Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas from our Family!

We wish you a merry and blessed Christmas (or the happiest of holidays that you celebrate in your family)! We had a great time celebrating with my side of the family the last few days, adding 6 adults and 3 dogs to our usual chaos.

Ted loves Zed!

Oddly enough, the puppy was among the most useful additions because Zed and Ted became best of buds, as was predicted. Zed loves to play with people her size, but most children aren't so welcoming of a puppy tackling them and licking their face and knocking them over constantly. But that's Teddy's idea of a grand time, especially when he can sit on, lay on, crawl under and snuggle into that puppy. He also spent a lot of time with his mouth open for kisses ... Ted, not Zed ... well, both of them actually. I also saw Teddy stick his hand in Zed's mouth for some licks and nibbles. Like I said, a perfect match.

Aside from playing with a puppy, Teddy spent his Christmas loving his scooter from Santa. He is so proud of himself for standing on it. He doesn't quite use it properly (yet), but he'll stand on it, he'll stand on it for rides when others push him, he'll walk along side it and push it, he'll sit on it and scoot it and he'll try to set it up on the table. It's neat to see him so engaged with a toy for so long and to see him have that typical response of a favorite gift since it's the first we've really seen that.

Look out world! Teddy's got a scooter!

We made it through the children's Mass on Christmas Eve, and Teddy was part of the processional of all the children 3 and under to start Mass. Teddy was Teddy, which meant he collapsed his weight and smiled up at me from the floor and also tried to steer me to the baptismal font for a quick swim. But he walked through the church, which is something that was impossible for him a year ago. My dad said Teddy's a year behind the times because his Christmas wish last year was for Teddy to walk. It's amazing how much joy that milestone can still bring.

Both boys enjoyed spending time with family, new people to play with and sucker into building LEGOs. AJ also spent quite a bit of time outside "helping" walk the dogs. AJ has managed to build all but one LEGO set, and that includes helping Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Tom, Uncle John and Dave build their sets that he gave them (from the Dollar Store).

One of the best parts of this Christmas is that our family did less for each other and did something for someone else who needed support this year. We've been on the receiving end of a similar gesture last year, and the thoughtfulness was a bright spot during some of the tough Teddy days. Although there was no shortage of things under the tree, we did more homemade or smaller items, which is nice in so many ways.

Both boys with their best smiles. (AJ's in a really awkward photo phase.)

We have more celebrating and family time with Dave's side of the family tomorrow and then New Year's weekend. We hope you've enjoyed your holidays, that you remember the reasons for your celebrations this season and that your memories created will be ones cherished for years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Vacation ... Blissful Vacation

As I write this, I'm in my bedroom with the door shut. I hear Teddy complaining in his room about being put down for a nap. (This is the second attempt since he was up before 4:30 a.m.) AJ is in his room, supposedly laying in bed until his clock says 2:40. (It was 2:30 until he spent 10 minutes going to the bathroom, washing his hands with a baby wipe and soap and having a drink from a cup that was also holding a toothbrush and floss.) I'm in my room because AJ insisted I rest for 30 minutes since I'm making him rest for 30 minutes (because everything that comes out of his mouth is a whine or he's in tears).

And a week ago I was in 80 degree weather with plenty of sun and no children. Now I'm staring at 6 inches of snow on the deck railing outside, but at least it's warmed up nearly 40 degrees to get into the low 30s.

This feels like a dream right now. I wish Teddy were dreaming instead of kicking his door.
So this post has next to nothing to do with Teddy, aside from the fact that his grandparents not only kept him alive but took great care of him while we were gone for the week. And our sitters who provided respite for my mom who had the Monday-Friday shift may be our saving grace in hoping to do any kid-free vacations in the future. I think they are both my mom's heroes. (Let's just say that from 11:15 a.m. until 4 p.m. can be a very long time with my boys, especially if there's no relief in sight until bedtime.) We're extremely grateful we had amazing family and friends who pulled together to make this trip a reality by taking care of the boys.

This was the first time Dave and I were gone together for more than a night for fun. (We've been gone together a whopping two nights at a time, but that's when we're volunteering and working the entire time.) We dropped the kids off Saturday morning and didn't pick them up until noon a week later on Sunday.
We went to the Virgin Islands, flying into St. Thomas but spending most of our time at the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John. It was amazing! We slept nearly 9-10 hours most nights. We sampled a few of the island drink specialties, such as painkillers and bushwackers. (If you ever get the chance, try a bushwacker.) We hiked miles without carrying children, which is oddly enough much more enjoyable. We snorkled together, watching sea turtles swim beneath us. (Dave only had to worry about me drowning instead of three of us drowning.) We went for a sunset hike that turned into a night hike, which was our intent. We rented a standup paddleboard. We used outdoor showers that were mighty brisk for 5 days. Dave drove on the left side of the road without any accidents. I ran on the left side of the road up crazy steep hills with sharp turns. I've never ran hills like that in my life.

Enjoying the warmth. Even the downpours were warm!

It was absolutely incredible to spend so much time with the man who keeps me sane ... most days. We got to sleep next to each other every night. (In contrast, our first night home I spent 2 hours in by AJ. Last night, Dave went in by Teddy around 4, and then I was up with Teddy at 4:30 a.m.)

There were times we thought about how much the boys would love the sun, sand and water, but it was so easy to travel without them. The airport waits with the boys would have been really tough, especially with weather issues canceling half the flights both when we flew out and flew back. The Virgin Islands are anything but accessible, so Teddy would have been on my back much of the time and changing him would have been almost always done in the back of the Jeep.

Beautiful sunset in a beautiful national park.

This was our 43rd national park together since we got married in July 2006. I hope we manage a few more trips without the hoodlums, especially to check off some of the ones like American Samoa with a long flight or the remote ones in Alaska. But our next vacation will be a family adventure out to Washington, checking off the last of the parks in the continental US. As crazy as our road trip adventures are with two young boys, one of whom is Teddy, we're already looking forward to it.

This is me not missing the boys.

Until then, back to our reality. As my husband said our first day back, "Last week, I only had to wipe my own butt."

Friday, December 9, 2016

So Much Happy

So many good things have happened this week that each could be its own blog post.

There's Teddy's last swim class of the semester with his awesome instructors. These two students have been phenomenal with Teddy, making swim class a highlight each week. They greeted him with a smile, engaged him every class and made class so much fun for him. When I asked them for feedback for future teachers for Teddy, their advice included, "Keetp doing different things to stimulate him because he'd be happy doing the same thing the entire hour," and "He really can do a lot of things. If you show him how, he will copy you." Those statements show me that they cared about Teddy learning and developing throughout the class and they saw the potential in Teddy. I was amazed and did my happy dance this week when his teachers surprised Teddy with a parting Christmas gift of a super snuggly Finding Dory blanket, pillow and squeaky bath toy. We certainly didn't expect them to get Teddy anything, and it's touching that they thought so much of Teddy to do something like that.

Best. Instructors. Ever.

There's also the incredibly fun afternoon we had with our friends exchanging Christmas presents, experimenting with dry ice, making Christmas wreathes and decorating gingerbread tents. For the record, tents are so much easier than houses, and it works for us since we really like camping. It was such a fun afternoon and made what otherwise would have been a long day with no school one of the best days I've had in a long time.

Then there's my co-worker who texted to see if we needed any help with the boys or anything while we're on vacation. Although we think we have everything handled with the boys, the thought crossed my mind that we should really line up snow removal for any big snowstorms. Since my co-worker offered "anything," I asked if she'd clear our driveway, so my mom doesn't have to worry about that while watching the boys. The instantaneous response was yes. This is something I normally wouldn't ask, so it was a bit of a reach to ask for this help, but she made it so easy to do with her offer.

Oh yeah, there's also the fact that Dave and I leave tomorrow for our first vacation alone in more than 5 years. Maybe looking forward to the week exploring our national park in the Virgin Islands is why I'm really so happy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Snow Much Fun!

Winter in Wisconsin has arrived with about 4 inches of snow Sunday and now chilly temps today. We had a dusting of snow last month and some snow to play in at my parents' farm, but this was the first substantial snow for the boys to play with at home. And play they did!

Teddy thinks snow is scrumptious.

The best part of their adventures was I watched them from the kitchen window while I got things done around the house. Dave spent about an hour outside with the boys, building two large snowmen, chasing Teddy as he hopped to explore the creek and making snow angels. All three of my boys had huge smiles on their faces and came in to warm mugs of cocoa and tea ... because that's mom's job, right?

He may be trying to eat the snowman ...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Your Smile is Worth 1,000 Words!

One of the best experiences for our family this year was becoming involved with myTEAM TRIUMPH (MTT). This non-profit organization matches Captains with disabilities with Angels who push and pull them for runs, bike rides, triathlons and just about any endurance event you could imagine. There have even been solo angels who've partnered with Captains for a full Ironman, which is a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

Teddy and I participated in several training runs throughout the summer, and we both had a great time each week. Everyone was extremely welcoming toward Teddy, I got to share one of my hobbies (eh, it's still weird to call running my hobby even after seven years) with Teddy and AJ had some quality time with Papa. Teddy was a Captain for two different 5k events, one with friends and one with strangers.

Teddy walked across the finish line for both events, and MTT captured a great photo of Teddy at the second race. MTT posted the photo of Teddy with the quote, "Your smile is worth 1,000 words!" on its Facebook page yesterday, and it's one of the most amazing graphics:

This makes me smile every time!