Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Friday, September 28, 2012

Charitable Maternity Care

A pregnant woman who chooses life for her child needs a caring community of support. Far too often the Christians who urged her not to abort can offer nothing more for maternity care than a government aid form.

It is time for Christians to provide loving, personalized maternity care in Jesus’ Name, to anyone who needs it—free of charge.

The Morning Center hospital and mobile care unit project is the next step in the pro-life movement. Together, we can bring a new day in maternity care and lavish the love of Jesus Christ on women and unborn children who desperately need it.

You can help The Morning Center by voting for them in the latest Cultivate Wines contest. The winning organization will receive a $50,000 grant from Cultivate Wines!!!
 and vote every day! (I'll try to remember to remind you! LOL)
and don't forget to share on your FB and Twitter! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Want to create a challenge?

If you are thinking that you have not given your school district enough of a challenge, I can tell you how to fix it. Yes, you too can up the ante just to see what your school district is able to pull together. How much are they *really* for your child?

First, travel to the others side of the world and bring home a child - or two - who has a cognitive impairment and is nonverbal.

Next, bring that child back to the U.S. Keep him home for a few months while he bonds with your family and acclimates, at least a little bit, to the culture. While you have him home, teach him to communicate using Sign language.

Once he's been home several months and you feel he's ready, enroll him in school. Well, you can't just show up with him. No, you need to set up lots of meetings and assessments to find out just where he's at developmentally. If you did your job right, you'll have brought home a child who is developmentally several years behind his peers and even better if that child has NEVER been in a classroom or educational setting before.

So now you'll be sitting before the district staff with a child who 1) is cognitively impaired 2) is non-verbal 3) is learning language for the first time. 4) uses sign language to communicate 5) has never been in school before. Work with them, spending months together building just the right program to meet your child's needs. It will take well over a year for it all to feel "right".

Once you've done that, do it all over again because once you have everything in place, it's not going to to feel "right".

I have to give credit where credit is due. As much as I feel panicky every time we have an IEP meeting looming over us, the actions of our district staff make me realize I have nothing to worry about. They do have my kids' best interests at heart. In my head I know what the perfect program for my boys looks like, but the reality is that is very hard to actually make happen.

It can sometimes be difficult to determine what is the most pressing need. For Asher, his most difficult area is communication, because without communication he can't move forward with anything else. Knowing this, I started signing with him as soon as I gained custody of him. Because he is developmentally much younger than Axel was at the time of adoption, he's been much slower at increasing his sign vocabulary. Evenso, he now has somewhere around 70 signs. (He hasn't started identifying pictures yet, so picture-based communication systems are not appropriate for him.)

With Axel it was relatively easy for me to figure out what he needed.  Observations were done by the staff from the deaf/hard of hearing department, who quickly determined that Axel's communication needs were not being met in the classroom. As I had stated in several meetings, at that time he was functioning like a deaf child, completely reliant on visual cues to survive. He was moved to a special ed classroom specifically for deaf students and he is thriving there. His communication skills grow every day and he's starting to talk more as well, but still, even the professionals who work with him agree that he still functions like a deaf child. It's because when he lived in Serbia he was in so many different settings with different languages he had to develop very strong visual skills in order to understand what was happening around him. Being moved every two years he never learned to understand spoken language, but the body language of those around him he could interpret. This is why Axel's ability to acquire sign language appeared so quickly.

Asher is a different child.  Although he has many of the same issues, Asher understood spoken language at the time he was adopted. He was also developmentally much younger and had only been in one environment his entire life so his visual skills were not as highly developed as Axel's were.

If Asher were a child with even a mild hearing loss we wouldn't have any problems. He would qualify for deaf and hard of hearing services through the district which would give him a full-time 1:1 staff person who could sign. How unfortunate it is that Asher's hearing is 100% perfect. Because his hearing is intact, it makes access to signed language very difficult to get in the school setting. I swear, the state needs to create a new category for hearing students using sign. We really are fortunate to live in a district where staff values my opinion about the boys' educational needs, and I am part of the team.

I've lost track how many times I've considered homeschooling the boys, but Axel really is doing well in his school, and Asher really needs to be around typical kids who are talking. Like I said earlier, in my head I know what the ideal program for Asher looks like. The reality is it's very difficult to produce.

On Monday I'll be going to visit a different school that is two towns away. (still in our district, but a different town)  I'm trying very hard not to dislike the program without having ever seen it. (I went down that road with Angela once, and changed my mind once I actually saw the program)  My biggest problem with this other program is the fact it's a significant distance out of my way. I like that his current school is just 1/2 mile from home, which is nice when I want to make frequent visits - or when I forget to send his lunch. There is also the length of time he'd be on the bus each day, the fact that he wouldn't know any of the neighborhood kids.  Also, twice a week I pull the boys out of school early to access private therapy services. Having him in the other school will add approximately 90 minutes and 30 miles of driving to my already busy schedule each week. No, it is not a good fit for Asher at all.

Here's what I don't understand. There is a similar program in a building right here in town, just a 5 minute bus ride. I know the teacher well, as Angela had her when she was in elementary school.  I've been told this program is full. It is not our neighborhood school but is where the special ed. kids in the district are usually sent. My question is, what would happen if we lived within the boundaries of that school? Would they be able to say "Sorry, we're full." or would they have to figure out a way to make it work? Lets see, two very similar programs, one is 12 miles away in another town and the other is 3.5 miles away in the same town. To me it seems like a no brainer, but I guess I don't make the rules.

It's times like this I start to pay attention to "For sale" signs on houses again. 

The Paper Plate Turkey

If you're in the U.S. and you have kids in public school, I would venture to guess that in preschool and/or kindergarten there came a day in November when they came home with one of these: The Paper Plate Turkey. There are lots of variations to the design but they all involve some amount of gluing, cutting and other fine motor skills, making them a perfect activity for the 3-5 age set.

When Angela was in kindergarten, she came home the day before Thanksgiving with a beautiful Paper Plate Turkey. It was stunning. It was so perfect, in fact, I turned it over to make sure her name was on it because I was pretty sure the example turkey had been sent home by mistake. Sure enough, there was her name. Not written by her, of course, but it was there.

I looked at the front of the turkey again. Every paper feather was perfectly cut. The eyes perfectly aligned. The beak and feet exactly where they should be. Obviously Angela had not made this turkey. On Angela's IEP, some of fine fine motor goals included things like, "will cut within 3/4 inch of a line". In other words, Angela was just learning how to cut and follow a line; there was no way she was going to cut these turkey pieces exactly right.

I was instantly annoyed. (I get like that) As a parent, how am I to know what progress my child is making if she brings home things made by someone else? I pictured the classroom aids having a good time doing their craft activity while the kids sat around and watched. (later I would sub in this same classroom and that is pretty much exactly what happened!)

I put a note on the turkey and put it back into her bag:

Dear Mr. S.
It seems the example turkey got sent home by mistake. This one is beautiful, but I would much rather have Angela's hacked up and butchered turkey that she made herself.
I never did get "Angela's" turkey.

Over the years I've had this same conversation with many of Angela's teachers. Most  have not understood what I'm talking about, because Angela has come home with beautiful water color paintings where the colors have been perfectly mixed, the barns, trees or houses perfectly drawn. In 8th grade she made this beautiful sculpture:

It's one of my favorites, because it's pretty clear most of it was done by Angela herself. None of the face pieces are blended into the head, and there are actually Angela's finger prints baked into it all over the place. She is very proud of this scupture, and it sits in her living room downstairs, proudly displayed for all to see. 

I think the reason Angela comes home with "perfect" projects is that some people who live and breathe art have a hard time understanding the true meaning of "perfect". I think there are people who can't stand to see these projects come out any other way. It's hard to watch a kid fumbling with the wood glue or stain! I mean, they might get it on their clothes or something, right? Like this clock and jewelry box. The only visible imperfection is a slightly crooked hinge on the clock's door. Other than that there is nothing glued out of place, no drips of stain or poly, every screw and nail perfectly straight, all wood sanded perfectly smooth. 

Back in Kindergarten, a few weeks after the Turkey incident and we were now well into December when I made a visit Angela's school. There on the wall outside her special ed. classroom were ten paper plate snowmen. Nine of them were absolutely perfect, looking like they'd come straight out of a magazine. The 10th snowman was Angela's. I could tell because the paper plate snowballs were haphazardly stacked, the face pieces were all over the body, and the head was glued on top of the arm.

Angela's snowman was the most beautiful of all.

Top 33 Down Syndrome Blogs

Today I was notified that the people over at have put together a list containing 33 of the Very Best Down syndrome blogs. And guess what? My blog is on it! How cool is that? I'm very honored that whoever did the choosing felt my blog was deserving of the recognition.

There are a lot of other great blogs on the list, some of which I've never heard of. So, if you're looking for some blogs to add to your reader, go check it out! 33 of the Very Best Down Syndrome Blogs.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Communication: Why is it so difficult?

When my  now-adult boys were little, I happily sent them off to school each day. In the afternoon they would come home, chattering away about all the things they'd done while they were away from me; what they ate for lunch, who they played with at recess, who had a birthday or that they'd had Art or Music that day. We had conversations about their day.

Now I have three kids with limited communication skills. Angela is able to tell me what is important to her, like who she at lunch with, or that she saw a favorite teacher in the hall. There are other things she tries to tell me but she is very difficult to understand, even for me, so unless someone has told me ahead of time or I know the context, much is lost in translation.

Axel, he is completely unable to tell me about his day. Sometimes he might come home and sign "birthday" along with the name sign of one of his classmates. Assuming I know the name signs I'm able to put together that so-and-so had a birthday. He is not able to tell me anything else. He can't tell me about his favorite song they're doing in music, what they did in phy ed, or who he played with at recess.

And then there is Asher, who has NO school-based language at all. The signs he knows are limited to the 50 or so he's learned from me in the 9 months since we adopted him. He can't tell me even the smallest detail about his day. Nothing. I send him to school silent and stoic and he returns to me the same way. I open his lunch box to see that he ate lunch...or did he? I have no idea. I use other clues: the dust on his shoes tells me he was on the playground, the marker on his hands tells me he attempted to color.

I don't think that teachers, unless they themselves are parenting a child with limited language skills, understand how difficult it is to send our children out into the world and expect that all is good and well. None of my kids can tell me they got 100% - or an F - on a spelling or math test, that they made a cool project in art or that their schedule is confusing to them.  Those same kids who can't tell me about the fun things they've done all day? They're also unable to tell me about anything unpleasant that has happened to them. They can't tell me if they've had a problem on the bus with someone. They can't tell me if anyone is harassing them in the halls. They can't tell me about problems in the locker room, the cafeteria, that they don't like a staff person at school - or why.

If you're a teacher and you're reading this....please...please understand why we parents of kids who are language impaired NEED you to communicate with us. Its not that we're trying to create more work for you, but because we're trying to encourage our kids to communicate with us but we need the information from you in order to prompt our kids and teach them HOW to communicate.

But its more than that. We NEED to know what our children are doing each and every day while they're away from us. We need to know who they play with, who they choose to eat with, that they struggled to keep up in phy. ed, that they really enjoyed the craft activity you did today, or even that they DID a craft activity today!

We have entrusted our babies to you, please respect our trust.


For ten months we've been working on this. First it took us 3-4 months to get "mmmm", and then "mama", but we haven't been able to get "p" or "b". Blowing raspberries goes hand in hand with making those sounds, and we got our very first raspberry this weekend!

(don't freak out when he walks right in front of the swing!)

And then this morning, on a whim I tried for "p", and thankfully caught it on camera so when he refused to do it for his speech therapists I have evidence. LOL

Sunday, September 23, 2012

10 month comparison

November 22nd, 2011

September 19th, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

When I grow up

Then I learned about roller derby, and I wanted to do that, but I was still very shy, and certainly not very tough.

A few years ago Dean and I were at the state fair when we saw the Minnesota RollerGirls table

Oh man, the team members had some cool names, like "Barbie Brawl" and "Moto Fluzzi". 

"I could do that!" I told Dean. He shook his head. "No, you can't. You're old now, honey."

"I'm not. I'm not old." I said, as I looked at some of the team members who all appeared to be between 18-25. He was right, I was old.

Then last year I found a new friend on Facebook who just happens to be part of Roller Derby. She encouraged me to get back on my skates. Ok then! I used to take the boys skating for their birthday parties so it hadn't been THAT long since I'd been on wheels. Maybe 10 years? (umm yes 10 years is kind of a long time, isn't it? LOL) My new friend and I decided to meet up for a day of fun skating. Since I was determined to do this and I am an 'all or nothing" kind of person, I went out and bought racing skates. 

I stepped out on the rink. And DOWN I WENT, quite hard, really. I landed on the back of my neck and head. I felt an electrical shock-type feeling go up into my head. I had no idea racing skates were so much faster than my old skates had been! I got back on my feet and skated some more. Slower now, and staying a bit closer to the wall. Hmmm the longer I skated the more I knew I'd really hurt myself with that first fall. First? Yes, there were a couple more after that.

Later that night, since I could no longer move my neck and my head felt like it was going to explode, I decided I should go get checked out. I ended up like this:
2011's attempt to get back on my skates

In the Emergency department the nurses kept asking me, "Did someone hurt you? How did you hurt your neck?" 

Me: "I was rear ended."

Nurse: "Did you file a police report?"

Me: "Wait no, I was skydiving and I did a flip." (sounded way better don't you think?)

Nurse: "What company were you diving with? Do they know you hurt yourself?"

Me: "Maybe I wasn't skydiving. Maybe I was bull riding. I forget."

Nurse: "What were you really doing?" 

Me: "I'm not telling." 

Nurse: "You have bruising on the back of your neck and head. Who did this to you?" 

Me: "Ok fine. I was roller skating....and...and I was on racing skates because I wanted to join the roller derby only Dean was right and I'm TOO OLD!!!!!" The nurses were nice enough to hide their snickers behind their hands.

Then, a couple weeks ago we were at a parade, and the Klondike Kates went by on a float. 

OH MY GOD! I want to be Klondike Kate!!!!! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apple Orchard 2012

It's been a very long time since I've been on a kindergarten field trip. Yep, it's been 11 years! Who knew time could fly so fast? Today was Asher's class trip to the Applewood Orchard. I was SO excited for several reasons. It's so fun to watch "the firsts" with a kid who's come from a place like Asher's former orphanage. And those first-time experiences? They come with a whole boatload of new vocabulary! I think Asher was exposed to 15-20 new signs today! I'm going to put some of them in the post. Some of these are phrases he has heard before, but nobody has shown him the signs.

Riding on the big bus with Mom! This was the first time he's been on the big bus without being buckled in and with all these kids at once. He was pretty mystified by it. Vocabulary words: Name tag, isle (on the bus) 

In the orphanage there was very little stimulation. When the hot water radiators would kick in, all the kids would run over and put their faces against it to feel the vibration. Asher is still obsessed with feeling vibration through his cheeks. He puts his face on EVERYTHING. Toddlers explore their world with their mouths, Asher - the nearly 8 year old toddler that he is - explores his world through vibration in his cheeks. Here he's putting his cheek on the wall of the bus.

As soon as we got there it was easy to see Asher wasn't thrilled. There was so much activity at once and he was a bit overwhelmed. 

We got our bags to put apples in. Asher couldn't believe I gave him something to dangle! LOL A side note: Notice how much smaller he is than the other kids? Those are all 5 and 6 year olds. Asher will be 8 next month! (vocabulary words: Line up, bag, write your name)

Getting ready for the hay ride! (vocabulary: wagon, tractor, hay)

Is he not the cutest apple picker EVER?????

 Ok, this smile is a bit deceiving. He did NOT like walking in among the trees, nor reaching into one for an apple. But Asher is a kid who needs to do things a couple of times, and then he's like, "Oh THAT's what you were trying to show me!" I will probably take him to the same apple orchard again and he'll enjoy it the second time. It's just how he rolls. (vocabulary: apple, apple orchard, pick the apple, twist)

This John who drove the tractor. He couldn't believe Asher was going to be 8. I have to tell you, this is one of the first times Asher showed some hesitancy around a new person and really wanted MOM to pick him up.

Watching his friends take turns on the apple press. 

Asher really enjoyed taking his turn on the press. I didn't think he'd be able to turn the handle but he did it quite well! (vocabulary: press, machine, bucket, turn (as in turn it) and turn (as in your turn) )

The straw pile! You can see by his face he was NOT having any of this, thank you very much! But it was a classic example of him needing to do it more than once. Later when we came back to it he drug me up the pile with him to play with the other kids. He needed a hand to be stable enough to walk. Then he nicely signed "all done" and we got off. He was very happy and content with the experience at that point. (vocabulary: Hay, pile, wrestle (some of his friends were wrestling) )

In the end it was a great day and we really had a good time. Asher was exhausted and fell asleep on the way back to school, and was in bed early tonight!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Got a stripper or diaper digger?

It seems I have a lot of friends who's kids have reached that really fun developmental stage of stripping, removing diapers, and generally causing a ruckus by doing so.

Years ago when my boys did this I had them wear sleeper pajamas, but I cut off the feet and put them on backward. I would then secure the zipper tab with a safety pin so there was no way they could get it down. It worked great, at least in the winter months. In the summer it was just too hot to wear those pajamas. Today I was looking for images for a friend of mine, of kids who's parents had done the same thing, when I ran across this:

Enter the Little Sleeper Keeper!

Take a close look at the top fasteners. First, there is a snap that prevents the zipper from moving down. On top of that is another snapped piece to prevent the first one from being accessed. 

The Little Sleeper Keeper is made of non-stretch material so there is no wiggling out of this thing. It comes in many sizes up to 7/8, and in a short sleeved version too! This looks like pretty light-weight material that could be worn under regular clothing during cool weather if you have a diaper digger! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How's your hair? Sweepstakes!

This has been a very hot and humid summer across most of the country. Here in Minnesota we hit the hundreds several times, with humidity levels around 75%. Those conditions can reek havoc on a person’s hair!

Along with the hot summer, in June I had a birthday. My age has never bothered me, nor have the gray hairs that have come with it. I feel I’ve earned every one of them, preferring to wear them like a badge of honor. That is until this year and a birthday which brought me across the threshold of “mid 40’s”. My age is starting to show! My eyes are changing, my skin is changing … even my hair is changing.

Nobody warned me about the part where your hair changes. I used to wonder what “mousy” hair meant, and now I know because I have it. It’s dry, it’s stringy and it’s breaking off easily, often looking “frizzy” which is an indicator of early damage or damage that’s already been done.

I usually change hair care products every time I get my hair cut. I was about due when I was asked to do a review for Dove Advanced Conditioners, which provide nourishment to repair dry, rough hair. My hair was definitely in need of nourishment! 

Dove Advanced Conditioners contain fiber active technology which penetrates deep inside the hair strand, helping rebind damaged proteins. (Intensive Repair and Color Repair only.) The patented micromoisture serum targets damage, repairing the surface of hair by sealing lifted cuticles.

I was given a sample of the Intensive Repair formula. So after a couple weeks of using the product, what do I think? Well, the consistency of the product is very rich and creamy, a bit heavier that most conditioners I’ve used.  I LOVE the scent! I’m big on how things smell, but I don’t want “flowery” or “fruity” which remind me of the scents high school girls wear. No, I want …mmm…a mature but light scent, and the Dove conditioner has just that. The overall condition of my hair has improved! I have fewer fly-aways and less frizz. It also doesn't weigh my hair down like some conditioners do. 

You can learn more about Dove Advanced Conditioners by visiting

What does summer do to your hair? Do you live in a particularly harsh climate? 

Enter to win a $1,000 Spafinder gift certificate!



You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Follow this link, and provide your email address and your response to the Promotion prompt

b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: "#SweepstakesEntry"; and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that Tweet.

c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that post.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. Winners will have 72 hours to claim the prize, or an alternative winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 9/4/2012 - 9/30/2012

Be sure to visit Dove® to get a coupon for $1.50 off Dove Hair Therapy products.

How different we are

I remember, just weeks before September 11th, going to the airport with a friend. I was able to walk with her all the way to the flight gate. Angela was with me and able to watch the plane take off. It was easy. It was uncomplicated. It was relaxed.

Today when I fly, the difference starts with the packing. No liquids other than what can fit in a small ziplock bag, none of them in containers more than 3 ounces.

I try to wear slip on shoes and no belt. I bought a "checkpoint friendly" carry on that allows me to quickly and easily remove my computer.

Dean drops me off at the front doors. We say our goodbyes with a quick hug and kiss as security personal hurry us along, not allowing a car to idle more than a few seconds.

I enter the airport, check my bag, then move to stand in the long security checkpoint line. I present my boarding pass and drivers license they can be checked against the "no fly list".

When it's finally my turn I quickly remove my shoes, belt if I'm wearing one, jacket or sweatshirt and put them in a bin to slide through the X-ray scanner. I remove my carry-on from my shoulder, quickly sliding my computer out of it's slot into another bin. I stand, boarding pass and passport in hand, waiting until the TSA agent tells me to step through the metal detector.

From there I stand in either a fancy X-ray booth or am moved to a different booth for a full-bodied, privacy invading pat-down.

While this is happening, my personal items are going through their own X-ray check, making sure I'm not carrying any prohibited items such as finger nail clippers,  nail files or bottles of liquids.

 Once given the all-clear I'm allowed to retrieve my personal items and put my carry-on back together. I've gotten good at this whole process, and it now takes just seconds before I'm walking, alone, to my flight's gate.

I remember that day, 11 years ago, when the sky was empty. No planes to be seen nor heard. People walked around numb, unable to mentally process the images they'd spent the morning watching on T.v.

Our vocabulary changed. Our household learned words like Al-Qaida, Taliban,  Osama Bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein ground zero and Anthrax.

We became a country who was a bit paranoid, yet pulled together more than ever before. People painted their houses like flags.

More than 260 government organizations have been created or changed as a result of September 11th.

An entire generation of children have learned to send their fathers off to war.

As of today, Tuesday September 11th 2012, 1,980 members of the US military have died in Afghanistan alone.

And for 11 years, on this very day, 2,966 people are missed. More will be missed as they die from one of the 50 + different types of cancers developed due to exposure to toxic chemicals during 9/11.

An estimated 3,051 children lost a parent that day.

11 years ago, an entire group of women gave birth to children who would never know their father's.

And so today, I remember those we lost, those who are fatherless, those are motherless, those who fight for our continued safety and freedoms. I grieve the loss of innocence for our country. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

I get excited...

I get so excited when a family is close to traveling to complete their adoption. It is like watching a family member who has been pregnant for many months and is now ready to deliver their baby. It is that exciting.  When it's a family who has taken a leap of faith and decided to proceed with a semi-blind adoption of a child from Serbia, I almost can't contain myself!

The Lakes family are almost there! While the Serbian government was shut down for the summer, the Lakes have moved forward to complete the paper part of the process. Tomorrow their dossier (the paper baby) will begin it's journey across the ocean, which takes about 4 business days. From there it will be translated from English to Serbian - approximately one more week. When the translator has completed the task, he or she will get in the car and hand deliver the now translated baby to the Serbian ministry.

And THAT, my friends, is when the most exciting part will happen! The Lakes will be given information on any children who meet the the criteria they've given the ministry. (I have my secret hopes about who will be on that list, since there was an ADORABLE little boy in Axel's foster home who was registered for adoption right after that.) The Lakes will be able to make their decision based on the information they've been given, and since they're working directly with the Serbian ministry, they will able to ask some additional questions. Once they've made a decision their file will be sent to the child's social worker for final approval. THAT is when they'll be told it's time to travel!!!

So, realistically, they are 3-4 weeks from travel. How will I contain my excitement? I'm sure the Lakes are beyond excited right now. I know the anxiety that happens at this point. The feeling of travel preparation. As a mom, I go into freak out mode the last week, getting all things in place so Dean has as few worries as possible.

Please visit the Lakes' family blog, and give them some bloggy love!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

School: The first week

We have successfully survived the first week of school. Otherwise called, "I have managed to get each kid to his or her bus on time every day this week."

Asher: Asher has an interesting schedule this year. He is in a full-day regular ed. kindergarten classroom, except that he's doing two 1/2 days each day. "How does this work?" You ask. Well, in the morning he goes to the morning session of 1/2 day kindergarten where he has a 1:1 aid and gets the whole morning uninterrupted by any services. Then he eats lunch and has recess with 1st grade (many of the kids he knows from his 8 weeks in school last spring.) After recess he goes back to the kindergarten classroom for the afternoon session. This is when he receives all his therapy services such as speech and occupational therapy as well as adaptive PE. Two days a week I pull him out of school when the morning session is done so we can access private services. This was a set up his school has never tried before but was suggested by me. It worked well for Angela when she was in Kindy and I didn't see any reason why it wouldn't work for Asher. We'll see how it goes!

Behaviorally Asher did well this week. I went along with him the first day so his aid could see what he IS capable of so her expectations aren't set too low. When you are working with a child who is non-verbal it's easy to assume they don't understand or are not able to do some things. I wanted to avoid that kind of situation which would set him up for some naughtiness! LOL I was going to go for his first day of lunch but wasn't feeling well. His teacher said he did great and seemed excited to be eating with all the other kids. Because Asher doesn't chew yet I'm sending all his food so it's a consistency I know he's safe with and can eat independently. I do have to wonder if this type of situation reminds him of the orphanage at all. I bet he's eating really fast like he used to when we first brought him home. I'll be going to lunch with him tomorrow so we'll see.

Axel: Axel is in the same deaf/hard of hearing program he was in last year, however his day looks MUCH different than before. Now that he understands what is expected for behavior at school, he is spending a lot more time in the mainstream classroom. Although he is in 5th grade according to his age, he is physically and developmentally very much 7 so he is going to several classes (art, music, phy ed, science and recess) with 2nd grade. He has an ASL interpreter with him for these classes. Then his academics are being taught in a 2:1 setting in the d/hoh classroom. I'll be very interested to see how this works for Axel this year. He really needs to be around the typical kids more since has no idea how typical kids act or talk. I expect we'll see a lot of growth this year both academically and socially. Two days a week I pick him up early so he and Asher can go to private therapy services.

Angela: Oh Angela....she was just a TINY bit excited for school to start! The first morning when I woke her up she sat straight upright (like she'd been awake for awhile) gave a fake yawn and stretch and announced, "Well, I guess I'm a 10th grader today!" She cracks me up. LOL

Angela has a very busy schedule every day. Since all I hear about her broadcasting class the most, I'm going to venture to guess it's her favorite. In this class they produce commercials, the school announcements, conduct interviews around the school and I don't know what else! This is right up Angela's ally and I'm so glad she was able to get into it! If you don't know Angela, she is all about the camera! LOL She spent several years in theater and is very comfortable being the center of attention.

Angela is in several regular ed. classes: Broadcasting, metals, choir and phy ed. That's just this semester. In addition to those classes she also has English, math, reading, current events, and some other rotating classes in the special ed program, as well as "Work experience" which is a job training program.

Yesterday after school Angela talked at least 200 mph for 2 hours straight. I emailed her teacher to see if her activity level has been that high all week at school. She said yes, but if they reminded her to "calm down and breath" she was able to settle herself down a bit. She also said Angela has been VERY excited to see all her old friends, meet new teachers, and just generally glad to be back at school. Sometime I'll see if I can catch her activity level on camera, because it will take your breath away!

Next week she starts adaptive soccer, which is part of the high school league sports and they practice after school four days a week. It's highly competitive. This is the first year she's played soccer so it should be interesting. I'm sure she'll be on the JV team since she knows nothing about the sport.

The after school schedule is crazy! Monday-Thurs Angel has soccer practice, Tuesdays and Thursdays the boys have private therapy after school. Tuesday evenings Angela has swim club. Saturdays the boys swim. Sunday Axel and Angela have Special Olympics bowling. You should see the miles I'm racking up on my van!!!!

So that's our week. How is your year starting off? Are there things you want to drop or tweak in the schedule?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Bottles, Thumbs and Babies

When I was given custody of Asher back in December, I was really worried how I'd get liquids into him on the trip home. He was on thickened liquids only due to problems with aspiration and subsequent aspiration pneumonia. Thankfully the family I'd shared a home with for the first week left a baby bottle behind, and I discovered that Asher was more than willing to take it!

At first he looked at me funny, but he loved what I had in it. The odd part for me was the lack of eye contact. He wasn't comfortable with any sort of eye contact at all! The first time I gave him the bottle I laid him on my lap - all 7 years and 30 lbs of him - and he turned his entire body away from me. It was a very awkward moment, but one which I realized I could utilize to help with bonding. Three times a day I gave him a bottle, and three times a day he turned away.

After about three weeks (so home two weeks) he would start to turn to me, give me a flash of eye contact, then grin and look away. He'd laugh a little then do it again. Then one day he went a bit further, reaching up and touching my face as an infant would, smiling around the bottle, never taking his eyes off mine, then grinning and turning away again. He was pleased with himself. Pleased that he could look without feeling fear. After several weeks, when he was clearly comfortable with this level of contact, I stopped giving him a bottle. He didn't care. He had just needed to go through that stage.

Then one day last spring my Father in Law brought some frosted donuts over. Asher and I shared one. I showed him how to suck the frosting off his thumb. His eyes LIT UP! It was as if I'd triggered a long lost memory for him.

He spent a couple of days with his thumb in his mouth. He ENJOYED it. For several weeks he went to sleep at night with sucking his thumb.

He doesn't do it very often anymore, but clearly it was a stage he needed to go through. Babies in the orphanage are not allowed to suck their thumbs, instead getting their hands wrapped so they can't. Apparently Asher wanted his thumb back!

A few weeks ago Asher discovered baby dolls. He came out of the bedroom with an old doll that's been in their room since the day he came home. He carried it around that whole day, especially liking that the baby still laughed sometimes.

We showed him how to hold the baby, hug the baby and kiss the baby. Several times he fell asleep with the baby. 

Then I decided he needed a baby that was more lifelike. I found one that laughs and cries, blinks it's eyes and sucks from a bottle. Umm....I didn't expect that Asher would love the bottle too!

 I'm still finding him with the dolls bottle in his mouth on occasion, but mostly he just likes to make her laugh or cry, or poke his fingers in her blinking eyes. LOL It's so fun watching him go through these developmental stages at rapid pace!

Adoption: What does it take?

So you've decided to travel to another part of the world to adopt a child. I'm so glad you have. I've asked before, are you truly prepared?

There have been a couple situations recently that have people wondering if we, the parents who have already adopted, have been honest in our posts about what it's really like. Forget the rainbows and unicorns, where are the thorn bushes and riptides?

The very first fairy tale is that your new child will be plopped in your lap and you will love them as if you've just given him or her as if you've just given birth. The family who meets their new child and feels an instant bond with them is rare, I think. With a pregnancy you spend nine months nurturing that child, even learning some of the earliest things he or she likes or dislikes. With your adopted child you've had none of that. You are looking at a total stranger. It is no different than the woman on a plane from Frankfurt who, without warning,  handed me her infant to hold while she tried to stow her bags. The difference is if you'd received a picture of your child prior to that first meeting. I think it is nearly impossible to not create an imaginary personality to go with the picture. What do you do when that imaginary personality doesn't match the little person now standing before you?

When we adopted Axel, I told you about my first day with him. It was rough. Axel acted like a feral child. He had never been taught how to behave in public, and I had approximately 10 days to get his behavior to a point I could make it through airports with him. There wasn't "love", in the sense that he didn't feel like my child. That would take months to develop. I could have picked him off the street. I mean, I showed up at a foster home in the middle of Serbia and walked out with a child who was "mine".  Developing a relationship between was real work, as in sweat dripping down my face, ripped shirts, a black eye and nearly broken nose kind of work. Later it took him going through major surgery and suffering a lot of pain and me - whom he had learned to feel felt safe with and trusted - being the only one who could make it better. That's when the real love developed. He'd been home 6 months by that point. It didn't come easy. Love isn't automatic with a child with whom you share no biological connection.

With Asher I shared how far I had to "dig" to find him, bringing him out of his own world he'd sought as refuge. It took me several days of twice a day visits to get eye contact from him. It took me more than a week (that would be 14 visits totally 28 hours) to get him to smile. Those smiles were rare and took a lot of work. Talk about earning your wages! My "work" was to show him that that eye contact doesn't have to be scary, that he has the ability to laugh - and to cry - and he doesn't have to be afraid to do either. My "wages" were smiles, and - many weeks later - giggles. And just this week, and nine months home, an unsolicited kiss.

For both boys it took them being dependent upon me to meet their every need. For Asher this meant feeding him every bite of food one spoonful at a time. For Axel it was making his pain go away after surgery. Mommies and Daddy's are there for you. Just recently Asher has started to cry when he gets hurt. He never felt safe enough before. Now he's also learning WHEN to cry, because the ability to regulate emotions was something he turned off years ago. Now sometimes when's he's really excited he cries when he should be laughing. Sometimes when he should cry, he laughs. Asher has been with us 9 months and is finally finding his voice and experimenting with it. NINE MONTHS of work for all of us to get to this point.

And yes, with all of that, I am ready to do it again. I am ready to show another child the life she never knew she was missing. School and pizza, ice-cream and carnivals, kisses goodnight and lullabies, hugs for a job well done, hugs for a skinned knee, hugs when she's afraid, hugs just because she exists, she is valuable...because she is are loved.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

First day of school 2012-2013

The 10th grader: beautiful, vibrant and self confident, ready for anything.

The 5th grader: happy, handsome and ready to soar to new heights.

The Kindergartener: funny and adorable with a whole new world before him.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Little Boys

Little boys are not meant to live in the sterile environment of institutional care. 

Little boys are meant to explore their world through sight, smell, touch, sound and taste.

Little boys are meant to get dirty! 

 That's why God made little boys washable.