November 30, 2008

Tagged or not, I'm it!

Since my brain is still recovering from the exceptional food intake over the past few days, I am stealing an idea I saw on another blog. It was a "Tag! You're It" kind of thing. The task was to look at the fourth picture in the fourth picture file on the computer, and write about it (or something close to that, I think...). If you've got a blog, do a show and tell too, and leave me a comment so I can come and see what secrets your fourth file shows!

So here it is:

This picture was taken on New Year's Day 2006. We were in the Atlanta airport, waiting to fly to Tampa. For Christmas that year, I got my first digital camera. It was Katie's last year at home, and we wanted to do something fun together as a family, so we went on a cruise to Cozumel and Grand Cayman (and probably somewhere else too, but I've forgotten). I had already taken a nice picture of these two patient kids, so, as usual, Hannah wanted to make silly faces.

We had a great time on the cruise. Hannah went on a submarine ride, and the older kids took their first scuba lesson. We snorkeled, danced, played games, ate well (except for the last couple of days...rough seas. Eww.), and had fun!

Wow! Chris has grown so much in three years! What a young 15 year old he was! Hard to believe that two weeks after this picture was taken he started his first semester at the community college! That's kinda crazy, don't you think?

Here's the picture I took just before the one above:

On another Chris note, I am so HAPPY to be able to say that he is currently PAIN-FREE for the first time in nine months! He's been going to a chiropractor three times a week for the past month. His residual back pain from the fractures is gone, and he's working on gentle exercises to gain more range of motion. We are so thankful for this blessing!

I hope you all have had blessings that have made your Thanksgiving holiday wonderful!

November 26, 2008

Too many friends, too little time

We're happy to be home, though we had so much fun at my parents' house. We managed to squeeze in some quick visits with friends, but didn't have time to see everyone we hoped to visit.

Here's a quick photo essay...can you believe I didn't get a single picture of either of my parents? What a lame daughter!

These are Hannah's lifelong friends. Their parents have been such a blessing to our family, with support, encouragement, love and friendship from the very beginning of our journey. Boy are we thankful for them!!!

This is Shea, a horse-lover, who is always ready to have an adventure.

Hannah and Cecilia watch a scary part in a movie...

Hannah adores Cecilia's little poodle. Daisy will tolerate any amount of dressing up in doll clothes, cuddling, squeezing or packaging! Here Hannah has her bundled into an impromptu blanket bag.

The Fearsome Foursome: Emma, Molly, Hannah, and Abby.
Abby is the only one who does not have the bonus chromosome.

Here's Emma, personality plus! LOTS of dress-up in this house!

One of the many animals that live in Emma and Abby's house...

Another animal in the same house. Oh no, wait, that's Michael, the Dad. Hannah has had a crush on him since she was three years old. She's fluttering her eyes for him.

While I was away, my friend Donna started a new blog! Check it out!

Here's my imaginative daughter first thing this morning. Apparently going out to save Roo from a disaster in the Hundred Acre Wood...

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday, with too many blessings to count.

November 20, 2008

Out of town again

Off we go to South Carolina! Over the river and through the woods (though there aren't many woods on Interstate 85)....

We'll be back before Thanksgiving, just in time to search through the remnants of the grocery store. Thank goodness I thought to invite a friend to dinner who is a chef!

November 19, 2008

My work's cut out for me

This was the view from inside my kitchen yesterday. See the light switch? That's the inside of my house. Then there is the outside.

Yesterday was the coldest day of the season so far! There was a light dusting of snow in the morning. Ice in the dog bowl. So of course, that was the day to install new exterior doors, dontcha think? It was a nice day for a cool breeze to refresh the house! It was 28 degrees when the installers arrived.

We ordered the new doors a couple months ago, thinking that they'd arrive in mid October, when the weather was reliably warm (even hot some times!). But Murphy's Law reigns, so today's the day.

And yes, it did actually snow in my kitchen! (But, I didn't get a picture.)

Here's the finished product:

Well, sort of finished. Now all I have to do is prime it, paint it and then paint the rest of the trim in the kitchen, and finally paint the kitchen walls! Sounds like it's time for Roxanne to come visit!!

It's been pretty funny to watch the dogs--they are trained to ring the bell that hangs from the doorknob when they want to go outside. The old door opened to the left. This one opens to the right. So when the dogs ring the bell, they go stand by the hinges. Then I open the door, and they just stand there, waiting for me to open the door on their side! I have to herd them to the center. Bunsen is getting better, but Hazel is a creature of habit and is rather stubborn about moving to the middle.

November 17, 2008

Jiggity Jig!

We're home again. It feels like we were gone for much more than one night...I guess because we packed so much in!

First we visited with Donna and her family. We had fun playing and playing and playing and talking and talking and talking! Hannah was thrilled to have two little girls with Down syndrome and an active seven year old boy (and all their toys) with whom to play. She was also happy with the cook(s)! You can't beat it when both Dinner and Breakfast chefs fix her favorite foods! Donna and I got some time to catch up (it's been about a year since I've seen her in person!). Of course, we didn't get any pictures of us together, only the girls. (rumor has it that Donna might start blogging again some time soon....)

After Donna's, we went to meet some new friends! My online friend Deb recently moved to Virginia Beach, and I was happy to have the chance to meet her and her family! Deb and her husband Tom have five children, with just two girls at home now. Meghann is nine years old, and Anya, who joined their family through adoption, is four. Anya has Down syndrome and is of Ukrainian heritage.

Hannah and I had a lovely luncheon with them all, and plenty of time for the girls to play and be silly!

Do you think they ate too much??

We scooted out the door in time to go see a show at the Scope in Norfolk. Hannah has had an ongoing crush on Handy Manny (from Playhouse Disney) for a couple years now. So I caved in and bought tickets to the live show. She was very excited!

Here she is doing the "Hot Dog" dance, like Goofy.

An appreciative audience member!

We're home and can't believe how quickly the weekend disappeared...(cue The Mamas and the Papas, "Monday, Monday, bahhh-bahh, bah ba-ba bahhh"). (don't blame me if you have that song stuck in your head) (well, I guess it is my fault, but it's stuck in my head now too, so I commiserate with you)

November 16, 2008

Proud to be his Mama!

Yep, I can claim bragging rights. (I think. I really don't know what this exactly means...)

Apparently this is a big deal.

Chris is the first Tauren to make it to the 80th level of WOW.

(If anyone wants to clarify this to me, I'd appreciate it. I'm guessing it isn't really something that he'd put on his resume or college application.)

Go Morendhil!

November 15, 2008

Gone visiting....

Hannah and I are taking a short trip this weekend. We're headed to Virginia Beach to visit some friends--both old and new! I am excited to see everyone. Pictures when we return!

November 12, 2008

Cretaceous Period

A few chuckles from today's school work. Hannah was reading about dinosaurs. She was trying to sound out the word "pteranodon". Good luck with that! She came up with "parent-odon", which cracked me up. Even after I helped her say it correctly, she still says, "parentodon". I have a feeling that it will end up being one of our favorite Hannah-isms, along with Teddy Rosabell.

She's been having trouble phrasing her sentences when she reads aloud, so I've been making her say "period" when she sees one so she'll stop and take a breath. So when she came to "They lived in the Cretaceous Period." she asked for help. She pointed to "Cretaceous" and I said the word. Then she pointed to "Period" and I said "period". She kept pointing to "Period" and I repeated the word, thinking she wasn't really paying attention. But, of course, she thought I was telling her to look at the "."

When she figured it out she laughed so hard! Me too!

November 11, 2008

More alike than different

Here's the link to the new campaign put out by the National Down Syndrome Congress. Take a couple minutes to watch the video. I just love that guy who is a teacher aide.

I think it's great! I always thought that people with Ds were more human than the rest of us. I mean, besides having more DNA, which would literally make them MORE human, people with Down syndrome seem to have an ability to live more fully than those of us lowly ones with only 46 chromosomes.

November 10, 2008

How cool is this? (unless you don't like critters...)

Chris the Nature Boy strikes again! Remember that Praying Mantis a while ago? Well, we left it in the garden and didn't see it again. But last week Hannah and I were clearing out the old plants to ready the soil for the winter. She was yanking out old marigolds and shaking the soil off the roots. The praying mantis fluttered out and sat in the grass.

So we caught it in a critter cage to keep for a day or two, so Chris could see it again. We're pretty sure it's the same one since it was practically on the same plant we put it on in October! But the weather turned cold over the weekend,and we didn't know where to set it free. So we fed it some meal worms. Over the weekend Chris did a little research on mantids, and decided to try to keep her a while. So he set up a terrarium, complete with crickets and meal worms. We were concerned because we didn't see her eat much (we knew she was a she because she has six segments to her abdomen). We misted water near her, and she drank the droplets off the glass walls. It's really cool to see her drink. Her little mandibles just pull the water to her mouth.

But this morning he came to get me to see this:

She was laying an egg case! No wonder she seemed so fat and juicy!

A case can hold 200-800 eggs!! Some mantises die after laying an egg case, but we don't know if this one will. She was so hungry and thirsty this afternoon. That's exactly how I felt after giving birth too! But she is so trim... that's not how it worked for me!

Here she is devouring a meal worm. Ahh...

As Hannah says, "Those are tasty!"

Orthopedics update

Guess what? Hannah has pronated feet. Gee, I think I learned that about nine years ago! This afternoon we saw our new Pediatric Orthopedist. He reviewed her x-rays of her hips, as there was some concern about subluxation. He said her hips looked great, and since she no longer has the hip pain she had over the summer, we don't have any symptoms that require further inquiry.

Hannah got her first pair of AFOs (ankle-foot orthotics) when she was about 18 months old. She would wear them on a half-time basis, so she had time to make her foot muscles work when she was free from the orthotics. They are sort of like light weight ski boots, keeping the foot immobile, but giving the support needed to keep arches in place. Last year, we tried some inserts instead, so Hannah could be more independent with shoes. These stay in her sneakers, so there isn't the extra work of strapping on the orthotics and then getting shoes on over the top of them. Hannah was independent, but I have seen her gait deteriorate a bit over the past year. She's outgrown the inserts anyhow.

So the new doctor wants her to try a different kind of insert, which some local guy can create in his shop. If those don't work, then we have a script for more AFOs.
At least she'll still be able to get her shoes on independently with the inserts which makes it more likely that she'll wear them. It's not easy getting orthotics on correctly, and then wedging them into sneakers is difficult even for moms and dads (though I think I have the edge over James...just because I get more practice).

November 9, 2008

Numicon Visitors!

Yesterday we had fun with some new friends from Northern Virginia. I met the mom, Angela, a few years ago when Wendy and I presented an oral motor workshop in Hampton, VA. At that time she had two little girls, four and two years old. Kathryn, the two year old, has Down syndrome. I had not seen Angela since then, until this summer when I went up to hear Sue Buckley in Fairfax (or somewhere close...I forget exactly where the seminar was!). She was there with her husband, and her newborn daughter, Christy. We caught up with one another that day, and have been periodically emailing back and forth. Since Angela and Paul were considering purchasing Numicon as a supplement to the public school's math curriculum, I suggested they come down to Richmond and look it over first.

We had a great day! The three big girls (Hannah, 10, Rachel, 7 and Kathryn, 5) all played outside for a good while. Meanwhile the grown-ups (plus adorable Christy) played with Numicon. When the girls came in, both Rachel and Kathryn couldn't wait to play with the materials. It was great to see them manipulate and figure out how they could use the tiles and rods. I meant to take some pictures, but we were having too much fun!

I really didn't try to sell them on Numicon (sometimes I think this blog is practically an advertisement!). Since it's so expensive, I didn't want them to spend all that money only to not be satisfied (especially since I'd sort of be to blame since I've been praising it on various Ds lists). I think Numicon sold itself.

It didn't take long for Angela to realize how different Numicon is from other math programs. Numicon focuses on helping a child build a concept image of number. This means that a child has an idea, in their "mind's eye" what, for example, is 5. Most of us, if we close our eyes, can conjure up an image of five. It might be an array such as we see on dice. It might be five fingers, it might be five objects that are groups of 2 and 3. Whatever it is, it's different for every person. You automatically know that four is one less than five, and you know that six is one more. For most people, the highest number of objects that they can easily recognize is four. Imagine if you were pouring out Aspirin tablets. If you glance down and see five tablets, you most likely have actually seen three tablets and two tablets. Your brain is so fast, it instantly can add up and tell yourself that there are five. Or, maybe the tablets are arranged so they look like a "5" on a die. You can recognize that combination too. Or, if you spilled out 7 tablets, your brain organizes them into groups of 4 and 3, or maybe 5 and 2, but you pretty much instantly know that it's "7" that are there. This is the kind of "ownership" of numbers that I want Hannah to have. I think it's really necessary to "know" numbers so well that they are recognizable by patterns (2 sets of 3 is six. Six is also one more than five. It's 4 and 2; it's one less than seven, etc). Sure, lots of arithmetic can be done by counting, and using number lines, but I want Hannah to have her own concept of each number. I want her to be able to imagine chopping off a set of "3" from "7" and know right away that it leaves "4". Yes, she can do arithmetic on paper, with a number line, or Touchmath points or an abacus. But she is just going through the motions; it's just "counting". When she has memorized math facts she hasn't been able to generalize that information to other settings (we had 4 napkins, but added 4 more, how many more napkins do we have now? If I don't use the exact wording that she's used to, she can't come up with the answer.) But she can now. It's coming, slowly, but she is really getting her own image of number.

Numicon is multi-sensory, which works really well for our children with special learning needs. It provides lots of visual input, as well as tactile learning. It's fun, and there are lots of game-like activities. It was interesting to see Kathryn's exploration with the materials. She has very clear speech for a five-year old with Down syndrome, and she was busy matching "turquoise" tiles and putting them in place on the base board. She had all the tiles out, spread over the table (that's about 80 tiles), but she could quickly determine the exact one she needed to fill a particular space. She played for a solid 40 minutes or more, exploring different ways the tiles fit together, and how to use them as puzzle pieces, dumping them out again and again. She was so busy learning and exploring, it was fun to watch her.

Rachel, a typical seven-year old, played happily with the Cuisenaire rods, making beautiful patterns in trays, arranging and sorting by length and color to make quilt-like arrays. Both girls were so engrossed in their work/play that the grownups had time to sift through the specifics of the specific kits/packages that Numicon offers.

I can only speak on my experience with Hannah; I don't know if Numicon is the arithmetic answer for all kids with Ds. But I think that anyone who is seriously looking for a supplement to potentially change their child's arithmetic experience should consider it.

And Hannah thinks that we should have more people come to look at Numicon, especially if they bring babies and playmates along! (Katie, aren't you jealous! We had a baby here!)

November 5, 2008

Ophthalmology today

We had a 4+ hour visit with Hannah's new ophthalmologist today. I like Dr. Carothers, and so did Hannah. He was very thorough, as was his assistant. The good news is that her cataracts are stable and have not grown! There were some concerns as to whether Hannah was showing some latent amblyopia, but he was able to rule it out, so that was good as well. She just has plain old low muscle tone in her eyes.

(click on the picture get get a better view of the questionable eye)

Hannah has latent nystagmus (shifty eyes! I bet you can't trust a kid with shifty eyes-they probably sneak Halloween candy into their rooms!), which is not a big problem. She does have some significant hyperopia; she's quite farsighted. Her new prescription will have bifocals. I am quite pleased because I have been thinking about bifocals for her for quite a while, and Dr. Carothers brought it up without my input. (See, sometimes I do keep my mouth shut in a doctor's office. Who'd believe that??)

We'll probably make the journey down to Newport News where I know they carry the new Specs4Us frames. It is very important for Hannah's frames to fit correctly, without any sliding down the nose, so she can have optimal use of the bifocals. Wendy just had Carley fitted with Specs4Us and loved the fit. Kids with Down syndrome tend to have flatter profiles than typical children, and the bridge of the nose is usually close to non-existent. Add in low-set, small ears, and it's difficult to make mainstream frames fit. It takes someone who really understands the nuances of the Ds bone structure to adjust frames to fit well.

I am hoping that the bifocals will help her be more comfortable with smaller fonts in chapter books. Right now she limits her pleasure reading to picture books (Level 3 or 4) because the fonts are larger. She does read easy chapter books (Flat Stanley, Magic Tree House, etc), but it is considerably more work for both her eyes and her reading skills, so we do that during school time when I can encourage her.

We had to scurry after the appointment because the dentist was awaiting at 2:00 today as well! This was a new-to-Hannah dentist. Our first try with the "recommended" dentist for Hannah left a sour taste in my mouth. So now, for the first time, she is going to our regular family dentist. She LOVES going to the dentist. I think they are going to offer her a paid position when she's old enough--she was such an ambassador in the waiting room! You'd think that her complimentary toothbrush was gold-plated--she treasures it so! "Oh! Thank you so much! I like this new toothbrush. Mom? Can I use it tonight? It's so nice!" (Or, maybe she thought a "complimentary" toothbrush meant she was supposed to use compliments???)

Her teeth are terrific. She has just four deciduous teeth left to lose, then she can get braces. "Just like my friend Amelia."

Tomorrow we are off on a field trip to hear the Richmond Symphony with the Girls' Group+brothers. Maybe I can pay Amelia to convince Hannah braces are fun?

Thank goodness it's over! I'm worn out!

I have kept my keyboard quiet about politics, for I am not a political person. But now, I have to say that I am proud of my family and my country. I know many of my friends have strong opinions that differ from mine. I respect their opinions and their motivations. I know they are just as upset, and possibly as fearful today as I was four and eight years ago.

When I was a baby (1964), my father, a young pastor, went to Mississippi to help register black voters. It was a time filled with danger and hope. I can imagine my mother, home with three little ones, 4,2, and New, worrying about her husband's safety, praying for his work to be successful. My father, the most compassionate person I know, certainly faced challenges during his work that summer. But those challenges were nothing compared to what black Americans had been through all their lives.

Clearly, Obama's election is the culmination of the work of generations of Americans. I am proud of the sacrifices my parents made, and the principles they instilled in their children.

This year, our family had two new presidential voters. As the kids grew, they did a good job listening to both parents (we are, generally, a house divided politically). They have formed their own opinions and have thought through their positions. We are proud of their careful considerations of the issues that are important to them, the country, and the earth.

I am proud of my husband, who thoughtfully and carefully chose the candidate he felt is best suited to tackle the enormous job of president. In this case, it meant not choosing a fellow alum from the Naval Academy, a military veteran, a conservative.

I am excited that children with disabilities will have more opportunities thanks to fully funding the IDEA. I am ecstatic that there will more healthcare insurance opportunities to families that desperately need them.

I am thrilled that the environment and energy will be getting attention!

I am proud of America, for all those who voted their convictions.

I am excited to do my part to help heal this country.

I am not an eloquent writer, but I have an online acquaintance who is. Nicole is a mother to four young girls, and she has strong faith and a strong sense of purpose. Over the past few months, I have been reading her posts about politics and each time come away feeling that she has put in words exactly how I think and feel. If you're curious, go visit her! Here's a link to her political posts, but don't forget to dig a little further so you can see her daughters--they are all beautiful children, but, of course, my heart lies with her daughter Tarenne, who has Down syndrome.

Hannah has been pseudo-following the campaigns (mostly from reading the newspaper headlines--ouch!). She decided early on that she was for Obama. She had her own little celebration in bed last night....

Today we all have political hang-overs of sorts...too much politics and not enough sleep!

November 3, 2008

Where is that yellow bus, and can I flag it down?

Today was one of those homeschooling days that really made me wish we were NOT homeschoolers. It started out okay, but things went downhill about 90 minutes into our schoolwork. You'd think that schooling just one kid would not be so difficult.

I was really wrestling with keeping my patience with Hannah's spelling and sentence writing. Does anyone else have this problem? She knows how to spell all the words in her sentences. But when she starts to write more than one word in a row, she completely forgets how to spell. It's like she isn't even trying. She almost tunes out. Then she gets oppositional (which she does when she is frustrated or a task is overwhelming to her), which does not go over well with me. We tried to move on to another task. But she made up her mind to be disobedient. Brain washing technique failed, along with my good humor.

Every school year there is one day, or maybe two that really makes me doubt my ability to be both teacher and parent. I haven't been in tears over school in a very long time, but today was the day.

I almost thought it was all me. I was counting out the days to see if I had PMS! No. As the day progressed, I learned that Hannah just decided to have a horrible day and share it with me at every opportunity.

She stole Halloween candy, ate it in her room while sneaking a videotape to watch when she was supposed to be cleaning her room (chocolate on carpet...) She killed nearly all the newly purchased crickets, which were intended to feed our temporary pet (praying mantis). She had been telling me how cute they were, and how big they could jump. When I went to put the crickets in the cage, there were just three that were still alive. She had squished the rest while she was telling me how cute they were. GROSS. I. Am. Not. Happy.

I don't know what got into her today. I hope it's gotten out of her now and won't return. I could use a sabbatical. Anyone want to be a substitute teacher for a year?