Monday, August 31, 2015

First Day of Kindergarten

If you would have asked me when Jack was born for a major milestone that I hoped and prayed and could only dream he would someday reach, going to kindergarten would be right up there.

Friends, such dream come true.

And look at him. Just now as I type, I'm feeling the significance of this day, his first day at grade school. A privilege not afforded to everyone whose life begins so very early.

We woke up bright and early to 48 degrees, which is only appropriate living in Montana. I grabbed a warm sweatshirt and Jack's fun new big boy backpack and we snapped a few photos on our porch and in our front yard. Our tradition.

I mean, who is this big kid?!

We drove to the school and got to experience our first drop-off craziness of the modern American grade school. Jack was all like "um, what is this place?"

Once inside he settled right into his room. We brought along the essentials. 1) iPad 2) picture book of familiar people and items 3) favorite ball.

We have gotten into the swing of things nicely and so far, so good! Jack's classmates are getting their very own copies of The Adventures of Jackpants this week, so that should be fun. Hope all of your little ones had a great first few days, too. Onward we go!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Introducing Our Son's Special Needs To His Classmates

Last week I shared a little teaser about some big news we have as Jack starts school... and here it is. We are so excited to introduce the kids book Jon wrote for Jack's new classmates called

Sending your child off to school can be nerve-wracking. We have been feeling it for months. All parents wonder whether their child will have a good teacher, if they will they learn, and whether they will make friends. As parents of Jack, a kid who has special needs, we have felt all of those things. But we have additional layers of anxiety. Will Jack be safe at school? Is the school ready for Jack?

But the main reason Jon wrote a book about Jack? So his classmates will catch a glimpse of his life and want to know more about him. We all know kids are curious. They can be scared of new things. Like all of us, they can be judgmental, too. But we also know they are very open to learning if only someone can explain things to them.

So Jon started to wonder last spring - how could he tell Jack's story in a way that made his eventual classmates understand his disabilities and appreciate the boy we know and love? What came out of that idea was a children's book, written and illustrated by Jon, that puts a super fun superhero twist on Jack's story.

He started out by writing the story, a simple narrative that rhymes in a way kids will enjoy. Then, he drew the different characters and scenes.

a little sneak peek of the inside!
Jon had some big help along the way. A friend of a friend, Darla Panten, used her excellent graphic design skills to clean up Jon's illustrations and add texture to each page. Our friends at Alpha Graphics in Billings printed the book, so each kid in Jack's class will get their own copy, with even some left over for close family and friends. This project wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of all these awesome people.

Even though the primary purpose of the book is to introduce Jack to his classmates, we decided to add two more goals as we roll out the book. We have made the eBook available to anyone on Amazon to 1) help you talk about differences with your own kids and 2) raise money for a disability swing at Jack's school, something that will be around for years to come.

Again, I am so, so excited to share this with you! Thanks in advance for your interest and generosity. We hope you enjoy it as much as Jon enjoyed putting it together!

(You can purchase the book HERE!)
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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Some Late-Summer Magic

This past weekend we found ourselves on a small mountain lake for some late-summer magic. A few of my friends must have read my last post and taken it to heart, haha! I was bemoaning the fact that this summer has been super rough. I was feeling like we missed out on a lot of the fun and easy-going nature that summer has come to represent to our family. With getting the news of Jack's surgery, the stress of kindergarten, and our own stuff mixed in between, I was feeling the weight of it all.

Then a friend said "take our truck, take our kayaks, and go." And we went. We packed a picnic and just zipped all over the lake, breathing in the fresh air (thankfully, no smoke from wildfires up there), and had a great and unhurried time together.

I have to give a shout out to some people: To my friends for how they have stood by me these past two months. It's never easy to go "there" with someone, into their suffering, but each day that I've felt so completely overwhelmed, I've heard from a friend, gotten a letter or package in the mail, or been asked to get out of the house. You know who you are and you are awesome. I will forever remember how you've rallied around us and I hope to return the love. And to my parents, who have taken Jack to Missoula for his own fun almost every week. To give me time to study and prepare for my exams. To give Jon and I a breather - thank you. My parents have been our respite care for Jack since he was born and we certainly count that as one of the biggest blessings of our lives.

Yes, summer is coming to an end. Jack is finally set up to start kindergarten. Next week will be a flurry of activity getting him settled in at his new school. I gave you a sneak peek on FB of something Jon has been working on to introduce Jack to his classmates. We will be showing you that soon and telling you the whole amazing story behind it. It's pretty awesome.

Stay tuned, friends.

(P.S. a certain Mr. Jackpants Bennion reached a major milestone in his young life this past month - he lost his first two teeth. Yes, daddy had to help pull them out. Yes, tears were shed. Yes, his smile is adorable. And the two adult teeth have already taken residence. TIME SLOW DOWN, PLEASE.)
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Monday, August 10, 2015

When Summer is "Meh"

The last couple of months have been rough. Like blogging goes, some things I write about, other things I keep to myself. I do try to give you a glimpse into our lives. I've told you about the news of Jack's surgery, about our worry of kindergarten, even about preparing for my exams (more of my all-consuming chore than anything else). These life things have clouded a time where I'm usually all "carpe diem!" and "let's enjoy every single second out of this summer!"

If anything, this summer has been more "meh" than anything else. Having gone through much harder times (think NICU), I know that not everything has to be fun. Not everything will be a grand adventure or will fulfill my desire for excitement. I won't be able to carpe diem or kayak that lake or hike that peak or go on that trip (and even after I type that sentence, I realize how lucky we are that those things are even options for us).

I think we put too much pressure on ourselves in the summer. At least I do. My natural inclination is to do summer the best I know how. To go all out. Especially where we live, where winter is our friend at least seven months out of the year, I put so much pressure on myself to do all the things when the weather is cooperating.

But when things don't go as planned? When disappointment and fear and circumstances render you unable to enjoy the fun right outside your door? That's just life sometimes, isn't it? Maybe some of you are having a summer like that, too. There are going to be seasons where things don't go as planned. Where you get a bad diagnosis. Where things outside of your control dictate your day. Where you have to study instead of play. Where you spend your day scheduling the next three months, rather than doing what you really want to do (which is fly in the opposite direction of schedules and plans). I keep reminding myself that "meh" is better than some of the alternatives. Again, the preemie perspective, where we know that things could always be worse, is our guiding light.

Maybe this is just adulthood. Maybe we just skipped this summer. Maybe there's still time for some late-summer magic. Hey, we went to the cabin this weekend (who cares that I worked the whole time when the view looks like that!). Jack and I went on a beautiful walk this morning. The sun through the pine trees was pretty spectacular. A quiet day so far, but a good one.

Summer may not go as planned, but we are here and the sun is shining.

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