Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Unexpected Phone Call

During foster parent training, I'm often asked if we stay in contact with kids who've been part of our family. The short answer is "not for long," but the longer answer is more complicated. When we had teens who were in the juvenile justice system, we were seen as part of their "punishment," so few of them kept contact for more than a couple of months. For birth parents, it's probably one of the worst times in their lives, and if they get their lives together enough to parent their children, they're usually anxious to move on with their family. For typical foster children we usually stay in contact for a while so the kids don't feel abandoned (and suffer even more loss than they've already gone through), but then let the parents and kids know we're there for them, and would be happy to hear from them, but try to leave the decision up to them. At this time - there is no one from years ago who stays in contact with us regularly, but we're always surprised and happy when we do hear about someone, or especially, when we hear from them directly.

So . . . it was with surprise and delight that I answered the phone this morning, and it was a certain tall young blond fellow, who has reached the grand old age of 21. BB was a special part of our family through most of his high school years - arriving at 15 years old, and leaving just after he turned 18. We last saw him a year later, at the local HS graduation. Many of you knew him, and I'm happy to pass on his report that he's in college for his second semester, and studying to be a HS teacher and a coach. (No surprise there - he's one of the best motivators I know!) It hasn't been an easy road for him, and there have been some really rough patches along the way, but he is taking advantage of the things the state has to offer him for his education, and has plans for the future. He called needing a reference for a position helping with the football team, and I'll be happy to give that reference when the coach calls. If he's looking for a great motivator with a big heart - he's found his man!

Congratulations BB, and thanks for calling! You made my day!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kindness is Contagious

One of the challenges of foster parenting is influencing our children toward kindness and thoughtfulness in a world of negativity. We all tend to see the world as the world we've experienced, and often that world is a troubled one for kids who end up in foster care. Thus their world view is often slanted toward the negative, and clothing is one area where this shows up.

Styles for young ones are often sexualized and suggestive. Besides the styles being inappropriate, the printed words and pictures are often inappropriate as well. No one of any age needs to have suggestive sayings printed across their derriere or other personal areas, or for that matter, any words at all which would cause the eye to be attracted to that area.

Tee shirt sayings are getting worse every year, it seems, and in some stores it's very hard to find anything worth buying. Some glorify the negative, like "Dumber than I look," and "Really, I have no idea where my homework is." Others glorify the wearer, with sayings like "Because I'm awesome." Many, many shirts are put-downs -- put-downs of the reader of the shirt, the parents, the sister, actually anything! I saw some today that said, "You are so annoying," and "I wish I could help you (but I can't fix stupid)."

That's why it was refreshing today to run across this site: B*Kindwear. They have clothing in several size ranges, and have two cute logos, including line drawings of 4 children's faces, with the words 'Kindness is Contagious. ' Our actions should show kindness and the love of God shining through us, but now we can also 'wear it on our sleeves.' :-)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Creative Hands

Just for fun -- a shadow puppet video.

You will want to turn up the sound.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Amazing Hummingbird Photos

Clicking on THIS LINK will take you to photos of a hummingbird nest, complete with eggs. Clicking at the bottom of each page will take you through several pages of photos - showing the babies from birth to flight.
At the end of the last page, is a link to another hummingbird nest, from an earlier year.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Onward Christian Soliders

The first day of school for Teenager. The first day of high school, the first day of Christian school, the first day of following a strict dress code. Lots of firsts! For Teenager - a new beginning in lots of ways, and she's ready to face the challenges. Last night we met her teacher and some of the 14 students at the high school level. She knew one student from a previous school, and very quickly they were all visiting together in a group. Today will be the introduction to the academic part of the challenge, and we think she's ready for that, also. Best wishes, Teenager - the four years will go very quickly for us, I'm sure!

Time to Speak Up, More Loudly

There is a new medical test available for pregnant women, which screens to identify babies with Down Syndrome using less invasive methods. You can read about it
here. More mothers are getting positive screens (including two FALSE-positives in our family), so there is more concern for pregnant women. Those with positive screens are tested further, to find those who are truly carrying babies with Down syndrome or other genetic problems. The majority of babies with Down syndrome now result in "terminated pregnancies," and the numbers are growing every year. With more testing, more babies will be identified, thus more who may not be allowed to survive. Who would have thought a few years ago that someday there might be hardly ANY men and women with Down Syndrome who have survived their mothers' pregnancies! It's astounding! A world without Down Syndrome would be a sad world indeed. We've said many times that if we ALL saw the world through Hugger's eyes, it would change the world! I've had many opportunities to talk about the impact he's had on our lives. We don't ignore the challenges, but certainly celebrate the wonder of all it means to have Down syndrome.

With the recent news stories about Down Syndrome, and the impression they leave that an unborn baby with DS is something to be 'dealt with,' I've been thinking a lot lately about the state of things in the realm of DS. I decided to 'go public' (not that we've never been silent, or even private about DS), and dug out this sticker that I picked up at a conference a couple of years ago. I placed it on the side window of our van -- even though we've never used a bumper sticker of any type before. Someone has to speak up, and I might as well be one of those someones. It's not a huge thing, but it's something. (Note the raindrops on the window this morning! We needed the rain so badly, I didn't even want to wipe it off the sticker.)

The other day I ran across an article written about the playwrite Arthur Miller, who had a son with DS.
It's an interesting story. Although denial of a child is very sad, and family life has been proven to be more successful than institutionalism (no surprise there - with God designing the family), the direction of the US today is moving toward not even allowing children with DS to survive the womb, and that snowball is growing and rolling faster every day. I've never been especially politically active, but politics keeps crowding our values, and our home, and if we don't speak out, then who will?

I haven't read anything by
Barbara Curtis before (who referenced the Arthur Miller article -- you can find Part One here, and Part Two here), but I will be doing some more reading! Her background includes some difficult things to overcome, but along the way of giving birth to 9 children -- one of whom has Down Syndrome -- and adopting 3 more with DS, she left the life of left-leaning politics, drugs and child neglect, and is now following Jesus. She's a conservative Christian, and a prolific writer and public speaker. Someone I'd like to know more about, I'm sure.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

School: Day Two

After yesterday, our thoughts and prayers were with Whistle today. We were very thankful to hear that his behavior was improved compared to yesterday, and his "Good Day" award had this note:

Still a work in progress . . . but a Much better day!

I'm the 'mom,' so I'm prejudiced, but after all -- isn't that what we all are? Still a work in progress. . . and hopefully, better today than yesterday. Running with patience the race that is set before us, whatever that race may be. Good job, Whistle! Thank you, Lord, for another day of mercy.

Welcome to Kindergarten!

On Monday evening, Whistle had Back to School Night. For 5 year-olds, it would be "To School Night," wouldn't it? He took his bag of school supplies, and went right in. We found his room and met his teacher, Mrs. ExperiencedTeacher. She provided a name tag, and a list of things for him to do around the room. They included finding his mailbox (with a surprise inside), finding the red basket for important notes, putting supplies away, and locating the drinking fountain and bathroom ("Practice washing your hands. Be sure to use one push of soap and put the paper towel in the trash can"). The final thing was to have his picture taken by Mrs. ExperiencedTeacher. It was all wonderful, until he realized he didn't get to "stay and stay." He was so disappointed! After waiting all day to go to school, he had to go back home!

One more day at home, and Wednesday finally arrived. He was ready early, and it was hard to wait until time to go. Finally, off to school!

Hickety Pickety Bumble Bee
Won't you say your name for me?

Whistle came home from his first day of school with a paper bee-on-a-stick he had colored, saying this rhyme. He said the rhyme, then placed the bee on my head, and said, "My name is . . . ", and I said, "Mom!" He smiled and then said again, "Hickety Pickety, Bumble Bee, Won't you say your name for me?" placing it on his own head, and said "My name is . . . Whistle." (Of course, he didn't really say Whistle - but his real name.) When I picked him up, the teacher said, "It was an interesting day." Interesting? INTERESTING? Not WONDERFUL!!?? Oh, no! She told me a few details, which I will spare you, but suffice it to say that later in the evening we had a discussion on Listening, Talking Nicely, and Resting Quietly. :-) This morning, he got up excited, ready to go, but much calmer than yesterday. When I reminded him about what to do during rest time, he dove onto the floor on his belly, didn't wiggle, and didn't say a word! Yea!!! This morning when I checked in with his special ed teacher (let's call her Miss Baker), she said she thought he was just overstimulated yesterday - keyed up about starting school. We'll see how today goes!!

(Does anyone else think this looks like a ladybug, instead of a bee? However, I don't think you'd want to tell new Kindergartners "Lady bug, Lady bug, fly away home."!)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Self-Advocates with Down Syndrome

One mom said she's sure that extra 21st chromosome contains the "dancing gene." They've ALL got it! :-)
Hugger sings one of his favorite songs.

This weekend, our family went in two different directions (sort of), with three of us going to KC, and the other two on to Nebraska. Father and Whistle were blessed to attend the ordination of Brother Jesse Halbgewachs in Nebraska. Jesse's parents have been very dear friends of ours since before we were married. They were then a young married couple with small boys, and we loved them dearly (and still do!). Besides the love of the Lord in common, they have fostered children at risk for many years, and we love to get together with them. If you're interested in the meeting and a few photos, Liz has some up on Abundant Grace.

Before the ordination was scheduled, Hugger, Teenager and I had made arrangements to attend the annual conference of the National Down Syndrome Association. In addition to the regular informative sessions for families of persons with DS, they provide great sessions for youth and adults with DS, and another one for siblings, also. Since Teenager did not grow up with Hugger as her brother, we thought it would be very good for her to get to know others who have experiences similar to hers. Both groups, Self-advocates (persons with DS) and Siblings had two days of sessions. One day was informative, the other more for fun.

Teenager had a great time sharing with the others in attendance and learning from them; hearing from Karen Gaffney, a self-advocate who has swum the English channel; and the author of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a novel about a pair of twins, one of whom has DS. (That's one of the books on my nightstand -- I'm hoping to absorb them as I sleep, but it doesn't seem to be working! Teenager has read it though, and was surprised by the author's appearance at the conference.)

I've attended the full conference in the past, but this year I was blessed to volunteer with the Youth and Adult group. Three years ago we wanted Hugger to attend, but they were short on volunteers, so I offered to help then. I discovered that's where the fun is! We haven't attended since then, but if it were up to Hugger, we'd go again next week. They have a great time, and it's very inspiring for them as well as the rest of us. This year I was at a table of 9 self-advocates, and had a blast! The session speakers and worshops are all presented by people with DS, and it's a wonderful experience. There is also a talent show, and some of the talents are amazing. From low to high skill levels, every person is valued for their contribution, and it's a wonderful experience for all. We saw and heard pianists and instrumentalists of all types, lip synch performers, actors, singers, dancers, and many others. It was very uplifting and fun, fun, FUN! Hugger started saying, "I want to go back, next year," shortly after we arrived. Next year it will be in Boston, so as great as that sounds . . . . we'll have to see. Boston is not exactly in our back yard.

We lived in the KC area when Hugger was a pre-schooler, and we looked for old friends from his early years who might be there. The mothers of his ECSE (early childhood special ed) class became very close, and we've continued to stay in touch once or twice a year since then, so we were anxious to renew acquaintances. I've seen some of MY friends, but haven't seen their children in a long while. It was fun for Daniel to renew his own friendships, too. He didn't actually remember them specifically , but they all are familiar with discussions of those times in their lives, and had hugs and high fives all around.

So -- whether in Nebraska or KC -- as they say . . . "A good time was had by all."

Hugger's friends from his pre-school years! Reunited, as if they'd never been apart.

Another friend from pre-school.

A new friend from Hugger's table at the conference, and the table sponsors.

Teenager made a friend during the sibling conference, and (surprise!), he's the younger brother of one of Hugger's friends from pre-school, above! How likely is that, in a group of 250 people?! (Odds of 3/250 to be exact.)