Monday, October 28, 2013

Hello, Beatrice! {the beginnings of a vintage camper adventure}

Ladies and gentlemen, new adventures are about to begin.

Meet Beatrice.

Yes, Beatrice. Or Bea. Miss Bea is a 'vintage' travel trailer from some time in the late-ish 1970s. (Some may say she's just old. It's all in the wording, and she deserves the title vintage.) Isn't she just beautiful?!

Alright, I understand if you don't think she's particularly gorgeous, but think about all her incredible potential! It's endless, my friends. Endless.

You may be wondering why on earth we would decide to add a camper to the mix. It's a pretty simple answer, really. We want more time away together as a family. I grew up camping. Tents, pop-up campers, travel trailers. I have some really great memories playing tag in the woods with my siblings and swimming with other kids who were camping around us. I want our family to have that while we're still here in the States. I adore the idea of tossing our stuff in the camper, hitching it up to the Jeep, and heading up the shore for a weekend. No distractions like house chores or work calls. Just the fam & the camper in the great outdoors. Yes, please.

Pete & I cautiously approached a delicate topic a few months ago that eventually led to the purchase of this beauty. I'm not kidding when I say delicate, either. We started to tip toe around the idea of...deep breath...selling our motorcycles. I know, I know. It wasn't easy for us to even whisper the words.

with my beautiful bike in Bayfield on our 1 year anniversary - 2008

How many times have I ridden my bike in the last two summers? Two. Yes, two. It's just hard to make it happen with the kids. How many places do I go without them? And now that Pete is working further away, he can't ride his to the hospital. He's too tired to have the necessary focus to ride home after a shift. Thinking ahead, we'll be selling nearly everything in two or three years when we pack up for Africa. Bikes included.

After praying and talking and letting some time go by, we decided that we would be okay selling the bikes. Then we started exploring an idea. I had been dreaming of someday buying an old camper and fixing it up a bit. We asked why it had to be someday and started looking on Craigs List for a camper with a little potential.

It wasn't long before we came across an ad for our Beatrice. A couple simple pictures were included with the ad, which looked exactly like what we were looking for, so Pete called the owner for a negotiating chat.

The ad didn't list a price but mentioned he would be interested in trading for it. What did we have to trade? Our bikes. That was about it, so Pete mentioned one. The seller wasn't interested in a motorcycle but asked if we had guns for a swap. Well, no. No guns. Cash? How much cash would he want for it?

You won't believe how much he wanted. Apparently he had inherited this little camper but already had a really nice fifth wheel camper, so he just wanted to be rid of it. A thousand bucks. A thousand bucks? Done. We'll take it.

Two days later we were planning to drive to my parents' house, and the camper was on the way. We swung through to take a look, crossing our fingers and praying she would be right for us.

Just look at her! We couldn't resist her captivating beauty and incredible price. Yes, there are a few things that will need to be addressed, but we can handle that. We'll be using the money from the sale of our bikes to cover the remodeling. That's the part I can't wait to do. I have so many ideas!

Basically, we'll begin with fixing the roof and outside lights at a local camper shop. Then we'll have the ouside painted. We're thinking a powder blue with a white stripe, perhaps. Then, we'll move inside. The walls will be panted a very pale yellow (which is also the color throughout most of our house), the cushions will all be recovered in red, and we may go with new curtains in teal or a really pretty blue. We're basically going for a 1950s or 1960s feel.

I'm so looking forward to hitting up a few antique stores to decorate. I want vintage postcards around the beds, an old map or two of Lake Superior, cozy quilts, little salt and pepper shakers, and durable plates and cups. I won't go overboard and make it feel cluttered, since that's not our style anyway, but I do want to make it cute. 

Can you see my vision? It's going to be adorable! And completely campable, of course. We're already making camping plans with my parents and many friends for next summer. I plan to be in this baby as much as possible, even if it's just parked in the driveway. Ella already thinks of Beatrice as her very own playhouse. She's going to be great!

Oh, you're probably wondering how we came up with the name Beatrice. Pete thought of it! Ella & I agreed that it sounded just right. We plan to have her name scrawled across the back, like you see on the back of sail boats. 

Duluth, Minnesota

How grand.

Oh Ella, I feel the same way, my love. So many camping (and redecorating!) adventures await.

Did you go camping growing up? Did you use a tent or a camper? Do you have any memories that really stand out? I'd love to hear in the comment section below!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Welcome to Holland {a beautiful story}

I don't want to go through Down Syndrome Awareness Month without sharing a story that has beautifully touched us on our journey since Sam was born. The story was read to me after we met our little man, and I've never forgotten it. We've been given the opportunity a number of times in the last 16 months to visit families in the hospital who have just had a child born with Down syndrome, and Pete always reads this story with them. It really is beautiful.

Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.


About a year and a half before Sam was born, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across an adorable photo of a little girl in a tutu and clicked to read the caption. In that moment, I was directed to a beautiful blog. Enjoying the Small Things is written by Kelle Hampton, a mama in Southern Florida who, at the time I began reading, had two daughters. One was about four and the other was two. I was captivated by her photos and everything she was able to capture in them. Beautiful colors, artistic settings, unique angles. An abundance of life was depicted in those photos. One more thing drew me in, though; her younger daughter, Nella, had Down syndrome. 

 Fast forward to the night I met my baby boy. I had been following Kelle's blog for more than a year because of the beauty in her photos and the depth and humor of her words. Clearly, God had directed me to her blog as a way to prepare my heart for what He had in store for me. As I held Samuel in his first few days, I was able to dream of all the incredible things we would do together. I'll admit that before seeing Kelle's blog, it was hard for me to imagine life with a child with special needs. I know that reading her blog opened me to the realization that life can be full and vibrant and adventurous, which is what I needed for the moment the path of our lives changed just a bit. I am so thankful that I stumbled upon her blog. In time, I hope to be an encouragement like she was for parents of children with special needs.

Kelle also released a book just before Sam was born called Bloom. I had considered buying it before his birth, but didn't get a chance, so I ran right out for it while he was staying in the NICU. I read most of it while nursing or rocking my baby, sometimes in the middle of the night. I cried and I laughed, and sometimes I had to put it down because my heart just wasn't ready to read more. But in the end, it was very good for my start in the community of Down syndrome. It was like having another mama nearby, gently telling me her story. 

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for the content in the post. All opinions are my own.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Little Man Sam

When people ask how my life has changed since we met our little Samuel 16 months ago, I tend to get a bit teary. I don't know how exactly to put words to the emotions I have for what we have experienced. There have certainly been ups and downs and a few unknowns. I wrote about some of the emotions tied to that in a post about learning to trust when Sam was just a couple months old. Many more months have passed, and we are still learning to trust every single day, but things feel smoother now. We're more comfortable with the unkowns, and I have no doubt that Samuel is the one teaching us how to trust through those moments.

We don't dismiss the things that make our Samuel a unique, beautiful little boy. He has Down syndrome. That is simply a part of who he is. But it's not all he is, and that's what we focus on each and every day. There was a time when I wondered if I would look into his eyes and not think, "My son has Down syndrome." I don't know when I reached that time, but it has happened. I now look into his big, bright, blue eyes and see so much potential. I see his joy. I see a boy who wants to learn and grow and experience the world as he is meant to experience it.

Who says we're all supposed to experience the world a specific way, anyway? We're each so incredibly unique. I'm excited to see how Sam gets to see the world. I want him to teach me how he experiences each moment. He's already been doing that in so many ways. I'm learning to slow down, to not be so set on a standard timeline of achievement, and to enjoy the process of reaching goals. And then, when the goal is accomplished, to really celebrate. To share with everyone that we've accomplished something spectacular. Something that most of the world may see as ordinary, but to us, through the eyes of my Samuel, it is something truly amazing.


And who wouldn't want to experience the world that way? I want to see beauty in simple things. I want to celebrate little moments rather than only making a big deal over the big stuff.

Recently, we've had a lot to celebrate. A few weeks ago, Sam started sitting on his own. He is such a strong boy, but his tummy muscles needed a little more practice with staying up. He gets so excited to sit up and play with toys now, especially when Ella is playing along with him. He is also waving with both hands and clapping. He loves to stand with a little assistance and is getting really good at holding onto objects to stand on his own. He works very hard at physical therapy each week and is doing so well with occupational therapy (his fine motor skills) that he only has to go every few weeks now instead of every week. Soon we'll begin speech therapy, too.

Can I tell you the REALLY exciting thing?! He has said his first word! The greatest thing is what the actual word is. ELLA. Yes, Ella! The first time we heard it, she had just left the room where the two of them were playing. He yelled after her, which sounded like her name, but we weren't sure until he said it a couple more times. Now he says it quite often. Earlier today, Pete got home with Ella after preschool and I said to Sam, "Ella's home!" Right away, he yelled, "ELLA!" It's adorable. I'm still trying to catch it on video. When I do, I'll be sure to post it. 

 We've been blessed in a way we never imagined. That's exactly why we are really celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness this month. If you'd like to learn more about Down syndrome, check out the National Down Syndrome Society resource page. Also, I'll soon be posting links to other blogs and FAQ pages with lots of information on Down syndrome.


I am currently working on a couple really big projects that I can't wait to share with all of you! They both make me so giddy that I wish I could just tell you everything right now, but I don't feel I would do them justice if I did that. One will be revealed very soon, so check back! The other will take a couple months, but it's going to be BIG.

And no, for all you who are just so curious, neither project includes anything having to do with a baby. (That comment is mostly for you, Mom.)

I hope you're enjoying the fall as much as we are!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk 2013

For the second year in a row, Sammy's Superheroes made a rollicking appearance at the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk in Duluth! What a time we had! Clark Kent, Spider Man, Captain America, and The Incredibles were all in attendance along with many other caped and masked crusaders.

 This year we were sure to arrive early enough to stake out a table in the convention center to create a sort of home base for the day. Being our second time attending the walk, we were better equipped and knew what to expect. That also happened to mean I provided nourishment to all our superheroes in the form of ... cupcakes. What else were you expecting?


I wouldn't want these two getting hungry.

Bring on the buttercream frosting! We gotta keep those muscles fueled!

My entire family was in attendance for the walk this year, including my little sister, Jenny, and her kiddos. Malena the Superhero successfully photo bombed the family pic. Probably the cutest photo bomb you can find! 

Pete & Papa Scott, both sporting their capes.

After taking in the bouncy houses and dancing, we headed outside for a few photos before the actual walk began. Sam & Caleb have a very similar photo from last year. They are so much bigger now!

Apparently they needed to discuss a little superhero business.

Super Daddy's & their boys. This is Sam's little buddy, Cody. Cody is four months old and has Down syndrome, too. Aren't they beyond cute?! It's going to be fun to watch them grow together over the next couple years.

A little sibling superhero action.

After photos, it was time to hit the pavement. The walk isn't long, but it gets the attention of a whole lot of people in Canal Park and offers an opportunity for us to see how incredible the Down syndrome community is in Duluth. The weather was absolutely perfect!

The strength of these superheroes is incredible. There they are, lifting the bridge. Amazing.

Wonder Woman Amber & her superhero sidekick!

Auntie Becky and our favorite little superhero.

Oh that Nana. She's so silly.

Pete with Malena at the end of the canal.

Auntie Jenny and Sammy baby.

And Uncle Jake. 

It was exciting to have a ship pass through the canal while we were all out walking, but I think Sam was beginning to long for a nap.

Not Caleb, though! He was contemplating his next superhero strategies.

What a day it was. So many people along the shore following the walk to celebrate the gorgeous fall weather, being together, and most of all, the incredible ways our lives have all been touched by Down syndrome. I still say it was nothing I ever thought would be such an enormous part of my life, but I am so blessed to belong to the community of families and friends who love someone with a beautiful extra chromosome.

Papa and Sammy had one last superhero chat before the end of the day. No doubt planning their next crime-fighting rendezvous.


We want to say a very heart-felt thank you to everyone who participated on Sammy's team this year for the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk. It's not possible to appropriately express through this simple writing how grateful we are to have friends who care so much about our Samuel and the life he gets to live. Many of you gave financially, others attended the walk, donated items to the yard sale, or sent good wishes and prayers for the walk. Each and every gesture is noticed and deeply appreciated. Together we were able to raise $1,033 for our team, exceeding our goal of $1,000. Thank you for being on this journey with us.


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