December 22, 2012

Christmas 2012



Scene:
Earlier this evening, everyone in the car. Christmas music playing, boys wrapped in blankets, hot cocoa and cookies in hand. Driving around looking for ridiculously decorated lawns that make us all gasp. Luke has been pointing out every "Frosty" and "Santa" and "Baby Jesus" he's seen. We come to a stop sign and have to decide whether or not to leave our neighborhood to check out more lights.

Travis: So, Luke. Do you want to find more lights?
Luke: Nope.
Travis: Nope?! You don't want to see any more lights?
Luke: Nope.
Travis: Don't you like the lights, Luke?
Luke: Nope. I want to go home.


Aaaaand....scene.

To his credit, he's has a cold since Thursday, and woke up from his nap today with his eyes glued shut with his very first case of Pink Eye. We persevered and traveled around for another 15 minutes or so, before he let us know that he really did want to go home. Poor guy. We are on lock down until the antibiotics kick in, hopefully in time for our early morning flight to Utah Tuesday morning.

I was thinking earlier this week about how I often don't sit down and carve out the time to write unless my world is in chaos or my heart is heavy. It makes for pretty unbalanced reporting on the state of my union. So today, despite Pink Eye and snotty noses, an update on how my boys have rocked this past month.

Knock on every piece of wood you can find, but I think we have finally left the Terrible Two's behind with Luke. He is talking constantly now, and I think it has eased some of his communication frustrations. We are at like 1-2 time outs a week instead of 1-2 every half hour. The change was gradual, but looking back, he's like a completely different kid. He's funny and sweet and has manners. His imaginative play has taken off and he's constantly warning you that a shark is going to bite your toes or that a ghost is hiding in the closet. He was convinced for a week that a Mr. Turkey was actually going to show up on Thanksgiving Day. And even though we don't talk about it much or push it with him, he can talk all day about Santa and reindeer and Frosty the snowman. I can't wait for him to experience Christmas.

As for Sam, well, check this out:


If you ask him to say Mama, he'll say Dada. Ask for Dada, and he'll say Mama. And then he laughs. He's like a comedian with only one joke. He's still only just imitating sounds, but considering how long we had to wait for Luke to start talking, Sam seems right on track for us.
He's eating like a champ, an all-star, amazing, super, awesome champ. Quite frankly, he's eating better and more well rounded meals than anyone else in this house. It has been my best Christmas present, by far. Although, it is tough to compete with the all-clear we were given this week from his cardiologist. For the first time since the day he was born, we don't have a single cardiology appointment on our calender. He got moved from 3 month check-ups to yearly, and we couldn't be more excited. His post-op murmur closed up and all the results from his EKG and ultrasound were great. We will check in on his pacemaker the week after Christmas, but we don't expect to learn anything new at that appointment.

2012 is a year that started off rough for us, dealing with all of Sam's health issues, the daily hourly battles of will with Luke, and all of us adjusting to the changes with work for Travis and I. But we are ending on a high note. So let's leave it at that.

Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, Goodwill toward all Men.
Merry Christmas.

November 10, 2012

31

So last year, I obviously had a lot more on my plate than I could deal with when November 10th rolled around and I forgot to take my picture. This year it was easy to kiss my boys goodnight and walk out the door for a date night with my cute husband. That means it's time to restore the tradition.

31 today. 

I need a nap.

(Also, one day I will learn to look at the camera when taking pictures in the mirror and not myself so that I don't end up looking like I'm staring off into the middle distance every single year.)

(Maybe. But probably only if I get a nap some time between 31 and 32.)

(That's not likely either.)

November 1, 2012

October 2012: So Much Better

For the past couple of weeks, I've sat down to write at night, collected photos and links and videos, opened my blank post and stared at the blinking cursor. I'd start paragraphs over and over, but always ended up stomping on the backspace button until they disappeared.

I think it's because all I've been able to think about the past few weeks is where we were a year ago. October 12th was Sam's one year anniversary of his open heart surgery, and just yesterday, we passed the pacemaker installation one year mark. I've sat down to write about it and invariably ended up reading through the posts from a year ago. And every time I'd click through those posts, it was like I was reliving it all over again. That awful day we handed him over looking healthy and perfect, only to receive him back a few hours later, swollen, intubated, and scarred. The day they started taking the machines and medicines away. The days we went on and off the external pacemaker, riding a rollercoaster I hated. The scary moments and the happy moments. The facing of the inevitable decision to get a permanent pacemaker. Watching him head off into another operating room. The joy of holding my baby unhooked from all the monitors and wires.

After torturing myself for a few nights, I finally just stopped trying to reflect on this time last year. I'm obviously not ready to go there yet. It was an awful, dark time and even now, it makes tears well up in my eyes thinking about it.

But we are here. Not there anymore. We are a year later, with a healthy boy who is growing and learning and thriving. And I'm just so damn grateful. It's been shockingly easy for me to lose that perspective during these months of doctor appointments and therapy sessions and a hectic schedule. But our story could have had a much more tragic ending than it did, and it's really been hammered back into my head/heart these past weeks as I've journeyed back to those hospital rooms in my mind.

So.

Anyway. While I've been going through a little PTSD, you've missed so much! October has been an amazing month for us. Let's try to hit the highlights and catch you up.

1. We started with a bang, participiating in our first Buddy Walk. As a team, Sam's Club raised $1,350, and all totaled the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte raised over $195,000! That is amazing. Thank you so much for supporting us, with your money, with your presence, and with your love. We had a great time and loved getting to participate. I did a super bad job taking photographs, so...That's a goal for next year.

2. We hit the beach for a short vacation the following week while Grandma Lori was still in town. I am now a October beach-goer convert. We had such a fabulous time. The weather was amazing, the water warm, the beaches clear, and all around just perfect. Luke ate ice cream willing for the first time and cemented his great love for the beach, and I tried very hard not to freak out when Sam insisted on eating sand. I also did a bad job of taking pictures, so again, just trust me on that one.

I did, however, just discover this one from Luke's first day of preschool. I tried to take one of those "First Day of School" photos like Pinterest demanded I do, but Luke was just not having it. I had to chase him down the driveway just to get this one. Isn't this the saddest picture ever? Oh Luke. The stories we will be able to tell your kids some day...

3.This happened.

4. So did this.

5. Oh, and um, this.

Basically, Sam just rocked October hard. He learned to sit up by himself, army crawl, and has for the past two weeks, been eating almost completely age-appropriate. He can self feed puffs and yogurt bites, and can eat bananas and toast, and will (finally) eat purees willingly. (pleasepleaseplease don't let me have just jinxed myself by bragging on him. Would you knock on the nearest piece of wood? Twice? Thanks.)

7. Luke really got what Halloween was all about for the first time this year. He wasn't wild about dressing up, and for weeks prior to the big day, our conversation went like this:
Me: Luke, what do you want to be for Halloween?
Luke: A cupcake!
Me: No, not what do you want for Halloween...what do you want to dress up like?
Luke: A cupcake!

Finally, last week, we had a breakthrough.
Me: Luke, what do you want to be for Halloween?
Luke: Hmmmm. A Cupcake Pirate!
Me: Close enough.




Sam didn't seem to have any preference about his costume. So, we dressed our little army crawler up like... well, an Army Crawler.

And with that, we are all caught up. This October? So much better.

September 15, 2012

Buddy Walk

You may remember back in March that I wrote every day for 21 days to help raise awareness of World Down Syndrome Day. It was awesome seeing the support here and elsewhere on social media as you all spread awareness of the date and your love of Sam and people like him. Well, you may not know it, but October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month here in the US. While I would love to commit to 31 days of writing, it's just not going to happen. The new fall schedules at church, work, preschool, and with therapists are going strong here at Casa Norton and there just aren't enough hours in the day.

Plus, we all know I'd be down to republishing Instagram pictures by the second week.

On October 6th, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte will be hosting it's annual Buddy Walk at Freedom Park in Charlotte. This is our first time getting to go to a Buddy Walk since we were dealing with Sam's heart surgery last year. You may have noticed the fundraising thermometer over in the sidebar. We've been raising money for our team for a few weeks now and are super excited about the support people have shown.

So, I'll make a deal with you, Internet. You help support Sam's Club (either by clicking that little donate button and pledging a few bucks, or better yet, come down to Freedom Park on the 6th and walk with us!) and I won't subject you to 31 days of incoherent, stream of consciousness posts. Deal??
Wait.

Go back and reread that second paragraph.
Back to where I said that this was our first time "getting to go" to a Buddy Walk.

Wrong. So wrong.

We may not have been able to go last year, but this isn't my first opportunity to participate in a Buddy Walk. Not by a long shot. The Buddy Walks were organized nationwide back in 1995. There are over 250 walks that will take place this October alone (and you can click on that link to find one near you). While I may not have always lived close to a Walk, we've been living in Charlotte for over 5 years now, and this will be the first one we attend.

I've said it before, but it's the most striking thing to me that by having a child with Down Syndrome, I suddenly see the world differently. I grew up in a small town, in a small school district, where there is only one public high school. We may have gone to different elementary and middle schools, but by the 9th grade, every teenager in town attended the same school. So, eventually, we all got to know another. And with all the kids I went to school with, I can only think of two people that I knew in my entire school district who had a diagnosis that would categorize them as different, and they both had Cerebral Palsy. I'm not saying there were only two, period. I'm just saying I only knew two of their names. Even then, I can't think of a single person that I knew who had Down Syndrome before Samuel came into our lives.

That means I went 29 years with my only experience with Down Syndrome being the kid who played Corky on "Life Goes On." That's how blind I was to this community prior to last summer. I know they were there. I just couldn't see them.
This past weekend, I helped chaperone a whirlwind trip to Disney World for our youth group. I was there for less than 36 hours, but I can tell you that I saw at least 5 people in the Magic Kingdom who had Down Syndrome. Five that I know for sure were carrying around that extra chromosome, and countless others who were dealing with other diagnoses. Four years ago, Travis and I spent 5 days at Disney and I can't recall recognizing a single person who had DS. I'm sure they were there.

I just couldn't see them.

And that's what the Buddy Walk is all about for me. It's great that we help raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Charlotte (which has been an amazing resource and community for us) and the National Down Syndrome Society, but really, I'm just going to have my vision corrected.

Just to see and be seen. To see those in my own community who share this diagnosis with Sam. To revel in his possibilities, and to share the road map of the first year with someone who just joined our special group. To maybe open someone else's eyes who is walking around just like I used to.

Because how in the world will we ever be able to fight for those among us who can't fight for themselves if we don't even see them?

Help me show Charlotte and the country what Down Syndrome looks like. Hope to see you there.



PS. Aren't these pictures gorgeous?? Promise to share our story with Inspiration Through Art soon!

September 3, 2012

Dear Luke: Year 3

Dear Luke,


I know most of the time we as parents talk about how crazy fast life zooms past us once we have kids. How we blinked and you went from a tiny newborn to a toddler, and then we blinked again and you were graduating from high school. In some ways it does feel like just yesterday that I rubbed my swollen belly and daydreamed about meeting you. I would say that those first two years just blew past us so fast that I barely remember what they were truly like. What it was like before you could walk and talk and throw epic tantrums. 

But this last year, my sweet boy, has been a year when I felt every single day march by, sometimes in agonizingly slow increments. Our life as a family has been more chaotic and stressful than it ever has been since your father and I started it 5 years ago. Your little brother's arrival in our lives coinciding with your year of being two was not a year I fear I will be forgetting any time soon. While the storms of life washed over us  again and again these past twelve months, the internal struggle of becoming your own person and all the emotional storms that accompany it, pummeled your little brain right along side the chaos of our family beginning a new journey in this special needs world.
You are growing into the little boy I used to just be able to catch glimpses of under all that adorable chunky babyness. As you walked out the door this morning on your way to your first day of preschool, I couldn't get over just how big you were. What once just used to be cute chubby calves is now miles of leg sticking out between the hem of your shorts and your socks. You had a skinned knee, multiple bruises, and stubbed toes underneath those brand new school clothes because you live life hard. You play hard, you laugh hard, you explore hard, you tantrum hard.
You run fast, laugh loud, and let your displeasure be known throughout the land. There is nothing subtle about you, my boy. You are strong and fearless. 

We took you on your first amusement park rides this past summer when we were at the beach. Most of the rides were too small for us to climb in with you, so we had to just strap you in and walk away, hoping you were excited and happy, and not terrified that we'd just abandoned you to be spun around in circles while we watched and took pictures. And while I was nervously hovering by the gate opening, eyeing the emergency stop button and ready to rush in and rescue you, you were laughing with glee and grinning with pure joy as the toy cars went round and round the circle at a sedate pace.

You love the water, whether it's in the pool where you like to show off your swim class skills to the amazement of other parents, or the ocean, where I swear you would have just kept going until you reached the other side of the Atlantic if we hadn't pulled you back.
We spent the last 8 months working with a speech therapist to help you catch up with your delays in talking. For the first two and a half years of your life, you relied on your copious facial expressions to get your point across to people. You have the most expressive little face and that system worked well for you for a long time. You never saw the point in repeating the words we spoke to you. No amount of cajoling or trickery could entice you to give it up. Until one day when you just did. You went through a battery of tests to decide how delayed you were and to start therapy, and literally the next week you started to imitate sounds you heard. And just like that, you were off. With the help of the therapist, you have added dozens and dozens of words to your vocabulary. You made the switch recently from just repeating phrases to initiating conversations on your own. You can tell me what you did or what hurts or what you want for lunch. It has made such a difference in our day to day life.

There are days when your repeated requests for "more candy" or "Hey Mama" make me long for the old days...but I am so glad (and relieved) we are making headway into your speech delays. You are doing so well that you no longer qualify as having a significant enough delay to get help. Way to go, baby.
And while it would be easy to finish this letter here and just tell you how much I love you, it would not be an accurate portrayal of what Luke Age:2 was really like.

I don't know if every child is like this, or if it's just us, but the older you get, your ability to drive me absolutely insane has increased dramatically. Little boy, you know where every single one of my buttons is located and you can punch every. single. one. in 30 seconds or less. My normally even tempered self goes into hiding and my Monster Mom side comes out and wants to drop kick you across the room. I don't know how you do it; I really don't. I don't react to another person on this planet the way I react to you.

You go beyond just pushing boundaries. You hit people when you are angry. You abuse the dog. You abuse your brother. You throw things. You knock things off the counter when you don't get your way. You do things over and over again, even when you know you'll go to time out for doing them.You hurt me. You stand right at the edge of the boundary and make sure I am looking before you cross it just as a giant EFF YOU, Mom. You purposefully kick your shoes off when I pick you up so that I have to stop and grab them before I can continue to strap you into your carseat/put you in time out/get you out of the middle of the street/etc. (More than anything else, this one thing drives me absolutely nuts. It is my parenting kryptonite. I see red every single time you do it. It makes me ridiculously angry.)

I know the year of being two is branded as being "terrible." And I get it. I get why this year is hard. You are past the stage of learning how to navigate this world physically and this new stage was and is all about learning how to navigate it socially. I get how the emotional capacity for patience and empathy can be exactly zero for a two year old. You are figuring things out and your brain is just going in hyper-speed all the time trying to assimilate it all. Just like you used to put every object you encountered, no matter how gross or covered in dog hair, into your mouth to explore, you have been working through every emotion in the book this past year. Sometimes it felt like you were going through a different chapter every other minute. It has been a crazy rollercoaster and I am so looking forward to the day when you are a little bit more...well, a little bit more rational, if I'm being perfectly honest. Rationality has been in a little scarce, especially these past few months.
It's all just part of that process that turns that squishy, floppy Luke into the man you will some day become. Obviously, I've had to become a little bit more philosophical in my approach to understanding you these days. It helps to have a better attitude when I've been at work all afternoon and you spent all morning in preschool. We got to do lunch together and goodnight snuggles. That's just about the perfect amount of time to spend with a two/three year old Luke. Anything beyond that can start to feel an awfully lot like work.
But it's the hard work of being your mom, and I wouldn't give it up for the world.

(Most days.)

I love you, sweet boy. Happy Birthday.

Love,
Mama

August 23, 2012

Call Me Maybe

So, as I've written about before, every year we go on vacation with Travis's best friends and their families. A trip that originally began with three young seminarians has morphed into a 13 person entourage that requires at least 5 bedrooms, 3 cars, and a 2 hour trip to the grocery store.

Luckily, we've got this down to a science now that we have officially been outnumbered by the kids 7 to 6. For the first time ever, we returned to the same house we rented last year. The number of bedrooms needed and the budgets dictated by three clergy families doesn't leave a lot of options for rental homes in the Eastern United States. For a couple of different reasons, one of which was Sam's appointment at Levine's on Tuesday (more on that later), we decided to return to Ivanhoe, Virginia for vacation this year.

Ivanhoe, VA is not your typical vacation destination, I know. It's not close to any big attractions or things like beaches, but the house makes up for the isolation. It literally is located in the middle of a cow pasture, 20 minutes away from the closest store, but it has a pool and a swing set and a ton of room for 7 kids to run around.

Since we knew what to expect from the location, we planned ahead on activities to entertain the kiddos. We've had a carnival day, outdoor movie night, and destination picnic day. Still on tap is a joint birthday party for all the kids since we don't get to celebrate with one another because we live so far apart.

Today was "Call Me Maybe" video day.

Too much fun, my friends. Too much fun.

August 16, 2012

Being a Parent on a (Bad) Day

I'm having one of those days.

The kind that has included 5 time outs, 2 head butts (him, not me), 4 different occasions of sibling shoving (Luke to Sam, of course), one lunch of pureed pears dumped down the drain completely uneaten minus two bites that I fear ended up in his lungs instead of his belly, two outfit changes per person in the household, and one meltdown in the middle of the kitchen floor (mine, not theirs).

And it's only 3 o'clock!

We've had a string of rough days this past week with Luke. His hyperness levels seem to be through the roof. Even when I purposefully keep him away from all screens (confiscating the iPad, password locking the computer, putting tv remotes out of each) and try my best to wear him out, he still erupts in playfulness that crosses the line of being too rough. He's given me a ton of bruises trying to climb me, deliberately thrown things at his brother, pitched fits over almost every meal, and torn apart every room in the house during a meltdown. If this is a preview of what year 3 is going to be like, I am honestly scared.

Sam is all sweetness and light unless you are a little slow in making a bottle (which is SUCH a pain to do now with all the thickeners) or his brother has gotten a little too close or he needs help pooping or one of his 3 new teeth are bothering him. He's continuing to occasionally aspirate, even the thickened formula and purees. Meal times with him stress me out so bad, that even now, I'm tearing up out of frustration just thinking through our eating failures today.

When I came on duty this morning, Travis relayed the bad news that Luke had slept in til 8. Normally, sleeping in is a good thing, but these days, it signals that he won't be taking an afternoon nap. I know some 3 yr olds don't take naps anymore, but Luke just hasn't given it up yet. He normally plays so hard that he can always be counted take at least a 2 hour nap every afternoon. I know he's in the process of giving it up, but I've made the conscious decision to trade out a later bed time over giving up nap time. By the time 2 o'clock rolls around, Luke and I need a break from one another. And if that means he's still up at 8:45 or later, then so be it. It's totally worth it.

I tried to wear him out today with Play-doh and wrestling and indoor bicycle races, and while he willingly went into his room for nap time, he's popped out every 15 minutes since then. I'm not even afraid to tell you that he is currently in bed with the iPad, probably watching some ridiculous cartoon he found on Netflix. Judge away, Internet. I just don't care. When the decision comes down to giving him the iPad or yelling at him in out-of-control frustration, I figure the iPad is the better parenting choice.

I knew today had the potential to be rough, so I tried to prepare myself for it. I made sure I was properly caffeinated before I started dolling out time-outs. I was proactive in coming up with activities for Luke. I enjoyed Sam's awesomeness and smiles when Luke was occupied. I cleaned the house, knowing that a cleaner house automatically makes my blood pressure drop. I washed my sheets because I think nothing helps you get through a hard day better than knowing you get to sleep on clean sheets at the end of it. I got started on a packing list for our annual vacation with Travis' friends from seminary and their families. I gave Sam a bath so that every snuggle smells like Johnson and Johnson.

I did all that, and still, I ended up sitting on the kitchen floor crying after lunch because I just felt so overwhelmed.

I don't think this is an "overwhelmed because I have a special needs kid" kind of overwhelmed. I think this is just a garden variety "I have two kids under the age of 3" kind of overwhelmed. I don't know. Having a 1 yr old with DS and an almost 3 yr old who seems possessed some days is my normal. Maybe other mothers don't have kitchen floor meltdowns over a disastrous lunch time. Maybe every mother does. Either way, I don't think I'm alone in these feelings of: my kids are out of control...I don't recognize myself in the behavior I am exhibiting...I just want to leave it all behind.

My kids and their individual and combined issues have the ability to push my buttons like nothing or no one else in my life can. The woman yelling and shaking her fists in frustration is not me. The one crying on the kitchen floor isn't me either. It's not a me that I've ever seen before, at least. It's scary and embarrassing and sad that she's in there, just waiting to pop out and show herself to my kids. To the little people I helped create and whom I love like I didn't even know was possible. I hate that they've even seen her, let alone be well acquainted with her, like I fear they've gotten these past weeks. It's not who I want to be with my kids.

Travis and I recently started talking about me taking a few days to get away by myself. After this summer, it's something I think I desperately need. I've always thrived when I am getting a decent amount of alone time and it's just not something that is easily scheduled into my life right now. I struggle with irrational guilt about a variety of things, and alone time is often (in my head, and only in my head) judged as being selfish and something I should feel guilty about wanting. It gets equated to: if I want to spend time by myself, it means I don't want to spend time with my kids or my husband or my coworkers or my friends. I know that that isn't a  logical statement, but we all know that logical statements and emotional statements don't often match up. That is the statement my emotions say is true.

I worry that by going away, I'm being unfair to Travis, who is working 50+ hours a week and then coming home to be greeted by me shoving the kids at him. I worry that I'll be stressed about the kids the whole time away, so why bother leaving. I worry that 2 days won't be enough and that I'll have used up my "allotment of time away" (no such thing exists, just FYI) and won't have any other recourse if I reach this point again. I worry that I'll go away and come back feeling better, and all the stress will just be waiting at the door for me, like a heavy sweater I have to slip on the minute I walk inside.

Seeing the endless loop of garbage that is floating around in my head in black and white on this screen makes me acknowledge just how awful we can be to ourselves as mothers. This is that part about becoming a parent that I don't think any of those What to Expect books cover. No one told me to expect to beat myself up unmercilessly when my kids have a bad day.

See what I mean? It took me the entire 45 minutes of sitting here in front of this screen to get to the truth that my KIDS are having a bad day. Not me. I'm practically earning sainthood today in my efforts to not run screaming from this house. I need to learn to forgive that part of me that flips out over defiant behavior and unsuccessful feedings. Not to get all split personality analogy on you, but it would be nice if all the me's in my head were at least on the same team.

So, here's to Team Tori and a weekend away on the horizon.

August 1, 2012

Feeding Woes (and Ohs!)

Feeding has been an issue for Samuel...oh, since forever. We were never able to breastfeed and bottles were tough at the beginning. After getting his heart repaired, he gradually became strong enough to do quicker feedings with a lot more ending up in his mouth than on his bib. We were excited! Our first goal checked off on our IFSP. Go Sam!

It didn't take long for that excitement to die down and that (major) accomplishment to lose it's luster. His ability to suck down a bottle in under 10 minutes was not so impressive once we realized his great dislike for solid foods. Under the guidance of our speech therapist, we started introducing solids at about 5 months. No matter what you placed in his mouth, from cereal to apples to prunes, he made a horrible face and pushed it all right back out. Or he would tolerate it being in his mouth by storing it in his cheeks and letting it gradually drip out the corners of his mouth once he had liquefied whatever was in there.

After 6 months of getting no where, our speech therapist suggested we might want to bring in someone else because she had tried everything she knew to try. While I appreciated her honesty and humility, it was still kind of a gut punch to have someone give up on Sam. It made an already frustrating experience just that much more discouraging. 

It took a few weeks to find a new therapist who specialized in feeding and had an opening we could fit into our schedule. So, it was July 3rd before we had our first appointment with her. After introducing ourselves and laying out all the various spoons and equipment and food, I sat down to feed Sam. I put a little bit of applesauce on a spoon and asked him to open his mouth. And he did. And he took the food off the spoon, pushed it to the back of his mouth and swallowed. Then he smiled at the new therapist and leaned forward with his mouth open for a new bite.

I just about fell on the floor.

I kept saying over and over, "I promise he never does this. He's NEVER done this. I swear I'm not making it all up!"

Apparently, he just prefers tall, blonde speech therapists. Whatever, dude, we'll take it!

Since that day, he's had so many more good days than bad days when it comes to eating solid foods. It's seriously like a switch has been flipped and he now enjoys and knows what to do with the food we give him. He's even working on self-feeding with Mum-Mums and puffs. Wahoo!! Go Sam!

But (of course, there is a but...) during his next appointment with the therapist, he ate more pureed pears in one seating than ever before. By the end of his feeding, we noticed that he sounded a little congested and "wet" when he was breathing. This is a pretty big indicator of aspiration, so the therapist suggested we get it checked out. We knew to be watching for aspiration and our first therapist had been pretty diligent about giving me all the signs and symptoms of it. We even made sure to ask the doctors about it during our Pneumonia/Metapneumovirus hospital stay back in March. They assured us that the pneumonia was in the wrong place to be considered aspiration pneumonia, so we left it at that. However, hearing the congestion that had been absent for so long show up during a feeding was pretty suspicious and needed to be checked out. We had our pediatrician set us up for a swallow study this week.

Now, if you don't know what a swallow study is (see also: Me 2 weeks ago), they basically give you barium mixed in with various consistencies of liquids and solids that they when watch you swallow during a continuous x-ray. Samuel was given it in three different consistencies of liquids and one puree mixed to about stage 2 or 3. We were most worried about the puree, obviously, but he passed that portion of the test just fine. The surprising results were that he was very easily and silently aspirating the liquids in the thin (the same as formula mixed normally) and in the nectar consistencies. He was only able to swallow liquids mixed to a honey consistency without aspirating.

That's right. Honey. As in, go open your pantry and turn over a bottle of honey. See how thick that is? That thick. Anything less and he's getting it into his lungs.

Oh.

So, yeah. That was an eye-opener. My already overloaded brain has now had to add a section for learning about thickeners and how best to thicken liquid without adding a ton of empty calories. And of course, this stuff costs almost as much as formula, which we all know is made by tiny elves in the Alps and can only be bought with bricks of gold.

Surprisingly, this new challenge hasn't upset me all that much. Sure, I'm frustrated and feel bad that it's been going on undetected, but this isn't BAD news per say. At least it's an easy fix. There was one point during the swallow study when they weren't sure he was doing okay with the honey and my brain just went into overdrive with the possible ramifications of that diagnosis. We are lucky, though, that we were immediately able to fix this problem with a simple stop at the pharmacy and a little trial and error on the mixing side of things.

We'll redo the study in a few months to see how's he doing. I've been assured that most of the time, children will outgrow this. Here's hoping!

~~~~~

A few weeks ago, Luke thought maybe he wanted a popsicle for dessert, but after two licks, changed his mind. So, Sam and I finished it for him. (Obviously, before I knew about the aspiration...)





July 28, 2012

Dear Sam: 1st Birthday Edition

Dear Sam,

Little man, what a year it's been. Happy first birthday. I don't know a single person who deserves a handful of icing more than you.
Today was a low-key birthday, as far as first birthdays can go. (We are saving the big bash for next month as we are going to give you and your brother a joint birthday party for as long as we can get away with it.) You started the day nice and early with your dad, with a bottle and some Olympics. You then spent the next few hours rolling around on the floor, practicing your new army crawling skills and evasive maneuvers trying alternately to escape and follow your big brother around the room. After an unsuccessful attempt at lunch, you took a nap and prepared for your big afternoon of cake smashing.
I hesitated on making you a cupcake since we are still struggling so much with solid foods. I even went so far as to make you "cake" out of watermelon and cut up fruit. I figured you could at least suck on it and get some enjoyment out of the process. However, when I woke up this morning and peeked at it in the refrigerator, it just didn't seem right. It just wouldn't be the same to hand you a hunk of watermelon with a candle in it. After the year we've had, we needed to really celebrate this momentous occasion. So I shelved the fruit, grabbed a cake mix, and whipped up a cupcake worthy of smashing.

Unlike your brother, you did not hesitate for a second to plunge your hand into the icing and get a taste. You managed to icing all over your face and clothes and chair, and yet, I'm pretty sure very little got into your mouth. So, it all worked out. I got cute pictures, you got to make a mess, and we didn't have worry about how you swallowed any of it. Win.

My sweet boy, you have been through so much this past year. I often write about how hard this year has been on us, on me. But you...my dear little boy, you've had to endure so much. I'm so very sorry about all of it. I wish I could have spared you all the sickness, all the surgeries, all the doctors, and that little lump in your tummy that makes sure your heart pumps the way it should. I wish I could say that I'll never let it happen again, that I will protect you from all harm, but like so much of this last year, I just have no control over any of it. 

But through it all, you've shown us what it means to be resilient. You taught us how to smile just days after having your chest cracked open. You taught us how to laugh with a nasal cannula in your nose. How to sleep through nurses checking your vitals. How to want to roll and crawl and sit, even when your muscles don't cooperate and your scars get in the way. How to grow and be strong and overcome every obstacle that's placed in front of you.

You are our very own superhero.

You made us learn more than I ever thought was possible about pediatric cardiology. You are introducing us to the complex workings of things we take for granted...like swallowing and chewing and breathing. You've opened our eyes to this group of people who were mostly invisible to us before you came into our lives. I see people with Down Syndrome everywhere I go now. It's not like they weren't there a year ago, but now I have the eyes to see them. You've brought amazing people into our lives: from the families who've become friends in our DS community to the therapists who sit on our dog-hair-covered carpet each week.

You are changing us. You are making us better.

This morning, as 10:21 rolled around, you were sitting in my lap, belly laughing as I got your tickle spots. I thought back to that moment a year ago, when you were taken from that safe place in my body where your heart defect was on pause and we were totally clueless about what this year would bring. There are days when I wish I could take you back there, back to where I could keep you safe and whole. But as I watched you laugh today and felt you snuggle into my neck as the giggles subsided...I'm just so glad you are here, Sam. 

Happy Birthday, baby.

Love,
Momma

July 7, 2012

My Truth

I'm kind of the ultimate lurker when it comes to reading blogs. My Google Reader easily has 75 subscriptions to sites and blogs that I follow...some of which I've followed for years. I have felt connected to, challenged by, and comforted by these writers during all stages of my life. It's a diverse group of people that I take the time to read from every day. I read "Mommy blogs" before I was ever a mother, and I follow about 5 different Young Adult authors now that I'm well beyond that particular demographic. However, despite how much these other writers are a daily part of my life, I rarely ever leave comments or engage with other readers. Comment sections can be a scary place on the internet these days, and as a general rule, I don't even bother to read them, let alone join the fray.


This morning, I broke my long standing lurking tradition. Not long after I got up, I settled down in front of the computer to catch up on the internet. Waiting for me in my reader was this post from Momastry. I came to this site like a lot of people after her essay "Don't Carpe Diem" went viral earlier this year. After reading, and loving, that essay, I spent some time going through her archives and added her to my subscriptions. I like Glennon a lot. I like what she stands for, how she loves, the grace she offers and accepts, and the opportunities she creates for the internet to do amazing things through tiny donations.


However, this latest post kind of stopped me in my tracks. To begin with, I didn't know Glennon's story well enough to know that her son didn't have Down Syndrome. I thought I had just missed that bit of information when I had gone through her archives. So, when at the end of the post, she revealed that her prenatal diagnosis of DS was, in fact, wrong and her son was without that extra chromosome, I felt cheated. My hopes of finding another person who was traveling down our road with grace and courage were dashed. The rest of her essay was tainted for me because of this misconception on my part, which I fully realized and tried to take into account. I know she wasn't purposefully withholding this information. Her son is 10 now, I think. I just didn't know. So, the twist at the end of this birth story was not one I could immediately overlook to see her bigger picture of celebrating children with DS. It was the exact opposite of our birth story, and so it made my heart hurt.


I know that was a strong reaction. Maybe even an over reaction, except for that it felt true. And so I de-lurked and commented. Now, I know you can read through the comments yourself, so I won't rehash what I said and how others responded. I'm glad I did it, and I knew from the beginning that she had only good intent in sharing her experience with Down Syndrome. I never doubted it.


This essay and the comment section has been stuck in my head for over 12 hours now. I kept checking in on them throughout the day to see how others responded and to take time to connect with those who reached out to me. It's been a hugely positive experience for me and may convince me to de-lurk a little more often.


However, the thing I keep going back to is how often it gets said that children with DS bring joy and sunshine and rainbows. How they are special and happy and different from the rest of us in such great ways. So many of the comments on the essay and the Facebook page reinforced it. And there are so many writers and parents out there that can substantiate that. I love them all, and they bring me so much hope and peace on days when I don't have any. I love that people have taken the time to write books and blogs and welcome packets to encourage, uplift, and uphold those of us who have this diagnosis in our children. I have spent many a night pouring over them this past year.


But.


But.


It's not just joy and sunshine and rainbows that this diagnosis brings. It brings grief and pain, uncertainty and fear, medical bills that can devastate you and doctor's words that can literally fold you over in their heaviness. This diagnosis can and has repeatedly broken my heart.


I feel like I'm not allowed to talk about those parts. I feel like it's my job to shout from the rooftops how amazing my son is and what a blessing he is. Part of me is terrified, even now, to hit publish on this post because of the "what if?" What if some woman just received a prenatal diagnosis and is wondering what to do? 90% of women chose to abort. 90%. That is a staggering number that breaks my heart. And I feel like every negative thing I say about Down Syndrome will reinforce that number. Every time I admit to a night that I am bowled over by grief, or acknowledge that my almost one year old can't sit up by himself, or when I focus on the hard instead of the good...I feel like I'm responsible.


I know that isn't true. My website doesn't generate nearly enough traffic to matter much. But it's the idea that gets me. That if I'm not playing my part, if I'm not being uplifting and strong and courageous 100% of the time, then I'm not worthy of being a parent of a child with Down Syndrome who writes publicly.


Look. I know that's bullshit. I know that I'm entitled to handle this journey however I deem fit. I know it, and yet...I feel pretty lonely in my journey. I don't find a lot of stories about the struggles.


I know it's in my personality to focus on the negatives first, before I can see the positives. I know this about myself. Yet, I don't want that to be my legacy to Samuel's journey. I don't want to be the Debbie Downer of the Down Syndrome world. Wah-wah. I want to look for the good and to focus on finding the beauty. 


But for me, in order to do that, I need to share the bad stuff, too. I need to be honest with myself, and subsequently, with you, and just admit that some times I want off this ride. I want my baby to be whole and perfect and without that extra chromosome. I want to shout from the rooftops that spending 6 months trying to get your son to willingly eat and swallow a spoonful of rice cereal and STILL NOT SUCCEEDING absolutely, 100% blows. I've lost track of the number of times I wanted to throw a bowl of oatmeal at the wall out of frustration during feedings.


Please, please, please don't misunderstand me. I wouldn't trade my Samuel for anything. If I had known before he was born, I would have changed nothing. He is ours. Our son. Our beloved. For as long as he is in our care, we will love him and cherish him and empower him and move heaven and earth for him. He brings enough joy to temper the pain. The smiles and giggles while he is pushing the cereal back out of his mouth help keep me from dumping it over his head.


And please also know that I am completely aware that our journey with DS isn't even as hard as it gets. So many parents would kill for the past 11 months I've had with my child. Some times that extra chromosome is a cruel, cruel thing and takes one of these babies before they've even had a chance to frustrate the hell out of their parents. Trisomy 21 can be so medically devastating and there are parents out there with hearts more broken than mine. I know. And I'm so sorry.


With all these thoughts running through my brain and my conversations today, I think it comes down to this: I need to acknowledge my truth. My story. I need to not be afraid to share it, nor judge those who have a different truth than mine. I will try to not speak in generalizations about this diagnosis, because I don't appreciate it when others do. I need to have enough grace to not only to extend to others, but to myself also.   These were lessons I wasn't expecting today, but God gave them to me anyway.

June 25, 2012

I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

My younger brother and 7 other students from his medical school are in Kenya this summer. He's a much better writer than I, so keep up with his musings as he learns about life in a Kenyan hospital.

http://adventuresfromeastafrica.blogspot.com/


June 24, 2012

Trying New Things

Last week, we took it upon ourselves to teach Luke how to give a thumbs up. At first, he didn't quite get the idea and kept making finger guns. He then moved on to manually folding his fingers down one by one with his other hand. He really had to concentrate to get it done.
After a while, he was able to do it without using both hands. If he ever runs for office, I'm totally pulling this out to use on campaign posters.
Vote for Luke Norton 2045!

In other news, I got excited the other day that after hardcore water fun in the backyard, he was finally going to eat his first ice cream cone. We've tried and tried to interest him in ice cream, popsicles, push-up pops, etc. and so far, he hasn't even wanted to taste them. Just the sight of them alone has him shaking his head and clamping his lips together. It just seems so...strange? un-American? wrong? that my toddler doesn't like any kind of frozen treat. I mean, seriously, what am I supposed to use as bribes now?!
Sadly, those few licks are all that he ate. Shortly after I stopped filming, he dropped it and Henry wasted no time in cleaning it off the deck. The empty cup next to him? Unsweetened apple sauce. Who eats applesauce over ice cream?! Oh well. At least he'll still have that cute smile without any cavities for when he does decide to rule the world.

June 16, 2012

Play It Again, Sam



We've had this exersaucer since Luke was little, and while he would tolerate it for a few minutes at a time, Sam has fallen in love. We like it for the physical therapy aspects of it, so he gets to spend time in it pretty frequently. One of the little stations is a circle with pictures of animals on it. If you hit it once, you get the animal noise. The second bap gets you the animal's name, the third is the animal's name in Spanish. The fourth time you hit it, you get a song. However, if you hit it while the song is playing, it will stop and start all over again with the animal noise.

I realized the other day, when Travis had gotten up with Sam particularly early one morning, that Sam has this thing down to a science. I laid in bed, listening to him BAP BAP BAP BAP until he got to the song, let the song run it's course and then BAP BAP BAP BAP again. He must have done it 5 times in a row before I finally dozed back off.

In other news: Teeth! His second bottom tooth is making it's appearance this weekend. While we were completely surprised by finding the first tooth, this one has made it's presence known to one and all. Aren't you glad you can't remember what it was like to go through teething?

June 13, 2012

Growth spurt


March 2012

May 2012
Apparently, while we've been concentrating on sitting and upper body strength in Physical Therapy, and on swallowing solid foods in Speech Therapy, Sam's focus has been on growing some hair. Too bad that wasn't on his IFSP. It would have been nice to check something off!

June 6, 2012

Tickle Monster

To understand this story, you first need to know two things:

1. Luke sleeps hard during his afternoon nap. Like you could drag him across the room by his ankles without him waking up hard. So, when he does finally wake up, it usually takes him anywhere from 2-10 minutes to really snap out of it. It's one of the few cuddle times I can regularly predict with him. However, once his brain has fully joined the party, it's like a switch has been flipped and he is ON. Ready to GO.

2. I am ticklish. Like really ticklish. ANNOYINGLY ticklish. Over at least 60% of my body. Alright, more like 75%. To use all that ACT prep from about 15 years ago, I came up with the following analogies: The Pope is to Catholic as Tori is to Ticklish. Cheese is to Amazing as Tori is to Ticklish. Dawson's Creek reruns being put on Netflix is to I have plans for every nap time as Tori is to Ticklish. You get the point.

So, last Saturday afternoon, Sam and I were playing on my bed when Luke came stumbling out of his room after nap time. He climbed onto the bed with us and cuddled into our little pile of blankets and bodies. He stayed this way for about 5 minutes, while he let Sam play with his fingers. He then suddenly sat up and I knew our cuddle time was over, Luke was officially awake. I started to climb out of bed to go find something to do, when he looked at me with his little impish grin and gleaming eyes and said, "TOES, Ma! Toes!" He then proceeded to tickle the bottom of my feet.

He has never done this before, so to say I was ill prepared was an understatement.

I may or may not have kicked him in the stomach as I desperately tried to get away.

Luckily, he thought it was all part of the game and just attacked again.

Have you seen this pin on pinterest? I think I may need to get Luke to sign a copy of it as part of a contract in understanding that I just have no control over what my body does when you come after me with your fingers all splayed and a wicked gleam in your eye. No control.

June 2, 2012

Family Portrait Time: Beach Attempt

Let's just start with the best one...everyone is mostly looking at the camera and has a generally pleasant expression on their face.This is as good as it got. But just for the heck of it, let's see the outtakes.

2 looking at the camera, one trying to pull Mom's hair, the other totally distracted.

No one looking at the camera and DANG that really hurts!

1 looking at camera, 1 trying to get the baby to smile, 1 watching grandparents goof off behind the camera, and 1 feeling victorious about getting in that good hair pull.

2 for sure looking at the camera, one smiling at wayward grandparent jumping around on the sand, and one who is just about DONE with this picture taking thing. 

I mean, really DONE.

Windy hair, kind-of-smiling-but-maybe-just-squinting baby, petulant toddler, wrestling Dad.


May 12, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

It's Saturday night and I am utterly exhausted. It's been quite the weekend in the Norton household. It was a wedding weekend for Travis, so he was gone for the afternoon/evenings both nights Friday and Saturday. We have company arriving tomorrow, and I used it as an excuse and motivation for tackling deep cleaning our house. Throw in a few extra projects that I foolishly started and didn't complete (Welcome to my home! Just step over that huge pile of painting supplies in front of the guest bedroom...We meant for the hallway to be two different colors when you arrived!), and it was deep cleaning to a whole new level.

The boys and I had good afternoons despite being on our own. We picnicked outside for dinner last night, and had an hour long bath time with shaving cream painting tonight. My tub has never been so clean! (Nor has the floor, after mopping up the entire bucket of water Luke knocked over while I was holding Sam!)

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I get to celebrate it by having my husband only work a 6 hour Sunday instead of a 12, getting to spend the afternoon with my sweet college roommate and introduce her to my Sam, and by hopefully (ahem) not touching a dish or load of laundry or vacuum and having my house as clean as it is right now when I go to bed tomorrow night. The only thing I ever really want for Mother's Day is the day off from being a mother (Can I get an Amen from all the mother's of toddlers out there?!). This year, since our weekend was so packed, I'm postponing my day off until we head to the beach in two weeks. That way I get a day off in sun and sand, and Travis gets backup from the grandparents. Win-Win. Done.

I'm heading to bed, but before I go, two things that made this Mother's Day weekend for me:

1. Sam has been doing this all afternoon. After spending so much time and effort trying to get him to stay on his belly for any length of time, watching him roll over all on his on and hang out there is immensely satisfying to see. (The video is being edited, so sorry for the sideways head tilt. It'll be straighten soon!)


2. This morning, not long after I had gotten up, Luke crawled into my lap while I was sitting at the computer desk. While rearranging himself to properly cuddle in, he accidentally knocked over his bowl of dry cheerios. He gasped, as only my over-dramatic son can do, and jumped down to pick them up. And without any prompting from me, started saying/singing, "Keen up. Keen up. Erry body. Keen up." (Translated: Clean up, clean up, everybody, clean up.")
This is awesome on so many levels. First, preschool is amazing. Second, after 2 and a half years, Luke has finally started to talk/repeat what he hears. It is so good to hear his little voice.

And that's it for me. Go call your Mother.

Happy Mother's Day, y'all!

April 19, 2012

The Land of What-Ifs

Yesterday was one of those days where I questioned whether I had any idea at all what it meant to take care of a special needs child. Specifically, a special medical needs child.

Since our little bout with pneumonia and metapneumovirus that landed us in the hospital for a week, Sam has been very healthy. His small amount of constant congestion had disappeared and he was kicking butt in both physical and feeding therapies. He's been working on sitting by himself for whole minutes at a time now and even did his first complete barrel roll this past week. He has continued to have good days with feeding and has eaten entire bowls of cereal without most of it ending up on his bib. Progress, people. We've been making real, honest-to-goodness progress.

We are still limiting Samuel's exposure to the outside world to just a few trips out of the house a week. Mainly, we hit church on Sunday mornings and we just started taking him to swim class. I try to keep people from touching him at church, although I admit that I always feel funny asking people not to. I see them reaching for him and just I want to scream: "Your little squeeze of his foot (or hand or cheek) could land him in the hospital again!" But mostly, I just smile, cuddle him close so there isn't much exposed and then wipe him down with anti-bacterial gel once we get in the car seat. I know it's okay to tell people hands off...but I think maybe my Southern upbringing has made me feel like I don't have that right. But I do. I know it. I just need to empower myself to do it! So, you've been warned! Hands off, people!

Anyway, that was a nice tangent. Moving on.

Yesterday morning, Sam got up about an hour earlier than normal. Travis feed him a bottle and then he went back down. About 15 minutes before we had to leave for swim class, he woke up again ready for the day. He was happy as I changed his diaper and clothes, and while he refused his bottle, he seemed perfectly content....And the appropriate temperature.

30 minutes later, when I pulled him out of the stroller at the swim school, he felt warm to me. However, that's not unusual after spending that much time in his car seat. He had fallen asleep while we traveled, so I chalked his sleepy cuddles up to that and got him dressed for class. It wasn't until we'd been in the water for about 10 minutes that I realized he wasn't cooling down. He wouldn't pick his head up off my shoulder and seemed utterly miserable. Since this behavior was eerily similar to how he acted the day before we landed in the hospital last time, I immediately hopped out of class, warmed him up in the shower, and got him dry. His color improved and he fell asleep while it was Luke's turn in class.

The whole time I was swimming with Luke, I just knew I had made a bad call in making Sam go to class when he was acting clingy. I spent a good hour hating myself for the 10 minutes it took for me to take it seriously that something was wrong. I got out of the water with Luke as soon as class was over, determined to get them home quickly. After Sam coughed up some yucky looking stuff on our babysitter, I was officially worried. I was on the phone with the pediatrician before I even left the parking lot. By the time I got him home and was able to check his temperature, it had reached 103.8. I spent another couple of hours hating myself after that, too.

I was completely baffled. And worried. So worried. The hour I waited for our appointment with the doctor and for his Tylenol to kick in was a long one. He honestly had been fine up until that car ride into Charlotte. He seemed to have a little bit of a stuffy nose, but hadn't been coughing or wheezing and hadn't needed a breathing treatment since we left the hospital. Until the fever popped up, everything was completely normal.

Sam and I spent a good 5 hours in the doctor's office while they ran every test I think they could. They drew blood twice and spent forever trying to get him to pee for a urine sample. They sent us out to get a chest x-ray to see if the pneumonia was back. And while the pediatrician thought he saw something on the x-ray, the official radiology report disagreed and said he was fine. We haven't heard back about the other cultures, but the quick screening of his urine showed some infection. We got him started on antibiotics, and beyond the scary high fevers, he's been fine the last 24 hours.

It's so hard to know how to feel about this kind of stuff. On the one hand, all kids get sick. Luke's had a high fever before and we survived that just fine. On the other hand, Luke's had one ear infection in his entire life and never been to the doctor for anything else but well check ups. He didn't have to have two heart surgeries, a pacemaker, a week in the hospital for pneumonia, and a genetic disorder that can continue to throw us medical curve balls for the rest of his life.

Just re-reading that last sentence makes my heart ache and my eyes fill up with tears.

I know I spent a good deal of March talking about Down Syndrome and what it has brought to our lives, good and bad. But, I don't think I ever really fully expressed this gut-wrenching pain that it can cause. How the medical issues that we've already faced and the potential ones that lie ahead are just so overwhelming some times. While there are all sorts of statistics about the medical issues that people with DS commonly encounter, there isn't a single one they can tell me for certain. No two people with DS are the same. That extra chromosome affects them all in different ways and to different degrees. It is so incredibly frustrating and so damn unfair. If you could just take all that data and tell me for sure what to expect, I think it would be easier to deal with little things like unexplained fevers without spiraling off untethered into the Land of What-Ifs.

Sam is sleeping peacefully with a full belly, easy breathing, and a dose of Tylenol on board that's giving him a cool forehead. He's not hooked up to any monitors or oxygen and all my boys are under the same roof tonight. Antibiotics are coursing through his little system, hopefully kicking butts and taking names.

It's just one of those nights where I am completely humbled before God, asking for the courage and the stamina to be this little boy's Momma. He deserves the best.

April 14, 2012

Dear Luke: Preschool Edition

Dear Luke,

This past week you started preschool. A kid moved away a few weeks ago and a spot opened up in the 2 year old classroom in the preschool at our church. So now, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, you grab your shoes and your lunchbox (which you are in love with) and walk out the door with Dad. He'll strap you into the car, and off you go to work. Since the preschool is located in the church, Dad drops you off and then walks down the hall to his office. I'm left at home with your little brother from 9 AM til 12:45, when we leave to come pick you up.

It's a big step for you, this transition to school. It's one I wish we could have taken last fall, but you had to be potty trained before you could enroll. So, once we passed that milestone this winter, I was really looking forward to you getting to go next fall. When this spot opened up unexpectedly this spring, I rejoiced!
Now, your Dad admits that on the first day, he teared up a little on the drive in. However, while I feel like I should be whispering this confession-style, I'll admit that I didn't even think about shedding a tear. I know I should have been all choked up, thinking about you growing up and missing your presence throughout the morning. I mean, that's what "good Moms" do, right? I should have been clutching your baby blankets and sobbing in the corner, right? 

Well, instead of sobbing, I was praying. All morning. For your teachers. Watching my phone to see if I'd get a call, for when they called to let me know they were going to expel you from preschool for hitting, or throwing things at people's heads, or jumping off the top of the playground equipment, or for having the mother of all temper tantrums.

As we round the bases halfway to your third birthday, my dear firstborn, you are just TOO much. Too much energy, too much will power, too much aggression. Don't get me wrong, you are still adorable, have the best belly laugh of any kid I've ever met, and have finally learned how to give a proper snuggle. But you are a lot to handle, my son. A LOT.

We have moved into this new phase of parenting where we are now having in-depth discussions and brainstorming sessions about how to handle you. We are pretty laid back parents and haven't, up to this point, particularly subscribed to any specific parenting method. We've kind of let you lead the way and learned to set boundaries as you discovered how to cross them. But lately, we've been at a loss as to how to handle you. We've both had days where we just look at one another and say, "I'm done." 

You don't seem to mind any of the punishments we've tried. You are hitting constantly these days and we can't figure out how to make you stop. You laugh while you try to beat up the dog, or your little brother, or us. Even as I am typing this, you are randomly trying to kick me as I sit on the floor next to your brother. You seem to take delight in misbehaving and almost nothing seems to deter you from it. Your boundless energy just exhausts me and I'm constantly trying to find new ways to wear you out.

This past week has brought a lot of changes to our schedule, most of which I think are going to be beneficial to you. You have started speech therapy once a week and already I'm already hearing new words in among the jabbering. Mostly, you just love having someone who comes to the house to just see you, instead of your brother. We also went back to swim lessons, where you laughed almost the entire 30 minutes, even while you were under water. As with the Little Gym, I love an activity that makes you work hard physically and helps in my never ending quest to wear you out. So, your little world has gone from having very little structure, to having activities 5 days a week. While it's making my life a little bit more crazy, I think the more structure we give you, the better you will thrive.

So far, when I've gone to pick you up in the afternoons, your preschool is still standing and your teacher has been able to smile at me (...maybe because she knows it means she gets to hand you off for the day). She hasn't been phased by you yet, which makes me think you aren't so bad after all. Maybe all two year olds act like they are possessed. You are my only one, so you are all that I know.

Recently, someone felt compelled to tell me that they thought 4 year olds were worse than the "Terrible Twos. "After thinking about it for a second, I realized that when you are 4, Samuel will be 2.

I may need to taking up drinking that year.

I love you, sweet boy. (Even when you hit me.)

Momma