Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday -- Good Morning!

John Michael loves Mitzi.
Mitzi tolerates John Michael.

But one thing is for sure...
John Michael LOVES Greta...

and it's mutual. 

He's so full of love and hugs and kisses this morning that he doesn't want to eat.
Do you remember the last time you were so in love that you didn't want to eat?

Oh, and if you missed the excitement on Facebook,
John Michael is going to have a baby brother in early June.  Yes, another BOY!
The girls are adjusting to the fact that we'll have more boys in the family than girls, but that's how it goes...

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Love my mama... and thoughts on being pregnant with Baby #5

You probably thought this post was about me and John Michael. 
Well, it is... sort of...

I was reflecting on motherhood and how my mom has shaped who I am as a woman and as a mother. 
My mom taught me the value of hard work, of being present and listening (she wasn't distracted by cell phones or computers) and how to keep a home warm and cozy.  She was always there for me and my "little" brother while we were growing up (she still is by phone) and quit working when she became pregnant with me.  Her lifelong example of being a stay at home mother and homemaker inspired me to follow in her footsteps, even when there were many times I thought I should be working since I'd sweated my way through college and earned my bachelor's degree in applied mathematics.  Being present and available to my children while they are young and growing allows me to teach them valuable lessons in life and to share our faith with them on a daily basis.  And while it's not always easy, it's certainly very rewarding. 

Looking back, there was a time when I was in college that I remember proclaiming that, "I never want to have children."  Perhaps volunteering in Sunday School classes frightened me to believe I could never be a good mother.  For one thing, I wasn't patient and a mother needs to be as patient as a saint, right?

After college, when Doug and I were married, I envisioned us having two children... a girl and then a boy.  Never even considering having more than two.  One for each arm, I thought.

Fast forward to being pregnant with Crumley Baby #5. 

It has been a slow and gradual learning curve.  For me, I found that having a third child was far more difficult than having two.  By the time John Michael came around, however, and in spite of having Down syndrome, I'd become quite comfortable in my role as a mother and felt like 4 wasn't any more difficult than 3, except for the shuffling of after school activities.  That's when we learned we had many willing friends to help out here and there.  We also learned that, while having 4 children was an anomaly in modern society, the younger siblings were a huge blessing to the older children and taught them a few lessons on patience, sharing, love and compassion.  The older ones were natural teachers to the younger ones and I'm amazed at how much Greta and John Michael learn from Nic and Anna just in their natural roles as siblings.

This baby will have a big job ahead... to push John Michael and help him continue to move ahead.  This baby will be born into a family with a sibling who has an intellectual disability.  This child, I pray, will be healthy, although I'm not afraid to have another child with Down syndrome.  I know just by its very birth order, this baby will likely be very loving and compassionate and accepting just because John Michael is her or his older brother.  I'm excited to watch John Michael develop into that role as well.

Looking back... there's no doubt my mom loved her mother... my Oma Else from Germany.  My Oma had seven children, my mom being the eldest.  Times were very difficult in the late 1930's in Germany, as you can imagine, but the love and respect my mom had for her mother always showed.  We also loved when she would come to visit us for many weeks.

I know John Michael loves me. 
While he can't say the words, he shows me daily with his big slurpy kisses, warm hugs accompanied by pats on the back and his LOVE sign.

But this family is more than just about John Michael. 

The love that my kids show me is more than I could've ever imagined.  Nic tells me daily that he loves me and at age 12, that might not be "cool" anymore, but I'll take it as long as he'll give it.  Anna is sweet and sensitive, kind and caring and shows me she loves me with her little love notes she leaves me around the house.  Greta doesn't make me guess... she hugs my legs and tells me I'm the best mom in the whole world.  And she delights in announcing to the world that, "My mom is going to have a newborn baby."

All of this is made possible because I have a loving husband who cares for me and encourages me and lifts me up on my worst days when my waistline is making me mad or the kids are driving me insane and best of all, he prays for me daily.  I can't imagine a better dad to our kids.  It's going to be a little crazy around here once the baby is born in early June, but eventually things will roll smoothly and we'll be smiling and laughing more than whining about what we don't have.

Stay tuned... our ultrasound is only 5 days away...  is it a brother or sister?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Fun at ArtBeast

After what turned out to be a busy week, it was nice to let John Michael and Greta relax at ArtBeast this morning. The Sacramento County Infant Program sponsored the morning and we decided to take advantage of some fun.

The last time we visited ArtBeast was in July when it was very hot outside and John Michael was only standing, not walking. His level of play has increased greatly since then and this morning he spent time in most areas of the studio. Sand play, water play, imaginative play, climbing up into a kid-sized 2 story loft, parachutes and tubes, coloring and glue, musical instruments and a mock space shuttle. It was all very fun, but they were very content playing with the Moon Sand and later the outdoor sand and water for quite a while.

It was a little chilly this morning, mid-5o's, but the sun came out just in time for some outdoor water and sand play. John Michael and Greta loved this station and could scoop water and sand for what seemed like an hour.

Here's the mock space shuttle. I should've taken a photo of the outside. It's so cool and only has room for 2 kids. There are lots of dials and knobs and the steering wheels turn as well as go in and out. My little astronauts literally had to be pulled out to go to lunch!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sorry, Barbie -- Wordless Wednesday

John Michael has taken an interest in Greta's new Barbie doll.  He loves to play with her hair more than anything, but the other day, I saw him making raspberries and making Barbie fly like an airplane while doing the splits.  Either that, or he's helping her train for the Summer Olympics.

All I can say is... thanks for being so flexible, Barbie.  Nice finish.
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

John Michael at 26 months old

Next week is John Michael's 6 month IFSP meeting. 

In preparing for the meeting, his Teacher prepared a draft report for me to review before the meeting.  All in all, I'm thrilled at how well he's doing and all the things he's learning right now.  He seems to be having a major language growth spurt, in addition to his cognitive and motor skills.  Language is especially an area where he is clearly trying to communicate more by pointing, signing, making sounds, sometimes using word approximations, or just going to the object he wants and getting it.  Sometimes, we can't figure out what he wants or what he's pointing to, which makes us both a little frustrated.  Which is why we are increasing our Speech Therapy from 2x/month to 3x/month.  It has been recommended by a speech therapy evaluation last month that John Michael receive ST weekly now.  I'm still wrestling with the idea of adding more therapy to our schedule, but I think this is where his biggest learning is happening right now.  And it's important to meet him where his interest lies.  If the ST's schedule opens up more, we can go to 1x/week.

Reading the report, my heart always sinks when I read the relative age of where he is right now.  For instance, his fine and gross motor skills fall in the 14 to 18 month range.  I think he's doing amazingly well, especially considering his first year was spent on the floor or sitting on his bottom.  He didn't start crawling until the week after he turned 1 and it took most of his 2nd year to learn to walk.  When you compare him to a typical child, yes, he's just starting to catch up to the 18 month olds, but that doesn't bother me.  I think the numbers are annoying for comparison because our children will always "seem" behind when compared to the typical chart, and since he does have Down syndrome, I often wonder how he's doing compared with other kids who have Ds.  That would be a better indicator to me. 

Last month at the Down syndrome clinic, the doctor there told me that it's important for John Michael's height, weight, and head circumference to be marked on the Down syndrome growth chart.  I always was thrilled that he was on the typical chart for height and weight, but Dr. W. told me that kids with Ds follow a different growth curve and that it's important to note that John Michael is following the Ds curve rather than "falling off" the typical growth curves. 

Cognitive:  "According to the IDA, HAWAII (developmental indicator), parent report and teacher observation, John Michael is demonstrating skills in the 18-24 month age range."  To me, this is awesome!  He's 26 months old physically, and cognitively is just behind where other kids might be.  He understands so much and follows through with simple commands.  He rights books and pictures and usually figures out how something works without having to be shown.  I love that his attention span is growing and he can do complicated learning toys for a good length of time without frustration. 

Gross Motor:  You should see this kid walk FAST, almost jogging, climbing ladders (not that we let him...), spin in circles because his older brother showed him how and it makes him giggle, ballroom dance with Greta, rock out at the first sound of music or pretend he's singing into a microphone.  Climb into and out of chairs, climb up steps and go belly down backwards.  He's throwing, bouncing or rolling a ball in the direction of the person catching most of the time.

Fine Motor:  I started giving John Michael a fork or spoon at every meal since he no longer flings his bowl or plate off the high chair.  That was a pain!  He seems genuinely interested in self-feeding with utensils.  We still feed him breakfast cereal, his fave is Raisin Bran right now, so he doesn't spill the milk, but he can spoon thick soup, pudding, yogurt, thicker oatmeal, applesauce and softer ice cream.  With a fork, he doesn't scoop his food yet, but as long as it can be poked, like scrambled eggs or cut-up hotdogs, etc, he can do it.  He was on a breakfast eating strike for a while there.  Nothing appealed to him, so I gave him a spoon for his oatmeal and he started eating.  Whatever works... 

Like I said, all in all, everything is going very well here.  We are so fortunate with his health as some of his buddies have had open heart surgery and one has had Leukemia when he was younger.  I am enjoying life with this little guy and am convinced that he has taught me more about life, love, and compassion in his short 2 years than any other person in my life at any time.  It's an amazing journey, really.  I'm enjoying being a peer counselor to other moms who are just learning of their prenatal diagnosis of Ds for their baby as well as meeting new moms to babies with Ds.  I think this is the direction I'm headed for the future.  I can't say for sure how it will all pan out with another baby on the way, but my life's vocation becomes clearer each day.

Stay tuned to find out if John Michael will be a big brother to a baby sister or brother.  We find out on the 25th.  Happy New Year!