December 31, 2011

A Minnesota Farm Christmas {2011}

Every year we look forward to visiting the family farm. It is quite a trip for a family with young children - especially for our son with Fragile X Syndrome - but we are always rewarded with big blue skies, wide open spaces and warm fellowship when we arrive.

What a joy it is to gather treasures with loved ones we see so rarely.

The trip...

Wesley on his tippy-toes, desperate to see some planes through the airport window


Within minutes of the airplane taking off, the boys settled down for a nap.

After landing it was another 2.5 hour car ride as we traveled deep into the Minnesota farmland.

Grandpa and Wesley immediately bonded while we stopped to get something to eat.
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 Around the farm...

A familiar view to the south... In the distance, in the glint of the sun's ray, you can see the local granary. I have many fond memories of riding along with my dad in the truck while he hauled corn during harvest.



A couple straggling pods of soy beans left to bask in the winter sun...

Wesley loved the little piglet. If he had a choice he would have taken it for his own. Perhaps, someday, he will have his own "Wilbur" like I did when I was a girl.

These chickens were actually at my cousin's farm. They were pecking around the cars as we were leaving the big family meal and it was a scene I had to capture.

Like a peacock displaying its plumage, the sky paraded a grandeur of colors each morning during our stay.

 Grandpa giving Grant one of many rides on the ATV

My hubby... such an attractive, hard-working man. :) I am thankful I married a man who does not hesitate to jump into any farm chore. There was a time when I would shy away from my farm roots but now I cherish them. I adore that my husband loves the farm-girl who will always be a part of me.

Meet "Shadow"... the kitten trotted closely behind Wesley whenever he was out exploring the farm.

Old Sammie silently watching over the farm
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Christmas celebrations...


In our family, which is of German Mennonite decent, Zwieback has always been a essential part of a holiday meal. Naturally I am bias, but I truly think my mom and Grandma Penner make the best Zwieback around.


 After Christmas dinner, the family gathered outside for a pick-up game of baseball.

Everyone was very kind to allow Grant plenty of time to bat

Grant got a hit! Run, Grant, RUN!

Gathered around the table at the big Penner family Christmas dinner we sang "Doxology" as the blessing for our meal - a family tradition.

Sweet Grossmutter {German for Grandmother} enjoyed laughing with Wesley. To know her is to know a kind woman with a tender heart for God.
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A snow-less winter wonderland...

I was a little sad we didn't experience a white Christmas. As I strolled down a country road listening to the familiar and comforting sound of my feet crunching against the gravel, I wondered what possible images of beauty I could find when all around me was veiled in brown. It didn't take long before I learned that God can reveal His splendor through any hue.


For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12


December 24, 2011

Loved, Forgiven, Carried...Blessed

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me,
Bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103:1-5


Remembering the beloved gift from above as we treasure all that we have been blessed with...

Merry Christmas!


December 19, 2011


Woven through my heart are the little joys that complete my days. A syndrome I used to think could only be a curse has revealed beauty so intense it takes my breath away. I have learned to see the treasures that only hardship can produce.

Navigating this holiday season is different for us - a family with a special needs child. I struggle to explain the pain that accompanies the realization that we will always have to do things a little differently. Loud noises, changes in routine, surprises, and even boisterous salutations can be instruments of anxiety for our oldest son.

I can't help but to think of Mary and how she had to adjust her expectations. Birthing her first child far from home in a smelly stable couldn't have been part of her childhood dreams. Rather than getting caught up in the less than perfect scenario, she cherished the beauty that could have only come from such a situation.

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

This Christmas season I have released my expectations of what the holidays must look like for our family. Aaron and I have taken it upon ourselves to discover different ways to make the joy of Christ's birth real for our children. Like opening a beautifully wrapped gift, we eagerly anticipate the traditions our family will call our own as the boys grow older and we determine what Grant can handle.

For now I will treasure what I can...

~ Instead of hearing my oldest son, who at age three still cannot talk, yell in excitement over Christmas decorations, cookies or presents, I treasure watching him quietly listen to the Christmas story read by Daddy.

~ Instead of watching Grant rip open presents, because of his lack of understanding and struggling fine motor skills, I treasure his joy in throwing the wrappings in the air and hearing him laugh.

~ Instead of listening to Grant sing happy birthday to Jesus, I treasure watching him take his brother's hand as Aaron prays to thank God for our blessings.

There is so much to treasure.
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Baking Christmas cookies together was great fun. Aaron guided Grant's hands to cut out shapes of stars and Christmas trees while Wesley insisted on using the bell cookie cutter.

Letting go of my need to control each step, I allowed the boys to put the final touches on their cookies.

Naturally, one must try a cookie to make sure they turned out OK...

The boys enjoyed running through the rows of Christmas trees at a local farm. The sound of their laughter perfectly fit the mood of the season.

Merry Christmas!


December 14, 2011

The little things

Oh the sweet nuggets of joy that fill my day...

Wesley trying on Daddy's shoes

Grant pouring through books, closely studying each page

Watching the boys as they play nicely and seeing their kinship grow

My little black shoes from the bargain bin that always make me feel a little pretty - even when paired with sweat pants


A text from Mom to let me know she cares

Sweet words from my hubby written on a sticky note for me to find

...These are a few of my favorite things.


December 12, 2011

Sensory Boxes & Button Fine-Motor Game

{Indoor Activities}

My boys love to play outside. We relished the long, mild autumn months and played outside as much as possible. One of the wonderful things about the great outdoors is that it is easy for Grant to get his much needed sensory input. Swinging, climbing and sliding down the play set, t-ball, water play, rolling around in the grass, throwing leaves up in the air, and going on long, meandering walks were fabulous pieces of his sensory diet.  

But now that cold weather and shorter days are here to stay for a while, I decided to restock our indoor sensory boxes.

I chose to go with pasta and dried kidney beans this time around. After adding a bunch of miscellaneous toys from around the house, it became a great new center of entertainment.

Wesley can contently play with the sensory box for long periods at a time. Grant, on the other hand, can sometimes handle the full sensory box - if seated at the table with a weighted vest. But other times it is too much for him and he'll start getting a little aggressive and throw the items - sensory overload. If I feel that is going to be the case, then I will have him sit at the table with a smaller version of the sensory box and work through it with him.


I made another sensory box filled with a larger ratio of softer items including fussy pom-poms, cotton balls, foam blocks, and feathers.

Grant and Wesley know shapes and are close to knowing most colors but they are far from recognizing letters and numbers. I saw the foam items in the baby bath section at Target and thought they would be great for numerous activities. The foam "splash cards" are also a great tool for working on Grant's (and Wesley's) verbal skills. I like to hide a couple foam items in the sensory box and talk about them while we play.


One of the things the doctors drilled into us when we visited the Duke Fragile X Clinic was to place a significant focus on strengthening Grant's fine motor skills (on top of his other therapies). Using a yogurt container and cutting a slit in the lid to slide buttons through is a great fine-motor activity.

Rotating and lining up the button, while keeping a steady hand, is a challenge for Grant. But he is getting better every time we practice!

I found this idea on Pinterest and had to copy it. The boys love to get their hands on our wipes container and pull out all the wipes. So, over the weekend, I got some scrap material, cut it up and put it in one of our old containers. The boys think it is great fun and I don't get upset over seeing our wipes scattered across the floor.

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