Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September in an instant

As I was compiling this collage, I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness and contentment. This isn't to say the entire month of September was nothing but sunshine, but I just feel grateful. I look at these pictures and I know it's these small moments that will continue to make me smile as the years pass by. It's the things my girls are learning, the experiences we are enjoying together, and the family and friends involved. 

Plus, it's FALL and I am certainly going to enjoy it while it's here. 

The days have felt hectic, but in a more organized sort of way. Leah is in a routine and we've had multiple "good days" at school after a rocky start. Kate, though intense, is truly a joy to be with each day. Ryan works hard all day and comes home to work hard for his girls at night. 

The days are messy, hectic, long and loud and I'm so lucky for the reasons they are. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Starved Rock

Ah, camping. We had it on our bucket list all summer, but after being in Utah for nearly a month and then Ryan traveling for most of the second half, it obviously didn't happen. 

So, we marked our calendars to go with some friends the night of September 5th...and then had a conflict. Thank goodness, because the night of September 5th just happened to include a torrential rainstorm. Seriously epic. And the night of September 26th, when we finally ended up going, did not

In fact, September 26th was one of those glorious yes-we-know-it's-fall-but-here's-one-last-awesome-glimpse-of-summer kind of nights. 

We chose Starved Rock State Park in Illinois and had a great time with the Johansen family. If you ever want to go camping with people who will be prepared for anything, this family is your guy. Plus, they're fun to boot. So, win-win. 

We roasted hot dogs for dinner and s'mores (with nutella instead of chocolate) for dessert. Our brand new dutch oven was inaugurated with some seriously delicious peach cobbler for a late night snack. Kate was entertained by the flashlight and glowsticks until it was time for bed. Both girls went to bed peacefully, willingly and quickly (which was a complete 180 for Kate from last year) and we all slept soundly through the night. Really, we did!

We woke in the morning, played a bit on the camp playground, ate french toast and breakfast casserole, packed up and went on a beautiful hike. 

The hike was supposed to be to a waterfall, but since there was no water falling, it was just a hike through a beautiful canyon right along the shore of the Illinois River. I rocked the backpack while Kate only whined a little, and Ryan and Leah walked tandem for 3 of the 4 miles (and Leah on his shoulders/in his arms for the other mile). Leah seriously killed it on this hike. And my quads were killing after climbing all those stairs with Kate riding on my back.

We finished off the day with a picnic lunch on the beach of the river, basking in the sunshine and enjoying our company. 

It really was a picture perfect weekend. So much so, that we determined right then and there we would come back next year for two nights. Here's to hoping that no matter what day we choose, we get September 26th kind of weather. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

21 days to make a habit...and a 33 year old

I feel like sometimes the daily doldrums in life are often the hardest to deal with - the stagnant, dull, inactive moments. I've found myself a little down and out as of late. I can't really pinpoint one exact reason. It's a handful of small, personal things all piled up that are bringing me down. Overall, things are fine; nothing big or unusual or overly stressful on my plate, so I don't know what my deal is. I do know that I don't want to feel like this for much longer, so something needs to change. 

They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. And in 21 days I will be 33. So, I have a convenient 21-day-marker to achieve some small goals that will hopefully make a difference in my attitude and overall outlook on life.

I've written them down for myself, with 21 boxes to check off next to each one (I love a good box to check off). Six goals in three categories - mental, physical, and spiritual - as I truly believe all three are intertwined. And together, I really feel those will impact my emotional well being. So, win-win-win-win. 

Here's to the next 21 days. May they be an active, uphill climb to a destination that is worth the view. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

my turn to teach

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous for my turn to teach the preschool co-op I'm doing with 4 of my friends. Even though they're only 2 and 3 years old, I was nervous and intimidated! 

For the literacy segment, I had been assigned the letter D. We have the kids to a craft for each letter so when preschool is over, they will have a complete alphabet book. Our craft was a Dog (a Dalmation with Dots, to be exact). I loved the Picasso-eque interpretations. We also talked about Dads, Drawing, Dots, Donuts, Donkeys, Dolphisn, Ducks, Dough and Dolls, among other things. 

We played with play Dough for awhile. Some kids were more interested than others. I tried to close my eyes as they squished all the colors together. 

For math, I was assigned the number 4. Lucky for me, I couldn't think of a single song or ditty that had to do with the number 4. Why do numbers 3 and 5 get all the love? We compromised and did 4 little Ducks (4 AND D, bonus!). We went on a scavenger hunt to find four of something (we found four dolls, four blankets, four bowls, four books and four blocks). We also learned that animals have four legs, and the table had four sides. 

For the monthly theme, each child was given a week to themselves. I got to teach the kids all about cute Scarlett. 

The kids got to run around outside for a bit because it was a gorgeous day. They play really well together! 

For lunch, we ate hot Dogs (don't judge), veggies and Dip (Kate refused the dip), vitamin D milk and Donut holes for Dessert. Abby refused to eat. Except the donuts. She filled up on those. Sorry, Haley. 

For our closing circle, we Danced like D animals (Dogs, Ducks, Dolphins, Donkeys, Dragonflys, Deer), some kids Drew and some played with more play Dough. 

And at 11:45, they all Departed. I loaded my colorful Dishwasher and I Dropped to the ground from exhaustion. 

They are definitely not all used to preschool at this point, but hopefully our routine will kick in soon. Kate was a rascal and had to go to her room a few times to chill out. Two of the kids had very selective hearing. One refused to eat. And another only wanted to play with the toys the whole time. So, it was an adventure, but a lot of fun. I'm excited to do it again! But I'm also excited that I get a 4 week break until that time!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

perfectly enough

Last night, Leah came in to my room and quietly rustled me awake.

“Mom,” she said, “I had a bad dream.”

I gently lifted her onto my bed, and for the next few minutes, we sat in the dark room lit only by the dim light of the street lamp outside, and she told me all about it. I reassured her that everything would be okay and then, after a few more minutes, we tip-toed, hand in hand, back to her bedroom where she nestled comfortably back into her bed.

And then I woke up.

I have dreams like this every so often. The details of each dream are different – the scenery, situation and topics of conversation change – but in each dream, Leah talks.

I wake from the dreams conflicted. Initially, I’m at peace; so grateful for a glimpse of normalcy with Leah, even if it isn’t real. And then, I’m usually sad. Sad for the chats that, logistically, we just can’t have. Sad for all the conversations that will never be. Sad for the fears and the frustrations she will never be able to convey, as well as the happy and hilarious moments.

I’m torn because I do my best to just accept Leah the way she is, and I feel like, most of the time, I do a pretty good job. Yet part of me continues to mourn the person she will never be. Which is completely ridiculous because the person she is is enough.

Perfectly enough.

For now, I’ll cherish the little girl she is during the day and treasure the late night chats with the one that visits me in my dreams. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

tiny dancer

This tiny little dancer waited patiently for years for the day a special needs dance class was offered in an area where we lived. 

Today was that day. 

A few weeks back I got an email from a local source for respite care and activities for special needs children. They were, for the first time ever, joining with Ballet Quad Cities and offering a dance class for special needs kids. That is, for kids 8 years and older. I emailed back to show my enthusiasm for such a class and mentioned if they decided to continue the class and offer it in the spring after Leah turned 8, we were definitely interested. She emailed back and said she had spoken with the instructor and would be happy to have Leah an another 7 year old join the class! 

Leah went to the first class last week and loved it. And we both agreed a leotard and tutu were musts. So shopping we went. She picked out her entire outfit and I think she looks stunning! The class runs for six weeks and hopefully they will do it again in the spring! 

My heart feels as happy as this tiny dancer's face. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

If you build it...

In 1989 they built it, and in 2014 we came...and crossed off an item from our Iowa bucket list. 

After watching Field of Dreams last weekend, Ryan and I decided to take the girls up to the farm where the movie was filmed to take in the last glimpses of summer. 

We couldn't have asked for a better day. The corn was at its peak - mostly green, just beginning its golden transition. It was 75 degrees with very little humidity. I feel like we could have been outside all day! 

We donned our leather gloves and played catch in the outfield. 

We lost ourselves in the tidy rows of corn. 

Oh, the corn! 

Ryan stood at the pitcher's mound and threw the first pitch to his girls. 

We ran the bases.  

 And stood on them too. (We all had home runs.)

 We tested out the bleachers. 

And explored nearly every nook and cranny we could find. 

 Kate was happiest getting down and dirty in the rocks. 

 Leah was just plain happy. 

And we had a dreamy day exploring one of the many fields in our little Iowa. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Help us NOT SPEAK for Rett syndrome

I'd give almost anything to hear my sweet little Leah's voice again. The little voice that once told me her favorite fruit was an "appie" or that she wanted more "cheese peese." The tiny voice that mixed up trickier words like "opatus" for Octopus. 

The voice that was never able to mutter that she loved me before it was taken away. 

I'd love to hear the silly thoughts running through her head each day. Her fears or joys from the first day of school. Her thoughts on living in -40 degrees last winter. What a seizure feels like. Her best friend. Her favorite activity. Her thoughts about the biggest and smallest events in her life. I'd love to hear it all. 

But I can't. 

So yes, I'd give almost anything. I'd absolutely give up speaking for an hour to spread awareness of Rett syndrome and the hope that current clinical trials are providing RIGHT NOW. 

Would you do the same? If you'd give up speaking for just an hour, join with Leah's little sister, the newest spokes sibling for the Rettland Foundation, in donating just $10 for your not speaking kit. And then find a friend or two, head out into your community and spread the word - without a spoken word - about Rett. 

To Follow Rettland Foundation on Facebook, click: https://www.facebook.com/rettlandfoundation

To Follow on Instagram: @rettland