Winter of My Life

Winter of My Life

     This has been another tough post to write, which is why I put off writing it.  We lost a second beloved family dog on November 17th, this time to cancer.  Sascha, our Australian shepherd, was diagnosed at the beginning of November.  By the time she began showing symptoms the cancer had already spread throughout her body.  The oncologist told me that chemo and radiation might prolong her life for a couple of weeks or months, but it would not cause her cancer to go into remission.  Because she had been so loyal to me, I wanted to be loyal to her and not put her through that.

    Instead, our vet prescribed medicines to help ease Sascha’s suffering.  She died at home, with me sitting next to her and stroking her fur.  I miss her so much and hope that she has reunited with Daisy 🙂 

     Tomorrow I give the first of two presentations that I have to give in order to graduate: tomorrow’s presentation is on Managing Multiple Generations in the Workplace, and Mondays’ presentation is convincing a small ballet company to implement a volunteer orientation and create a volunteer handbook. I am actually looking forward to both.  Weird, I know, but I love public speaking.  Especially when I know what I am talking about! If all goes well, I will end my academic career with a 3.9 GPA and a master’s degree in Administration…wish me luck!

     Getting back to Little A…she is doing so well in therapy according to her therapists! She says words in their company that she never says in ours, and she is making great strides in her gross and fine motor skills. Her Dad and I are so very proud of her, and are hopeful that she’ll become more verbal at home. I do as her speech therapist suggests and attempt to make her use words for what she wants…but she is apparently more stubborn than we are, because we give in long before she even attempts to speak. God give us patience and strength to deal with this willful child~

     At school, Little A’s teacher says that she is very social and loves to sing and dance. Sing? Our daughter? We’ve never heard her sing.  Scream, yes.  Sing? No. But I hope to, maybe during the Christmas holiday:-)

     Some of you reading this might not know this, but it is recommended that children with Down Syndrome see a geneticist. Little A has seen one every year since her birth, except for this year.  She was supposed to see her on December 10th, but I cancelled the appointment.  I don’t mind taking her when she has other appointments in Fort Worth, but I didn’t want to drive the hour and ten minutes there for no other reason than for a geneticist and student researcher to take measurements of my child, play with her to evaluate her motor skills, and talk about how she compares to her DS peers.  Honestly, I don’t really care.  

     I have been thinking a lot about her being in a classroom with only other special needs kids as classmates, and I’m thinking that I don’t want that for her next year.  There are a couple of schools that I have been researching–one in Frisco and one in Dallas–that are inclusive.  The Ashford Rise School of Dallas is located inside the Moody Family YMCA in Dallas and is approximately 40 minutes away from where we live.  The school is for children with Down Syndrome, with 30% of the student body composed of “typical” kids.  It is quite pricey at $1200 a month (and you pay for all 12 months, even though children don’t attend in June or July), and children of every age are required to attend full-time (Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 3pm). Pediatrics Plus, located in Frisco and where she currently receives OT and PT, offers a few options (full time, part-time, and half-time) with multiple price ranges. It is also less than fifteen minutes away, but has only been open since August and currently only has 35 students in the entire school. 

     For those of you have your children in something other than public school, how did you make that choice? How did you decide on which program to choose? I want Little A to be in the very best place for her, with teachers that will work with her and nurture her and not simply do the barest minimum to meet the special education standards of the public school system.  If you are a special education teacher and are reading this right now, please comment your thoughts below.  What should I be thinking of when considering schools for Little A? What questions should I ask? Thank you in advance for your insight, and as always thank you all for reading this post and following along on my Down syndrome journey~

 

 

 

Mistress of My Domain- Part 2

Mistress of My Domain- Part 2

     October is my favorite month, and not just because it’s my birthday month.  I love Fall~ which brings cooler weather, apple cider, and sweaters.   I love the crisp air, and the changing of the leaves (not that we get that here in Texas, but in Michigan where I’m from it is a sight to behold).  What I do NOT love is the commercialism of the holiday season.  Do I enjoy shopping? Absolutely.  But I don’t enjoy the excessive marketing and advertising on television, online, on the radio, and in my favorite magazines.  

Little A is doing very well at school.  Her teacher and therapists all praise her efforts and the fact that she is repeating so many more words than she was six weeks ago.  This week she begins twice-weekly private therapy sessions of occupational therapy and physical therapy (because, honestly, how much is she really progressing working on PT for 15 minutes once a week?!) I’m optimistic for her, and hoping to squeeze in as much therapy as possible before January gets here.

I’ve ordered what I am hoping are some fun items to spark her creativity here at home: play-doh in various colors; washable finger paints; paint books that only require water and a paint brush; and some construction paper, glitter glue, and shape-cutting scissors.  Let the fun begin! If I do by some miracle manage to actually make any crafts with her, I will be sure to post photos here 🙂

Little A’s school is having their Fall Carnival on the 25th.  I’m excited to take her, I think she’ll have fun, but her daddy is dreading it.  Screaming kids and their parents are his worst nightmare; the older he gets, the more he resembles a Grumpy Old Man. Which he isn’t, at all.  He just really doesn’t enjoy being in large crowds with screaming kids who don’t belong to him. Which, you know, don’t we all avoid that if possible???

This week I am working on my third paper for MSA 698; I also begin my very last class at Central Michigan University.  I didn’t need the class for my degree, but I did need it in order to receive financial aid.  I’m actually looking forward to the class.  It’s called Gender and Generational Supervision, and the professor is the same one I had for my very first class of my MSA degree.  He is an excellent professor, very interesting, and actually expects each of us to attend our online class every week through WebEx.  He is only one of three professors during my entire program that has had this requirement–and it has helped me tremendously in the past. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.

My mother gave up her pretty little trailer to a family in need and moved back into my childhood home with my sister and her husband and children.  They’ve turned the old living room into a bedroom for her, and my mom is now saving the money she used to spend on rent and utilities for a train ticket down to Texas to see Little A.  This is exciting because, while Little A has seen her Mema on video chat, she’s never seen her in person. 

    My sister and niece will be accompanying her, and they have never seen Little A in person either.  And I haven’t seen any of them in four years, since before Little A was born.  Now I’ve got to find fun things for us to do while they are here 🙂  Maybe by that time Little A will be talking and able to say Mema and Aunt Erry. We’ll see.

Thank you for checking in with our family, and following our story.  More to follow~

 

Mistress of My Domain-Part 1

Mistress of My Domain-Part 1

     I meant to write this blog post back in July, before our family vacation to New Mexico; then I thought I’d write it a couple of days after we arrived in New Mexico; the week we came back home after our vacation turned out to be busier than I anticipated, so no blog post that week, either. So now here I am, typing what should have been written months ago…the milestones that Little A has reached, that she has worked so hard for.

It has been six weeks since we’ve used Little A’s g-tube.  She has eaten enough food and has drunk enough liquids (V8 juice and water) that we no longer need it!!! We never thought the day would come when she would no longer need her g-tube (it has certainly taken three long years!), but her GI doctor has agreed to remove it in April–provided she is gaining weight and continues to drink a minimum of 20 ounces of liquid each day until then.  We. Are. Ecstatic. Never give up hope, because just about the time that you do…miracles do happen 🙂

And speaking of miracles~~~~Little A has graduated from feeding therapy to speech therapy! Which also means she will be switching therapists.  Her new therapist is well-versed in the use of technology to assist children with their speech, and is working with our insurance to obtain an ipad and software to help Little A learn to talk. I am excited for her–she’ll finally have a way to communicate:-) 😉 Maybe now she won’t scream and hit and scratch out of frustration…

A is also scheduled for evaluations at a new place called Pediatrics Plus in
Frisco, Texas, for occupational therapy and physical therapy.  I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be a good thing for her.  She’s been in school for two weeks, and she’s only received physical therapy twice (OT and ST not at all).  I’m frustrated because her IEP says that she will receive OT and PT twice a week and ST once a week.  If this in not happening, I need to speak with her PPCD liaison.  Not really in a big hurry to do that, as it’s only September and I need her on my side!

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I was unprepared for how much public school costs.  It’s not “free”. Between supplies (a list of which I was given at the start of school), PTO membership, our contribution to her class party, paying for her participation in the schools’ Fun Run, and buying her a t-shirt for Spirit Week, we’ve spent $300.  And it’s only the first month!!!! Nobody warned me about this.  It certainly wasn’t like this when I was in elementary school. 

Today I spent an hour switching my Amazon Smile account to benefit Little A’s elementary school; I downloaded the Shoparoo app and selected her school as the recipient; I downloaded the Box Tops for Education Bonus app and selected her school as the recipient; I switched my Kroger Community Rewards recipient to her school; and I donated an extra $20 do her class party because there are only four other kids in her class.  I feel like maybe I need to open a savings account for her school expenses.  And volunteer to chair the Fundraising Committee to raise more money for the school so that parents won’t go broke trying to give their kids a public school education. 

In other news: I am twelve weeks away from graduating with a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University (FIRE UP CHIPS!).  I cannot believe that I am almost finished.  It’s been a long three years. Now I’m worried that I won’t find a job after graduation and will not be able to pay back my student loans.  The only debt I have is my student loans.  Anyone else in the same situation? I need to double my efforts to recruit customers for my skin care business~ the products we offer are truly wonderful! My skin has never looked so good, and it’s only been seven months.  If you’re curious about these products and would like more information, visit my business page

Thanks for catching up with us, and I vow to write another post soon 😉 

 

 

Summer!!!

Summer!!!

     Little A attended school for four weeks~the first two weeks were rough (she cried every time I left her, and cried on and off the entire three hours she was there) but her last two weeks went VERY well and her teachers were very positive about her growth.  We are attempting potty training, but only because they started it at school and I am trying to continue it here at home.  I am failing, as she carries her potty into her bedroom and sits on it in front of the mirror (cute, but telling), but may give it up until after this house sells and we move into a new one.

     Little A had her six month appointment with her GI doctor and the GI dietician two weeks ago.  She is doing so well eating that they agreed to stop tube feeds for six weeks.  As long as she doesn’t lose weight, we may be able to continue past the six week mark.  We were told that she has to feed 100% percent orally for a minimum of one year before they will consider removing her g-tube.  How exciting!!! At this time next year she could be tube-free!!! She had an ear infection last week and is just now getting her full appetite back.  Still working with a feeding therapist on drinking thin liquids, but she’s almost there.  So proud of how far Little A has come this past year 🙂

My stress fracture and torn ligaments are healing nicely, so I’ve started taking Little A back to The Little Gym this week.  She seems happy to be back there, and actually participated and allowed herself to be used for demonstrations of a front roll and wheel barrows.  I was pleasantly surprised and excessively proud of her, and happy that my little girl is getting stronger and more independent.

     I do not think of myself of an activist, but I have been advocating for the DS community more this year than in the past.  This week, at the urging of a friend and mother of a daughter with Down syndrome,  I wrote emails to my congressman via the legislative lead for the TIME Act in Congressman Sessions’ office,  encouraging him to sign the Transition to Integrated Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act. 

    This Act is important because it would phase out special wage certificates over a six- year period that allow employers to pay individuals with disabilities sub-minimum wages, sometimes as low as thirty cents per hour.  It will also help pave the way for equality in the workplace for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities, many of whom work in settings that fail to prepare them for integrated employment in the mainstream economy.  If you live in Texas, please consider supporting this effort by sending an email of your own to: meghan.schmidtlein@mail.house.gov

In other news, our home renovation project is almost complete, and a photographer is coming next week to take photos for our sale listing.  I will post the renovation photos in my next blog post, but leave you with these photos from the past two weeks.  Thank you for following my Down syndrome journey~~~

Spring in the City

Spring in the City

(Written on April 5th~ please forgive my procrastination in posting) 

 I love springtime! I always have.  Spring brings the Easter bunny…and Little A’s birthday:-) Addison turned three on March 31st, and had great fun doing it.  Our house is still under renovation, but we spent two days putting our kitchen back in order so that we could use it and the living room (where all of our kitchen stuff had been hiding in boxes) for Little A’s party.  

 This year’s cake–a strawberry drip cake with lemon filling–was not a big hit with the birthday girl.  She took a swipe of frosting and a wee bite of cake, and wanted down to play.  Thankfully the adults weren’t so picky and everyone had a slice.  Some of us even had a cake truffle (or three!).  Little A received lots of presents, but her favorites were a Princess Poppy doll and a Princess fort. She LOVES the movie Trolls,  Princess Poppy in particular. We’ve watched that movie COUNTLESS times.

Little A’s eating habits continue to amaze~ she is eating almonds and pecans! Her feeding therapist says if she is eating these without issue than there isn’t anything she can’t eat:-) Yesterday Little A ate a 1/2 cup of broccoli cheddar soup and 1 cup of Annie’s organic mac-n-cheese with one hotdog cut up into tiny pieces! Then, at dinner, she ate several carrot and cucumber rounds dipped in homemade ranch dressing.  The kid is hungry!!!

Her dad and I made the decision to stop her medicines a couple of weeks ago; we had been weaning her off of them, and had weaned her down from 3 times a day to once a day on her Bethanechol.  Our house in under construction right now, and the painters were working upstairs; they had removed everything off of our bathroom counters and our closets and dumped them into the man cave; it was three days before I realized that Little A hadn’t had her Bethanechol or her Periactin…and she was fine!!! No vomiting, no unusual fussiness. So, we chose NOT to give it to her.  

I contacted her GI doctor to let him know what we had decided, and his nurse called back and was not very happy (she advised me she would be documenting that we chose to discontinue meds without doctor consult.)  I told her I planned to discuss with the doctor at Little A’s next visit in May, but that as long as she continued to do well we would not be continuing the medication.  It’s now been 14 days since she had these medications, and she’s doing so very well.  Best decision we’ve made in my opinion.

I have been worried about Little A’s development lately, so I ordered seven books from Amazon related to parenting children with Down syndrome.  I am halfway through Down Syndrome Parenting 101: Must-Have Advice for Making Your Life Easier by Natalie Hale.  I am SO GLAD to have found this book!!!  It is an excellent resource of Hale’s experiences not only as a mother of a son with DS, but as a reading teacher of children and adults with DS.  Throughout her book she lists recommendations for websites, books, learning applications for ipads and iphones, and so much more. I’ve already carted several of the books she recommends to help children with DS learn to read, and yesterday I downloaded two of her recommended apps to my iphone. 

Because A is mostly nonverbal, we are not entirely sure how much of what we say is understood by her.  I am hoping these will be a good starting place to encourage her learning…and maybe encourage her communication skills beyond growls and pats on he leg or arm for our attention.

The school’s diagnostician has changed the date and time of Little A’s evaluation three times now, and it is currently scheduled for April 10th at 12:30pm.  If you are the praying kind, kindly pray for all of us that day.  We’ll need it:-) 

If there’s a particular book that was helpful to you in your Down syndrome journey, or a game or learning application that your child with DS loves, please share it in the comments.  I’m always looking for ways for help and encourage Little A’s learning and development and I enjoy learning from fellow DS parents.  Thank you for following our journey~~~~~

Winds of Change Are Blowing

Winds of Change Are Blowing

IMG_1754.JPGIMG_1638.JPGIMG_1667.JPGIMG_1755.JPGSo much change! For those of you who don’t know me well, I don’t handle change gracefully.  And lots of change all at once? I’m a total stress-pot.  And I’m stressing now.  Between school, my part-time work conducting home studies, the home renovation, all of Little A’s appointments, and staying on top of my new business I feel like I am being pulled in too many directions.  Knowing that everyone feels like this sometimes does nothing to ease my feelings of guilt and concern about whether I am making the best choices for my family and my daughter.

Our home renovation is well under way~ the granite guys are here today, removing our old countertops and installing new ones in the kitchen.  Other guys are staining the built-in bookcases in the living room, and painting the cabinets above and below the wet bar.  It’s a flurry of activity, and it’s making me crazy. All of our stuff from the kitchen and pantry is now in boxes cluttering our living room, laundry room,  and The Stone Room…it’s chaotic and messy and is bringing out a little OCD in me that I never knew existed.  I long for quiet and tidiness, to have everything back in its rightful place thereby restoring tranquility throughout our home.

I have also been reminding myself that we are lucky to have a home…the neighbors directly behind us (we share a fence) do not.  Two weeks ago they had a fire that originated in the garage…three hours later their house was engulfed in smoke and no longer inhabitable.  The people in our neighborhood banded together and began coordinating a relief effort for the family: donations of clothing, food, gift cards and money began pouring in.  I’ve always liked this neighborhood, but after seeing how our neighbors joined together to help a family in need,  I love it.

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I called the GI dietician at Children’s Plano that works with Little A a couple of weeks ago.  I told her how much Addi has been eating, in addition to her feeds, and she agreed to drop from four daily feeds through the g-tube to two feeds.  For the past two weeks, Little A has only been getting 335 mLs of formula through her g-tube instead of 650 mLs.  She’s been consistently taking in anywhere from 550 to 700 calories by mouth, and between 210 mLs and 300mLs of liquid (her favorite is V-8 juice).  Her feeding therapist says that Little A seems to be weaning herself off of the g-tube, which is fantastic!

Speaking of Little A: she has been anti-participatory (is that a phrase?!) during Little Gym the past couple of times we’ve attended.  Not sure if it is because she hadn’t been there in two weeks, or because she just isn’t interested in learning new skills.  She prefers to spin in circles in time to the music and scoot away from my attempts to encourage her participation.  I am torn between letting her do her own thing and forcing her to try new stuff. She’s only three years old (in 17 days), and I have to remind myself that she learns differently from other kids and that she’ll do things when she’s ready to do them.  Not comparing her to other “typical” kids is something I struggle with, and it shames me to admit it.

I met with a family yesterday who has restored my belief that people are generally good and want to do the right thing.  The parents have two children of their own, and have been caring for two children belonging to another family member for the past three years.  They are hoping to house the other four siblings of the two children currently placed with them, which is the reason I was in their home.

This family is renovating their 1700 square foot home to accommodate the addition of more kids: they enlarged the existing bathroom, added two closets, knocked out a wall between the living room and kitchen to add better sight lines, put in a kitchen pantry to make more counter space, and are adding a second bathroom… All because they want to keep six siblings together.  I worried that they would struggle with eight kids (I would!), but in talking with the neighbors I realized that this family truly has a Village helping them.  I think they’ll be fine 🙂

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I almost forgot the biggest change of all! I joined a fabulous team of women–go Team Believe!–as a consultant with Rodan+Fields!!! I started using the skincare products nine weeks ago and began noticing visible changes in my skin within seven weeks. I can’t sell a product I don’t believe in, and these products are wonderful.  My crows feet? Almost invisible.  The dark spots from sun damage? Fading away.  My skin is soft, smooth, and looks AMAZING! I’ve only worn makeup twice in eight weeks.

I launched my business on February 22nd, and my mom was my first client:-) This is HUGE because my mom hasn’t used anything besides Bare Minerals skincare and makeup since the 1990’s, and also because I was an independent sales representative for Silpada jewelry for six years and she never bought a single thing from me! I hope she will love the R+F products as much as I do.  (If you are interested in learning more about Rodan + Fields products or business opportunity, leave me a comment below.)

Stay tuned for updates on the home renovation, Addison’s school evaluation, and Rodan+Fields products~~~~

 

My Little Beast

My Little Beast

I met with the diagnostician, the Occupational Therapist and Speech Therapist of Prosper ISD last week.  They requested that I not bring Little A to this meeting, so I did not.  They asked me questions about Little A, about her strengths and weaknesses, and if I was aware of any requirements she would have for school.  I could think of none on the spot, and was told that it was okay if I couldn’t, they would address that during the evaluation process.  Our meeting lasted 45 minutes, and they advised that it would be late March or early April before they could schedule the evaluation. I left with more questions than I arrived with, and jotted a few down in my notebook so that I will remember to ask at the evaluation.

Little A had her eye exam at the Retina Research Clinic in Dallas last week, and after five minutes of holding up squares of paper with different shapes in different locations told us that Little A’s eyesight is on the lower end of normal for her age and diagnosis.  What they could not tell us, because A refused to cooperate, is whether she has astigmatism.  For now, no glasses.  She sees her eye doctor again in August, and we’re hoping she’ll be more willing to cooperate at that appointment.

While I am nervous for A to start school, I am proud of her for moving up to Beasts at The Little Gym:-)  She has been having so much fun there, and is participating more and more each time we go.  The tough part now is getting her to the gym earlier; Little A sleeps late, usually between 9am and 10am…and all of the time slots for the Beasts classes are between 9:30am and 10:15am.  She was awake early enough on Tuesday to go to Little Gym, but this morning when I tried to wake her she would. Not. Wake. Up.  I rubbed her back, I smoothed her hair back (she hates both of these and will usually sit up when I start doing either), and all she did was roll over.  I attempted to pick her up and she cried, so I let her be.  It is now 11:30am and my little beast is still asleep.  What are some ways you wake up your little ones? Leave your ideas in the comments below~ this mama needs all the help she can get!

Chris and his sister have decided to renovate this house before putting it on the market.  Chris works for a mortgage company and is looking into applying for a renovation loan through his company; the interior designer that Angela (his sister) found recommended $35,000 worth of renovations before selling. Ugh.  I have only lived through one renovation, and it was awful.  We have a lot to pack up and move out of here before any work starts, and that’s only if Chris can secure a loan. Those of you with small children, did you stay in your house during renovation or did you stay somewhere else? A becomes agitated at loud noises, and I’m thinking it might be better to stay somewhere else during the reno.

Little A is becoming more independent, and more resistant to help from mom and dad.  She wants to do things herself, which I love, but still will not use words to communicate.  She points to things she wants, or will lay down (after making sure we are watching) and look to where the item that she wants is hiding…she will NOT, however, speak.  Or even try to speak.  Everything that I’ve read says that this is normal and not to worry, but how can I not? I want her to talk to me! I want her to be able to tell me when she’s tired or hungry.  I want her to repeat words after me.  My stubborn little miss, though, simply refuses to do so.  Maybe school will help with this? I don’t know, but I am hopeful.

I have doubled my efforts to obtain employment, and I am still hopeful that I will find work that allows me to mostly be home with A. I want to take her to and from school, and I am leery of leaving her with a stranger.  I know lots of people do so out of necessity, I just don’t want to be one of them.  I want to be the mom that attends school parties and field trips, and watches sport practices and has lunch with A at school.  She deserves that, and so do I.  Now to find a way to make it happen…stay tuned~~~~