Monday, November 30, 2009

Our Thanksgiving in Pictures

As promised, here is the recap of our annual Thanksgiving trip to Michigan. We had a wonderful time! We stayed in Saugatuck Michigan and enjoyed our annual "Thanksmas" celebration with about 30 other family members on Jeff's mom's side of the family. It's always a crazy and hectic celebration but tons of fun!

Here's the story in pictures:

One of the highlights this year was meeting our new cousin, Lennyn. She is the daughter of Jeff's cousin Matt and his wife Molly. She was born in April--2 months older than Kaitlynn--and is just precious! She's already crawling (OK, more like scooting, but she can get across the room in mere seconds!) and is such a happy and contented baby.

Here's Lennyn checking out her cousin Kaitlynn.

Cute cousins--both blond and blue-eyed!

And Cousin Ryan's and girlfriend Kelly's puppy (yes, I said puppy) was another new addition this year. She is a precious 5-month old pup that enjoyed keeping watch over the babies.

Grandma Patti soaked up lots of time with her precious baby girl Lennyn!

And speaking of grandmas, Jeff's mom Nana and Grandpa Dave met Kaitlynn for the first time this trip. Nana really soaked it in, too!

Aunt Mary enjoyed some cuddles with Kaitlynn, too.

Cousin Jon got in on the action, too. He claims to not be a baby person and to have never held a baby before, but he looks like such a natural!

Every year the gang looks forward to lots of poker and euchre in Uncle John's basement.

And just like last year, Collin managed to get skunked -- this time with Jeff as his partner!

All the ladies really enjoyed exchanging "girl gifts."

Connor had a great time this year now that he is older and really enjoyed getting to know everyone. He and his cousin Liam played so well together and had a blast!

Aunt Katie made these awesome capes for both Liam and Connor, and the boys were so cute running around in them. Connor kept calling Liam "Super Liam" -- as in, "Mom, where did Super Liam go?" So sweet!

Connor also enjoyed time with his baby sister, as usual.

And Daddy was able to spend quality time with his little princess, too.

Kaitlynn worked SO hard to be cute for Thanksgiving...

But it just plain wore her out!

Hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Back from Thanksgiving

Well, we made it back from our annual Thanksgiving trip to Michigan. It was a wonderful week visiting with family, enjoying all the usual treats and eats, and watching the poker competition with the whole gang. I'm super busy trying to get unpacked and settled but in the meantime, enjoy this latest photo of our family at Thanksgiving. I promise I'll upload lots more pics and details about our trip soon. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Job

Conversation with Connor at lunch the other day:

Connor: (out of the blue) Mom, why are you always telling me what to do? Why?
Me: Because I'm your Mom. That's my job.
Connor: No, it's not. Your job is to go to work downtown. That's your job.
Me: No, I don't have that job anymore. Now my job is to be your Mom.
Connor: (pauses) That's OK if you tell me what to do sometimes. That's OK.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bath Time

We have established quite the routine for bath time in our house lately. First, Connor and Kaitlynn strip down and enjoy some playtime and kisses on the bath rug as I run the bath for them.

Then they enjoy a warm bath together, with Kaitlynn in her own little bathtub until she is big enough to sit up on her own.

I use a big Texans cup to pour water when I'm washing them, and Kaitlynn now tries as hard as she can to grab it from me. She thinks it is her cup!

Then Dad comes and takes Kaitlynn to get her dried off and in her diaper and jammies.

Dad usually lets her "air out" for a while...she has a lot of rolls to dry off!

And sometimes Connor likes to read her a story before her bedtime.

Nighty night!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things I ...

Here are some things I miss about working full-time:
  • A regular and consistent schedule.
  • My paycheck.
  • Quiet time in my office each morning.
  • Intellectual, thought-provoking conversations. With adults.
  • Recognition for a job well done.
  • Wearing nice clothes and jewelry.
  • Juicy office gossip. (Come on, admit it, you'd miss it too!)
  • Alone time at lunch.
  • Having Connor at daycare (structured activities and learning, playtime with his friends, socializing with the other mothers, etc).
  • Being able to blame my dirty house on my busy job.
  • Shooting the bull with colleagues.
  • Constructive criticism. All I get these days are whines and complaints. 
  • My smaller waistline (OK, this has nothing to do with work. But I still miss it.)

Things I do NOT miss about working full-time:
  • Traffic.
  • Work stress. (I have enough home stress as it is.)
  • Frantically running errands on the weekends because I didn't have enough time during the week.
  • Long commute.
  • Office politics.
  • Playing paper-rock-scissors with Jeff to see who would stay home with a sick kid.
  • Juggling my hectic work schedule when I lost said game of paper-rock-scissors.
  • Waking up to an alarm clock.
  • The dreaded late night or weekend phone calls at home when things at the office went wrong.
  • All-day meetings.
  • Feeling guilty for missing work when my kids are sick.
  • Feeling guilty for missing my kids when I'm at work.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Special Birthday

I really want to wish an extra special birthday to an extra special MeMe. My mom celebrated her birthday yesterday, and we were blessed to have her stay with us during her birthday weekend. She actually came all the way down here so she could babysit the little kids so that Jeff and I could have a much-needed date night. On HER birthday! Now isn't that just like a Mom?

We had a great weekend together -- shopping, eating out, and spending time together with the kiddos. It was a great visit and we were so thankful that she chose to spend her birthday with us. Love you, Mom! Happy Birthday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Five Months

Kaitlynn is 5 months already (tomorrow)! Every single month that goes by I find myself shocked and amazed at how quickly the time passes. We are having such fun with this precious baby right now. She truly is in the sweet "Gerber baby" phase as my doctor calls it. Her little personality is really blooming and is such a joy to witness.

Here are some new developments with baby girl:

  • She is FINALLY sleeping through the night! Phew! This wasn't an easy process, but Kaitlynn finally started sleeping all night a few weeks ago. I had to let her cry it out night after night, which was NOT fun, but I knew the end result would be worth it. She is now sleeping around 11 hours, from around 7:00 pm until 6:00 am. (The recent time change has thrown us for a loop so both kids now wake shortly after 6:00 am most mornings.)
  • It's official - Kaitlynn is getting her first tooth! One of her bottom 2 teeth has already broken through her gums and the other one is right behind it.
  • Kaitlynn is now rolling over from back to tummy. The only problem is that once she rolls onto her tummy she is stuck and needs rescuing. I think she got tired of getting stuck because she hasn't shown off this new skill for over a week now (hence the lack of video for this milestone).
  • She is eating rice cereal with milk and other first baby foods most nights. She definitely seems resistant to solids. One time I mixed her rice cereal with applesauce and at the first taste she immediately burst into tears! It was so pitiful but it cracked me up. I mean, what's not to like about applesauce??
  • She wants so badly to be in a sitting position instead of on her back. When I put her in her bouncy seat or carseat, she will lift and pull up as hard as she can to try to sit up by herself.
  • She is grabbing everything she can with those sweet little hands. Connor thinks it's funny that when he leans over her, she'll grab at his face or his clothing. And she won't let go!
  • Speaking of grabbing things, Kaitlynn has now learned to find her paci and stick it in her mouth! It is pretty funny to watch because she struggles over and over putting the paci in her mouth and pulling it out again until she gets it just right.
  • It's kind of hard to see in the pictures, but Kaitlynn's hair has really taken on a strawberry blond color. Especially in certain indoor lighting, you can really see a reddish tint and many people have commented about it. It'll be interesting to see the color when it grows out.
  • She is HEAVY! She weighed over 18.5 lbs last week and so her carseat is getting difficult to carry these days.

Sweet smile from my sweet girl.

Blue eyes just like her Daddy and brother.

She still sleeps with her arms way up by her head.

In this picture you can see her strawberry blondness.

Connor still loves his baby sister. Their expressions here crack me up.

Here she's sitting up in her bouncy chair. She doesn't like to lay down!

Chillin' and watching some TV with Dad.

And now here's a video showing off her newest skill with her paci!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bribes for Smiles

This past Sunday was picture day at the Courtright house. Each November (we do it in November to avoid the holiday rush) all of us head to Portrait Innovations for our annual family photo session. It is so important to me to get a nice family picture every year, not only for our holiday newsletter but also just to document our growing family.

Every parent knows how stressful these photo sessions can be, especially with kids. This year we had 2 teenagers, a toddler, and a baby. And by far, the hardest part is the teenagers. Why do teenage boys HATE getting their picture taken so much? Each year their resistance gets stronger and stronger, so this year I racked my brain to figure out how to get them to be a little more, um, cooperative.

And the answer? Cold. Hard. Cash.

Yep, that's right. I am actually admitting that I bribed the older boys with money, just for a genuine smile in our family photos. How sad is that?

So, I bet you're wondering if it worked. Well, I can't show you our official new photo yet because I'm trying to save them for our Christmas newsletter. But here's a sneak peak you might enjoy.

And the older boys weren't the only ones that required a bribe. Tucked away in my back pocket was the perfect little trick to get Connor to cooperate, too. His bribe? A sucker. Worked like a charm.

Now, if only I could figure out what it would take to get this little one to smile.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Down Syndrome Awareness

You may have noticed the new button I added to the blog recently (and will soon be removing). October was Down Syndrome Awareness month. It's already November but I am just now finding the courage to write some thoughts I've had on this subject. I felt compelled to participate in a small way by sharing with others some of what I've learned this year about this condition. Most of you are already aware of the many months of uncertainty that Jeff and I went through during the pregnancy with Kaitlynn. But here's a recap and some previously unmentioned thoughts during that difficult time.

Warning: long post ahead!

It's no secret that Jeff was finished having kids after Connor. It was the plan all along: after Connor, we were done. But unfortunately, I just couldn't abide by the plan. I had such a longing for another baby. In addition to just feeling done, Jeff had many concerns. So many things can go wrong in pregnancy and childbirth. What if we had a child with an illness or disability? I, of course, always dismissed those concerns. Long story short...another little Courtright was on the way.

At 17 weeks along, I got the dreaded call from my ob-gyn doctor. Every woman knows that your ob-gyn doesn't call you personally unless there is something amiss. Sure enough, the quad screen blood work they performed came back with an elevated risk for Down syndrome. My risk was 1:180, which isn't that high and therefore didn't concern me that much. In fact, if anything I was a bit excited because the doctor was sending us for an ultrasound sooner than expected. All I cared about was that I would get to see my baby and learn the gender. Jeff, on the other hand, was nervous. He immediately assumed the worst.

So we went for our ultrasound appointment, but before the scan we were asked to attend genetic counseling. Anyone who has ever sat through this counseling knows how scary and emotional it is. The whole point is to educate people about the risks and possibilities based on the blood work and other factors like age, history, etc. But sitting in that office felt anything but educational. It was so difficult to digest my emotions as the counselor explained all about Down syndrome and what that might mean for our baby. She stressed that the only way we would know for certain whether our baby had the extra 21st chromosome was to do the amniocentesis. That is the test where they insert a needle into the womb to withdraw amniotic fluid and then get it tested for any chromosomal abnormalities. I knew all about that test beforehand, and to be honest I never thought I would need that test because I assumed the ultrasound would prove that everything was perfectly normal.

Unfortunately the remaining months of my pregnancy were anything but normal. I had about 10 ultrasounds between 17 and 38 weeks, and each one of them indicated "soft" markers for Down syndrome. In addition to the abnormal quad screen, the baby was shown to have an abnormal umbilical cord (2 vessels instead of the normal 3) and the baby's arm and leg (humerus/femur) bone measurements were also extremely short. Each of these were considered soft markers for Down syndrome, but we wouldn't know for sure unless we did the amniocentesis.

Several years ago, my sister was in the same situation with her 2nd pregnancy when her blood work indicated a 1:32 chance for Down syndrome. She was offered the amniocentesis and declined. I was shocked. How could you not get the test to know for sure? I asked her. I could NEVER go on not knowing, I said. Isn't it funny how things change? Here I was 3 years later and I found myself in the exact same situation. And despite these multiple ultrasound markers that continued to show up, I just couldn't get the amnio. With my history of miscarriages, I didn't want to take a chance in harming the baby. But it was more than that. I don't know how to explain it except I truly felt that it was a test of faith -- by getting the test, I would be doubting God. His plan would be revealed soon enough. Sounds so much easier than it was, though. Those months were some of the longest, most anxious, and most stressful I've ever experienced.

During those last few months, Jeff and I largely avoided deep discussions about how we would handle a baby with special needs. I was terrified to address the subject and he was mostly in denial. A week before the baby was due, however, we had a brief conversation about our baby. Jeff admitted that he would be surprised if she didn't have Down syndrome. And I had to agree. Both of us knew that this baby would be loved no matter what. But neither of us knew how to prepare for that outcome.

I don't think I was ever worried about how I would feel if I had a baby with Down syndrome. I was in love with that baby from the moment I learned of her and felt extremely blessed to be given another chance to be a Mom. But I did have great fears about how others would react to her. I was terrified that Jeff would resent her; that her older brothers wouldn't be mature enough to accept her; that others would pity our family and our daughter. I kept a private journal during the pregnancy and more than once I wrote about how I wanted to wrap my arms around my daughter and protect her from any negativity she might be subjected to -- and she wasn't even born yet! The Mother Hen in me emerged in full effect.

The moment Kaitlynn was born, the doctors in the room immediately declared her "perfect." They used that word to reassure me that Kaitlynn did not appear to have the typical characteristics of babies with Down syndrome. Of course, Jeff and I were overwhelmed with relief. I mean, who wouldn't be? But days later it would occur to me how strange it seemed to be given a "perfect" baby, when in fact she would've been perfect with or without Down syndrome. Obviously God had other plans for us and for Kaitlynn, but I admit I've often wondered how different our lives would be today if our fears had been realized.

One of the statistics I learned during my research into Down syndrome is that 90% of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to abort their babies. I was truly shocked. It never occurred to me for a single second to consider that option. I said many times throughout the pregnancy, who am I to argue with God if He felt I needed a child with Down syndrome? I certainly wouldn't judge another person who made that decision, but it just wasn't for me. That's not to say that I wouldn't be resentful, scared, angry, or any number of other emotions. In the end, it didn't matter. She was our baby, a blessing from God.

I won't deny that I'm extremely thankful for Kaitlynn and for the fact that she has turned out to be a typical baby. I am in awe of those special mothers that have endured the same fears and challenges in their pregnancies but with very different outcomes. Raising a child with Down syndrome, as with any other special needs child, introduces a whole new set of challenges that elevates parenting to the next level of "hard." But I would guess that with these challenges also comes great blessings. And even though we haven't had to face it in our own family, I now possess a much greater awareness about Down syndrome. Thanks for letting me share it with you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Foodie Friday

I learned about the neat concept of Foodie Friday from Tanna, and I just happened to have a new recipe that I was wanting to share anyway. This was a potato sidedish recipe I saw on The Next Food Network challenge by Melissa d'Arabian and I just had to try them for myself. They are very yummy and super easy to make. Here you go:

Individual Potato Gratins

  • vegetable spray
  • 2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper, and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Four years ago today, I married the best man I know.

He has brought more love into my life than I ever imagined possible. He tries on a daily basis to make me happy, and he strives to fulfill all my dreams and desires. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to call him my husband, and I look forward to so many years ahead together.

Jeff, I love you! Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall Cousins Weekend

It has become tradition on my side of the family to get all the cousins together twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. During these visits we try to celebrate the cousins' birthdays (Makenna, Madison, Connor, and now Kaitlynn in the spring; Renee and Ryah in the fall) and we usually organize some other activities as well.

Two weekends ago all the cousins converged at MeMe and Granddaddy's house for the fall birthday celebration as well as the Halloween Trunk or Treat event at their church. As usual, it was a hectic and chaotic weekend but it was so much fun visiting with everyone! Here are some pictures from our fall cousins weekend.

Ryah, Renee, and Connor enjoyed playing hide and seek.

The next morning we headed to the park for Renee and Ryah's birthday celebration. The theme was a cowgirl party (except for Connor, who was the lone cowboy!)

It was very chilly that morning so Kaitlynn was all bundled up!

Later that evening, it was time for the Trunk or Treat at MeMe's church. All the kids were so excited about wearing their Halloween costumes.

Connor was Lightning McQueen.

Kaitlynn was a love bug. Check out the pink tights!

She wasn't too thrilled about it, though.

All the kiddos in their costumes with Granddaddy.

And here they are at the Trunk or Treat.

Mommy with her love bug.

This is what she does when she's tired, she puts her hand over her eyes as if to block out the rest of the world.

The trunk-or-treating begins. Connor was very impressed with the "football gamer."

Karlie's costume was a drum majorette; here she is with Kaitlynn.

The last day together, Uncle Jeb rigged a really cool tractor ride for the kids.

It was a great weekend visiting with everyone and letting the cousins play! We will now look forward to the holidays when we can see them again. And then, we'll have our spring cousins weekend next year when we'll be joined by one more cousin -- Jeb and Alli's new baby girl!