Thursday, February 28, 2013

4 months of Johnny


I guess we recognize your 4 month birthday today. Technically you aren't four months until the 31st...but some months don't have 31 days...especially February! But you have completed your fourth calendar month so I guess that is a different technicality! Either way, time is going by too fast and we really need to get working on one of those pause buttons for life.

This month you finally woke up and looked around to start observing everything. While you still spend a fair amount of time like this...

There have been a lot more times where you can be found like this...

Even over the past week, you have been getting much stronger on holding your head up, being stable with your arms underneath, and figuring out all of this "baby stuff". You tolerate tummy time pretty well if you aren't hungry or tired. You also have been fussing more and more if we lay you back when we are holding you, you like to sit up and look around at everything. There are some pictures behind one of our couches that really catch your eye and you will look at them a lot. You also love to look at Mommy and talk to her a lot. You utter all sorts of sounds out of your mouth and are really moving your mouth into new shapes to see how that changes the sounds you make. You and Mommy will have whole conversations together and it is fun to see you talk and smile! The way you look at us with your big eyes and sounding off for attention makes my heart melt...

You spend a lot of time fending off the attention of your big sisters...

They simply adore you. They call you Johnny, Johnny Boy, Bubba, Buddy, or Baby Brother. They love to check on you and make sure you are taken care of constantly. We have to be careful with the toys they bring you to play with and to make sure they aren't plopped on your head too forcefully. Just today you woke up from a car seat induced nap to look over at MacKenzie sitting next to you and you gave her big smiles and cooed at her for a bit. It was sweet to see your attention given to her too.

You drink from a bottle really well and are starting to space out your feedings beyond every three hours. I am trying to decide whether you are ready for an ounce increase since the spacing seems to be getting a bit longer. I tried giving you more the other day and you spit it up all over me, so that test was a bust. We tried nursing a couple of times and you have a great latch, you just aren't focused enough to work at getting a good meal. You are also in the process of dropping your last feeding at night and have been going to bed before 10 every night this week!!! Yay!!! While you usually have two big naps (one from 9-11:30 and the other from 2:30-5:30) you still doze a good chunk of the day with periods of wakefulness dispersed as desired. A lot of times you will be sleeping, will pop one or both of your eyes open, look around, then fall back to sleep with a look on your face that says, "Nope...still not worth it...nothing exciting yet."

Johnny, I love you so much and am so glad you are here with us. Don't tell your sisters but you are the easiest baby so far and Mommy is soooo thankful for that. We look forward to the next month with you!

Mommy and Daddy

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A teeny tiny plug...

Three weeks from tomorrow is 3/21. While many people will be commenting on the day being the first official day of spring (which is totally in full force here in Houston, it's been gorgeous), we, along with others around the world, will be celebrating World Down Syndrome Day. The day was chosen because it is the numerical representation of Johnny's (and others like him) chromosomes. Three copies of the 21st chromosome fits well for 3/21. The group that organizes the day wants to raise awareness this year by wearing lots of socks in hopes that people will ask why so the conversation about Down syndrome can start. The kids and I will be wearing three socks (and probably some special shirts) to commemorate the day. I love on the website how they made the clip art of the socks look like chromosomes!

So......this isn't a guilt trip post, I just know some people may have wanted to know about it in advance so they too can spread the word. I will make sure to post a reminder closer to the big day!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Surprising one another

Matt has been tired of his usual breakfasts. In addition to this, we have a couple of mornings this week that I need to get out and about a little earlier than usual. So today I decided to pull out my trusty sausage kolache recipe and surprise Mattie with a yummy, easy to commute with breakfast. The girls love sausage kolaches and they are easy for them to eat in the car as we get on the road ourselves. Sometimes the call them kolaches and other times they call them "hot dog donuts" which is pretty accurate if you know what they are refering to. If you don't know what kolaches are then you probably think that sounds disgusting and you would be wrong. I find it shocking that other parts of the country haven't discovered the wonderful adopted food that is a kolache. This recipe is extremely easy. I modified it slightly today by doing a double rise in a warm oven with the door cracked instead of the rise and letting it sit in the fridge. This change was for time purposes only. I really like this recipe because it doesn't involve kneading. For foodie purposes, you would want to knead or mix this dough as little as possible to keep the soft, fluffy texture of the bread. Kneading activates gluten which makes bread chewy. Also a little side note, I would not recommend using bread flour for this recipe because of the same reason.

Here are the kolaches, waiting to go in the oven.

The funny thing about surprising your spouse, sometimes they decide to surprise you at the same time and the come home with cookies and sour dried cherries from Central Market. What a guy!!!

Monday, February 25, 2013


I have been working on strategies for chores and cleaning around the house more. I can't say that I have made significant improvement, but I have made some strides. Ironically, I have attempted a few larger projects that only led to things getting broken or having to run (ha with three kids) out to get something to complete said project. I think it's also really hard not to get discouraged about cleaning and straightening up when you have little ones. I know it's just for a season, but I really want stuff to stay put away or clean for at least a day (or sometimes more than 2 hours) after I work on it. Matt and I have jokingly wondered about me starting a sticker chart for myself to get into more of a consistent habit. It is a very real possibility, we are having fun discussing points and rewards for said chart right now. I have to retrain my brain to work on it, I need it, my kids will benefit from it, and Mattie wouldn't mind it either!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A win is a win

Keegan is all over the place with her eating. For the most part she eats really well and a lot of times we laugh because we will tell her "No, you cannot eat more fruit or vegetables until you eat a bite of your pizza (or something else equally junk foodie)". Sometimes though, that little girl digs her heels in and says, nope I'm gonna do this on my terms. We don't usually make huge deals out of them eating. We try to get them to try everything on their plate and usually leave it at that. We don't want to force food on them and we are trying to establish healthy eating patterns now. Occasionally we do try and get them to eat certain foods or to try additional bites of the food on their plates. 

Tonight was a night that we were pushing food a little more aggressively since both girls hadn't had much of a decent meal over the weekend. They were way too excited for and from the party to eat anything of substance yesterday and were tuckered out from church for much of a lunch today. So we tried to make sure the girls took a couple extra bites of food this evening. We were mainly focusing on Keegan eating green beans since we only have to tell Mac to eat a certain number of bites of food and she will usually wolf it down so she can play. Keegan doesn't operate that way and will put up a pretty good fight. After a handful of unsuccessful methods of bribing, it dawned on me how much Keegan likes to count. So we laid out the green beans and had her count one-two-three. She squealed with delight and then gobbled them up. We repeated this method a few times and she ate up each and every one. Then we started making letters with the little bits of green beans and singing the Leap Frog Letter Factory sounds song for each letter as she ate them up. We were quite pleased with our small victory today. Who knew that in order to coerce your kid to eat some food, all you needed to do was to incorporate learning and school!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

First pick

Today Matt told me he would keep an eye on the kids so I could run to Kohls to use a coupon that expires tomorrow. I really enjoy running errands with my kids, but it is nice to have a chance to wade through their sale stuff on my own, in my own timing every once in awhile too. As I poked through the kids stuff I wasn't finding much that I liked on the sale racks and found myself drawn (as I so often am) to the sets of Carter's onesies. Their stuff is always really cute and lasts really well. Plus, before now, I haven't had much of a reason to look at their boy stuff so all of these "boy" colors are a novelty to me. I found this set in 12 month and really liked that it had footballs on it. I figured that our little Johnny Football can wear it next football season if he keeps growing well.

I turned it over to see what other onesies were included in the set and saw this one which I immediately liked because of the navy and red stripes!

Then I noticed what it said...

"No. 1 Draft Pick" 

I kid you not, my eyes filled up with tears and I almost lost it in the middle of the store. A huge wave of emotions came over me and it would probably look very odd to see a woman crying in front of these onesies. I immediately knew why this struck me in such a meaningful way because I have thought about it time and time again. As we approach the one year marker for when Johnny came to be with our family, I have been reflective on where we were mentally a year ago and where we are today. I know, without a doubt, that if you had taken all the little boys and girls conceived the same day as him and lined them up in a row and told me to pick which one I wanted, I would have passed him up. I can imagine it in my head, like flipping through index card profiles of each baby, and I would shuffle right past every single one of the babies with special needs. I would have thought to myself, "Oh I am sure they are sweet, but they aren't my child, they are meant for someone else" and I wouldn't have given them a second glance, I would just move along to the baby I thought was best for me. Thank you God for having a different plan for our family. Because today, I see this shirt that says "No 1 Draft Pick" and I thank God for placing him on our "team". I thank God that I am not the one calling the shots. He was so right in the "pick" he made for us and Johnny is absolutely who I would choose today. He means so much to our family. I look forward to him getting to wear this seemingly meaningless onesie in the fall (or maybe the winter at his growth rate) and hope it serves as a reminder to us about how we have changed.

Johnny Football, Team Howard!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mac vs Keegs Age 2

It is hard for us to remember Mac as a two year old in comparison to Keegan as a two year old. All the days and months get a little jumbled up as to when each kid accomplished which milestone and said what funny thing when. The more I look back at pictures, videos, and into old blog posts, the more I realize how on par with one another they are. It's amazing to think how we have been blessed with such brilliant, kind, and beautiful little girls. 

Looking back at their stats, Mac was 30 pounds and was 37" tall at her two year appointment. Today we took Keegan and she is right there with her sister (which is super funny to us because we think of her as being a lot smaller than her sister) at 31 pounds and 35.5" tall. The doctor said she is doing great, is happy to see her in the 90th percentile, and thankfully needed no shots today!

I guess I need to pull up pictures of the two side by side more often because it makes me realize either how little Mac really was or how big Keegan really is!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Some time ago, friends of ours spoke to our Sunday School at Church about adoption. They felt they had been called to adopt and they were showing the Christian perspective on adoption. There is quite a lot out there, in fact, the same couple posted about adoption this Christmas and how, theoretically, Jesus was adopted here on earth. I remember sitting and listening to this specific couple speak about their journey into the adoption world. As they delved deeper into their journey, they spoke about the discussions they had with one another and they had to think about a lot. They had to reconcile how adoption would impact their young son, how it would impact their lives, how many children they were willing to have. I distinctly remember them talking about their forms and how they paused at the question concerning children with special needs and what they would be willing to take. The wife was so bold and spoke of her hesitations and the end decision being that if God was leading them to a certain child, they felt wrong in denying certain children with certain situations. She spoke of how imperfect we all are and that she could not accept only a "perfect" child. I have no idea what they actually checked on their form, but I remember walking away from that Sunday thinking to myself how brave she was, for choosing to be that vulnerable, for choosing to accept a child that may have special needs. I didn't think I could do it and I really admired them for 1) being willing to talk so openly about it and 2) for being willing to knowingly take in these children. In speaking with other couples in line to adopt, I have learned about what other friends have discussed with their spouses as well. In fact, a close friend who may be considering adoption talked about how those questions floored her when looking through forms. When you have a child in your womb, you don't really get a choice, you take what you get. I hadn't thought about all of the logistics that goes into adopting. It is a really trying time and probably teaches you a lot about yourself. Regardless of the boxes they check, all of couples we know who are in the process of adopting, are really, really brave. We have a couple of friends who have adopted or are trying to adopt because they can't have children of their own. We also have a couple of friends who are adopting to expand their existing family. It is such a huge process. We hear so often, from the media, about how many kids need to be adopted. Rarely is it discussed about how many parents are sitting and waiting for kids to be made available to them. We have friends who had a great experience through private adoption, but had to save a lot of money to make their family possible. We have friends who are going through state adoption and have been in limbo with a little boy in their care for almost a year now and who miss others who have passed through their home. We have friends who have had seven children pass through their home, who they have loved and developed a bond with, and have had to say goodbye to each of them for various reasons. Over and over again, these families put themselves out there and make themselves vulnerable in hopes that they can one day have a permanent family. It must be so hard to deal with, to pour your heart into a child, knowing that they could be taken away and hoping and praying that they get to stay, but also hoping and praying that your time with them has been fruitful and you have shown them love and adoration. The families we know that have had children move on are the best families who are so deserving of these little ones. I hope they know that they provide such an example to rest of us about loving without the promise of anything in return. I hope that they continue to draw on strength that they do not know they have to keep on fighting a good fight. I of course hope that their families will expand and they will have the opportunity to show love endlessly throughout a child or two or threes lives. As mothers we have to be willing to be hurt, we have to be willing to be disappointed, and through that hurt and disappointment we also have to be brave and to smile and to keep on each day. I have nothing but complete respect for mommies of all types out there, but especially lately, the mommies who are willing to check "yes" boxes for special needs, the mommies who are waiting for phone calls from agencies, the mommies who are cuddling babies that look like someone else, the mommies who are preparing for babies they may never get to meet, and the mommies willing to have their hearts go somewhere else. You mommies do good. '

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Being tested

Let's just say that the girls have been testing me over the last two days. I think it is a combination of growing, allergies, ozone, ages, and colds being passed around, but it's been challenging to determine where their moods are going to be. Everything will be perfectly normal, we will all be having a great time and then one of them will freak out and go ballistic or even worse, start sobbing with such emotion that I can't figure out what's wrong. We work really hard at trying to get them to tell us what they are feeling and to give them a way to calm down in a "safe" place, but sometimes it just doesn't work that way. I have to give them credit, they are super easy kids 99.5% of the time, it has just caught me off guard the past two or three days to have them on emotional roller coasters at the same time. I suppose it is just a preview for what our lives will be like in ten years or so when teenage hormones kick in to help with all of that. Thank goodness Mattie has Johnny to help balance out some of the estrogen in our house. Otherwise, he may be spending a lot of time in the garage with his mustang!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reserving judgement

A friend recently posted an article on facebook about a very proactive breastfeeding woman and her realization about judging Mommies who choose not to breastfeed their children. It was an article that really resonated with me and the internal criticism that I have for women who make pregnancy, delivery, and parenting choices different from mine. In the article, the woman writes about being a doula and how much she stresses the importance of breastfeeding to all of her clients. She was asked to speak separately with a woman who in pregnancy had made a decision to not breastfeed and how she immediately jumped to judgemental conclusions about the woman without knowing her full story and why she had made that decision. I thought a lot about how I have often turned up my nose at women who make the same decision, how much I felt that anyone can fight through it and should make the effort. I thought a lot about how I thought in my head that women who formula feed are misinformed or taking the easy route. I looked at women who pulled out a bottle to feed their babies as being "less than". Even in speaking to my own mother about her difficulties with nursing and her choice to formula feed my sister and I very early on, I would shake my head and comment that with the correct support she probably could have made it through the challenging times. I justified my thoughts by framing them in a "loving" manner feeling that I was superior in this situation because I had made the "right" choice.

And then God does a little dance with your heart and gives you a baby boy who latches on great, but cannot sustain a long enough feed to get the nourishment that his body so desperately needs. And I have written before about how thankful I am that pumping is going well, but I honestly do feel some shame when I pull out his bottle in public even though it is 100% human milk. And I wonder to myself how many people pass judgment on me without knowing my full story and how hard I fight for him. It's another way that God and Johnny teach me. Breastfeeding is really, really hard. I have been so fortunate to make it past the hard time to get to that really great place that breastfeeding can be. Some women don't make it there and that's ok. I always tell my friends and family that are just starting out how important every little breastfeed is, but truthfully, if you are making a decision to feed your child anything formulated for babies and you aren't leaving them to cry and starve like some women out there do, then you are making a good choice. And yes, breast is absolutely best as far as the perfect food goes, but it may not be the best for personal reasons.

We are so hard on each other as women. And that's not to say that I agree with every single woman's choices in raising their kids, but I do need to set the snobbery aside and the eye rolling can probably be reserved for only the most extreme of cases. At the end of the day, I need to remember that every woman has her own story, and that story may vary with different children, and that needs to be taken into consideration. I don't know what battles women are facing with their kids, with society, with their spouses, or with themselves, and until I do and my opinion has been asked for, then maybe I should shut my mouth physical or otherwise. I will probably fail at this hundreds of times over my life, but I hope that I can at least start supporting women more in their choices. Of course if I reach my goal of becoming a nurse, it's something I will have to get very good at, so I may as well start now.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Keegan at 2

Keegan Joy,

At this time two years ago I was feeling rather proud of myself. We were winding up a dinner with the Medlins and was proud that I had resisted your Dad and Ryan's offers to drive to Taste of Texas for a chocolate cake treat. I wanted to post a good weight the next week at my doctor appointment and I had been hovering at my goal weight for the past two weeks and did not want to exceed it. They would have happily driven to satisfy that craving and had I known you were actually going to come the next day (as I had been predicting for months) then I would have gladly indulged in a slice all my own. We said goodbye and jokingly told Ryan that your Daddy would not be needing the ticket to the Men's Wild Game event at church the next evening because you were going to come. And your Daddy told me one last time that he really, really didn't want to go to work the next day and if I could do anything to make it so, he would be really, really happy. The next morning you obliged with a water breakage, a quick labor, and a somewhat intense delivery. There you were, safe in my arms, making your presence known. 

Over the past year you have changed so much, from a crawling and babbling little baby to a full fledged walking, talking, jumping, and ferocious little girl. You surprise us every day with how much you have changed and while you are no longer a baby or our baby, we still marvel in all the little things you do. 

For the most part, you are the sweetest little girl that gives the best hugs. You love to hug friends and family, wrapping your arms around their legs when they are standing and around their neck when you are at their level. You really squeeze and make sure people know how much you love them. You smile and talk to everyone we encounter and are very enthusiastic with your "Hi", "Bye!" and "Thank you" as we are out and about. You love to laugh and have an infectious laugh that starts with small giggles and bubbles out and takes over the room. You love to laugh at others, to laugh at yourself, and to laugh just because. You are also a nurturer, determined to take care of everyone in the room, from dolls and stuffed animals to friends and family. You don't care who it is, big or small, young or old, you make sure their needs are covered in any way you can. 

This year we added a new title and rank for you, Big Sister, and you are amazing at that. You love to get on the floor or near Johnny and coo "Johnny Boy" at your little brother. You pat him on the head, bring him toys, bottles, and pacifiers, and would pick him up and cuddle him if we let you. I so look forward to you interacting with him and your big sister in the future. It seems that, while you fight with MacKenzie over toys and games, that most of the time you truly get along and like to be with her.

 As I stated above, you do love to take care of your stuffed animals and dolls and it is cute to hear you catch on to the names that your sister has given to all the animals in the house. You also love to play outside, running around, swinging, and trying to keep up with MacKenzie. Sometimes you like to read, settling into our laps with little books, but I think it is more for the snuggles than the reading time. You also love to lay on our chest when we watch a family movie or when we are all just hanging out. It is interesting to watch you grow up in relation to your sister because you are into things at a much earlier age than she was just be default of wanting to play with her. So you enjoy your fair share of princesses and dress up while being a pretty good sport at interactive play. You verbal skills have exploded over the past few weeks and you have started using full sentences more and working on more complicated words. One of the words you know best is "patience" because Mommy tries to work on that with you a lot. We are working on letters with you right now and you are getting the hang of it fairly quickly.

You still sleep well and go through random eating phases. You really like spaghetti, donut holes, tomatoes, all fruit (we have to limit you), and milk. You are not crazy about sweets most of the time and will often forgo the free cookie at the grocery store or other goodies that we get from time to time.

You are a little demanding sometimes and are the more openly passionate of my children, but in some ways that makes you easier because we always know where you stand. We know when you are happy (which is most of the time) and we know what makes you mad or sad and can usually fix those things quickly. While we are working on you communicating those needs in a more quiet manner, it's good that you recognize what you want! We are starting to get a bit of attitude with you which is kind of funny to see you test your limits. You will test us, receive discipline, and then be super sweet about complying with what we asked you to do...definitely keeping us on out toes!

Keegan, you are the life of the party and I don't think you will ever know a stranger. I think you will make friends wherever you go and will work hard to make sure those around you have what they need. I look forward to seeing where your big heart takes you and I am so glad that a large part of your heart is with our family.

We love you! Happy Birthday!

Mommy and Daddy

Sunday, February 17, 2013


A little bit of a fluff read for my followers who need to catch up on... It's been a great weekend. Mattie came back from New York and spoiled all of us with belated Valentines gifts, shirts from NYC, candy, and baklava from my favorite pastry shop near Columbia University. We balanced time with family and friends this weekend and while by some accounts we got nothing done, by others we deepened relationships and continued to forge strong bonds with one another and with people we value so much. The weather was gorgeous, food was delicious, and it's hard to pick the highlight of the weekend. Maybe it was homemade biscuits with honey Sunday morning, maybe it was time by the fire pit with extended family, or maybe it was Saturday afternoon naps where we all drifted in and out of sleep. Nope. Without a doubt, it's movie night with the kids and the rarest of occasions in our house that Mattie and I have both been waiting for, when all three kids snuggled up with us on the couch for almost the entire duration of the movie. It's a night of no consequence, but one we will cherish for years to come. Hope everyone's weekend was just as great!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Teaching Memories

A former coworker and friend ran into one of our former students this week. I say one of our former students because that is how we operated on our teaching team. There were several of us teaching World History and we had an open understanding that all of the kids on our hallway were "ours". It was standard procedure for teaching teams to work together on lesson planning anyways, but we truly had something unique going. We fought hard to ensure our students success. None of us will lie and say we knew every kid's name that passed through each other's classes, but we did have a good sense of what was going on with a lot of the kids we came across. You would be hard pressed to find a teaching team in the district that matched us in the way we worked together and operated as a family. The kids knew it too, we would get asked, "What's up with you guys" because we really enjoyed working together. Students would ask us for the dirt on each other and we had none to give. They would start to say something about one of the other teachers (especially in reference to one of our eagle eye teachers who sent a lot of kids down for dress code issues) and we would stop them saying "That's my co worker and that's my friend."

We also really took to heart the idea that we knew what was best for our students in our classrooms. We pushed the bar, we set a tone for expectations, and we fought for what they needed. We put ourselves out there in order to engage students in lessons. We had a chaotic lesson that involved "trick or treating" through several classrooms to get information, we wore togas and other costumes, we chopped off heads to teach about the French Revolution, we rapped on video to review major concepts (no, I will not show you that), we mimicked K-Fed and Zac Efron for a particularly humorous take on the American Revolution and tweaked and fine tuned our way through several thousand years of history. Frequently we would sit down to a team meeting and one of us would start a conversation with "Now bear with me" or "Call me crazy" and by the end of the meeting we were all adding our "and what about this" and "I think I can put together this" in order to have a lesson that was perfect. The students would frequently walk out of our classes saying "I can't believe they did that" while shaking their heads.

My co-worker running into this student the other day is further evidence of what we did to make sure our students were successful. This student worked hard in our class. She had to repeat the class and was frequently frustrated with what she "didn't get". She had to work to pass our class and to be successful on the 11th grade TAKS test. She frequently told us it wasn't worth it. She frequently thought about giving up. However, we refused to see this girl lost. We all worked with her despite the fact she was officially on my roster. We all had her in our classroom after school for extra help and studying time. She cried in at least three of our classrooms as she struggled through the year. She cried again with my co worker as she bubbled over in delight at seeing one of us, recalling our class, how we fought for her, and how she ultimately went on to graduate. My co worker sent us a text message and wrote three of the most amazing words "She is happy". This is how I know what we did together was absolute good. There are so many times in teaching that you doubt, there are so many times that you think you are wasting your time, there are so many times that you feel like you will never succeed...and then a little shining light is placed in front of you and you remember. Teachers deal with a lot of crap. A lot of times that comes from many different directions and sometimes it comes from a lot of directions all at once. But moments like that, to hear that a student recalls the good we did and is thankful for it and attributes herself (the same self she once doubted and beat up on) as being happy, that makes it worth it. I don't know the impact that I had on the kids I interacted with in school, and I won't say that we were able to make this kind of effort with everyone, but we did try and we did put ourselves out there, and at the end of the day...I think that's enough.

While I am done with my teaching career, I am so grateful for the incredible teachers on my team for helping me through it all and I fondly remember (most) of my kids. I admire and respect all the teachers out there, especially the ones who worry "Is it enough." I assure them, it is.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Some resemblance...

One of the first things that came out of my mouth after delivering Johnny (right after "Oh thank God" and "It's a boy?!?!") was "Mom, he looks like me!". I was shocked that Johnny didn't look like the other two when he came out. MacKenzie and Keegan don't look alike now, but in their first week of life they were strikingly similar...take a look

Can you tell who is who? Look at the bottom of this post for the correct answer.

Since the girls came out looking very similar, I just figured Raptor would look like the girls and we would have to wait a few weeks to see what real features came. So add the surprise of everything else related to his birth and the fact that I thought he resembled me and you got a huge mess of sobbing and emotions in that delivery room. Lots of healing for this Mommy's heart!

While my mom didn't see it at first, more and more recently, people that knew me as a baby have been commenting on Johnny looking more and more like me. Especially since the little chicken legs is finally starting to fill out and put on more weight. While he struggles with weight gain, I was a chunk from the start and it was hard to see a lot of resemblance in his skinny face to my full face as a baby. Do I think he is as much my little clone as Mac is of her Daddy's side? Nope. But it is nice to see some of my features reflected back at me!


Johnny Cakes


Now for as who Keegan looks like...I need to find pictures for that!

And for the question above...the picture on the left, with the white and maroon bow that is closer in would be MacKenzie and the picture on the right that only has a maroon bow is Keegan.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Schooling choice

Over the past few weeks we have been collecting information and doing research on different preschool programs in the area for the girls to attend a couple times a week next year. We love their Mother's Day Out program at our church and would definitely consider them staying with the church program, we just want to see what else is out there before putting down deposits for next year. In the course of us looking for programs however, we feel that we have hit a bit of brick wall. I know all Mommies think their little darlings are brilliant...and they all are in different ways. But MacKenzie is eerily smart. She knows stuff that she shouldn't. She remembers stuff that happened when she was really young. She is way beyond her age in many things. And the fact of the matter is, looking at a lot of three year old curriculums, she knows most of what they would be teaching. In fact, she knows a lot of what they teach in four year old curriculums.

So I went and talked with the director of one of the preschools we were looking at recently. I asked to get a sense of their three year old curriculum to see if that would open up discussion about expectations and what might happen if those expectations were already met. Within a few minutes I had already started to get discouraged because her big expectations for three year olds was colors, shapes, numbers, and some of the alphabet. She said it wasn't until the four year old class do they start looking at phonics and that they were mainly looking at "pre-readiness" whatever that meant. To this I told her, MacKenzie is already reading (sounding out) three letter words, to which I feel like I was totally blown off. I was told that kids just pick up on reading and that isn't really their focus. That MacKenzie's main benefit would be the thematic units where they learn a lot of social studies information and because she was older she would learn to be a leader. That's when I really got upset because she went on to allege that it's never a good decision to move kids up because they become followers when they are the youngest and their social status is hit hard by that. I almost choked...I was moved up...and I was a spring birthday so I was especially young...and I don't feel anything but benefits from having moved up. It became abundantly clear that this was not a conversation that would be open from that point on and as I told her "Well that's what I needed to know" she asked me if I planned to public school or homeschool my kids when they got to kindergarten. I know where she was going, I had actually heard it before already in our search, that if you plan to public school there is no point in pushing them ahead because they won't get put in anything but their age grade anyways. Which isn't true... I said in the most respectful way I could muster, "I will do whatever it takes to make sure my kids needs are met."

And that is where I am coming from. I get all the arguments against moving kids up, but at the same time, I am an example of all the arguments for moving kids up. MacKenzie may or may not be a leader in any classroom setting, but it will be up to her, not whether she is with kids her age. I gaurantee you, more often than not, she won't make the choice to lead because she will find it to be a waste of her time, that she figured stuff out for herself and other kids need to as well. If she was moved up, she might have a little emotional breakdown from time to time, but that is just because of her personality, that she wants things just so and when they aren't that way, it gets overwhelmingly frustrating to her and her bodies natural response to that is to cry. It has nothing to do with what age setting she is in because it still happens to her Mommy all the time. I understand that she could still learn about all sorts of different themes from the classroom, but I can also take her to the library, spend 15 minutes reading a book to her about any theme and she will retain most of that information and have it filed away in her amazing memory. With that, now I struggle. MacKenzie loves school and I want to keep her in some program that she can be independent and interact with other kids. However, I have serious issues with paying for a service that isn't meeting any academic need at the same time. I am looking to find a balance between meeting her academic needs and meeting her social needs at the same time.

We are looking at different options. Sucking it up and keeping her in a three year old class and supplementing at home. Dealing with negativity and push to have her moved up to a four year old class (and probably supplementing at home). Pay extra money to get her into a program that positively works with students to meet their needs (there are programs out there that we are familiar with...for twice the price). Finding a way cheaper option that is more for socializing and learning school structure and procedures and supplementing at home. Doing all academic based work at home and placing her in programs for her to do independently that work on other skills (an instrument, a foreign language, something athletic...). Almost all of these options mean supplementing at home which is fine, I enjoy seeing what she can learn. So I will go ahead and ask for commentary and suggestions. I want to hear it all so I can add it to all my lists of things to mull about. We may end up doing something completely different from all suggestions we receive, but I think everyone that will respond has the same goal that we do..."to meet the needs of our kids".

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day

I remember Valentine's Day distinctly in elementary school. Carefully picking out a shoebox to cover in construction paper and stickers. Trying to pick out my favorite set of cards for people in my class, attempting to balance the "cool" factor with the ones I legitimately know...they had to speak to me. Tearing apart the little perforated cardboard just so along the lines. Picking out which one went to each kid in my class. And when I got older, agonizing over which one to give my crush, hoping for some reciprocation from his teeny valentine too. Finally, putting them in their little paper envelope and proudly carrying them to school for the party in class. I loved those little valentines although they were probably all thrown away within a fact...I'm not sure how my mom wrangled them from my grasp, but she must have because that is not at item I have in my pack rat collection. 

Today the Valentines are a bit more complicated and I am glad for it. I was always a bit jealous of the kids whose moms splurged on the fancy fold up ones that came with candy or some other sort of treat. I know they were considerably more back then, but is kind of standard to get a box of valentines that come with a treat. The girls were happy to pick out a box for their friends at school since their party is tomorrow. Keegan got Tinker Bell that comes with a little plastic bracelet (thank goodness her class is decidedly low on boys) and MacKenzie picked out Brave with a Merida pencil. I sat down with the girls tonight and made them scribble on their valentines before I carefully wrote their name and put them together for their class tomorrow. All the while, I convinced them that it was a sign of how much they loved their friends to which they happily complied to color away. Ok...MacKenzie happily complied and tried to write her name on many of the cards. Keegan...was bribed...with candy...that she ended up hating so I gave her marshmallows instead. It was important to me that even though the girls are young for them to take time to put effort into their classes treats even if I was doing some of the work to put them together. I am excited for their little classroom party tomorrow.

I am very excited for an additional valentine this year...

And I am so thankful for my Dad who always made sure I had a valentine of some sort each year. Seeing as the aforementioned crush rarely reciprocated as kids, it was wonderful to have a card and often a little gift from my Dad who made me feel special for Valentines Day. Sure enough, today a card was waiting for me in the mail to make sure I was still remembered! My dad was my first Valentine and I sure do appreciate that!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

She's mine...

Looking through some old pictures I found a few that really show how much Mac favors her Dad's side of the family. I promise you, I was in the room when MacKenzie was born. She definitely came from me and is not some freak child of Matt's side of the family only. However, it was amazing how quickly people began to identify her as being Matt's daughter. Within weeks, I could take her up to church and people would say, "Oh you are Matt's wife" because they recognized his features in MacKenzie. Even from the moment she was born she was making facial expressions exactly like her father. Now this is always a good thing and helps provide an extra measure of bonding between father and children when they resemble one another!!!

I think the next two pictures really show their resemblance. Both were taken the spring after they were born, so Matt has a few months on Mac in this picture, but the similarities are striking.

 And look, even today they are mimicking one another's facial expressions and smiles.

When we introduced MacKenzie to Grandma and Grandpa, one of the first things Grandpa commented on was that Mac looked like him. I didn't see it as much until I took this picture of her and I think she does possess a certain resemblance to him. 

Of course this all makes sense because her true clone would be her paternal grandmother, Matt's mom. They look so similar it is almost eerie. I love this picture of Deb holding her at a week old because they are even posing exactly the same!

 And while I don't have a picture of Deb at this age, I recently sent this picture to Grandma and Grandpa and their initial reaction was wondering where someone got a picture of Debbie and why was it in color...

So here is to Mac...her last name might be Howard, but she is Mayes on her Dad's side through and through...and there is hardly a note of Johnson...but she must get all her brains from us!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Walking again

 I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted me what I asked of him. 
So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given 
over to the Lord. 
                                   -1 Samuel 1:27-28

We tried for Johnny for three months. I know it is nothing in the grand scheme of fertility struggles that friends ran into, we weren't discouraged or frustrated with the process, but right before the third try, at this time last year, we added a new level of prayer to our wishes and wants. I distinctly remember praying over and over again, "God, this is yours. I feel I am ready for a third, but I leave this to You. Show me what You want." In a way we were probably testing God even though we felt like we were relying on Him. We wanted some direction on how to go in our life, should I stay at work or go back to being at home, and we felt like a positive pregnancy test would give us some sort of clear sign for where we were meant to be. Little did we know the changes that would soon be present in our lives.

Shortly after we found out we were pregnant, the girls and I participated in the Carenet Walk for Life. Johnny was technically with us, teeny and tiny in my belly, making his presence very well known to Mama by making me feel woozy for most of the two mile walk. Still very, very happy with walking for such a great organization.

We slowly announced to the world that we were joyously expecting our little Raptor and marked each four week "chunk" of pregnancy with a new belly photo.

And we anxiously counted down days until our next appointment, when we could hear Johnny's heart beat and check in on our baby. And even though it wasn't until we were 8 weeks along that we got to hear Johnny's heart, did we ever doubt that he wasn't a child. We knew that, from the moment of conception, he was alive. Not potential for life. But alive.

At 12 weeks we again looked forward to making sure our baby was ok and our lives changed from that moment on. We were faced with what the medical field terms as a "genetic abnormality", a "glitch", a "chromosomal disorder". It was challenging to grapple with because from the moment we knew he was on the way, he was our child and he was loved. In fact, I would argue that even further back, when we decided to try for him or even from the time before we got married and determined that we might like to have 4 kids, he was our child and he was loved. And as Christians, we know that he has been planned for us all along. All the sudden we were faced with startlingly new decisions, ones where doctors who were not familiar with our convictions asked us what our plans with this pregnancy were. As if it was ever an option for us. We were well aware of the fact that we could terminate this pregnancy. We could hit the reset button and try again in a few months. Nobody even had to know but us. After all, like so many say, it was a fluke, sometimes things go wrong, it's not your fault, so why suffer for it? As I think about the thoughts that others in this world might offer, I sit confused. How could I reset something that just weeks before I had thought of as a gift? How could I consider something a fluke, when before that 12 week appointment I had considered myself lucky and blessed to be taking that journey once more. As I have stated before, most children like Johnny, who are prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome, are terminated. Sadly, many of these Mommies and Daddies go on to try for another pregnancy, one that conforms to their idea of what a child should be. Sadly, many of these parents make a choice that effectively grants one life unworthy of living and another as being better than.

Our 12 week ultrasound...what exactly makes this "not life"

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my 
mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and 
wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know 
that full well.  
                                   –Psalm 139 13-14

So looking at things from that perspective, it is hard to imagine a world where it is ok for us to accept one life wanted and another as unwanted. But that is a world that we live in. A world where women are allowed to make a decision that a child with certain conditions can be terminated and a child that fits a normal expectation is ok to continue carrying. For those of us who are pro-life, those of us who know that, from the beginning, life is unique and worthy of maintaining, this is difficult to deal with. Never before than with dealing with learning about Johnny had I felt more validated in knowing that Johnny was a unique life, completely independent of my own, and he only needed time to grow before he could live outside of me. And there is a difference there...being a unique life and needing someone else to live. Holding his Karyotype now, the short map of his chromosomes, the footprint of his DNA, I am struck with how much scientific evidence there is that confirms how individual he is. 

In the second set of chromosomes (the squiggly lines), all the way at the end is the 21st. 
Three are shown.

His gender X and one Y

A loss on the 13th chromosome and an extra 21st

 You can see in the screen shots of these images three clear factors that show without any doubt how individual he is. The first is the presence of his Y-chromosome, something he clearly did not get from me! The second is the addition of the extra 21st chromosome, the presence of what is termed Down syndrome. Now he more than likely had that extra chromosome present in the egg portion of his potential for life, it's just more likely that the extra chromosome is found there. However, I do not possess an extra 21st chromosome, that is something unique to him. The last is seen on the third image, the microarray, when looking closer at his chromosomes a portion of his 13th is missing, which, after looking further, was inherited from Matt's side of the family. All of these building blocks are glaringly present and completely different from mine. He is unique.

Granted there are people out there who say all of this evidence shows nothing, that pro choice isn't denying that this isn't unique DNA, but that pro choice is about giving a woman a right to do what she wants with her body. But that is so inherently flawed because with giving a woman the choice to do what she wants with her body, you are denying this unique individual the ability to do anything with theirs. By the time we knew for sure that Johnny had Down syndrome we were 20 weeks along. Because of his condition being stated as "medical" we could have elected to terminate until 24 weeks. 24 weeks. The image below is from 21 weeks. All organs and limbs are present. The baby is completely functioning on it's own besides air and food. The only thing this child needs is time. And due to modern medicine, at 24 weeks, a child could survive outside the womb. How can we as a nation accept that this child could be terminated when it could also survive with medical technology to help...

 21 weeks

30 weeks

So what? Pro choice people would say that is all great and wonderful, but that was your decision to make. That just like nobody forced us to end our pregnancy, others can make that choice for themselves. And I know that our situation is good, we are a typical suburban family with a strong support network, but none of that should matter. Each child is unique. Each one of us starts in the same way, cells that are rapidly dividing and growing and moving into place to build a new life. What is the difference between an 8 week pregnancy that is terminated and an 8 week pregnancy that isn't? Desire. There is no biological difference between the two. There is no different DNA. There is nothing about the fundamental building blocks that create a child that make them unlike one another. The only difference is the fact that in one a mother wants their child and in another their mother doesn't. Why should a mother (and father) be allowed to make a choice based on their own desires for someone else in an instance that ends their life? And please don't misunderstand me, this is not about feeling that people who have had an abortion are taking an easy way out, this is not about feeling that there isn't a lot that goes into that kind of a decision. This is about the fact that everyone needs to realize that this is life from the beginning and if we acknowledge that fact then there is no way we should allow abortions to take place. In working with Carenet, providing funds and supplies, encouraging their counselors, raising awareness for an organization that provides ongoing love and support hopefully we can help more women make the correct choice. Which is why the Walk for Life is so important to us and we will be participating again this year. 

And whoever welcomes one such child in my name 
welcomes me.
                                        –Matthew 18:5

In our instance it was never a real option. We would never have taken that road. We hope to continue to support Carenet for years to come. Johnny has blessed our lives in more ways than we ever knew. I never in a million years would have thought that we would have a child with Down syndrome and now I could never in a million years imagine a life without him. What others determine as a chromosomal abnormality, as being broken, seems more whole than most grown ups I know. What others determine as a glitch, I know is God's destiny for us. My aunt told me yesterday that I was meant to be Johnny's mama, I think that, more so, he was meant to be my son. He has taught me so much. If I have learned so much from him, what could other women learn from their pregnancies regardless of their parenting decision. I hope that more women will take these unexpected opportunities to choose life and work within the parameters of life. I pray that they will welcome these children and that they will make a choice...between parenting or placing in adoption...

Knit together

Fearfully and Wonderfully made