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!)