Friday, November 30, 2012

In Case of Emergency

Safety has been on my mind a lot lately. I've become increasingly aware that it's time to start teaching the kids more about personal safety and have been reviewing some books and other resources to that end. That deserves its own separate post though, and I'll share some good things I have found.

Aside from personal safety, I've been thinking/worrying a lot about fires. The way our house is laid out, the kids sleep upstairs on the top level (our bedroom is on the main level). They each have a window that we have permanently locked at the moment, because outside those windows is at least a 50-foot drop. It's been on my mind recently that I don't know what I would tell the kids to do in the event there was a fire outside their rooms. Clearly it wouldn't be to go out the window!!! We have many smoke detectors throughout the house and are conscientious about fire prevention but it was just something plaguing me a bit.

I mentioned this to some friends in my MOMS Club the other night, and one of them took it upon herself to contact the local fire department and ask if they would come do a fire inspection at my house (she and I had discussed this, but I wasn't sure they would come to my house because we're immediately over the border into the next city). Sure enough, someone contacted me and sent a fireman over to the house yesterday to do an inspection.

This is an AMAZING program. Apparently the city got several grants to do these inspections, which include a walk-through and inspection, creation and practice of an escape plan if you want, and two new smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors that they will install for you. Pretty awesome right? I got so much good advice during the consultation and I feel so much more confident that we would respond the right way in an emergency.

As far as the layout of the house goes, he acknowledged that prevention and early detection of any fire risk upstairs is crucial given the lack of viable escape routes. There are smoke detectors in each of the bedrooms and the hallway between as well. I mention this because he replaced the detectors in the kids' rooms - did you know they have a lifespan of about ten years? - and discovered that Pacey's didn't have any batteries in it. I can't believe I am even admitting that here, but I hope it will prompt each and every one of you to go check your detectors. It's one of those things I was SURE we had done correctly and had up to date and yet. No batteries. Yikes. I did note that the new ones he installed take AA batteries instead of the old 9V ones, which I imagine is hugely more conducive to people keeping them in working order.

Anyway, it's a huge weight off my mind and if you're at all unsure about your fire safety status, I'd recommend looking to see if there's a program like this available to you. Especially when you've moved into a new home relatively recently (as we had), you may not be aware of certain things that need replacing or revising.

There you go, my PSA for 2012. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Minimizing the Madness

I love this time of year. I love the build up to Christmas much more than the day itself, and I hope to foster the same enjoyment in my kids. It is really easy to get carried away though, and suddenly doing fun and special things feels like a chore.

Last year I think I tried to do an activity a day for all of December. It wasn't horribly stressful or anything, but I decided that this year I'll pare down the list a little and make sure that I'm only doing the things that are ACTUALLY fun, rather than those that just sound like they'll be fun (gingerbread houses, I'm looking at you). So, here's a list of the things I'd like to do to celebrate this holiday season:

1. See Santa (already on the books for December 1st)

2. Take the kids to deposit the change in our change jar into a Salvation Army bucket

3. Participate in a cookie exchange

4. Advent Book Basket - wrap up 25 Christmas books individually and have the kids take turns opening one to read each night. I've wanted to do this for awhile but buying that many books at once is expensive. Then I got smart in two ways: started buying used kids' books on amazon, and realized that library books can totally be wrapped up!

5. Introduce the kids to the idea of The Elves. I don't think I'm going to do Elf on the Shelf (at least not yet) but my parents had a music box they hid and would secretly wind up. They told us that the music was the sound of the elves checking up on us. The elves never visited more than once or twice a season (that I can remember) and it was always so special. I think I'd like to do the same for my kids.

6. Make batches of cinnamon rolls to deliver to friends.

7. Make paper snowflakes and hang them up.

8. Bake and decorate roll-out cookies.

9. Go ice skating.

10. Order personalized letters from Santa for the kids.

11. Take Brighton to see The Nutcracker (lest you think I'm gender discriminating, I can guarantee Pacey would be interested for about 2.2 seconds and a nightmare thereafter).

12. Holiday cards for friends and family (I considered briefly printing the url for this blog on the cards but then decided I already feel like I have to censor an awful need to make that any worse).

What are you doing this year, and is there anything you are specifically opting out of?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Remember in elementary school where you'd have a prompt to fill-in-the-blank with descriptors, thereby composing complex, beautiful poetry? Something a bit like, "Winter is..." Well, here's my grown-up-with-my-own-kids version.

Winter is...

An original composition by Me

Winter is having to choose between cold ears or perpetually bad hair.

Winter is buying even more expensive produce for your kids to turn up their noses at.

Winter is getting so comfortable in your scuff slippers in the house that you constantly forget to change them for real shoes when you leave the house.

Winter is an additional ten minute argument every morning over whether a coat is required when it is 17 degrees outside.

Winter is celebrating the fact that it's almost bedtime and then looking at the clock to realize it's only 4:30.

Winter is circling the parking lot hoping for a parking space that requires less than one quarter of a mile of dragging/coaxing kids (who apparently do not feel the cold) toward the door.

Winter is fantasizing about a world in which we can leave our kids safely and legally in the car while we run into the store for just two things.

Winter is a four-month-ish reprieve from picking up dog poop (see that, I'm being positive!)

Winter is guzzling antioxidants in the form of hot tea (and again!)

Winter is not my favorite season.

Man, I feel like getting out the construction paper and Elmer's glue now...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Circus Circus

I'm pretty sure as far as Pacey is concerned, Christmas has come and gone. My friend alerted me to the fact that the circus was going to be in town over the long weekend (and offered me 2-for-1 coupons, thanks Carrie!) and we bought tickets for Saturday. Not only did Pacey get to see a pretty spectacular elephant show - seriously, I was amazed - but he got to ride one before the show started. It might have been the coolest thing he's ever done. I thought it was pretty awesome too. Brighton got to ride on a pony, which she's been DYING to do since forever (and her daddy suffered mightily for it...he's very allergic to horses). It won't always be possible, but there is something very cool about getting to make your kids' dreams come true.

We also managed to follow a principle I've been working really hard to develop: leaving the party while everyone is still having fun. The first half of the show was a full 1.5 hours and then they announced an intermission. The kids didn't know that it wasn't the actual end of the circus (sorry, future kids!) and they'd seen the things they were most looking forward to so we just left. No traffic getting out and we were home in time for dinner. All around, a wild success.

Friday, November 23, 2012

White Friday

We had a little snowfall last night - just an inch or so but enough that the kids were SUPER excited to go out and play in it. This is where is comes in really handy having a husband that loves winter and never gets cold. The three of them are out adventuring while I am nice and warm inside, cleaning up messes and listening to Christmas tunes.

We had a nice holiday yesterday. We invited a couple without family nearby to join us and it was a lovely time. Although we have gotten pretty good at doing the feast for just our family, it's nice to have friends to share it with. And it means we haven't cooked an entire turkey for 1.25 people (Chris and Pacey) and one already very well-fed dog. Brighton declined to eat any Thanksgiving food - surprise surprise - and I fondly recalled the number of holidays on which my main meal consisted of rolls (or whatever bread product was on offer).

Hope you and yours had a lovely day and that you enjoy elbowing through the crowds or lazing around at home, whatever your Black Friday activity of choice may be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Few Quick Things

- Today is a big day. Pacey is having his first real, drop-him-off-and-come-get-him-later playdate with a friend from school. The friend's mom called last week and said that her son really wanted to have Pacey over. Part of me is so happy that he's making friends and that the kids feel comfortable with him. The other part of me can't believe he's at an age where this is normal and appropriate. My BABY!

- Today Brighton sat in the car behind me with the sun in her face and said, "Mom, when I close my eyes I can see my future." Huh. I questioned her a little about this but she mostly told me the names of people who are part of her future. Kind of a trip!

- I may or may not have ordered our holiday cards for the year already. It's one of those things that I LOVE in theory, but the choices are so completely endless that it can be paralyzing if I think about it too hard. This year I just went to the Costco website, chose a style I liked, slotted some photos in and voila! Picked them up the next day. Sure, they aren't Tiny Prints, tri-fold cards with professionally-taken photos, but they were cheap and I like them.

- I am going to a formal evening event with Chris on Friday night. I have a black dress that I am going to wear (I'm not sure I've ever actually worn it) and I tried it on today just to be sure it was going to work ok. It fits just fine (thanks to Dexter for kicking my ass into some semblance of shape) but it is strapless and unfortunately displays some fairly egregious tan lines on my back. I asked for a self-tanner recommendation from my Beauty Guru (aka my sister) but I am frankly terrified of the stuff. So what say you: is it unbearably tacky to expose one's tan lines at a wintertime event in the midwest? The bare legs vs. some sort of leg-covering issue is hard enough without this added! So jealous of my husband in his full-body covering tuxedo.

- I just overheard B say, "I don't like your attitude Pace!!" It would appear that they do actually hear me, even if they don't often listen!

- My problem with B's blankie situation is sorting itself out....sort of. She's started adding items to her collection of Must-Have-at-All-Times important things. This is good in that I hope it's taking some of the focus off her rapidly-wearing #1 Blankie. On the other hand, a little face has been appearing at my bedside in the middle of the night requesting assistance to locate one or another of the items. Which is super fun in the dark, disoriented and blind without my glasses on. Also, I've had to start bringing her backpack with us everywhere to cart along all the items.

- Pacey's auntie gave him a Viewmaster for his birthday. Considering how much they love technology, this toy has been a HUGE surprise hit with both kids. It's relatively inexpensive too, if Santa's looking for good toys for the 3-5 set.

- We had this book as kids that we always got out with the Christmas things. I loved this book and really wanted our old copy to read to my kids. No one in the family could figure out what it was called though. I've been searching for this book for about five years now, even going onto websites that search for books based on snippets of information you have. No luck until the other day. I did a basic search on Amazon for books to add to our Christmas collection and THERE IT WAS. "Christmas in Noisy Village" by Astrid Lindgren. I can't wait until it gets here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Peek into Some Five-Year-Old Minds

Brighton's teachers also held mid-term conferences and I attended hers on Monday. She's doing just fine in her class and, interestingly, both kids are showing aptitudes for numbers. I wasn't terrible at math, but numbers is the language C speaks. He was actually a math major in college and I think it tickles him to see the kids interested in numbers.

Anyway, it's always interesting to hear about your child's behavior in a different environment as well as see what they produce in terms of art projects and other work. For some reason I have always been particularly interested in how the kids' development is reflected in their drawings. I seem to remember that you can really see the different developmental stages in self-portraits. On that note, I was pleased to see the below:

Although she's been drawing pictures of herself for a few months now, this is the first I have seen where she's used different colors and included as many details as she did. Apparently the teachers had to hunt out a blue marker, so insistent was she that the eyes needed to be blue like hers (another feature inherited from daddy). And in the bottom left is her "B" for Brighton. She's very interested in learning to write so we've been practicing her name.

So anyway, conference was fine, development on track, etc. I am going to have a speech evaluation done in the classroom (the benefit of attending a school that offers therapy programs as well). I just want to check that her articulation is within normal limits. I think it will be, but I'm well aware that if she needs any tweaking, the earlier the better.

On our way out I noticed a wall of drawings done by the 5-year-old class (year before kindergarten). They were supposed to write about a law they would make if they were president. I laughed so hard I nearly cried. It is SO funny to see what kids think about. A few of my favorites:

It's true, there are a LOT of flattened squirrels on the
roads this time of year

This is such a great one. Helmets aren't a law in MN and
Chris and I constantly marvel at the number of motorcyclists
not wearing them. It tickled me (in a morbid way) that it
appears there is a halo above this person. Rather an astute
observation for a 5yo

And this. Just, what? I can only assume the kids have
been taught something about logging? No idea. 

I took Brighton to the polls with me and she got such a kick out of it. She got her own kid ballot to vote on and was MOST annoyed that she didn't get to insert it into the tabulator. Not as annoyed, however, as she was when I told her I was voting for who would be president. "But I want to be president!!!" Yes, my girl, I bet you do. I mean, look at this face:

Wouldn't YOU vote for her??

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

12 Step Plan

So we've about reached that point in the year where I can no longer pretend that winter isn't happening. It's no secret I don't love it; I get cold very easily and am susceptible to additional mood issues relating to the lack of light.

Although I had a nice long hiatus from cold, dark winters when we lived in California, I did grow up in Alaska so this is nothing new for me. Over the years I've developed a number of coping mechanisms that I thought I'd share. So here it is: my 12 Step Plan to Surviving Until April.

1. Fleece. Lots of it. I have pullover fleeces and zip-up fleeces and fleece pajama pants and a fleece robe. I'm starting a collection of fleece scarves. There is just something so comforting about the cozy feel of just can't have too much of it.

2. Lights. I know, it's not energy-frugal of me but I cannot STAND a dark house. As soon as the light outside starts to wane I have to go around and turn on all the main living area lights and close all blinds.

3. Along the same lines, we are going to try one of those alarm clocks that gradually lights up your room in the morning. Anyone have experience (good or bad) with them?

4. Planning a couple of house projects. Because we spend so much time in the house during the winter, it's a great time to look at the areas that need improving. On my list so far is a mini-makeover of our master bath.

5. Converting our three-season porch into usable space through the cold months. For the past two years we've basically just closed the room off as it's not insulated. I really miss having the space though. It's a great play space for the kids upstairs as well as the perfect place for art projects. We bought insulating blinds and put a space heater in there and so far it's doing the trick. It's making a big difference to me just knowing there isn't a part of my house that's freezing cold.

6. Keep exercising. This is crucial to combating the Winter Blahs.

7. Do not succumb to the desire to nap. I am not a good napper at the best of times. I have disturbing dreams and wake up really grumpy. This is even worse during the winter and it's so easy to feel sleepy without reason when it's cold and gray outside (this will take care of itself as the kids don't nap anymore...there really isn't ever the opportunity).

8. Having a plan for the Witching Hour, otherwise known as dusk. For some reason this time of day I often find myself at loose ends and it can set me in a funk for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Must. Keep. Moving.

9. Getting out at least a couple of evenings a month. Even when it's warm outside, I'm kind of a home body in the evenings. I just don't love going out. Add in early darkness and cold and I turn into a serious hermit. It really does help to get out though, and remember that the rest of the world does still exist even if we're all just scuttling from our houses to our cars to buildings and back again (side note here: I can go months without seeing my neighbors in the winter since we all park in our garages).

10. Play music in the house. This can also be a huge mood elevator during the Witching Hour. A good crazy dance party can make us all feel markedly better.

11. Wine. Needs no explanation.

12. Enjoying the benefits of the season. This means researching what events are going on in the community and bundling up to get ourselves out there. Chris loves ice fishing (I'd rather die) and the kids love snow play and sledding. I mostly just enjoy shoveling because the physical exertion means I don't feel so freaking cold. I am bound and determined to learn to snow shoe this year, not least because several of my friends do it and it could be a fun social activity.

If you live in a place that has cold winters, how do you cope? Anything I should be adding to my list?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


"Pace!!" Brighton chirped this morning when he got up, "I can't believe you're six today!" Well said, my girl, well said. I can't believe I have a six-year-old. This past year has been one of tremendous growth for Pacey, physically and developmentally and socially. He's still quite small compared to typically-developing boys, but on the Ds curve he's smack dab 50th percentile for height and weight. Not bad for a kid who started out as small as he did. He's polite and kind, and has a funny sense of humor. He can be maddeningly obstinate when he wants to be, and won't be budged from his beliefs (especially the belief that he should be able to play iPad as often and for as long as he wants).

Here are six things about Pacey at six years old:

1) He loves: his family, his dog, the iPad (just about in that order), kindergarten, his friends, Handy Manny, Peppa Pig (which has been banned from the house after we heard too many obnoxious things being repeated), Angry Birds, You Tube videos of other kids playing with toys (??), movies, McDonalds french fries, the Treehouse, chocolate milk, playing outside and adventuring through the woods, cake and about a thousand other things. This kid loves life.

2) He is absolutely rocking kindergarten. We had his first quarter conference last week and I could not have been happier or more proud of him. He has already met or exceeded many of the expectations of him by January and I am pretty confident he'll make great progress in the other areas. He's kind to his classmates, loves his teachers and is an unusually cooperative participant in his therapies. The worst thing I've ever heard about his behavior at school is that he's a little overly zealous with affection at times. If that's the worst I ever hear, I'll consider myself so very lucky.

3) He talks!! I would still have considered him mostly non-verbal until about six months ago. He has been with the same private speech therapist for two years now and she has helped him make huge strides in his articulation. His school speech therapist has used some really effective strategies with him and functionally he's leapt forward since September. He has kind of a gravelly little voice and is starting to use casual phrases that never fail to surprise me when they pop out, word perfect. Clearly my harping has paid off too, because people constantly comment on how polite he is.

4) He loves music. Some of his favorite artists right now include Ke$ha and Snoop, and it is a bit unsettling to realize how many lyrics he is quietly memorizing (nothing too bad). I don't know why but his ability to learn songs is amazing to me - I feel like it's a good indicator of everything going on inside his head.

5) He has some real introvert tendencies. While he loves his friends and is a good playmate, after awhile he really just needs some down time and will often play on his own. He remains incredibly good at entertaining himself. This year he's developed sensitivity to loud noises and really dislikes crowd noise at sporting events and the noise of the car wash. I suppose it's another great sign that his hearing has improved a lot with ear tubes and general growth.

6) I didn't have many specific expectations for him when he was born; he was my first baby and I hadn't really thought about it all that much. It seems strange, then, that I experienced such grief when we were told he had Down syndrome. I didn't even really know what I was mourning. I can't really say he's exceeded my expectations (because I didn't have many) but I can say that I never dreamed how he would change my life. He cemented our little family and I feel so grateful that he fought through the rocky beginning to become the robust KID he is today. Happy birthday to my boy.

November 2006

November 2007
November 2008
November 2009
November 2010

November 2011
November 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Elephants and Angry Birds

We had a birthday party for Pacey yesterday. There's not much I need to say about it except that it went off without a hitch (seriously, easiest birthday party ever) and Pacey came running up to me at the end and exclaimed, "FUN!!" My solitary goal for the event was to make sure he had fun, so I consider it a
job well done. 

I am not posting many pictures because I never know how other people feel about their kids' photographs being posted online (well, and because it's sort of boring). Here's a few good snaps from the day though...

A chocolate elephant cake, as requested by the birthday boy. It definitely
stretched my cake-decorating skills but I think it came out pretty good.
Btw, did you know you can buy buttercream frosting by the pound from
many supermarket bakeries? 

I love this photo because you can see how C is all ready to help Pacey
blow if he needs it. He can't stand for P to "fail" at anything :)

High five!

Hey, did someone get a bigger piece than I did?!?

P loved the cake so much he licked his plate. We've never been prouder.
Also - holy COW does a group of 5- and 6-year-old boys make a lot of noise!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Out With a Whimper

Ok, I feel a little guilty that I missed the last day of posting, but I'm going to get over it. Posting every day was a great goal, but I feel pretty comfortable having skipped a few days in favor of actually living my life with my child with Down syndrome. I hope to keep posting on a pretty regular basis, I really do like having all these posts to look back at.

Despite some grinch-y feelings on my part, we had a nice Halloween in the end. Trick-or-treating was really fun this year and I was so proud of both my kids for their cooperation and manners. It was especially nice that neither kid had school today so we could recover a little. Unfortunately I had scheduled a playdate here for my MOMS Club so I was still up and moving to get ready this morning but it was a nice chance to chat with my friends.

Halloween is one of those holidays that I feel is a little over-celebrated. It seems like there are so many Halloween-themed events leading up to the day that by the time it actually arrives everyone is sort of over it. Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway. Fun was had. Costumes were worn. Candy was obtained. And now it's only three weeks until Thanksgiving (!!!!)

This kid was SO excited for Halloween. 

Our friend S. He was dressed as a man being eaten by a lion.

Flying unicorn with a wand. Naturally. 

I told Pacey he could pick one more piece to eat before we put it away. He
dug around a bit and pulled out a full-size Hershey's. I've never been prouder.