Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Knocking Down The Walls Of Blogging Silence

Well hello there, blog. I do believe this is the longest we have ever been apart. Why oh why have I abandoned such a dear and close friend? Well, you know. Just sitting on the couch eating bon bons and watching soap operas...too lazy to walk over to the computer. Obviously.

Okay truth be told, we are working on the craziest project we have ever attempted.

To back up just a touch, I am pregnant with our fourth child. YAY!!! Oh wait, I forgot I told you that already. Hitting 29 weeks this week, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this isn't news...considering my waddling is shaking the entire state of Vermont these days.

As this is our fourth child and children take up a lot of room (who knew????) we have been outgrowing our little first home for quite some time now. We had been debating doing a big renovation and adding onto it to make just a wee bit more space, but for one big reason we have decided instead to move.

Anyone remember the horrible tale I told about a year ago of how Addison escaped the house out into a super busy road and hiked up it in her adorable yellow shirt that thankfully saved her life? We still live next to that busy road. 8 out of 10 times she is awesome with it (and the boys have never had a problem obeying our very strict rules about the road/driveway), but Addison has no concept whatsoever of danger and those 2 times out of 10 as she dashes for the road, life gets very stressful. Adding another baby will decrease our ability that much more to chase her away from the busy road, so we believe that in the interest of keeping her safe, we need to sell our house and move to more of a neighborhood situation. She isn't growing completely out of this bolting phase, and I don't want to wait for another escape to push us into action.

That brings us to the crazy project. In order to sell our home, we have to redo the kitchen. We have wanted to do this project for 7 years, and consulting with all the right people has confirmed what we already knew that yes, this project is necessary in order to sell.

This project includes tearing down 2 walls, gutting the entire room, and putting in a brand new kitchen. Super easy, right?

(insert crazed laughter)

So to sum up, while 8 months pregnant with our fourth child (this project begins January 1st), we are reducing our living space to half of our house and welcoming in contractors to tear apart our little nest while we figure out the most creative uses of a panini maker and electric skillet to continue on with life without a kitchen. Fingers crossed we are looking at only 3-4 weeks of this madness. By the time February hits we should be all done and on official baby watch. As I am due the very end of the month (the 27th)...fingers crossed that these two projects do not overlap at all.

Over the last month as we received finalized numbers from the contractor, I have been a busy little bee lining up the details of this crazy project. Cabinets are ordered, countertops are almost ordered, and flooring is to be finalized by the end of this week. Naturally, this means that all 3 kids have come down with a stomach bug because LIFE WAS BORING and they needed to shake it up.

On top of the kitchen project, there is a list a million items long of random things that need to be done in order to list our house by May. (Yes, you calculated correctly. Baby Girl will be about 2 months old.)

Needless to say, my mind is in a constant state of EXPLODE. I am behind on all emails/facebook messages. (If this applies to you I am so, so sorry. I am working on getting caught up.) I am just not myself with this pregnancy to begin with. Add in a crazy project and many small details that need to be pulled together, and the version of Deanna that is currently present is one that should probably STAY AWAY FROM ALL PEOPLE.

I will say that through this planning, prepping, and praying as to whether this project is a GOOD or BAD idea...the Lord has very clearly directed us to this place. Step by step he has opened doors and allowed us to come to the point where we are confident that this is a GOOD idea...crazy though it may sound (and feel). Of course, once we get past the huge kitchen project...and the having another baby thing (I can't forget to do this one!)...we are then faced with the bigness of actually selling our house...buying another house...lining up this swapping process...and MOVING.

#HoldMe

The adulting involved in all of this is a little overwhelming. I totally wish that I was just sitting on the couch eating bonbons and watching soap operas. Although at the same time...it has been so much fun to plot and plan stuff like a new kitchen. I have seriously dreamed of doing this for 7 years. We'll see if I still use the word "fun" while knee deep in wall dust and trying to feed children in a dark corner of the living room while praying that was just another Braxton Hicks contraction. Ha.

But on a more serious note, I am so, so thankful. I am thankful for a low key, healthy pregnancy that has made this possible. I am thankful for all of the stars aligning for us to do this kitchen in order to sell. I am thankful for the extremely busy children that make this small space seem even tighter. I am thankful for a husband who is not a stranger to big projects and who has the ability to do a lot of the prep work himself. I am thankful for the very active kicks of Baby Sister who wants to keep reminding me that SHE IS COMING SOON(ish). I am thankful for the many years of love that this house has seen us through.

This whole kitchen thing has been such a God thing, I can't wait to see him continue to guide us all the way into our new little house...hopefully on a dead end somewhere. (Deep breath. Repeat that to self. Another deep breath.)

I will post progress pics on Instagram. I am usually much better about updating there than about anywhere else. (User: eanfe).

Meanwhile, we would appreciate smooth construction thoughts sent our way...prayers for everything to go as planned(ish)...and toaster oven recipes!

Thanks for sticking around even during my long silences. I promise we are still here....mostly.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Scariest Thing I've Ever Done

Today I did the scariest thing I've ever done.

The morning dawned cold and cloudy. We hustled through our morning routine until I had one little boy dressed like a parrot ready to be dropped at his school, one little girl dressed in her school shirt and appropriate hair for "crazy hair day" ready to be dropped at her school, and a small little boy who would be my tagalong whose thick corduroy overalls could not disguise the look of pure trouble.
After school drop-offs, we began our drive. A dark cloud formed over head and seemed to follow directly above us, shadowing the path ahead. Music played softly over the speakers, but even the soothing sounds of strings could not quell the quaking in my stomach.

Driving through Vermont during the month of October is a bit like driving through a postcard. We passed red barns surrounded by lush green fields framed by the wild frenzy of fall. We passed quaint streets lined with picturesque houses and stores. We mooed at every cow we saw. (Yes, we mooed a lot.) The colors lining the roads and sky seemed as though Orange married Red and then had millions of tiny leaf babies to scatter in the wind. But in spite of the beauty surrounding us, my hands began to tremble and a small headache appeared from nowhere.

I couldn't do this. This was too much.

But we drove on.

As we got closer and closer, the dark cloud seemed to lower itself closer and closer toward us. I slowed down. My life was flashing before my eyes. A few black birds that looked an awful lot like bats swooped low and close to my windshield and I wondered if this was the same sort of symbol as a black cat crossing your path? Seemed about right.

The artistry of fall surrounding us coexisted with my fear, almost as a sort of beautifully choreographed dance with the devil. There was no backing out now. My time had come.

We pulled slowly into the driveway. Eli was silent, lulled into complacency by the heat of our car, his snack, and the soothing music. (Plus, he was tired from all of that mooing).

I slowly stepped out of my snazzy SUV, feeling every single day of my 31 years (plus a few decades). A tear fell from nowhere, wetting my cold, cold cheek.

I stared straight ahead. There it was.

It stared back at me. Glossy and shiny. Tall and strong. Dark and formidable.

This is what my life had come to.

I could see myself in its reflection, and it was not a pretty sight. Old and tired, I wondered if this is what they meant by the rest being downhill.

Suddenly small raindrops began to fall. Then bigger ones. Thunder cracked. Lightening lit up the sky.

It didn't move so neither did I. We stared at each other, each daring the other to look away first.

A power struggle. Somehow I knew I would lose.

Rain fell in puddles around me. My tear stained cheeks were washed away with the rain. My headache began to subside in the cool of the storm.

It stood even taller, the rain bouncing off of it as if it wore a protective shield and could not be bothered with mere nature.

Suddenly, as I stared, I swear it winked at me. Mocking me? Or saying "it's going to be all right"?

The rain stopped just a suddenly as it began. Just then a man appeared. He handed me a set of keys.

I took them, wondering why my hands were no longer trembling.

"Any questions?" He asked.

I shook my head. The time for questions were long past.

"Ok well good luck!" He said, too cheerfully.

I nodded, afraid to use my voice.

"I hope you like your new minivan."

Minivan. He used the m word.

"Thanks. I think it will be just what we need." I said, and strangely, meant it.

I looked away, over at my small but stylish SUV, witnessing the death of the "We'll NEVER have a mini van dream OH NO NOT US!" dream. Gone. Poof.

And then the moment was over as quickly as it began and we suddenly had a vehicle that had an extra seat for the new baby. It was nice to have that taken care of. Ok, so maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

I climbed aboard, noting all of the space, the seats, the cupholders, the walls oozing with convenience with which to haul my crew. Suddenly, it felt like I had come home.

Sometimes the scariest things...are the rightest things. Or so my new minivan tells me.



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

School and Down Syndrome Update

I used to write a lot about Down syndrome. It used to be a big part of our lives. It used to fill up spare nook and crannies and overwhelm all the extra spaces. I used to spend long hours pontificating on what Down syndrome means to our family.

But now?

I don't think it matters what Down syndrome means to our family. I don't think it defines anything at all to tell you how I feel about Down syndrome. The only thing that matters to me is what Down syndrome means to Addison.
Now that she has entered kindergarten, she has changed into quite the big girl. She is independent. She is stubborn. She is delightful. She is frustrating. She is amazing. She is ordinary. She is an achiever. She is delayed. She works hard. She doesn't work hard unless bribed with m&ms. She loves to pick out her clothes and dress herself. She will sometimes refuse to take herself to the potty just because she doesn't want to put out the effort (this is where the m&m bribing comes in).

The biggest thing I have noticed is this mother/daughter friction. She resents me for helping her. She resents me for not helping her enough. She is annoyed if I am trying to hang out with her and talk. She is annoyed if I'm trying to fix dinner and she wants me to come do something for her instead. She shuts me out. She welcomes me into her world with girlish whispers and face splitting smiles.

All of these things I don't chalk up to Down syndrome. I don't think that defines her or who she is right now. I think all of these things are characteristics of a very typical girl, working hard to figure out kindergarten and transitioning to life as a school child.

She is currently going to school in a mainstream kindergarten classroom- full time with a full time aide (who tells me Addison gets annoyed at her for helping Addison as well. This girl wants to DO IT HERSELF.) In addition to her classroom teacher and para, she has a special ed teacher and a team of therapists who are all committed to educating her alongside her peers. I could tell you how I worry about her getting so behind that she gets frustrated and stops trying. I could tell you how sometimes I can't sleep at night wondering how she is treated by her peers (or how she treats them). I could tell you how frustrated I get by not knowing what her day consisted of from her point of view because she can't/won't tell me more than a few words. I could tell you how THANKFUL I am for a team who is bending over backwards to give her the best school experience I could ever imagine (they put together a "daily report card" of her day for me after I told them I felt frustrated by not knowing how the day went down). But I really don't think my worries and frustrations and feelings matter in this story. The thing that matters? Is Addison's point of view.

I know that she wakes up every morning excited and yelling, "GET READY FOR SCHOOL!" If she comes to wake me up, it includes telling me, "GET UP! Friends! Classroom! School! GET READY!" with more enthusiasm than I have ever had for anything. Ever.

I know that when weekends come and I answer her with, "Sorry sweetie. No school today. It's the weekend!" She is momentarily crushed until she realizes that means she gets to spend time with Daddy.

I know that she gets excited about her peanut butter and jelly sandwich on homemade bread for lunch and will often save part of it to bring home and savor bite by bite as she watches her brothers play. I know that she is quite picky about what she will wear to school and often hides the clothes I pick out if it doesn't suit her fancy. Oh and she is obsessed with boots and leggings. (Girl is up on her fall fashions).

 (and then there are the moments when what SHE picks out isn't going to work...at all...)

I know that her counting is really coming along, letter recognition is strengthening, and she is obsessed with reading even though her sight words can be counted on one hand. At night time after I read the kids their story, she will grab the book from me and say, "ADDISON read it now." With quite the bossy confidence.

I know that when we do our afternoon song time, she knows ALL the words to ALL the songs and sings along quite lustily. (The ABC song has gotten quite specific)

I know that when we went to her classroom open house, she was immediately flooded with classmates happily shouting, "It's Addison! Addison is here!" Almost as if "They party can get started now!!!" (This also happens when I drop her off)

I know that she falls fast asleep at 6:15pm every night. Exhausted. Snoring. Sprawled out on her "new bed". (This is what she still calls the bed that we bought her mid-summer.)

But as I see it- this story is about a little girl adjusting to school and learning. It has nothing to do with Down syndrome.

I am very careful about posting specific school details because:
1. I want to value her teacher and para's privacy
2. I want to respect the school's privacy
3. I feel that sometimes parents of older kids read about decisions we are very carefully making and automatically assume our situation is JUST like their situation and then I get a ton of message of well-meaning friends who tell me that I'm making the wrong decision since that is not what worked in their child's situation. Being totally honest here- that is not at all helpful. All of our kiddos are quite different not to mention the school/settings are different.

I feel lost as a new school mom and yet I feel empowered as I watch my child succeed in her own way. I feel overwhelmed as I juggle her drop-offs, Carter's preschool drop-offs, baby appointments, and a sweet baby Eli turned Terrible-Twos-I-Will-Run-Away-From-You-Every-Chance-I-Get Eli. And yet I feel strong as I have been stretched between many things...and yet still find a way to make it all work. Well. (It helps that Baby Sister has graciously allowed me to return to some half caf coffee).

But once again- when it comes to the story of Addison, of Down syndrome- I am just a minor player in the game. Addison is the one up to bat. It's her perspective that matters, and I am THRILLED to be hearing more of it from her.

I find myself backing off the Down syndrome posts because I am watching and waiting for her to pave the way to the next thing. I don't want to define it for her by my blog pontifications. She surprises me every day, and my job is to work on communicating with her, understanding her, and giving her the tools she needs to continue to succeed.

Oh. Confession time. I don't spend a ton of time outside of school hours working with her on her letters, numbers, and reading (other than our usual reading time). She goes to school every day from 8:00 to 3:00. When she comes home I want her to play with her brothers, to get some down time, to do things like help me around the house and learn life skills just as important as school stuff (in my humble opinion). I want to BE with her instead of pushing more learning down her throat when she is already exhausted and barely hanging on until dinner, bath, and bed. I am a firm believer in a balance between learning life and learning academics (with an emphasis on learning life for all of my kids at this point).  Thankfully, her school assigns minimal homework and makes this really work for us.

This confession probably means I am a really bad Down syndrome mom. Go ahead. Say it. (Confession #2: I might be riding a rather intense Pregnancy Cranky High. Yes, that is a real thing.)

But like I said before, I don't see myself needing to focus on being a great Down syndrome mom. I am focusing on just being an OKish regular mom to all of my kiddos. Oh and surviving. I hear that's a good thing to do.
So many people have been asking about school updates...and "Hey, did you forget it's Down syndrome awareness month, dear Down syndrome blogger?"

Here is your school update. Here is my reason for not posting a ton about Down syndrome this month. I share with you Addison- the whole picture (yes, I am on Instagram more than anywhere else right now. User: eanfe) I'm sure I will get back to specific Down syndrome advocating, but for now we are in a transition period, and I am hanging on for dear life. This new confident, independent, annoyed-with-me-like-a-teenager Addison takes everything I've got to mother. And yet it is amazing to see because it is so normal.
(one of the more seasonally appropriate outfits that she put together)
But above all else, I am loving getting to love on my girl as she grows. And hearing her express that love back to me. I wouldn't trade this time for the world.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Motherhood Unexpected FREE TODAY

If you follow me on fb or Instagram, chances are you already have seen this. But on the off chance you only look here, I wanted to post this here as well. (-; (Feel free to ignore if you've already seen this!)

Today, October 1st, marks not only the the start of my favorite Vermont month, but also Down syndrome awareness month.

To kick off the celebration, my book Motherhood Unexpected is FREE today ONLY.
Today is a great day to read it if you haven't already had the chance OR to share it with someone you think might enjoy it. You can't beat free. Plus, you are helping spread the awareness and message that this blog was built on. So spread the word! Let's help change the way the world looks at a Down syndrome diagnosis. And thank you. Thank you for sharing and reading but also for loving Addison and for opening your mind to our little world here on the blog. We very much love and appreciate you.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Toilet Seat Necklace

Earlier today, Eli broke the toilet seat off of the toilet. The older two were at school, and Eli apparently felt that mere toys were beneath his royal highness to play with. Only the toilet would do.

We went out immediately and purchased a new toilet seat (because...of course), but since installation skills are beyond my abilities, we had to wait until Daddy was home for the switch. I propped up the old toilet seat into a functional manner for the rest of the day.

(Hang with me, I promise this post is about more than just toilet seats.)

All was going fine until Miss Addison arrived home from school. We were all playing outside because this weather is gorgeous and we don't dare waste a single moment of it (hello, quickly approaching long winter). She needed to go potty, so I sent her into the house alone to take care of it-- completely forgetting about the non-secured toilet seat.

That is...until a few moments later, when Addison walked proudly out of the house wearing her school outfit, lovingly adorned by....the toilet seat worn around her neck like a necklace.

My face went pale and I had trouble swallowing. This is the sort of moment that makes me realize how completely unprepared I am for motherhood. (Is it too late to back out of it? No?)

She was beaming and patting her new accessory with joy, glancing around for no doubt whistles of approval and maybe even some clapping.

The way I see it, I had two choices of how to respond to my daughter in this moment.

1. Gasp in horror and YELL LOUDLY at her since this was clearly the grossest thing I had seen all week (and believe me, this beat out some doozies by her brothers and their overactive bowels...ok I'm sorry, I promise this post is about more than toilet seats and bowels.)

2. Recognize that she is extremely creative and can indeed make an accessory out of...anything. (I would say she made it look good too, but the truth is I blacked out a little bit and can't remember if it looked cute or not.)

I have been thinking about a lot about this lately. My children continue to leave me faced with many sticky situations. My first impulse is to yell and rush to clean up their mess with a HOW DARE THEY attitude. But the more and more I reflect on these situations after they occur, I am realizing how much more there is to these moments than simply something "gross that I have to clean up".

My children are intelligent, creative people, searching out so many things about life right now. It's up to me to respond and guide them in the right way. This is a huge responsibility...and one that I fail at more than I care to admit.

Don't get me wrong, when rules are broken, discipline is served. That's not what I'm talking about. This is about an overall attitude. An attitude of being willing to explore the "why did they really do this? Is there more to the story?"And talk through it with them to get to the bottom of the story instead of assuming ALL is known by first glance and by the extent of the mess. An attitude that I can't always admit to having, but one that I'm striving toward in my motherhood.

So today. Me. Deck. Addison....Toilet Seat. How did I respond?

There was definitely a gasp of horror. And a rush to help her take it off. (And a shudder for all eternity.)

But there wasn't loud yelling and lecturing about the GROSS MESS THAT I HAVE TO CLEAN UP. Because really I don't think she was trying to be gross. She was trying to make a necklace. (Sorry Addison, I don't think I'll be borrowing this one.) Honestly I don't remember a ton beyond that because I think I blacked out again until I got the toilet seat back into the bathroom.

We then had a new lesson, called "Toilet Seats Don't Make Cute Necklaces And Here's Why." (Chalk this up under "Sentences I never thought I'd say".) No discipline was served. We just talked about it. Because how could I punish her for something that I hadn't taken the time to teach her?

I've thought even more about this since the incident earlier today. I want to look at my children and see potential, not problems. I want to craft their genius the right direction, not destroy them through guilt and shame. I want my kids to feel like I am their listening ear, not a hammer waiting to strike down on them. And most of all, I want them to be met with love. Even if this is sometimes the love of discipline.

Toilet seat necklace- horrible gross thing? or expression of an eager 5-year-old's creativity? I think it was just the right mix of both. Taken away quickly. But acknowledged for the look she was trying to achieve. (an edgy porcelain sort of look)

Just so you know, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing over here in this motherhood thing. I just take it one day at a time. One hour at a time. One broken toilet seat at a time. So to sum up- one giant party.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bending...But Not Breaking

As my belly continues to grow, I find that more and more people are asking me, "How do you do it all?" as they glance at my crew of 3 small children and the expectant bump proclaiming an addition to the madness. I'm not offended by this question because honestly I wonder this at times too. (and my old answer of LOTS OF COFFEE doesn't hold because it hasn't settled well in my stomach for months so I've had very limited coffee lately. gasp.) My days are filled and overflowing with children, children, and more children. (The other day Aaron was talking about swapping childcare with another family and I was all like, "Yeah, but I'm just not a kid person." And then we both stopped and laughed at the ridiculousness of this statement.)

Last Mother's Day, Aaron bought and planted 5 apple trees for me in our front yard. Come spring they were bursting with luscious white flowers, and they have bravely gone on to grow a LOT of apples. I was surprised at how fruitful they were only one season in. As the season has progressed, I have noticed those blossoms first growing into tiny apples and then bigger and bigger and bigger until the poor baby trees are now bending from the weight of the huge apples that they are producing.
It's interesting how theses trees are bending from the weight of the apples, but not breaking. Every day the apples grow just a little bit bigger. Every day the trees bends just a bit more to accommodate the weight of the apples. But not a single branch has broken.

When I walk past my apple trees to load my 3 little ones into the car, I notice this, and I without fail think-- that is exactly how I feel right now. Overloaded and bending under the weight of my responsibilities, but not breaking.
When I had just Addison, I felt this same way. When I had two babies under two, I felt this same way. When I added my 3rd baby, I felt this same way. Now struggling with pregnancy while keeping up with 3 extremely active children, I feel the same way. As my responsibilities have grown, so have my capabilities. It's a slow stretching that I didn't even notice at the time until I looked around one day and said, "WHOA. How am I juggling THREE KIDS? I struggled when I had just one baby. How did I get here (insert inappropriate birth control joke) and how am I actually pulling this off?"

I am the tiny apple tree (use your imagination on the "tiny" part...I claim pregnancy on this one). I am loaded down with blessings, GOOD things, a beautiful family. And I am surprised how far I can bend to do what the Lord has sent me to do without a single branch breaking.
(photo by Norrie Thompson)
We are going to pick those apples soon. (I already snuck a couple off and they are DELICIOUS.) The trees will grow that much stronger and be ready for next season. A slow growth with capabilities to grow more and more apples-- to bear more and more weight.
I didn't wake up one day and all of a sudden have a kindergartener with special needs, a preschooler with obedience struggles, a toddler whose mission in life is to destroy and mischief-make, and a baby girl on the way with a lot of unknowns. I grew to this place. Day by day, just doing the next right thing, loving on each child one hug at a time, putting in one more day of pregnancy, making it to just one more bedtime, enjoying one moment of children bliss at a time. The apples only got a tiny bit bigger each day.
I think this is why I'm not panicked about adding #4. I know it will be a transition, and at times it might seem impossible. But as our family grows, so will my ability to mother them. And as their seasons change and their demands in life grow alongside them, my tree will have the strength to carry them along because of all of my gradual growth up to that place. (growth that I really can't take the credit for)

Maybe it's a bit weird to feel a kinship with my apple trees, but hey, I've been accused (and guilty) of far worse. I feel the weight of being a special needs parent, of being a parent with three small children who are still working on being civilized human beings, of being pregnant, of being a wife to a man with such a demanding career that I am left alone with the kids all weekdays most of the spring/summer/fall, and the weight of trying to be a decent human being in the midst of it all (confession: I realized today that I scowl all the way through the grocery store as I juggle children, coupons, and more children. I will work on it.)

I'm bending...but not breaking. It's been a fascinating study to watch these tress continue to bend, and the beautiful apples that have grown out of those tiny white blossoms. Lucky for the trees, it's fall, and they will get a break soon from their load. Just in time to gear back up for another season. The fun never ends. (-;

I am thankful for my weights, thankful for the beauty of growth, and thankful for the strength of someone much bigger than myself who holds a hand out for those large apples to rest on just when I think my branch might snap. After all, he's the one who created the tree in the first place.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Day of Kindergarten

Dear Addison,

Today you enter Kindergarten. You, a big, beautiful, grown up little person, begin your educational journey.
It's hard to believe that you are the broken baby that I cried over in the NICU. It's hard to believe that your bouncing pony tail, infectious smile, and sparkling blue eyes are in my life when I remember all too clearly placing a trembling hand on my swollen belly 6 years ago, scared at what "Down syndrome" would mean for the baby I had yet to meet.

Because I was scared. Terrified, actually. I received your diagnosis with bitter tears and twisted it to mean whatever my prejudices wanted it to mean. But I was wrong. There was nothing to be scared of. These past five years you have spent surprising me with your brilliance and ability, delighting me with a beautiful personality, and humbling me with how blessed I am to be your mother.

Now as I think of you sitting tall in your seat marked with your name, listening to your teacher, learning alongside your peers, being a kindergartener, I am once again terrified. How will you do with the academic side of things? What if you become isolated from your peers because of your difference? What if you don't like kindergarten? What if you are made fun of and I'm not there to protect you from it? What if you struggle to follow classroom instructions and rules? What if you don't click with your new para? And right back to...what if you fall too behind in the academics to successfully remain in the mainstream classroom?
You have been begging to go to school all summer, but yesterday when you realized that "school" was no longer your safe preschool classroom with the para that you love so dearly (T), I could see you processing this all a bit differently.

I am terrified. This is a big change. For a big girl. For a big step towards the rest of your life.

And so I fall back on what you have taught me so far: do NOT I repeat DO NOT underestimate you. And so I won't. I have utmost faith and confidence in your ability to adjust to this new thing. To not only adjust and survive but to thrive while doing it. I know that you carry that infectious smile and sparkling blue eyes into the classroom with you and how can those other kids help but love you too?

Remember what we have been working on: kind hands. KIND HANDS. Treat the other students the way you want to be treated. OBEY. Do not just run off whenever you feel like it. Wash your hands. Frequently. And if you don't get something the first time? Try again. And again. And as many times as you need to to learn new things because it is worth it. (What am I talking about...YOU taught me that last point.)

I know you can do this. It might take a while for you to figure out the new classroom and the new expectations of kindergarten, but you've got this. (And I've packed your favorite chocolate milk in your lunch to help renew your superpowers halfway through the day.)

I love you, baby girl, and I'm so proud of you. You are amazing.

If you have such an awesome time at school that you forget about boring ol' mom, no worries. I'll be the one standing over here in the cheerleading outfit holding pom poms and yelling your name. (and remember who restocks the chocolate milk)

Have a beautiful first day of the rest of your life. I can't wait to hear all about it.

xoxo
Mama



Friday, August 14, 2015

Baby Sister

6 years ago, I answered a phone call with much anticipation and fear. This phone call was delivering to me the results of my unborn daughter's amnio. I will never, ever forget this call.

"I'm so sorry, but your tests returned positive for Trisomy 21," said  in the most depressing voice you can imagine.

6 years, 1 beautiful daughter, 2 handsome sons, and a lot of life lessons later, the actual news of having a child with Down syndrome is no longer a horrible bit of news, but is in fact quite a beloved part of my life.

But even though the actual news of Down syndrome is no longer horrible to me, that phone call traumatized me in a way I can't even explain. In a way, this was the turning point for me as a Christian, as a mother, as a person. How was I going to respond to this "bad" news? (Turns out, badly, but we've covered this before.) I still cry when I think of this phone call. Not because I'm sad that Addison has Down syndrome but because I will never forget the devastation I felt in that moment.

Well, this week I re-lived this phone call.

The phone rang. It was my doctor's office.

"Hello, we are calling with the results from your test."

"Yes?" All of a sudden I was transported to 6 years earlier. Yes, I had the early blood test done for chromosomal abnormalities. My risk factor is higher (because I've already had a child with Down syndrome), I like to be prepared, and insurance was covering the test. Why not? The test would not change anything but just help us be prepared to welcome our newest blessing. But mostly I was convinced to take the test because they can now tell you gender. GENDER!

My hand started to shake. This was weird. I wasn't concerned about what the results were. I really wasn't.

"All of the tests came back completely normal. Your risk factor for all of the Trisomys couldn't possibly be any lower."

"And gender?"

"Yes, it looks like you will be having a baby girl." I could hear the smile in her voice.

A baby girl.

And once again, this phone call made me cry.

This was the phone call I imagined in my head 6 years ago. THIS is what I expected him to say when calling with my results. And yet I got something so different those years ago and I am now so SO glad. It was the strangest thing ever because in that moment I felt like I had a do over for that phone call and some of the trauma that lingered for years suddenly went away.

Addison was due in February. This baby girl is due in February. They are the only two of my babies that I have done chromosomal testing on. Addison came back with a little extra. This one...wasn't as lucky and came back "normal". But in that moment somehow I felt my motherhood journey come full circle.

Addison is going to get a sister.

(You like how I snuck that in there? With a first child you get a HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT and perhaps a video or even a musical number. With a fourth? Just casually slip it in a paragraph and we're all good.)

In no way am I saying that this baby girl replaces my old expectations for Addison. Not at all. (this is so hard to explain). I have learned that expectations in motherhood are a bit like writing in the sand right before a huge wave settles over it. Extra chromosome or not, everything little thing I put into my head about how MY CHILDREN SHOULD BE is always boxed out rather aggressively by my actual children bringing me back to reality. In a good way...and in "teachable moment" ways.  I hold no expectations for this new baby other than I know that I will love her. Fiercely. Just as I love my other 3. Fiercely.

So where was I? Oh yes. Pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen. Again.

You don't see me complaining. (-;

So I am 12 weeks, totally psyched to already know gender (yes, I am the most impatient person IN THE WORLD but I have come to grips with it...quickly), and do not plan on posting many belly shots this pregnancy. Sorry not sorry. Turns out I have a rather large cyst on an ovary (5cm) that my doctor is keeping an eye on that has more than doubled the size my stomach is supposed to be right now. At my 9 week appointment my stomach measured as though there were twins inside because of the size of this cyst. If this continues through the pregnancy??? Ummmmm. Prayers would be appreciated that this cyst would go away on its own (as the doctor says it usually does) instead of continuing to grow.

I am sorry for my lack of posts these past weeks, but I have been focused on survival. I have been in a weird 1st trimester fog that has taken away my ability to function as a human being let alone string together readable words. I feel a bit of my normal self coming back, so hopefully I can hop on here a bit more.
Carter has been so sweet about the new baby, always giving my belly rubs and kisses, asking if we can meet the baby TODAY (I'm afraid impatience must run in the family), and asking lots of questions like "Can I get a baby in MY belly too?" ahem.

Addison has seemed pretty happy, but hasn't had the same reaction as Carter. We will see if she "gets" it more as my belly grows. I know she is going to be an awesome big sister...again.

Eli has become a touch more clingy, scooting himself between me and whichever child is currently hugging me or sitting on my lap. He is such a Mama's boy that I think this transition will be the hardest on him. He will be 27 months when baby sister is born, so hopefully he has some time to get un-babyfied by then. (gulp) We just finished a playdate in which Eli aggressively tackled the sweet "baby" (one year old) girl every chance he got. I might have my work cut out for me on this one.

So yeah...my news. It's nice to finally share. And I hope you won't hold my silence against me. Hopefully I will start to feel even more like myself as I continue into the second trimester.

#soverythankful


Saturday, July 11, 2015

She Lost Her First Tooth And I Missed It

You would think that with the huge number of hours I spend with my children that I would undoubtedly be around for every single milestone. You would be wrong.

This week after a long week that included many days of solo parenting, this morning I had a bit of a break. Daddy took the older two to run errands, Papa took Eli.

FREEDOM! Which for me mostly means sitting in a quiet house and not moving for fear the spell will be broken before I find some small hold once more on sanity.

After they all returned to the nest, I fed them lunch, got them down for naps and then headed off to a friend's baby shower. I do love the days when I am busy with other things than mothering. It makes me appreciate the mothering busyness so much more when I return to it.

After a few hours break, I bounced back into the house, refreshed from the time out with friends at a beautiful shower. I of course assumed that my charges did little but sleep while I was gone, but then I heard the dreaded words come out of my husband's mouth.

"I don't know when it happened, but it looks like Addison lost her first tooth."

My smile disappeared. Shock and horror took its place (as is perfectly normal for a mother in my dire situation).

My first baby lost her first tooth and I MISSED IT?????

Gulping back sobs (I reserve the right to exaggerate to fully portray the depth of my emotion on this matter), I asked for details. Please. I'm pretty sure I gasped out a please.

And here is the worst part. THERE WERE NO DETAILS. Aaron had absolutely no idea when she lost it or where the tooth even was. But sure enough, there was Addison, proudly playing with her new gap in her mouth with her tongue.

This just wouldn't do. It wouldn't do at all.

Armed with my Sherlock hat and magnifying glass (ok still right to exaggerate), I set off to find the details...and the tooth. It had to be somewhere, right?

First I checked her bed. No blood or tooth to be seen. (However there was a smear of chocolate on her pillow. I had more important matters to attend to so I figured I could discuss this with her at a later time.)

Slowly trailing through the hallway...nothing. I remembered how tiny her teeth are and was starting to get discouraged.

Wailing and sobbing and clutching my Sherlock hat, I heard Aaron say something about taking the marshmallows away from her.  Running to the kitchen, I continued my investigation. Just that morning I had picked up some marshmallows for a cookout we were doing that evening. I NEVER buy them normally because I know that Addison's radar is just that good and she WILL find them.

I stood still and stared where they were placed high out of reach on top of the fridge. I slowly pulled the bag down. Sure enough...on the corner of the plastic bag was a small smear of blood. I looked down onto the floor directly in front of the fridge...and there was the tiniest little Addison tooth.

After my careful investigation, one thing became clear: Addison lost her first tooth while attempting to open a stolen bag of marshmallows. That is just so classic Addison it made me laugh. What a girl.

So I missed the event...but I have come to peace with this. And sweet Addison was able to soothe her own throbbing gums with several perfectly cooked smores at the cookout tonight with Papa and Grandma.

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing they tasted a lot better than the plastic bag.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Well Hello, Blog

I've had several people mention "your blog" to me lately and I'm all like, "Blog? what blog?"

It feels like forever since I have written here. Not because I have stopped blogging or because I HATE THE BLOG but rather because life has become a whirlwind.

Addison finished her final year of preschool (hip hip horray!) which means that her summer break lined up with Aaron's busy season (landscaping is best done when it isn't -20 outside...or so I'm told) which means that I have 3 kids all day long with no helper spelling me at bedtime...which means that life has suddenly sped up like crazy.

I have gotten a few breaks this week because of friends being in town and a dentist appointment and Papa and Grandma's church hosting VBS that the older two have loved attending...so don't feel too sorry for me. I only had to call Poison Control ONCE this week (and it was really mostly just to chat to see if they were missing me too much).

So what have we been up to??? I will let the pictures do the talking.

                     First Day of Preschool                                Last Day of Preschool
 Here are the kids all looking at me like I'm crazy (this happens surprisingly a lot. OK maybe not surprisingly.)
 Here they are smiling and looking pleasant ALL AT THE SAME TIME (If I bought lottery tickets no doubt I would have run to buy one on this day).
Here is the very first batch of cupcakes that Addison decorated. (I feel like this should be an "in memory of" picture as they cupcakes are loooong gone.) She was quite proud of her work.
 Here they all are trying their very best to fall into the sheep pen at the farm.
 Here is Addison at her cardiology appointment with Eli as her comforting presence. Apparently I was just their ride home. (Good news...her pulmonary hypertension is FINALLY gone.)
The kids also had their first boat ride. (we stayed in the shallow water...and this only lasted 20 min). Ever since the kids have been begging for "MORE BOAT!!!" The masses have spoken.
This is what happens when I forget to invite Addison to help me roll out the pizzas and she takes it upon herself to "get it done" in the kitchen...
I have started a #triplewagon series on Instagram to document some of our adventures. (Spoiler alert: the triple wagon is in all of these pics)
Addison has bitten up her lenses so badly that she won't tolerate her glasses until the new lenses come in. (this takes 3 weeks) She seems to see pretty well without them (I'm assuming this is unrelated to her running into the open car door this morning?)
 Carter is turning into a gentleman who looks out for the other two in a very kind way (except for the 2% rascal that he pulls out when I least expect it.)
 Eli still hasn't had his first hair cut. He is becoming a big boy, and seems to have inherited the same rascal gene that his brother has. I think the Bible says this comes from the father's side?
 So yeah. My 3.
Side note: I am reading through a book that uses a LOT of parenthesis. I find this habit to be rather contagious. I should apologize (so sorry).

I know blogging has changed to where we are supposed to post only "10 things to help you become a better blah blah blah!" But if I hold myself to that standard...you will most likely never hear from me again because I just don't have the time or energy to creatively craft this sort of masterpiece. (How to be a better blah blah blah 1. Stop calling yourself a blah) 

This summer is simultaneously dragging and flying by. The days with the kids are both hideously difficult and beautifully precious. I am learning a lot about myself (mostly that I am not naturally good at this mothering thing), and trying to learn more about my 3 to help them better navigate into the fall. Because you know what happens this fall????

Kindergarten for Addison
Preschool for Carter
Mommy time ALONE for Eli

So we are treasuring each and every summer day (while wishing for some for HURRY UP AND BE DONE ALREADY). But mostly the treasuring thing. We soak in the rays and we take long naps on the rainy days. We make messes and then we learn to clean them up. We read books and we take long walks. We take adventures and we stick to the boring ol' normal. We eat ice cream and...well, mostly just ice cream.

Oh and also-- thank you for your help in spreading the word about Motherhood Unexpected. Last week on our free day (which ended up being more like a day and a half), we had 1,717 new downloads. Here's praying that those downloads fall in the hands of the ones who need that encouragement the most.

I hope your summer is going well! And as long as you can excuse our more casual approach to summer blogging...we will see you here again soon(ish).

Monday, June 1, 2015

We Are All Good At Different Things

The other day I was trying to get a picture of the newly mowed lawn (which had previously been a prairie) to send to Aaron. Carter followed me out, so I decided to include him in the picture.
"Jump!" I shouted. And so he did.
Later that day I was back out with all 3 kids, and I decided to get a jumping shot of Addison too. 
"Jump!" I shouted. And so she did.
When I uploaded the pictures, I was struck with the contrast between them. Addison has jumped with her feet off the ground before, but for some reason today this was as high a jump as she was able to muster. Carter excels at jumping and I felt happy to just be able to capture one of them so clearly.

When you first look at these pictures side by side,
your first thought might be..."Poor Addison. Down syndrome is holding her back from achievement!"

But before you complete that sentence, I need to give you more background. You will notice that for Carter's jumping picture, he is in a sleeper....and for Addison's jumping picture, she is in a super cute outfit.

You see, Addison is very good at dressing herself. She will take herself to the potty, put on a fresh pull-up, and then put on her pick (or somethings things I have laid out) of clothes. Carter? He thinks he is being majorly tortured if I expect him to ACTUALLY take off his sleeper by himself to go potty let ALONE dress himself in new clothes. Mean mommy with too high of expectations!

What is my point?

I feel like this excellently illustrates something that I have been feeling for a while. And that is-- we are all good at different things and none of us should be judged based on the things that we aren't good at just because someone else along side us IS good at them...and vice versa. These skills grow and change as we grow and change (oh goodness I hope Carter isn't in college some day calling to me to come help him with his sleeper zipper), but the truth of the matter is, we will have different areas in which we excel and areas in which we...simply don't.

Sometimes I think people look at Down syndrome and see only the difference in jump heights:
without taking into consideration that there are many other moments when it is Addison flying into the area and Carter is barely lifting his heels. (like moments before the first picture while she dressed herself and he refused to try)

I don't say this to compare the two or to pit them against each other. I say this merely to remind myself of a simple concept that having a child with special needs has taught me. 

We are all good at different things.

Sometimes the "things we are good at" aren't easily defined, tangible things. Sometimes it's an emotion, a gesture, an artistic expression...a way we make someone else feel or even what we teach someone else through who we are. Because of this, outward "what we are good at" appearances can be deceiving.

I have 3 kids. I know they aren't all going to be brilliant at standardized testing...or athletics...or music as my childhood starred in. But they are all going to be brilliant. Just in their own way. And there is no "better than" or "best" when it comes to areas in which to show brilliance. All areas are equal.

You know how I know this? Addison taught me. Because while I am good at thinking inside the box and judging based on perceived intelligence, Addison is really good at demonstrating outside the box how intelligence doesn't always look how I once thought it did. Intelligence is a sneaky thing...it is all around us. In many different forms.

Sometimes intelligence means struggling to communicate verbally...and finding a million other ways to say exactly what she means. Sometimes intelligence means NOT following instructions not because they aren't understood...but because she has a mind of her own and a will to explore. Sometimes intelligence means smiling and laughing hysterically over the smallest things because the value in the little things are comprehended without having to be taught.

We are all good at different things.
Always look deeper than the first glance. Always assume that there is more there. Search to find the "good at" in both sides of a situation where you are tempted to judge "Good" and "Bad" at something.

Living with 3 children very different from each other, I feel like I have a first row seat to this life lesson.

And sending a child with special needs off to kindergarten in the fall, this is what I wish her kindergarten world would know. No, she won't jump as high as the rest of her class in academics...or PE...or even in feeding herself at lunch. But she is good at other things. Other things that are just as important. You just have to care enough to notice.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

She Wanted To...But Couldn't

The other day I took the kids to the park. I have discovered with delight that they no longer scatter in 3 different directions when I take them on outings by myself (knock on wood).

At first it was nondescript as far as incidents go, but extremely memorable as far as motherhood heart moments go. They played together. Laughing, running, sliding, climbing, twirling, talking, pushing each other down the slide (when it was asked). My heart exploded.
Then a busload of elementary kids showed up. It didn't take me long to realize that they were from Addison's school-- mostly kindergarteners and 1st graders. No big deal. The park got a bit chaotic, but my kids continued to play well. They scattered a little bit, but the boys were both wearing red shirts (easy to spot), and Eli and Addison scattered together, so I just followed them and kept an eye out for Carter.

It was while I was watching Addison that it happened.

She was crouched in the middle of the platform next to the monkey bars. Little boys were swinging all around here, easily crossing back and forth on the bars. I went to her. "Addison are you ok?"

She looked up at me, her eyes brimming with tears. "My turn." she said, pointing at the monkey bars. "My.turn." she enunciated clearly.

I saw the problem. These boys (who she probably recognized from school) were doing something that she wanted to do, but couldn't.

I lifted her and carried her over to the monkey bars, waited until there was a break in action, and helped her do it. "Hold on with your hands. Good! Now reach for the next one. Great job!"

The boys very politely waited for her to have her turn. One of them asked, "How old is she?"

I replied "5. She's 5 years old."

"I'm 5 years old and I don't need any help with the monkey bars. I can do it myself!" he said.

"That is really wonderful." I replied, helping Addison to the next rung. (Side bar: No, I did not take this as a "teaching moment" to talk about individual strengths and weaknesses and how we are all good at different things. Pretty sure if a strange lady tried to take a "teaching moment" with my son in the park...I would have few choice words for her. There is a time and a place. The only thing acceptable in this moment was to celebrate with him. And so I flashed him my most genuine smile and hoped that he felt as celebrated as I would want Carter to feel if the situation was reversed.)

Addison then went to the climbing structure, but try as she might, she could not hoist herself up to the starting point where all of these kids from school were swarming about.

"My turn," her lip quivered. "Addison climb." I helped her once again.
And then she went back to the monkey bars. I could see her watching, soaking in all of the activity around her, and then I saw something that made me physically hurt. She was frustrated. Frustrated that she couldn't do what all of the other kids were doing.

Most of the kids seemed to know her, and while they played around her, they were all extremely polite and kind to her. Some even came over to help her at times and called her by name.

But she kept returning to the monkey bars. Oh she wanted to DO IT HERSELF, but she couldn't. I looked around at all of the busy kids only slightly older than her. I looked around at Carter who was fitting in marvelously (he climbed to the very top of the climbing structure and flirted with several girls while casually resting on the top rung...and then he flirted with the teacher who ended up carrying him down when he got stuck lol). I looked around and saw Eli soaking in the attention, throwing a ball and getting several kids to play fetch with him. And then I looked back at Addison, crouching by the monkey bars, watching her peers play, and crying with frustration.

It hurt to see this. And it hurt even more when I pictured this being a regular scenario at school when I wasn't there to help her through it. It's easy to live in denial about her differences, put on the blinders and just focus on what she IS instead of what she isn't. But the truth is, there are times that I bet Down syndrome makes Addison sad. Oh she doesn't know to call it that, but I could see in that moment that she would have given anything to jump outside of her body just for a minute and fling herself across the monkey bars with ease.

Addison is a smart girl, and because of this I really believe she is smart enough to notice the difference in herself. Most of the time she uses this difference to her advantage (her teachers tell me she likes to charm her classmates into doing work for her), but sometimes she doesn't know what to do with the difference.

I make a point not to compare my kids to their peers, not to hold them up to the "typical" mirror and see how much they measure up. NO. I understand the value of accepting each of my children for exactly who they were meant to be...and the development timeline that comes with that. But for some reason, this hit me in an extremely vulnerable part of my heart.

In that moment, just for the briefest of instants, I hated Down syndrome. And that surprised me.

I thought about how Carter is blossoming into this little man, full of conversation, thoughts of his own, and ability to do whatever he put his mind to. He is quirky, opinionated, stubborn, smart, sweet, kind, and so handsome sometimes I wonder if there was a baby switch situation that went on at the hospital (the quirky characteristic sometimes adds to this thought hehe). Watching him grow from toddler to little man has been an incredible experience (also....such a relief as he has become much less of a flight risk among other things).
Addison's emergence from toddler to little girl has been quite different. It took much longer, and I have yet to feel this sense of relief of her emerging into this next stage as if she was propelling herself forward and will mostly likely be just fine no matter how much I feel that I am screwing this up. Sometimes I feel that she is suspended between stages....and I worry if she will ever completely emerge. Of course, she also is full of conversation, thoughts of her own, and MOSTLY has the ability to do whatever she puts her mind to. She is quirky, opinionated, stubborn, smart, sweet, kind, and quite the beauty.

The thing is, I am FINE with where she is. I am proud of her. I am overjoyed by her. And 99.9% of the time I will wonder if she will ever "emerge to the next stage", and I am not bothered by it.
But in that moment at the park, watching her peers flit about her while she crouched on the platform, looking like a fish out of sea, I hated that she had to struggle. And of course as her mother, I wanted to just remove all frustrations...all pain...all hard knocks in life.

Then the more selfish part of my brain of course jumped to-- "I've put in 5 hard years of parenting!!! I should have a 5 year old who can not only do the monkey bars by herself...but brag about it! It's only fair. I've put in the same amount of time that that kid's mom did."

Honestly, I hate myself just a little bit when my mind goes here. I know parenting isn't all about me...but I can be a very selfish person at times. And I am very disappointed in myself when my mind dwelling here then leads to disappointment.

Because that doesn't matter. My effort in parenting doesn't matter when it comes to justifying "deserved" outcomes. My effort in parenting isn't me doing my kids a GIANT FAVOR...it is me doing my job, plain and simple. And the fact that Addison is where she is after 5 hard years of parenting...it just IS. But more importantly...it is my good. All of my children...exactly as they are...are God's goodness to me as a mother.

I knew all of this in my heart. But for some reasons my eyes were on a mission of their own as they filled with tears.

The feeling that this monkey bars moment left me clung to me all weekend. Sunday I was taking a short nap when I heard her open her baby gate, go to the bathroom, put on a clean pull-up, and then come to Aaron's side of the bed. She scooted her little body under the covers, flung her blonde head onto his pillow, and then brought her smiling face inches away from mine.

"Hi". She said, slightly breathless.
"Hi, sweetie. Did you have a nice nap?"
"Chocolate. Addison potty. Need chocolate."

I laughed. She giggled and then wiggled closer to me as if about to pat me down for the chocolate that I was clearly holding out on her.

I don't have any answers or magic fix-its. I don't know if perhaps I will get better at handling these playground-type incidents as she grows and these moments increase...or maybe it will just be that much harder. I don't know. I don't know how having an elementary-aged daughter with Down syndrome will be different than having a preschool-aged daughter with Down syndrome. I don't know if I will grow in my own selfishness along the way. I don't know what the next years hold...or how to help Addison through these moments of frustration.

But I do know that she got over it. So I did too.

She has been begging to go back to "Park. Park please." I think she wants to try again.

Something tells me she will conquer the monkey bars soon....and then demand a reward of chocolate.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Addison's "Juice" Recipe

Several people asked me after my last post what this mysterious "juice" recipe is that my kids currently go bananas about. (Spoiler: there are no bananas in this juice)

Being the kind person...okay fine...over-sharer that I am, I am giving you the recipe here. I realize this isn't a recipe blog, but I claim "everything and nothing" as my wiggle room on this. Also, I spend a lot of time preparing food for my family, and it feels like a crime if that can't occasionally spill over into this space. So here goes.

The "juice". This is a not-so-sneaky way to balance out my children's diet.
I start off with
1 avocado
A handful of kale 
8 strawberries
A handful of raspberries (anywhere from 1/2 cup to a full cup)
1 cup of frozen blueberries (I used the Costco mix for this which snuck a few blackberries in as well) It's important that they be frozen as this is the "ice cube" to the smoothie
I then add several large spoonfuls of Cabot Greek yogurt (their favorite is either strawberry or vanilla bean)
and top with a sprinkling of Chia Seeds

When I first started to make this for them, I added a TON of yogurt, very few kale leaves, and added some extra honey for more sweetening.  I have weaned that down to more kale and less yogurt with no extra honey. They still love it (knock on wood). The more yogurt you add, the sweeter it is. 

Once that is all in place, I fill up all of the cracks with Almond Milk. We go back and forth between unsweetened and the one sweetened with honey. (I ran out of Almond Milk this weekend as we have been making this so much and had to do the last little bit with whole milk for this round of "juice". I could definitely taste the difference. Oh well...)
and blend
The kids beg for "juice" every day for lunch. And sometimes the leftovers are my entire lunch that day. Fine by me!
I'm posting this pic again because I think the colors are soooo pretty! (Admittedly...I spend FAR too much time staring at food in the kitchen...ha)

I started off making this with the avocado, almond milk, and whatever other fruits we had in the house. The kids soon made it clear that it tasted SO MUCH BETTER when strawberries were involved. (-;

So there you go. "Juice"

Yeah...I definitely need a better name for this....