Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Winter Wordless Wednesday

John Michael at Empire Mine National State Park in Grass Valley, CA, the day after Christmas. 

Gold was all the rage in this part of California from the late 1840's until the early 1900's.  One of the mine shafts we saw was 8,000 ft long and went deep underground.  That's 1 1/2 miles!  Of course, we only went about 30 feet down.  We learned all about different gold-mining techniques and that some mules spent their lives underground pulling mining cars. 

Greta, Anna, John Michael and Nicolas on the porch of the mine's Clubhouse.

John Michael enjoying the crisp air on the grounds of the mine.

This past Monday, we took a day trip to San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences in
Golden Gate Park.  John Michael enjoyed the living rooftop view, looking out toward the tower of the de Young Museum currently hosting the King Tut exhibit.

John Michael was thoroughly fascinated by the giant, 2-story fish aquarium.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Need a Silent Night...

I've made the same mistake before
Too many malls, too many stores
December traffic, Christmas rush
It breaks me till I push and shove

Children are crying while mothers are trying
To photograph Santa and sleigh
The shopping and buying and standing forever in line
What can I say?

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

What was it like back there in Bethlehem
With peace on earth, good will toward men?

Every shepherd's out in the field
Keeping watch over their clock by night
And the glory of the Lord shone around them
And they were so afraid

And the angels said fear not for behold
I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people
For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
To end this crazy day with a silent night

Lyrics by Amy Grant from her Christmas Collection
  John Michael and his family wish you all
a Silent Night and a Holy Night.
Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We wish you a...

Merry Christmas

and a Happy New Year!

With love from John Michael and his family!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Look what I can do... at 2!

It's been a while since I've posted an update on John Michael's abilities. 
There's so much to write, but I'll condense it into the biggies.

John Michael has had an explosion in gross motor skills, like walking... FAST and not falling too much anymore. He can use a step stool to climb up on the rocking chair to rock, or reach the bathroom sink to throw stuff in, or to climb over our big bath tub and get in.

His receptive language is expanding to the point where he'll follow a simple direction to bring something (like his poopy diaper) to the kitchen from his bedroom. He still doesn't listen to the word, "No," but distraction works most of the time.

His language skills are increasing. He is learning new signs rapidly and freely using the ones he already knows. He's pointing and making choices (like milk vs. juice or spaghetti vs. soup). He's making many beginning sounds when prompted and makes lots of animal sounds on his own. Baa, nay nay, oi oi (for pig), hoo hoo (owl), grrr for tiger, and a hilarious blast of air with his juicy lips for elephant, while raising his arm up high for the trunk. His rooster sound is unrepeatable by any other human, unless their trachea is also "floppy". It's hilarious! If I could, I'd take him to San Francisco on a street corner to put on his "show". He'd have everyone in stitches and maybe we'd earn enough to make it a viable side job :-)

Cognitively, he's right at about 23 to 24 months, according to the Denver test, which is fantastic. I'm loving this new boost in learning. While he was learning to walk, his language skills slowed way down and he was pretty quiet for a while. He's mastered walking quite well and I guess his brain is now ready for the next challenges.

He continues to give hugs and kisses freely and often unprompted. Says Mama and Dada when he sees us. Recognizes family members in pictures, points to familiar objects in books, says "Oma" and "Opa" for my parents and Doug's mom, and is learning to make the Sign of the Cross for prayers at mealtime and to fold his hands. It's precious. I can't get enough of this little guy.

I can use my fork to eat cubed liverwurst sandwiches.  YUM!
(Yes, my mom knows what it's made from -- she's German!)

And look how neatly I can bring the fork to my mouth. I love to eat all textures, except green food.
I can spot a green bean a mile away and spit it out even if it's buried in other food.

I love to pretend I'm swinging on bars at Greta's gymnastics studio.

Big sis, Greta, after her Holiday Show this morning.
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Child King -- A Must-See Family Film!

The whole family LOVED this film.  It's not blockbuster quality, but it's very good quality for an independent film.

It features two brothers, a 15 year old boy, Jeremy, who has Down syndrome, and 6 year old, Jarrett, who no longer believes in Santa Claus.  The boys recently lost their mother and are dealing with it in their own way.  But when Jeremy learns of Jarrett's disbelief in Santa Claus, he goes on a mission to take his little brother to the North Pole to find Santa and prove he's real.  The driving scene in the trailer had me in stitches.  There are many sweet moments between the brothers and Jeremy is an awesome role model for Jarrett.

There are two subplots, featuring the story of The Child King which the boys' mother used to read to them.  It is acted out in between scenes throughout the film.  The other subplot is the dad trying to find his sons who seem to have run away and taken the SUV with them.

The adventure these two find themselves on, with very little money, and the people they encounter along the way, both good and slimy, make for an enjoyable adventure.

The best part is how they positively portrayed a teenager with Down syndrome.  Jeremy is smart, clever, strong, a caring big brother, responsible, and best of all, stands up for himiself when someone calls him "stupid."  I love that he doesn't just "take it" and walk away.  He remains strong and I love his character.

I believe the film is only available through the website, but it was so worth it.  I will share the film with my local friends, which makes the $20 spent worth it.

I hope you get a chance to see it... then let me know what you think!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dear Blog + Wordless Weds

Dear Blog,

Please forgive me for my extreme neglect. I've let an entire week go by without a post of substance.  And it's been even longer since I've posted something more than a few photos. I have a big post in my head and that's part of the problem -- getting it on "paper" or at least finding the time to sit down and type.  I know you know how busy our family life is right now. If you need a reminder, these photos will remind you of how John Michael keeps us busy throughout the week. I promise to do better.

Always, Monica

(PS:  If you follow us on Facebook, I apologize for the repeat in photos...)

And so it goes... another morning in the Crumley household with John Michael exploring his world.

It just had to be a brand new box of Panda Puffs!

"What? Did I do something wrong? Why can't I eat the Panda Puffs?
Dog hair stuck to the cereal doesn't really bother me too much."

"Look, Mama, I'm a big helper.  I'll put some back in for you. Will that help?"


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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday -- Lifestyle Photography Session

We tried something new this year... "Lifestyle" photography for our family photos. I think Penny Sylvia did a great job of capturing our family at the California State Capitol gardens in Sacramento. Here are just a few of my faves... (there were too many to post!)

Photos by Penny Sylvia Photography

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John Michael's 2nd Birthday Party

What an amazingly fun afternoon! We had 40 friends, about 1/2 children, help us celebrate John Michael's 2nd birthday this past Sunday. I know... the rule of thumb is one guest per the child's year of age. Well, John Michael has way more than 2 friends! That extra 21st chromosome has translated into so much more than any book will tell you. We have added more than 8 new families to our circle of friends this year (which equals lots of people when you add all the sibs, too!)

Here, John Michael actually blew out his first candle ever. He successfully blew out the #2 candle, but I helped with the other two smaller ones.

We had a diverse age group of children from 9 months to 13 years old and everything inbetween. Having 8 kids here age 2 and under with Ds, I decided to hire one of the music therapists to entertain the younger set. I think every one of John Michael's buddies gets music therapy, so it was great that they were all familiar with the songs and playing with the instruments. The older kids watched "Up" in our "garage-turned-movie theater".

John Michael also got to meet his new buddy, Christopher. The moment Christopher came in, he went right up to the music therapist and started playing along with everyone. I love his enthusiasm and infectious smile! John Michael really likes his new buddy, too, as you can see in the photo. At first glance, they could totally be brothers. So cute!

Here, Gracie and Gabby are enjoying tug-of-war with the ribbons. John Michael had so much fun opening his presents and is still discovering how everything works.


My blog will be quiet for the remainder of the week so I can spend time with the family UNPLUGGED!
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NICU Days -- Wordy(less) Wednesday

Our flaccid, newly born John Michael, just minutes old. A few minutes after this photo was taken, Doug and I were given the life-altering news... "It looks like your baby has Down syndrome." November 14, 2007

Day 5 in the NICU after John Michael was born. It took five days before I was allowed to hold him and for him to try to take 2 ounces. He kept falling asleep, so he took the rest through a tube.

A heavenly moment for me, filled with tears of love and joy and fear.

Oma Crumley (Doug's mom) holding her 5th grandchild just after I fed him his first bottle. All those wires and cords bring back some very difficult moments.

I love this photo. A sweet smile and it reminds me of how today he's always signing "more" when he's enjoying something and doesn't want it to end. Here he just had his canula removed and his cheeks are red from the tape being removed.

November 22, 2007. Thanksgiving Day! What an immense blessing to bring our baby home on Thanksgiving Day. Here, Daddy and John Michael, wearing his going home outfit, are waiting to be discharged. Doug and I were both nervous, but trusted in God's providence that all would be OK and that He knew better than we.

I so want to go back to that scared couple 2 years ago and tell them that it'll all be OK. It'll be more than OK! His siblings will adore him and more friends and wonderful people will fill their lives than they could ever imagine. I just wish I could've known all that then.

I have a new friend, Amy, expecting her first baby in early December. Her baby girl has Down syndrome and Amy has been so brave while getting to know some of us before her baby is born.

Dear Amy, I want you to know what we parents already know... It's going to be more than OK. Your baby girl is so lucky to have you and I can't wait to meet her.

OK, tears are falling now... and my Wordless Wednesday has turned into a Wordy Wednesday!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

The Year of New Friends

(click to enlarge)

John Michael turned 2 this past Saturday.

Sadly, it was such a busy day (and weekend) that I only spent about 45 minutes with him on his actual birthday. We'll make it up to him next weekend and have photos, too.

Given that his birthday came and went without fanfare, I wanted to reflect on the incredible year we've just had since John Michael turned 1.

In just 12 months, John Michael (and I) has made more friends than I ever imagined. Our "awakening" began when we had our first get-together in East Portal Park. We planned to meet Jennifer and Joaquin and their family and some other moms and kids that would come. We never imagined that this casual gathering would lead to many friendships and continues to grow.

This past year I've posted many photos of our kids together at parks, in our homes, at a birthday party, a baby shower, at the NDSC Convention and most recently, the Step Up for Down Syndrome walk. Most of us moms are bloggers, which makes it fun and interesting as well.

I just want to acknowlege all the wonderful moms who I count among my new friends this year. Local friends include Jennifer & Joaquin, Lisa & Sheridan, Sheree & Gabby, Jonna & Gracie, Cori & Joey, Gina & Christian, Susan & Christopher, Lisa & Jase and Amy and her soon-to-be born baby girl. I had the pleasure of meeting even more moms and their sweet children at the NDSC Convention this summer. Thanks to Facebook, blogging and the internet, there are too many to count!

Thank you for making this The Year of New Friends!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Weds -- John Michael, the Artist and Happy Veteran's Day

Today, I want to share with you John Michael's newest masterpiece. Big sister, Anna, is being an incredible helper this morning and keeping him occupied while I get ready for music therapy. She sat John Michael down at his little table with paper and colored pencils and he got to work. The top picture is his first masterpiece, but because the colors are so light for scanning, Anna gave him markers to make a second masterpiece.

I love the colors and movement. I call it Freedom (of expression). :-)

I also want to say Happy Veteran's Day to all the men and women who have served our country, but especially to my brother-in-law, US Army Capt. John Paul Crumley who recently came back from a 15 month tour of duty in Iraq. He and his family are now in Missouri. We miss you guys!
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Name Tag Game

Jennifer of Three's A Charm tagged me with the "Name Tag" game. I'm supposed to explain why I chose the names I did for our kids, so here goes...

From oldest to youngest:

Nicolas Frans: My parents are immigrants from Germany and Doug's mom is from Holland, while his dad, from Tennessee, has German and Irish roots. I wanted a strong name for our firstborn and really liked the name, Nicholas, but the "h" didn't seem to fit in with our heritage. I liked how Nicolas Cage spelled his name, it looks great on the silver screen, so I copied the spelling, which seemed more Dutch than American. The German spelling, Nickolaus, was too different for me, so we stuck with Nicolas. Frans is Nic's middle name, named after Doug's grandfather from Holland who died when Doug's mom was just a teen. Although he never met his grandfather, he bears a striking resemblance to him from a certain photo. Doug wanted to honor his Opa Frans with a middle name for our son.

Anna Marie: My dad's mother's name was Anna Jaekel and I was given her name as my middle name, although my parents Americanized it to Ann. I'd always loved the name as it is timeless and classic. The middle name, Marie, is for three people. First, Doug's mom's "real name" is Maria, so we honored her with a form of the name. Then, my grandmother from Germany, Else Oldenburg, had three middle names, with Marie being one of them. Finally, my dear Aunt Marie from Mississippi, who married one of my dad's brothers, was the only aunt I had in the States. They lived only a couple miles from the home I grew up in and I wanted to honor her for passing on her Catholic faith to me.

Greta Marie: I used to work for the Air Resources Board (State of Calif) and at least once a week, we'd walk to a great cafe called "Greta's Cafe." Also, the mom of my college roommate had a little schnauzer named Greta. I'd always loved the name and it has German and Irish roots. I have an aunt in Germany named Gretel, which was a little too German for us and Gretchen was more cutesie, so we chose Greta. With her shiny red hair, she really looks like a Greta. The middle name just sounded right, so nothing very creative there.

John Michael: I've posted about his name before, but it's been a while. Doug's brother's name is John Paul and my brother's name is Michael, so we melded the names together to created John Michael. I love the sound together, not separated. He's not a Johnny, or a John, or a John John, or Michael... he's John Michael. Before he was born, John Michael was "Thomas" up until the last few weeks. I love the name Thomas, but somehow it didn't feel right for this baby. John means "God's grace" and Michael means "one who is like God." With strong names like that, it totally fits our little guy who shows us daily his strength and love and grace.

Now I tag: Darlena from the Lehnick Family

Sharon from Brennan's Beginnings

and Chris from Mothering by the Seat of my Pants

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oh, Play Doh!

Greta was playing with Play Doh, so I thought I'd see what the little Mr. would do with it.

At first, he didn't want to touch it. Then, I made "spaghetti" and "worms" with it and taught him how to roll it with the rolling pin.

Shortly after, I introduced the wavy cutter and he was sort of getting it.

I was so proud of him for NOT eating the Play Doh. And then it happened...

He took a bite out of one of the "worms" and it was over. Fortunately, the stuff is non-toxic and tastes horrible, so hopefully that will motivate him not to eat it next time.

Has anyone else tried Play Doh?

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