Friday, October 31, 2014

School Days, Happy Times

Last day of my favorite month.  That's ok though because now we move into the long wonderful stretch of holidays.  Here's to hoping I stay motivated to share some of that here from time to time.  Today Grammy came to visit Reagan in school for her Halloween party.

Counting Five Pumpkins and coloring
 
Showing off some mad cutting skills

It was lots of cuteness and fun, some of which I was able to capture on film.
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Fun games that target those pesky gross motor skills.

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 Everywhere Reagan went today from classrooms at school to trick or treating she was, of course, charming and popular.


Walking on "yeyow peet"

Trick or Treat at the 5th Grade classroom

Miss Denise and Reagan were twins, but lets face it, we know who wins the cute contest here

Playground time

We wrapped up the day...and the month with a little neighborhood fun...and watching The Great Pumpkin sitting on straw bales.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Compassion

I'm going to shift focus kinda sorta for a minute here.  Today Cadence was honored at her school as student of the month for the first grade class.  I have to say yet again...I love this school!  When the teachers select their student of the month it is not based on scholastic achievement.  Rather, they choose based on demonstrated character...Christlike Behavior...is what is says on the certificate.  And the teacher goes up and says why they choose the student they choose.  So for first grade Mrs. Ferre stood up and talked about a student who was new to school this year, but who she got to know last year from her sister.
A student who when she considered the Fruits of the Spirit, one in particular came to mind.  Compassion.  She said that this young lady exemplified compassion in and out of the classroom.  With her classmates and her siblings.  She always shows her depth of care for their feelings and problems.  And you know what....her teacher nailed it!  If I had to pick one word to define Cadence it would be compassionate...or empathetic which is really the same thing.  She has a depth of care for those around you that you seldom see in a not yet six year old.  And here's where I'll get a little back on topic.  This is Cadence's nature.  But it is helped along by Reagan.  And encouraged in others by Reagan.  This is one of the gifts of being around those with special needs.  They make us better people.  And they don't even try!  But back to Cadence.
 I am so happy that her most basic nature and her greatest gift was publicly recognized today, because too often compassionate people get taken advantage of rather than being recognized.  And it was so nice for her to hear from someone other than Mommy that she is a true Child of God following his example.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Power of The People


There is a big problem that exists for families with special needs children and the church.  A real, heartbreaking problem.  The one place that should be a safe haven, a place of rest, a soft place to land....that place has become one more difficult place to be.  And often one too many.  This is so very wrong.  How is it that the church has failed here?  I really don't understand it myself.  I know it is true.  I understand what I have heard from so many families.  There is no place for them, it is too hard to make it work.  Church becomes just one more challenge in a week already full of challenges.  Instead of being a place of refreshment and rest it is yet one more place to try and put on a good face.  To be rejected because your child doesn't fit in with the rest.  I will freely admit that this has not been our experience.  We have been blessed to be a part of two (although I admit that the first probably no longer fits this mold) churches that have been a wonderful model of Ecclessia.  When it comes to church and special needs sometimes a church is too big and our kids can fall through the cracks of programs that won't mold to them.  And sometimes a church is too small and doesn't have the resources for a "special needs program".  And I sit here as a former member of the large and a current member of the small (and I mean small!)  and I say...this is not ok and no excuse.  If the church is letting down special needs families than it is not the church!  Let me show you!
This is just a fraction of the hugs Reagan gets on any given Sunday.
Ecclessia means The Church and is translated as called out ones.  This is what we should be to each other.  And this has been our experience.  Reagan doesn't "fit in" to a proper place at our church.  She refuses straight up to go into the pre-school class except when her friend (also chromosomally enhanced) is in there and even then she would rather both of them crash the big kids party.
Even though we have age groups for Sunday school...the kids mix as suits them best
  Despite that fact that probably 20% of the kids (all dozen or so of them lol) in our church have special needs, there is no special needs program in place for them.  Reagan makes her own place in our church.

Baptisims are family affairs

And at the most fundamental level that is how it should always be.  People caring for people.  The church being there as a family for each other.  Others have written about this problem and probably have "better" solutions than I can present, but I know this:  if we each make sure that we meet a need when we see it, then families with special needs will not feel left behind in our churches.  We don't need programs (though some churches have them and they can be amazing).  We need people who care.  I love the fact that from the time I arrive at church on a Sunday morning (which can be as early as 7:00 if I'm doing music) until the time I actually put my kids in the car to leave (sometimes noon if I play both services)  I don't actually have to worry about where Reagan is.  Because there are so many people who are looking out for her.  This is how it should be.  If I am playing and Grammy and Papa are working the media booth who is going to hold Reagan during singing?

She loves singing with the choir...sometimes she even knows the words

 Oh wait...she'll just join the choir.  She doesn't want to go to Sunday school one morning....its a sure bet I won't be the one holding her for the service because there are several other pairs of arms vying for that privilege.  And while I know Reagan is fun,  I also know that the attitude of caring would extend to others.  If there was a child who needed a quite place away from other kids while their parents worshiped there would be willing people to play with them in the office.  Because as awesome as programs are...they still don't meet people where they are.  Only people can truly do that.  And I am proud to say our Ecclisia does that.  And I want to point it out very specifically here too, because we must never lose that.  And for everyone else out there...be sure that you are truly seeing people and hearing their needs...watch out for what they may be too afraid to say.  Remember when we ask "how are you"...we often don't really want to hear the answer, and families dealing with special needs know that and won't tell you.  Don't look past.  Ask and really,really mean it..."what can I do to give you a day of rest".  And then we will be serving our family.  Because this is what it looks like when we don't put people in a box.  We don't say "I'm sorry she's too little (or delayed or just a kid or....) to participate in this.

Yes a 4 year old with limited speech is included...and participates...in the prayer circle...it is a blessing to all

Nope.  We are a family and families do stuff together no matter how old or young or how many chromosomes we have.  This is Ecclisia.  I know I probably rambled here, but there really is no way to sum this up.  Except I guess...be called out for each other.  And try to make this...Reagan's place...a reality for everyone in your life.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Thousand Words

We had a more laid back day today.  Not so much work and a lot more play.  We were invited to a birthday party for one of Clarisse's classmates at a fun bounce house filled venue.  Reagan thoroughly enjoyed herself and showed off a ton of skills.  Instead of telling you, I'll just show the pictures shall I? :)


 Big girl even climbed up to a tall slide and slid down all by herself!


Face painting is always a favorite of my girls.  She requested a crown...no prompting.


Look out,  Speedy Reagan coming through!


Cake!  I love Cake!

And finally one video because I was blown away when I handed her the bat to try and hit the ball and she did this...and this was her worst hit!  Girl has some serious hand eye coordination!


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Let it Go

As we all know, Reagan is Frozen obsessed.  And really cute.  Wanna see?


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And when mommy won't turn it on for her...well that doesn't slow her down...she has the music and she knows how to play it...kinda. lol

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P.S. Aunt Jodi...if you are reading this...you made an appearance in her bedtime prayers tonight...she thanked God for Aunt Jodi XOXO.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Awareness

The concept of awareness and raising awareness for Down syndrome has naturally been on my mind the last few weeks.  I almost didn't raise to the blogging challenge this year as our experiences have been so fantastic that I almost feel that we don't need to raise awareness about Down syndrome.  And then at the beginning of the month a few people posted about not calling it Down syndrome awareness month, but rather Down syndrome acceptance month.  The idea being that everybody if perfectly aware of Reagan (or ...insert peer here..), but what we really need to work on is acceptance of Reagan (or peer) as she is.  There is validity to this statement and of course as her mother I hope that she is accepted wherever she goes...and right now she pretty much is (of course...she's adorable and charming and, well you all asked me to do this again this year so you know).  As I pondered this though I realized that awareness doesn't merely mean that you are aware of Reagan, or that she has Down syndrome, but rather of what that really means.  Because truly and very tragically there is still a lot of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of the basics of Down syndrome.  And without understanding (whether you like/agree with it or not) there is not likely to be the cherished acceptance.  And that is particularly true among our children.  Because they can be caught before negative ideas catch hold and pointed in the right direction with facts and compassion.  So it was with much excitement that I spoke (for the first time ever!)  to the big girls school about Down syndrome today.  It thrills me to no end to think of the 103 (yes I counted) children who have already experienced Reagan on the edges of their lives learn that she has Down syndrome and what that means and to actually clamor for a Down syndrome awareness ribbon to take home because, as they shouted to me in the presentation, Reagan is a person just like them.
 Created by God just as she is.  And to be loved an cherished no matter her differences because she is Created in His image just like them.  I have to brag on this school and these kids for a moment here.  They blew me away with their participation in the explanation (fyi pairs of socks are a great illustration for chromosomes)  and their insistence that value isn't based on chromosomes or differences.  Cookies are a great illustration of differences being a good thing, but the fact that they wanted the ribbons more than the cookies warmed my heart to no end.
 That is 103 future adults who will not be frightened by the idea of a child with Down syndrome.  103 people who won't feel awkward when they meet someone with Down syndrome...or for that matter for some other difference.  Because these kids really got it that we are all creations who are more alike than different and that our differences make us who we are.  I loved that the principle used Down syndrome as a jumping off place to teach these kiddos that when they meet someone who looks or acts differently than them to remember that they are also created by God and to be treated as such.
 So there you go.  Awareness really is important...so go...spread it.  And if you need to know more stuff....well ask! :)  And (I know I'm probably talking to the wrong crowd here) if someone tries to tell you about something important to them....please listen...if it is important to them, then it should be important to you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Disney Days

We love to spend an afternoon after school strolling the enchanting byways of the Happiest Place on Earth.  And since Reagan doesn't have the stamina to do much walking (still working on getting some physical therapy for that)  she rides in the stroller.  Which means when she kicks off one of her boots and I don't notice that she is trying to tell me, I get to re-stroll those byways in search of it.


She doesn't mind though...she'll ride on the carousel with Daddy while she waits.  She will not, however, ride on the animals...they go up and down and up and down is scary!


Toy Story Midway Mania is a favorite of Reagan's.   She is pretty good at pulling that string to shoot balloons and plates.  It is always a highlight of her day.


There are some rides that she is a little (ok a lot) too small to ride...you know all the ones that require you to be over three feet tall.  But that's ok...we know how to pass the time waiting for Daddy and sisters to ride them.  Spinning Minnie is fun, even if Mommy won't buy it.  (Ok lets face it, I would have bought it if Daddy wasn't carrying all the money...could you resist that smile?)


And as evening falls and it feels like it might actually be fall,  Reagan has to show what a big girl she is by zipping up her sweater all by herself.  "Did it Mommy, did it".