Monday, April 25, 2011

Rainy Day Remedy

I'm embarrassed to say that in the five years I've lived in Washington, I've done a lot of hot chocolate sipping, a lot of snuggling under warm blankets, a lot of pleasure reading by the fireplace, and a lot of lazy pajama party movie days, but I haven't done nearly enough of this:

A person can only take so much dark clouds and rain, before its time to throw on the rain gear and hit the puddles! I have to say, playing in the rain was actually quite invigorating!

The boys approved of our puddle splashing activity...Hank told me I was the best mom in the whole world!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Highlights

Here are a few of the highlights from our awesome Easter weekend:


If I was a better person, I would feel bad that my kids greedily filled their baskets to the brim with Easter eggs while other poor children got trampled by the crowd of egg-hunters and went home with empty baskets. Sorry. A few years ago, I tried playing "Mr. Nice-guy" at the egg hunt and we went home empty handed. Lesson learned: every man for himself.

When the Egg Hunt began, my competitive spirit kicked in and Hank and I raced past the pack of egg-hunters, to the back of the field, where Hank had ample time to fill his basket before the crowd caught up. Greedy!
The fun really is in the hunt (or race, more like it) because out of the dozens of eggs the boys grabbed, we came away with a couple Tootsie Rolls, a few temporary tattoos, some bouncy balls, and a couple erasers.

Oh Benjamin. Even that little pouty face makes me smile.
* SUNSHINE....Isn't life just a million times better when the sun is shining? We spent all day outdoors mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, thatching the front yard, pressure washing the porch, taking a family walk, playing at the park, and just loving life.


I have fond memories of dying Easter egss as a girl so it made me happy to share that tradition with Hank and watch him have so much fun decorating his eggs.

We kept it pretty basic, but I think they look great!


The Easter Bunny was a little burnt out after delivering all of those Easter baskets to the Tree House earlier this month, so the Easter Bunny decided to just skip the baskets and leave a small toy instead. Max loved his emergency vehicle HotWheels and Hank is fascinated with his firetruck transformer. Thanks, Easter Bunny!


My dear friend Jean made Ben these custom pants so that he could wear slacks on Easter Sunday instead of his usual sweatpant style.

I love these people.

* EGG WARS.....this self-invented tradition is a huge family favorite. Each family member uses their signature Easter egg to try to smash the opponent Easter egg in an egg duel. Its like our own mini-food fight!


And this was just the dessert! I had a lot of fun cooking up a storm in the kitchen and then having Nana and Papa Grover over to share our Easter feast. And yup, these strawberry lemonade bars were as good as they looked.

* THE REAL REASON....On this special Easter Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of our beautiful Savior, Jesus Christ, who atoned for our sins, died on the cross, and then arose from the tomb. In overcoming death, He made eternal life possible. Happy Easter!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Growing Boy

Benjamin's One Year Stats:
Length: 31" (95%)
Weight: 30.2 lbs (self-explanatory)
Head Circumference: 47 cm

** photo to follow documenting Ben's first tooth which arrived on his birthday!

The Tree House

We completed Ben's Birthday Service Project by delivering our beautiful Easter baskets to the Tree House the other night.

Visiting the Tree House again, nearly a year after our residency there last spring, was a very bittersweet experience. While Ben was in the hospital, the Tree House provided us with a place to rest for a few hours, a place to share dinner together with Hank and Max, a place where we could spend time with Hank and Max as a family, and feel kinda-sorta normal. We will always be grateful for the generousity we experienced while staying at the Tree House. However, stepping back into that facility, seeing other families with that familiar shell-shocked look on their faces, brought me back to a very dark time in my life--a time that I would rather not revisit ever again.
Though it is a very small gesture, we hope that these Easter baskets, made with love by the boys and their friends, will bring a little smile to the faces of the families who will be spending Easter at the Tree House this year.

Daffodil Parade 2011

We look forward to watching the Daffodil parade from the curbside of our little town every year. This year, it was a bit chilly, so we had to bundle up tight. Ben isn't much of an outdoorsman, and is a little sensitive about noise, so he and I enjoyed the second half of the parade from our warm, quiet[er] car. Hank was hardcore and wanted to stay and watch every float, every marching band, every dignitary, and every tractor and firetruck until the bitter end. Maybe one year Hank will get to march in the parade!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Big Year

You were warned, remember? No apologies for the absurd amount of photos posted below (keep scrolling). It was a very eventful year and I earned the right to brag ad nauseum about my special birthday boy, Benjamin. But honestly, can you blame me?

[just a few of the] Things Ben Can Do:

  • Cause random strangers to stop, point, stare, and smile at his total CUTEness
  • Melt hearts with his SMILE
  • Convey total HAPPINESS with his squeal
  • Create MAGIC with the light in his eyes
  • INSPIRE others to increase their FAITH
  • Bring PEACE to our family
  • Express LOVE to everyone who he comes into contact with
  • Prove that MIRACLES do happen
  • Provide AMAZEment with every developmental inchstone met
  • LIFT others to want to become better
  • TEACH values: compassion, tolerance, acceptance
  • EXEMPLIFY courage and determination
And just think, if Ben accomplished these impressive tasks in only one year of life, what amazing things will he be able to DO next? Anything and everything.

Birthday Wishes

From Aaron on Facebook today:

Happy birthday to the coolest one year old on the planet! This little boy has been through more in the first year of his life than many will have to endure in their lifetime. It is an honor to call him my son. He is my little hero. Happy birthday Ben!

Lets Par-tay!

Weeks ago when I mentioned to Aaron that I wanted to throw Ben a party for his first birthday, Aaron shot the idea down, claiming that a party for a one-year-old is just a glorified excuse for the mom to throw a party. Well, HA! I decided that of course I wanted to celebrate Ben's momentous first year of life, and I was determined to do it in a meaningful way. So, this is what I came up with:

What exactly is a "Pay-it-Forward Party," you ask? We invited over several of the boys' close friends and invited them to celebrate Ben's special day by joining us in a service project. The kids made some darling Easter crafts, stuffed candy into plastic eggs, and assembled basket-fillers to make very sweet little Easter baskets. We will donate the baskets to the families staying at the Treehouse, a Ronald McDonald-ish facility beside Mary Bridge Children's Center, who the Easter bunny may not be able to find this year.

Here are a few of the completed baskets. I think the kiddos at the Treehouse will be so happy when they wake up to find these little surprises on Easter morning.
Needless to say, wild kiddos + paint, glue, and pipe cleaners = total craziness.

Earlier this morning, Hank asked, "Do you think Ben knows its his Birthday?" I told him I was sure that Ben felt very special and very loved on his big day.

LOVE the Birthday banner my mom made for us.

My picture collage was awesome: a year of lots of smiles, lots of kisses, and lots of love.

My dear friend Mindy made this special cake for Ben.

My teddybear sitting next to his teddy bear cake.

Ben's nice friends brought him lots and lots of cool new toys to play with.
My sweet friend Jean said she saw this "pot-belly monkey," and thought of, what exactly are you trying to say?

The After-Party

Round 2 of the birthday party started with a yummy belgian waffle bar, aka an excuse to eat strawberries, chocolate chips, and nutella for dinner! Afterwards, Ben (read: Hank) opened a few more presents and then it was time for Ben to give his cupcake a try.

 Hank and Max helped Ben with the candle-blowing.

I really, really thought that Ben might be my first baby to dig into the first-cake experience with some enjoyment, but, as his brothers before, Ben has not yet discovered the yumminess that is a cupcake. Someday he will come around, but for now he doesn't even know what he is missing.

Leaving Amsterdam International....Enjoying Holland

These bright spring tulips, sitting cheerfully beside my kitchen window, have caused me to reflect over my journey this past year, through Amsterdam International and my into my new residence in Holland.
Welcome to Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome To Holland".
"Holland?!?" you say, "What do you mean "Holland"??? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills...Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy...and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things...about Holland.

My Flight Landed at Amsterdam International – by Dana Nieder

In the special needs world, there is a poem (essay? whatever.) called "Welcome to Holland." It is supposed to explain what it's like to have a child with special needs. It's short and sweet.

It skips everything.

While "Welcome to Holland" has a place, I used to hate it. It skipped over all of the agony of having a child with special needs and went right to the happy ending.

The raw, painful, confusing entry into Holland was just glossed over. And considering the fact that this little poem is so often passed along to new-moms-of-kids-with-special-needs, it seems unfair to just hand them a little story about getting new guidebooks and windmills and tulips.

If I had written "Welcome to Holland", I would have included the terrible entry time. And it would sound like this:

Amsterdam International
Parents of “normal” kids who are friends with parents of kids with special needs often say things like “Wow! How do you do it? I wouldn’t be able to handle everything---you guys are amazing!” (Well, thank you very much.) But there’s no special manual, no magical positive attitude serum, no guide to embodying strength and serenity . . . people just do what they have to do. You rise to the occasion, and embrace your sense of humor (or grow a new one). You come to love your life, and it’s hard to imagine it a different way (although when you try, it may sting a little). But things weren’t always like this . . . at first, you ricocheted around the stages of grief, and it was hard to see the sun through the clouds. And forget the damn tulips or windmills. In the beginning you’re stuck in Amsterdam International Airport. And no one ever talks about how much it sucks.
You briskly walk off of the plane into the airport thinking “There-must-be-a-way-to-fix-this-please-please-don’t-make-me-have-to-stay-here-THIS-ISN’T-WHAT-I-WANTED-please-just-take-it-back”. The airport is covered with signs in Dutch that don’t help, and several well-meaning airport professionals try to calm you into realizing that you are here (oh, and since they’re shutting down the airport today, you can never leave. Never never. This is your new reality.). Their tone and smiles are reassuring, and for a moment you feel a little bit more calm . . . but the pit in your stomach doesn’t leave and a new wave of panic isn’t far off.

(Although you don’t know it yet, this will become a pattern. You will often come to a place of almost acceptance, only to quickly re-become devastated or infuriated about this... unfair deviation to Holland. At first this will happen several times a day, but it will taper to several times a week, and then only occasionally.)

A flash of realization---your family and friends are waiting. Some in Italy, some back home . . . all wanting to hear about your arrival in Rome. Now what is there to say? And how do you say it? You settle on leaving an outgoing voicemail that says “We’ve arrived, the flight was fine, more news to come” because really, what else can you say? You’re not even sure what to tell yourself about Holland, let alone your loved ones.

(Although you don’t know it yet, this will become a pattern. How can you talk to people about Holland? If they sweetly offer reassurances, it’s hard to find comfort in them . . . they’ve never been to Holland, after all.

And their attempts at sympathy? While genuine, you don’t need their pity . . . their pity says “Wow, things must really suck for you” . . . and when you’re just trying to hold yourself together, that doesn’t help. When you hear someone else say that things are bad, it’s hard to maintain your denial, to keep up your everything-is-just-fine-thank-you-very-much outer shell. Pity hits too close to home, and you can’t admit to yourself how terrible it feels to be stuck in Holland, because then you will undoubtedly collapse into a pile of raw, wailing agony. So you have to deflect and hold yourself together . . . deflect and hold yourself together.)

You sneak sideways glances at your travel companion, who also was ready for Italy. You have no idea how (s)he’s handling this massive change in plans, and can’t bring yourself to ask. You think “Please, please don’t leave me here. Stay with me. We can find the right things to say to each other, I think. Maybe we can have a good life here.” But the terror of a mutual breakdown, of admitting that you’re deep in a pit of raw misery, of saying it out loud and thereby making it reality, is too strong. So you say nothing.

(Although you don’t know it yet, this may become a pattern. It will get easier with practice, but it will always be difficult to talk with your partner about your residency in Holland. Your emotions won’t often line up---you’ll be accepting things and trying to build a home just as he starts clamoring for appointments with more diplomats who may be able to “fix” it all. And then you’ll switch, you moving into anger and him into acceptance. You will be afraid of sharing your depression, because it might be contagious---how can you share all of the things you hate about Holland without worrying that you’re just showing your partner all of the reasons that he should sink into depression, too?)

And what you keep thinking but can’t bring yourself to say aloud is that you would give anything to go back in time a few months. You wish you never bought the tickets. It seems that no traveler is ever supposed to say “I wish I never even got on the plane. I just want to be back at home.” But it’s true, and it makes you feel terrible about yourself, which is just fantastic . . . a giant dose of guilt is just what a terrified lonely lost tourist needs.

Although you don’t know it yet, this is the part that will fade. After you’re ready, and get out of the airport, you will get to know Holland and you won’t regret the fact that you have traveled. Oh, you will long for Italy from time to time, and want to rage against the unfairness from time to time, but you will get past the little voice that once said “Take this back from me. I don’t want this trip at all.”

Each traveler has to find their own way out of the airport. Some people navigate through the corridors in a pretty direct path (the corridors can lead right in a row: Denial to Anger to Bargaining to Depression to Acceptance). More commonly, you shuffle and wind around . . . leaving the Depression hallway to find yourself somehow back in Anger again. You may be here for months.

But you will leave the airport. You will.

And as you learn more about Holland, and see how much it has to offer, you will grow to love it.

And it will change who you are, for the better.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Get ready. Brace yourself. Are you sitting down? See this little guy right here? Prepare yourself because in only four more days The Benjamin is turning the big 0-1 and I WILL. FREAK. OUT.

Grovers + more Grovers = Good Times

Wow. It kind of makes me feel special that these guys would drive 14 hours, in the middle of the night, just to spend the day with us on Saturday. I mean, I always knew we were cool people, but I think that just proves it. Haha.

But for real, we had a lot of fun going out to eat, visiting until way too late at night, shopping, playing in the city, and meeting cutie-pie Evie. What a fun weekend!
We loved spending time with our bestest friends/cousins--always fun times when we're together. Can't wait until the next time--Thanks you guys!

The Market

Q: What does flying fish, miniature donuts, street performers, stale gum, giant pigs, and fresh spring flowers all have in common?

A: The Pike's Place Public Market, of course! We had fun yesterday strolling through the market and taking in all of the unique sights, sounds, and smells of Pike's Place.

Please ignore how badly the boys need haircuts. Max hoarded the donuts to himself--tasty!

The street magician picked Hank to demonstrate his illusion and asked Hank to write his name on a face card. It took Hank a minute or two to make his signature, but he was so proud of himself for being able to do it.

Ummm, yuck. I about gagged when Hank touched a peice of the petrified gum on this nasty wall of gum.