Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did you know I have a sister in law?

~~~~Back in December, I wrote this for my Sister in Law's Birthday. I didn't post it as I never could finish it without crying and not knowing how to end it. Tonight, I felt it was time. So - two posts in one day and a post  about someone very important to me. Happy almost 1/2 birthday Brig...~~~

You know how it has been said it takes a village to raise a child. Well, in my house, it takes an army. A battle ready, precision timed, quick thinking army. We have boys in this house, wild boys who would, within 2 minutes, take the village hostage and have them hog tied in the bathroom.  We have to have the army ready to go at a moments notice, ready to counteract tantrums, plow through homework, decipher Reed's stories and stand up to Ryan. Oh, the army has to also be ready to blow kisses to Ella, sing her silly songs and change a diaper in 5 seconds.

I like to think of my husband as my second in command in our army but in the past 6 months, there has been a well kept secret around my house... Her name is Brigid and she is my secret weapon.

Brigid teaches Kindergarten, Brigid likes babies, Brigid is easy going, Brigid likes wine and vodka and swimming and most of all, Brigid loves the Ella bella and Brigid keeps me sane. Oh - for you new blog readers - she is also my sister in law and currently occupies our downstairs bedroom.  I met Brigid a few days after I met Mike just about 15 years ago and yeah, at 11, she wasn't quite my idea of a cool sister in law yet:

but she had potential, and I like to say that I had a hand in making her as beautiful as she is today (eyebrow waxing as bonding time never hurt any friendship):

Right after Ella was born, I will never forget having to tell our family - our Army - that Ella had Down syndrome. I remember blurting it out in a quick breath and crying heavily. I remember my mom and Mike's mom being so calm and I remember Erin running to Barnes and Noble in what had to be the most sad/ confusing/crazy book shopping experience ever. I remember my Dad getting on a plane to be with us and I remember Mike being my rock. I also remember Brigid - vividly. She cried, but she also kept telling me it was OK. She smiled, she acted so different than the rest of us. She wasn't upset and she didn't appear sad. She already knew what would take me a long time to learn. We were the lucky ones to have Ella in our lives.

Brigid is a teacher. You know how some people have a job that is just perfect for them? That explains Brigid. she could do nothing else but teach. She l-o-v-e-s it. In a way that I could never understand, I mean, I like kids, but 30 five year olds 5 days a week, umm, not my thing. Brigid actually loves it, like she looks forward to Mondays to see her kids, she gets to know them, their likes, dislikes, their siblings and their learning styles. When we had Ella, she was the first one that told me it was going to be OK. Ella was going to be just fine. We were going to be just fine.

I don't know what it was, but she knew. Out of all of us, Brigid had more experience with kids with Down syndrome and it was that confidence from her that kept me thinking it wasn't all so bad. She would sit with me for hours, watching Ella, listening to me babble about lost opportunities and sadness and tell me she knew it was going to be OK.  That next school year, she pushed to have a little girl with Down syndrome in her class and she shared happy stories with me of how amazing she was. She came home every day with stories of success and happiness and songs sang and normal kindergarten stuff, even for her little girl with Down syndrome. She made me realize that Ella could fit right in. She refuses to see missed milestones and steers me away from google searches gone awry at just the right moment.

I am an only child and I think of Brigid as more of my sister than my sister in law. I won't lie, sometimes I can be mean and she can be clueless, but those moments are fleeting and to see her with my kids and her love for them is so amazing.

She goes everywhere with us and there isn't one awesome trip that hasn't included her. From our enchanted week at Beach Village in Coronado (and every trip there since) to Tahoe and Montauk and anywhere else we have dragged her to, she is a trooper. She puts up with my whiny kids, she puts up with Mike,

she puts up with me.

and she cuddles with Reed

Since she has moved in with us, she has had her share of being my "second in command". She can control the boys almost as good as Mike and she even did the dishes the other day for me.  But most of all, in these last 6 months, she has been my sounding board. She watches Ella learn and reach for her milestones, she listens to my concerns and while she has her own hard issues to deal with, she doesn't let it show when I make my own emotions take priority over everything else. 

If I could be selfish, I wouldn't ever let her leave my house. She would be around for the next 30 years to help me make fun of Mike, hang with Ella, chase the boys and share wine with me by the pool. Brigid is a really good dancer, an OK cook and an amazing best friend. She is Ryan's Godmother and Ella shares her middle name for a good reason - they are both amazing, happy people.

Love you Brig. I know you are moving on soon to start you own life and well, I don't like it, but I guess as long as you remember to wax your eyebrows still, I will allow it. Just come home on Sundays still for chicken and pasta salad and swimming and your brother's Usher moves.


So... It has been, what, 3 + months since my last blog post? Wow... Time really does go by very quickly because I swear just yesterday I was sitting down to tell all my blog reading friends about this:
Umm, get this damn chicken away from me...
and now, we are 3 months past that and I need to tell all my blog reading friends about this:
Yeah, I eat solid food now...

And I don't know how to stuff all of the last three months into one little blog post or how to explain why I have been missing, and I don't know that it matters. What does matter is that I took a break from blogging, missed it terribly, developed an ulcer and well, now, I am back.

So.... These last three months have not been without stress. First.. We had a birthday... not just a normal birthday, but a birthday that included llamas and hay and barns and chickens and a lot of work and planning and without Supernanny and SuperHeather wouldn't of happened (SuperHeather works for me and besides being my mini me is also really good at all things creative). Ella had a great first birthday. She had a custom cake made by Supernanny:

She had a custom decorations made by SuperHeather:

And she had llama's:

Ella is one lucky girl, she had an amazing first birthday and we learned we can't buy Ella a Llama or a semi creepy Tweety bird looking cake without faces like these:

We know that she is surrounded by people who love her and want Ella to be happy (and gave up weekends and everything else to make sure she had the best first birthday every)
Ella and Supernanny Roxie 
Ella and SuperHeather

True, my thank you's are ummm - about 4 months late (how bad is it that they are all printed and I just need to address and mail them) but they will make it out by her next birthday, I swear! Oh, and if Reed asks, please tell him that his first birthday was just as amazing. I don't have time for a middle child complex right now.

Right after her birthday came Ella's first true sickness that put her in the hospital for 2 nights.  Talk about awful:

We are lucky with Ella in that she doesn't have any heart conditions or other medical issues that so many little kids with Down syndrome have, so this hospital thing was new to us and something I never, ever want to do again. My heart aches for the little ones who spend to much of their lives in hospitals, we had enough after 2 days, I can't imagine how hard it is for families that have this as a normal routine.

After the birthday and the hospital came moving. Oh, wait... After the birthday and hospital came Supernanny telling us that she is pregnant... Which is wonderful, we love Roxie. She is amazing and when I heard she was expecting, I was 1. happy for her 2. terrified we would lose her. Roxie tells me she will work once the baby comes and I hope she does. The attachment Ella has to Roxie and Roxie's commitment to Ella is amazing. Being a working mom means I have to be OK seeing my kids prefer someone else over me at times and I have to know that those big "milestones" will most likely be hit when I am sitting at my desk across town.  Roxie makes this all OK.  In fact, if Ella hits a milestone when Roxie isn't there, it would seem weird.  Roxie is such a part of Ella's life that I can't imagine her not there to see Ella walk or talk or start preschool. I am a little excited to have a baby around again though and know that I don't have to wake up at night to feed it!

Then we moved.

Yeah, we seem to move a lot. Since Mike and I have been together (15 years now) we have owned 3 houses, rented 5 and lived with our parents twice.  I seem to have an aversion to settling down, but after this last move, I swear that I will never move again and if I do, I am starting over with all new stuff because it is just to hard to move past the age of 26. My body ached for a month! We had amazing help from the Supergrandma's and without them we would of left half our crap in the old house and just made do with 5 plates and some toilet paper (I hate packing).

We are all settled into the new house and so happy to be back by our friends and to have amazing neighbors! In the old house my kids went 2 years without playing with any neighborhood kids, so to be able to set this up:

and know that there are kids around that will play on it with my monsters is amazing. It's sad that the old neighborhood (while very nice) was so isolated. At the new house, we can't keep the boys inside and it is wonderful for them to socialize with other kids and ride bikes and just do boy things (although Ryan told me tonight that one of the neighbor boys has a cell phone and now he wants one).

Ella has been doing amazing with her therapies and is - if you ask me - progressing wonderfully. She is getting stronger on her legs, starting to stand more on her own and is just an amazing baby. She wrestles with her brothers (and knows just when to stop to pose for the camera):

n the last 3 month, we have had our share of crying, missed milestones and internet searching for advice on how to get your stubborn child to use a sippy cup but for the most part, we have just been busy raising three amazing kids:

I think that somewhat catches you all up. We can now return to regularly scheduled blog posts about all things Ella.