Monday, December 28, 2009

Amtrak Superliner

So....Christmas Day Grandpa Bryan and Andrew and his cousin Brandon headed to the basement of my in-laws to create a train made out of wood for Andrew. They created a 12 car length of train and I made the mistake of telling Andrew we could paint them and make them look like real Amtrak cars......

So, today we embarked on that endevour - my goodness - 3 hours alot of spray paint, 4 rolls of colored electrical tape and a sharpie later I had accomplished 2 cars.....this is going to be a long long project.

Here is a before and after of the boxcar.


and the sleeping car...

Conni's Baby Shower

So Sunday we had a baby shower for Conni -we had fun celebrating baby Boy Nevills and I am so excited to meet him! Here's a couple pics,

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Awww Christmas

So we returned home Christmas night from Eric's parents. I walked into my bathroom and looked fondly towards the big tub.....warmth....relaxation....it was calling my name. And then my eyes were drawn to the purple and white bucket now sitting in the bottom of the tub full of toys. That's right - Court took a bath on Wed night and look - though I told her that bucket was not to be touched - she used it to transport all her toys into her bath and then proceded to play with it. "Whats the big deal?" you ask? Andrew used that bucket to vomit in all day Tuesday. Uggggg......now the bathtub is contaminated for another 24 hours.....so tonight I longingly climbed into the scalding hot water to warm my poor little feet and enjoyed a nice relaxing bath and am so very grateful that Court didn't inherit any bugs from that lovely bucket.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Birthday Invite

So I worked all evening - and then decided I had better start thinking about Andrew's 9th Birthday Party. Though I have nothing yet planned aside from a date and a theme (Amtrak, his new favorite thing). I did put together the invitation and I think its one of my favoite things I've created. Nothing like wasting 1 1/2 hours creating an Amtrak train jpg...he..he...


Just thought I'd share my creative juices!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Accident

Well the first snowfall in a while hit this morning and thus the accidents have begun. I recieved a a text while I was assembling the children's lunch this morning - and like I usually do during that most crazy 30 minutes of my day - I ignored it. Well I grabbed my phone on the way out the door to do my carpool duty and saw it was from Skills.

It read - "i was just rear-ended. im ok, cops are on their way." YIKES - I wasn't expecting that one. I prefer the usual.... "i lov you..." or "...hope you have a nice day." texts myself.

I proceded to throw Andrew out the door to his bus and push Courtney toward the cold, awaiting van, while sending away for more info. I told Courtney that daddy had been in a car accident and she looked at me and said "Is he dead?" OK, so not the words I thought she would have to say for that particular situation. "No, he's OK." I said. "That's good." was her response and the end of our conversation.

FYI....Eric is fine - the Teknoforce car is driveable - but he does have some lower back issues so prayer for that would be helpful. We are supposed to help Luke/Susu move on Saturday and he won't be much help if he's injured anyone else want to join us :)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Complicated!

So I've been rather lacking in the blogging department these days. Seems like I most need to get things off my chest when I am struggling - usually with Andrew. The truth is, I have been convicted lately to love and embrace Andrew for who he is, who God created him to be, and not who I want him to be. It is easy for me to continue to push him in the direction I want him and completely miss out on who he is and what he has to offer.

We had a kinda bad night on Friday - a fight with him sitting BUCK NAKED on the steps at his grandparents house..... and he was naked because he knows it makes us mad when he does that. Anyway, we spent some time calming him and helping him pray through his high anxiety. Seemed to be fine the rest of the night. The next morning I was exhasted since Court had been throwing up every 30 min all night long, he came in my room...said "I love you Mom"...kissed me on the cheek...and waited for me to return his kiss. I knew it was a special moment with him - ones that almost never happen. He initiated some Andrew love and I gladly embraced it. Eric later said that he was very conversational all morning. And as if he could read my mind..(What did we do different yesterday? What did or didn't he eat? What supplements did we miss? Etc..) ..which often he can....he said "I guess we should just say a prayer of thanks instead of trying to figure out what we did differently to make it happen."

I'm learning to except the moments - and try to balance the "helping him improve" and "loving him for who he is". Who knew life was going to be so darned complicated!

Smack -

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prayer and Petition

So I'm doing a book study at church again this year and this year's book is "Having a Mary heart in a Martha World." Oh so a book I need to be reading.

This weeks chapter was on worry. As I started the beginning of the chapter I figured "I so don't have a worry problem, this isn't me." But as I got deeper into the chapter it talked about fear playing a similar role. Fear is something I am very comfortable in...something I have lived in for the last 6 1/2 years. Every month, every day, sometimes even every hour is a guessing game with Andrew. What will help him today, what will set him off, when will this regression end or will he slip further into it. I'd like to think that I after all this time I have my act together - that I've learned to lean on my Savior instead of focus on the what'ifs or how'comes. But in truth, I haven't.

The book had some aha excerps for me today. "Jesus knew that a life filled with fear has little room left for faith. And whithout faith, we can niether please God nor draw close to him for the comfort and guidance we need to face the cares and affairs of everyday life." and "Worry....it is the view that God has somehow lost control of the situation and we cannot trust Him."

Both of these were instant underliners. I am tired of trying to fix him on my own, but feel if I ask God isn't going to fix him anyway so I might as well keep trying. I know in my head that if I just let go of the fixing and just put my faith in him, that He will give me the peace I long for and the ability to not fear the future with him or what he is going through.

So, this last exerpt is what I shall try to do. "When we decide to pray instead of worry-when we choose to have a grateful heart in not-so-great circumstances- then the peace of God comes and takes us into "protective custody". It stands guard at the door of our heart, transcending, surpassing, and confounding our own human understanding, bringing us peace."

I'm asking for prayer - that I can stop trying to fix - and allow God to bring me peace within the storm. And please continue to pray for Andrew - his Awana leader said he is a different kid this year and not in a good way....it is so hard to keep hearing and seeing his spiral downward. I want him better, but more so I want to have a better relationship with Christ so it doesn't matter what Andrew does or says or is....I can accept it because I am confident in my Savior and his ability to give me peace. I know I can get there....I know all I have to do is remember to ask.......

Monday, October 19, 2009

The New Du 2

So the first haircut wasn't quite what I wanted....so cut #2 has been added.

Now I have had three lengths of hair in one week - should only take 3 years to grow back should I decide I like the first picture best :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

R.I.P Shiver

Today we had our first real family loss. Courtney's pet guinea pig, Shiver, died while resting with her this morning. I'm glad I took lots of pictures with them together when she first got her. She felt comforted by seeing the fun times they had together. It was a very emotional time for both the kids and myself. Not because I will particularly miss the guinea pig, but because my daughter was so heartbroken.

Shiver's passing was a good time for me to explain the shortness of life and the fact that none of us is going to live here forever. I was in my office working on a school project with Andrew when we heard her sobbing. I had a feeling.... we went up to her room to see her holding Shiver to her chest and crying. She begged me to take it to the Dr, so that they could fix her, and Andrew left the room and went into his room and started praying that God would fix her. It was so sweet and so heartbreaking at the same time. I explained that the Dr couldn't fix her now, that she had passed away and we decided to give her a funeral. So off to the backyard we went to bury her and say our goodbyes. Then we created a cross so that Courtney could remember her always.
It didn't take long before they asked if they could get another one, a new friend to cuddle and take care of and I couldn't say "No". So off to the pet store we went. I'd like to introduce you all to "CoCo" the newest addition to our family. Though he will never replace Shiver in Court's heart, he has already eased the pain of losing her first pet and her first experience with death.

We will miss you Shiver - especially Courtney - but it was fun while it lasted!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Prayer

The slippery slope of SCHOOL STARTING and Andrew's behavior issues has begun. It started with no sleeping again....then moved on to being extra sassy and disobedient...and yesterday progressed to the violent talk. He told me he was gonna have blood on his hands, that he would get a sword and get blood on his hands. Where in the world does he come up with this stuff - and why why why does it have to come back each year after school starts. I am doing my best not to let it get to me and to be compassionate while he is in this phase.

Please pray that the progression stops - I just don't want to have to go thru the hitting, kicking, biting, spitting and hair pulling for three months again. I guess I should be thankful it goes away for 9 months and see the glass 3/4 full instead of 1/4 empty.

Thank you friends.... Am

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Skipping School Pictures!


So I got tired of always needing retakes and wishes you could do retakes of retakes so I decided to do my own pictures of the kids this year. If anyone wants one just place your order!






Saturday, September 12, 2009

Holly Baby Shower!

Well we had a fun night last night with friends and friends of friends to celebrate the impending birth of a new little girl! Congratulations Mandy and Cameron and thank you for letting us help you celebrate the fact that your family as well as your wasteline is expanding - I'm sure this helped!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CFS 2009

So it has been has been almost a full 15 years since I spent a week at Camp Forest Springs for family camp. See Eric isn't a big fan of camping so it took a while to get him to agree - but we went last week with the kids, Joy/Kory/Jada/Elijah/Mom & Dad and had the bonus of another family we used to go with and all their kids and spouses. It was a blast. The kids spent alot of time everyday at the Mini Farm - as you'll see from the pictures below even Eric enjoyed it. One of my personal favorite places is the air rifle range - so we taught the kids how to shoot bb guns at targets while I worked on starting over my ranking with my left hand. Became an Expert rank with my right in 1992 they said........wow that was a long time ago.
Eric's favorite was the high ropes course. And yes, it was very very high. He and Kory did it once together and then Eric/Kory/Joy/Dad and myself did it the day before we left. Needless to say - 55 feet in the air - walking on a wire - holding onto 4 other poeple to get across without losing your balance I'm sure was quite amuzing to watch from below. The end was a jump off the last platform to hit a teather ball and then be lowered down. I can say I honestly didn't want to do it - but Joy went first so I couldn't look like a whimp :) We also did a mini-triathalon our last day. Eric did a 1 mile run.....very fast I might add....and then puked his guts out..... Dad and Kory rowed a canoe around a course and then I did a swim. We came in 2nd, 13 seconds behind the winner of the first heat. It was fun - but like 60 degrees and I was freezin!
Anyone who has kids of any age should consider joining us next year - that place holds amazing memories for me as a child and they have added so many more amazing things since I have been gone. The spiritual aspect is really one of the major reasons I wanted to go - not many vacations where you get to enjoy worship and God's Word everyday and have someone take your children and do the same.
Anyway, below are some photos from our trip - and when I get the high ropes ones from Joy I'll post them too!




Friday, August 14, 2009

It has been a hard month for me.....Andrew has regressed, something I was prepared to happen the few months after school began. Not now. Its not been physical this time, yet, just lack of sleep, verbal lashing out and constant stimming. I recieved the item below via email today. Since it's that time of the month probably not something I should have decided to read, but its these times when things are hard that I am both reminded of this lifelong fight we have and how how much harder it could be. I encourage you to read every word... and then to pray for the sentences that touch your heart and for the families that are struggling with this disorder.

I wasn't able to get this to come up as large as I'd like, so here is the link if you can't read it.
http://campaign.constantcontact.com/render?v=001r74t9Hd65LoWPCDKh_r_mZCOfUw-lykB0EGRGzsZIKJ9GhJBqXVOjxKrbJw67PKxWUs8fWvDMaKpHkN_NgWa4ip18uentGIOsv6NiGztDwPiAqS87aV3Og%3D%3D

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Andrews Haircut

Now there was nothing special about this haircut - nothing different than any other time. He gives me 10 minutes on the kitchen microwave to complete said haircut and then I commence the cutting.

Half way thru buzzing the back he reaches up and touches his head....."Mom, I'm almost out of hair!" He says. He's never really cared what I did to his head, he just wants it done in the 10 minute time limit so it was hilarious that he thought i was cutting off all his hair.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

You need to Exercise More!

Courtney: Dad can you lift up a car?
Skills: No
Courtney: Well how come in the movie Mr Incredible can lift up a car?
Skills: Because he is strong.
Courtney: You need to exercise more.
Skills: Yeah, I know.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Down on the Farm

This weekend we have been hanging out at the Bellmont Farm. Today the kids got to ride Hershey, Jada's pony. Yay for animals.




Sunday, May 31, 2009

Half Marathon

So, it sounded like a good idea to help me lose weight - run a half marathon with Skills. Only instead of losing weight, the first couple months of training I put on 12 pounds. It made me so mad that I was exercising regularly and gained so much weight I quit training. I figured if I was going to get fat the couch was the perfect place, not the treadmill.

Anyway, with two months to go before the marathon, and a thyroid that had quit working I got lazy and ran about 5 times in those two months. I knew that I was going to be hurting today - I walked 12 miles in Paris last February and pretty much got to the point of being unable to walk.

Well, I guess considering my lack of training - the 9 miles I ran and the 4 I walked didn't seem like such a failure. By mile 10 I was fairly concerned I may not even be able to walk the remaining 3 miles, but I persevered and FINISHED. My time, almost embarassing was 3 Hours and 14 Minutes but whose counting. I can at least say that I have finished a half marathon, and I'm fairly certain that I won't be doing so EVER EVER EVER again. I guess going from a lifelong record of 3.5miles to being able to run 9 miles I should appreciate the challenge and relish in the accomplishment.

I'm just so glad its over !

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Courtney's New Du

So Courtney's friend, Trinity, arrived from Kansas City yesterday with a short new haircut.....sure enough Courtney decided they needed to be twins and she needed her hair short as well. Seeing an opportunity I may not get again, I siezed the moment and headed to Great Clips. Nothing better than short hair cut for summer! Check out my model in training.







Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good News

Well no one leaves me comments anymore.....but I shall continue to write none-the-less. I woke up apprehensive this morning because at 10:30 I had a meeting with Andrew's Autism Dr/Nutritionist. We had a large amount of $$ to use up from his state grant in March and so we ran an enormously expensive set of blood tests to get a comprehensive view of what his body is doing right now.

I showed up unsure of what the conversation would hold. Generally these tests are downers, but I was hopeful for some good news. The initial packets of stuff the receptionist gave me had 8 things listed that Andrew was going to need. Ouch, the list of supplements is growing and when we lose his grant God had better fix him cause we won't be able to afford to keep him healthy :)

Anyway, after we went over the vitamins/minerals/amino acids that he is lacking in - he said he wanted to bring a few things to my attention. First his oxidation level, which is usually quite high in ASD kids due to brain inflamation - Andrew's is totally normal. He said most kids he sees have elevated levels which means there is always more damage being done in the brain. Secondly, there is a list of like 6 Neuro-transmitters which he said in most ASD kids are very low. Andrew's were all in the normal range. He said the things we have been doing are working - because most kids he sees don't test normal. I almost started to cry.....good news.....good news.....two of the major tests relating to brain function showed his body working properly. The process for detoxing seems to be working better now as well. We still have work to do, and until God chooses to just fix him we will continue to fight and spend enormous amounts of money on pills :) but I am grateful the good news....for confirmation that we are on the right track and I am grateful for the guidance from Dr Mayfield.

We continue to pray for Andrew's healing, for his allergies to be gone, but in the meantime we will cherish the adversities and relish in the GOOD NEWS.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Are you flying....

One day I was delighted to see three new swallows sitting side by side on this branch. The parents made wide, sweeping, insect-gathering circuits over the water and then returned to the enormous cavities that those little birds became as they opened their beaks for a feeding.

This went on for a couple of hours until the parents decided they had had enough of it. One adult swallow got aongside the chicks and started shoving them out toward the end of the branch -- pushing, pushing, pushing. The end one fell off. Somewhere between the branch and the water four feet below, the wings started working, and the fledgling was off on his own. Then the second one. The third was not to be bullied. At the last possible moment his grip on the branch loosened just enough so that he swung downward, then tightened again, bulldog tenacious. The parent was without sentiment. He pecked at the desperately cliniging talons until it was more painful for the poor chick to hang on than risk the insecurities of flying. The grip was released and the inexperienced wings began pumping. The mature swallow knew what the chick did not --that it would fly -- that there was no danger in making it do what it was perfectly designed to do.

Birds have feet and can walk. Birds have talons and can grasp a branch securely. They can walk; they can cling. But flying is their characteristic action, and not until they fly are they living at their best, gracefully and beautifully.
An Excerpt from "Run with the Horses" by Eugene H. Peterson

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Prayer

Well today we had Andrew's 3 Year Assessment review at his school. Academically he is only a year behind - which we knew already and was why he repeated Kindergarten. I am so proud of how well he is doing. It seems that he has continued to progress with this group of children and is even ahead in some areas.

However, our last meeting was with the Occupational Therapist. Her test results showed he has extremely poor muscle tone, probably has some issues with his inner ear which doesn't allow him to hear certain tones such as those on the lower end of the spectrum and may be a contributing factor to his high voice pitch and inability to even use a lower voice, among two other pages of not great news regarding his physical body. This also effects his ability to process other sounds and creates some of his issues with sensory overload.

He has some serious fears resulting from loud sounds and that is something we need to address with some therapy as well as finding some additional OT services outside of school to help him gain some muscle strength and motor skills.

I hate these meetings - after a period of time I forget some of the more serious things that are still not working properly in his body. We are of course so so so thankful for the cognitive skills and communcation that he has improved on and which makes it so much easier for us to forget the still difficult things he endures daily. Things we don't see, but that he struggles with. Since Hawaii I have been able easily let go of Andrew's disability, to trust in God, but it is days like this that truly test my resolve to trust in Him. The days where his every area are thoroughly examined and laid before us in paragraphs of comparisons. The disappointment seeps in and covers my heart, but I can let go of that. It is the sadness only a mother can experience of knowing there are physical things going on his little head and body that I cannot fix, that I don't have the faintest idea how to help him with, and they don't really have any good answers either that gets to me. Mommys fix boo-boos and I can't fix this one. So, I'm going to go spend some time in the Word, spend some time in prayer, pouring out my frustrations and fears, and know that if I truly let go He will take them. I know that my struggles can't fix him, and a struggling mommy makes a rough time for everyone. Please pray for Andrew, for his muscles, for his intestines (food sensitivities), for his inner ear issues, and for his short term memory. I can't fix him, but God can.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mamaskills May Baskets

So - Courtney's teacher requested 6 May Baskets for May Day from each child in her classroom. I thought long and hard about what Court and I should do for these baskets.....paper plates, egg cartons, the list was endless. However, there was a little vision in the back of my mind that I just couldn't shake - so I grabbed some supplies - pulled out my Quikutz Silouette machine and off we went.

Courtney didn't actually help as much as I had anticipated, but in her defense, I went a little overboard myself. I won't be making these May Baskets again for a long time....it took almost 5 hours :)








Friday, April 24, 2009

Amnion Walk For Life

Ok - so I have no idea how many people actually read this blog.....Amanda, Conni, and Bryan I know you are my faithful followers....he...he.

But I wanted to post this in case there are those of you who read this that I don't email regualarly. My family does the Amnion Crisis Pregnancy Center's "Walk for Life" each summer to raise funds for their center. They have an amazing ministry by providing free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, pregnancy/abortion education and more to mothers/fathers/and extended family who are dealing with an unplanned/crisis pregnancy. But more than that, Amnion gives these families what they need most - the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are committed to sharing God's salvation and giving a Bible to everyone who enters their doors.

My hope is that each of you will consider a donation towards "The 4 Skills Walk" on May 16th. You can give simply and securely at this link http://www.firstgiving.com/amyskillestad.

Thank you for your consideration.....God Bless.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tuesday Adventure




Well on Tuesday we set out to help Courtney learn to ride a bike without training wheels. We attempted last fall, but quickly decided she was definitely not ready for the big time yet. So, I went with high hopes and low expectations to the end of the driveway to embark on try #2.

The first 15 minutes were torture. Us bending over, jogging, holding onto the back of her seat as she proceded to pedal around and around leaning to one side or the other. Uggg.... no back was meant for this job. Decided to take another approach. Put feet down and wander around cul-de-sac just trying to figure out balance. After a slight improvement in that departement Eric took over and decided he'd use his recently formulated motorcycle skills to teach her how to balance. Whatever he told her it worked. Within a half an hour she could ride straight for a hundred feet or so without any assistance. We attemped some turning and stopping with some success and called it a night. She was so excited and we were so excited for her.

Wednesday, immediately after school she just wanted to get back on her bike to perfect it of course. Though not perfection - she's definitely got it. My baby is growing up!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Memories....

Tonight I was looking thru some photos to hang and I found several old videos of the kids. We don't have hardly any videos of them as little tikes - sometimes I think it was because I knew I didn't want to go back to that place with Andrew. However, I did find some.

It brought back vivid memories of Andrew wandering around the house doing his funny little dance. We thought it was cute.....how was I supposed to know it was a way for him to grasp his surroundings because he was high from the gluten and dairy in his food. He danced and danced around the slide until Courtney's wails interuped his trance. He tottled on over to her - threw something at her - and then bent over to kiss her head. He then held both her hands and said something in "Andrew talk" and caressed her head only to give her several more kisses.

I remember begging God to allow him to speak - to allow me to hear "I love you mommy" at least once in my life from him. Oh how far we have come, but at the same time I wonder how many of the little ways did he express his love for me that I missed. The video made me cry, because though he couldn't speak to us, he obviously had so much love in his heart. Her cries pulled him out of his autism place to a place of intimacy with her and I had no idea that existed.

I often hear "I love you mom" from him now and rarely much sympathy and love for his sister...he...he. But, I am grateful for the reminders that despite what we think is the worst part of our lives, God gives us little bits of himself, little glimpses of love and hope if we just keep our eyes open to it. I intend on keeping my eyes peeled for the little blessings, the little clues as to what God has in store for us, and I'm not going to do my best not to get overwhelmed by the seemingly overwhelming obsticles that arrise.

Despite the autism....there is no child with a more beautiful and captivating smile.

video video

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The office that was.....

This weekend was a bit of a suprise for my father-in-law. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and myself conspired to do an extreme makeover on his office. To say it was messy and disorganized was an understatment, but we were determined to help him get organized and give him a great new workspace. I started this process last weekend, so for the last seven days I have had little sleep, and dragged poor Andrew all over the South Metro during his spring break in preparation for the actual "makevoer day". The poor kid was a trooper. One morning we hit 2 Goodwills, Menards, Joann Fabrics, Walmart & IKEA.

So we loaded up the van - with ALL seats removed and the entire bed/cab of my dad's truck and headed on down to Cannon Falls on Friday. Freshly painted file cabinets, newly uppolstered chairs, fun new photography projects, and 4 cans of paint were all part of the "new" look to be created.


So.....it took about 24 hours....and a little bit of coaxing for poor Bryan to buckle down with the piles of paper - but now we are finished. And here are the results..... My favorite addition was this art. I had this shadow box I purchased at IKEA, but I didn't like the photos in it so I grabbed Eric's tackle box and set out to take some new photos. I came up with some that I loved and switched um out....awwww such sweet victory when I get something to look the way I want it to.







We actually had a fabulous time enjoying one another company and working together to accomplish such a big project. Thank you Bryan for being such a good sport - and I hope that you are able to adapt quickly to the "new" way of doing things :) We love you.