed us in so many ways through Anna. It hasn't always been easy, but God has been true to his promise and has provided for us when we were in need. We are so lucky to have Anna.

Lately, when people ask me how old Anna is, they often follow up with, "Oh, is she walking yet?" Not wanting to be a negative Nellie, I usually just smile and say, "Not yet, but soon." (Soon, of course, being a very subjective word) With Anna, it could be very easy to dwell on the things that she is not yet doing that a typical 1-yr. old should be doing. Instead, I am going to focus on the positive. Below is a list of things that Anna can and does do (and by no means a complete list). You will see what an amazing miracle she really is....

Anna can:
- bang blocks together
- make a kissing sound
- roll across the room to get to something that she wants
- stretch her right leg out past a 90 degree angle
- scream very loudly
- splash in the bathtub
- slurp down a whole bottle then belch like a trucker
- play peek-a-boo
- sound like a car with a bad starter
- blow messy raspberries when eating
- eat most anything that is soft enough or mushed enough
- drink from a cup with support under her chin
- pull a toy toward her so she can play with it
- giggle when you squeeze her ribs when applying lotion
- sit on a step stool with feet on the floor
- get up on all fours and rock back and forth
- inchworm backwards
- pull all the animals down off the back of her crib
- turn her music box on and off and on and off and on and off
- pivot all around in both directions on her belly
- sit unsupported
- sleep through the night 7-7
- recognize her Mommy and Daddy and reach for them
- be easily entertained by watching Maggie run around
- rip her socks off in record time
- reach into a container and pull out an object
- grab anything left unprotected on her high chair tray and throw it on the ground
- warm your heart with her enormous smile
- break your heart when she is sad or upset
- remind you each day that God is so Good!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nothing Good Happens Behind Closed Doors...

...especially closed bathroom doors with Paige on the other side!

Paige has been at it again. While she was not playing 'Will It Flush?' this time, she was experimenting with toothpaste art. I love Paige's independent and curious spirit -- I just can't stand the messes!

Yesterday at the grocery store, Paige was sitting in the cart with my purse next to her. I should have been paying closer attention to her because when I turned around with my selection of apples, there was Paige with lipstick all over her face! She was quite proud of herself. She looked like a clown, and brought a smile to everyone who saw her all 'dolled up'. =)

Happy Birthday Anna!! (Part 1)

Anna's 1st birthday is tomorrow (April 15), but we had a small family celebration yesterday (April 13) since Jonathan will out of town tomorrow.

Paige and I went and bought cupcakes at the 'cupcake store'. Anna managed to make a complete mess with her cupcake, and even enjoyed a bite or two!

After cupcakes, we had a silly face contest. Who do you think won?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter - Anna's First

Happy Easter!

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!!
Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What an awesome God have we!

Before church this morning, the kids were thrilled to find that the Easter Bunny had visited our house. They had an egg hunt, and found baskets full of goodies.

They all looked adorable in their Easter attire - I really wanted to get some good pictures. Unfortunately, the weather was not so cooperative. It was sunny, but cold and windy, so outside pics were out of the question. We tried our best for an indoor photo, but the kids were more interested in digging into their baskets. Here is the best we could manage....
Yesterday, we celebrated by going up to Jonathan's parents' house. We colored eggs, had an egg hunt (the Easter Bunny visited us while the kids were napping), got lots of goodies in our baskets and ate lots of yummy food. Anna loved the Easter grass in her basket - it entertained her for a good long while.

Another great holiday!

Up next....Anna's first birthday!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Present for Anna

Anna's 1st birthday is fast approaching. Next Wednesday, April 15 (Tax day!), our little angel will be one!

Charlie, Paige and I have been talking about what we should get Anna for her first birthday. Paige thinks she needs a pony. Charlie thinks we should get her a big dump truck like we got for Hudson. I have been leaning towards a doll of some sort. That is what we got for Paige when she turned one -- her very first baby doll.

Someone had once suggested to me the idea of a 'down syndrome doll', or a doll that has typical characteristics of children with down syndrome (almond shaped eyes, low-set ears, shorter fingers, etc.). The idea is that these dolls will give children with Ds something to identify with, rather than typical dolls.

I wasn't sold on the idea - I have never been a fan of labeling and categorizing children - especially based on appearances and disabilities, but I was curious...

Here are the dolls I found online. To put it bluntly...I was very disappointed by these dolls. They look nothing like any of the children with down syndrome that I have seen. In fact, I feel as though these dolls do nothing but promote negative stereotypes of children with Ds. And to have an option of a 'tongue protruding' or 'closed mouth' doll just really irked me.

I don't know - maybe I am all wrong on the subject, but I would rather give Anna a 'typical' doll because she is far more 'typical' than not (not just in physical features, either). I mean really - does Paige look like the Cabbage Patch doll (or the Barbie) that we bought her? Nope! But Anna sure does!! =)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hudson Edward (aka Baby Ha Ha)

Last Sunday we had the honor of attending the dedication of our nephew, Hudson Edward. We were thrilled be able to witness and take part in this special ceremony, and to dedicate to God this precious gift He has given our family. We were also thrilled that Hudson made it through the ceremony without screaming =)

After church, we returned to Grammy's house for Hudson's 1st Birthday Party! Hudson is just two weeks older than Anna -- twin cousins =)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Therapy - 4/3/09

Another good therapy session for Anna!

Anna did a lot of immitating, making a kissing sound, today. We are excited to be hearing a new sound out of her.

Anna also did really well getting up on all fours and holding the position. She still scoots backwards, but it is just a matter of time. To be honest, though, I am not sure I am ready for her to be mobile. We already have to close the gate upstairs because she rolls all over the place! =)

No scheduled therapy next due to holidays - but may try to make one up

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Therapy - 4/1/09

Anna had a therapy session today to make up for the one we missed last Friday while we were in Arizona.

Today Anna worked on sitting on a bench - reaching down for toys and coming back up without losing her balance. She did really well at this.

She worked on trying to move forward. Anna doesn't put a lot of effort into to trying to learn how to move forward - she would rather grunt at us. Ms. Jeannette thinks that as soon as she decides to do it, she will be off and going.

And we practiced drinking from a cup and eating. Anna is doing much better with eating. She can eat and mash most foods that I give her (what you would give any 1-yr. old), but she is still not able to feed herself finger foods. She did a good job of drinking from an open cup with her chin supported. Ms. Jeannette was quite pleased.

All in all a good session!