Monday, April 29, 2013


So we have a t-baller in the house!

Looks like his Uncle Russ in the shot, sly smirk and everything!

Decided to sign Calvin up with the Boys and Girls club for a fun community sport this year.  He is having a blast.  A very special something for him to do.

Here he is stopping a ground ball.  He's the one who obviously dove on top of it, sneakers in the air.

Now, this is my first t-ball experience, and let me tell you something I found out about t-ball:  It is a cheeks-hurt-from-smiling, go-home-feeling-great kind of event.  See?...

T-ball is non-competitive.  Every child bats each time.  The fielders are loosely positioned.  The goal is for each child to have a great time hitting, running the bases, and stopping and throwing the ball. 

In his new glasses!  A post for another day.  :)
There is only one hard, fast rule: Don't throw the bat.  Other than that it is kids whacking the ball and then standing there stunned before they remember to run... somewhere... over here?...  this way?...  Oh!  First base!  It is outfielders dog piling a ground ball like candy out of a pinata.  It is chasing frogs through the grass in left field.  And it is practicing ballet on second base.  It is perfect.

Calvin says his favorite part of the game is batting...

He also loves to run the bases.  He was so cute, standing on the base, spacing out between hits.  Suddenly the next player would hit, and Calvin would snap back to reality, running his legs in place before he took off down the base line.  Road Runner Style!  Meep meep!

Now, Calvin is on the smaller side for his team.  He's certainly not the most coordinated or in-tune with sports.  (And as we discovered, not the most practiced in standing "in-line"--he's all, what's a line?  Why do I stand in it?).  But he is thrilled with his ability.  He is happy to have a special thing to do.  He is drinking this t-ball thing up.  And I love that about him.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Baby's boat a silver moon

Sailing in the sky.

Sailing over sea of sleep

While the clouds float by.

Sail, baby, sail

Far across the sea.

Only don't forget to sail

Back again to me.

Baby's fishing for a dream,

Fishing near and far.

His line a silver moonbeam,

His bait a silver star.

Sail, baby, sail

Far across the sea.

Only don't forget to sail

Back again to me. 

(An American Traditional Lullaby)

Monday, April 8, 2013

From Around the House: A twist on Calvinisms

Verbal.  It's a term you hear in the special needs scene.  Is he verbal?  Non-verbal?  What is his main form of communication?  Charlie's first mode of communication was Americam Sign Language.  What a blessing it was to have come along in the Down Syndrome parenting journey at a time when teaching sign language to babies and children, hard of hearing or not, was something people were doing.  As with many children with Down Syndrome, Charlie's receptive language developed much earlier than his expressive language.  When he started using sign language to communicate with us at 15 months of age it was not only a relief to be able to understand his needs, desires, and preferences, it was a gift to be able to begin to see there was a capable little boy in there.  A boy who was learning despite his challenges.  A boy who could connect with me with language. 

In our house we have a range of "verbal" going on.  There is Calvin at the fore.  Oh yes.  I would say he is quite verbal, wouldn't you?  He started talking as a young toddler, and never stopped.  Sometimes he wanders into our room at 6:30 in the morning and just starts asking questions.  Verbal is his thing.  Verbal is how he learns.  Verbal is how he creates his world of pretend play.  Verbal is how he connects with the people around him.  It is all verbal.  So very much verbal.

Charlie and Miles are neck-and-neck in second place.  They are about equal when it comes to intelligibility of speech, and by that I mean how clearly they articulate so others can understand.  Their sentences are about the same level of complexity, but Charlie has an edge as to proper use of language and, of course, content (the wisdom that comes with age).  We have a saying in our house that goes like this:  "And that's okay!"  We don't feel sorry for Charlie that his two year old brother is closing in fast in verbal ability.  Charlie learns more slowly, and that's okay!  He is learning.  Is progressing.  Is a capable, creative, receptive person who, more and more, has something to sayWhat is fun as these two sons of mine become increasingly verbal is the chance to hear what's on their minds. 

Anyway, all of this is to say the "Calvinisms" are increasingly accompanied by those of Charlie and Miles.  And, where verbal still fails, there is still always action.  So, "Calvinisms" posts are being converted to "From Around the House" posts--a mix of various "isms", snapshots, and photos from regular old family life.  A (hopefully) regular feature for our sweet family blog.  Ta-Da!  (Applause!)

So, here you go!

We were going out to the car to take Calvin to school the other day and the mailman was heading up the driveway at the same time.  Just then, Miles had the following revelation:

Miles:  Mailman hair not white.
Me: Nope.
Miles:  Mailman hair black.
Me:  Yep.
Miles:  Daddy hair is black.
Me:  (wait for it....)
Miles:  Oh!  Daddy is mailman!

Makes TOTAL sense!  ;)

Calvin calls our ground beef by his first name: "Mucho". As in, "Oh! Are we having Mucho for dinner tonight? He's some pretty tasty beef!" (Last year it was "One Eyed Willie".)  Super blessed to have an abundance of ground beef from Auntie Kassi's Humboldt ranch. It's Beef with a Name!
Charlie has begun to form lists in his conversations lately.  Here a couple:
On our way to pick Charlie up from school, the HSU mens running squad went sprinting through the intersection we were at.  This caused quite a stir from some really impressed little boys in the back seat, and Charlie says, "Wow!  I love running!  I love running like dinosaurs, kitty cats, and snails!" 
Charlie wanted to give a gift to his friend who was in the hospital.  When we were making a card for her he told me, "I want to give her rainbows, dinosaurs, crabs, and pirates!"

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mr. Charlie

This is just an update of sorts on the name-sake of our little blog here.

Our Charlie.

So, he's seven now.  In Kindergarten.  Growing up so much, learning new things, trying new things.  We are very proud of Charlie.

A new phase we have going on is independent dressing, over and over and over again every day.  Here he is wearing his swim trunks over some other shorts and a shirt of Calvin's.  He can also put his shoes and sock on all by himself.
I realize I have not shared much about our school experience this year.  He attended preschool (mostly) at a segregated school site dedicated to children with special needs age preschool through 23.  It is a fabulous school, but we decided to have him go to his "neighborhood" school starting in Kindergarten for a mainstream experience.  His new school was a big jump from the preschool environment, and a big adjustment.  In the beginning he did not have an aid, but it was soon apparent he needed an aid for his hours spent in the regular ed class.

Despite a start that needed some tweaking, I have to say, we are so glad we made this decision.  Charlie is flourishing.  He spends the first 2 1/2 hours of the day in a "special day class", which is a class with just students with special learning needs.  His best friend B, who also has Down Syndrome, is also in his class.  Actually, all three Kindergartners in the special day class have Down Syndrome.  They all sit next to each other in the front row of the class in tiny little desks complete with stacked and duck taped phone books for foot rests.  (How cute is that!)  In his special day class Charlie works on academics suited specially for his level.  He loves his teacher (and so do we!), and he has the special opportunity to have friends who are truly on his same "wave length", so to speak.

Here he is feeling clever about escaping his turn for a Flowbee haircut.
At the first recess his 1:1 aid arrives, he leaves special day, and goes to Kindergarten for the rest of the day.  From the beginning the mainstream experience has been the most challenging.  Having an aid has made all the difference for him when it comes to being able to access the curriculum and what is going on with the rest of the class.  But despite its challenges, the experience has been wonderful.  An amazing investment in so many ways.

The children love him.  Having meaningful interactions with other children has been an area that Charlie is growing in.  I know he lacks confidence with a bit of a language barrier (he is very difficult to understand), and just the fast pace at which other children play can be intimidating.  But more and more he is playing with the other children, interacting with them, enjoying them.  And they... they just care for him.  Different or not, he is one of them.

Hiding again!  This time underneath the kitchen sink in the box we use for paper recycling.  I could hear muffled giggling, so first check the washer, dryer, and fridge--all places he's hidden from us before.  He keeps us on our toes!
His language has absolutely exploded!  He of course still does speech therapy as a part of his IEP, and clarity of speech is still a big issue, but his vocabulary and content of conversation is vast.  One of the newer things is he has started asking questions when he is curious about something, or just objects to something, "But why, mom?!"  He is using descriptive language to talk about his day, or to explain something he wants to do.  One thing I love hearing out of him is just how positive he can be.  I suppose with seven years of people cheering his every accomplishment it is no wonder he is so positive in his interactions.  "Great job, Miles!  You did it!"  We hear this out of him all the time in different scenarios.  (Okay, so he is not all happy, happy, joy, joy.  Oh No!  But hey, I can emphasize the positive.)

He is learning.  The Kindergarten curriculum is, quite honestly, way beyond his level.  BUT, even in Kindergarten class Charlie is working on many concepts along side his peers.  He recently mastered A-B patterns.  He is counting to 15, and counting up to five objects.  He is learning his letters, and can spell his best friends name (still working on his).  He is especially excited about Kindergarten science, which is all very physical and concrete.  He has explained to us the orbit of the earth around the sun, and more recently the life cycle of frogs.

Avoiding the camera in a way only a a kid with Down Syndrome can do!
He is nurtured.  I mentioned speech therapy, but Charlie also has a great Occupational Therapist at school who has helped him learn to grasp a pencil correctly, cut with scissors, button and snap, and the proper way to write letters.  He is enjoying music, art, p.e., gardening, field trips, and a host of other special activities that are offered at our little neighborhood school.

He is wanted.  How could you not want him?  We loved Charlie's old school, but it was a long bus ride from our home, so Ray and I were unable to "be a part" of his education easily.  This was our first reason for seeking an education at a neighborhood school.  Our second reason was that we agree with research that finds interaction with "typical" kids opens the door for a host of experiences and skills for many children with special needs.  At our school the mainstream experience is a routine and expected part of a day for a Kindergarten student with special needs.  His school has been enthusiastic about making sure Charlie has the support he needs for a successful experience (instead of letting an unsuccessful experience be impetus for not mainstreaming).  His special day class teacher is a-mazing.  And his Kindergarten teacher equally so.  The older students in the special day class love him, his Kindergarten peers all high five or hug him as we wave goodbye at the end of the day.  I just get the feeling that the whole school is proud and glad to have him aboard.

The "twins".  At age seven, Charlie is now in size 5T.  So is Calvin.  Charlie is about 1/2 taller... maybe.
Whew!  What a fun report.

Charlie is doing so well in so many ways.  He is challenging  (think 50lbs yet physically semi-dependent, uncensored raw-emotions, impulsive, forgetful, and very capable, yet not so clued in to safety or cause and effect) but the challenges are dwarfed by the Joy (think the Best Snuggles Ever, kisses for no reason, a willing "helper" who has such pure intentions, a magical imagination, and the brightest, giggliest eyes you ever did see.).  Every single day is a joy.  Lucky, lucky us.  I really need to do a series of updates to tell it all.  We'll see if that happens.  For now, I leave you with a little Charlie-ism from today:

We were driving through town to pick up Calvin from preschool when the entire Humboldt State University running team descended upon the intersection on their training run.  There must of have thirty guys all running pretty fast.  Such a sight caused quite a stir in the back seats.  Charlie was especially excited and yelled:
"Oh!  I love running!  Just like dinosaurs, kitty cats, and snails!!!"
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