Friday, June 30, 2017

See You Later, Not Goodbye

The last two years have been the most consistent, best childcare we've had since we lived in Denmark. We've went through our share of sitters for the boys. We considered reformatory school after not one, but both boys got kicked out of separate childcare settings. After yet another bad experience, we tried recruiting childcare through the local university.

And we hit the jackpot. We found a nursing student who was comfortable with Teddy's history of seizures (which is why he got the boot from one daycare provider) and his disabilities. She was willing to come to our house to watch the boys, which meant they had a safe, familiar environment. She was agreeable to taking them out into the community to parks, the children's museum, etc.

Throughout the last two years, she's watched Teddy reach milestones we weren't quite sure he would hit. She's encouraged his progress, reported his new accomplishments to me and taken pride in his skills. Teddy's face lights up whenever she enters our house, addressing him as Mister. Teddy routinely tries to leave with her at the end of the day, wanting to continue his fun with her.

She's been one of a handful of people who've successfully watched our boys in the evening and has become familiar with their bedtime routine. She's administered Teddy's anti-seizure medication, monitored his temperature and ensured his safety ... as much as possible because, after all, he is Teddy.

She's played games with AJ. She's endured hundreds of questions from AJ, along with tantrums for saying no to his use of tablets or television. She's played outside with the boys at different parks. She's taken them out to eat (no easy feat by yourself). She's fed their love of ice cream (literally).

She's taken Teddy to the waterpark by herself, lugging him and an tube up the slide multiple times and redirecting him from the deep end of the pool, which is of course his newest fascination. She's recruited another friend to accompany her to the waterpark, so she could take both boys.

She's always been willing to help out when we needed it, whether for me to escape to work or for us to escape using respite. She's been flexible to come early and stay late. She's taken Teddy to his horse therapy appointment an hour away, with AJ in tow. She's taken AJ to gymnastics class with Teddy in tow.

She referred another amazing person to us who became our second childcare provider. Combined, they provided my mom with the support she needed (during finals week of all times) to watch our boys for a week while we were in the Virgin Islands. They made that experience doable for my mom, which means another trip without the boys remains within the realm of possibility.

Yet, she had the audacity to graduate from college, pass her boards, become a RN and accept a pediatric nursing position across the state. I'm so happy to see her pursuing her dreams and know she'll be a terrific nurse for any children she encounters, regardless of their needs.

At the same time, I had a hard time not crying yesterday when she left our house for the last time. She made the day as special as possible for the boys, taking them to AJ's favorite restaurant (Buffalo Wild Wings) for lunch and then to the store to pick out goodbye gifts from her. I can't help but think of the Dr. Seuss quote:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Now, to brace myself for our other sitter's last day next month ... 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Teddy Likes Tractors

Another weekend in June, another dairy breakfast. Both boys enjoyed the food, especially the watermelon that we encountered here for the first time. There was an awesome collection of cute little animals including sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, llamas, cows and bunnies. Teddy got to pet a fuzzy baby bunny and a cuddly baby goat (that I would have liked to keep).

Just think ... we could create goat therapy!
 Teddy also got to sit on a few tractors, which he absolutely loved.

That smile ... that kid.

I think he's going to be sad that June Dairy Month is over ...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Brave is not the Same as Fearless

Yesterday at hippotherapy, Teddy's therapist commented on how brave Teddy was. My response was, "There's a difference between bravery and having no fear." She meant that Teddy was willing to try whatever position they maneuvered him into on the horse with complete confidence that they'd keep him from falling. They had Teddy ride side saddle to engage different muscles with the side-to-side motion. They had him lay on his belly across the horse to work on his neck and core muscles. They waited for Teddy to notice he was sliding off the horse and encouraged him to readjust himself, which he actually did several times.

His fearlessness showed  through at the parks we visited yesterday as well. There was the time he was going to just go off a 4-foot drop that was at the top of the rock climbing wall. He didn't try to walk off it. No, he safely sat down on his butt and was going to scooch off it. Safely, of course. (I caught him.) Then there was the time he thought it would be a good idea to walk across the uneven steps that were suspended 3 feet off the ground, with each step about 1 foot apart. After catching him multiple times, I lowered him to the ground.

As much as he does need to develop a healthy appreciation for his own safety, his fearlessness gives him the freedom to try new things and continue to push to do more to keep up with AJ and the other kids. He walked, safely and successfully, up and down many gradual ramps at the park all by himself without holding onto anything. He walked up a steeper ramp with rock climbing holds while holding onto the rails, all by himself. He continued to pop up to his feet whenever he fell (or dropped to his butt to safely navigate an obstacle that he knew he couldn't manage on his feet).

That fearlessness gives him freedom ... and lots of scrapes, bumps and bruises. (Most of which he doesn't even notice, so I suppose that further enables his fearlessness.)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Getting Hot & Sweaty with Teddy

AJ has spent this entire week at my folks' house, filling his days with LEGOs, games, Lite Brite and more. He's went to Firehouse Ceramics twice to work on pottery, and he spent all day yesterday at Circus World. Honestly, I'm a bit jealous.

As nice as it is for AJ to spend some time enjoying himself (instead of going along to three appointments for Teddy this week and having Teddy constantly requiring my attention), it's also nice to have Teddy to myself. We get a few more snuggles and cuddles in the morning. Teddy doesn't bug me about tablet or TV ... in fact, I can pick out a movie to watch with him because I know he won't repeat any of the swear words or be scared by the bad guys.

It also gave me the opportunity to take Teddy for a run. Normally Teddy and I run with myTEAM Triumph on Monday nights, but the weather didn't cooperate this week. I had a 5-mile run on my training calendar, so Teddy and I hit the trails in Neenah after his therapy appointment. (It was one of his best PT appointments I can recall. He did 11 sit-ups without complaints, did all the sit-to-stand activities and obstacle course that was expected of him and rode the tricycle like a rock star.)
The Trestle Trail bridge is so scenic.
It was hot. Running when it's 78°F and sunny while pushing a stroller (with a few flat tires that I discovered after about a half mile) makes it feel like you're running in Death Valley. But it was a beautiful place to run. We went along a portion of the half marathon route for the Fox Cities, so I sort of knew where I was going enough to not get lost. The trail goes along the water for a good portion and is rather peaceful as long as you don't mind the sweat pouring off you.

I wonder why only one of us is red as a lobster? Maybe next time Teddy can push me.
Afterward, Teddy insisted we go check out the park. It was a pretty awesome park, and he had a blast. He went down a few slides all by himself (first one was belly first ... not his best idea). We definitely need to go back there as a family to perhaps take the paddleboard out on the water, walk the bridge together and play in the park.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Bellin Buddies

If you're familiar with our family, then you know about myTEAM Triumph (MTT) and I Run 4 (IR4). Both are non-profit organizations that aim to build relationships and foster inclusion through partnering athletes with people with disabilities. MTT focuses on in-person relationships within local communities, and IR4 takes advantage of technology to build an online community. Both have had a tremendous impact on our family, and this past weekend combined the two together for  the first time.

Teddy's running buddy Heather, from IR4, made the (extra) long drive (thanks to horrible traffic) from Michigan to our house in Wisconsin. She and her husband Steve had volunteered to be Teddy's angels through MTT for the Bellin Run this past weekend. That meant they both fundraised a minimum of $100 (to cover entry costs for themselves and ensure captains like Teddy can race for free). They took time off work. Then, after spending most of Friday driving here, they got back in a car at 5:30 a.m. to head up for the race.

Captain Frumpy Face Teddy

Teddy was a bit sleepy, which actually worked out well because he wasn't trying to escape from his race chair during the pre-race preparations. (He was in his chair longer than usual because there were a record 41 MTT teams, which required a bit extra coordination.) He perked up about a third of the way through the race and realized he could play with the balloons we had attached to his chair. (I'd definitely do that again because it let the runners passing us from behind know Teddy's name to cheer for him.) Teddy got stopped by Davon House, one of the Green Bay Packers, for a photo opp (that unfortunately didn't turn out but was still pretty darn cool). He loved every sprinkler we went through, which was quite a few. Teddy shared a freezie pop with Heather. (It was so hot that several people along the route were handing out freezie pops out of their Midwestern hospitality and generosity. We passed up the free margaritas, though, because we thought we perhaps shouldn't tarnish Teddy's and MTT's image.)

Teddy flying with his MTT (and IR4) Angels

Each race with MTT has been incredible in its own way. This race literally flew by, even though it's the first time Teddy's done a 10k instead of a 5k. I've done the Bellin more than 5 times, and this was by far the most fun I've ever had doing the Bellin. I think my PR (personal record) from last year will stand for quite some time because I don't see myself running the Bellin again without Teddy and MTT. Not only did Dave and AJ join us, but we also had both sets of grandparents cheering on Team Teddy. (And his speech therapist found us before the race, which is remarkable considering that we were among 13,000 people there!)

The rest of the weekend spent with our family and Heather and Steve was equally awesome. After Teddy took a much-needed nap, we  headed to the waterpark in town. He led Grandpa through all the sprinklers in the kiddie area while the rest of us watched in amusement. AJ loved the lazy river, and so did Teddy, especially all the sprinklers. We went down the waterslides a few times, which is Teddy's favorite part.

This is one of my favorite photos of the weekend!

It was incredible to meet Heather, who's basically a celebrity among our family because of how supportive she is of Teddy. Now Teddy knows there's a person behind the photos I show him when Heather shares pictures with us. Teddy adored her and was a bit infatuated with Steve (probably because he convinced Steve to give him a piggyback ride). This weekend reaffirmed our desire to get to Michigan to meet my running buddy Luke and AJ's running buddy Miss Bridget. We'll see ... we already started plotting doing the Detroit marathon in 2018 as a relay team of running buddies!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

June Dairy Month

Growing up on a farm in Wisconsin meant that June was my favorite month of the year. It wasn't because school was out. (That happened in May when I was in school.) It wasn't because we made hay. (Hot, sweaty and itchy. But there was the occasional ice cream treat or popsicle afterward.) It was because June is Dairy Month.

For those of you unfamiliar with this wonderful tradition, June is the month we celebrate farmers and all things dairy. It meant our local bank always was stocked with cups of ice cream, so we begged to go to the bank. It also meant that on weekends, we went to a dairy breakfast if there was one in the area. A dairy breakfast is, quite simply, breakfast served at a local farm. Usually a shed for equipment is emptied, and tables are set up inside there for people. Breakfast could include any of the following: pancakes, eggs, sausage, cheese curds, cheese cubes, yogurt, applesauce, cinnamon rolls, juice, coffee, milk (including chocolate, of course) and ice cream. The really good breakfasts offer root beer floats or sundae toppings. The sketchy ones make you pay an extra dollar for your ice cream . The ones not worth going to don't have ice cream.

Yes, ice cream for breakfast. Welcome to Wisconsin in June. (Or my house on any given day ... kidding, of course.)

Funny story: AJ loved the eggs and asked to make them at home ... until he realized they were eggs.
Often, there's animals for children to pet, coloring books or activities, tours of the farm, wagon rides and such. It's an opportunity to support our dairy farmers while educating a bunch of town folk who might otherwise not experience a bit of farm reality.

And all this background leads to what we did last Sunday. We went to a dairy breakfast. Teddy thought the tractor ride was pretty cool. He thought the pancakes were delicious and thoroughly enjoyed his ice cream. (He ate his ice cream while AJ and their friend dug through a pile of sawdust for 18 minutes digging for change. AJ made a whopping $0.96, and their friend found $1.36.) He really liked petting the soft pretty lamb and the fuzzy bunny who shared the same name: Teddy.

Carrying on these traditions with my boys is pretty fun. I mean, who doesn't want ice cream for breakfast?

Seriously, farmers are pretty creative. They wanted the back where it bounced around the most.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Horse Show and Family Fun

This past weekend was everything good about summer all wrapped up into two days. Saturday was the annual horse show at Exceptional Equestrians, where Teddy attends hippotherapy. Since it was our first time participating, we had no idea what to expect and were pleasantly surprised by what a nice event it was.

Teddy thinks it's super fun to be in the back of a SWAT vehicle.
Teddy was fascinated by the SWAT vehicle that was there (because of the local police department's partnership with the barn for its officers who patrol on horseback). I'm pretty sure he's the first person who's ever licked that SWAT vehicle. And one officer now has Teddy drool on his helmet strap, but Teddy thought he was cool wearing the big helmet.

This was how happy Teddy was to show off his skills. (Or just ride his horse.)

My mother, aunts, cousin and her child came over for the day, so AJ had a friend to play all the little games. They both walked away with armfuls of loot, plus balloon animals. Dave's folks came as well, and they thoroughly explored the SWAT vehicle as Teddy kept leading them there while the older children played games.

Teddy's trademark smile.

Teddy rode for about 15 minutes with 3 other riders. He loves watching other people and smiles when he sees them, so he had a huge grin on his face most of the time. He did an awesome job telling his horse to start walking by patting her. At the end, each of the riders was presented with a trophy, which Teddy thought was pretty darn awesome. (And Teddy has a cool shirt from the event that he needs to grow a bit to fit.)

Hey look! They gave me this shiny thing!
We stayed for AJ to ride during the break, and he thought it was pretty neat to ride a horse. Then we ate lunch there, supporting the barn while enjoying burgers and brats.

AJ enjoyed riding his horse. It was neat for him to get a chance to ride.
After the horse show, we went to Bay Beach with my family. Bay Beach is a small amusement park in Green Bay with rides ranging from a quarter to a whopping dollar (for the roller coaster). For $20 of tickets, we had a couple hours of fun with every adult enjoying at least one ride. Trust me, the kids enjoyed all the rides. Teddy still loves the carousel, but he thought he was pretty darn cool riding in a little car ride by himself. (There were a few rides we felt comfortable having Teddy ride alone because they had seatbelts to contain him and were pretty low key. Let's just say that when Dave put Teddy on the swing ride, I headed the opposite direction for the bigger swings to avoid witnessing that. It turned out fine, though.) I thought it was pretty darn cool that Teddy could walk up some of the 3 flights of stairs for the giant slides ... last year I had to carry him the entire way up!

It was an absolutely perfect day spent with family making memories!