Dec. 22, 2013: Merry Christmas!

First and foremost, Merry Christmas! I realize it’s a few days early, but by the time I blog again, the day will be past. So I hope you all are having a wonderful last few days before the big day arrives…if you celebrate Christmas, that is. And if you don’t, I hope you’re having a lovely few days of late December!

We had a week packed full o’ stuff. It was Theo’s last week of school before his break, so there were all sorts of festivities. Perhaps of biggest note was his field trip to a convalescent hospital. I was a little nervous about how it might go, because on Monday (the trip was set for Wednesday), Theo announced to me, “Hey, Mom, on Wednesday we’re going to go visit dead people on my field trip!” I corrected him and said, “Oh no, honey—they’re not dead! They’re just old people. But they’re still alive, and it wouldn’t be nice to talk about them being dead.” He replied, “Oh, okay. Like the dinosaurs!” So I was living in fear (and amusement) that he might wander up to some resident and say, “Hey, are you like a dinosaur?” or “Hey, are you going to be dead soon??” But it actually went very well. He is fascinated by wheelchairs and other implements, so he keeps talking about how the people had “wheelchairs and walking sticks and clunches and walkers!”—which translates to wheelchairs, canes, crutches, and walkers. (Though I think “clunches” has a very nice ring to it.) And actually, I was really proud of him. The kids handed out ornaments they had made, and then they listed to a resident read a couple of Christmas stories to them, and then they sang a couple of songs, and then they had hot cocoa and cookies. When we left, I was driving Theo and another little boy back to school, and I asked them what part of the field trip was their favorite. Theo immediately said, “Handing out the ornaments!” I had expected him to say the hot cocoa and cookies, because what kid doesn’t love that—and Theo certainly does love both of those things! So I assumed he had just forgotten that. But when his friend piped up that he liked the hot cocoa and cookies best, Theo just repeated, “I liked handing out the ornaments.” And my heart was very warmed, because I certainly would not have had a second thought if he had picked the yummy cocoa and cookies—he’s five years old. But to see him have such a warm, generous heart about the experience…well, I thought that was pretty cool. Proud of that boy of mine!

The same day as Theo’s field trip, we had feeding therapy for Sam. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the folks at Down Syndrome Connection were kind enough to work with their feeding therapist and offer us a free feeding therapy session. So, we went—and Sam was an absolute prince. I say that with the greatest of sarcasm—he was actually rather horrid. But that’s kind of a good thing, because the feeding therapist got to see for herself what a pill he can be about eating. She looked rather perplexed, which didn’t surprise me because he was very uncooperative, so he wasn’t giving her much to work with. She eventually decided that what she thinks is going on is that he’s super defensive about anything being offered to his mouth. Not necessarily a sensory defensiveness, because he won’t even let most foods get near his mouth—he rejects them without even so much as letting them touch his lips. She thinks it may be more of a trust/control issue—he rejects foods without even so much as trying them because he doesn’t trust them, and he doesn’t want them anywhere near him. He likes crackers, he’s comfortable with crackers, so that’s all he wants to eat. And because I’m the one who has done pretty much all of his feeding therapy up until now, it makes sense that he’s most resistant with me. (Much of the time he won’t eat anything from me all day, other than crackers and breast milk and dry sourdough toast. He eats a little better for Chris.) So, our first step is to start establishing trust so that he’ll even consider eating other things. She advised that this is likely to be a very slow process, as he’s quite resistant. Yeah, tell me about it. She also wasn’t thrilled that we had reintroduced bottles, but I have to say, I’m filing that one under “you gotta do what you gotta do.” I’ll work on straws, as she asks, but he is very resistant to straws, so in the meantime I’m going to keep trying the bottle so I can have a much-needed night away in two weeks.

I should point out that Sam’s resistance to eating probably has a lot to do with the fact that he’s had difficulty managing foods and liquids in the past. If I spent a lot of time choking on foods and liquids, I probably wouldn’t want to try them either. He’s a smart cookie—he knows that he can eat crackers without choking, and he likes crackers, so he’ll just stick with that. And he’s getting two new teeth this week, so that certainly doesn’t help eating issues. Anyway…we soldier on. Someday the kid will eat normally. Someday…

In other news, illness has hit the Small family again. Theo got it first—a cough and a fever, but the fever left very quickly (12 hours or so). The cough has hung on a bit, but not too bad. He’s a bit congested and with a slight cough, but it’s pretty mild. Sam got it next—coughing and coughing and coughing much of the night one night, and with a plugged nose that made it hard for him to nurse. I think it was another bout of croup, from the sounds of the cough, but it wasn’t bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor. He’s on the mend now, but still with a runny, icky nose. The coughing, at least, is nearly gone—and he no longer has that croupy seal-bark cough/breathing. And then, on Friday evening, I kept telling Chris I was freezing and that I felt mildly icky—a scratchy throat and tingly joints. What do you know—I had another fever! Just 99.7 degrees, but given that my normal body temperature is 97.6, that two-degree increase was enough to make me feel kind of lousy. It’s crazy—before this year, the last time I was really sick was almost 20 years ago. And the last time I had any sort of fever was about 10 years ago. (I remember because I remember where I was working when I got it—I don’t actually catalog my illnesses!) I get your standard colds every year, but I just very rarely ever run fevers. Until this year! This year, I’ve had three in three months. YUCK! I can’t figure out if I’m (a) getting old or (b) completely run down from 16 months of crappy sleep. I suspect the latter, although the fact that my 40th birthday is rapidly approaching suggests that the former could be a contributing factor, too. Whatever it is, I’m not a fan. Enough with the fevers! I don’t have time to be sick.

Really, who ever has time to be sick? But this weekend in particular I didn’t want to be sick, as we had lots of fun things planned! So on Saturday, I woke up with a lower fever (98.8—still high for me, but really barely a temperature at all), so I took some Motrin and decided to go about my day. For starters, I had brunch with two of my students from this past semester. What fun! Both women are roughly my age and are really interesting and fun—I had a great time meeting them and having a grown-up meal! Chris took the boys to do a bit of Christmas shopping while I brunched, and they picked me up when I was finished.

From there, we headed out to Lathrop, which is out in the Central Valley, about 90 minutes from our house. There’s a farm there that does a big holiday shindig, and we decided to take the boys and meet up with Theo’s best friend, Gavin, there. Most noteworthy is that this farm has a manmade sledding hill, and I really wanted to take Theo sledding this year. But going sledding in the mountains is a little tricky for us—where do we put Sam while Theo is sledding? We can’t exactly just plop him down in the snow—he’s not walking yet, so he’d get cold just sitting there! So this was a nice compromise—Lathrop was about 69 degrees, so Sam was perfectly comfortable hanging out on the sidelines with Chris while Theo and I sledded.

As I had predicted, Theo loved it! He’s an adrenalin junkie who loves roller coasters, so I figured he’d like sledding—and indeed I was right! The manmade hill was very tall—I’d say two stories tall. We rode down in double innertubes, and a worker would give you a big push at the top to get you going. It went fast!!!! And at the bottom was a tiny bunny hill that would send you flying up with a little bump when you landed! Such fun!! The first time down, Theo had the most serious look on his face, and I thought, “Uh oh—was this too much for him?” But as we came to a stop, he broke into a huge grin and said, “Let’s do it again!!” His pal Gavin went down three or four times and decided he was done, but Theo insisted on sledding for the entire 90 minutes we were allotted. I didn’t mind a bit, as I was having a blast!

After our 90 minutes were up, we visited the petting zoo, Theo and Gavin did a pony ride and then climbed on a big mountain made of tractor tires, and then we all took a “hay ride” to see the farm’s Christmas lights. It was cold, but the boys loved it—Sam was entranced! He was exhausted by that point, but his eyes were huge as he took in all the lights. He just loved them!

We had an amazing small-world moment during the hay ride, too. Before the wagon (which held at least 40 people, I’d estimate) started, Sam was crawling around in it a bit. He crawled up to this woman and held out his arms to be picked up. Very few people can resist Sam’s charms, and this woman was no exception—she picked him right up, sat him on her lap, and was playing with him for a minute. Then suddenly, she said, “Wait—I know this baby! Did you have a cake made for him in Sacramento last year?” (I should note that we were about 60 miles away from Sacramento, so it’s not like we were right in the vicinity.) I said, “Oh, our photographer did—she had a smash cake made for his first-birthday pictures, back in February.” Turns out, this woman is friends with the woman who made the smash cake, and the baker/decorator had shown her the pictures Jen took of Sam smashing the cake—and she recognized Sam from them, nearly a year later and in the pitch-dark! How crazy is that?! I guess he just has an unforgettably cute face. 🙂

As if Saturday wasn’t enough fun, there was more fun to be had on Sunday! We headed to the Santa Cruz mountains for our annual get-together with my two best friends, Lisa and Jeanette, and their families. We’ve done this every year for quite a few years now, though I was very sad to find out that this will be our last Christmas get-together. Lisa’s parents will be retiring and moving to San Diego, so this is the last year she’ll be in Santa Cruz for Christmas. Waaaaaaaahhhh! Although I know we’ll continue to see each other separately, I don’t know when we’ll get the three of us and our collective three husbands and four sons together again, as the likelihood of all of us being in the same geographic area at the same time will be rather slim. Many of you who know me well know that Lisa, Jeanette, and I were inseparable in school, and we’ve remained best friends ever since—I’ve known Lisa since I was five and Jeanette since I was twelve. And I’m now nearly forty! So we’ve been best friends for a very, very long time, and I cherish these get-togethers. Anyway, as sad as I am about them ending, I was happy to get to have one last Christmas get-together with my pals. And what fun we had! We took the kids on the Roaring Camp narrow-gauge railroad, which goes through the Santa Cruz mountains. It was a warm, beautiful day, and the kids loved it! Theo was actually unbelievably mellow—we never see him like that! He sat cross-legged on the train bench, just looking out very seriously, taking everything in. He barely moved! Usually that only happens if he’s getting sick, but he’s actually getting over being sick, and I don’t think he’s coming down with a second round. So all we can figure is that the vibration and noise of the steam train was soothing to him, and he just sat calmly, taking in all that sensory stimulation! Whatever the reason, it was great—he enjoyed himself, and we didn’t have to try to corral our typically antsy kid!

And I had figured Sam wouldn’t particularly care one way or the other—he’s our “go with the flow” kid who is usually pretty content to do whatever. But he actually really dug it—he kept clapping his hands and squealing happily. I should’ve known—Sam loves cars and trucks, and trains aren’t far removed from that.

So all told, we had four happy kids! And four tired kids. Cason and Justin crashed within minutes of getting in the car, and Sam stayed awake only because we gave him some goldfish crackers to eat. Since we finished up at Roaring Camp relatively early in the day, we decided to get in touch with Chris’s cousin Bill and see whether he and Sarah and their two boys, Liam and Logan, were up for a visit. They live just about 20 minutes from Roaring Camp, so it seemed like a great day to drop by if they were around—which they were! In fact, Liam and Logan were out playing with some of the neighborhood kids, and Theo joined right in. One of their neighbors brought out a spare bike and helmet for Theo, so he was able to ride around with the kids. Fun!! And we definitely wore the boys out—both slept on the two-hour car ride home!

Last but not least, for those who are interested, I finished the first draft of my Malala Yousafzai biography and sent it to the publisher on Thursday! Now it will be edited, and it will come back to me for revisions. But the major hurdle of the first draft is done! And to celebrate, I’m taking two weeks off from pretty much everything. Chris is off for almost two weeks (Genentech is closed for a full week, plus he’s taking a couple of vacation days), and while I probably should take advantage of him being home and get some work done, I’ve decided that I could use a break. It’s been a very busy couple of months. So, I’m taking two weeks off from work, and I cancelled all of the boys’ therapy appointments for two weeks. For the next two weeks, we have no obligations other than a chiropractor appointment on the Friday after Christmas. That’s it! If you’ve ever seen my insane calendar, you know that’s amazing. So I intend to enjoy every possible moment of this respite—even though I won’t really be resting, since Sam doesn’t sleep. But still, I won’t be working, and that’s very cool. And I won’t be shuttling kids to therapy appointments, and that’s very cool too.

Anyway, time to wrap up. Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone!

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