Care about the creatures of the earth. Daniel certainly does. Say thank you. See things through a Jewish lens. Let yourself feel emotions. I hope you like your new home. Express your gratitude. As the students watched the butterflies flit away, they sang the Shehechiyanu and, without prompting, began to sway arm in arm. Martin Luther King, Jr Day was one of my very favorite days of the year. She did it. In a day. She had 1 accident and never looked back. She napped trained and went all night too starting that day.
It was incredible. I had feared potty training due to her diagnosis but she suddenly was ready and just did it! I had also started that day feeling guilt because I didn't have any cool plans for our day off from school. I hadn't created any special theme days or activities to study or crafts to create. But then, I sat outside doing my Bible study and reading my book and soaking up the sun as I watched the kids play and realized that what they really need is time to just play.
They need to be kids. They need freedom and unstructured time to use their imaginations. They need to play with neighbors of varying ages and learn how to problem solve on their own and how to get along. They need independence from me in their play. This became a defining day really for helping me develop my own parenting philosophy. They spent hours playing with neighbors,. Such a beautiful, fun day. Exactly what we needed. Some of our dear friends moved all the way to CA! We hated saying goodbye but tried to be intentional about spending time together before they left. Our "More Ellie" really misses her "Other Ellie.
This was such a huge surprise and honor. It led to one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. In , Will continued his love of dress up. I love his imagination. This picture was taken the day before "inlaws on ice. And then we had the epic "Inlaws on Ice" adventure in which we travelled 90 miles in ice over the course of 26 hours due to a horrible scary ice storm. We did this while trapped in a minivan without coats, water, or snacks and with my parents hence, R's nickname for the "adventure.
The next day, we enjoyed freedom from the minivan and sledding! At the musical "Little Mermaid" - just a few hours before the great interstate ice capade. So thankful to crash at our friends' farm for the night. We played, we talked, we rested in the way you can when you are with your favorite people In the spring, Will got new zancos prosthetics. Unfortunately, these haven't worked out so well and he doesn't wear them. Fortunately, they led to us getting really creative and trying to figure out an alternative for Will. He doesn't fit the "mold" in so many ways: of the typical amputee.
He is actually functional without prosthetics! Prosthetics slow him down and this leads to social issues at his age when speed on the playground counts. They are also hot which meant he generally goes barefoot all summer. Pictures to come soon. March The kids ran a local race. This was Ellie's first race to run in.
We were so so proud of both kids! The race ran out of medals for kids but Will graciously shared his with his sister since it was her first race. This is Will's cursive by last spring! His kindergarten progress was amazing! Also in March, Ellie got a big girl room! A wonderful family passed their daughter's bedding and chair and bed and lamps down to Ellie after they realized some of their fabrics were the same as I had used in Ellie's nursery bedding and window treatments.
I love her big girl room and absolutely love all her "new to us" pieces. We are so thankful for fabulous hand me downs from sweet friends! By April, Ellie became a jumper! This trampoline has been awesome for wearing out energy and building muscle strength. On a beautiful April day, the kids hosted a lemonade and popsicle fundraiser.
It was a great success! Ellie got pretend makeup this year in her Easter basket. We have been working hard at bike riding! In April, I finally took my first set of bluebonnet pictures ever! This seems to be kind of a tradition for Texas families but somehow I've just never done it. I'm so proud of her. Also, I'm not crafty at all but managed to create these little no sew tutus for her class so they could match in their spring show.
Ellie loved it. And Will headed to "hand camp" for kids with hand differences. We made lots of friends and had a blast reconnecting with old college friends and West TX friends. Will got an art lesson from this professional artist with hand differences. They drew awesome dragons.
The rock wall ended up being a brutal experience for us. Will got scared and was unable to make it to the top. This meant he was unable to do the zip line. He was crushed and we didn't know any of the other kids watching so he was embarrassed too. It was just an awful, gut wrenching, heart breaking, character building, tough experience. I am confident he will be able to do it someday.
It was so hard as his parents to not be able to help him or push him harder or somehow fix this for him. There's a life lesson in here somewhere. Victory someday will be so much sweeter for Will on that rock wall. He did, however, have a great time creating art. In May, we travelled to Virginia for an old friend's wedding. It was beautiful and such a fun weekend of celebrations. I almost didn't do it this year because I felt overwhelmed in May and it seemed like the easiest thing to let go. But Ellie begged so we went for it. I am so so glad I did. The girls really got into it this year.
They each brought books to donate to our local Children's Miracle Network Hospital for kids in the hospital and while they played, the moms each made hand scrubs which Ellie and I delivered to the hospital for moms of kids who were hospitalized on Mother's Day. I decided this year the little girls were old enough for "real" tea cups and used the china tea cups with them I've collected it from estate sales and borrowed some from family.
The girls were so so excited to use real tea cups. They were so careful and precious. We went around the table to share something we love about our mom or daughter and Ellie said that the tea party was her most favorite day of her whole life. Ellie was such a helper this year. She made and decorated the cupcakes and helped serve them. Also, I had a fancy tea party dress for her but she really wanted to wear this pink dress up dress so we went for it. I love how much ownership she took in this year's party.
Favorite picture of my kids ever. I have a dream of someday meeting a sculptor who can turn this picture into a bronze sculpture for my yard at a discounted price.
In May, Will graduated from Kindergarten! Also, the city named May 14 "Will Butts Day. Press Conference. For my 6 year old.
I love listening to them whisper as they fall asleep. One night, I went to check on them and they were sound asleep holding hands. My heart melts at the sweetness and purity of their friendship. I am so grateful they have each other. By the late spring, Will had become a full blown book addict. I LOVE that he loves reading. One of our favorite activities is to read our novels side by side while Ellie naps. Three Musketeers condensed version. Ralph S. He also loves Shel Silverstein and has read each of his poetry books cover to cover. I often hear him giggling as he reads those.
I can't tell you how many places I've found him with a book in his hands - he will read for hours. I'm so very thankful. He says in Heaven he hopes he can fly while reading. I loved this day on the beach. I was in my chair nearby with my novel.
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Ellie was napping between us. Happy mama. Happy kids. In late May, we took a family vacation - our first Disney cruise! Ellie loved meeting the princesses. One day, Will saw a man on an island who is an amputee. Will introduced himself and we learned that the man is a veteran who lost his legs in Afghanistan. We met his family and his friend who is also an amputee and thanked them for their service. The rest of the trip, whenever Will spotted them he would run to him and high five them.
Will called the three of them the "zanco club" since they all had prosthetics. Ellie loves to dance with her Daddy. She calls it "marry me Daddy! Our hearts will be crushed the day she realizes she can't actually marry him but for now - they dance. While we enjoyed the cruise, it really helped solidify how we want to travel with our kids and what kind of travel we most enjoy as a family and factoring in our various personalities and disabilities. So - a story about one of the best days for our family in For one of the island days, I began researching something to do.
I knew the goal was to get to a beach because we love the beach and everyone would be happy. Typically in this marriage, R does the travel planning. He's good at that and enjoys it. For some bizarre reason, I did the travel planning for this particular day. I found a sailboat to charter.
In college, I took sailing for PE credit so pretty much because I sailed on a little river in a little sunfish 15 years ago, I'm convinced I am a sailor.
R gets nervous every time I rent a sailboat at the ocean. He suspects I have no idea what I am doing. He may be correct but don't tell him that. For the record, I got an A in that class. For the other record, I can't remember the difference between starboard or port or how to jig. Or anything else really. But I'm cool with winging it. This stresses out my husband.
So I found a sailboat. R gave me the okay because the sailboat was far cheaper than all the official Disney excursions. Also, the sailboat came with a Captain. However, there were some factors that had us both a bit uneasy the night before - one of which was that no one knew where we were going to be the following day - not our families, not anyone on the cruise ship, or us for that matter. He literally grew up on an antique wooden 37' sailboat sailing around the world. We were all enthralled.
Will learned how to say ahoy to other sail boats via a conch shell. Ocean sailed us to itty bitty islands and deserted beaches. The kids played on quiet beaches, jumped off a tire swing into the ocean, and explored. We taught Will how to snorkel! The first animal he saw underwater - a sea turtle!! Ocean swam down and spooked it and the turtle surfaced right in front of Will's face. It was majestic and powerful and awesome. We also "met" a barracuda who hung out by our boat during lunch looking for droppings from the kids. Just today, 9 months later, Ellie told me all about that moment.
I don't have many pictures from that day because my camera broke but it was truly an incredible experience. Our kids were able to truly explore new places. It was quiet - there weren't crowds or tourists or anyone telling us what to do or where to be. There weren't people at all on some beaches. There was no entertainment. Don't misunderstand me - we love great shows and enjoy entertainment but I also want my children to be able to entertain themselves and sometimes just be without having any entertainment in their faces.
Ellie made a "baby" out of a leaf - Ocean poked holes in it for a face and somehow he managed to keep it from flying off the boat. She played with "Leaf Baby" all day. Will explored and ran down quiet beaches. He played on an old tire swing. He watched fish and searched for underwater treasures. He fought imaginary pirates. They listened to Ocean's stories and took naps on the deck of a sailboat. It was just a perfect experience - except that it ended way too soon.
We've already been figuring out our next adventure and dream of perhaps sailing a bit further with Captain Ocean - maybe a week on a sailboat next time? A few days later, we headed across Florida to join my parents at our beach spot we visit annually. My grandfather sold it in so this was our final visit. I've been going since I was a baby so it was hard to realize it's not in our family anymore.
Of course, the sand and water might be in our blood so I am sure we will find our way back. I could watch this kid run on a beach for hours. The miracle of him running seems so much bigger to me when I can see his footprints. This might be my favorite of the two of them ever. And of course, my Ellie girl walking on the beach gets me too. When we were pregnant with her, our perinatologist gave us 3 days to escape to the beach. Our dear doctor finally gave his blessing and we flew off as fast as we could delayed by weather overnight I am so proud of her work, her joyful spirit, her zest for life, her humor, her perseverance, and her grace.
She is Eleanor Grace - full of light and grace. I love watching her walk this sand every year. My faith is so bolstered watching my miracles. Swimming with Cookie. Ellie grew gills to match her brother's this year. My babies just love the water. She is also content to dig for hours - like her brother. Give these two some shovels, buckets, and plastic animals and they stay busy.
Snorkeling for sand dollars with Lovie. He won. Bike riding is really really hard for Will - understandably. But at the beach he can do it so well because it is so flat! We had fun riding bikes to dinner! Ellie practiced riding her tryke another one of those skills some thought she would never do. I taught Will how to body board. It did not always end well but he learned. Both kids loved crab hunting this year! It was really fun to do this after dinner.
Ellie learned to slip n slide! What is it about these things that can be so entertaining for so many hours? My kiddos love the water and I am so grateful! Ellie's swimming really took off this summer. Will attended Pine Cove Day camp this year.
It was an incredible experience. Unfortunately, my computer deleted almost every picture I took from July - October so I have very few pics of camp. Our best friends came and stayed with us all week while the boys went to camp. They had a great time, grew in their faith, made friends, learned new skills, and grew up way too fast that week! I emailed with the camp director months before camp to make sure the camp could handle my boy with his prosthetics. I wanted to make sure they would let him try anything he was comfortable with and not place limits on him.
I also wanted to make sure we were on the same page as far as handling curious kids. The director emailed me and told me he had been praying for my Will since before he was born after receiving an email about him from someone.
By the time camp came, I was pretty nervous. Having my best friend with me helped calm my heart and knowing that Will had a friend eased my anxiety as well. The counselors quickly surrounded our boys, made them feel welcome and wanted, and whisked them away for a blast. They came home each afternoon completely tired but happy. It was such a good experience for growing Will's faith and confidence. It was probably good for his mom too. This is Will and his counselor. During the closing ceremonies, the counselors speak truth over each child and affirm character qualities they have noticed that week.
I loved this. We had an unseasonably cool summer so the kids spent almost every day outside all day - it was glorious. I'm so glad my kiddos are having childhoods filled with playing outside with neighborhood kiddos. One day, another mom and I filled our cars with neighbors and hit the pool together for a picnic lunch and swimming. Oh, this was a fun fun birthday party. Every year I say their parties are my favorite ever but this one really was.
I surprised my little Dorothy with a Glenda costume Her Honey surprised her with a box of costumes for her friends to play dress up with. We had so much fun decorating Oz - I went with the Over the Rainbow song which I've sung to her since birth and did lots of rainbows and whimsical decor. Someday I'll maybe do a post on their parties. I definitely need to do an Oz party post. We had so much fun with the decor and the food and the activities and crafts and the dress up clothes for all the girls!!
I so love a theme and Ellie was into helping this year which made it even more fun. I dreaded him going to school til 3pm almost every day!! I really like having my people home with me. I like not being on a school schedule or running pick up in the middle of the afternoon. I like everyone to get their naps in. It's January and we are still struggling to adjust to no naps for Will he does rest on weekends and short naps for Ellie. In fact, Will told me yesterday that he thinks he maybe still needs a nap time! But - other than that, first grade has been awesome!
Then, it was time for Will's birthday! For the first time, I didn't host a kid bday party at home We sent invitations on legos kids had to assemble the legos to read the invite. I got very nervous when a big storm was supposed to hit the morning of the party and began researching plan B. Thankfully, a friend from Children's Miracle Network Hospitals who is also a local CBS meterologist hooked me up with an early morning text of weather predictions for our party spot and gave me the go ahead for a lake party.
So thankful for that connection and the weather turned out perfect.