Saturday, December 31, 2011

See ya 2011, it has been real.

Happy New Year! Hard to believe another year is done, and a new one set to begin. Tonight we have a quiet celebration with our best friends; a yearly tradition that we have come to look forward to.

Before I run off to get ready for tonight, I wanted to share a recap of our year and pick a favorite picture from each month.

We rang in 2011 with our annual trip to the Dells. Charlotte enjoyed her first taste of swimming, and Katherine and Will both showed new confidence towards water slides. We celebrated both Alec and Sam's birthdays with them, and watched excitedly as the Packers advanced towards the Superbowl. Charlotte worked on her pre-crawling skills and decided that eating solids was a good thing.


February started with a massive snowstorm that kept us home for a few days. Cookie baking, game playing, and snowman building kept us busy as more than 15 inches of snow fell. The Packers went on to win the Superbowl, and Charlotte mastered independent sitting (not sure which one was more exciting?!). It was during this month that we decided staying in our current house wasn't going to work, and we began to get our house ready to put on the market. 


Our house went on the market in early March, and our lives were filled with frantic cleaning and keeping the kids busy during our multiple showings every weekend. We couldn't have made it through this stressful time without help from family and friends. During the middle of the month, milder temperatures visited for a short time and we had a chance to bust out the sidewalk chalk and bikes. Katherine took her first bus ride during a preschool field trip, and we celebrated all the March birthdays with a party at Andrew and Christine's. During the last week of March, Charlotte had her finger separation surgery, and in usual Charlotte-style, she did awesome and was a rockstar.


We found our how sassy our little girl can be when she decided to take off her own cast only 5 days after her surgery. After a quick visit to Children's ER (it was a Saturday when this happened, of course!), we spent the next few weeks trying to figure out how to keep a gauze bandage on a 9 month old. We visited the Dells once again, this time with Mike's family. It was during this trip that we got fantastic news; we had an accepted offer on our house! What we once thought was impossible, was now happening! Yes! Only problem? We had yet to find a house to buy. Oh yeah, one more big thing, Charlotte was now officially mobile. We have a crawler!


May was a bit stressful. Packing up the entire house and figuring out what the heck we were going to do if we didn't find a house soon. Mid-May we realized buying a house before our closing date wasn't going to happen and we arranged to store our things, ship Soph off to Kate's, and move in with my parents. While all this was going on, the older kids were finishing up the school year and I was feeling a bit emotional about Katherine saying good-bye to the kids she had gone to preschool with for three years. Add in preparing for Charlotte's upcoming birthday, and May ended up being probably the most stressful month of the year. Charlotte did learn to stand and pull herself up at the end of this month and was progressing quickly towards hands/knees crawling!


The biggest event of the month was my little girl's first birthday. We celebrated her crazy first year with a huge party at Kate and Bill's. The weekend after her party, we said good-bye to our home of five years and shed a few tears as we loaded up the truck and waved good-bye to our wonderful neighbors/friends. We settled in quickly at my parent's house, and continued to frantically look for a house before school started. Katherine participated in a few summer camps, and we spent our days driving to and from Brookfield/Pewaukee and hangin' with friends.


We finally found a house! After a few weeks of crazy ups and downs, we settled on a closing date at the end of July. The house we found was exactly what we wanted, in the school district we desired, and we were excited. We celebrated the fourth of July with good friends, and I officially became my dad's headhunter while living with them. Mike and I were able to go away for a night and leave the kids with my parents to celebrate our 7th anniversary. Two days before our actual anniversary, we bought a house that we hope to live in for a long, long time. Three houses in 7 years; I think we are done for awhile!


One word defined August: unpacking. We truly appreciate all the help we had moving and unpacking during the first weeks of August. We could never have made it happen without everyone's help. Katherine attended summer school with some of her new classmates, and Will took a soccer class. Charlotte had her developmental follow-up appointment and after some researching, we made the decision to look into private therapy for her. In hindsight, that was a great decision, as the difference it has made is huge. We shopped for back to school, and met new teachers for both the older kids. The month ended with the installation of our new swingset, much to the delight of the kids.


On the first day of September I put my eldest on the school bus and she headed off to Kindergarten. I hid tears behind my sunglasses, and she happily hopped up the bus steps. Will took over the role as "oldest" during the school day, and became quite the little helper. Will started school a week later, and Charlotte's new therapy schedule also began. She went from PT once a month to OT/PT/Speech each once a week. We had the older kid's birthday bash in early September, and Will celebrated his fourth birthday a week later. Oh yeah, my dad found a great job, yes!


October was the month of birthday parties. A lot of the kid's friends have fall birthdays, and it seemed every weekend we had a different party to attend. Katherine celebrated her 6th birthday the same day Charlotte celebrated one year of having a healthy heart! Oh, the difference a year makes! Missy organized our team, Charlotte's Web, for the Buddy Walk, and we raised over $2500 for Down syndrome awareness! I am still amazed by the number of people who came out to support our girl. It was at the Buddy Walk when my little brother and sister-in-law shared that they will be having their first baby (a little boy!) in April! We hosted a huge Halloween party to celebrate all those who participated in the Buddy Walk, and despite rain/hail during trick-or-treating, the kids had a blast.


Mike was able to get away for a weekend with friends in Las Vegas in early November, while the kids and I hung with Missy and the boys. We took a trip to north to visit Mike's family for an early Thanksgiving in mid-November, and then followed it up with Thanksgiving on my side a week later. Charlotte was hard at work practicing her new skills; she took her first few tentative steps this month, as well as showed us her new signs. We had professional pictures taken and were able to get some great shots of the kids that really show their personalities.


 It is hard to believe December is over, because I feel like it just started! Every weekend in December was filled with parties, getting together with friends, and preparing for Christmas. The stomach flu decided to hit our house and not leave for about two weeks, but the kids fared well and everyone, thankfully, was healthy for Christmas. Charlotte thoroughly enjoyed opening all her gifts this year, and the older kids reminded us frequently about the magic of Christmas.  Mike was able to take quite a bit of time off at the end of the month, and we spent a lot of time relaxing, reading new books, and playing with new toys. We also took another short trip up north and were able to meet our new nephew, Renfield.


We look forward to all 2012 has to bring! Have a happy and safe New Year!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Just like last year, in lieu of an annual Christmas letter, please enjoy our "year in review" video. We hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!

Here is the direct link if you would like to view it larger:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

18 months

My girl has been busy; growing, learning, exploring. Everyday I look at her in amazement and thank God for who she is and what she teaches me. What exactly is she up to, you may ask? Here is a breakdown of Charlotte these days:

Charlotte had her 18 month well-check on Friday. Will accompanied us to this appointment and was happy to hear no shots were needed. Charlotte is doing really well, heart sounds good, thyroid blood work came back great, and she is growing like she should. On the typical growth charts she is in the 50th percentile for height and 20th percentile for weight. Some say she is a peanut, but in reality, she is bigger than her sister was at this age.

Gross Motor (physical therapy):
Charlotte is the proud owner of a new pair of sure steps. In a nutshell, they are braces for her feet/ankles which will give her a bit more support and hopefully the confidence to make walking her main form of transportation. She is definitely progressing towards independent walking; with her new orthotics on, she can stand for 2-3 minutes on her own without support. She is a confident furniture cruiser and has a new affinity for stair climbing. Her physical therapist has been thrilled with all of her improvements lately, as have we.

Fine Motor (occupational therapy):
Fine motor skills are definitely Charlotte's strong suit. She can stack blocks, master shape sorters, turn book pages, and color with the best of them. Recently, we have been working with self-spoon feeding, and she has been rocking that as well. Charlotte has an amazing attention span, and usually after she is show a skill, she can pick it up pretty fast. I was telling Missy the other day, how fun it is to watch Charlotte play independently. Most 18-month-olds are walking disasters, dumping toys out of bins, and quickly moving from one to the next. Not Charlotte. She has been taught how to play with all of the toys through hours of therapy, therefore, she will sit for sometimes ten minutes putting rings on and taking them off of a stacker.

This has definitely been the area that has been the most frustrating for me. Katherine and Will were both incredibly verbal pretty early on. In fact, I remember at Will's 18-month appointment filling out the language survey and checking the box for "35 or more words known." When I got home from that appointment, I was telling Mike about it, and he didn't believe that Will knew that many words; so I made a list. Sure enough, at 18 months, Will had more than 50 words, and many two word phrases. Charlotte is still working on her first spoken word. As I have said before, she "talks" all the time.  I can carry on an entire conversation with her, and she even throws in hand gestures, but she has yet to say "mama" or "dada" or any other real word. However, she must have known that this blog post was coming, because just today, she decided to throw out some new signs. After her initial three signs, she regressed a bit, and decided to use "milk" for pretty much everything she wanted. Today though, she spontaneously used "more" when she wanted me to read a book for the second time. Also, while laying on the floor next to the dog, I asked her where the Sophie was and she signed "dog," and then when trying to get her to say "mama" tonight (I say it and sign it), she repeated the sign back to me. She is getting it, and I know spoken language will come too, we just have to be patient.


At times, the past 6 months have been hard, as delays are more apparent. During her first year, Charlotte's milestones were not far behind her typical peers. But as our same age friends have progressed from babyhood to toddlerhood, it is sometimes tough to witness their walking and talking and be reminded of Charlotte's disability. However, most times, these moments of sadness and frustration are fleeting, as I am able to concentrate on what my babe can do, and it is pretty amazing. The excitement, love, and pride Mike and I shared today as our daughter showed off her news signs make it worth it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Tis the season...

...for Christmas Parties, tree decorating, and Christmas concerts! Enjoy the random mess of photos below!


Sometimes I feel the same way, Will!








Thank you Great-Grandma Barb for the boxes of "Christmas dollars!"


My cute little cow.


Charlotte wanted to be a part of Will's Christmas concert; she loved being on stage. 

When did my baby grow up? Katherine did great in her first "big kid school" concert.



More holiday posts to come, as well as a Charlotte update after her 18-month well check tomorrow. Happy (almost) Friday!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Under the Weather

Charlotte doesn't feel well. Poor thing was up most the night with a stomach bug. Hoping it goes away quickly and the rest of the fam doesn't get it.

She is alternating between snuggling with me and watching "Baby Signing Time" today. Luckily, Katherine was happy to snuggle her sister before leaving for school.


Feel better soon, my dear!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Our kids are gaining cousins these days! Mike's sister had a little boy early this morning (yay, looking forward to meeting him this Christmas!), and my brother and sister-in-law are having a boy in April. Katherine is kind of bummed that they are both boys, but Will is psyched to even out the ranks!

My baby brother Paul trying on my baby carrier this Thanksgiving. We picked their names for Christmas, and I thought a baby carrier would be a great gift for my outdoor-loving bro and sis-in-law.

And Erin, always surrounded by the kids. They LOVE her; she is going to be an awesome mom.

Yay for more babies! I told Mike all this baby talk might give me baby fever. He rolled his eyes. Hah.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Breakfast with Santa.

The kids enjoyed the annual breakfast with Santa at Will's preschool this morning. Charlotte didn't seem to mind the big guy in the red suit; Will on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with him. There is always next year.




Monday, November 28, 2011

Baby steps.

Charlotte has decided being upright is kind of fun! We have a long way to go before she is an independent walker, but she has been bitten by the walking bug, and is having a great time practicing her new skill. It helps that she has lots of encouragement!

Through all of Charlotte's PT, I have learned how much really goes into a child learning to walk. The strength one must develop and the coordination required is quite amazing; all these things I never gave a second thought to with my older children.

Thank you my dear baby girl for all your hard work, you make me so proud.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

To say I am thankful for all I have is an understatement. My husband, my children, my family, my friends. I am a pretty lucky girl. Last Thanksgiving, I made a list of everything I was thankful for; re-reading it, I realized it is still relevant. A lot of the list was dedicated to Charlotte's repaired heart and health, and I can say that is still true, however, something I rarely think about anymore. Charlotte continues to amaze me daily, she brings such joy to my life, and though she doesn't know it, she teaches me more than any book or class in school ever has. Life lessons, things that make me a better mother, wife, and friend.

I do have two big additions to my "thankful list" this year. First, this past year, we were incredibly blessed to be able to move to a house that better suits our needs and more importantly is in a wonderful school district. Though the months of selling/moving/buying/moving again were incredibly stressful, we couldn't be happier with where we ended up. I am so incredibly grateful for all who helped us make what we thought was impossible, possible.

The second, is a wonderful new friend. I was told after Charlotte's birth that one thing we had to look forward to was meeting incredible new people within the "Down syndrome community." And while I have "met" many new friends online, it took me a little bit to feel comfortable with this in real life. I met Kathleen this past year after her daughter, Emily (ironically!), was born with an extra chromosome. We quickly found we had quite a bit in common; both our girls are the third born in our families, and our older children are the same ages (in fact her daughter Lily is only 3 days older than Katherine!), among other things. She often thanks me for the help I have been to her these past six months, however, she needs to realize she has been just as therapeutic for me. I have a lot of good friends, however, I can't tell you how invaluable it is to have someone who gets "it." And while we are both busy moms of three trying to balance family, work, and everything in between, and we aren't able to see each other or talk as much as we may like, I am so incredibly grateful to know there is someone  out there I can call when I need to vent/cry/whine about that extra chromosome or share in my joy and really understands the magnitude of each new milestone Charlotte hits. I am incredibly grateful for our new friends.

I could continue to write about all I am blessed to have in my life, however, my children are getting antsy and need breakfast, and the paper with all the Black Friday ads is calling to me. I think there may be a cup of coffee with my name on it as well. Later we head to my parent's house to spend Thanksgiving with family, it is sure to be a good time (however, cross your fingers for a Packer win, otherwise it might put a damper on the festivities).

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Thank you for your continued support!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Early Thanksgiving

This weekend we packed up the kids and dog in the van and headed to visit Mike's parents for an early Thanksgiving. We had to chuckle a tad on the way there as we looked back at our technology-infused mini-van. Katherine, singing along to Kidz Bop 20 on my iPod, Will watching Cars II on the iPad, and Charlotte intently taking in every second of Baby Signing Time on the DVD player. Technology is grand, as it was the most peaceful 3 hour car ride we have had in a long, long time.


Yesterday we went swimming at a local hotel pool. Unfortunately most the pictures we took were blurry, as Mike has been reading and learning more about our camera, which means he has been playing with settings and I didn't realize it until after I took the pictures. Whoops. Our little pool adventure though reaffirmed what we already know; all three of our  kids love the water. The only picture that turned out:


After a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, Katherine decided it was time to pitch in with the dishes:




(I love how you can see her little teeth in this picture!)

I hope you had a wonderful weekend as well! We have so much to be thankful for this year, and look forward to celebrating with more family later this week. Enjoy your week!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Please, just ask.

I have noticed over the past 18 months, many of our friends and family skirt around the "Down syndrome" issue, and it feels at times as if it is almost the giant elephant in the room that no one wants to mention. At times, it is almost ackward because I can tell when someone is curious but doesn't know how to ask, so they just repeat over and over again how cute and happy Charlotte is (which she is, but believe me, it gets tiring hearing it time after time!).

Today, I am going to clear the air, and invite you to please just ask! I want to educate. I want to dispel any myths you may have heard. I want to advocate for my child by teaching those who love her about her disability.

I realize this is a fine line, as I also want Charlotte to be treated as any typical child would. However, a few questions here or there for you to better understand Down syndrome will help you spread awareness as well. I promise I will not break down in tears. Don't be afraid of offending me, I have heard and read it all. I am in a good place; my child has Down syndrome, I accept that. I have come a long, long way in 18 months, and learned a heck of a lot. Please, let me spread the knowledge.

Happy Friday everyone, have a wonderful weekend!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Say what?

Charlotte is a talker. No real words yet, but constant babble. All. day. long. In the evening, after the big kids go to bed, Mike and I will sit and watch TV while Charlotte plays. Her new favorite activity? Climbing up on the fireplace, pulling herself up on the end table and telling me about her day.

*sorry about the muffled sound, I think I put my hand over the mic. Whoops!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Charlotte now knows and initiates 3 signs! In the past few days the signs we have been working on for the past 6 months have finally clicked for her! Yay!!

Speech has been a big concern of mine for awhile. I know Charlotte's receptive language is good, and I know her expressive language will come. However, I can't shake the things I have read; how usually kids with DS excel in one area or another. Charlotte's gross motor skills have always been really good and I am afraid of her speech taking a backseat. Also, as nice as it is to read blogs of kiddos around the same age as my girl, it is hard not to compare.

I am excited to go to speech tomorrow, her therapist is going to be very proud!


Sunday, November 6, 2011


I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.
-Shel Silverstein


Charlotte gives the best hugs. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011


The kids got a package in the mail yesterday; it was from Missy's brother and sister-in-law, who every Halloween send care packages to the kids. The kids had a blast opening them and discovering what they had sent. Thanks Jason and Katie!

Charlotte thought the little skydiving men were absolutely hilarious. Check it out.

Monday, October 31, 2011

We did it.

31 posts in 31 days. Done.  If you are still reading, thank you.

It is my hope that this month I have spread a little awareness by dispelling some of the myths about Down syndrome, as well as illustrating how "normal" life is raising a child with an extra chromosome.

We are incredibly blessed to have this little girl in our lives, and I love sharing her with you.


It is hard to believe tomorrow is the first of November. I hate to say it, but soon snow will be flying around here, and the holidays will be upon us. I will no longer be blogging daily, however, with so many fun things on the horizon, be sure to check back for Charlotte updates.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Fun

What a weekend! We had a busy, fun filled couple days. The kids are wiped, as am I, and I am hoping we all make it out of bed for school tomorrow.

The kids both had school parties, as well as a couple opportunities for trick-or-treating. Today, we had lots of friends and family over for a pizza party and some Halloween fun. I need a weekend to recover from our weekend!




Sophie the banana split (minus the banana hat, she hated that part of the costume)


Happy Halloween everyone!