Feb 22, 2015: Bursting with Pride!


Wondering why I’m bursting with pride? Well, that would be because Sam has now spent three weeks at his preschool, and he’s doing just terrific! I am so proud of that little stinker!

A little update for you: I can’t remember whether I mentioned it, but Sam’s preschool just opened at the beginning of January, so it’s far from full at this point. That said, they are currently combining everyone into the “older threes” class. They offered to have Sam in the “younger threes” class, with the understanding that at this point he’d be the only student in there, but I said no—I wanted to have him around the other kids, so we’d try the older threes. The director was happy to agree to that—from having met him and talked to me about his abilities, I think she felt he would do fine there, too. So that’s what we did…and it’s working out smashingly!

What I am most pleased about is how the preschool is treating him: like any other child. As they’ve seen more of his abilities, they’ve adjusted their expectations upward accordingly. At this point, they’re expecting the same things of him that they do all of the “older threes,” with very few exceptions except regarding diapers (he’s nowhere near potty-trained yet) and the stairs. He is much smaller than most three-year-olds, so he needs assistance on the tall stairs. However, he’s determined to do them on his own, and he is now refusing to let me help him on the stairs at home—he shakes his finger at me and says “No!” and refuses to take my hand. Mr. Independence! Here are two videos of his stair accomplishments this week:

But the director and teachers at his school have very quickly realized that Sam understands a lot and is happy to go with the flow and do what the other kids are doing. And there are just little things that please me—such as the other day, when a new little boy asked the director if Sam would play cars with him. “Why don’t you go ask Sam?” she suggested. And the little boy did…and Sam agreed and went to play cars with him. It makes me very happy that instead of answering for him (which would be easy to do, since his speech is limited), she makes a point of letting the kids know to address Sam directly and to work to understand his communication. Hooray!

Speaking of communication, he is trying very hard to talk. He’s repeating the last word of many sentences I say to him, and he’s saying a lot of new words every week on his own. Interestingly, he leaves off the beginning sound. I’m more used to kids leaving off the ending sound—so “dog” might be “dah.” But Sam tends to leave off the beginning sound. “Brush” is “ush,” chips are “ups,” and so on.

His receptive language continues to astound me, though. On Saturday we went to the Bay Area Discovery Museum, and Chris hung out with Theo while I took Sam to the toddler area. He got himself drenched playing with the pretend fish, so Chris was going to bring me a spare shirt from the car for him. Chris arrived right as Sam was heading into the building (the toddler area is indoor/outdoor), and I called to Sam, “You have to take your shoes off to go in there!” I grabbed the shirt from Chris and then followed Sam into the building—he was out of my sight for maybe ten seconds (but it’s an enclosed area, so I knew I wouldn’t lose him). When I walked in the door, I saw him sitting down in front of the wall of cubbies, taking off his shoes and socks and carefully putting them in a cubby. Then I slipped mine off, and he grabbed them and put them in. He played for a while inside and then headed back out, and I said, “You need your shoes!” He remembered right where they were, grabbed his shoes and socks, trotted back outside, sat down, and tried to put them on. I was amazed! If his preschool or Early Intervention had been a “no shoes” place, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But neither one is—the kids wear shoes all the time except for when they’re going to take their nap. So I can only assume that he actually understood my instructions and followed them. Way to go, Sam!!

Speaking of the toddler area, here’s a short video of Sam being a crazy man and running around on a “waterbed” pond. He is cracking me up lately—he loves to run in circles and spin! I’ll include another video of him spinning in the bathroom, though I will warn Grandma Diane ahead of time that since spinning makes her sick to her stomach, that might not be her favorite video clip ever. 😉 It’s cute, though—he’s blissfully happy in his spinning, and unlike his big brother, he actually does get dizzy! (Crazy how different their sensory systems are.)

Speaking of the Bay Area Discovery Museum, I had an epiphany there: My older son is not a team player. Here’s how I came to this conclusion…. You know we’re doing Odyssey of the Mind, as I’ve talked about it many times. I thought it would be right up Theo’s alley, since he loves to tinker with things and come up with new ideas on his own. Um, no. It’s been a bit of a failure. Not that he dislikes it; he just doesn’t participate at all. The other kids are all working on the project, and he just decides to go sit and read the newspaper. (No, I’m not kidding! He’s like an old man….) It takes a somewhat Herculean effort on my part to actually have him work with the other kids, who are a nice, fun bunch.

But then we get to the Discovery Museum, and it so happens that they’re having a “Makers Workshop” where the kids can build a bridge. It’s pretty much exactly Odyssey of the Mind in that they just had a bunch of old crap (cardboard, pipe cleaners, PVC pipe, masking tape, etc.), and the kids were supposed to use whatever they wanted to build a bridge over “water.” Theo went in, and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the big bridge that the kids were all working on…but he spent an hour constructing his own small bridge, which he claimed was inspired by Tower Bridge in London. An hour. If you know my kid and his attention span, you know this is pretty darn impressive!

And so it hit me: He’s just not a team player. He loves to create and build, but he wants to do it by himself. I’m not really surprised, since he was always the “lone wolf” when we’d take him to Little Gym or later to soccer. But I suppose I thought he might eventually enjoy working with his peers. But no…it seems not. Not that this is a problem in any way—he likes kids and he likes playing with them. But when it comes to projects, he’s just a solo artist at heart.

This also isn’t surprising given his heritage: I hated group projects in school, and I don’t think Chris is so much a “team” person. I mean, we both do fine—we work with other people and we get along with other people. But look at our career choice: editor. A very solitary job by nature—and not one with much teamwork required. I see where Theo comes by it. 😉

Speaking of editing, I’m ramping down my editing business (sob!!) because of the tax crud (which I believe I covered last week), but before I found out that I was going to need to sell a kidney to pay the IRS, I had agreed to meet with an author who wanted an editor. And so I honored that agreement and met with him…and I’m going to work on his book. I met with him Tuesday, and he was a delight! He’s a retired math teacher who has written a book of strategies to help parents and teachers help first- and second-graders understand Common Core math using intuitive strategies. He showed me some, and I was impressed—they actually made sense, and I am really struggling with the new first-grade math curriculum. (Seriously, it’s going to drive me to drink. Good grief!) So I figure by working on his book, maybe I’ll be able to help Theo pass first-grade math after all. 😉

For the record, Theo isn’t struggling with math any more than any other subject. He struggles only because he lacks the attention and focus to finish his work. But when he focuses and manages to finish, he does fine. It’s me and Chris who are looking at this “new” math and going, “What in heaven’s name are they asking for here?!”

As a side note, as I was talking to this author over coffee, I kept thinking that he and my Uncle David, who also loves math and numbers, would have a grand time talking! Too bad my uncle lives 3,000 miles away….

In other work news, I’ve been diving into my medical outreach work for Down Syndrome Connection, and I’m loving it! I had to present to the Board of Directors this past week—they just wanted an idea of what we’re doing with medical outreach. It was fun—they’re a great group of people, so it wasn’t nerve-wracking or anything. But the one thing that does make me slightly nervous is the importance they’re putting on the medical outreach program. They’re elated to finally have it underway, because they feel it’s the most crucial component of what DSC does…because without the outreach, families don’t even know we exist, and we can be of no help to them. And I understand that…but wow. Given that the Medical Outreach Alliance consists of me and only me, I felt slightly overwhelmed! Not by the amount of work (though there is certainly much to be done!), but just by the importance of it. You know…I feel like I need to handle this right, because it really is important. And it feels good to be doing Important Work…but a bit scary, too. 🙂

However, so far I’m getting great responses. I visited three hospitals this week, and I feel like I made really good connections with the social work departments. So that makes me a wee bit less nervous!

This coming week, I’m doing a presentation for a local Catholic middle school’s Abilities Awareness night. I’m to present to about 60 students (rotating in four groups) and their parents about what Down syndrome is and how to be helpful to classmates that may have DS or another intellectual disability. I’m excited…but a wee bit nervous, too. Middle school…scary!

We wrapped up our weekend with a trip to the park with Auntie Jeanette and Justin, with a little bit of pizza beforehand! The weather has been gorgeous around here (sorry, East Coast peeps!), so we wanted to take advantage of it. The kids had a great time playing at the park, and Justin got to give Sam his long-delayed birthday present. We tried to get together earlier in the month, but first Auntie Jeanette and her family were sick, and then we had a slight bit of sickness pass through our house. But we were finally all well enough to meet!

Speaking of illness…I’ve been meaning to share my approach to health this year. You may recall that last year was horrible for us and illness. Theo stayed reasonably healthy, as did Chris, but Sam and I were sick all winter long. It was just one thing after another: I started out the season with influenza (the sickest I’ve been in 20+ years—horrible!), then got virus after virus after virus, then finally caught the stomach bug (thanks, Sam!), and finally ended the season with hand, foot and mouth disease (another absolutely delightful illness that I can thank a child for sharing!). As for Sam, he was just sick with virus after virus…and of course, hand, foot and mouth disease. Joy.

So this year I was desperate: We were not going to go through another year like last year. I was going to pull out all the “crunchy” stops and try to be proactive about our health. So I bought some immunity-support essential oils, as well as some supplements for Sam. And lo and behold, our household has been much healthier this year. When Sam and I have gotten sick, it has passed relatively quickly and easily, rather than hanging on for weeks. Theo has been quite healthy, as has Chris. I don’t know whether it’s just luck or whether we developed a ton of immunities last year or whether it was my “crunchy” approach to health, but something seems to have worked.

So here’s what I did, in case you’re interested: Invested in immune-support essential oils (OnGuard from doTerra and Thieves from Young Living) and diffused those every morning while the boys ate breakfast and most evenings while they ate dinner. Also created a very diluted roll-on for Sam: a 15:1 ratio of apricot oil (as a carrier) to OnGuard—I combined it in a roll-on bottle and have rolled it on the soles of his feet every morning. (I’m not sure it’s necessary to dilute it that much, but I figured better safe than sorry. He’s tiny, and essential oils can be very potent. For me, I dilute it much less.)

I also started giving Sam a teaspoon of elderberry syrup once a day. I have a lot of friends who swear by it—they say their kids’ respiratory illnesses tend to be much shorter in duration when they use it consistently. I have given it to Theo, too, but less consistently. Sam requires thyroid medicine twice a day already, so it’s easy to remember to give him the elderberry. Theo doesn’t take any daily medicine, so it’s easier to forget now and then with him.

In addition, I started Sam on the vitamins and supplements recommended by his naturopath based on his bloodwork and health history: a special multivitamin powder (VitaSpectrum) once a day, and then also liquid vitamin E, powdered buffered vitamin C, folinic acid (not folic—folinic, which is slightly different), and fish oil once a day. Oxidative stress is a big issue for people with Down syndrome, and it’s thought to possibly contribute to their early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The vitamins and supplements she put together are meant to lessen the oxidative stress in his body and hopefully lead to better long-term health for him.

So it’s quite a regimen, and we actually have a cheat sheet up in the kitchen to remember what he gets when. But it’s a pretty easy process, and as I said, his health has been much more robust this year. I don’t know whether any of this plays a role in that, but it probably doesn’t hurt!

The one thing we have never been able to get him to take is an iron supplement, and he (like me!) runs very low on iron. Oh well…at least he’s willing to take the other stuff.

In case you have any interest in my other “crunchy” activities that have nothing to do with cold/flu season and everything to do with me being (1) frugal and (2) a nerd who enjoys these things, I’ve also been making our laundry soap (the powdered version) for quite a while, and I’ve recently started making our dishwasher detergent. I also make all of our foaming hand soap. And on the yummy end of things, I make my own yogurt every week. Yogurt-snob Sam and I agree that the yogurt is much tastier than store-bought, plus it doesn’t make me sick. Store-bought yogurt makes me sick to my stomach. I think it’s because they tend to put gelatins and thickeners in it, and I don’t tolerate stuff like that very well. My yogurt has just whole milk and starter yogurt culture in it, and it seems very friendly to my stomach. I’ve been eating it two meals a day for probably a year now. And yes, I should have some variety in my diet, but it’s cheap, tasty, and doesn’t make me sick, so those are all very big plusses!

I linked to all of these “crunchy” homemade things in the above paragraph, in case you’re inspired to try them. I find them easy to make and very cheap—once you have the necessary ingredients, you can get a lot of batches out of them. The one thing I haven’t yet successfully made is dish soap. The dishwasher detergent works well, but the actual dish soap, that you’d use for hand dishes, has somewhat stumped me. I’ve made one, but I just didn’t like it very much. It didn’t bubble up much, and made the dishwater look gray and dingy before I even put any dishes in it! If you know a good dish soap recipe, please share in the comments!

Before I go for the week, a couple more cute Sam videos. For some reason, I took a lot of video clips this week! The first one is of him riding his push car at the park. He goes crazy fast on it (little daredevil!), but in the video he’s going up a fairly steep hill, so he’s not going fast. Still cute, though! The second video is of him dancing in the car. He’s very particular about music, but when a song that he likes comes on, he has this habit of kicking both of his legs up and down at the same time. It looks rather exhausting to me, but he’s been doing it since he was a wee baby, so I guess it doesn’t tire him!

And last but not least, if you missed it in the middle of the week, I had a post about being a Rockin’ Mom for two years now.

Okay enough for now. Happy end of February, everyone!

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