Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 31: Happy Halloween!

"31 for 21" Mission Complete ... Happy Halloween!

We hope that everyone had a very fun and safe Halloween tonight.  I had to work pretty late, so Jack enjoyed handing out candy with Daddy tonight until I got home.  (No kidding, we think we had about 100 trick-or-treaters come to our house tonight!)  Jack is still a little young for trick-or-treating, but we definitely look forward to getting our buddy out to pound the neighborhood pavement next year!

With everything I had going on this month, I have to say that I am quite surprised with myself that I managed to blog every single day of the month of October in recognition of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  I know that on some days (okay, on most days) I didn't necessarily write about Down syndrome.  But, the point here is that my blog is about our life with our sweet Jack, who just happens to have an extra chromosome.  And with each day, our life is becoming less and less about Down syndrome and more just about this amazing, energetic, silly, opinionated and giggly little boy we call Jack.  Down syndrome is definitely a part of our life and does, in some ways, dictate our daily routines, but Down syndrome does not, by any means, define us.  Rather, we are just regular people trying to live an exceptional and meaningful life with the blessings that we've been granted.  We prefer to be defined not by what makes our family different from yours, but instead by the LOVE that binds us.

Happy Halloween again, everyone, and thank you so very much for reading!  See you soon!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Day of Rest

... for mommy, at least.  I took the day off today and rested my leg/hip.  I ran a double race yesterday morning (a 10K, immediately followed by a 5K) as part of my training.  My leg/hip felt okay while I was running (not great, but okay), and I was able to run the whole race without walking at all.  But I did try to take it easy because of my injury, so my pace was not stellar by any means.  Well, after driving home from the race and all day yesterday and today, I have experienced some pretty severe sciatic hip pain.  It was so bad at times that I was actually having difficulty walking.  It's gotten a little better with Ibuprofen, ice, heat, and lots of rest, but wow ... nerve pain is not fun!  I have an appointment with the Sports Medicine Clinic here on Tuesday to get some advice on what to do until my half marathon in 2 weeks, or as to whether or not I should still try to run it at all.  We'll see.  :(

So, Robert has been in "Super Dad/Husband" mode today, fetching things for me and taking great care of Jackers while it's been difficult for me to get around.  He even bathed the dog, cleaned the kitchen, AND made dinner!  Thanks, honey!

In other (more fun) news ... we had a great visit tonight from Uncle Matt, Aunt Kelly, and sweet baby Brooklyn (she's ONE week old today ... Happy Birthday, Brooklyn!).  We ate some yummy soup and watched football together.  Kelly and Matt are wonderful parents (not surprising), and it's so great to see how natural they are with their baby girl.  And, Brooklyn is such a beautiful little girl, and so very, very sweet!  Of course, I couldn't resist taking some photos of my newest little niece.  I LOVE HER!!!

Sweet baby girl
(Sorry these are a bit grainy ... they were taken with my phone camera.)

Baby Brooklyn with her Uncle Robert
In different baby news ... guess who climbed up the stairs tonight BY HIMSELF?!?!  Yep, our Jackers is on the move more than ever.  Most parents would probably worry about the dangers of this particular type of mobility progression, but our PT Carrie has been encouraging stair-climbing because it will really help Jack's core strength, so we're really proud of our buddy!  Go, Jack!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Our friends Kristin, Jeff and Carter Montgomery had a "Bootackular" Halloween party tonight for our babies.  It was lots of fun, and although Jack wasn't a big fan of wearing his costume headpiece, I managed to get a couple photos of our cute little lion.


Best buds, Jack the Lion and Carter the Spider

Daddy and Jack (much happier without the lion headpiece!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

17 Months already?!?!

Jack is 17 months old today, and I just cannot believe how fast time has flown by.  We spent some time with our sweet new baby niece Brooklyn and our adorable almost 3-month old nephew Zack tonight, and all I could think about was how Jack was at their ages.  It's so amazing how much he has grown, changed, developed and learned in the past 17 months.  I cannot tell you how very blessed I feel to have such a special and amazing little man in my life.  It sure has been a fun 17 months, and I know that our future will be full of so much more excitement!

I love you so much, my sweet angel!  Happy 17-Month Birthday, Jack!  Don't grow up too fast!

Thank You God
(by Shirley J. Stankiewicz)
Sent straight from heaven up above
Came an angel for me to love
To hold and rock and kiss good night
To wrap my arms around real tight

To cuddle and nurture and watch him play
To kiss his boo-boo's all away
To keep him safe and warm & count all his toes
To hold the tissue for him when he blows his little nose

To laugh at his jokes, to clap as he sings
To tell him all the joy in my life that he brings
To clean up his play dough, to pull his legos apart
To pin up his drawings and tell him it's art

To watch his first day of school on the bus all alone
To fight back the tears as I make my way back home
To applaud real loud when he's in his first play
To help him with his homework at the end of his day

To adore and cherish and watch him grow
To guide and teach him all that I know
To see him through good times and help him through bad
To share in his happiness and cry when he's sad

To hold him close and be by his side
To watch him through life as my heart fills with pride
To help him with decisions, the best that I can
To know that someday he'll be a fine young man

Thursday, October 27, 2011

ENT checkup

Our Jackers had a check up with the ENT Specialist here today, and the doctor said (and I quote), "Jack's ears are perfect ... they're small, but he hears perfectly."  Do you know what this news does to a mama?!?!?!

Did you know that up to 60% of children with Down syndrome experience hearing loss that results in major language and speech difficulities?  We're not "out of the park" by any means, but the fact that my baby passed this test is HUGE!!!! 

Go, Jackers!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You asked for it!

For months before Jack started crawling and cruising, we couldn't wait for him to become mobile.  We worked on our PT homework daily and prayed for mobility nightly.  People used to tell me to be careful what you wish for, because once Jack got mobile, he would be into everything.  I remember telling these people that I couldn't wait for him to be into everything, because, in my eyes, that would make him more like his "typical" peers.  Well, friends ... you ask and you shall receive!!!

While I was folding laundry today in the den, Jack was playing on the floor with his music table.  Before I knew it, I heard a little thumping down the hallway toward the kitchen ... a thumping noise that I have learned to be the sound of Jack's cute little crab crawl.  This time it was a little faster than usual.  I then heard another noise that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  I can't stand not finishing a task once I've started it, so I hurried to finish folding the last few items of clothing from my laundry pile, thinking that there wasn't anything on the kitchen floor with which Jack could injure himself.  Well, I walked into the kitchen to find this ...

Yep, Mr. Jackers found the dog's bowl.  And, I may or may not have found a piece of kibble in his mouth.  (Fiber for the day, check!)

Well, hell ... at least he's self feeding!  I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Running my tail off ...


So, in just 19 days from today, I'm supposed to be running 13.1 miles in the Outer Banks Half Marathon.  On most days, I'm really excited about this because it's something I'm doing just for myself.  But then on other days, I think I must have lost my mind to think I can run that far.  I have no plans to run the race fast by any means; my only goal is simply to FINISH.  Even if I have to walk a little bit, I'll consider it a success.  It's a pretty daunting task, but whenever I feel like giving up, I just think about the obstacles that my Jack will have to face throughout his lifetime, and it makes the challenge a little bit easier for me and a whole lot more inspirational.  A little hill here and there is nothing compared to the mountains of challenges that my little boy could potentially face in his future.

When the Buddy Walk was over, I decided to use the four weeks remaining until the half marathon to beef up on my training.  I wanted to use the extra time to focus more on increasing my distance and improving my pace.  This plan was working and still is (sort of), but now I have managed to get myself a lovely overuse injury called hamstring attachment tendonitis.  It's literally, a pain in my you know what!  I noticed similar pain while I was pregnant, and I passed it off as sciatica.  However, the more I've read about hamstring injuries, I have learned that it is not only a common running injury, but that it can also happen during overstretching during yoga.  I did A LOT of prenatal yoga when I was pregnant, so there's a good chance I caused damage then and that it's just now flaring up again because I'm running a lot more. 

The pain isn't excrutiating by any means; it just a very dull, chronic ache in my right "cheek" (he, he).  I've learned that it is exacerbated with longer distance running (more than 7 miles) and especially while running hills.  I've had to cut back a little on my training this past week, and actually took a 3 day break in a row at one time, which seemed to help (but doesn't help my training plan much).  I've also been alternating heating and icing after runs and doing a lot of yoga techniques because stretching it gives me some relief, but I've had to be careful not to overstretch it.  Today, out of desperation for some relief, I got a hour-long massage, which was definitely relaxing, but unfortunately didn't help my toosh all that much.  So, I then resorted to spending $30 on a foam roller, which is actually just a really thick (expensive), heavy duty pool "noodle."  I am happy to say that the roller has given me a little temporary relief tonight, so we'll see how long it lasts.  I've been told by numerous professionals that hamstring injuries can take a very long time to heal, so I just really hope that I can manage the pain enough to get through the next couple weeks of training and complete the half marathon on November 13th.  I refuse to have worked this hard to get this far in my training to just give up now.  And, plus ... I've got a sweet little boy I want to make proud!!!

I know that this post is a little "off topic" for me and has little to do with advocating for Down syndrome, but if any of my readers out there have any runners' advice on this kind of injury or half marathoning, I'm all ears ...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wedding Pro

Jack went to his third wedding in about 6 weeks this past Saturday.  He is certainly becoming a pro at formal events!  It was the beautiful wedding of our friends Lisa and Jason at a gorgeous historic home in Summerfield.  We expected it to be a little cold on Saturday, so Jack sported his adorable Ralph Lauren sweater vest as he did at his last wedding.  The weather was actually beautiful and sunny!

Our little man was a very good little boy during the outdoor wedding ceremony, only making a peep to giggle at my mom, who was sitting in front of us, smiling at Jack the whole time.  (Go figure.)  Jack behaved, but he did laugh pretty loudly a couple times, but no one seemed to mind. 

Perhaps they didn't mind because he just looked so stunningly handsome  ...

My loves

Such a good boy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brooklyn is here!!!

Welcome to the world, Baby Brooklyn!!!

My sister-in-law Kelly had her sweet baby girl this evening!  Brooklyn Christine Hickling was born just before 5 pm tonight, weighing in at 9 pounds, 13 ounces!  Congratulations and much love to Kelly and Matt!  Brooklyn is beautiful and perfect, and momma and baby are doing great (just very tired).

Robert, Jack and I were anxious to get to Women's Hospital tonight to meet the newest Hickling, but we decided to let mommy, daddy and baby girl rest after a long past 24 hours.  Jack and I CAN'T WAIT to go meet Brooklyn as soon as we can tomorrow after physical therapy and music class in the morning! 

I just wanted to share this wonderful news with you all, and soon I'll post some photos of Jack's newest cousin.  (He now has EIGHT of them!!!  What a lucky little boy!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Football, Pumpkins, and ... Domestic Negligence

Things I LIKE about October:

1.  The cooler weather.  It's so very nice to run or take family walks outside and not be drenched it sweat for once.
2.  The colorful changing of the leaves.  (This leads, however, to one of my October dislikes, which is the constant leaf-blowing/raking they require ... our yard has a TON of leaves.)
3.  Football season.  I do enjoy it, but it really makes my husband happy, so thereby it makes me happy. :)
4.  Hot beverages.  I am a big fan of iced coffee during hot summer days, but there's just something so comforting about a warm beverage to make your tummy happy on a crisp fall morning.
5.  Fall clothes.  I'm a big fan of layering ... sweaters and cartigans over Tshirts, with jeans or leggings.  Oh, and don't forget boots ... I love some boots! 
6.  Everything PUMPKIN!!!  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice lattees, pumpkin-flavored everything!  YUMMMM!!!
7.  Fall weddings.  We'll be attending our third wedding in 6 weeks this evening.  Aren't fall weddings just so beautiful and ultra-romantic?!?!
8.  The Annual Buddy Walk!  What a wonderful day it was last weekend, filled with beautiful people for a beautiful cause!
9.  Most importantly ... I like October because it's DOWN SYNDROME AWARENESS MONTH!!!  Although it can be time consuming, I have loved having an excuse this month to escape to my computer everyday during Jack's naps just to blog about how amazingly wonderul he is!  "31 for 21"  is the greatest idea ever!

There really isn't anything I DON'T LIKE about October, except for one thing ...

MY HOUSE IS A WRECK!!!  With all the wedding-related traveling, Buddy Walk planning, and blogging I've been doing, my housework duties have really taken the back burner.  Each day, I tell myself I'm going to get the house picked up but something else always seems to be more important ... giggling with my best buddy Jack, for instance. 
Seriously though, if you ever stopped by our house unannounced, you'd find mail piled up in random places, dishes in the sink, toddler toys ALL OVER THE PLACE, long, black dog hair on everything, and laundry piled up on bookshelves and tables (some piled up and dirty, some clean and folded needing to be put away, and also some clean and piled up, yet to be folded).  Now, some of Jack's therapists might be reading this, thinking ... What is she talking about? Her house always looks pretty tidy. Well, friends ... don't be fooled.  It only appears tidy because I know when you're coming, and so you give me a reason to actually vacuum and pick up.  Besides, you never go upstairs.  (Please, don't ever go upstairs!!! :)

It might appease you to know, however, that apparently this household negligence runs in my family ...

After my grandmother (affectionately known as "Mema") passed away in 2009, I found a magnet on her refrigerator while Mom and I were cleaning out her house.  Those of you who were lucky enough to know my Mema wouldn't be surprised to learn that she had a magnet that said, "Dull women have clean houses."  I just had to have this magnet, and to this day, it makes me smile when I see it on my fridge (as I pass by the mounds of laundry yet to be done and the dishes piled up in the sink)!

So, October is indeed LOVELY in all meanings of the word, but it certainly distracts me from all things domestic.  If you don't believe me, maybe this will help.  This is what my house actually looks like ...

This is our guestroom.  First, please note our dog on our bed.  Some people might think this is just plain gross.  Well, sorry.  It is what it is, my friends.  (Besides, our dog Forest was accustomed to bed-lounging long before our Jack came along, and well ... you can't teach an old dog new tricks now, can you?)  Next, please note the lack of sheets on the bed (I washed them about a week ago and they're still not back on the bed.  Go figure.)  Also, note the pile of laundry sequestered on the unmade bed (that our four-legged son is convinced is his bed).  Now, note that rather than take time the other night to actually fold these clean clothes and make this bed, Robert and I decided our time could be put to better use by just playing with our dog in the pile of laundry ... which now needs to be washed and dried all over again because it's covered in Forest hair!
Don't let this sad sweet face fool you ... he was having just as much fun as we were!
Have a lovely weekend, friends!  Gotta run ... off to clean the master bathroom ... maybe!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Life is made up of priceless moments.  Moments that that will be forever stamped in your mind and etched in your soul.  Moments that, despite our fruitless attempts at "still" life, can never be fully captured in photographs. 

Seeing Jack with his cousins are such moments.  In particular, seeing Jack with his cousin Wade, my sister Kelly's little boy, just melts my heart.  
Wade playing the piano with Jack.  He is so gentle and patient with him.

They played the most beautiful "duet" together!
 Something magical happens when these two precious boys are together.  It is almost as if there's a magnetic force between them. It's hard to describe, but every time we get our kids together, Kelly and I talk about it (or we quietly share grins across the room as we watch them play, because if we talk about it too much, we know we'll cry ... again).  I've often asked Kelly if she thinks that Wade senses something different or special about Jack, because there is always this unmistakably unique connection between them, like a gravitational pull.  If Jack is in a room, then Wade will sitting right there next to him, telling us how cute and sweet of a baby he is.  I've never seen such amazing compassion from a 4 year old.  It's incredible to witness. 

My heart smiles when I think about these kids growing up together, learning from one another, finding out how they're more alike than different

Just priceless ...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Talk is Cheap

Remember me telling you all that Jack could say "bubble"?!?!  Well, after about a month of saying in on command, he has decided not to say it anymore.  Our Speech Therapist tells us that this is normal, especially when kids start focusing more on motor skills, which Jack definitely is.  Don't get the wrong idea, though ... this kid is still a chatterbox!!!  He continues to try to imitate a lot of what we say and do, and can mimic about four or five different animal sounds.  His newest trick, however, is signing and saying "go, go, go" at the same time, which comes out adorably as "gu, gu, gu."

Just because Jack doesn't (choose to) say "bubble" anymore, though, certainly does not mean he still isn't a HUGE fan ...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Days Like This

Today is my late father's birthday.  He would have been 62 years old. 

People often say that time heals all wounds, but time never quite seems to be enough for me.  With each new year, I expect the days that pass without my dad here to become easier.  But, since the birth of our Jack, special days like holidays and birthdays are actually a bit more difficult.  I do not think that the grief over the untimely death of my dad has ever left, nor do I expect it to ever go completely away.  I'm not sure that time heals all; instead I think we just get a little better at coping. 

"I think of heaven as a garden where I shall find again
those dear ones who have made my world."

It's days like today that I wish more than anything ... more than all the money and happiness in the universe, more than acceptance of all people of the world, more than peace on earth ... that my dad was here.  I so badly want him here to meet Jack, to watch him grow up, and to bear witness to the wonderful human being that has been created, partly because of him.  On days like this, I cannot help but think about all the things my dad has missed in the 7 and a half years that he has been gone from this world.  All seven of his grandchildren, for instance. 

While eating brunch today with my dear friend Lauri Lyn (who has a 5 year-old with DS), she and I talked a little about days like this.  I told her how much I would love to see my dad with Jack.  And, like the wonderful and encouraging friend that she always is, she gently reminded me that my dad is here and that he is watching Jack and smiling down on him at ALL times.  I do believe this, but I guess I selfishly wish that it was just little more obvious sometimes.

But, then again, I look into my sweet angel's face or hear his precious giggles, and immediately realize how obviously present my father's spirit is.  Like God's love is everpresent, so is my Dad's. 

Although nothing will ever bring my dad back in person, his memory is very much alive, neatly packaged in these moments.  It is gently awakened on days like today, particularly at times when I gaze upon this sweet face ...

I always see you, Dad, when I look upon this face.  You are right here with us ... from the way this little boy smirks when he's being mischevious, right down to his tiny little button nose.  
It's all you, Dad.

Happy Birthday, Big Daddy!  We miss you every single day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I attended an Association of Critical Care Nurses dinner meeting tonight sponsored by a drug representative speaking about a new drug to be used in intensive care units at a nice hotel here in Greensboro.  It was a nice dinner and a well designed presentation with good information.  But, my biggest takeaway from the meeting was nothing that the speaker said tonight ...

When I got to the meeting, I spotted a nurse who works on my unit who I hadn't seen in a while (since she only works weekends), so I went over to her to say hello.  She asked me how Jack was, and as I told her how great and wonderful he is, the nurse sitting next to her piped in and said, "Do you remember me?  I took care of you after your son was born."  I stood there stunned for a minute, but after looking at her for a moment, it all came rushing back to me. 

She was the nurse who cared for me in the recovery room after my C-section with Jack.  She was the nurse who monitored my vital signs during the immediate period after my surgery.  She was the nurse who answered my questions about my spinal anesthesia wearing off and about how soon I could have some ice chips or water to drink.  She was the nurse who called the nursery when I asked her what was taking them so long to bring me my baby.  She was the nurse who was with me when I first held Jack in my arms.  She was the nurse who was with me when I first found out Jack might have Down Syndrome.

She was also the nurse who (after Jack was whisked away for more tests with Robert) pulled the curtain around us for privacy, although I was the only patient in the recovery room that morning.  She was the one who sat down with me and hugged me while I cried, only to then cry with me.  She then told me about her own daughter who was born 13 years earlier with six heart defects, requiring two separate heart surgeries.  She also told me that all children are blessings, no matter what form they come in, and that everything was going to be okay.

As this nurse and I reconnected and tears filled both our eyes for just a few moments tonight, I was overwhelmed by all the people who have influenced my life over the past 16 months.  While I think about how remarkably different my life is now than it was before, I am equally surprised at how incredibly better it is because of Jack and because of the kind of people like this nurse ... this nurse who I only encountered for fewer than two hours out of my entire life.  But, during those brief two hours, she had been a tremendous source of strength and support, marking the beginning of our wonderfully frightening journey.

And to think that she was just the first of many we would encounter in this new world of ours ...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pasketti Night!

My mom makes possibly the best spaghetti in the whole world, and I think our little Jack agrees!  He had it for the first time this past weekend, and it was quite a sight to see!  I thought these photos were just too cute not to share:

First "pasketti" experience!

Yummmm ...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jack's Pack

Thank you again to everyone who came out to walk with "Jack's Pack" on Saturday!  It was a wonderful day on so many levels, and we love each and every one of you!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A great day for a walk outside ... and a swing in the park!

The weather was beautiful, and we had a great turnout for the 8th Annual Buddy Walk today!  Thanks to everyone who came to walk with "Jack's Pack" and to those who showed their support by donating to such a beautiful cause.  Your thoughtfulness really made Jack's day ...

Can you tell?!?!?

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Final Countdown

It's T-minus 13 and a half hours until the Buddy Walk, and we're busy at work making final touches on tomorrow's festivities!

My sister Kelly, her husband Stan, and her adorable three kids got here from Atlanta tonight for Jack's big day tomorrow. Unfortunately, my other sister Kasey cannot make it, as she is busy studying for her Professional Engineering exam. (Nerd alert! Just kidding! Good luck luck, Kasey! You will be here in spirit, for sure!) It's been great to hang out with my sister's family tonight, and it feels like I haven't seen them in forever, although it was only three months. My niece and nephews seem to grow three times over everytime I see them ... In SWEETNESS!!! I swear, they're the kindest, most amazing kids ... Jack is so very lucky to have cousins like them!!!

Pray for beautiful weather tomorrow for the Buddy Walk!!! We'll try to post some photos tomorrow!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October?!?! Don't you mean BEARDtober?!?!

Tonight was an interesting night, to say the least.  Interesting ... and interestingly fun.  Being a mom of a 16-month old, I don't get out much these days, and when I do, it's very rarely out to a bar, on a weeknight nonetheless!!!

Well, tonight four of our Down Syndrome Network moms and three of their (willing) husbands, including my sweet Robert, went to the Blind Tiger, a local bar here in Greensboro that is known mostly for its college crowd.  That's weird, you may say.  And, you might ask, Why exactly were you at a bar past 9pm on a Thursday night???  It's a pretty awesomely funny story ...

Well, about two months ago, our DSNGG director Lauri Lyn got an interesting call from a man representing the ... (just wait, this story is about to get weirder) ... The Beard and Moustache Club of North Carolina!!!  Yes, I said it, and yes, it does exist.

It ends up that this group of hairy guys not only has an exclusive club to call their very own, but they hold annual Beard and Moustache competitions!  And, not only do they hold these competitions in our area, but a couple of them have close connections to individuals with Down Syndrome.  So, this year the group decided to donate more than 75% of the proceeds from their competition tonight (wittingly called "Beardtober Fest") to this year's Buddy Walk!!!  How awesome is that?!?!

So naturally I, always game for something new and adventurous, just had to go to see all this manly action myself.  And, surprisingly Robert and I really enjoyed ourselves (to the point where we both kinda wished it was a weekend night instead of a weekday, so we could've stayed longer!!!). 

The crowd of people there was very diverse, but everyone was extremely kind and welcoming.  There were three bands playing (although we could only stay through the first band's set), and it was really fun to listen to live music again, not to mention the band was pretty good.  I can't remember the last time we did something like that.  And, for about an hour or so, Robert and I both felt like we were both right back in college, carefreely swaying to the music, not worrying about the responsibilities of tomorrow.  It was nice.

There were three young adult men with Down syndrome at the event, and watching them enjoy the music and interact with others was a treat for Robert and me.  Lauri Lyn and I got on stage at the beginning of the competition to introduce ourselves, invite everyone to the Buddy Walk, and to thank them for their support of our cause.  Afterwards, a woman in her fifties came up to me to talk to me about her son named Devin who is turning 30 soon and who has Down syndrome.  She said he loved music so much that he wouldn't come over to talk to us, because he couldn't lose his "front and center of the stage" position when the band started playing!!!  The way this woman spoke about her friendship with her son and her commitment to his success gave me goosebumps.  For a few moments, I had a glimpse into my own future.  I almost felt like I was speaking to an older version of myself.

Robert and I talked on the way home about how fun it would be to take Jack to events like that when we're older, and we realized for the first time that Jack may hold the key to our youth.  As we age, we are always going to have this fun-loving, vibrant, charismatic, adventurous best friend by our side to always keep us young.  It makes me think, How did we get so lucky?

I love how fate takes you in the most interesting directions in life, and how most often the situations that you least expect will be the most rewarding.  Who would've thought that I would ever go to a bar on a Thursday night for a Beard and Moustache Competition?  Moreover, who would've thought that doing so would give me such wonderful positive insight into the future of my son and my family?!?!?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From Challenge to Triumph

I got the most awesome text while I was at work this morning.  In the middle of my ICU Skills Fair that I am required to complete annually to maintain my nursing competency, my mom (who was watching Jack for me) sent me a video text message.  Gotta love technology these days, right?!?!

Anyways, the video brought me to tears right there in the middle of a classroom at the Nursing Education Center ... it was a video of my little Jack straight up WALKING while pushing a his little lion push toy ALL BY HIMSELF!!!  He'd kind of done this for us earlier this week, but not nearly as independently as he did today, and let me tell you, it made my whole week! 

Jack just makes me prouder and prouder every single day.  I was impressed with him crawling, pulling to stand, and cruising, but this nearly walking thing has honestly caught me a little by surprise.  It's truly amazing how much I celebrate even the smallest milestones (although I consider almost walking a HUGE milestone!).  The feeling you get when your child does something for the first time is just unparalleled, but coupling that feeling with people continually reminding you that your child "will be delayed" just compounds those emotions even greater and makes you prouder than you ever thought possible.

I've found myself wrapped up in planning for the Buddy Walk (among other things) these past few weeks, and I'm so glad that my little buddy has forced me to keep sight of why we're doing all the work we're doing for this event.  This weekend is ABOUT celebrating our exceptional children who happen to have an extra chromosome.  And, I have only person to thank ... my Jack ... for giving me the perspective to live life in a whole new way, to celebrate our triumphs over our challenges. 

Good night, friends!  May you seek and find strength this week to appreciate your challenges, as it is they that allow you to better celebrate your triumphs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

High Five!

On day 11 of my "31 for 21" mission, I'm going to be super unoriginal, and remind everyone about the Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro's "High Five" campaign!

It's not too late to "High Five" Jack!  The Buddy Walk is only 5 DAYS away, and it's time to show Jack and others with Down Syndrome your support!  If you'd like to donate to the DSNGG, please considering doing so in the forms of "high fives" in Jack's honor.  ($5 equals one "high five," and so $20 equals 4 "high fives" and so on.)  To donate, please visit, click on "Donate" and complete your information. When the screen says "Review your donation" CLICK ON "DONATE IN SUPPORT OF" written in small blue letters, listed on the left hand side underneath the words "Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro," and type in "Jack Hickling - HIGH FIVE(s)" before your final click. If you have trouble paying via PayPal, shoot me an email for more information about mailing a check in.

Thanks everyone!!!  See you tomorrow!

Monday, October 10, 2011


Well, guess who's cruising all over the place?  That's right ... our little Jackers went from crawling to pulling to stand and cruising in just one month!!!  We couldn't be prouder of our little buddy!

We had a great PT session this morning with Carrie.  She was really impressed with Jack's new moves.  She actually was planning to assign him cruising "homework" today, but Jack left her with no choice but to change her teaching plans!  As his mother, I was of course extremely proud of Jack, but words cannot express how happy it made me to see Carrie so proud of him too!

I worked at the hospital for a few hours today, and so Ci Ci watched Jack for me.  After work, I met her and Jack at her house, where I found him walking behind his little push-toy lion!  He moved slowly and kind of shuffled his feet rather than picking his feet up and planting them down, but he was walking right along while pushing the toy without ANY help!!!

I think walking might be just around the corner for our little buddy ...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Family Wedding Fun

We made it home safely from Connecticut this evening, and I have to say that Jack is the BEST.  Baby.  Ever.  Although we were going nonstop all weekend ... from a flight to a rental car drive, to a bridesmaids luncheon to a rehearsal dinner, to several family breakfasts to a wedding ceremony and reception ... Jack maintained his cheerful smile and typical showstopping gregarious behavior. 
Everyone LOVED him!

Here are some photos from our busy, but very beautiful and very fun weekend. Thanks so much for awesome time, Hickling family!!!

Uncle Chris, baby cousin Zack, Daddy and Jack at the rehearsal dinner

Jack hammin' it up with Great Uncle Tommy at the church before the wedding

I just had to sneak a shot of Jack and Daddy during the Lord's Prayer

Nancy and Jake's first kiss as a married couple

Daddy and Jack ... I just love seeing them laugh together

It doesn't get cuter than a little boy all dressed up (except for shoes) sitting on the front steps of a church ...

How handsome!!!

Jack N' Zack (whose wearing an awesome tuxedo onsie, by the way!)

Little Zack and his beautiful mommy

Love this one ... Chris (Robert's twin brother), Alice and baby Zack

Jack loved looking at the water!  Such a beautiful setting.

The Hickling clan gettin' down on the dance floor!

As usual, Jack was the life of the party!

Dancing with Daddy

Dancing with the beautiful mother of the bride, Great Aunt Kathy

Jack got dressed in his jammies later in the evening, but before falling asleep,
he insisted on giving a proper thank you (and goodbye kiss) to the stunning bride.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Party Animal

We just got home from Nancy and Jake's beautiful wedding at the beautiful Inn at Longshore, and Jack had himself a blast!  As always, our little guy was the life of the party, from getting snuggles from all kinds of new friends to dancing his little toosh off with Mommy and Daddy!  He tuckered out from all the excitement around 9:45 and is sleeping like a log! 

We got some wonderful photos from the wedding, including Jack with the stunning bride herself.  I'll be sure to post them soon!

Sorry this is such a short post, but we're pretty pooped from all the weekend partying. 

Thanks for checking in with us.  See you tomorrow! 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hotel Fun

This is Jack's first time staying a hotel. It's a nice hotel with great ammenities (except a mini fridge, which means we have to keep Jack's milk and yogurt on ice in a cooler the old fashioned way). I was a little worried about how Jack would adjust to hotel life for a couple days, but I think he's coping just fine ...
 Wouldn't you say?!?!

 He was so proud of himself being able to make us laugh by smooshing his face up against the mesh of the hotel's rental Pack-N-Play.

 Such a goober!

This was all really funny when he was doing it, but now the poor little buddy has a "mesh rash" on his face from all this clowning around!  I hope the rash clears up before the wedding tomorrow, so he'll look extra handsome in his new outfit, especially since the outfit cost more than Mommy's whole wedding ensemble, including her shoes!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Safe Travels

We made it safely to Connecticut today around 3pm, after a short flight from Greensboro to Laguardia and then about a 45 minute drive to our hotel in a rental minivan (which is totally awesome, by the way).  As usual, Jack was a complete angel on the plane.  He drank his ba-ba during takeoff (to help equalize the pressure in his ears) and then slept most of the flight.  And, even though he's only napped for a total of about 45 minutes combined today, he's been very sweet and playful.  He's such a seasoned little traveller!!!  I swear, we can take this kid anywhere.

We are at Robert's aunt and uncle's house now for some pre-wedding festivities (this family likes a good party, let me tell you).  Earlier when we were at the hotel, I got some great photos of Jack playing in his "crib" (the playpen/sleeper that belongs to the hotel).  He's such a ham!  I'll do my best to post them sometime this weekend.

Happy Thursday, everyone!  See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Therapy ... "Retail" Therapy, that is

Day 5 of our "31 for 21" campaign has been filled with planning, planning, and more planning.  I wish I had more entertaining musings to share this evening, but unfortunately my day was mostly filled with errands.  We are heading out of town tomorrow to Connecticut for the wedding of Robert's cousin Nancy and her fiance Jake.  It's going to be a fun one!  Jackers will be embarking on not his first, not his second, but his THIRD airplane excursion tomorrow morning at the ripe old age of 16 months!  Needless to say, in addition to the normal Buddy Walk planning I've been up to, I've spent most of today packing and planning our trip.

The mundaneness of today was, however, highlighted by a wonderful therapy session with Jack's developmental therapist Annette and some evening "retail" therapy between just my mom and me. 

Annette taught Jack how to sign "where" today, saying things like, "Where's Mommy?" and "Where's Ms. Annette?"  He caught on quickly and actually pointed to Annette once.  It was so sweet!  Also, Jack crawled over Annette's leg a couple of times during therapy, which is one of the things we've been working on for our PT "homework," so naturally, I was really excited!  I can't believe how big of a developmental growth spurt our little Jack is experiencing!  It makes my heart beam!!!

Onto the retail therapy ...

I tell you, my mom always knows how to cheer me up.  Being postpartum and still trying to lose my "baby weight" (yeah, I know it's been 16 months, but it's still my excuse), I really wanted to find a dress for this weekend's wedding that I feel really comfortable in.  I wanted a dress that was comfortable on two fronts ... I wanted it to look nice, but also comfortable enough to carry around and dance with a 16-month old in.  Well, after several very discouraging "try-ons" at a certain department store, I finally found THE dress at a very inexpensive and fun store with the help of my sweet and always complimentary mother.  It was nice to spend some time together just me and her, because I feel that's a little rare these days.  Thanks again, Mom, for helping me finally find a dress I feel really pretty in!  You're the best!

Goodnight, friends!  We'll talk again tomorrow (from Connecticut)!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I had a really long and trying day at work, but I want to keep my "31 for 21" promise to you all.  I apologize for not writing more, but I am really exhausted, so I'm going to keep it short and sweet.

Tonight, I want to share one of my favorite photo moments with you.  I can't believe I haven't shared this before now. 

Over a month ago, Robert, his brother Matt, his sister-in-law Kelly and I took Jack on a little day trip to Cooleemee Falls, NC.  It was a really fun and relaxing day, but I think the best part was watching Jack with his Daddy and his Uncle Matt and bearing witness to the love between brothers and the commitment these men have to their family. 

You just can't break these kind of bonds ...

Monday, October 3, 2011

With a Little Faith

The Director of the Department for Spiritual Care and Wholeness (Pastoral Services) at the hospital where my husband Robert and I both work sent a very heartwarming story to Robert today.  He said that it was a good metaphor for the work we do daily to bring hope and possibility to the patients we serve.  To Robert and I, though, the story had even deeper meaning ...


This dog was born on Christmas Eve in the year 2002. He was born with 2 legs.

He of course could not walk when he was born. Even his mother did not want him.

His first owner also did not think that he could survive and he was thinking of 'putting him to sleep'.
But then, his present owner, Jude Stringfellow, met him and wanted to take care of him.
She became determined to teach and train this little dog to walk by himself.

She named him 'Faith'.

In the beginning, she put Faith on a surfboard to let him feel the movement.
Later she used peanut butter on a spoon as a lure and reward for him for standing up and jumping around.

Even the other dog at home encouraged him to walk..

Amazingly, only after 6 months, like a miracle, Faith learned to balance on his hind legs and to jump to move forward.
After further training in the snow, he could now walk like a human being.

Faith loves to walk around now.
No matter where he goes, he attracts people to him.
He is fast becoming famous on the international scene and has appeared on various newspapers and TV shows.
There is now a book entitled 'With a Little Faith' being published about him.
He was even considered to appear in one of Harry Potter movies.

His present owner Jude Stringfellew has given up her teaching post and plans to take him around the world to preach that

Even without a perfect body, one can have a perfect soul.

In life there are always undesirable things, so in order to feel better you just need to look at life from another direction.

I hope this message will bring fresh new ways of thinking to everyone and that everyone will appreciate and be thankful for each beautiful day.

Faith is the continual demonstration of the strength and wonder of life.
Just remarkable, isn't it?!?!  How strange that we can find connections to our own human condition all around us ... even in four-, uh hum ... I mean two-legged animals! 
Our little Jack has given me so much Faith during the 16 months he's been in our world.  The kind of Faith that I never knew existed.  The kind of Faith that you only get from looking at life from another direction.  The kind of Faith that only comes from ...
a perfect soul.