Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Word(y)less Wednesday + 1st Bloggiversary

John Michael hears an airplane...
Feeding Mitzi his freeze-dried apples

My glimpse into Heaven...

Well, I missed my 1st Bloggiversary. I began blogging on July 10, 2008, not sure what to say or whether anyone, ever, would read what I had to say, let alone want to leave a comment.
A year later, I have 43 public blog followers, many of whom I would easily count as my friends, although I've never met them personally. Blogging has been very good for me mentally. It would be impossible to gain all the wisdom and support from all these different bloggers around the world without the internet and the bond of the Ds community.
Thank you for reading, commenting, and allowing me to share a part of our world with you as well as sharing your world with me.
Below are two old posts from a year ago that perhaps no one ever read, but still move me to tears when I see them.
Please enjoy these, a moving video and a short photo story book from our local Down Syndrome Information Alliance of Sacramento.

Did you know that 90% of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome end in termination? That number is even higher in some European countries. It really is true that people with Down syndrome are more like us than different. Learn more about what's possible for the future of people with Down syndrome by watching the new inspirational film, Dreams in Reality, produced by the Down Syndrome Information Alliance of Sacramento, California.

Whispers of Hope, produced by the Down Syndrome Information Alliance of Sacramento, California, is a beautiful compilation of photos and stories about real families who have a child or grandchild with Down syndrome and their message of hope for a positive future. Click on the link to download this pdf file.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Visit with our buddies and NDSC Meet-Up

I have a lot on my mind this week. Therapists, playdates, school newsletter editing, life with four kids...


the NDSC Convention begins Thursday evening this week and I'm so excited to finally meet some fellow Ds bloggers, hear great speakers, meet a favorite author, and get some new insight into this brave new world we entered some 20 months ago.

But more importantly, let me take a moment to ask you to please pray for our beautiful little local friend, Gabby. She is such a sweetie and she's having her heart repaired this Friday so she won't be able to be at the Convention. We're going to miss her beautiful smile and her mom, Sheree's, sunny personality. We also pray for the doctors and for her whole family. {{HUGS to you, Gabby!}}

Last Friday, we met our local Ds blogging buddies at a spray park. All the kids had a blast. You can see John Michael and Anna took full advantage of the fun. Greta's in the background on her scooter and Nic is somewhere getting soaked.
Below, John Michael is checking out Joaquin's camp hat. Joaquin didn't mind his hat being on his head one bit, which is more than I can say for my little guy who constantly removes any hat I put on his head. And apparently hats on other heads as well.
Here, Gabby and John Michael are sharing a little kiss. I think he's wishing her well for her upcoming surgery and recovery.
All in all, it was a super-fun afternoon catching up with our friends. Anna was great with John Michael.
Below... The Fab Four! From left to right... Sheridan, Gabby, Joaquin, and John Michael
Love those eyes!

On a final note... If you're heading out West to Sacramento for the Convention, we'd love to meet you. Please say hello! We'll be wearing our nifty DS Bloggers ID badge and so will about 10 others. You're welcome to join us for lunch on Saturday, but please leave a comment if you're planning to come. Meet us at the Registration Table at 12pm and we'll walk to a local restaurant. Hope to see you there!
PS: If you think you'd like to join us, comment here or on DS Bloggers so we know how many to expect. Thanks! and Happy Traveling!
FYI: Sacramento is very hot this time of year. Think upper 90's to low 100's for daytime and cool evening breezes in the 60's and 70's.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Garden Art Girls

Anna and Greta love to create. Painting rocks for garden art is something we've always done. It's fun, colorful and lasts for many years, especially if you seal it with a clear coat. Sometimes, we choose larger smooth river rocks from the nature trail behind our house to make paper weights, door stoppers and teacher gifts. Today, they felt like making flowers, butterflies, trees and dragonflies.

The creative process.

Arranging the petals into a beautiful flower.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday -- Time for a Haircut

John Michael needed a haircut.
I'd done a horrible job on his bangs and the hair was tickling his ears, so I brought him in last week for a trim. I asked his stylist to keep the layers a little longer than usual in the back.
I couldn't get a shot of the actual cut since I was holding onto his legs while he was sitting up on a riser in a barber chair. Afterwards, he got to play with old fashioned toys while Greta got her hair cut as well.
*** For the record, he does not like getting his haircut, but the stylist is fast and efficient and also has lots of toys for him to throw/play with, so that helped.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Awesome Brother!


You always wanted a little brother. When John Michael came along 20 months ago, you weren't sure he was the brother you were hoping for. Time and love have shown us that he is exactly the brother you were meant to have. You have such a special bond with him and it's amazing how much you two look alike at the same age. The top right photo of John Michael climbing on you and the photo below of you in your Bavarian sweater are amazingly similar. Same smile!

I hope John Michael learns a lot from you -- you're a great role model to him. You have an adventurous spirit, you're a strong Catholic, not afraid to stand up for your faith, fun and loving brother (most of the time), awesome son, smart, funny, brave, courteous, cheerful (OK, what's the Boy Scout oath again?) and all around likeable kid. We love you! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

John Michael at 20 months old + IFSP meeting

John Michael is 20 months old today. Here's a 14 second clip of him crawling through a pop-up nylon tube at his Oma's house tonight. He's super fast and it was cute how he chuckled when he came out. Too bad he wasn't looking at the camera when he was laughing.

Earlier today we also had our 6 month review with his service coordinator and therapists. Our last visit was in January and John Michael has changed so much since then!

Six months ago, one of our goals was for John Michael to bear weight on his feet/legs to standing and possibly walking. He's cruising all over the place now and, while he's not letting go on his own yet, is getting faster and stronger all the time.

Another goal was for him to say or sign 25 words. He says or makes sounds for about 7 words and signs about 10 words. He also points to body parts and pictures in books. Pointing is certainly a form of signing. His receptive language is impressive to me. When I ask him where something is, he usually points to it, and when I ask a simple command, he will give me the object or do what I ask....... with the exception of the word, "no." He usually goes deaf when I tell him, "No, don't pull out the computer cord" and "No, don't play with the doggy's water bowl" or "No, don't feed the doggy your lunch" or "No, don't climb into the shower stall and play with the drain." I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the point!

Another goal was for him to use a fork and spoon. I'm guilty of not giving him a spoon to practice this skill. I usually give him finger-foods or I spoon-feed him myself. I'm going to let him try "sticky" foods, like pudding and oatmeal, even if it means we'll be wearing it. He does use the fork and can skewer little chunks of hot dog or meat on occasion. I'm amazed at how patient he is and keeps trying. If I load up his fork and hand it to him, he puts it in his mouth each time, no problem.

One last goal to mention is playing with toys purposefully and using crayons or a pencil. He's doing a much better job with this. He stacks and nests toys. I'm teaching him how to stack Duplo legos on top of each other. We're also working on a simple wooden puzzle, shape sorter, and holding a pencil or paintbrush (loaded with water!) Last week he crawled up the small slide in our backyard, turned around and went down feet forward. That was awesome! But, right after that, he went up again, turned around and went down face first. Not so fun. He didn't get hurt, but we can't trust him to go down correctly on his own yet.

Our goals for the next 6 months will be for him to walk. I think that's a realistic goal. We will also work more on language and communication. I'm increasing speech from once per month to twice per month. If Music Therapy ends up on the chopping block, we'll increase time with his OT and special ed teacher to make up the difference.

I took this photo last week. It was the first time EVER that he has sat still for about 10 minutes to watch a television show. I guess Muno on Yo Gabba Gabba! was exciting to him. :-) He usually stands in front of the TV and tries to push the buttons. It drives Greta crazy, but she's pretty tolerant of him. All in all, things are going well. I'm enjoying this stage -- he's so fun to be with and his siblings love playing with him, too.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More John Michael firsts (Golden Arches)... and "Roses"

OK, this isn't exactly something I'm proud of, but I guess it's a big milestone in typical American households.

John Michael ate his first order of Chicken McNuggets and french fries.

This isn't his first time eating french fries -- he actually likes this vegetable (wink). And he likes cheeseburgers. But I've tried chicken nuggets before and he just tossed them on the floor. Yesterday, I was super busy shuffling my older kids to and from art camp and fire camp and I caved, I mean, went through the McD drive-thru. He ate 3 out 4. I guess you could say he liked them!

Another first... I taught him how to dip his fries into ketchup. I think more ended up on the side of his chunky fist than on the fries, but he liked the process and the taste was a bonus.

Finally, I want to say... what's up with the toys in Happy Meals? I mean, this toy literally does nothing, except that the acorn in its pouch goes up and down. The look on John Michael's face should tell you how exciting this is. This was actually Greta's toy, but she passed it on to her little brother. When Nic and Anna were little, we used to say, "No, thank you," to fast food toys. The cashiers usually looked at us as though we were denying our children. Sometimes the kids would look for other kids in the restaurant and give them their unopened toys. Seeing this toy yesterday reminded me that that's not a bad thing to go back to.

If you're interested, I posted a photo that I edited with a new tool in my toolbox.

Lesson 4 of's "Photo Editing: Frame-ups and Special Effects" class taught us how to use clipping masks.

I used a photo of roses from my garden and applied a grunge clipping mask to it. The photo conforms to the clipping mask, giving it a grungy, worn look. I think I'll use this again and again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lesson 3 -- Vintage Looks

Day 3 of my photo editing class was a lesson on creating a vintage look.

This photo I took of the girls in their 1950's diner dresses was perfect for this project.

I tinted Greta's hair, ruffle and cheeks and colorized Anna's hair, cheeks and logo on her dress. With Photoshop 7, I used about 7 different layers and changed the hue/saturation levels to achieve this vintage look.

Wordless Wednesday -- LEGOs

When John Michael was born, Nicolas was really sad for a while because having a brother Down syndrome meant (to him at the time) that he wouldn't have anyone to play LEGOs with or play ball.

John Michael continually proves to us that he is all boy first and Down syndrome is just a small part of who he is.

Here, brothers are playing LEGOs together, even though the pieces are too small for JM to put together. He's at the Mega Blocks stage for stacking, but took some time out of his busy toddler schedule to play with his big brother.

* Yes, I realize the pieces are super small and can be put in his mouth, but I was monitoring very carefully :-)

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Curiosity -- Lesson 2 on Brushes

I can't get this photo out of my head. I love the intent look of curiosity on John Michael's face.

In Lesson 2 (at, I learned how to use brushes (like stamps) in Photoshop and to easily change colors to match those found in my photo using the eyedropper tool. The frame and word art are colors taken from the wings of the butterfly.

Rather than cropping out the docent's hand, I decided to use a frame brush to accentuate and draw the eye in to my (adorable) subject. (Of course I'm biased!) Check out the gallery at for more inspiration.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mt. Shasta Memories -- July 4th, 2009

John Michael and Daddy hanging out at Lake Siskiyou (Mt. Shasta, CA)with majestic Mount Shasta towering in the background.

Nicolas plowing the back acre with Opa's tractor.
Playing a little Frisbee with Anna...
Greta at the Mt. Shasta 2 mile Fun Walk

Nicolas, my super trooper, carried John Michael the whole way on his back because Daddy and Anna left with the car before we could get the stroller out!

Doug and Anna ran the 5 mile and 2 mile races. John Michael is hiding in the backpack. It was a hot, but beautiful day!

Gorgeous sky above Mount Shasta, a 14,162 ft volcano.

My patriotic bunch!

John Michael reaching for a blue butterfly that is just being released at Turtle Bay in Redding, CA.
(* No butterflies were harmed in the shooting of this photo)
An Erato butterfly. I've never seen something so beautiful! We followed it to see where it would land. What a beautiful rose it chose for a great photo.
The Art of the Brick was the title of this show. Very cool!
Here John Michael is stacking Mega Blocks, something he's never played with before. He continually shows me that kids with Down syndrome should be given the same opportunities as any kid!
An actual T-Rex named "Sue" from North America. No flash was allowed, hence the low light. This was quite amazing to see in person. * They don't really know if it was a female, but that's the name they gave it.
As you can see, we had a fantastic July 4th weekend.
I hope yours was, too.
God Bless America!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday -- John Michael the Artist!

Emptying my cabinets is a favorite pasttime for John Michael. Here, he discovered how fun it would be to play pick-up sticks with my paint brushes, scattering them across the floor.

Hmmm, tasty. Or maybe he's working on his next masterpiece.

We made a game of putting the brushes "in" the can. He caught on and thought it was fun...
only to scatter them once again.
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