Monday, September 28, 2009

We've Got Twins!

Ray and I both agree: Calvin has caught up with Charlie. We are now raising developmental twins!

Oh yes, one may be 3 inches taller, ten pounds heavier, and just overall a more husky boy, but in almost every sense they are at the same level in development.

Large Motor

We think Calvin is actually ahead of Charlie in this area. Calvin can go down steps unassisted, Charlie still crawls down or needs a hand. They both run and attempt to do the cutest little jumps. They roll, they tackle, they dance, they fling themselves about. Their newest trick, which they both picked up recently (and both feel rather proud of) is their ability to walk backwards. Calvin is maybe a little bit slower when running, and perhaps a bit more tipsy than Charlie just yet.

Fine Motor

Calvin is unmistakably ahead. Fine motor skills are a big challenge for Charlie. Calvin's movements are altogether more refined and his hands much stronger. In fact, Calvin is already eating with fork and spoon--his aim for his mouth is a bit off, though. Charlie does great with fork and spoon and eats very neatly, but has a lot of trouble getting food onto said utensils.

Receptive Language
Of course it is a bit hard to tell just how much the kids understand, but it is a heck of a lot! They are both able to understand instructions, and follow through. Calvin is a little better at understanding instructions that are not familiar. Charlie needs the instructions to be very concrete, preferable a task he has carried out before, but not always.

Expressive Language

Both boys are talking a lot. Both have well over 100 signs (ASL), and tons of words. Charlie is repeating many sentences that we say, and strings up to two words together. Calvin is also beginning to put two words together, most notably "more (food) please" and "big truck!" Charlie's latest word combo is "chocolate chip," which totally makes sense if you know our family. I'm only surprised "chocolate" wasn't his first word. haha.

Emotionally
I think the emotions part is maybe where Charlie has Calvin beat. Calvin is still in that in-between stage of baby and boy. He needs his mommy a lot (aw, I love it), he still nurses, and generally just lacks the little boy independence that Charlie has moved in to.

Self-Control
The boys are neck in neck when it comes to impulse control: THEY HAVE NONE! Okay. That is not entirely true. They do pretty well, and being the sons of parents in ministry, they are well trained to behave reasonable well through long, boring meetings. (As was I, kids. As was I.) They are a joy (and a workout) to take to restaurants. Really, they are a lot like puppies: Happily they will play, or quietly they will sit and "read", until some item (that looks like it may have an internal combustion engine) catches their attention, then all bets are off! It is all very normal (or so am told about boys.)

So there you have it. Our amazingly wonderful developmental twins.

You know, we knew this day would come, and fully expected it to be, well, kind of sad. Funny thing is, I'm not sad at all. I am excited for a couple reasons. One, with Calvin growing and developing so rapidly it is easy to see a day on the horizon when my job will get a little easier. He will gain independence, we will communicate better, I will train him to fold the laundry... (Okay, he's off the hook for laundry. At least for a little while.)

And two, I am excited to see how having a sibling who is developmentally ahead will help Charlie. Soon his brother will be modeling behavior that we want Charlie to do. Soon Calvin will be speaking in sentences, which will no doubt inspire Charlie to try his hand at it. Charlie has always been encouraged developmentally by typical children.

I am often asked if the boys get along. It is a complicated question for me to answer. At first the images that fill my mind are of pre-bedtime wrestling matches, Charlie laying on top of Calvin, Calvin screaming for help, and tug-of-wars over a toy they both want but refuse to share. So, there are times they clearly are at odds with each other. But really, our boys value their companionship deeply. They are so excited to be reunited after time apart. Calvin talks about his "Brubber" often while Charlie is away at school. They do play very sweetly and cooperatively with each other at times, even offering their toys for a "turn." If one is hurt, the other will extend a comforting pat and an, "Okay?"

These guys have no idea they are in a fairly unique sibling relationship. Calvin scooting by Charlie, both loving who the other is, just how they are. These brothers, this sibling relationship... It's a good thing. And right now, it's a twin thing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Word

Calvin's latest little saying is, "Yee Haw!" No idea where he picked it up, but way cute!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Communication or Charades

During our family dinner last night Charlie initiated a little exchange with Ray. It was a conglomeration of half sign language and half spoken words. He was pointing, smiling, and seemed very pleased with his idea, if only mom and dad would catch on.

"Milk? You want more milk?" Ray asked and moved his cup closer.

"No," Charlie said.

The gestures and words continued. Charlie was pointing to the milk carton, which we keep on the table at dinner. (We add just tablespoons of milk at a time to his cup, which usually gets knocked over on accident, or dumped on his shirt if he miss-aims for his mouth, a couple times during the meal.)

By then we had figured out that he was saying milk. "Ilk, ilk, ilk!" he would say, and then he would point his hand down toward the table, elbow up in the air.

"You want more milk in your glass?"

Charlie nodded his head emphatically. Ray and I just looked at each other and shrugged. I almost felt as if I should add a point to a charades score card for Ray.

Communicating in this household feels a lot like charades. Both Charlie and Calvin are at about the same level when it comes to verbal communication--Charlie being behind developmentally, and Calvin a little ahead of schedule. Both boys use sign language extensively, and I estimate each of them know and use well over 100 signs. Add to that mommy and daddy who tend to use sign language a lot to communicate what we don't want the boys to hear, or trying to politely communicate to each other during quiet meetings if one of the boys needs attending to.

Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I played charades with out slipping in to using sign language!

For the boys communication is a little bit of gesture and signs, a little bit of verbal communication, a lot of guesses. Sounds like... First word, first syllable... And finally, "Ohhhhhh, you want to play outside," or "Oh! You want help putting the back-pack on!" Understanding feels like an accomplishment.

I think Charlie's greatest improvement in communication over the last few months is his willingness to stick to it until mom and dad get it. He is really quite patient with us. After all, to him it is obvious what he is trying to say!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Black Eye

Calvin slipped off the dining room chair at our friends house the other evening and caught his eye on the side of the table. Result: Big ole black eye!

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You know what's funny. If you know Calvin very well you would think to yourself, "Well, of course Calvin has a black eye!" He is such a little adventurer.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First Day of (Regular) PreSchool

(Okay, so this post is a little late. It should have been posted on August 28th, but what can I say, we've been busy! Two schools, two boys, lots of colds and coughs since school started. Whew!)

Charlie attends 2 preschool programs. One is a special education preschool class he attends Mon, Wed, Fri. (I would say a self-contained class, but that is not completely accurate. More like a self-contained special education school with students from age 3 to 21 years old.) The second preschool is a non-special ed preschool that is affiliated with the toddler center he has attended since he was 17 months old. You know, just your typical old preschool.

This year, to his delight, Calvin gets to attend the younger toddler class. Mommy is delighted as well because she no longer has to take him to work (which was getting just a wee bit HECTIC! LOL). Here are our boys on their first day of school.

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We are so pleased that Charlie has the opportunity to attend this awesome school. It gives him a chance to just be a regular kid, and indeed to learn how to be a regular kid with regular kid behavior to model. He does very well in the the class even without any extra supports. He follows along with all the activities and is dearly loved by the children. You would be amazed at how the kids and Charlie communicate so well, despite him not having near the language skills as they.

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Ray and I both strongly believe there is value in children with special needs being a part of their 'natural' community (you know, the community in which they live and interact, disabilities or not). We adore Charlie's special education school and all that he gains from attending there. Unfortunately his special school is far away from our home and completely segregated. There is no opportunity for the kids there to have exposure to non-disabled peers or to develop friendships with children who do not have disabilities. (In Charlie's particular class the only people modeling language and appropriate behavior are the teacher and aids.)

Now, I realize that not all children with disabilities and differences would gain what Charlie does from being around non-disabled children. Every child is so different. But for Charlie, we are so blessed to have this regular preschool option. This amazing preschool that has gone out of their way for our son to keep him there because they want him there. Because they value who he is and believe that he belongs.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Normal

Ray and I were viewing a DVD on parenting tonight, and the Pastor in reference to talking about the way people come to view the world said, "We all pick up a normal somewhere along the way, don't we."

A Normal.

Normal is something parents of children with differences think about a lot. In Charlie's story I mention that at some point in our journey we found a "new normal". I may talk about a lot of things--therapy, doctors appointments and tests, IEP's, IFSP's, IPP's, services--that many families would consider a crazy amount of extra. To us, this is just normal. Actually, with Charlie being our first child, we have literally never known any different. This is simply a part of the fabric of our day.

I think there are a lot of things that we as families and individuals see as out of the ordinary, so we decline from getting involved. It is weird if it is not our normal. Parents of children with differences are in many ways thrust in to this world. So, we grieve, we research, we learn, we reorient ourselves, and we move on.

This is the thing. I am a person of comfort. I hesitate to venture too far from what feels safe to me. I would not dare to think that I would be interested in raising a child with Down Syndrome had it not been given to me, and now... Now I wonder how other families get by without this enduring blessing.

There are a few hopes I have for this humble little blog. I humbly hope that I will be diligent enough to write a few things down about my kids, to record my thoughts and feelings about them, to share their milestones and the funny things they do. I hope that this blog will bring awareness to people about what life is like for families who experience disability or differences. I hope parents will begin to to dream the dream that they can "handle this" in their lives. That this journey, for all of us, starts out as anything but normal. That is okay. If anything, I hope this little blog helps a parent or two come to understand that they will pick up a different "normal", and before they know it, that old way will all seem so surreal and far away.
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