Dec 19, 2015: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! I can’t believe how quickly it has come up. Lucky for me, I finished all my work on Thursday, so now I’m officially off work until January 4th. Wheeeee!!! (Chris, alas, is not so lucky. Turns out he won’t be able to take extra time off after all. But he still gets the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, so that’s something.)

Theo really wanted me to come to his class Christmas party on Friday, so that’s why I pushed to get all my work done before then. And it was a lot of fun, so I’m glad I went. I ended up running the “Make a Snowman Out of Mini Donuts” station, which as you can imagine was quite popular with the sugared-up kids! I got to meet several of Theo’s friends, and it was fun to get to spend a few hours in the classroom. I just love Theo’s teacher—she is hilarious. I can see why he responds so well to her. She’s very matter-of-fact and funny with the kids.

We also went to Theo’s school on Thursday night, for the second-grade holiday concert. The kids had spent weeks practicing for the concert, and it was really cute. Sam loved it—the cafeteria was packed with wall-to-wall people, so I just wore Sam on my back in the carrier (which I’d had him in to walk to the school already), and he was dancing and trying to sing along while on my back! Theo was very proud of the performance—he had been talking about it for weeks and really enjoyed participating, although he looks a tad shell-shocked in the picture.

I got the biggest laugh while watching him onstage. Because he’s very short compared to the other second-graders, he was in the first row. (Bonus of having the short kid: He’s usually in the front row at such things and easily visible!!) And he was sitting in a folding chair with his hands on his knees and doing the exact hand movement Chris did on our second date! Seriously, it was eerie—like watching a mini Chris up there! On our second date, Chris and I went to see a movie. And I desperately wanted him to hold my hand, so I was very careful to leave my hands on my legs, where he could easily reach over and take one, rather than folding them in my lap (which might be a little awkward to take on a second date). And he placed his hands palm-down on his knees as well…and then spent the entire movie slowing patting his palms on his knees. Up and down, up and down…pat, pat, pat. And he never took my hand! (A few dates later, at another movie, I finally got him to hold my hand by not-so-subtly announcing, “You could share the armrest with me if you want.”) And so here I am, ten years later, with one of our kids strapped to my back in a crowded cafeteria…watching our older son up on stage doing the exact same thing with his hands! It was eerie and hilarious all at once—like a funny déjà vu!

Anyway, it turned out that the school principal was standing right next to us, and she knows us because Theo had his IEP meeting a few months ago (which she attended). I’m not sure whether she would’ve recognized us in the dim cafeteria, but I did speak to her because she was getting a kick out of watching Sam dance in the carrier. As it turned out, Sam was pretty much the only younger sibling in that quadrant of the room who didn’t start fussing and throwing a fit partway through, and I thought, “Oooh, hopefully the principal is as charmed by him as she appears to be, since it’ll be just a couple of years before we’ll be sitting down and I’ll be saying, ‘He’ll do great with the other kids! He needs to be in a mainstream class.’”

Speaking of which, I noticed something at this concert that I noticed at the first-grade nursery-rhyme pageant, too: There were no visibly disabled or special-needs kids onstage. Not one. And I know our campus has a special ed class, because I happen to know there’s another child with Down syndrome who’s in it! So the school definitely has kids with special needs in it, but they’re nowhere to be seen when it comes to performances like this.

Hmmm. That doesn’t thrill me. I mentioned this to a few people, who said, “Well, maybe the kids with special needs have their own performance.” Which may be true, but that’s precisely the problem—if they do, then they’re being segregated from the mainstream kids! In a truly inclusive environment, any and all second graders would be included in this performance…because they would all be in mainstream classes. But even if they’re not all in mainstream classes, they should at least be mainstreamed for some events and functions—and this type of concert would be exactly the type of thing where you’d combine all of the classes, not just the typical ones.

See the distinction that’s bugging me? Full inclusion would have all of the kids in the mainstream classes. Partial inclusion would have some kids in special ed, but they would be integrated with the mainstream kids for certain portions of the day and for certain activities and events. But not including them at all is 100 percent segregation, which bothers me.  I suppose it’s a moot point for Sam, since unless things change, I will be pushing for him to be included in the mainstream classes. But I think it’s sad for the other kids—there’s just no reason for separation in something like this.

I should say that I could be wrong: It could be that the kids with disabilities just happened to blend in very well in the crowd of second-graders. But I’m a bit suspicious, since this is the second such event where I have purposely looked for kids with some sort of apparent disability and found none. Our school district isn’t exactly known for its inclusive attitude, so I can’t say I’m overly optimistic about it.

But aside from my feelings about the lack of kids with special needs, it was a really cute concert, and we very much enjoyed it. The songs were fun and put us in the holiday spirit, and Theo had a good time, as did Sam.

And now, on to cheerier topics! Theo also had a little piano concert at a retirement home today. He and about eight or nine other kids played piano for the residents at the retirement home. They were just supposed to play “dessert,” where they make up two songs and play them. Theo’s songs both had to do with pickles, which isn’t surprising given his very detailed Pickle Kingdom that he has created in his mind! It was a cute performance; here’s a video of Theo playing (sorry it’s so quiet):

I also attended the employee holiday party for Down Syndrome Connection, which was a lot of fun! Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring Chris with me, as we had no one to watch the boys. Now that Sam is almost four, I finally feel comfortable hiring a babysitter other than a family member, and I had gotten the names of several good local babysitters from friends and other moms at Theo’s school. But every single one was busy, so eventually we just gave up on the idea of having a date, and I went alone. It was still fun, though, and I got a nice dinner out of it! And Grandma Kathy and Papa have agreed to watch the boys overnight around my birthday so Chris and I can have an overnight date–wheeee! Now I just have to keep everyone healthy between now and then.

And on Saturday, we went down to San Jose and celebrated Christmas with Chris’s family, which was fun. Theo loves playing with his cousin Nik, so he enjoyed that. And Sam was very excited to get a new Big Wheel type of bike/trike. He can’t quite reach the pedals, but he likes pushing it along with his feet. He was also very excited to get an I Love Bacon calendar–HA! That kid loves his bacon!!

Before I sign off, here are two more short videos for you. One is Sam riding his new Big Wheel, and the other is one that his speech therapist sent me, of him saying a two-syllable word (“happy”). This is momentous! Up until now, he has almost always said one-syllable words only: Thomas is shortened to “Mas,” Christmas is shortened to “Mas” (which he says reverentially whenever we see Christmas lights!), bacon is “Bait,” and so on.

Oh, oh, and before I forget, one other momentous bit: Sam went potty (both ways!) ON THE POTTY!!!! So far it has only happened once, but we are very excited!! We rewarded him with an episode of Thomas, and then when I put him to bed later that night, I told him again how proud I was of him going on the potty, and he held up one chubby finger and said, “One…Mas!” in a desperate bid for one more Thomas episode as a reward. Nice try!!!

If you missed it, be sure to check out this post on a big reveal to Theo.

Anyway, I hope you all have wonderful holidays! I know we will have two very excited boys. They’re not getting a ton of presents from us this year; they’re each getting one “big” present instead (with a couple of little things to open from Santa, just so there’s more than two presents under the tree!). We decided to get each boy an iPad Mini. Which sounds ridiculously extravagant, but there’s a method to our madness. We have a very old first-generation iPad, but it has two big problems with it: (1) You can no longer update the software, and so the vast majority of new apps don’t work on it. (2) It’s so old that it doesn’t have the Guided Accessibility feature, which lets you “lock” the screen on a particular app so that your three-year-old can’t keep exiting out of the app.

Theo has computer class at school every week, and they do some math games that he really likes. He asked to play them at home, but the old laptop we have will no longer connect to the Internet, so we couldn’t do it on there. And the iPad can no longer be updated, so it won’t run the games either. And he really can use some help in basic math facts, so I’d love to have him be able to do it at home. (He can’t use our desktop computers because they have way too much work stuff on them, and we don’t want it accidentally trashed.)

Meanwhile, Sam is really working a lot on speech, and there are a ton of speech-therapy apps for kids. And, because kids with Down syndrome are often very visual learners, there’s a fair bit of research showing that they learn very well from some of the visual apps on something like an iPad. But Sam is young enough that he still tends to just exit out of any app, so we needed the Guided Accessibility feature to keep him locked into whatever particular app we want him to use. (Plus, since our iPad is so old, chances are his apps wouldn’t run on it.) I’ve been watching some of his same-age pals with Down syndrome on Facebook, and I’ve noticed a lot of them working on speech with the help of apps. So I really wanted to be able to try that for him.

And so, when Black Friday rolled around and Target offered an $80 gift card with each iPad Mini purchased, we decided to get one for each boy. I bought Theo’s and used the $80 gift card to put toward Sam’s….and then used the $80 gift card from Sam’s to buy groceries while I was there! Worked out pretty well, and surprisingly, the store wasn’t even crowded. In fact, it was less crowded than on a typical day. That might be because I waited until noon on Friday to go, though. I wasn’t about to go out on Thanksgiving Day, and I also wasn’t going to wake up at the crack of dawn and fight the crowds on Friday. I figured I’d go when it was convenient, and if they still had them in stock, great. If they didn’t, so be it. Lucky for me, they still had a few in stock.

So anyway, I’m sure both boys will be very excited with them, and hopefully they’ll also serve their purpose in helping Theo with his math facts and Sam with his speech.

Merry Christmas to all!

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