Monday, November 5, 2012

John Michael's new verbal and baseball skills...

John Michael's verbal skills have kicked up yet another notch. Saturday at nap time after a busy Step Up for Down Syndrome walk, I followed him to his room to put him down for a nap. He obliged, but climbed into big brother Nic's bed, covered himself up and proudly told me, "I love Nicky's bed. It's so comfortable."

I couldn't believe it! A month ago, he might have said, "I like Nicky's bed" and that would've been the extent of it.


These are a couple examples of his spoken language growing. He's using pronouns mostly correct, stringing words together with "and" and has many sentences going up to 8 words at a time. He is also singing with much better pitch and is hitting notes in his range with better accuracy most of the time. I LOVE this being a singer. He's also quite the story-teller about a dream he frequently has. He tells me there's a bear stuck in his window. I ask, "What color is the bear?" "White." "Is it a nice bear?" "No, it's mean." "OK, should Mommy push the bear out?" "YES!"

On a not so great note, he called his sister Greta "stupid" last week. In our family, that's a pretty bad word... not that the big kids don't occasionally say it, but in general, we don't use it. Breeds a negative attitude... Well, he must've heard it somewhere because it was used in perfect context, to belittle someone. Of course, it got a big reaction out of me and in hindsight, I should've ignored it, but that's hard to do... I heard it a few more times after that and not again lately. I'm hoping it's been fazed out for a while at least.

Yesterday, he wanted to climb up onto my bed. He grabbed a footstool from the bathroom, set it at the foot of the bed and tried to climb up. He struggled a couple times and before I could offer to help, said, "Never mind." And walked out of the room.
In other exciting John Michael news... he is participating in the Learning Program on a monthly basis with homework at home. It emphasizes reading sight words, matching picture to picture, word to word and eventually picture to word. Last night he read all 8 "Going Places" words with the pictures covered up correctly. Car, Bus, Train, Motorcycle, Airplane, Boat, Bicycle... I was thrilled! Kids with Ds are such visual learners and we should've done this with him 2 years ago. Better now than later...

He is turning five 5!! in 9 days. He is becoming more willing to dress himself, often proclaiming, "I DO IT!" Awesome! He uses the potty and stays dry 95% of the time but still needs prompting to go. He can do it himself from start to finish, with handwashing included, but needs help snapping pants. He loves to help me cook, which usually means stirring something. He has an amazing baseball-throwing arm, is catching much better and is an impressive batter. I can get him to do almost anything if I promise to play 2 minutes of baseball with him. It's magical... He has little interest in kicking a soccer ball (like his 3 older sibs), but give him a ball and a bat and he lights up!

So I leave you with a short video highlighting John Michael's batting and throwing...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Celebrating Granny's 90th Birthday in Style

My husband, Doug's grandmother from Holland flew to the States to celebrate her 90th Birthday with us! How fortunate we are! She's a beautiful 90 year old woman, traveling alone, is still fit both mentally and physically and sharp as a tack! What a blessing for our children to experience their great-grandmother, as well as great uncles and a great aunt who also made a long journey from Alabama and Holland to surprise Granny for her 90th!

We started the evening at our house in a Hummer limo. What do you get your husband's 90 year old grandmother who really doesn't need anything? It's all about doing things that are memorable. The kids were thrilled to go in a limo! My parents (originally from Germany) joined us as well. A first for all of us!

We surprised Granny and the other Dutch relatives by having the driver knock on Doug's mom's front door. I LOVE the look of surpise on Granny's face as she began to figure out what was going on! It was priceless! Champagne and Martinelli's made the ride even more fun!

We drove to Buca di Beppo and dined in the Pope Room. Soooo fun! Now she cay say she dined with the Pope and cross another thing off her bucket list! haha...

The evening ended perfectly. Truly a memorable experience that we'll never forget.

We love you, Granny!

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Friday, September 14, 2012

John Michael -- Welcome to Catholic School TK

John Michael is attending two schools this year...

On Monday through Thursday, he attends the same inclusion preschool / Head Start program where he's been for the past 2 years already.  It's a great Inclusion program where 15 are typically developing kids and 5 have special needs of some kind.

This is the school where he gets his speech therapy (25 min, 2x/wk) and adaptive PE (25 min, 2x/wk).  It's where he learned to ride a trike, sit quietly at circle time, be a line leader, identify his written name, use the potty by himself, wash hands, eat a meal "family style" with other kids, clean his plate and push in his chair.  He also learned to sing, count, cut with scissors, use glue sticks and play cooperatively with others.

It's been a great 2 years for him.
Beginning this school year, John Michael is now attending our older kids' Catholic school.  He attends the transitional kindergarten classroom, unassisted currently.  He goes to Mass and sits with his sister, Greta, and learns to be quiet and still.  He gets to play with lots of kids in a great, loving environment (the principal was completely open arms and welcoming to us ever since John Michael was a baby!).  He is doing well, aside from a couple running (eloping) incidents and pushing other kids.  Luckily, the entire school KNOWS John Michael and think he's a little rockstar.  At snack recess, Greta (2nd grade) usually comes out to find John Michael and plays with him for 10 minutes while their schedules overlap.  I LOVE that she seeks him out! 

First Day of School

John Michael's teacher at the Catholic school hands out Behavior Bucks for good behavior. You can see he's already earning a good number of them!! NOTHING makes me happier! Really!

She also assigns nightly homework (yes, TK!) John Michael actually drew the lines from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4... you get the idea... and colored it in. I'm so proud of him!!

She also assigns nightly homework (yes, in TK!)  John Michael actually drew the lines from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4...  you get the idea... and colored it in.  I'm so proud of him!!

It really is true... our kids are more like others than different.  So true!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What do you give a 90 year old?

Doug's grandmother from Holland is visiting these next 6 weeks and celebrating her 90th birthday with us this weekend.  Yes, 90th!!

She traveled alone and looks fantastic!  I can only hope to look as good when I'm her age!

So, what do you give a woman who has everything she needs and is turning 90?

I took advantage of an offer from Shutterfly to make her a nice book to take back home and remember us by.  It won't arrive until a few days after her birthday, though, so here's a sneak peek of what's to come...

Happy 90th Birthday, Granny!!  WE LOVE YOU!!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Portrait Party to Raise Funds for Reece's Rainbow

          My friend, Danielle Parker, a local photographer (Danielle Parker Photography), approached me in June with a very generous idea.  Inspired by John Michael and other kids with Down syndrome, she wanted to find a way to help families who were adopting children with Ds.  So she came up with a Portrait Party idea...  20 minute sessions for $30 and Danielle would donate the entire amount, including her time over one weekend in 100 degree Sacramento heat, to Reece's Rainbow in honor of the child of our choice.  For an additional $10, families could purchase a CD of their photos. 
          The idea became popular quickly, spots filled up and 12 families took advantage of the photo sessions.  $30 for a professional photographer?  Unbelievable!!  But she wanted to make it afforable.
We raised $360 for Reece's Rainbow and the money will be split for two adopting families in the Sisterhood... The Sheffield's adopting Vinnie and The Jaco's adopting Jaxon, both boys are in eastern Europe and both have Down syndrome.
          Here are a few of our shots...  keep in mind, only 20 minutes at naptime in 100 degrees of dripping heat (yes, that's John Michael fake "crying" because he didn't want to take the photo and we had to wake up Luke to do the shoot)...


Me and my sweetie... Happy 18th Anniversary (yesterday).  If anyone had said on our wedding day we'd have 5 children, I would've said they were crazy!  Now I know who's crazy  haha.  But each one is awesome and unique and wonderfully made...

I love how the boys are looking at each other here...

"John Michael, what does Piet in Holland do?"  He wanted nothing to do with that.  Anna looks like she'd rather be in a different family :-)

My heart.  The reason I started this blog... the reason I have more friends than I can count... more sisters on this journey than I ever thought imaginable...

My spunky little man.  Full of love and the biggest hugs a mom could ask for...
Pure boy.  Pure stinker.

The is decidedly "the family photo" of choice  :-)

Brothers, bookends, biggest to smallest... 6'4" to little man...

Who doesn't love Greta!

These two melt my heart...  These boys laugh, run, play, cry, fight, push, hug, kiss, and care for each other like no other!

Need I say more?
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Monday, July 2, 2012

Sisterhood in Cabo San Lucas (May 2012)

Back in May, I spent 5 amazing days in Cabo San Lucas with 6 of my Ds mama sisters!  No kids, no schedule, no housework, no worries...  

The margaritas from Monkey Business Bar were so huge, we had to share!  And look at the garnish!  A lime inside a lime to make the sun.  Gorgeous!

You might recognize some of these awesome women from Blogland or Facebook...
L to R:  Gina, Lisa, LauraBeth, Irma, Debbie, Jen and yours truly.

Lisa and Irma on our glass bottom boat headed to the Arch and Lover's Beach.

Debbie and I soaking in the rays before getting out at Lover's Beach...

Can you see the horse head in the rock formation?

Here's Lover's Beach and the pathway to Divorce Beach.  The water is so wild over there, some don't return (or so it's said...)

I don't recall the name of this rock formation, but it was an upside down Baja...

The Arch. 
Wild, turbulent waters where the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez meet.

Lands' End.
I'm guessing the sea lion could care less...

Lisa making our mark at Lover's Beach...

2012 SISTERHOOD (T21).
Too bad it only lasted a few minutes...

Matching bracelets from a Mexican artisan shop!  I used to make this pattern from Wrigley's gum wrappers as a kid.  Who knew it would some day be art?!

Amazing brunch in Cabo del San Jose!  The food was so fresh and delicioso!

With my sisters.  Sadly, two had to fly home that morning...  :-(

After Mass in a Jesuit mission built in 1730.  I LOVED that the Mass music was a Mariachi Band in the balcony with full harmony and accordion.  Sooooo wonderful!!

Sharing an afternoon Corona with Jen on our balcony after a day of doing not so much  :-)

Monday morning... our time is almost done.  Spending our last few hours at the beach and swimming in the sea.

The perfect balance of relaxation and fun!!!
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