Thursday, May 19, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Back to back blogging days! Quite the rare occasion around here!

Today's a special day....Sarah is 17!

It just doesn't seem possible that it was 17 years ago today that we held her in our arms for the very first time!  The day she was born was very much like today....beautiful sunshine. I spent the day relaxing on the deck watching Mike, Andrew, and Jon play in the yard. They were 6, 4, and 3 at the time. I had contractions all day long 10-15 minutes apart but I was totally relaxed, not at all thinking that it was the "real deal" because I had an appointment to be induced two days later.

At 7:30 that night, I laid down on the couch to snuggle with Jon and, to my shock, the contractions went to 10-15 minutes apart to 2.5 minutes apart! By 8:30, we were at the hospital, and at 9:55 Sarah was in my arms! 

And we never let her go!!!

Andrew was in love with his baby sister!
The feeling was mutual!
When Sarah could talk she called him, "My Enew". (melt<3)

Sarah brought so much joy and healing to our family after losing Therese the previous year. She continues to bring lots of joy...and a little sass;)...17 years later!

Kate: "I want to be like Sarah when I grow up. 
Sarah is sassy! I want to be sassy like Sarah."

Sarah is a very motivated, faith filled young lady. She has big ideas and wants to change the world! Sarah is incredibly passionate about the subjects that are important to her, particularly anything pro-life! She loves to sing, completely overload her academic schedule(4 AP courses this year..5(!) next year), read, sew, paint, and snuggle any baby she can get her hands on.

Kate insisted that I add this slightly fuzzy picture bc it's Sarah holding her when she was a baby!

Sarah has lots of love to share...which often comes in the form of cookies or pies to her friends and family. She's no pushover, though...she did survive growing up with 3 older brothers!

Sarah has a boyfriend for the first time. His name is Dan and he is a really nice young man. He's a Senior this year and Sarah is super excited for prom next week!

Sarah is working at a local summer camp starting in June and is hoping it will add a little something to her college applications in the Fall. Sarah's goal is to become a Speech Therapist and work with kids with special needs, particularly Autism. Sarah has a real gift with anyone with special needs. She has a genuineness and patience to see through the disability and connect with the "real" person. I've seen it firsthand with not only her brother, Peter, but anyone with a disability that she meets out in the community. It's definitely a special gift!

Jay and I are so proud of the person that she is, and we're excited to see what the future holds!(Although we wish we could keep her home with us forever!)

Happy Birthday, Sarah! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Peter Victory

IEP meetings can cause a lot of anxiety for parents. We have been blessed to have mostly positive experiences. Today was probably the best IEP meeting we've ever had.

Back in the fall, we decided to change Peter into a different program. There were multiple reasons for our decision. The other students in his classroom had aged out and he was the only one left. His main classroom teacher was on maternity leave until Thanksgiving. The program he was in was located in a Middle School that had very limited opportunity for any kind of inclusion beyond art and music...neither of which Peter really liked.

Jay and I  toured another classroom within the collaborative Peter attends that was located in a high school two towns over. Even though the classroom was full, the teacher agreed to take Peter in for a temporary placement to see if he would be a good fit. The classroom was perfect for Peter, with 8 friends and an awesome program that had multiple nuerotypical high school students rotating in and out of the classroom multiple times a day. Peter fit right in!

Today at his IEP meeting, the psychologist was present to go over the  psychological testing Peter had as part of his three year review. The psychologist had also done Peter's testing three years ago, and she was amazed at the difference she saw in him. Three years ago, she had to give Peter constant breaks and redirection to get even the minimal testing done. She had to currently address negative behaviors that came up because he was doing a non-preferred activity, which was the norm for Peter back then. 

Not this year! This year, she got all of his testing done in two sessions with no breaks! He was able to complete all of it. He even scored in the average range and close to the average range in a couple of different categories. That's a huge improvement for Peter! 

I can't say enough about the team that we are blessed to have for Peter: From the psychologist who celebrated the gains Peter has made and reminded us that Peter is much more than any result of a test, to our home therapist who has helped us through so many bumpy times and continues to push Peter forward to help him reach the highest levels he is able, to his classroom teacher who has had such a positive influence on Peter all year and has helped him work through his clothing quirks and helped him to really bloom into the teenager that he is, to the aides in his class that give him so much love and positive attention, to his speech therapist who totally gets the direction we hope to go in and the gains in true conversation for Peter that we are praying for, to the director of his program  who is always so positive and the director of our Special Ed Department, who was brand new this year and supported us and helped to find Peter a classroom that fit him so well!  

Peter is still profoundly affected by Autism. He will never be even close to functioning at the same level as his age appropriate peers. It's gotten easier to hear his teachers and therapists talk about focusing on academics that will give him life skills. Our focus on helping Peter be the very best version of Peter that he can be. To be as independent as possible in life and to have the skills to have fulfilling relationships with family and friends. Peter's life will look different from his siblings, but it can still be filled with happiness and fulfillment.

Life with Peter has definitely had its challenges. There were so many years when we could not leave him alone for 5 minutes...literally! (One time, when he was about 6, he had been in his room for less than 5 minutes without me checking on him and he had crawled out the window and it took us 10 minutes to find him. He had gone down the street three houses and was sitting on a neighbor's ride on lawn mower in his driveway.) That kind of behavior was the norm, not the exception. There were years filled with 24/7 anxiety to keep him safe. There were YEARS of dealing with his horrible sleep issues...when 3-5 nights a week he would wake up for 2-4 hours in the middle of the night and be wide awake. There were years of hearing teachers tell us, "He is very bright and has lots of good skills, but it takes so much effort to control his behaviors." 

If there are any moms..or dads...of kiddos that have special needs reading this, take heart! Because somewhere along the way, something clicked. Peter finally started sleeping better. Peter finally stopped moving, climbing, and impulsively running off at every moment. I feel like we have finally started to enjoy who Peter is, rather than use all our energy to just keep him safe.

This year...Peter has finally stopped having all of the behaviors in the classroom and is opening up opportunities for himself to learn and grow friendships at school. Part of it is his ability to self regulate. Part of it is that he has matured. Part of it is the location of his program being at a high school that is very supportive of their special needs peers...especially the reverse inclusion AND the inclusion opportunities that Peter will have next year! That's something Jay and I have wanted for him since he was at the Elementary School level and I'm SO excited for Peter for next year! Last but CERTAINLY not least.....a BIG part of Peter's success this year are due to his teachers, aides, and therapists creating an environment for him to grow into the best Peter he can be!

I am beyond grateful!

Friday, May 13, 2016


Quick Take Friday...TGIF! This has been such a busy week..and it felt SO long! I loved the warmer, sunny weather! It looks like Spring has finally arrived!  :)

#1: One of My Favorite Things
Two weeks ago, Sarah was part of her high school's production of The Sound of Music. She played a nun and a party goer. (The party goer had a different outfit. ;)  This was part of  Sarah's Bio: "Sarah is a junior. She loves nuns and so is happy to be one, if only in a musical." When I read it at the play, I LOL'd!

#2: More From the Stage!
Sarah isn't the only family member performing this month! Mike was invited to be in a local theater Group's Production of Snow White! Mike played "Doc"....which is EXTRA comical considering he is 6'4". All the dwarfs were on their knees when they were on stage! He did a great job...and has already been asked back for their next play! Kate really loved it...Luke, too!

....Except, maybe for this one, which ended
up on the theater group's Facebook page!

The only time in years that my parents have been taller than Mike!
#3: All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth...
Well...I don't think he will have to wait until Christmas! But, Luke is now missing both of his front teeth! It's such a cute look! I'm not looking forward to those big grown up teeth taking up space in his mouth! I don't want my little boy growing up!
#4: Mother's Day
I was completely spoiled throughout Mother's Day weekend! Luke came home with the sweetest card and flower pot that he made for me at school!! The card is definitely going into the "pileofspecialthings" that I WILL get into a scrapbook someday!!

"I like it when me and my Mom go to Captin Bones.(Captain Bonnies)
I like it when we make chicinpi.(chicken pie)
I like it when my Mom tacs(takes) me to popparc.(Pope Park)

This picture just makes me melt!
Luke is such a sweet little boy!
Bonus "she said":
Kate: I don't like that picture. It doesn't have me in it!
Luke:(talking with his hands and an animated voice): Kate, my teacher told me to draw a picture of something I like to do with Mom! NOT something I like to do with Mom AND my sister!
Jay completely spoiled me for Mother's Day! He got me a Lindor chocolate bar, a chic flick, a gift card to Panera and Barnes and Noble, and my own green cell phone charger!(The white ones always disappear mysteriously...we're pretty sure Jon or Mike will find a stash of them in their rooms eventually!) PLUS...Jay made a frame for our giant family canvas pic and hung all the pictures that have been in a pile in our room for quite some time!

I was spoiled by all of my older kids, too! Mike got me a gift card to a yummy local breakfast restaurant, Andrew brought me home a quart of one my favorite Acushnet Creamery ice cream(Cranberry Harvest..and there's even some left!), Jon made me delicious chocolate covered strawberries(which I forgot to get a picture of before I ate them all!) and a funny card with an offer to take me out to dinner sometime in the next week or two, Ellie made me a super sweet card and did lots of extra chores so I didn't have to, and Sarah sorted through our big bins of pictures and organized them into different categories to make it easier to get them into albums!

Mother's Day was a great day! We did brunch at our house with both our families and then had a lazy afternoon by ourselves! It was perfect!

#5: Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!
 It's been a super busy time for Sarah! In the last 2 weeks, she's had lots of rehearsals, 4 AP tests, SAT's, The Sound of Music, and, on Tuesday night, she received the Pope St. Pius Xth Award! 

Sarah and her boyfriend, Dan.
Aren't they cute together? He made her cookies to congratulate her. (Aww) :)
On Wednesday night, Sarah was in the Spring Concert at her school. She is part of the Acapella Group. (Just a quick note about one of the things we love about Sarah! Sarah takes after the Hamel side of the family and has extra long arms and legs. It makes shopping for more modest dresses challenging since so many clothes are too short to begin with! Sarah is crafty and has taught herself to sew. So she added lace to the bottom of this dress to make it a better length! #<3)

#6: Super Sister #2
I would be remiss to not mention how super helpful Ellie has been the last few nights! She has helped with dishes, bath time, and even made cookies on Tuesday night.(Which are completely gone!) Ellie has a big week coming up herself! So stay tuned! :)  And, just in case my older boys are reading this, thanks for helping with watching the littles the last couple of nights! You were helpful, too! ;)

#7: Baseball
Despite the fact that I swore we would not put Luke in baseball...Jay and the boys wore me down and Luke had his very first instructional game last night. The league is a lot different now compared to when the older boys played baseball. The season is MUCH shorter. It's over around July 4th now, which is SO much better than the late August/early September ending when Mike, Andrew and Jon were little! Plus, Jay isn't coaching, which makes it much easier for me! Luke is so excited to play, and all the older boys and Jay have been helping him practice and teaching him some skills. Luke did great! He hit the ball all three at bats and even made it to the base safely once.(The other two times he was too busy watching the ball to run!lol)

Luke and his cousin Brayden are on the same team!
Brayden had a great first game, too! :)

Have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Love in the Details

I read several blog posts the day that definitely made me think. For all of my fellow 80's lovers..."Things that make you go Hmmm!"

Christy Fitzwater, a contributor for Club 31 Women, wrote a post entitled "One Secret to Making It to Your 25th Anniversary". Since Jay and I will be celebrating our 24th Anniversary in the fall, I was really curious...and definitely had to agree...on what Christy had to say. Particularly these few lines:

"The secret to 25 years is in seeing to the details.
Early on in a marriage, the details drive you NUTS. Like when Matt would hang the towel up with the tag showing. Come on. Or for him, it was when I would go to the bathroom and not close the door all the way (this guy has a thing about closed doors, I can tell ya.)
But somewhere along the way the details changed from an irritant to an opportunity. It was the sign of a deep growth of the heart, from selfishness to service."

I love that..."seeing to the details"! It's so true. Life does have it's share of exciting and momentous occasions, but the majority of our days are spent in the everyday, humdrum moments. The laundry moments, the washing the dishes moments, the cooking dinner moments, the driving your kids to practices and appointments moments, the snuggles with littles moments, the talking with teenagers get the picture!

There are so many 'little', seemingly insignificant, things that I try to do most days because I know that they please Jay and will make him feel loved. They are really my own version of "seeing to the details" that Christy talks about. Yet, it's in those little moments that gives us connection and nurtures the love between us. (With all the distractions in this world, the love in everyone's relationships need as much nourishing as they can get!)

Every couple's "details" will be different, When I read Christy's article, I couldn't help but think of some of the everyday ways that Jay and I try to love and serve one another. For instance, Jay completely lives up to the saying, "The way to a man's heart is through his his stomach". Jay enjoys a good meal. If he's had a tough day at work, one of his favorite dishes waiting for him when he gets home is a form of therapy for him! He certainly doesn't expect fancy 4 course dinners, but hearing we're having homemade chicken pie or Guiness shepherd's pie is sure to put a giant smile on his face. You can just see the stress of the day melt away as those comfort foods fill his belly!

Something I try to do each day...and the key word is to have at least the living room picked up  when Jay walks through the door. I know that Jay really appreciates a place to relax at night that is free from visual clutter. So, even if the rest of the house looks like an episode of hoarders(!), the kids and I do a quick clean up about 30 minutes before Jay gets home from work. This way, after dinner and bath time, he has an enjoyable place to unwind for a few minutes before he falls asleep on the couch. ;)

There are other little things that don't really mean much, but make his life just a little easier and more convenient. Jay likes to take his work shirt off as soon as he comes in the house and throw it in the washing machine, and then shower and change and run all of his work clothes in a load.  I try to make sure that the washing machine is empty so that he doesn't have to switch the load to the dryer first.
....Not that he ever complains about switching the load, but it's a little act of love on my part! He's been at work all day and it's nice if he doesn't have to worry about "doing" anything when he first walks in the door.(at least until bath time after dinner!;) 

Then, there are some really small, hidden things that I do. I pray for Jay, (and each member of my family), as I fold their laundry. I put Jay's laundry away before I put away my own pile. It's a really silly thing, but it's a (very small) act of putting him before myself.  "Offered up" as a sacrifice, no matter how little, injects grace into a mundane act of housekeeping. (If only I could stop messing up on the "bigger" opportunities of sacrifice God frequently puts in my path! Thankfully, He keeps sending more to give me extra chances to get it right!) :)

All marriages have different seasons....and even the best marriages have their challenging moments! I think that "seeing to the details" helps to build a foundation, (and helps to fill spots that might be weak and need some extra grace), to have a fulfilling marriage. 

In the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, "Merit does not consist in doing or giving much, it consists in loving much."

We need to love our husbands in the details.