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.