Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"A Child is Born"

We have very exciting news to share with all Jack's fans out there ... he's going to play baby Jesus at our church's Christmas Eve service!

We felt so honored when we were asked if Jack could play baby Jesus this year that we just couldn't pass up the opportunity! So, in the true spirit of Christmas, we'd like to invite those of you who live in the Greensboro area to join us on Friday, December 24th at 4:30pm at Guilford Park Presbyterian Church (at 2100 Fernwood Drive in Greensboro) for the Youth's Live Nativity and Christmas Eve service.

We are very excited, and we hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane ...

So, tomorrow around noon Robert and I drop Jack off with my mom because we are heading to New York City ... without him. :(

When Robert's family got tickets to the NY Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles game and I agreed to go like more than three months ago, this day seemed so very far away. And now, quickly (and deceitfully), it is among us. I just can't believe that Jack is already 6 and a half months old and that I'm leaving him for an entire weekend. I know that we will have fun ... we're staying in Manhattan blocks from Time Square with my awesome friend Mary and her fun husband Jake (thanks, you guys!) on Friday night and then we will head into Connecticut after shopping and siteseeing in the city to spend Saturday night with Robert's aunt and uncle, Kathy and Jeff, before heading to the Meadowlands for the big game on Sunday. It sounds like an amazing weekend, right?!?! The only thing that would make it better is if my little buddy could come along. (But, let's face it ... it's way too cold to be carting a baby around NYC in the middle of December!)

I know that Jack will be absolutely great with his Ci Ci and Grandma ... yep, he's staying one night with my mom and the other with Robert's mom. (We had to split the time so neither could get jealous!!!) I'm not worried about him at all ... I'm worried about me. I told Robert to expect me to be crying (and drinking booze) on the flight to NYC because I'm going to be a mess. (I have already cried like 5 times just thinking about leaving him!)

So, I just wanted to share this HUGE "first" with all Jack's fans out there. It will be a wonderful weekend for Robert and I to get away, but man will I miss my favorite little buddy!

In closing, I will leave you of some cute new photos of "Jackers!" He's doing great and making us laugh with all his smiles and giggles. Have a wonderful weekend everyone, and stay warm out there! It's freezing ... everywhere!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


This week, I have become overwhelmed with emotions of various kinds for various reasons. (More to come later.) At the beginning of a work meeting yesterday, the director of the meeting had us all stand up, introduce ourselves, and share with the group some of our favorite family holiday traditions. This really got me thinking, and I soon realized that my family had way too many traditions to sum up in just a minute or two. It also made me realize that most of our traditions were started by my father, who is no longer with us. The holidays are always a little tough for me and my family. Ever since Dad passed away, it hasn't quite seemed the same or complete. I think what makes it hard is all of the little things that Dad did around the holidays that no one can ever replicate. I'll give you some examples.

Dad used to wake up at 4 or 4:30am on Thanksgiving morning to start smoking our turkey for our big feast. (We have always smoked turkeys in an outdoor smoker grill rather than cook them in the oven ... a tradition of my father's.) Now, either one of my brothers-in-law Levi or Stan or my husband Robert will wake up early to do so. It's awesome of them to carry on this tradition for us ladies, however it just never seems quite the same. What an amazing father.

Christmas was always a trip at our house ... Mom, even after we were married, insists on Christmas Eve night that we all unwrap one special gift, which is always a pair of Christmas PJ's. (Now that we're all three married, our husbands get to join in on the fun, enjoying a new pair of Reindeer boxers or Jingle Bell pajama pants each year.) Too cute, Mom, too cute. Also, no matter how many times she swears that "it's going to be different this year," we typically end up helping Mom wrap gifts at the last minute on Christmas Eve night. (Sorry, Mom ... had to mention it ... just laugh, it's funny!)

On at least one 1980's Christmas Eve that I can remember, my sisters and I, while trying to stay up late for Santa, heard the sound of jingle bells outside our house. We quickly ran to the window to find Santa, dressed in his red and white from head to toe, standing in our very own front yard! We quickly ran to our beds and acted like we were sleeping, in great fear that Santa would skip our house if we were still awake. It would be years until this great phenomenon would be explained to us by our parents ... that Dad had "hired" one of our old swim coaches to dress up like Santa and show up in our front yard that night. What an amazing father.

I'll never forget how Dad used to make us watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Christmas Story" or (when we got older) "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" as a family every Christmas Eve. More specifically, I'll never forget how my father, who rarely cried, would tear up at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life" every year, and I'll never forget how that made me feel. Amazing.

As little girls, my sisters and I would always leave cookies and milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve, as well as a note explaining to him in detail how good we'd been all year. In the morning, we'd always find a half-full glass of milk, cookie crumbles, and a note written back to us (oddly in handwriting that closely resembled our father's) telling us what good little girls we'd been that year, and we'd squeal with joy. Again, what an amazing father.

Christmas morning would begin with Mom and Dad making us wait very impatiently at the top of the stairs so they could take cute photos of us in our Christmas "jammies" before coming down. This always seemed to take FOREVER! Then, we'd come downstairs to find that Mom and Santa had gone WAY overboard again that year, much to my father's (and his checkbook's) dismay. ;) We'd eat breakfast casserole and plucking cake (to those of you scratching your heads, it's like what some call "monkey bread," and it's delicious!) and drink orange juice. (We still eat the same things, but now we substitute the OJ with mimosas!)
After playing with all the gifts Santa set out for us, we'd hand out wrapped gifts to one another. I always loved playing the role of gift distributer. (I guess I always liked giving better than receiving ... something I just know my sweet little Jack will understand full well soon enough.) Just as we thought all the presents were done, my Dad would squint his eyes and say, "Now, I think I see a little something over there, don't you?" and he'd point at a little box hidden in the Christmas tree or in the beautiful wreath my mom always places over her cozy fireplace. In those special places, we'd find beautiful gifts that even my mom did not know he had bought for us ... an amethist ring or a nice watch, for example. He'd always have a nice new piece of jewelry hidden for my mom as well. I remember thinking how sweet and thoughtful it was that no matter how much he griped about how much money we spent, he would always go out on his own and buy each of us something really nice. What an amazing father.

Sharing these moments brings back so many emotions ... joy, laughter, sadness, grief. Everyday I wish that my Dad could be here to make new memories with us, especially now that we all have children of our own. Since my sisters started having children, the pain has eased a little bit ... there is something about seeing children on Christmas day that just warms the soul no matter how you are feeling. I look forward to extending my old family traditions to my new one, in addition to creating new traditions of our own. I hope that this Christmas I feel the spirit even more, as I watch my little Jack "open" presents and the joy on his face as he receives and plays with his new toys (although I'm sure he'll be more enthralled by the crinkle of the wrapping paper!). And, I just know that I will watch Robert watching Jack and think, "What an amazing father." This season as I miss my Dad, I will be grateful for a new man in my life ... my little Jack whose smiles and giggles are truly magical. And all the while, I'll know that my father is there with us, shining through from deep within Jack's big sparkling blue eyes and smiling over us.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jack of all Trades, Part Deux

So, as mentioned in my earlier post, Jack decided to really show off his "skills" over Thanksgiving for all of his relatives, proving once again the he is truly a "Jack of all trades." As promised, here are some photos of his new tricks.

He couldn't wait to show this move to his PT this morning!

Sitting like a big boy with no help!

Playing with Legos WHILE sitting by himself

I'm just a little bit proud of my baby boy ... can you tell?!?!? GO JACK!!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy 1/2 Birthday, Jack!

This past weekend was yet another very memorable weekend with my amazing family. My two sisters were in town with their husbands and three kids each (yes, that makes 7 children under the age of 6!). Needless to say, Thanksgiving was a blast (but tiring), as you can see from the photos below.

Jack chatting with cousin Levi

The "big" kids' table

The adorable seating cards cousin Ford made for everyone

Getting ready for the feast

Yummm ... sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, AND mashed potatoes!

Wow ... somebody looks tired!
So, today marks Jack's 6-month birthday, and it is also my neice Reid's first birthday, which we celebrated with a cupcake party yesterday at Ci Ci's house. It's hard to believe that the babies in our family are growing so fast. It seems like just yesterday that my sister Kelly had her first son Ford and Kasey had her first daughter Meg, and it was just beginning of this whole new generation of little ones. Now, these two are in Kindergarten already, and two of the three youngest are already walking!
For his 6th-month birthday weekend, Jack decided to once again show off for his aunts and cousins. This time he did so by sitting upright (not even propped) for a couple minutes at time ... the best he's ever done. He also pushed all the way up on his hands while on his tummy (not just on his forearms) ... something our PT had been trying to get him to do for weeks. (My sister captured these moments in some great photos, which I'll post as soon as she sends them.) Jack chose to do all of this on Thanksgiving day, and I was so proud that I couldn't hold back the tears. Everytime I watch Jack hit a milestone "on time" or even early, I think of all those people who've said to me, "he'll be delayed," and it just makes me that much prouder to call him my son.
Happy half-year birthday, my dear sweet baby boy! You make me prouder than you'll ever know, and I love you so much!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Counting my Blessings

Everyday, no matter how difficult a day I might be having at work or how tired I feel, I try to count my blessings. And, I am finding that as Jack grows older and older, I too am growing ... I am growing more thankful each and everyday for the blessings I have in my life.

I am blessed to have a wonderful husband who doesn't have an enemy in the world and is everyone's friend. Those of you who have the privilege and honor of being in his life know exactly what I mean. I have truly never met anyone as genuinely kind or compassionate about others as Robert, and I am so lucky to be able to call myself his wife and best friend. Robert loves fatherhood more than anything else in the world, and I absolutely cannot wait to see Jack grow up with such an amazing father.

I am very, very blessed to have an extraordinary little boy who came into our lives on May 28th, revealing his little "secret" to the world. His extra little chromosome would intrigue yet frighten me at first, but it is now one of the things about him that excites me and amazes me the most. Jack is not only a wonderful baby, but he has also already become an incredible person. As Jack laughs and smiles, it's like I see through his beautiful, shining eyes a myriad of things that I never fully knew or understood before his birth ... justice, peace, true love, acceptance, perseverance, truth, honor, loyalty, strength, pure happiness.

I am so very blessed for my incredible family. Every family has its ups and downs, and my family has definitely seen its share of trials and tribulations in the past. But rather than pull us apart, it seems that these bumps in the road of life consistently just bring us closer and closer together. I have never felt closer to my family as I have since Jack's birth ... it's amazing what one little person can do! I feel so fortunate to have a mother, sisters, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, and cousins who I can talk to about anything at all. Not many families can say the same for themselves, and I remind myself of just how lucky I am be surrounded by such support and love.

I am blessed to have the care and support of so many friends, coworkers and our church family. Jack had over 75 people walk for him in this year's Buddy Walk (one of the biggest crowds there, I must say) and that did not even include many family and friends who wanted to be there but couldn't. I must also mention that over 55 individuals supported our local Down Syndrome Network by donating "High Fives" in Jack's honor. He was in the top two for the most "high fives" in the Greensboro area ... no one will ever know how proud and full of joy this makes me!

It's amazing how many people have "come out of the wordwork" from my past since my Jack's birth to rekindle old friendships and share their own personal stories with me. I have reconnected with a few old high school friends in this way. Just as amazing is the web of new friends I have made who are also parents to special needs children like Jack. Their friendship, support and encouragement have meant more to me than I could ever express, and I know that we will be a part of each others' lives forever.

Lastly, I am blessed for the health and happiness of myself and my loved ones. I am in such a different place in my life now than ever before, and while I thank my little Jack for everything he's given me, I mostly thank him for the person he has made me become. I am finally the person I have always strived to be ... stronger, more assertive but more patient, more persistent but more caring, more resilient, and more loving ... and it's all because of one little person who's not even 6 months old yet. Incredible, just incredible.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I hope you each take time to think about the blessings in your own life over the next week. It's a lot easier than you think. I challenge you to share what you are thankful for with your family and friends. In this tangled world we live in, people like to groan and complain about things way more often than appreciate them and share our love, so take some time to change this for a better world, for a better peace of mind ... and for Jack.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Weekend of Firsts

Last weekend we headed to the NC mountains for a little much needed R & R ... just Robert, Jack, me and our dog Forest. It was such an incredibly relaxing weekend that we contemplated "playing hooky" from work and staying a few extra days, but we didn't (much due to my husband's good morals and not my own, I must say!). We had a view of Grandfather and Sugar Mountains with not another cabin in site, a private hot tub on the deck, and a cozy fireplace ... add some red wine and a big pot of chili to the mix, and we were in pure heaven!

It was a weekend full of firsts for Jack ... first mountain trip, first snow, first Christmas trees, first snow boots, first fireplace fire, and ... first RICE CEREAL!!!

"Oh Christmas Tree ... Oh Christmas Tree!"

Finally there!
The view of Grandfather Mountain from our cabin deck ... unbelievable

Getting ready for his first snow outing

Snuggling with Mommy to keep warm

Daddy and Jack

Not a happy face ... getting a little too cold for Jackie Bear

I love my family!

Our four-legged son Forest ... LOVING it!

Getting ready to go out to breakfast

Look at my cozy new boots!

Out to breakfast at Banner Elk Cafe

Getting ready to eat rice cereal ... for the FIRST time!

Here we go!

He wasn't sure about it at first
But he ended up loving it!

I was a little hesitant about feeding Jack solids for the first time, partly (and selfishly) because I just don't want him to grow up so fast and partly because I wanted to make sure he was really ready for it. But I knew he was definitely ready when he started seeming more interested in our food when Robert and I ate around him. He now watches us take the food from our plates to our mouths and sometimes even licks his lips. He'll also get a little fussy as if he's mad he can't eat what the "big people' are eating. So, we decided to give it a try!

The first rice cereal feeding went a lot better than I thought it would. It was certainly messy, but not like some of the stories I'd heard from other families. I was a little worried about Jack projecting the food from his mouth due to his tongue thrusting (common in many babies but moreso in those with Down Syndrome). He actually didn't thrust the food out with his tongue at all ... he just spit it out!!! It was really funny, and he really seemed to like the cereal, so I look forward to letting him try some veggies this week. I plan to try to make all my own baby food, so wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears ... Oh My!

Ok, so there weren't any lions or bears, and there was only one tiger, but it was still lots of fun!

Last week, Jack and I met some friends at the Natural Science Center for some fall fun! We met Laine and her little girl Ella (1 year old) and Sarah and her little boy Carson (almost 11 months). We found out that the center has FREE admission on the first Wednesday of every month, so we might have to make it a regular thing. We had lots of fun, and Jack really seemed to enjoy himself, especially seeing the animals outside (well, until he fell fast asleep). I used to visit the center as a child, but they have really made some improvements since the last time I was there. We feel so lucky to live less than 2 miles from this place! I have no doubt that Jack and I will be spending a lot of time there over the next few years. It's a wonderful place for kids to learn and be creative! Can't wait for more!!! Here are some photos from our visit:

Jack was very happy to be there.
We had to send this photo to Dad at work to let him know how much fun he was missing!

A little Mommy-Baby-Dino time!

Jack Bug

Ella Bug

Carson Bug

Our trusty tour guide ... slightly creepy!

Napping with some llamas

Jack's new buddy
(this turkey followed us the whole time as if trying to convince us not to eat him on Thanksgiving!)
Ella found a new friend too!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Eye Doctor

Jack had an appointment today with a pediatric opthalmologist, as suggested by our ENT doctor, because Down Syndrome children can more frequently have eye conditions such as nystagmus (small, involuntary, jerky movements of the eyes) and cataracts (cloudiness in the lens of the eyes). Jack did really, really well during the examination, even after he was given eye drops to dilate his pupils so that the doctor could better visualize his retina and optic nerve. Having your pupils dilated makes your eyes hypersensitive to sunlight and other bright lights (and even more so in people with lightly colored eyes like Jack), so I diligently kept him out of the sunlight and kept the lights dim in the house today. They said his eyes should be back to normal by tomorrow afternoon, but it hasn't seemed to bother him much at all today ... such a good baby! The office will usually give kids a cool pair of "shades" to wear after getting dilation to protect their eyes, but they said Jack probably wouldn't keep them on given his young age. I thought about asking them for a pair anyways, thinking they would make for some great photos to post for you all, but I didn't want to get looked at like I was some weirdo mom ...

It was really cute to watch a baby get an eye exam! I had these fears that they would have to pry his eye open with a speculum of some sort to examine him (which I had heard is what they have to do to babies in the NICU and which I was not prepared to handle), but it was much, much easier. All the doctor did was just hold up a fun toy that lit up so that Jack would look at it while he shined several opthalmoscopes in his eyes from a distance ... piece of cake!

We were very happy to hear that Jack's vision looks great and there are no signs of nystagmus, lazy eye, or cataracts. The doctor did say, however, that Jack has astigmatism in both eyes, which is common in Down Syndrome, but it also runs in my family (my mom, myself, and I believe both my sisters have astigmatism in one or both eyes). According to my amateur research, about 30% of pre-school children with Down Syndrome have astigmatism. For those of you scratching your heads, astigmatism is an eye disorder in which the cornea (clear tissue covering the front of the eye) is irregularly shaped, which can cause out-of-focus vision. This, in addition to my nearsightedness, is why I have to wear contacts or glasses. Jack's doctor said not to worry about it now and that it is not typical practice to prescribe eyeglasses to correct astigmatism in babies as young as Jack. He may or may not need them in the future. (How cute would little Jack be in glasses though?!?!) Regardless, we're glad he doesn't need any intervention this early in the game.

Jack's eyes also sometimes get red and a little runny with what my family always called "sleepy" in his eyes, particularly in the mornings or after naps. We mentioned this to the doctor, and he said it could possibly be from blocked lacrimal (tear) glands, which is also common in Down Syndrome children, but not anything to be really concerned about. He taught us a technique called "lacrimal massage" to help open any obstructions in the glands and told us that it should clear up by age 12 months. Again, Jack's eyes really don't do this very often, so we're not even sure it's really from blocked tear ducts, but we thought we'd mention it, given we were at the eye doctor and all.

So, I just thought I'd give you all a quick update on Jack ... or at least excite you all with a brief opthalmic lecture before bed! Hope you can sleep after all that excitement ... and feel free to call if you ever have any questions about eye health! ;)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jack's Christening

Several family and friends have been asking for photos of Jack's christening, which was on October 24th. Here they are. It was a beautiful day!

Beautiful gifts from the church

Kuhns family christening gown that Jack wore (made from his great-great-great-great grandmother's wedding dress!)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

A little baby giraffe just wanted to wish everyone a very happy and safe Halloween!

Mommy's sweet baby giraffe
"31 for 21" mission complete! Can't believe I made it ... 31 (actually 32, I think) blogs in 31 days. Whew!!! Don't worry, fans, I will still be blogging as much as possible ... it just might not be everyday from here on out. Thanks again to all my followers for their support!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Being "There"

I know that I have mentioned over and over how I wish I'd known when Jack was born what I know now, but I find myself being reminded of this daily.

Today we celebrated our friends' little girl Ella's first birthday at a wonderful party (way to go, Laine ... awesome time!). It was a day full of friends, fun and laughter. A friend of ours who we haven't seen much of since Jack's birth came up to Robert, Jack, and I and asked us if he could talk to us for a minute. We said sure, of course, and he went on to tell us about how when he first heard about Jack's birth and diagnosis, he called upon an old friend of his who had four boys, two typical children, one with Down Syndrome and one with Autism. He called upon this friend to ask him advice in terms of what to say or do for us because of Jack's diagnosis. His friend told him that out of all four of his children, if he had to choose only one to have he would choose his son with Down Syndrome. I thought this was an amazing thing to say, and I of course started tearing up upon hearing this. Our friend quickly said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you sad." I quickly corrected him, explaining that I was not tearful because I was sad, but that I understood what his friend meant when he said this about his special son and about how happy I was to finally and truly be "there."

I loved reading the book Gifts so much that I grabbed the book Gifts 2 as quickly as I could, and I think this story from the most recent Gifts (by Amy Armstrong about her daughter Larkin) reiterates the feelings we go through as moms of children with special needs and the journey (tough but very necessary) we must walk in finding true acceptance. It defines how, no matter how hard it is to find our way sometimes, we do eventually get there ... to this wonderfully new and better balanced life.

"I found myself standing in new shoes that didn't fit, and suffered terrible growing pains from trying to walk in them. My raw emotions became blisters that wouldn't heal.

I continued to wear the shoes, though, because I didn't have a choice. Eventually my blisters gently healed into tender spots. And over time, I found the shoes balanced me and kept me grounded. One morning, Larkin was in my arms drinking her bottle, and I relaxed into the moment and locked eyes with her. The pure love in her eyes flooded over me. I realized I needed to have that very same look in my eye. When I look at people, I need to have the same open, loving, nonjudgmental gaze. And I began to cry with that knowledge."

I loved the moment she describes here with her Larkin because it reminds me so much of the first time I had that pivotal moment with my Jack. These children have so much to teach us about acceptance and love for others, and I absolutely can't wait for our journey ahead.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Jack" of all trades

Such a sweet face

Working out with Daddy

Such a hard worker

Ci Ci's dog Brinkley cheering Jack on

Mommy, it's a little early in the morning for therapy ... don't ya think?

being Jack

Trying so hard!

Happy little pumpkin

Sitting up like a big boy on the couch

Uh oh! Going ...

Going ...


Oh well! I'll just roll over!

In the past month, Jack has really blossomed socially and physically. He has always been a really social baby, following people with his eyes when he was as young as 3 weeks old and smiling at only 5 or 6 weeks. Now though, Jack just smiles and giggles at everything ... you don't even really have to try! It's too cute!

Since starting weekly PT, our baby has become a "Jack" of all trades! He's rolling over now, more from back to front than front to back (which is weird because he rolled from front to back first). Every morning now after putting him to sleep on his back, we find him either on his side or belly in his crib. Such a big boy! We've also been working on his core strength with hopes of him sitting soon. Our PT showed us several activities to do with him to strengthen his core (some are shown in photos above), and his core already seems very strong, especially for a child with low muscle tone, she says. Our PT also compliments Jack's straight posture while in the supported sitting position and his ability to already pivot towards a toy while on his belly, which is apparently more like a 6 month skill. Go buddy! Keep it up!