Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas pics!

Celebrated Christmas over three days, because of work schedules, so it was a bit of a madhouse around here.  Christmas eve I got the little ones dressed up, just for fun, since we were opening gifts that evening, and when Daddy arrived home from work, it was to a festive atmosphere.  It's funny, but as soon as the girls had their pretty dresses and shoes on, and ribbons in their hair, they obviously felt so pretty, and were dancing about to Christmas music.  Here are a few pictures:

I told the girls to hold hands for pictures, and they decided to hug instead.  They were feeling the love!

These two get along so well, and in fact, all three of the children seem to enjoy each other.

Big Brother didn't want to miss out on the fun, and convinced these two pretty posies to take a pic with him.

I swear this wasn't my idea, but all the kids decided to get in on the action.  Obviously, Little Boy was not asked first if he wanted to be in the picture.

What made him suddenly smile?  I waved a box of crackers in front of him, and he was pleased.  Big Girl was down with that idea, too, and Little Girl looks quite intrigued.  Notice she's holding her stomach...  The big kids just laughed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A fun outing and a homecoming

We went to the big city to do some Christmas shopping, and picked up our daughter along the way. Then we went to the airport to pick up our son who was visiting another of our daughters, who lives on the east coast.

We took some pics while we hung around the airport...

Our former hairpuller still loves hair, but she's good about just stroking it now.

He's growing up.  He's up to the 25th percentile on the Down syndrome growth chart, and he's now the height of a typical 2.5 yr old child.  He'll be 5 next month.

A typical pose for each of these girls...

Just hangin' around the airport...

She's always been lovable, and he's getting a lot more that way!

Well-- you've got to keep yourself busy...

And... the eagle has landed!

Then we went out for pizza. Yum!

It's really hard to get that many people to smile!

Seriously, it's really hard!  Especially when some people are wondering why all the monkeying around with a camera, when food should be appearing on the table!

After that, we went driving around, looking at Christmas lights and decorations, while the kids sang carols at the top of their lungs along with the radio. In an enclosed space--whew!!

The little kids learned that the appropriate response to a big light display is "Ooooh!" and "Aaaaah!" The girls joined in to this tradition with gusto, and Little Boy, well, he was probably impressed, too, but he didn't say so.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Learning to string beads

One of the big surprises for me concerning Down syndrome is how challenging it is to teach someone something, and for someone to learn something.  As I have mentioned before, I feel that we're on the same track as a typical child, we're just on the slooooow track.  I see the same behavior, and steps as my first six kids, but it's like we're in slow motion.  Except for language acquisition.  That's different, I think--although I'm not positive.

I was extraodinarily informal in my teaching methods with my first batch.  I just showed them something once or twice, and expected them to get it, and they usually did.  Lots of times they got it without being shown, or maybe someone else showed them, and I never knew about it.  This time I've provided so many opportunities for learning, by buying and making all kinds of learning tools, and I expected that this extra step (which I didn't even do last time around) would make the difference, and jumpstart the new kids' learning.  Surprise to me!  I was wrong.

I have not been able to just present the children with various learning toys, and expect them to be able to figure them out, even with extensive teaching, showing, modeling, explanations... you get the picture!  I wish I knew more about Down syndrome, and how children with DS learn, and how it affects all aspects of learning, but I suspect that there isn't that much actual knowledge.  I know research is being done, and I've hunted for some, but I haven't learned much new lately.

So, we know that there are certain developmental milestones which must be achieved before a learner can accomplish a task, but anecdotally, from my observations, I begin to think that possibly there are developmental stages within the stages, which lead to achieving tasks within tasks.  Sometimes it's like watching development under a microscope, some of the steps seem so minute, but still lead to the next step.  It just makes me wonder if science is missing out on the opportunity to study human development at a fraction of the pace of typical development, because babies normally achieve so many developmental milestones so quickly, and we are probably not even aware of what goes into each milestone.  Here we possibly have an opportunity to learn more about human development, but we don't employ it because we don't recognize Down syndrome as having anything to teach us about typical.

I've mentioned before that I know some people say you shouldn't treat your children with Down syndrome like a science project, but I treated my first batch of kids that way, so why should I change now?  Besides, if they feel warm, fed, snuggled, smooched, and cherished, who cares if their mother is a mad scientist?

All that to lead up to our lesson on learning to string beads.  We couldn't figure out how with the only beads I could find, which were small, so I hit on the idea of macaroni, like we all made necklaces from, back in first grade!  However, macaroni is also small, and we have pincer grip issues, so I came up with rigatoni!  We still couldn't get it though, with yarn, so next time we'll try pipe cleaners.  See what I mean about going backwards, thinking how to make it work, and always going to the level that came before this level?  We did try chop sticks, though, and that was a little more successful, but other issues became obvious, like holding them in the wrong place, in the wrong direction for gravity, etc.  This is what I mean about realizing the many minute steps that lead up to what would normally be considered a small step.  I don't know much about developmental science, but if this isn't researched, it seems an opportunity.

Everyone got in on the action, and it quickly became an excuse to climb on the table.

Big brother is modeling his necklace.  Notice Big Girl's posture.  I love it when they tuck themselves in, because it takes strength to hold that position.

It really became more of a sensory exercise, and you can see that the noodles didn't really stay in the bowl.

I'm sure they learned a lot, and it was really fun!

Everyone got to wear the necklaces, which were smashed to smithereens within a few hours, and little bits of hard, jagged noodles were strewn all over the house.  They make a wonderful, rattly noise when you hit them against things!  Speaking of posture, we usually encourage sitting up straight, but this is kind of a default posture.  Need to build up muscle!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More of the frank discussion about adoption

So, I said I would talk a little more about the question Rosie asked me last time, since I do have a little more to say.  I understand desperately wanting to adopt a child, but everything in marriage is a dance, and both dancers have to be on the dance floor.  Even more than just the adopting, is the actual raising of the child, and it's not that fun to do it alone.  When a married couple works together to accomplish something, there's no feeling like it in the world.  You think you can conquer the world.  When you're not together on something it feels exactly the opposite, like everything can conquer you.

So, everyone around you can be criticizing your decision, and giving dire warnings, and it doesn't matter when you're together on it.  I will admit that we got more resistance than I expected from our teens, but teens can use all the sacrificing they can get, and they'll be better for it.  They never think so at the time, but they always thank you later.  Best to keep the big picture in mind.  However, your spouse must be in agreement with you.

I think we need to mention the power of prayer here, and it's the most important thing you've got if you have a resistant spouse.  Some people will say, "That's what everyone says--all you can do is pray!"  However, I would say, the best you can do is pray!  If you truly believe in God, and in his miraculous power, and if you've ever seen him at work, against all odds, then how can you discount the power of prayer?  If you're asking the creator of the universe for something, then you have to be aware that you're asking someone very big to grant your request.  Can he do it?  Yes, absolutely.  Will he?  Different answer:  He may.  And, don't you remember that he created us all with free will?  He won't force someone to do something they don't want to do, even if it's a really good thing.  It's still our choice.  It's so hard to accept someone else's choices sometimes, especially if they're tied up with our lives and our choices.  Accepting things with grace is a handy skill.  Finding another way to be obedient to God is essential.  It's just not going to happen that everyone will be able to adopt, that is just fact, but there are so many other ways to help orphans.

I did help orphans all those years that I wished and hoped, and sometimes prayed, but I could have done so much more.  I often look back in my life, and say, "Why didn't I seize that opportunity back then?"  I think I was often selfish, though, in my motives and actions.

Then suddenly, over twenty years later, the doors just suddenly started opening, and we started walking through them.  Not in an easy way, because we still had to jump through hoops, and work really hard to get to each door, and sometimes the door didn't open until the very last minute, and sometimes the door stood open in the distance for a long time before we were able to get to it, and sometimes we had to stand in front of the door, and wait for what seemed forever, but eventually every door opened, and we walked through each one, until we walked through our own front door, heaved a big sigh of relief, gave the newbies a big hug, and called them our own.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A frank discussion about adoption

Someone asked me some questions about our adoption, and I would like to address them.  Unlike some bloggers, I don't usually get questions.  I hope I can do this justice.

Laura, you have a beautiful family, the kids are so cute. Congrats too on becoming grandparents. My hubby and I are first time grandparents and the little one has re-awakened the mothering instinct in me. Soon I stumbled onto Reece's Rainbow website and fell in love with those children. Now I desperately want to adopt but since our children are grown my hubby is not ready to commit to another child. We are at odds about this and I'm waiting for him to change his mind but the wait is killing me. How did you and your husband decide to adopt? Thanks so much. Rosie.

Rosie, this is such a complex issue.  I think that lots of things in a marriage are really hard to negotiate in the first place, since two people often have such different ideas of priority, and adoption ranks up there really high in difficulty.  When we first met, we both admitted that we wanted a large family (not a popular idea when we were young) and discussed it at length, and about the possibility and probability of adoption.  Over the years, I was the one who longed for, and even obsessed about adoption, although my husband always stated that he was willing.

We did have that large family, mostly through birthchildren (he already had a daughter when we met) and there was never enough money to realistically consider adoption (and our house was full, so we couldn't pass that qualification, either.)  For twenty years, I longed to add more children through adoption to our rambunctious, and oh-so-loving family.  I felt it would be just what any child without a family would need.  Would our busting-at-the-seams household, and rowdy clan have been just what the doctor ordered for a lonely orphan?  I guess it would depend on the orphan.  I know that now, but there's no way to tell, since we never got to try, all those years ago.

Through various ups and downs, including the uncomfortable weight of debt, we found our way to me being a full-time working mom, and my husband going to college, to start a new career, after an injury derailed his very physical job.  Several of our older kids had moved on to their adult lives, and we now had some empty rooms in the house, and an income which would actually qualify us to adopt, although we had so many poverty years to catch up on, that we certainly didn't feel "comfortable."  However, our age was staring me in the face, and I knew it would be an issue soon, and I also wondered how long I'd have the stamina to keep raising kids.

 I also stumbled upon Reece's Rainbow, and even though I'd never had any desire to adopt special needs children (I'd only wanted children that I considered would be capable of growing up to be fully functional) there was something about them that gripped me.  So many little faces, and after spending hours looking at one after another, I began to see their individuality, and not the Down syndrome, or the "special need."  I began to see their beauty, which I hadn't seen before, and I began to think that I could be capable of being their mother, and the one to love them, and grow them up.  My husband, however, was not poring over pictures, obsessing and dreaming about them.  He was not interested in changing the plan we'd had all along to adopt older typical kids or a sibling group.

I started showing him pictures, and saying "what about this one?"  He kept saying no, and finally, I asked him, "Why do you keep saying no?  Do you have something against Down syndrome?  You're the one who's always said, 'Kids are kids first.'"  Then he told me that he didn't want to have children who would never walk, and never be toilet-trained.  He just didn't know much about Down syndrome, so that opened our discussion, and we decided that any children we adopted really needed to be as healthy as possible, because of our rural location, and distance from hospitals.  The child I had the computer screen open to was Big Girl, and he told me to go ahead and check on her, and to see if there were two others at her orphanage.  I feel that God led us to Big Girl that way, and the other two also, because they were the first ones I inquired about, and they were the ones we were given.

I have more to say about this subject, so I'll continue it next time.  For now, here are some pics:

Riding her brother's dirt bike

When she's not being a moody teenager, this girl is funny and perceptive.

Test run of the swing that Mom designed, and Dad built.
Everything on this swing is solid, with heavy duty chain, swivel joints, and a big spring-- except the seat, which is a plastic bucket lid.  We wanted something light, so they wouldn't clunk each other with it, but it's not big enough, and they keep tipping off.  Also, Dad says the bolts will be adjusted for safety.

It was lots of fun to swing around in a wide arc.

Well, when a fight breaks out, that signals the end of the test run.  So the swing went inside, and we'll figure out a better seat, and adjust the bolts for safety.

Little Girl is a champion tantrumer, but don't worry, Big Girl can stand up for herself!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our Thanksgiving

What a week this has been!  Last week the kids were crabby, not eating or drinking, so I figured they were sick, but didn't know what kind.  My friend T. suggested that perhaps they had sore throats, since it was going around.  This week I know she was right, because the Littles have horrible snotty noses, but are happy again, and the rest of us got painful sore throats that turned into horrible snotty noses!  Only Dad didn't get it, so he's worked harder than everyone else around here.

The good news is that we've had two days in a row with no wet diapers during the day, and everyone using the potty (even for poop!)  Two people are wearing panties all day, and only one is still stuck in a diaper.  This does not go for night-time, though.  Little Girl takes herself potty, and is all down with her bad self (well, she really is!) putting the potty seat on the big toilet, and hopping right up there, and Big Girl follows her lead, instead of waiting for an invitation, as usual.  Little Boy just starts complaining, and fussing, and pulling at his clothes, so that's his signal, I guess.

The kids have been very active, climbing up and down the bunkbeds, and playing on the trikes in the house.  We've been working on learning to pedal, and we're getting close, I feel.  The girls have been repeating everything I say, and often, it sounds like it's supposed to.  Usually just one word, though.  Usually, the most important word in the sentence, or the last word I say.  Little Boy has been babbling a lot this week, "ma-ma-ma-ma-ma" and "ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba."  It just feels lovely around here.  Helps that the big people in the house are in a good mood for the holidays!

Work schedules dictated that we celebrate Thanksgiving early, so we had ours today.  David is the keeper of the holidays around here, and he likes it festive while he cooks, so he simultaneously has pots simmering, Christmas movies playing, and Christmas music blaring.  He likes his eggnog, too, with a little bit of cheer--wink, wink!  The little kids love to watch people cook, and a big feast requires quite a bit of cooking, so they got front row seats a few times.  What's a better memory than being given little bites of deliciousness by the cook?  You don't get that in an orphanage, I guarantee!

Papa Bear cutting up fruit for the fruit salad

Little Girl discovered that if she drove past Daddy, she could score a treat.

Someone discovered this prime real estate at Daddy's elbow.  Notice that he's eating apple-with peel.  When he wanted more, he'd reach up and pull on Daddy's arm.  Dad finally said, "Someone come get him;  I'm trying to get done!"

How can someone so adorable, curious and innocent turn so quickly into...

...someone so enraged and agonized?  This boy has anger issues!

We have so much for which to be thankful!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Some of you may remember that last year our Gotcha Day was the day before Big Girl's birthday, and we were busy running around the city, getting papers signed, so we didn't celebrate her birthday. The other two kids' birthdays were right after Christmas, and since they didn't seem to "get" Christmas, and we were too overwhelmed anyway, we gave ourselves permission not to celebrate their birthdays last year. They've watched everyone else celebrate birthdays throughout this year, and now their birthdays are rolling around again, so it's time to see if they "get" it. You decide!

And now... for the ritual ceremonial lighting of the birthday candles...

It's got to be special!  Everyone is gathered 'round!

She understood how to blow on the party popper, but-- too bad-- she'd already chewed a hole in the end of it, so it didn't work.
She understood how to blow out candles!  Whoo-hoo!

"I can't wait until it's my birthday!"

The camera loves her!

"What did you get?"

Too precious!

"Don't forget how delicious cake and ice cream is!"

"Don't worry!  I won't forget!"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Exciting news!

Their first portrait as a family of three...

For all those of you who haven't heard, we're going to be grandparents. This is the first baby for our daughter and her husband. They surprised us with a visit, and flashed the ultrasound picture. There was crazy screaming, and then more screaming, and really, it lasted too long, but... hey, we can be forgiven! We've been waiting and longing for this particular piece of news! And to clarify, it was only the females in the house screaming. The males were happy, but felt no need to scream.

Recently, I've been interested in Montessori, and even though I haven't researched it at all, I have learned that they like children to learn life skills with child-size tools, and this makes sense to me right now.  We encouraged our first group of children to do whatever they could, if they could make it work, and even if the tools (broom and dustpan, for example) were too big for them to handle, we'd let them try to do it (within reason, of course!)  They tried any jobs they wanted, and they grew so fast, that of course, it wasn't long before they really were big enough to handle the job, and the tools.

The new kids, however, don't grow as fast, and are about two years behind, size-wise, and also spend more time devopmentally, learning new tasks, and mastering life skills, so child size tools sound very sensible to me.  I looked at a catalog, and they advertised a tea set, with which children can learn the skills of pouring, and handling breakable items, so I went to the thrift store and found china cups and cream pitchers, and now we're learning the skills of pouring, and handling breakable items!

I colored the water blue, so it would be easier to see for pouring, and some people were annoyed that it didn't taste like Gatorade. Then they decided it was fine, because it was fun to pour. Everyone liked to pour from pitcher to cup, but no one wanted to pour the other direction, and they would call for Mom to refill their pitchers for them, even after I showed them that the water could go back the other way... Maybe next time! It was messy, but no one broke anything.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Well, with the weather change, there is less outdoor play, and more indoor play, and already the kids are getting bored!  It's going to be a long winter.  They do get to go outside in the afternoons, when it warms up, and they wear jackets, but no more jumping down from breakfast and heading straight outside.  They were getting used to that, especially Little Boy.

I've been working with them more on preschool-type activities, of which I have plenty, but they are already bored with them.  No one likes to color, draw or write, even though I have coloring pages, and workbook sheets, and several kinds of markers, colored pencils and crayons.  Don't forget that at ages 4 and 6 they didn't even know how to hold a pencil or crayon.  They still don't hold them correctly, but they're getting better.  They just don't like to.

They also are bored with sorting, matching and stacking.  Little Girl loves to play with toy dishes, and will set 20 place settings around our large dinner table.  She will pretend to eat, and pretend to feed imaginary people.  Big Girl usually hangs with her for awhile, and manipulates the toy dishes, and moves them from one pile to another, and Little Boy will take one toy off to bang on things with it.

Big Girl loves to look at books, and never gets bored with that.  She will eventually stop looking at the books, and start moving them from a pile on one side of her, to a pile on the other side of her.  She also likes to just sit on someone, and gaze into their eyes, and move around to get more comfortable, not caring that she's getting a bit large and heavy, and that it's somewhat uncomfortable for the person she's sitting on, especially with knees, and elbows...

Little Boy is starting to get really mischievous, which makes you think of a little boy who wants to explore everything, and doesn't mind getting into trouble, and maybe even tries to get into trouble a bit.  Actually, he's that without the trying to get into trouble part.  He really just wants to explore, and doesn't care what you think about it.  He is a bit of a loner, I would say, but very curious, and wants to know what happens when you turn water on, and just let it fill up the sink, and pour out onto the floor...  And what happens when you push this button?  Or pull on this cord?  Or try to stick these into those slots?  We say he is all boy, with some Down syndrome thrown in.  No interest in girlie stuff, that's for sure, and not much into relationships, either.

Well, one thing they all love is watching movies, and like the rest of us lazies, they default to that when there's nothing else interesting to do.  They now have their movies memorized, I think, and there are some that they like better than others.  They are all educational, like Baby Einstein, Baby Babble, and Signing Times, but they're still TV, and there has to be a limit.  I am saving TV time for electronic babysitting lately, such as when I really need to get something done, or need to take a shower, etc.  There are some around here who would say that anytime is a good time for the electronic babysitter (sigh...) but that's why I'm the mom, and that's why I get to make decisions, and put limits on things...

I've always said that a little boredom goes a long way in homeschooling, and after the seeming agony for the uninterested and unmotivated homeschooler, they begin to find things that are interesting and creative.  Sometimes they even get really good at something.  J. got really interested in piano and gardening, R. got really interested in writing fantasy fiction, L. got really interested in all things scientific and historical, S. is rediscovering her love of art, and B. has discovered a knack for all things mechanical.  You never know which way they're going to lean.  So even though the new kiddos are bored, and it's difficult to watch, knowing their background and lack of stimulation, I feel that I have to go with it, and see which way each of them starts to lean, and then encourage them in it.   Who knows what we'll discover?!

"I can stack these, but I really don't have an idea about big and small yet..."

"I like to sort these, and manipulate them..."

"...but I haven't got the hang of 'matching' yet."

"They do have pretty pictures, though."

"Hey! This is really hard!"

Not too interested in those games.  More interested in rocking.  Look how he likes to rock backwards, though!  At least he gets a good workout.

A stick, a pile of dried leaves, a pile of wood blocks-- heaven!!!