Thursday, August 17, 2017

Vacation - 3 Weeks of Memories to Last a Lifetime

We've only been home from vacation 3 days, and we're already in the swing of things with work, back-to-school preparations and childcare issues. But that can all wait for another day (even my anxiousness about school for Teddy, which I think is going to be an annual tradition ... and even our sitter giving her 2-week notice this morning). This blog post is a recap of our adventures on vacation.

This is Teddy scaling the sign at his namesake park: Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

When you take children who are 4 and 5 on vacation, you expect there will be stressful moments. It doesn't mean you like them, but you at least know they're coming when you spend 3 weeks together covering nearly 6,400 miles. Some of those stressful moments included Teddy deciding he didn't want to sleep (which was only really bad 2 out of 25 nights), Teddy screaming in the car because he was miserable (although I think there were fewer hours of screaming than on previous trips) and the second half of that 7-mile hike with all the pesky bugs and heavy children to carry (which was the only hike where AJ was carried for any significant portion ... after he earned a ride down by hiking up more than 1,000 feet over 3.5 miles).

Funny story: I almost pushed Teddy off this bridge. Oops.

With that said, this was honestly the least stressful and easiest trip since we've had two children. Now, if you weren't Dave and I, I'm sure you'd think we're crazy. When I compare the amount of assistance Teddy needs to previous years, that alone makes the trips easier. Yes, he's much harder to change and he's much, much heavier than the earlier years. But he can feed himself (at least in the vehicle), drink by  himself, sooth himself with a pacifier and pick up toys that he wants (using his feet, oddly enough, this year).

The biggest reason this trip was easier was that AJ hiked like a champ. He did nearly a 5-mile hike, which is his longest hike ever. He also did several other hikes up and down the side of a mountain. We discovered the trick to eliminating complaints is to get him focused on pretend play, which means Dave especially played a lot of LEGO Nexo Knights.

This snowfield was legitimately the hiking trail. I love this kind of stuff!

This trip took care of Dave and I visiting the last of the National Parks together in the lower 48 states. We've been to 48 parks, with only parks left to visit in America Samoa, Hawaii and Alaska ... all of which will be rather challenging and expensive with children. In the past 3 years, our boys have been fortunate enough to touch their toes in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (3 times for the Pacific). They've traveled more of our country than many adults will in their entire lifetimes. And they have memories that will last them a lifetime.

Best dad ever. And Teddy love the ocean. He tried to wander into it every chance he got.
To give you an idea of our vacation, we visited:
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • North Cascades National Park  
  • Olympic National Park
  • Mount Ranier National Park
  • Grand Tetons National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Badlands National Park
In addition to that, there were 5 other sites within the National Park System that we visited. We visited one service shop to address warning lights/messages in our vehicle. We arranged for a friend to overnight my medication that I forgot, along with all my morning stuff. We spent 13 nights in our tent. Well, technically Teddy is the only one who spent 13 nights in the tent. The rest of us each spent one night sleeping under the stars in our hammock.

The way I look at it is that there will always be tears and stressful moments at home ... it's much easier to cope with them when I'm spending time in our national parks. These pictures don't even capture a handful of our adventures, so I might have to do another post of photo highlights. I'll leave you with this random photo that has nothing to do with Teddy or our family, aside from our hypothesis.

We're certain these are the inspiration for the Truffala Trees in The Lorax by Dr. Seuess.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Vacation Update

The posts here have been lacking because we haven't had much cell reception, much less Internet connectivity. That's one of the things I love about vacation is that we get to disconnect from world by exploring wonders of nature and beauty. We're more than two weeks into vacation and still have a solid week left, so this might be the last post for another week or so.

In the past two weeks, we've explored:
  • Teddy Roosevelt National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • North Cascades National Park
  • Olympic National Park
  • Mount Ranier National Park
  • Mount St. Helens
  • Columbia River Gorge, including the Bonneville Dam
A few things to note from this vacation:

Teddy and I got chased by a marmot in Olympic National Park. Another marmot didn't want to share his tasty wildflowers, so he chased his friend away. I happened to be in the way, with Teddy on my back. Marmots looked a lot less cute after being chased by one.

Cute ... until it's running right at you loaded down with a 40+ lb. child.
It hit me that Teddy won't participate in the typical Junior Ranger programs, the way AJ does. AJ looks forward to the activity books, collecting his badges and reciting his oaths. He's even been pretend playing Junior Ranger, which I love. But I had tears in my eyes at Glacier when I realized Teddy won't have the skills to complete Junior Ranger programs independently, even if he ever develops the interest and attention span. That hurts because it's been so much fun for AJ to participate ... AJ even did one activity book for him and Teddy to get Teddy a separate badge. It was so sweet yet bittersweet.

If you think hammocks are relaxing, try one with my two boys.
Teddy is heavy. 

This child loves the ocean. And bending into weird positions on his dad's shoulders.

Our national parks are beautiful. I love sharing them with our children.

There's nothing quite like an alpine lake. Well worth the hike. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Vacation-Anything But Relaxing

The vacations my husband and I took before children were not most people's idea of vacation. We're not beach people. We're not pool people. We're national park people. And we're not drive through and see the sights people. We're the hike everywhere, scoff at the moderate and strenuous ratings and see how much less time it takes us than the stated times people. (OK, that last part might be me.)

With kids, we traded or backpacks to carry stuff for several days of camping for ones that carry kids. Let me tell you something, kids wiggle a lot more. My pack never pulled my hair or adjusted my hat a million times before kids. It's not easy to hike with 45+ pounds of child on your back, but we still do it.

AJ has managed his longest hike on this trip: 4.6 miles up and back to a mountain lake. He also hiked 3.5 miles up the side of a mountain yesterday with 38 switchbacks and 1,500 feet of elevation gain. That earned him a free ride down the mountain on my back. Let me tell you, 5.5 miles of caring kiddos up and down a mountain is exhausting.

The good news is that AJ is getting older and more capable of hiking on his own. The bad news is Teddy is getting older and heavier to carry. Hopefully it balances out the next few years that Dave and I can split carrying Teddy without needing to give AJ rides, so we can continue to explore our great outdoors to the fullest extent.

But I think the rest of the family might need some horseback lessons because I see that as it future once we can no longer carry Teddy on hikes.

Hey, let's hike up a mountain like that!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Happy Birthday with an F-Bomb

We received Teddy's diagnosis when he was around 2 1/2 years old, after nearly two years of searching for answers from his first seizures. Along with that diagnosis, we received 2-3 medical research documents that were literally all that was known and documented about the disorder in the medical community. One of those, from the National Institute of Health, read:

Multiple congenital anomalies-hypotonia-seizures syndrome 1 (MCAHS1): An autosomal recessive disorder characterized by neonatal hypotonia, lack of psychomotor development, seizures, dysmorphic features, and variable congenital anomalies involving the cardiac, urinary, and gastrointestinal systems. Most affected individuals die before 3 years of age.

Talk about a kick in the stomach to read that when your child is 2 1/2. Our first questions back to our geneticist surrounded that life expectancy. This is the answer we received:

I do not think we have any reason to believe that this syndrome would have an impact on Teddy's life expectancy. He is overall doing extremely well, and his seizures are in good control with the Keppra. There are a very small number of patients who are known with this condition, but certainly a good number of them are older than age 3. We also do not know what the cause of death was in the individual/s who passed away at age 3 or what other complications/medical problems they had. I will investigate further and let you know if I learn anything further about this.

I'm grateful our genetic counselor provided this answer, which seemed both realistic and optimistic. I've heard horror stories of parents who were told their child would never live, walk, talk or reach a variety of milestones. We've never encountered that personally from any doctors, yet we had it printed in black and white. And, you know it must be true if you find it online ... especially when it was one of three valid search results for Teddy's diagnosis. (Yes, when Teddy was diagnosed, even Google had little to no answers for us. Seriously, three search results. When was the last time you searched for something Google couldn't find?)

Teddy takes the saying Your presence is present enough quite literally.
So, this is a rather lengthy way to say, "F-ck you!" to the medical research we received in November 2015. And happy 4th birthday to my favorite Teddy in the whole wide world.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

One of the Reasons Why I Love MTT

I know I continue to write about MyTEAM Triumph, but the organization and people associated with it have become part of our lives. If you're curious why, here's just a few of the reasons:

  1. Teddy, and all the other captains and angels, are welcomed with open arms and are accepted for who they are.
  2. The other parents of captains get it. Last night I showed someone the Yi Home Camera we use in Teddy's bedroom. She said that his bedroom setup looks identical to her son's bedroom. That's not so often the case when your child's bed consists of a large mattress directly on the floor. 
  3. Teddy loves the trailers and trucks that hold all the racing chairs.
  4. Someone shut his vehicle doors because he said, "I know Teddy well enough to know it isn't fair to him to leave my doors open." They understand Teddy's desire to explore, are comfortable with it and help me limit the temptations for him.  
  5. Teddy loves the racing bicycle.
  6. Every time one of the women sees Teddy, she scoops him up for a hug or lets him climb in her lap. She's even sat on the ground, so she could hug him when there wasn't a different place to sit. 
  7. It's safe. Not in the sense that Teddy couldn't get hurt somehow because he's Teddy. But we won't be judged for any of Teddy's non-typical behaviors (like licking everything).
  8. Teddy loves pushing the other captains.
  9.  There's a woman there who adores Teddy, and the feeling is mutual. She scoops him up for big hugs, twirls him around and occupies him while I chat with other people.
I'm sure I'll continue to share our MTT stories in the future, but I'll leave you with these pictures someone shared from last night's run, along with their captions from Facebook:

 Omg I seriously love captain teddy. Kerry Blondheim ur son smile is just amazing

 Love ur sons adventerous soul

Monday, July 17, 2017

Birthday Shopping is Hard ... Birthday Partnies are Fun

Birthday shopping for Teddy is one of my least favorite things to do. When I told my mom this, she laughed, until I explained. It's not that Teddy is hard to buy presents for because he enjoys a number of things and likes to play with toys. It's not even that there's nothing Teddy needs because he tears through clothes like no other, and most toys help him so much more than a typical kid with furthering his skills.

Happy birthday boy opening his presents.

It's that buying a birthday present serves as a stark reminder of where Teddy is not. Rarely would any of the toys appropriate for his actual age be appropriate or of interest to him. The things he would like are geared toward a much younger age group. Dave and I used respite last year to go searching for something for his birthday, and I ended up fighting back tears as we left Toys R Us with a single baby toy. This year I went to two toy stores after work, with a specific type of lacing toy in mind, so I thought it wouldn't be bad. I left the one store disappointed they didn't carry something like what I wanted. I left Toys R Us with a bit of extra moisture in my eyes but with a different toy that I thought Teddy would enjoy. Maybe I'm just allergic to Toys R Us.

Birthday shopping is the worst. It's because it's the time to buy presents for Teddy that correlates to his age. Don't get me wrong ... Teddy turning 4 is a whole positive, remarkable blog post in its own for later this week. Birthday shopping is what sucks.

But  his birthday party didn't. Because everyone else is able to focus on what I still struggle with when birthday shopping: the amazingly happy little boy who loves people. Our family and friends found wonderful presents for Teddy including blue jeans with elastic waistbands (to hold up to his wear and tear and allow him to help dress) and hilarious shirts (about not needing sleep or naps). He has a new assortment of toys that he (and AJ) will love.

It's not his fault he's dirty. He ate dirt cake. ;-)

Teddy spent his birthday party hanging out with all the people he loves, eating delicious food and opening (most) of his own presents with the assistance of his handy helper cousins. It was so neat to watch Teddy open most of his presents because that's something that's taken quite a while for the focus and ability to come together.

So the end to this ramblings is a heartfelt thank you to those who celebrated Teddy's birthday early with us (as we're heading on vacation on his birthday). You made his day special with your presence alone, but he'll also enjoy your presents much in the months to come.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

1, 2, 3 ... Look at Me!

Timehop on Facebook reminded us yesterday that exactly a year ago Teddy was walking 7 to 8 steps independently, without prompting. This was a huge milestone for him, yet I cannot believe it's been such a short time that he's been walking. He walks like a natural (drunk). He can maneuver turns, corners and stops before he walks into doors and walls ... most of the time. He's able to transition to different surfaces much of the time and walks across grass like a pro (football player going for the tackle). It just amazes me how much progress he's made in this one area alone in a year.

One year ago: This boy is walking 7-8 steps across a room, unbribed by us to walk, he decides to do it all on his own!!!! He is even taking slight pauses in the walk.

Yet another reminder of his progress occurred this weekend. We were walking into a store, with Dave and I on either side of Teddy holding his hands because parking lots have a lot of distractions. We counted 1, 2, 3 and then swung Teddy up in the air by his arms and landed him back on his feet. This was the first time we've ever done that, not because we never walk holding his hands but because he wouldn't have had the balance and ability to transition back to walking from flying. I think we may have created a monster now that he knows how fun it is. Maybe he'll learn how to count 1, 2, 3 from this new workout for us ...

He reached two other mini-milestones this weekend. He climbed the rock climbing wall of our playground set, which is set at an angle with rock climbing holds. Then he safely sat down and went down the slide. He's done parts of this process before and possibly even the entire process, but this was his first time flying solo without a hovering helicopter parent right there to catch him (although I was debating how fast I could fly across the yard from our garden to the playground).

The other milestone was that we removed the baby gate at the top of our basement stairs. Now, mind you, this isn't because we're completely confident in Teddy's ability to safely navigate stairs. In fact, Dave is terrified Teddy is going to try walking up or down and hurt himself ... or that Teddy will simply walk right down the stairs without realizing there's stairs there. But, we decided this was the safest route to minimize ER visits since Teddy has been attempting to scale the baby gate to go over it. He reached the point where he could get one foot hooked on top, so we removed the gate before he flipped himself over the gate and down the stairs. I'm optimistic this will help him become more aware of his surroundings that he won't just wander off the top of the stairs and I'm comfortable with him practicing some stairs walking instead of wiggling on his butt ... but I'll let you know whether the stairs or Teddy win. I'm pretty sure it will only take one ER trip for stitches before we install a half door that will buy us another year or two before Teddy figures out how to scale that.

I've said it before and will probably say it many more times, but these little things are such big things for Teddy and for us. They make my heart happy (when it starts beating again after he scares the daylights out of me).