Sunday, November 24, 2013

From A to Z

We have always been dog people. There have been very few years that we've been married that we didn't have a dog. Over the years we've had several sad episodes when we've had to say good-bye to a couple of wonderful family pets, but despite the pain that brings, we've always felt that our family isn't complete without a dog.

A while ago, before we realized just how sick Bruiser was, we'd talked about getting another dog. We'd had large dogs for quite some time, and we thought having a smaller dog might be fun. We were certain Abby would love it, and convinced that Bruiser would enjoy the company as well. Jason did his homework and found a wonderful breeder of Australian Terriers. These seemed to be the perfect fit for us, and once we contacted Theresa we knew we were on the right track, so we officially added our names to their waiting list.

Before we knew it, Theresa contacted us to let us know that two litters were to be born, and we would be getting one of those puppies. We were thrilled - to say the least. Abby kept a close eye on the puppy cam and made sure to tell anyone that would listen about her new puppy - her "little" puppy.

Sadly, Bruiser was not to meet our newest addition. We have missed him greatly in the nearly two months that he has been gone. The house seemed emptier and we were sadder, but by the time he was gone we knew which one of those little puppies would be a part of our family, and this helped ease the pain. Zeke had been chosen for us.

We'd decided that when the time came to go get Zeke, Abby needed to be a part of that. So, not only would Abby be getting a puppy, but she would be taking her first flight on an airplane....and that brings us to this weekend. We had no idea how she would do on a plane. It isn't easy for Abby to sit still and be quiet, especially when she is surrounded by so many people that she hasn't met yet. I had visions of her trying to visit with everyone on the plane. She also has some trouble with loud noises and the unknown. We couldn't do anything about her outgoing personality, but we could prepare her as best as possible. So, we set about practicing. We talked though what would happen and even walked through pretend metal detectors in order to get to our pretend plane. Abby was ready, but I was still nervous.

Abby is fairly bursting with excitement.
I shouldn't have been. Abby was a pro, and so incredibly excited about getting her puppy. I cannot tell you how proud we were of that little girl. Soon enough we were pulling up to Theresa's house, moments away from meeting Zeke for the first time. I wasn't prepared for the tears that clogged my throat as I watched Abby and Zeke meet face to face. Abby was in heaven, in the midst of all of those wonderfully happy dogs, and incredibly nice people. I cannot say enough good about Theresa and her family. Not only do they responsibly breed excellent dogs, but they do it with grace, style, and hospitality that is matched by few. They welcomed us into their home and treated us like honored guests.

Abby continued to do wonderfully, but before long the travel and schedule changes got the best of her. She was tired and needed rest. After an early bedtime she was up and ready to go for round two today. Knowing that Abby was now a pro, we were curious to see how Zeke would handle the airplane.

By the time we landed it was clear, we had a couple of pretty awesome kiddos. Abby was once again  stellar when it came to airplane etiquette, and Zeke....well, it wasn't until a surprised yip came from the dog carrier by our feet upon landing that anyone around us even knew that we had a dog with us. Yes, they both did wonderfully.

We got home from our whirlwind trip and had fun getting back to normal, and playing with the newest member of the gang. Tonight, as Zeke lay cuddled on my lap I couldn't help but think he will fit in here just fine, and that once again our family feels complete. As one person commented on Facebook, Abby and Zeke have us covered, from A to Z.

Abby dreaming of future flights.

These two were fast friends.

All smiles and ready to head home!

Sneaking in a quick nibble.

So much excitement wears a poor pup out.

Monday, November 18, 2013


It's been a while between posts, and although I've been quiet here, things have not been quiet around the Valente household. Life has a way of chugging right along, and quite frankly lately I feel like I'm running to keep up. I hadn't planned on writing a post tonight, but something happened today that I just needed to share.

To begin I need to back up - about 8 and a half years. Within hours of Abby's birth she was flown to the University of Michigan hospital. Everyone there was pretty fantastic, but there are a few lovely people that stand out. One of these angels was Nurse Joanie. Joanie was the one that got Abby chugging her bottle like a pro, she was the one that stayed well past her shift one night in order to make sure Abby's IV got put in right, and she was the one that told us the night before Abby came home, "You need to go out and have a nice dinner, just the two of you. After all, you have the world's most expensive babysitter." In short, we loved Nurse Joanie.

This afternoon, while my students were working quietly at their desks, my phone made an interesting "chirp". I looked down to see that I had a message from Nurse Joanie. After school I took a peek at it and saw that she was referring me to the blog of a lovely family who is currently at the U of M. In fact she was directing me to one particular post.

As soon as I could I popped over to the post and got to reading. I could feel the lump in my throat getting bigger as I realized what was to come. See, a few years ago Abby was chosen to be part of a special project for the new children's hospital U of M was building. The project was called "The Walls of Hope". Photographs of children who had been in the NICU were taken by a wonderful photographer and were paired with photos of them when they were at the hospital. These beautiful pictures now line the walls of the NICU and are there in order to offer hope to those parents who are currently spending many agonizing hours there. I sat at my desk reading about this young family, who had gone through a difficult birth which resulted in one of their twins needing to stay in the NICU. After receiving the news that, along with numerous health concerns, their daughter also had Down syndrome, the mother talked about walking the halls of the hospital. I could so clearly remember being there, having the feeling that all of my "plans" for Abby had changed and I was faced with a future that was uncertain and not what I had expected.

Just as this frightened mother was wondering what her daughter's future might look like, she spied Abby's picture. She saw her gentle smile and the sunlight shinning through her hair as she played in a field of flowers. She talked about how Abby's picture gave her hope. And that's when I cried.

Seeing Abby, along with the obvious fact that this young mother's faith is strong, had helped her come to the realization that her daughter's future was destined to be different, but it could be so much more than she'd ever expected.

Once again today I was reminded how very precious Abby is. I was once again amazed, and humbled, by my own child. I will never know how far reaching an impact that little girl has had. I will never know the number of lives that she has made better, by simply being who she is. Tonight I sit in amazement at the Great God who's wisdom is far beyond any I could ever have, and I am thankful - very thankful indeed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Gentle Giant

Once upon a time, not that long ago, a puppy was born. He was a sweet puppy with great big paws and beautiful golden eyes. Despite the gentle glow in those eyes, his family looked at his mighty paws and christened him, "Bruiser", for they thought he would grow to be a giant, and indeed he did.

Bruiser grew and grew, as he lived with his first family, but he never lost his gentle spirit. Even though his brothers and sisters would often push him out of the way when it was time to eat, or pick on him in other ways, he didn't lose heart.

Before long his first family needed to move, and they couldn't keep Bruiser, so they looked far and wide for a family that would love their gentle giant. One day, as the cold winter winds blew, a family came to visit the dog. They brought with them a very special little girl, a little girl who loved dogs, big and small, and who needed a loving companion who was both tough and tender. The little girl was nervous at first, for Bruiser had a mighty bark, but soon she was laughing as he ran and played around her. The parents of the little girl saw just what they had been looking for, and so it came to pass that Bruiser would continue on with a new family.

From the moment Bruiser arrived, he was comfortable, almost as if he was always meant to be there. A great love blossomed between Bruiser and the family. He sought their attention and love, and joyfully played in their big green yard. He loved most though, that special little girl, who would shower him with affection. Each day he would wait anxiously while she was away, and then greet her joyfully when she arrived back home. He reveled in the times when she would throw her little arms around his neck and softly whisper, "I love you, Bruiser." Those were the times when his heart was the fullest.

The parents of the little girl would watch in amazement as the great dog would sit patiently as the little girl adorned him with silly hats and funny scarves, and they would laugh when the two of them would howl loudly, singing at the top of their lungs. They liked it best though when Bruiser would keep watch over his little girl, and guard her from strangers, or scary noises. They knew that he would defend their little girl at all costs.

And the family was happy.

Years passed and the little girl grew, and so did the bond between her and Bruiser. But far, far too soon the parents began to notice changes in their beloved dog. They noticed the once nimble animal limping when he walked, and his back becoming thinner. They noticed that he spent more time sleeping, and he became more fearful. It was the day that he cried out in pain that confirmed their fears. Their protector was very sick indeed. With heavy hearts they took him to the doctor, only to hear that he was in great pain, and they loved him far too much to let him stay that way. And so, it was his time to leave the family.

There is now an empty space in the house where those great paws used to romp and play. There is a heartbeat missing from the family, and because of this there is grief. They know the sadness will lessen with time, and eventually the special little girl will stop asking, "Where's Bruiser?", but he will never leave their hearts or their memories, for their Gentle Giant was special, and a soul such as his will always leave a lasting impression.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What We Did on Our Summer Vacation

One week. One week from today we will be running around, packing lunches and backpacks, hustling through breakfasts, and getting pictures by the "picture tree". One week from today Abby and I will be heading back to school.

We are both ready. I love the start of school, the new opportunities, the new plans and ideas, and all the new school supplies.  Every day for the last couple of weeks Abby has either asked, "School today?" or told me, "I'm so excited for school to start!" As much as we are both ready for some structure and socializing, I am incredibly sad to see the summer come to an end. It was a wonderful summer - the best yet, in fact. So, I thought I would answer that age old question, the one teachers all over the country ask their students the first week of school - here's what we did on our summer vacation.

Swimming Lessons

I swear, Abby would spend the whole day in water if she could. In order to avoid my panic every time she approaches more than three inches of water, we thought it prudent to enroll her in some swimming lessons. So, two days a week Abby and I trotted down to the local Y where she had the opportunity to learn and practice the basics. I think the only time she didn't have a smile on her face was when the class had to "sit on the wall" and wait for their individual turns to swim.

She was always the happiest when she was in
the water - a trait inherited from Daddy.

We also got to spend time out at the lake this summer.
It's a hard, but someone's got to do it!


This may sound silly, but we did a ton of grocery shopping this summer - and that is kind of a big deal. It was though our trips to the grocery store that I was able to see just how much Abby has grown and matured. Gone are the days when she would run off to steal someone else's grocery cart, or when I needed to maintain an iron grip on her at all times. Imagine my amazement when I could push the cart and she would obediently trail behind (granted she was about 3 feet behind because she was so distracted by everything, but she was there), and she would even help out by putting things in the cart.

We always had to take a ride on "Sandy" once
a successful shopping trip was done. The incentive
for good behavior was well worth the penny.

Abby is convinced she is the one who magically
makes the doors close after we leave a store. We
always have to stop so she can close them 3 or 4 times - at least.

The Cottage

It had been quite a while since we'd been up to the family cottage, and so when Daddy took some vacation time, we headed north. It took Abby a couple of days to settle into a new place, but when she did we all had a wonderful time. Boat rides, swimming, and playing outside made the cottage a veritable haven for Abby.
Abby has a standing invitation at the neighbor's swing set.
Her squeals of delight could be heard across the lake, I'm sure.

Happy girl.

She couldn't wait to go swimming, and had
to have a "doo-rag" just like Nana!

Doctors Appointments

Well, you have to take the good with the bad, and we had both in this category. Let's start with the good. Abby had a follow up appointment with her diabetes doctor. He couldn't say enough about how well she is doing, in fact, he told us she had the best numbers of the day. I was so proud of all of us, and this kept me riding high for a while. We also had Abby's yearly check-up with the cardiologist. I have to admit I was dreading this one. They wanted to do an echo cardiogram, the one that is basically an ultrasound of your heart....the one that requires a dark room and holding still, neither of which are Abby's favorites. The last time they did one of these they had to knock her out. Thankfully the people at the children's hospital are wonderful and know just what to do to put a scared little girl at ease. Bless those doctors who had the patience to take Woody's EKG and Jesse's blood pressure. Because of them, Abby did fabulously, and came away with another wonderful report.
The patience of the doctors never cease to amaze me. This
super doctor even took the time to find a cuff that would fit
Jesse (sort of) and went through the whole process of taking her
blood pressure. There's a reason he is the only one who has ever
gotten Abby to do her blood pressure - and with a smile no less!

Unfortunately, not everything was great in the health department this summer. Abby ended up with a nasty case of the flu (which she shared with me, wasn't that nice of her?), and we ended up in the emergency room. Luckily it was a short stay, and she recovered quickly. Even though that's the last place I wanted to be, I was once again impressed with Abby's bravery; she got her IV like a pro.

You can see by her eyes how dehydrated she is here.
Even through it all, she could smile. What a trooper.

Playing & Visiting

Since summers are a bit of a "working holiday" for teachers, Abby did a lot of playing, both with buddies and on her own, when Mom had to get some work done for the classes I am taking, or when I needed to get into my classroom to get stuff done.

We also had some friends and family over, as well as got to go to visit them. This was so good for our little social butterfly.

If Mom was working....Abby needed to as well.

There was always time for being a princess.

She even gave some percussion lessons to this cutie.

The little cowgirl isn't always happy, but thankfully
those moments are few and far between.

We got to meet Grandma's new doggie - Lilly!
It took a bit, but eventually Abby was okay with her jumping up.
I couldn't help but laugh that Abby can boss around an 80+ pound
German Shepherd like nobody's business, but a 7 pound little dog would
send her running and scrambling for the couch.

So there it is in a nutshell - our wonderful summer. It will be greatly missed, but the memories are priceless!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Fathers are special guys - especially Jason. From the moment Abby came into this world he was by her side. As soon as the helicopter carrying our little angel took flight, he followed behind, braving the snow and ice to meet her at the bigger hospital that could help her. I was a bit out of it for a few days, but when I finally was able to see Abby, I saw right away that she already had Jason firmly wrapped around her tiny fingers.

That month in the hospital not only helped me get to know my new daughter, it also showed me a side of Jason that I had never seen. Oh, he remained the rock-solid man I'd married, but there was also a calm that settled upon him that I'd never known. See, Jason was famous for his inability to relax. Frankly, the guy never sat still - at least for long. So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that he was able to sit for hours beside Abby's isolette. All day, each day, he would sit beside her and watch over her.

Whenever I think of that time, etched in my mind was one of those first days. I remember it being evening, and I was exhausted. Thankfully, the hospital had a hotel, of sorts, where families could stay if there children were there. We'd spent the day with Abby, and I decided it was time to get some rest so we could do it all again in the morning. As I prepared to go Jason turned to me and said, "I'm just going to stay a bit longer." When I reached the door to the ward, I turned to look back at my little family. There sat Jason, with his head slightly tilted, watching Abby sleep - just as he'd done all day. He kept watch over his little girl. I know he wanted her to know that he was there - that he would always be there for her.

A bond was struck in those early days, a bond that I have been blessed to watch grow into a great love.  Yes, fathers are special guys, but one stands out in my mind for the love and devotion he has for his very special little girl.

Happy Father's Day to the very best dad I know.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What We Dread

I realize that it has been quite a while since my last post - life around here has a way of stealing time like that. While we have been quite busy, and Abby has had lots of hijinks, there is a more pressing issue that is on my heart, and so the "let's catch up" post will have to wait until next time.

After today's afternoon errand, and chatting with a friend on Facebook, I got to thinking about what the parents of special needs children dread. I am, in no way, shape, or form, a spokesperson for every parent of a special needs child, but I do have some experience with this, and thought it might be worth sharing some of the fears I think we have in common.

What We Dread

Doctor's Appointments

You would think with all of the extra doctor's visits we sometimes have, that we would be used to sitting in that office - we aren't. We, like our children, have learned many times that a visit to the doctor can be painful. It may be because we are waiting to hear some news, or test results, that have the potential to shake our world. It may be because the doctor will need to examine our child's ears, and we know that will require an intense wrestling hold, while our frightened little one screams until blood vessels break out on her face. It may be because our child is not great about understanding boundaries, and doesn't understand that running into the doctor's back office, or trying on the nurses shoes in the staff closet, isn't really the thing to do. Whatever it is, a trip to the doctor's office is rarely "routine".

Negative Comments

There are some people that "mean well" when they say things like, "Oh, it must be so hard..." or "God picks special people like you to have a special needs child - I know I could never do it," but negativity is negativity, even if it is proceeded by a complement, or couched in "understanding".

There are some, though who don't seem to care what they say - those small-minded, fearful people who imagine you can't hear them - or don't care all together that you can. These are the people we "practice" for. The ones that we create in our heads, so we aren't surprised into silence because of their rudeness. The injustice of the fact that our children have done nothing to deserve anyone's pity or scorn is not lost on us. We know that, to some, it is okay to think less of our precious children - and not a problem to take the extra step to vocalize that to their friends, the public, or even directly to us.

Other Children

Children are wonderful, but they also can be extremely blunt. Questions like, "Why does she talk like that?" or "Why does she look funny?" immediately sends us into protection mode. We, like all parents want our children to be liked and accepted by their peers, but their delays and differences sometimes make that a challenge. There is a fear that crawls into my throat each time Abby approaches a child she doesn't know and declares that they are her friend, and proceeds to chatter on about her day. Will the child accept her sincere overture, or will they run away without a word? Abby may not realized she's been rejected, but I do, and that is a horrible feeling.

When children are young this fear is less. I dread the teen years, not because of any teenage defiance or angst, but because I am so afraid Abby will not be accepted by her peers.


There are certain things I am "on guard" for with Abby. For a while it was loud noises and big open spaces. These would send her screaming for this hills - or into my arms, where she would shake like a leaf. Now it seems that leaving is a problem. She loves going places, but doesn't always want to leave them - and she is not above creating a scene when necessary.

Some special needs children have "triggers", things that will disrupt an otherwise smooth errand or event. Parents know their children well and keep a keen eye out for any such triggers, in the hopes of avoiding them. I am sad to say that there have been times when I've avoided an event all together, because I just didn't have the fight in me that day. I dread Abby's triggers.

I know there are other "dreads", but these were the most immediate today. I share these with you, not for you to "feel bad" for me/us, but in the hopes of creating a bit more understanding. I've been trying really hard lately to remember that no one has a perfect life - it isn't possible down here on earth. Who knows what has happened in someone's day by the time you come across them. If I keep that in my head I am able to be more careful (full of care) with the people I encounter, it's when I forget that, that my selfish side rules. 

In the end I take a leaf from Abby's book. She is an expert at brightening the days of those she encounters. Thankfully, she is there to remind me to do the same.

Pure Joy

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Mother's Role

Today, as I thought about the fact that tomorrow is Mother's Day, I couldn't help but reflect on all the "jobs" a mother does - I couldn't help it because every time I turned around Abby was "assigning" me a new role. Here are just a few.

Mom - The Doctor

We are still playing "Doctor's Office" each time Abby needs her finger poke. She rides the elevator, I check my computer and call her back to my office. As she sits on the "exam table" we chat about how her day is going, and in no time at all we are done and bandaging her finger with a Hello Kitty band-aid.

Mom - The Restauranteur

By the time dinner rolled around Abby was ready to be catered to. I was to show her to her seat and then take her order - she even made sure that I had my notepad and pencil to get it right. I told her tonight's special (spaghetti with sauce) and that it came with a cold glass of milk. She told me that would be great, and I assured her that I would be back soon with her meal. She was very polite as she thanked me for my service. Although a tip was conspicuously absent.

After dinner I became the "Ice Cream Lady". As I prepared her chocolate ice cream cone, she stood next to me smiling so sweetly. After the hand-off, she happily ran from the room yelling, "Thank you, Ice Cream Lady!"

Mom - The Stylist

Since she'd had a yummy chocolate ice cream cone for dessert, she also had a lovely chocolate ice cream beard by the time it was done. Therefore we trotted off to the bath soon afterward. When we came downstairs afterward, she not only consented to having me comb her hair, but she plopped down in front of her mirror, asked for a cape, and told me she needed a hair cut. I jumped at the opportunity to even up some of the ends she wouldn't let me at a few weeks ago when I first cut her hair. As I was trimming Abby suddenly asked for "black hair". I clarified that she wanted me to dye her hair black. She affirmed that's what she wanted. I think I said something like, "That's never going to happen," but she continued to plead for it. I told her that as her stylist, I really couldn't recommend that change, it just wouldn't look good with her coloring. Luckily she dropped it after that.

Mom - The Teacher

This morning Abby wanted math. Yes, that's right, she wanted to do some math and she made sure to tell me that I was not to turn on the TV while she worked. So, I pulled out the counting teddy bears and we got to counting and patterning. That didn't seem to be enough though, because after a bit she closed the book and asked for "work". I took this to mean worksheets, so I drew some up. We matched numbers and counted dots - this seemed to satisfy her math need.

Later it was time for some language arts, so we wrote a book - a compelling story about a red flower. It was Abby's idea for it to be dancing in the breeze. I illustrated, she colored, and then she read the story to Daddy. He was suitably impressed.

All of you moms out there have your own stories of the different roles you play throughout the day. You are negotiators, referees, chauffeurs, cheerleaders, entertainers, and materials managers - to just name a few. Hopefully tomorrow you will also be extra appreciated for all that you do.

Happy Mother's Day!

Color me happy!

Teddy Bear Math

A hot day calls for a cold popsicle.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Positively Abby

One of the greatest things is that no matter what craziness is happening in our lives, Abby remains Abby. She continues to be joyful, precocious, sweet, and imaginative. A perfect example of this is how Abby has been getting her shots and finger pokes of late.

The rooms may change, sometimes we are in the dinning room and sometimes we are in her bedroom, but the procedure is always the same. Here's how it usually goes:

"Doctor Mom" or "Doctor Dad" gets all the gear ready, while Abby runs to a corner of the room. See, this is her riding the elevator to the "Doctor's office". As I make sure I've got the band aide and glucometer ready, Abby "beeps" and "boops" herself to the right floor.

Next, Abby will remind me that I need to consult my computer - to see who my next patient is, of course. "Dr. Mom" is always so happy to see that Abby is up next. That's when I have to go on the PA to call Abby back to my exam room.

As soon as she hears her name, her face lights up and she "swooshes" open the elevator door. We greet each other with a handshake and she takes her seat across from me. We chat about her day, and I ask where she would like her finger poke or her shot. And here's the thing that always gets me - she never loses her smile as she gives me her answer. As she tells me about her "crazy dream", or what she learned that day in school, we get things taken care of. Everything is so quick and easy, that I think we both are a bit surprised when everything is over. That's when she'll look at me and say, "I did it! I'm brave!" I always agree with her.

Yes, Abby is ever positive. Leave it to her to make something that could be so difficult, into fun pretend play.

Have I mentioned how much I love that kid?


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday Phone Dump - A Day Late

Yesterday, as I was driving home from school, I thought it would be a perfect day to write a post, more specifically a "Friday Phone Dump".  I had all sorts of cuteness on my phone, just waiting for a broader audience. Sure most of them had already been posted to Facebook, but who wouldn't want to see them all again - all in one spot?

Then, Jason zipped back to work for an event, Abby and I decided on spaghetti and meat balls for dinner, we colored, we snacked, and then it was off to the tub. By the time Abby was fast asleep, all I was fit for was sitting under my afghan and vegging in front of the T.V......that was until I found I'd drifted off.

So, here's the Friday Phone Dump - a day late.

After Abby's first (three hour) "diabetes" doctor appointment we thought she certainly deserved
a trip to the toy store. She picked out this flashy (literally) mic and amp set - I'm sure no one
is surprised. She enjoyed a fun-filled day of singing and dancing....that was until she got the flu.

Daddy also splurged for some make-up. She couldn't get enough of
the eyeshadow and lip gloss. Oh, boy........

Pedicure - Abby style!
BTW: Could her toes be any cuter? Don't think so!

The flu kept us home on Monday. The bright spot of the day was the surprise friend that
ended up on our doorstep. Abby now believes that every box that arrives at our door holds
a surprise for her. Thanks, Aunt Debbie and Uncle Charlie!

Wreck-It-Ralph had to get his sugar checked after Abby had her turn. According to Abby
his number was a shocking 27....the poor guy!

Yesterday Abby didn't have school, so Daddy took a day off and they headed out
to Nana and Papa's for some fun. Abby found the ultimate dress-up dress.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

She's Got This!

There are many, many good things about Abby, but one of the best is that you can't keep her down. She is probably the most positive person I know, and she takes everything in stride.

Yesterday was Abby's first day back to school. I went with her in the morning, and was there for snack time, and to administer her lunchtime dose of insulin. I was also able to sit down and go through her dietary and medicinal needs with her teachers. I told others that my being there was a way of "easing" her back into the routine, but as I sat in the former nurse's office, waiting to take her blood sugar and give her insulin, I was able to watch her play at recess from the window. I watched her running, hand-in-hand, with her friends. I watched her laughing and drawing rainbows on the sidewalk. I even watched her steal a ball from a couple of kids, and then run off, hoping to claim it as her own - the stinker. In essence, I watched her being a happy kid. I knew then that any "easing" was for me and not for her. She'd bounded back into the routine of school with the same gusto that she did most everything else. It was I who needed the reassurance that everything would be alright.

When she happily bopped into the office, holding her lunch bag, she greeted me with a happy, "Hi, Mom!" She then proceeded to blow me away by standing for her finger poke and shot without a peep. In under a minute we were finished and she was walking back to lunch, holding her teacher's hand.


Pride and hopefulness washed over me in a wave. Throughout all of this I've known that everything would be alright - yesterday I felt that everything would be alright.

Today was another good day. She still is struggling with her evening regimen. By the end of the day she doesn't want any more "medicine" and she doesn't want to pick a finger for the poke. She doesn't want to hear that she can't have a second helping of cereal, or she has to wait for tomorrow morning to have her yogurt, because she's met her carb quota for the night. I can't blame her - not one bit, but the fact that the morning and afternoon go so smoothly fills me with such hope.

The last two days have helped me remember that through all of this we are dealing with Abby, and she is one amazing kid....and she's got this!

I think we both enjoyed the fact that Mom got to help with her
morning work - she did a fabulous job, of course!

It's a bit blurry, but Abby is the one in green amidst that group hug.
Now this makes my heart happy.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I like to tell myself that medicine is an exact science, that every "problem" has a clear and concise solution. If you have a headache - you take a pill. If you brake a bone - you get it set and immobilized. If you have diabetes - you take insulin. I keep learning though, that despite the fact that there are constants, there are far more variables. Medicine is much like teaching in that regard. Just as every student is different, and every strategy doesn't work for every child - every body is different, and even though we got several books on diabetes, none of them where entitled: "Diabetes for Abby".

The last few days have been surreal, to say the least. I don't think I've still fully wrapped my head around the fact that food logs, eating schedules, pokes, and shots are our new norm. Each night, after Abby has gone to sleep, I take time to get things done that I couldn't do when she was awake, and then I head to bed. In short, I haven't had a lot of "down-time" to think and I realized today that this may have been a bit of a blessing.

Yesterday was the first day that Abby and I were on our own for any length of time, since Jason had to head back to work in the afternoon. We had a great time, and even got in a walk (where she filled me in on all sorts of things, like rainbows and unicorns). She even helped with her pre-dinner finger poke, by holding her glucometer. It was when I read 474, though that it clicked why she'd been so thirsty after our walk. That was high, way too high. The instructions we were given said that if her sugar level went above 400 we were to call - and call I did. Luckily, Abby has a wonderful doctor, and I was able to talk directly to him. He changed her insulin dosage and talked me down. Maybe that's when my worries began. Since he'd upped her insulin, would she be okay during the night? Those worries spilled over into today.

One of my questions today prompted me to call the Diabetes Center in town. While talking to a nurse I learned that physical activity can cause both high and low blood sugar, it just depended on the person. I also learned that both high and low sugar can cause sleepiness. In essence, some of the symptoms for both highs and lows are the same. I began to wonder, If the symptoms are the same, how am I ever supposed to know what I'm supposed to do? I can't be pricking the poor kid's finger every time she feels sweaty, or stops moving for more than a few minutes.

These thoughts, along with the fact that tomorrow we will be easing her back into school, left me feeling tired and overwhelmed. It was while I was doing dishes that I was struck with the sudden urge to weep - and since Abby was playing in the other room I felt "safe" to let go. As I worked I let the gulping sobs come out and the tears roll down my face. It was a release I needed.

I came to the realization that diabetes has robbed me of a bit of my joy. Now, when Abby is dancing or running, I can't just sit back and enjoy without wondering what her activity is doing to her blood sugar. It has even spilled over into her pretend play. The last few days, when we've played "check-up", along with listening to our hearts and looking in our ears, she now includes poking fingers and "getting medicine" as a part of the routine - this breaks my heart.

My mind knows that things will get better, but right now my heart hurts.

A couple of buddies enjoying the nice weather. 

After our walk Abby decided that our driveway would look much better
with a nice pink rainbow. I agree!

Daddy was the hero today because the Incredibles outfit that he'd ordered
arrived. I think it is very fitting, don't you? She IS pretty incredible.

Incredible Abby reading through the stack of cards that my class sent.
Have I mentioned how wonderful my students are?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pivotal Points

After we got Abby's diagnosis of Down syndrome I remember needing some time to process what that all meant. I remember thinking that this would be a pivotal moment in our lives, that from that point on things would be very different than we'd ever expected.

Soon enough Down syndrome became "normal". It was no longer something we just read about in books. It wasn't a bunch of statistics or perceptions. It became a part of who we are as a family and in many ways became a blessing in disguise.

Yesterday we had another pivotal moment.

For about a week now Abby has been having accidents. This is not the norm for her. It took her a while to get potty trained, but once she was, she was a pro. The accidents were few and far between (usually when she didn't want to stop playing), and she never wet the bed. My first thought when this changed was that it was a phase. I've learned with Abby that sometimes we take giant leaps forward, only to take a few steps back. Maybe this was one of those.

Since she'd been fighting a cold as well, I didn't think too much about her increased fluid intake....until Wednesday. No matter how much she drank, she couldn't get rid of her thirst. She drank so much that she didn't have any room for food, and yet she still told me over and over again how thirsty she was. I knew - I knew with every fiber of my "Mommy Sense" that something was not right.

The next day we were able to see Abby's doctor and he confirmed our fears, Abby has type 1 diabetes. We were to head directly to the hospital, where she would be admitted for several days while they got her blood sugar under control, regulated her insulin, and gave us a crash course in everything we would need to know.

Thankfully we were put in good hands, and they didn't throw too much information at us as we worked to get Abby settled and comfortable in her new environment. As the day progressed I watched her fight the finger pokes and shots, trying desperately to keep my composure and not let her see the storm inside me. All the while we had doctors and nurses assuring us that before long, this all would become routine, another part of our daily routine.


I just couldn't wrap my head around that, and I'm still trying to do that nearly 24 hours later. Last night, as I lay in a bed next to Abby, not sleeping, I couldn't help but think that we've once again reached a point at which from here on out our lives will not be the same. New words like, "ketones", "islet cells", and "lancet" have entered our vocabulary. We've been given a backpack filled with information books, cook books, and "gear". We will meet with an army of specialists from our endocrinologist to a dietitian, who will help us understand where to go from here. As I thought about all of this last night, I still gave thanks, because even though we will need to make changes - everything is manageable. There are far too many who's "pivotal points" are far more devastating. I am so thankful that Abby is in a place where she will get the help she needs and the medicine she requires to keep her healthy. How could I not be so very grateful that things had played out as they had?

Today will be a day of learning for Jason and me, and a time for Abby gain a new crew of fans. She's already begun charming the nurses and doctors with her sweet smiles and grateful attitude. She is resilient. She is strong. She is my hero.

Dr. Abby! She was thrilled right away to see her "scrubs" and so the
nurses have taken to calling her "Dr. Abby", they've even given her
some gear!

Not one who spends many nights away from home, I knew the night would be tough. She
did well though. Neither of us got much sleep, but she's a trooper.

I don't know if I've ever seen Abby so excited over a plate of bacon.
I literally had to hand her pieces so she didn't shovel them all in at once.
The poor thing was so hungry!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Our Cup Overflows

The fact that we've gotten to spend a whole week in Abby's constant company has made a few things crystal clear - she is growing up quickly and has come so very far. As you can imagine this makes me sad and ecstatic at the same time.

Tonight was a perfect example of what I mean. In the span of about 45 minutes I was able to accomplish tasks with Abby that a few short years ago would have taken at least double that - if we could accomplish them at all. I was able to clip her nails, wash her hair, floss and brush her teeth, and administer eye drops....all with absolutely no issues, in fact we had a great time with lots of giggles.

I can scarcely believe that the Abby of tonight is the same child that could barely tolerate having her hair brushed, or the child that would have regular melt-downs when she was presented with something unexpected. She has come so incredibly far, and become such a lovely young lady. A young lady who fills our day to the brim with joy. Yes, our cup is certainly overflowing.

Abby mugging for the camera before we did some baking.

She then decided that the inside of the bunt pan looked better as a hat.

This little face brings so much's impossible to express it all in simple words.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring Break - Valente Style

I have to say that we aren't known for having "smooth" vacations. I think this trend began with our honeymoon, and if we ever have a chance to chat over a cup of coffee, I'll share that one with you. We keep trying to break that trend though, and have great plans for a wonderful summer vacation out East this year.

When Spring Break rolled around we decided to take a mini-vacation, and get away to the family cottage for a few days. It had been far too long since we'd been up there, and even though it would be chilly, it still would be fun to do something out of the ordinary. Being the flexible lot that we are, we decided to head up on Tuesday. This gave Jason the opportunity to take our car in on Monday, just to catch up on maintenance and make sure it was "ship-shape" for the trip (this will be an important bit of info later).

We packed everyone snugly in the car and headed off for our adventure. About an hour into our trip we stopped off to get some Abby snacks. Abby was in full "charm" mode as we tooled around the store. As always, Abby smiled and greeted everyone we passed, but this time it paid off - she walked away with a sucker and a dollar, given to her by workers who were bowled over by her sweetness.

At this point, things were going smoothly, and Abby was wonderful, even when we had to hang out in a parking lot for about 45 minutes while Dad fielded some calls from work. Little did we know this wouldn't be only time we'd be sitting in a parking lot this trip.

It was another hour into the trip that our oil pressure light went on. Apparently, when they changed our oil they failed to fill our tank completely, nice huh? So, while Abby, Bruiser, and I waited in the car, Jason crossed five lanes of traffic in order to reach a store where he could buy some more oil. This "little" incident had us questioning whether we should just head home and call it quits, but we forged ahead.

Finally, finally we made it up there, and all of us were happy as clams to be at the cottage.....well, almost all of us. Bruiser is as much of a homebody as I am, and therefore he was all kinds of mixed-up to find himself somewhere new. I'm sure he thought we would be leaving him at any minute - and never coming back. I'm guessing that's why he kept up a pretty constant stream of whines nearly the whole time we were there.

We all ended up having a good time, even though it wasn't warm enough to go swimming or boating. Abby helped Daddy get firewood, and helped Mom try to wear out Bruiser by taking him for a walk. We played and took a day trip to the "big water", and even indulged in some world famous bacon. Even Nana and Papa came up for a day of fun. How much better could it get? We'd planned on staying until Friday, but that wasn't to be.

See, Abby had been fighting a cold all week, and being the good sharer that she is, she passed that on to Mom. By Thursday, I was a mess. It was time to come home.

We packed everything up and pointed the car towards home. Luckily there were no unexpected surprises along the way. Sure it took us a little longer, since we stopped off for a quick visit with Grandma (a visit where Abby told Jason and I to go out on a date, so she could spend time alone with Grandma having pillow fights, hmmmm....), but we finally made it home safe and sound.

And so, Spring Break comes to a close. You know, even though it wasn't what we'd anticipated it was still nice to have all of us together. The very best part though was how wonderful Abby was through it all. She was a trooper, and never lost her sunny outlook, no matter what was happening. I can't tell you how many times we would mention what a joy she is to be around. She's just happy, and therefore makes those around her happy as well. We were left with hope for a great time this summer - out East, and up at Nana and Papa's cottage on the lake.

Abby was an awesome wood stacker....who knew?

Dreaming of the summer ahead.

Despite the fact that it was freezing (and there was still ice in the water)
all Abby wanted to do was play in the sand and go swimming. We
kept a tight hold on her, lest she decided to go for it anyway.

I couldn't help but get flashes of the teen she will be one day as I looked back at
her in the car with the headphones on. We've come a long way from having
to listen to The Wiggles and Elmo during car trips - thank Heavens!