Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Water Baby

I figured I had better blog something before we actually hit the holidays (not counting Thanksgiving). Life has been good and busy for all of us. Hana's class schedule has expanded to include "water babies" at the YWCA. This has turned out to be a private class for her.

She seems to be enjoying the water, though she's not wild about getting her face wet.

Hana is such an active girl, we thought this would suit her. She's continuing with music class at MacPhail in Minneapolis, Early Childhood Family Education, and baby ballroom dancing as well.
We want to expose Hana to other kids and these classes have been great. She is quite social and enjoys watching and sometimes chasing after the other toddlers. Occasionally, she tries to sit on another kid. We're working on that. Hana is a fast walker, though she's still a little unsteady sometimes. She also likes to climb. One of her favorite things is just grabbing as many objects as she can and walking around with them. She just started placing blocks (instead of just throwing them around) and holding crayons (eating them too). It's been fun to see her make so many changes.

Last Sunday, I attended the St. Paul chapter of Compassionate Friends' Candle Lighting Remembrance Service. This is an international group supporting families who've lost children. It was a nice way of honoring our children before the holidays. I've discovered a whole new set of friends on the grief journey, most I've met through the grief groups at Children's Hospital. Though we'd rather not be together for this reason, it has been encouraging to find each other. Our lives are forever changed in so many ways because of Mieko. She continues to bring wonderful people into our lives.

We hope you all have happy holidays filled with joy, laughter, and many warm memories. I promise to post with all the holiday happenings soon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Again, I've let too much time lapse between posts. Hana is one now! She's changing so much everyday. But, the biggest thing is she's now walking. She started walking across the livingroom on October 17th, the evening after her birthday party. Before that, it was just a couple of steps at a time. She's getting more confident everyday. Hana is also a climber. She loves to climb all over people and there's almost nothing that gets in her way.

Since, the last update, we had a fun visit to the pumpkin patch. The same one Mieko visited in fall of 2007. As always, Hana enjoyed the goats. It was a beautiful fall day and at that time still sunny and warm.

Hana's first birthday party was a blast. We celebrated at the Eagle's Nest indoor playground. As you can tell, Hana really enjoyed her cake. We were so happy to have many friends a family members with us. Hana also shared some of her birthday balloons with Mieko. We let them go at her tree.

Here are Hana's newest stats from her 12 month check-up. She weighs 20 pounds 7 ounces and is 29.3 inches long. Though she's only in the 34% for weight, she seems to be eating well. She really enjoys feeding herself and eats almost everything. She's not too excited about green vegetables, but she loves fruit, pasta, and pancakes.

She's also able to use her sippy cup now on her own. Hana is still babbling a lot, but we haven't heard any words yet. She's keeping very busy with music class, early childhood family ed., and this week she starts water babies. Hana is a very physical child and doesn't sit still for very long. It's really an adjustment for us, since we never had to worry about what Mieko was getting into or where she was going. At first, I thought all typical kids must be like Hana, but now that we're in group activities, I'm realizing she's more boisterous than a lot of other kids. She's also very curious, which is wonderful to see.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Last Summer Flings

Hana capped off her busy summer with our traditional trip to the State Fair. She had the chance to pet a few animals and check out the crowds. She had a taste of her first fair food... the chocolate from a fudge puppy (belgian waffle on a stick covered in Chocolate). She seemed to enjoy herself, but pooped out before too long.

The fair is always a big deal for us, since it was Mieko's first outing after her open heart surgery in 2004. It was a real victory for her to make it there after spending much of the summer in the hospital. She never missed the fair during her four years and we have many happy memories there with her.
Hana and I went on two last road trips as well. We spent a day in Rochester visiting our friend Kathy and her adorable kids. We also had the chance to spend some time with our friend Bianca, who also had a little girl with Trisomy 18. We met through the Support Organization for Trisomy 13, 18, and Related Disorders. Both our families hope to make it to the SOFT conference in South Dakota next summer.

Lastly, we traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to visit my college friend Gisele and her family. My friend and co-worker Carly came with us to explore the city. We really enjoyed Omaha, especially the pedestrian bridge and Old Market.

You can see, we left Hana in Iowa, but only for a little while. Omaha's Old Market is in downtown. We liked the shops and restaurants, but it all seemed very empty. Maybe because it was a weekday. We also checked out the Lauritzen Gardens. It was definitely worth the visit. There were traditional rose and Victorian gardens as well as a model railroad garden with replicas of historic buildings from Omaha and around the world. We also enjoyed a huge field of wildflowers. Too bad Hana slept through it all.

We were happy to spend a little time with Gisele and her family. Hopefully, we'll be back again soon for a longer visit. Or maybe they can check our our land o' lakes up here.

School is off to a good start for Shawn at Osseo Senior high. So far, he's not coaching advising any groups but he will have very full classrooms of Juniors.

Hana will be going back to ECFE soon and we'll also be volunteering during another class. Hana loves other kids and she'll be able to get extra interaction with them. We also signed up for a music exploration class at MacPhail. So far, it's great. No pics yet, I'll take them next time. I am a bit concerned, though, that she's decided to tackle other kids.

Last, but not least, Hana is getting very close to walking. For about the past week, she's gotten very comfortable standing up by herself for longer periods of time (see video below). If she could just stay in one position longer than a few seconds, I think she would walk. She's one busy body.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Little Angels

I really should update more often. So much has happened since my last post. Grandpa Mits came to visit for two weeks. We made sure he had plenty of activities...including two family events, the PGA championship, and lots of rounds of golf. When he walked in the door, Hana cried at first. But, it didn't take long for her to smile and giggle playing with Grandpa.

We had our tree dedication celebration for Mieko's tree in McQuillan Park. It was great to see her teachers and physical therapist from Rondo as well as family friends.

We let a few balloons go and shared some memories of Mieko. Despite how sad we are she's no longer with us, we are remain thankful for those four years we had with our special girl and that she still brings us together.

That weekend, we traveled to Fargo for Hana's baptism at First Lutheran Church. All of the Johnsons have been baptized in that church. Hana didn't want to sit for the service, so her godmother entertained her while we waited. She did pretty well during the ceremony.

She didn't like getting wet, but she only fussed a little. She also managed to kick her booties off during the event. Mieko was baptized along with her cousin Gabriel in 2005. But Hana's ceremony was a little different. The congregation sang "Jesus Loves Me" to her at the end, which was a very nice touch.
Shawn and Grandpa played golf almost everyday and I even played a couple of times. Their new favorite course is Purple Hawk in the Cambridge area. Grandpa also saw some of his favorite golfers on the first day of the PGA championship at Hazeltine. He packed a lot in during this trip. Maybe next time he'll make it to the State Fair too.

Shawn is enjoying his last couple of weeks before the school year begins. Hana goes on walks all the time soaking up what's left of our summer weather. She's also figured out how fun the kids playroom is at the YWCA. She really enjoys the other kids and, of course, all the toys.

Speaking of playing with toys... my Tuesday night knitting friends and I had our much anticipated Artfibers Yarntasting party. It was a blast. We had the opportunity to try out almost 200 different types of unique yarn made for this San Francisco bay area company. I had the chance to visit their store last year and became a fan. So far the "try before you buy" program is free. I highly recommend it for any group interested in Artfibers.

They have all sorts of fibers from unusual types of silk to wool, alpaca, mohair, yak, bamboo, and synthetics. There's even a yarn that has paper in it. It was a very cool experience.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the Road

Hana did very well on our big summer road trip. We traveled about 3,500 miles in eight days. She slept quite a bit in the SUV or amused herself with toys. We are making it an annual tradition to attend the SOFT (Support Org. for Trisomy 18,13, and Related Disorders) Conference Picnic and Balloon Release. First, we drove to Toledo and had Hungarian food at Tony Packo's. It was the first restaurant we've ever seen with signed hot dog buns. Hundreds of celebrities have their "buns" on the walls.

We stopped at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which was very cool. Next, we visited Gettsyburg, Pennsylvania. We toured the civil war battlefields and saw the huge cyclorama painting of the Battle of Gettysburg. We also had lunch in an historic tavern.

We kept going east all the way to Virginia Beach, Virginia. We enjoyed walking the beach, but Hana was scared of the water.

We headed west again for the conference in Roanoke, but made a few stops on the way. We went to Colonial Williamsburg, but didn't make it in time to tour the buildings. We strolled some of the streets, where we ran into a founding father.

We also toured the College of William and Mary, including the oldest college building still in use in the United States. When Hana looks back at these pictures, she's going to think we never took her out of that backpack. But, she really does love the view from up there and was so comfortable, she even fell asleep in it.

We stayed in Richmond one night and had the best barbecue sandwiches ever. It was actually Texas barbecue at a place called Alamo. We also tried North Carolina and Virginia style barbecues. We really liked the No. Carolina style, which had a lot of vinegar in the sauce. Next, we visited Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello in Charlottesville. We also hiked the area around the natural bridge not far from Roanoke. Everything in Virginia seems tied to history. We saw George Washington's initials carved into the rock when he surveyed the bridge.

Speaking of history... we also visited "Foamhenge". It's a life size replica of Stonehenge made out of foam. You never know what you may find along the road.

We had a wonderful time in Roanoke at the SOFT picnic. There are many families we know from contact online and it's great to see them in person. This was only our second year, so we're still getting to know people. It is always inspiring to see kids who are long term survivors with trisomy disorders, some in their teens and twenties. I really wish we would've been able to take Mieko to a conference. We were supposed to go a few years ago in Chicago, but a hospitalization kept us home. It is always touching for me to meet someone who remembers Mieko and followed her life online or watched her videos. The big event is the balloon release for all the children who've passed away.

This year, we released the balloons from beautiful spot on the mountainside overlooking Roanoke. This is always such a moving event. I put together this youtube video, if you'd like to see it, here's a link:

Baloon Release 2009

I hope that we can continue participating in the balloon release every year. We would like Hana to grow up with this tradition. We see other siblings who come every year and they have such a sensitivity towards children with disabilities. We would like Hana to get to know the special kids and maybe feel closer to her sister.

We had time for a couple more stops on the way home. We visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We enjoyed hiking and seeing several waterfalls. We even saw a bear, though it was in the brush several feet away. But, it was still exciting for us.

Lastly, we spent some time in St. Louis. We saw the gorgeous Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. It has one of the largest displays of mosaic art in the world. More than 40 million tiles were used and thousands of colors. Shawn thought it was more impressive than Notre Dame.

We also went to the St. Louis zoo, probably the best free zoo we've ever seen. Hana had her first carousel ride. She also really liked the goat yard.

Since we've been home, Hana has been in constant motion. She's either crawling, climbing, pulling herself up to stand, or walking along the furniture at all times. How do kids get so much energy? She had her 9 month check-up and weighs almost 19 pounds. She's also eating finger food now like Cheerios. She really has fun picking up the little o's when she's not tossing them from her high chair.

Hana loves being around other kids, especially older ones. She squeals and laughs a lot. I took her on a play date at the Como Zoo with the babies of some of my colleagues at WCCO-TV. All five of them were born in Sept. and Oct. of last year. It was a lot of fun to see them interact, though most of the time they did their own thing. I'm going to try to get Hana involved in more group activities, since at home it's just her and the kitties. I think her buddy Jordan needs a break from getting chased.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Movin' On Up

Hana is really on the move! She's commando crawling (and chasing kitties) and getting up on her hands and knees and rocking.

Just a couple of days after that she started pushing herself to sitting and then pulling herself up to stand. Now, she wants to grab anything to pull up.

She's making good use of Mieko's ballerina bar, though she's not taking too many steps along the bar. She can take several steps while we hold her hands. She's also turned up the volume on her voice and makes more new sounds. She's very good at saying "Da-Da" and clicking. Shawn also thought he heard her say" Ca-na-DA". We do live relatively close to the border. She goes out walking several times a day with Daddy and loves to swing in the park.

We've donated a tree for Mieko at McQuillan Park near our house. We're still waiting for the plaque to be installed. We'll share pictures soon. As we approach the one year annivesary of Mieko's passing, this tree and what it symbolizes brings us comfort.

We're looking forward to going to the balloon release at the SOFT (Support Organization for Trisomy 13, 18 and Related Disorders) Conference coming up in Roanoke. It will be great to connect with old friends and introduce Hana.

We cherished all the years we spent with Mieko and the joy she brought to our lives. It' s hard to believe sometimes that we're still going on without her. We miss her smile, gentle spirit, and unconditional love every moment. We were very lucky to be her family. We miss you, Little Kitty. You are always in our hearts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May Madness

Now, I know what Hana would look like with curly, pink hair. Thanks to an ingenious crocheter for giving us quite a laugh and letting Hana model her original creation. May really has been full of surprises. Sorry, it's been so long since my last post. Hana is definitely growing and changing everyday. She now has three teeth! They're all on the bottom. She's had some fussy moments, but overall, she's done very well. She's been doing a good job with the baby food too. Finally, she's able to eat peas and not gag. Grandpa is so proud.

She continues to smile, laugh, and bounce. This girl really loves to be on her feet. We're wondering if she's going to be an early walker, but so far, she isn't sitting up without a little support. But, it looks like it won't be long.Hana has been keeping up with her busy schedule of baby ballroom dancing, ECFE class, and many outings in the sunshine.

Daddy takes her out in the backpack just about everyday. It brings back a lot of memories of Mieko at this time of year. Though she was too big for the backpack last year, she spent a lot of time on the tricycle and on the swings. Daddy points out every dog and kitty in the neighborhod and Hana usually giggles whens he sees them.

We spent Mother's Day weekend with the animals. We went to Shepherd's Harvest in Lake Elmo and checked out the llamas, alpacas, angora bunnies, sheep, and goats. The baby goats were Hana's favorites. We also watched some sheep shearing and sheepdogs in action.

We had a nice Mother's Day dinner by Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. We miss Mieko so much during these times, but it's nice to visit the places we used to go with her.

Next is Father's Day, the 4th of July, and then the anniversary of Mieko's passing. We are still working on getting a tree planted in the St. Paul park near our house. It will bring us comfort to be able to visit the place Mieko enjoyed and see her tree.

We were so proud of her last Spring, when she was able to walk with her walker all the way to the park. Later in July, we'll be going to the Support Organization for Trisomy 18, 13, and Related Disorders picnic in Roanoke, Virginia. We'll relase a balloon for Mieko like we did in Colorado last year. We met some incredible people and look forward to seeing them again.

Thanks to everyone for keeping us in your thoughts during this time. All the firsts are hard, but they're made easier knowing friends and family are with us. Of course, Hana keeps us smiling as well as our precious memories.