October 31, 2008

In French, Chat, Chapeau

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold wet day.


The sun did shine.
It was a beautiful day.
We went out of the house--
It was time to play!
With Tiggr, a cowgirl,
an astronaut too,
The Cat in the Hat
Knew just what to do.

Door to door, face to face, she really was handy.
Those neighbors really gave out way too much candy!
It tasted so good, it really was yummy,
but now she's in bed with a small ache in her tummy.

Earlier today....

Bunsen took his pumpkin carving very seriously. (love those seeds love those seeds)

Last year Hazel was mortified in her rooster costume. She was so embarrassed.
Things this year were just as humiliating.
Sorry Hazel. Better luck next year.

October 29, 2008

Tongue protrusion

Do you think this dog needs some oral motor therapy?

His tongue is alway sticking out, just a little. I don't think he means to be so rude.

I have a canine niece in Philadelphia who also has the problem, but it's much more socially acceptable if you're an English Bull Dog.

I'm going to have to ask Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson what to do about this. She ought to be working on a Dogtools program.

October 26, 2008

My favorite brain washing technique

I had forgotten how much I used to have to do this. Last night Hannah didn't listen when I gave her instructions on cleaning up the bathroom (tub toys, towels, etc). When I expressed my displeasure and reminded her of her task, she started grumbling and arguing (good "typical behavior", but completely unacceptable).

I held up my hand up like a policeman (stop!), and said, "I'm sorry Mommy, I'll do it right now." Instantly, she repeated what I said and then, joy of joys, she did exactly what she said. The job was done within a minute and everyone was happy again.

I used to have to do this much more when she was younger. I think it started when she was about 3 or 4 years old. If I couldn't find her (in the house--which room? Upstairs or down? Where are you? I need to hear your voice!), I needed her to answer me. So we started playing a game, "Here I am!". This transfered to answering quickly when she might go out of my sight while shopping. It's fun to play hide-and-seek in the clothes racks....at least for her, but it doesn't make a Mommy happy.

By giving her the words I needed to hear (or needed her to learn to say), and modeling the polite way to say them, she has learned to "listen and do". Everything from "Yes, Mommy, I'm coming." to "I'll clean up now." It's like magic. Once she actually says the words, it's like it is her idea, so she does what she says. I've shared this with some other parents who have children with Down syndrome and it has worked for them too. It's not foolproof of course--our kids are too smart and, shall we say, stubborn, for it to be 100% successful. But it has worked more often than not.

October 25, 2008

The End of Childhood

Yes, my baby boy has turned 18!

Here he is at 18 months....

And now he's 18 years!

We surprised him with SCUBA lessons for his birthday!

Here he is on his first dive, three years ago, with James and Katie in Cozumel. They all loved it.

I think he's pretty excited about getting certified--it should be fun!

October 22, 2008


It's been a nice cool day, so I threw together a homemade chicken pot pie.

When I brought it to the table, Hannah said, "Chris, watch out for the chicken hot pie".

She's so funny.

October 21, 2008

Girls' Group

This afternoon Hannah and I hosted five girls for our initial meeting of the Girls' Group! It was so much fun! The girls range in age from 9-12, and all are home schooled. Today's projects were itty bitty scarecrows:

and decorating fall cookies:

Hannah and I made about 150 cookies, but she only painted 8 of them (well, she ate a fair amount as well....). The rest of the girls had a good tray full---which is good--some of them have 6 or 8 siblings!

We used every minute of the two hours we had together. It was wonderful! Hannah misses her Girl Scout Troop from where we used to live, but this was as much fun, or more, at least for me, since we don't have to have all the rules and regulations at meetings.

And the best part is that my house is still clean. Can you believe the children cleaned up everything? Without any nudging? I think I'll keep them all.

October 18, 2008


for Chris!
**********POLL IS CLOSED*********************
The winner is #3, the computer builder! Thanks for your input!
Chris is in the throws of college applications. One school has requested a picture to be included in the application.

We're asking for your opinion, even if you don't know him personally. Which picture do you think is most appropriate to send in?

#1. This is slightly familiar (see sidebar, right)

#2. He likes this one.

#3. Here he is last spring building his mega-computer.

#4. This shows his gentle nature. No, he is not applying to St Olaf!

Click on the Poll to vote! Please? ---------->

October 16, 2008

Numicon Part II: Getting to know you….

Here are the main characters in the Single User Foundation Kit of Numicon.

The Board. It is a 10x10 grid. It’s sort of like a Duplo Baseplate.

The Shapes, which I call tiles. These are sturdy plastic pieces, pleasing to touch. (I love the sensible packaging the materials come in also. Everything is very user friendly and of high quality.)

The Pegs. I don’t remember how many came with the set—we counted them once, and there were about 80. I wish there were 100, so we could fill the Board. The pegs are great for fine motor work, and they fit on little fingers even better than black olives! They can be used for patterns, representing shapes (in the picture I have them arranged in a 6-shape), and all kinds of building fun (which is later used for multiplication, I think).
This is a 5-shape, filled with 3 green pegs, and 2 yellow pegs, symbolizing 3+2=5

The Cards. These are very nice, laminated and sturdy, and explain how to use the materials. There are 12 cards with 3-5 activities per card, plus additional challenging activities to help the student connect what they are doing with Numicon to relevant activities in real life.

The Book. I read this a long time ago, and need to refresh my memory before I tell you anything more about it. I remember it being easy to read, but then, I have been teaching for 16 years, so I’m sort of used to reading stuff like it. I don’t know how easy it would be to digest for a novice parent/teacher…I imagine it would be fine.

Table of Contents

There are some other fun things, like the Board Overlays, Spinners and the Feely Bag. Since I bought both the Foundation and the Kit One, Plus Pack, and some extra things, I’m not sure which items belong to which set. But, that’s irrelevant since Numicon has repackaged and renamed their kits, so you wouldn’t necessarily have the same exact items that I have. Numicon has also added the “Closing the Gap” kit, which looks interesting for elementary aged children. The advantage to Closing the Gap is that the book/instructions do not have photos of children, so older children will not think they are working on "preschool" stuff.

These overlays include pictures, patterns and combinations of tiles (all possible ways of creating seven). They lay directly on top of the board, and turn it into a sort of puzzle.

If you turned this overlay over (that sounds weird!), the same pattern would be on the back, but it would be in gray, so the student would need to recognize the quantity (1's and 2's) instead of color matching (orange and light blue). I put some tiles on the 3, 4 and 5 spots so you could see how they look on the board.

The Spinners! I love these. In the Kit 1 book there are templates to photocopy and cut out, so the spinners can change from numerals to numicon shapes, to addition or subtraction and so on. In this example, Hannah was working on subtraction. She spun a 10-shape (the right-hand spinner) and a 3 (left-hand spinner). She had to then, in her head, figure out what was left over, if she "chopped 3 off of a 10-shape". She picked up a pink 7 tile. She used to do this by physically holding the 10-shape and covering three of the holes to visualize what was left. With enough practice, she can now do it with fewer manipulatives.

I like this number line too.

I already had Cuisenaire Rods, which we use with Numicon as well. I think they call them "Number Rods". You can easily get these in the USA, so don't buy them from Numicon (in fact, they told me that over the phone, to save me $$ on cost and shipping). We didn't have the trays for the rods, so I did buy them from Numicon.

Hannah is filling the trays. The tray that holds the 8 rods (8 cm long) can hold eight 8-rods, the 7-tray can hold seven of the 7 cm rods, etc.

The trays can be stacked to make pyramids.

I will post more on HOW we use the materials, hopefully over the weekend. It's supposed to be a cooler weekend, and we don't have much to do other than finish college applications for Chris. I'll be ready to take a break from finishing his transcript to come play on blogger!

October 15, 2008

Housekeeping Blogkeeping

To answer a few questions from commenters:

Hannah had persistent pulmonary hypertension when she was born. It took her nearly a month to be able to breathe room air. This was not related her to congenital heart defects. She had heart surgery at age 2.5 to repair 2 ASDs, a VSD, PDA and a clefted mitral valve. She had to wait until her hypertension was resolved before she could be considered for surgery.

We have had terrific support and inclusion within the local homeschooling community (we moved here less than a year ago). I also belong to one of the several yahoo groups that focuses on homeschooling special needs. The homeschooling community in Newport News was not as organized as it is here in the Richmond area, so we pretty much did our own thing. That said, we have always been very independent homeschoolers; after 15 years of homeschooling I don't feel that I need that much "support". I do spend a fair amount of time encouraging new homeschooling families, especially families with children with special needs. This helps me remember WHY we homeschool--when I have to explain it to new families I remind myself what motivated us to start on this path.

Hannah currently takes three different homeschool classes, all of her classmates are typically developing (as far as I can tell!). She takes Ballet (and she is CLUMSY), Art, and Theater. Theater is her favorite. One nice thing about homeschool classes is that they generally have a wide age range for groups of children. Hannah, at age 10, does best socially and academically with children who are in the 7-9 age range. If she had the short stature that is typically found with Ds, she'd be able to fit in perfectly in this age group. However, she is about the size of an average 12 year old, so she does stand out a bit more. Homeschoolers are pretty used to kids being different in lots of ways, and we've found that Hannah is accepted easily by teachers and children alike.

Hannah did attend a preschool when she was 3-4 years old. It was the same school her siblings attended--a granola/creative/exploratory learning school housed in a Unitarian Church. All three kids had fabulous experiences there. We did have the public school provide therapy services in our home during those years. We didn't want them interrupting her "regular kid" time.

Hannah has not had any formal therapies since we moved from North Carolina when she was six.
Well, that's not exactly true. She has had no meaningful therapies since we moved...we had one wimpy SLP for a time being, but I can't honestly call it "therapy". We continue to work on oral motor at home, and work on vocabulary, pragmatics and syntax daily as well.


Now, a little fun.

I've been playing.....but I don't know how to screen capture (without downloading a program, and my 'puter is very naughty when it comes to anything that involves my video graphics card. It must be sent back to hp to get fixed before the warranty expires in December.) So that's why I have to send you to Wordle.

October 14, 2008

Add a little sunshine to your life!

Here's an article discussing the new AAP recommendations for children to double their daily Vitamin D intake.


While I usually don't care what the AAP has to say, I do agree with this. American children are not playing outside enough, they are too sedentary, and they are desperately in need of Nature.
I also have a child who has low bone density, low enough to have broken three bones in the past two years. While his osteoporosis is not necessarily caused by low Vit D levels (nor calcium levels...we've had several conflicting blood labs), he does take a large dose of Vit D every other week, in addition to cod liver oil and sunshine.

We all need to be outside in the sun!

October 12, 2008

21 things about Hannah

I have not yet mentioned that October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month (hence, all the Buddy Walks). I don't know why it's October. I do know that World Down Syndrome Day is March 21 (because it is 3/21, or three of the 21st chromosome).

There are many bloggers that post about their children with Ds, and a whole slew of them are posting each day of the month to increase knowledge and awareness of Down syndrome (31 for 21). I'm not that ambitious. But here are 21 things about Hannah. I think some of these characteristics she'd still have if she didn't have an extra 21st chromosome, but after a decade of living with her, I really can't tease out what is "Hannah" and what is "Down syndrome". She is really just 100% Hannah to us.

#1. Hannah recognized her first written word at age 20 months.

#2. She knew over 200 signs before she was two years old.

#3. She is extremely obstinate.

#4. When she was first born, she was wrapped in a pink blanket, under fluorescent lights, her hair looked carrot-red. I was so upset--I cried to God, "All these problems (she was critically ill), and You had to give her Carrot Red hair too???" When we took off the blanket and put a yellow duckie near her, we discovered that she had strawberry blond fuzz instead of carrot. Chris was excited to find that they shared the same hair color!
#5. She had beautifully straight baby teeth; they all came in on time or early (kids with Ds tend to have delayed and erratic tooth eruption). Her permanent teeth did not behave so well. Two more years to go until she gets braces and gets a nice smile back!

#6. She has a cameo role in the documentary film Emma's Gifts.

#7. She detested coloring and drawing as a preschooler. Now it is her favorite past time.

#8, She recently started a laundry business. Her brother is her only customer, who pays her a dollar per load (wash, dry and sort-of-fold).

#9. She has been taking piano lessons for 2 years, and has performed in four recitals.

#10. She has a favorite teddy bear, named Molasses.

#11. For years her favorite toy has been her dollhouse, but she is gradually outgrowing it.

#12. This past summer she learned how to ride the ocean waves.

#13. She wants to get a Bichon Frise puppy when she's old enough. She will name it Flower.

#14. Her favorite food is pasta. We call her a pastatarian. Her first three-word phrase was, "More noodles, please."

#15. Hannah has congenital non-focal cataracts, which have to be supervised closely to be sure they do not grow into her primary field of vision.

#16. Hannah used to want to be a scuba diver, a ringmaster or an astronaut. Now she wants to be a doctor or a dentist.

#17. She has pronated feet and wears custom orthotics to help keep her feet in proper position.

#18. She has outgrown her Wiggles obsession! We are SO relieved!

#19. She is learning a little Italian, with James. (I think her motivation is pasta.)

#20. She loves to help give the dogs a bath.

#21. For years her favorite (and only) TV show has been "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

October 11, 2008

Buddy Walk...again

Today was the DSAGR Buddy Walk. It was a beautiful day, in a beautiful location (University of Richmond). I didn't get to see much of the Buddy Walk since I was on the food committee (committee of two!). I worked through the whole thing, before, during and after. I didn't even bring a camera since I knew I wouldn't be able to keep track of it.

But by all accounts, the Buddy Walk was lots of fun. Hannah was recognized as a Buddy Captain (Team Leader), and got to go on stage (she LOVES being on stage). She had a good time with the face painting, and the free ice cream and cotton candy. I think that her favorite part was dancing with the Zumba dancers. She was the first kid who went up to dance--and she can shake her bon-bon pretty well! I had reports from lots of people who enjoyed the show!

Here are two pictures from James' camera phone. They are tiny, so you click to enlarge.

Kate made it home safely, but not until 5:00p.m., since she missed her early morning flight and had to be re-routed. The sisters are busy re-connecting in Katie's room, reading stories to each other.

I'm going to go put my feet up and read the paper, with a puppy to supervise my relaxation. Have a wonderful weekend!
p.s. Grace: They don't have Tapirs at the zoo, but they have South American Cavies, which are also cool!

October 10, 2008

Katie is coming, hurrah, hurrah

It's already fall break at St. Olaf College in Minnesota! Katie flies home tomorrow afternoon (while we're still at the Richmond Buddy Walk) for a 4 day visit. We are all excited to see her, especially Hannah. In the past year, Hannah and Kate have become closer than ever.

The Best Sisters

October 8, 2008

It's a Zoo out there

I screwed up on Monday and double booked myself. Usually I take Hannah to art and ballet, and Chris heads off to the community college. But he had a physical scheduled for Monday morning before school, and he asked me to come along. So Hannah and I had to skip her classes.

The physical went well. Chris is still tall and thin. He's 6 ft tall and 120 lbs.
Yes, I feed him.

He may be having a little residual depressed lung function since his accident. (That's why he wanted me to come along, so I could put in my $0.02 and get a little action.) He will have some tests this Friday to see what his lung capacity is. None of us (doctor included) think anything is really wrong, but we are ruling this out so we don't have to worry about it anymore. Of course, the results won't be in for a while...we'll see.

It was a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cool, so Hannah and I spent the rest of the morning at our local zoo. Even though it's only a few miles down the road, we had never visited it before. It is a private zoo, and seems to be doing a fairly good job. (I am a zoo snob, and I just deleted two paragraphs of lecture on captive animal behavior. My degree is in Psychology/Animal Behavior, which I often say gives me perfect credentials to homeschool my kids...but my background also leaves me with a love/hate relationship for zoos, especially struggling ones.)

So, on with the fun!

The zoo was fairly empty...no school field trips this early in the school year, and just a few moms with toddlers and preschoolers. We barely saw any humans!

I was surprised at the diversity this small zoo had...there was a nice active colony of prairie dogs, a huge assortment of African and Asian hoofed animals (I lost count of the types of antelope), both Dromedary and Bactrian camels, an entire enclosure of Budgies, flocking together, Rhinos, and many species of primates (not in great habitats...). Plenty of other exhibits as well. Here are some of our favorites:

This is an Indian Crested Porcupine baby. Hannah asked if they were prickly when they are born. I was wondering the same thing! Fortunately, there was a plaque that explained that babies are born with soft quills, which harden within 30 minutes of birth!

I have never been to a petting zoo where there is a zebra!

What's your guess? Apatasaurus? (click to enlarge)

No! It's a Galapagos Tortoise! They have four Galapagos Tortoises at this zoo! I can't remember if I've ever seen one in a zoo before. (Clara, there was a large tortoise at the Oakland zoo, 20 years ago...the kids would climb on it and ride it around...is it still there? It wasn't a Galapagos one, since the shell was smooth. These guys were very bumpy.)

The Carousel was empty, so we had to push a doorbell for the attendant to come out and start it up for Hannah!

Hannah's favorite primate! She has a collection of stuffed lemurs and adds to it when the opportunity arises.

Can you believe this??

I never knew giraffes had black tongues. This one looks blue!

We had a fun on the Zoo Train and the Skyride as well. My only tip is to have low expectations of the french fries!

Hannah wants to know what your favorite wild animal is, so please leave her a comment (just click on "_ wonderful people commented").