Tuesday, January 31, 2012

JDRF Retreat and a great week-end!

We had a wonderful week-end!  I hope you did too.  We were going in different directions for some of it and then all gathered together again.  Here's a look at some of what was going on.  Joshua and I left on Friday to go to Greensboro for the 2nd Annual JDRF Family Retreat.  

I had thought more of us would go, but it worked out to be just us.  And we had a great time.  As did the others.  Daniel and Isaiah went to a friend's fun birthday party.  Eliana, Rebecca and Roger watched Tangled and laughed together.  Rebecca had her first guitar lesson in a beginner's Praise class at church.    All fun.
Joshua and I arrived at the Grandover Hotel on Friday afternoon.  We listened to Adventures in Odyssey cds on the way there and just talked.  He was unsure about whether this would be a fun outing and I assured him that it would be a blast!  We checked into the hotel.  What a NICE hotel!!!

We got registered for a the sessions we would be attending.  Joshua was thrilled to have been included in the teen group.  They worked on making a film which was a lot of fun.  They also had a seminar on the various research that was being done in the search for a cure.  He was quite interested in all that was being explored.  (I had a session on the same topic later and it is fascinating!)

We explored the hotel and played some Bananagrams before heading down to supper.  

This year instead of having everyone in one big room, they had us divided into the three regions of the state  - all meeting in different rooms.  We  headed to the "Triangle" room and then found that each table also had a label indicating a city or county.  It was a search to find ours.  There were several with Durham on it and we chose one and sat down.  We were with 2 other families that lived in the northern part of our city.  It was a nice dinner talking with and getting to know them.  One of the families we ended up being friends with and ate all of our meals together and just enjoyed hanging out.  Their daughter with T1 (Juvenile diabetes) also has celiac so we had a lot in common.  Our meal was a mexican bar which was both diabetic and celiac friendly!

At the end of the meal, we were told to look under our chairs to see if there was a sticker.  There was one  under mine which I handed to Joshua so that he could go claim a prize.  It was this neat backpack with a sleeping bag inside.  There was also a flashlight which you shake to power it up, a small fan with messages on the blades and a calculator.  It was a neat prize!

After dinner, there was an ice cream social and magic show.  The  crowd was HUGE!  They didn't anticipate so many people and ended up doing a second showing.  We waited in line and saw all of the magic show while we were in line.  We then took our ice cream to a cozy spot in the lobby area and ate it and talked.  

After our dessert, we went to check out the game room.  It was full and busy so we decided to go back to our room.  We played some more Bananagrams, had a devotion together, talked and then got some sleep.  We had an early morning because Joshua wanted to be at breakfast at 7am when it opened.   

This is a picture that we tried to take of the bar area and ourselves.  We are mostly covered by the flash.  LOL
 Lots of scenes like this throughout the day.  Its nice to be somewhere and have all of it be something the everyone understands.  This is a tough disease.  One of the presenters that I listened too stated that it was the most challenging of all the autoimmune diseases.  It is a challenge.  I'm so very thankful for all of the advances that have been made that make it so much more manageable!

 At all of our meals, there was a listing of the foods with both a carb count and also stating whether an item was gluten free or not.  I appreciate the sensitivity to both of these diseases!  (For those who don't know there is a higher rate of Celiac disease among those with Type 1 diabetes than is in the general population.)
 I attended a workshops on managing diabetes during times of stress - sickness and athletics.  Excellent information.  I also attending one on life with teens and diabetes.  Again, good information on how to better communicate and help manage this disease on top of hormones and other changes.  The next session I attended was on Celiac disease.  And the final one on the most up to date info on research being done.  All were helpful and informative!  I'm glad we had the opportunity to go!

We did get in some game time too.  A little after breakfast and more at the end of the day.

 We headed home late in the afternoon after visiting a little bit with a local friend who came by.  Joshua loves these revolving doors!  He also thanked me for taking him and said that he had a great time!  I did too.  I loved having one on one time to spend with him.  I am also thankful for the information we both learned and hope it will help us both to better understand and manage his diabetes.  I think it is a blessing to be at this type of event for so many reasons and I'm thankful to JDRF for all that they do to make this a reality!
We headed home and were looking forward to seeing Christopher and his roommate later that evening.  While on our way, we found out that he was coming by with 4 friends and it would be close to dinner time.  Of course, we were happy to have them!  My sweet dh and daughter worked to get things ready and I helped when I got home.

What a treat to have Christopher and his friends here!  We loved getting to know some of his friends that we hadn't met and of course spending time with his roommate that we already love hanging out with.  We laughed and played and had a great time.  As soon as they left, my kids were asking when they could come back again!  I agree.  We would love to have them all again soon!

Sunday we spent our morning at church listening to a wonderful sermon.  I hosted a Reading Games activity bag swap in the afternoon and then we headed to Awana in the evening.  Busy, but fun day.

All in all, the week-end was wonderful!  God was good to allow us to make friends with some people facing both Diabetes and celiac that live close to us.  We are hoping to get together again too.  God was gracious to allow us to have Christopher and his friends over for several hours to eat, hang out and laugh ... a LOT.

I am thankful and blessed!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


More kitchen adventures.  It's not sounding good is it?  Not with that title?  Maybe I should have started with something a little more subtle?  LOL

I was cooking dinner and had some sweet potato fries in the oven.  When I went over to open the oven door, I reached for the handle and pulled.  At that moment, the entire front of the stove fell off.

And onto my foot.  Ouch!

And as if that weren't bad enough.  The next time that I reached for the handle, it broke off completely in my hands!  Its the long white thing on the counter.
 This is the piece that is supposed to be on the front of the oven, but is not.
Not sure what the next step is going to be.  I'm sure Roger is going to want to try to fix it.  (Of course, some of this is also already been "fixed".)  I'm wondering if this is the just the end of our oven.  We've been in our house for 12 years now and much that I read says that a typical life span for appliances is 10 to 15 years.  I really don't know.

I do know that it will be hard to fix meals without an oven!  I'm hoping we can borrow our neighbor's oven for tomorrow to make cookies that I had promised to make with Daniel tonight after dinner.

If you have any ideas or suggestions, we are open to them.  Never a dull moment in our kitchen, huh?

Hope your meal times have been a little less exciting than ours!  :-)


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beyond Co-op - Helen Keller #3 and #4

I didn't do a great job in keeping up with this book over the holidays.  We still had fun with it and learned new things even if we didn't cover all that I might have wanted.  Sometimes other things just take precedence ... and that's all right!

At our third co-op we covered Chapters 5-7 and our topics of learning were sensory and descriptive writing and braille.  Each of the children were challenged to invent something and then using descriptive language there were to sell this item to the rest of the group.  It is always so much fun to see this type of open-ended project and to see their creativity at work.
Each student drew a picture and thought about how they would share this with the group.
We had interactive and engaging presentations on a number of inventive items ... like the taco launcher.  Some of the discussion afterwards was hilarious  - still making me laugh.
They also took time to work on making their own set of Braille letters.  They were challenged to write letters, their names or other words/phrases.
Its harder than it looks!
This is the end of co-op 3 and now for the final co-op on this book.  We covered chapters 8 - 10 and our subjects were WWII and audiology.

We watched some parts (not all or even most of the movie) to understand the setting of this time period.
 We also learned about Helen Keller and some of her activities during this time.  She spent time meeting with soldiers that had been injured in order to encourage them.

 We also saw some actual footage of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
 Our snack included roasted apples which were one of the foods that Helen enjoyed in the story.
 Learning about the ear and how it works as well as how it can not work was very interesting.
 The students put in earplugs to simulate the sensation of not being able to hear.

 They then worked on communicating via sign language.  Each child had a card with his/her name finger spelled.
 Additionally, the entire alphabet was made available for the games they were going to play.
 They took turns spelling someone else's name and then seeing if others could guess whose name was being spelled.
 Then they played a game similar to "telephone" where a word was passed around the circle.  The difference was that each student had to spell the word into the next person's hand.
 Next, they were given some cards with different words on them.  They split into pairs and took turns  spelling and decoding with each other.  It was a lot of fun.
This was a great study and we had fun learning more about a lot of different topics.  Up next ... George Washington Carver.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Climbing the walls ... literally

Look what we did today!  What a fun field trip.  We normally go bowling this time of year - a great indoor activity that is not weather dependent.  This year we decided to try something different.

Rock Climbing!

It was a huge hit and great for kids of all ages!  We went to the Triangle Rock Club where they allow children ages 4 and up to climb.  I didn't sign up  Eliana though because I didn't think she would want to do it (though she did have the option while we were there).  I was right - she was not at all interested.  She did have fun though.  This was about as much as she wanted to climb.

We started out with the children getting harnesses on.  Some went right to the walls to test things out.  The little people just explored and had fun.

Eliana explored more than most.  She went upstairs.  Not a problem as you can view the climbing area from here which is pretty neat.  While I was snapping TWO photos, she slipped away back into the office area.  I quickly ran after her, but when I rounded the corner, she was already out of sight.  She had gone into the bathroom - lights out - and locked herself in.  Thankfully she was able to open it.  She came back up to the office area a little later and cheerfully walked into one of the offices to great the man working in there.

They were doing some repairs/construction while we were there and opened up the storage area.  A neat little door in the wall.  Just the right size for a little person to walk right in.  Yes, she did.  I was surprised at how large this area was too.  LOL  I was blessed by several friends that played with Eliana during the morning so that I could spend time with my other children and also take some photos.
There were rock walls around 3 sides and a huge boulder in the middle that you could climb up to the top of.  Some kids were bummed to find out that you needed to be 12 or older to be on the top.  

 Daniel tried it twice.  Didn't go up very far either.  I really thought he might be willing to do more after doing the pulley in the tree with his cousin recently.  Oh well, I'm just glad he tried.  : -)  He had fun being there and hanging out with his friends.

 The rest of my children LOVED it!  Several have already asked when we could go back again!  :-)
 They loved the challenge of going all the way to the top.
 And then repelling down to the bottom.
 We had 6 lines open - we hired several  belayers so that we could have more people climbing at a time.
 This is the boulder in the middle that you could climb without using a rope.
 A bigger view of the wall so you can get a sense of the size of the place.
 Loved seeing them face a challenge head on!

 The foot pegs were different colors and labelled with the degree of difficulty so that you could choose to do an easier or harder one if you wanted.

All in all a fabulous outing.  Highly recommend it and know that we will plan to go back again!

Hope you are having a fun week too!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ramblings about Down syndrome ...

So many thoughts running through my head the last couple of days as Down syndrome keeps popping up in unexpected places.  When I started this blog 5 years ago, it was to share information about Eliana.  She was born with two holes in her heart that were going to need repair.  We also found out at her birth that she has Down syndrome.  I wanted to keep family and friends updated on her progress and medical status and a blog seemed to be the fastest and easiest way to do that.

What I hadn't expected when I started, was that this would be a place to share the joys of knowing and loving someone with Down syndrome.  Like most people, I had heard the negatives and to be honest it was scary and overwhelming at first.  Even though I already knew and loved someone with Ds, I still wasn't sure that *I* could do this.  God taught me so much during that first scary, tumultuous year.  He was so good and so faithful.  I am so thankful for those lessons.  I'm also really thankful to have a little girl with designer genes.  God continues to teach all of us through her.  She has opened our eyes to so many things.  My blog now isn't just focused on Eliana or Down syndrome, but about the path of life our family is walking - our faith, our schooling, family, friends and more.

As Eliana grew and became stronger and more health, the focus on my blog shifted.  I had come to realize that sharing about the everyday life of our family was what I wanted to do.  A part of that was the joy of having a child with Down syndrome.  Most people can understand the delights of children - and ALL of mine are amazing gifts and blessings!  I have hoped that perhaps by writing about our life that others might be a little less scared - and perhaps even excited - about having a child with Down syndrome themselves.  It has been a blessing to me to have others talk with me about her - and to see the joy that she brings others.  I'm thankful for these opportunities to share more about Eliana and also God's amazing work!

Yesterday I had two people talk with me about Down syndrome.  One is a sweet friend who is pregnant and her ultrasound showed a soft marker for Ds.  I loved her peaceful reply as she is prepared for whatever lies ahead.  She knows that this baby is a gift from God and it shows in the peace He has given her.  The other gal I talked with was asking for a friend (who also had a soft marker in an ultrasound for Ds).  I encouraged her that having a child with Ds was a blessing.  I offered to talk with her, email her, meet her, let her meet Eliana and our family.  I so want others to walk into this with more peace and less fear if at all possible.   As we were talking, Eliana was playing near us.  She was taken with Eliana and I know this will help as she talks with her friend.  Both give me more opportunities to pray for all that God is doing and will do in the lives of these families.

News was shared in recent postings from other Moms of children with Ds that popular Christian artist Aaron Shust and his wife have just had a little boy with Down syndrome.  The Dad write a beautiful blog post about his son - and his belief in the goodness of God.  I love the words to his song that are included in that post.  So much more meaning to those words now.  I know that this baby will be a blessing and hope that they can rest in that too.  I wish I had truly understood this when Eliana was a baby.  It was something that God had to teach me.  It seems so silly to say that now, but I had to learn it for myself.

And then there are times when very positive things are posted, like this story about a young model with Down syndrome.    Love it!  Click on the link to read it yourself.  You may have seen him in a recent Target ad.  I did!   Model inspires others  Really, this is what it is all about - recognizing that children/people with Down syndrome are people - with gifts and talents to offer.

My heart continues to be heavy for the many beautiful children living abroad in orphanages and institutions due to have an extra chromosome.  I'm at a place where I'm not sure what God wants me to do with this burden.  I continue to pray, give money and share about these children with others.  It seems so little sometimes.

Look at these beautiful children with so much potential.  They need a family.

So many beautiful children!  Take a look.  Here.  Is your heart drawing you to help?

I feel like I've been rambling.  My thoughts have been all over on this topic.  I'm thankful for so many supportive people in my life.  I'm richly blessed with a wonderful family and awesome friends.  I'm truly thankful for the One who gave me life - Jesus.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Year's Eve 2012

This has become one of our family's favorite holidays!  We took an idea that was shared some years ago on the FIAR boards and used it to add excitement and sweet memories to this night!  If you haven't tried it before, I highly recommend it.  You can do it anyway you like - starting earlier or later.  Ending earlier.  Changing the activities, food, etc.  Its just a fun way to countdown the hours!  You could also use this to countdown to other things too.  I enjoy (and so do my children) counting down to the New Year.

We have done this enough years now that we don't even have to do too much planning ahead - which is nice as its not like there is a lot of free time just before  NYE.  We like watching a movie though and that does need to be planned.  I purchased colored bags at WalMart that were 10 for $1.  I printed the clock faces here.  Each bag had a clue pinned to the bag and something in the bag that related to the activity.

 1st clue:  This was supposed to go with the game Silly Expressions which I couldn't find so I pulled out another game I'd bought at a consignment sale which we had never played.  It was a hit!

People are silly and funny too!
Do you think they are sometimes blue?
Maybe they’re happy or perhaps mad
A game of expressions will make you glad!

 We had teams of 2 and each team drew 8 cards.  On the cards were listed various things that you had to do or find or draw or make.  You were to try to do as many of them as possible - and could be creative.  You had 30 minutes to complete as many as possible.
Just a little cuteness.
 Teammates would divide and conquer and it was great hearing the laughter!

 Making a hat
 Some of the items that were collected, drawn and made.  After 30 minutes, each team shared what they had done for each item on the list.
 This was a really fun game and great for a mix of ages!
 My children enjoy taking turns drawing things out of the bags.    Many of my clues were the same as in years past - or slightly modified.  Nobody seems to mind doing many of the same things!

2nd clue:  In the bag were things to make noisemakers.
Let’s get ready for some noise.
This is for the girls and the boys.
We’ll also need signs to mark the date.
Take photos of families to start the slate.

 We made them from paper plates.  Simple and each person can do as much or little as they want.
 We used popcorn as our filler.  I love seeing Eliana doing things on her own.
 Draw on a plate.  Fold in half.  Fill with popcorn or beans.  Staple shut.  Couldn't be easier!
 The next bag was a last minute addition to the evening.  And boy was it a HIT!

3rd clue:
Its time to be silly, time to run free
Open the bag and you will see!

Silly String!

 We headed outside.  It was dark but not too cold.  I just love the expressions on their faces!
 The photographer wasn't immune from getting sprayed.
 Can't you just see the fun they are having?

 All of them loved this and their only complaint was that I hadn't bought more cans of it.  They were from the dollar store.  We will definitely be doing that again next year!

 4rd clue:
We are eating something different this year.
Its still familiar, delicious and fun
Help us chop and cook and serve. 
Everyone will be glad when we are done.

This was a change.  We usually make pizzas and they each design their own with choices of many toppings. We decided to do tacos this year.  It was not received well by some of mine.  I think we'll have to switch back to pizza next year.  This was just easier to do GF in large quantities.

While we were cooking, they played some games.  Good thing since we ran out of time for some of the games later in the evening.  This was Minute to Win It.  Challenges to do things ... like building a card house.
 Silly races.
 Blowing cards across the table.  Light and fun.
5th clue:  In the bag - papers with questions, pens and lollipops
What makes you special and unique?      
Getting to know this is a treat.
We’ll look to the future and ponder the past,
Seeking to follow God each day of our path.

I love this part!  Its fun to see what  people will say and I think it makes a neat keepsake from year to year.  After recording the answers, we take turns reading the answers for each question trying to figure out who wrote each answer.
 Its not always easy to answer and sometimes hearing someone else's answer will remind you of something you forgot.  Its funny too to see when your answer is the same as someone else's.
 Just makes me smile.
 6th clue:  In the bag - sprinkles and other decorating items.
God made you and you can’t beat that!
Glasses, freckles or a funny hat.
Our faces help others know who we are,
But our insides are what make us a star.

My sweet friend Rebecca made these homemade gingerbread men ... GLUTEN FREE!  I'm so blessed to have such a thoughtful friend willing to do this!  

And they tasted good too!

 Cookies are fun to decorate and we saw a lot of creative expression!!!
 They work  hard on these and its fun.  Its not an activity that I do often at all so I'm glad to have this at least once a year!

 Can you guess who this is?
 Does this help?  Have you seen the movie "Tangled"?
 7th clue:  In the bag - movie Narnia and popcorn
It’s time for adventure and maybe a giggle
Find a spot to sit and don’t wiggle
Does anyone need something to eat
You can have some popcorn while in your seat

We watch the movie on the "big screen" - a sheet hung on the wall with a projector playing the movie from our laptop.  Its such a great movie.  Even though we've seen it before, its fun to see it again!
 8th clue:
Let’s turn our hearts to God and lift up our prayer
He is here with us and out everywhere.
There are others who need Him and we play a part
We’ll pray for others and seek His heart.

Each person writes something that they want prayer for on the slip of paper.  Each person draws one of the slips and go around the table praying for each other's requests. 
 Family Photos

 It's almost time!

9th clue:
It’s time to say good-bye to ‘11
Watching the ball drop is a fun time again
A hug, a prayer, a sweet drink for the toast
Happy New Year, it’s 2012!

We watch the ball drop, toast with Sprite (this way we can get diet - its still bubbly - and much better for a diabetic).  

 Don't forget the shakers!

 We also played some fun Charades using a word generator found  at this site.

 What a fun night spent with family and friends!  We have much to be thankful for and are looking forward to the New Year!