Dec 8, 2013: Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Brrr! It’s is c-c-c-cold outside!! We here in Northern California aren’t used to terribly cold temperatures. It gets colder than people think—we definitely don’t wander around in T-shirts and flip-flops all year round—but it doesn’t usually get bitterly cold. But this week is the exception! The lows are hovering around 25–28 degrees, and the highs are topping out at about 44–48 degrees. Which means when Sam and I walk Theo to school in the morning, it is freezing! Sam, much like his big brother, doesn’t care for hats. Predictably, he ripped the hat off his head as I attempted to walk the boys to school on Wednesday. (We park about a quarter-mile away and walk in. Traffic and parking are awful.) And then he screamed the whole way there, presumably because the bitter cold hurt his ears. So the next morning, I dug out a hat from when Theo was a baby that happens to Velcro under the chin. I strapped it on Sam Thursday morning, and he was not happy. He tried to rip it off, and when unsuccessful, he sat in the carrier on my chest and hung his head over the side like a floppy ragdoll, as if he couldn’t even hold his head up under the weight of the horrible hat. This was, of course, all drama. The hat isn’t heavy (it’s just a little fleece cap), and when people paid attention to him, he immediately picked up his head and beamed at them. But when it was just the three of us, he hung his head woefully. Drama queen! But at least he didn’t scream from the cold….

It was so cold that we ended up skipping Theo’s last soccer game. I just couldn’t see hovering out on the field in frigid temps when he didn’t even particularly care if he went. Instead, we decided to take Theo to a kids’ woodworking event at Home Depot. The mom of one of Theo’s classmates (his beloved Sabrina, in fact) told us that on the first Saturday of every month, Home Depot offers a free kids’ craft in the morning. This month, it was building a little Tic-Tac-Toe set. We’ve been thinking of signing Theo up for a short-term woodworking class anyway, so it seemed like a fun way to see whether he’d even be interested. And it was a lot of fun! Sam and Chris wandered around Home Depot while Theo and I did the craft together. We had a good time, and he was very proud of his creation. We’ll definitely go back to their craft time again!

After we finished up at Home Depot, we drove down to San Jose to visit with Grandma Kathy, Papa, and Grandma Norma. Theo had a good time painting Christmas sun-catchers with Grandma Kathy and playing “broken elevator” with her, while Sam had a good time crawling around and pushing a little toy car I had bought him. Sam loves cars—he loves to crawl around pushing them all over the place. It’s quite cute. 🙂

On Sunday we went to the Down Syndrome Connection’s annual holiday party, which was fun as always. Theo liked doing the crafts—he made a snowflake, a Christmas bag, a candy-cane magnet, and a decorated sugar cookie. Three guesses on which one was his favorite. 😉 We saw some friends there (Caj and his family, and another Sam, age 2 ½, and his family, who we’ve recently met), and we met some new friends, too. While waiting in line to talk to Santa, Theo struck up a friendship with a little boy named Antonio who’s the same age as him. It was neat to see because, like many kids with DS, Antonio doesn’t speak terribly clearly—I’m not sure Theo could even understand him. But it didn’t matter in the least to Theo—the two hit it off and were holding hands and hugging. And Theo wanted to go outside and run around with Antonio, but alas I had to say no, as it was freezing cold, not to mention right next to a parking lot, and Theo isn’t terribly street-wise when it comes to moving vehicles. (He’s just off in his own world and doesn’t tend to pay much attention. We’re working on it…) We also met a little girl named Hannah, who is the same age as Theo, too, and her little brother Joseph, who is 4. Theo had a good time sweeping things up in the cafeteria with them. Meanwhile, Sam, dressed as Santa Claus, charmed people. Tiredly. He missed his nap, so he wasn’t terribly bright-eyed, but he hung in there.

Speaking of the Down Syndrome Connection, Sam and I went to Baby Steps on Wednesday. I felt guilty about going because I really need to be cracking on that biography I’m writing (one chapter down, five to go!), but I went anyway…and I’m glad I did. Sam’s buddies Caj, Otto, Matthew, and Sam (the little guy from the holiday party I mentioned) were there, and it was so cute to watch the kiddos together. Always makes me smile… And, for those of you who donated to the Connection earlier this fall, for Sam’s Step Up for Down Syndrome walk, here’s an example of the good sorts of things your hard-earned money goes to. Not only do we have Baby Steps, which I really enjoy, but the Connection occasionally gives sort of scholarships for people who need something in particular but can’t afford it. The truth is, we could really use feeding therapy. And the Connection has a wonderful feeding therapist who works in their office several days a week. But we just can’t afford it out of pocket. At Baby Steps, the facilitator was talking to me about Sam, and how very limited his diet is and what a struggle feeding him can be, and she asked me why we hadn’t enlisted the help of a feeding therapist. I answered honestly that we just couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket costs. (It’s about $100/hour.) Much to my surprise, I got a call from the facilitator two days later, telling me she had set up for us to receive some feeding therapy—free of charge! I’m feeling very grateful—and hoping this will help Sam. We’re making progress, but it’s very, very slow. Some therapy could really help….

Speaking of therapy, though, Sam is continuing to rock speech therapy! He is also picking up new signs from his beloved Baby Signing Time DVDs. Now when I put him on the changing table to get him dressed, he signs “clothes” (and that’s a sign he has only seen on BST—neither the speech therapist nor I has taught him that). And one morning this week, I said, “I need to take your brother to school,” and Sam said and signed, “Car!” I was really impressed that he knows intuitively that going to school means getting in the car! My Mom actually watched him that morning (more on that in a moment), and she said several times during the morning, he said, “Mama car…” (which was actually slightly heartbreaking, as he was missing me—but still, what use of language!!).

So, in case you’re wondering how Grandma Diane watched Sam, given that she lives 60 miles away, she stayed with us for a couple of days early in the week. Chris was in Philadelphia at a class for work, and I invited her to come stay with me and the boys. It’s a nice chance for her to get to spend more than a couple of hours with the boys, and I love having another adult to talk to! (I love my kids, but conversation with a five-year-old—even one who speaks like an old man—and a largely nonverbal two-year-old is…well, limited. I love having an adult to talk to when the kids are in bed or otherwise occupied!)

Chris enjoyed his class and the chance to visit some of his relatives in Philly, and we had a good time with Grandma Diane. Sam displayed his stinker side to her, so she knows I’m not making up the fact that he can be an absolute poop to feed! And Theo always loves to have Grandma around, since the two of them talk and talk and talk. 🙂

The other thing we did this week was go to Candy Cane Lane at Theo’s school on Friday night. It’s a little potluck and a chance for families to socialize at the holidays, and the kids could build gingerbread houses. But the most fun part of it, to Theo, was the chance to Christmas shop! They held the event in the auditorium, and the curtain was closed on the stage. The kids could go behind the curtain with a few dollars and “shop” for gifts for their family. There was a wrapping station so they could have their purchases gift-wrapped to put under the tree. Theo loved it and insisted on going shopping twice! However, he was way too excited to wait for Christmas to give us his gifts, and he insisted we open them right when we got home. Chris got a pack of small yo-yos, I got a pack of pencils, and Sam got “a box to put his balls in.” Which sounds funny but is actually quite sweet—Sam loves to carry little balls around in his hands when he crawls, and he then puts them in any vessel he can find—a box, a can, a bowl, a shoe…anything that will hold a small ball. So Theo picked up a small gift box for Sam to put his balls in. 🙂

Last but not least, piano news! We are loving our new piano! Turns out Chris is pretty darn good at playing by ear, and he has quickly learned to pick out “Jingle Bells,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and two or three other short ditties. I have taught myself to play the first song in Theo’s learn-to-play book, and Theo plays several times a day, plunking around with various tunes he makes up. He keeps winding up one of the nutcrackers we have out for Christmas when he plays, and I didn’t think much of it. But then I walked in from the garage to hear what sounded like a very crudely played version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” And indeed it was! Turns out Theo has been trying to play along with that song on the nutcracker, and he has actually succeeded in plunking out something somewhat recognizable! I can’t wait for him to start lessons—I have a message out to the teenager he took lessons with before, but she hasn’t responded yet. Hoping she gets back to me soon, as I’m eager to get started with lessons myself, too! What fun! Our piano may be old and rather beaten-up, but it plays with a lovely tone, and we sure are enjoying it.

That’s about it for this week. Stay warm, folks!

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