Sunday, February 03, 2019

Father-Daughter Dance

I'm not sure how it happened, but Ruby suddenly became old enough to attend the school's Father-Daughter dance!

She was so excited to get dressed up and take her Daddy on a date. I don't think she had any idea what it was they were going to before they arrived, but she knew it was a big deal. Maddux and I got her dressed in the only fancy dress she has right now (which was Maddux's for the same dance, many years ago), and then I worked on her hair.
Maddux, of course, wanted to share some make-up with her. She told Ruby, "Close your eyes."
We were running a little late because Ruby and Lehr had just come home from a birthday party, but we still managed to grab a few photos of the two of them before they drove away.
Lehr said a friend found Ruby and pulled her onto the dance floor (be still, my heart), and Ruby was all-in the whole time. She found more friends, danced to her favorite songs, took a few photos with Daddy, and lasted about 45 minutes before leaving to come to Maddux's basketball game.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

No-Snow Day

Every year since Eli and Maddux have started school, we've had at least one snow or ice day, usually in January. The past few years, the county has definitely been quick to cancel school if there is a real threat of the snow coming on too quickly during school hours. (Thanks, Snowmageddon 2014!) In those same years, Lehr has kept a close eye on the forecast just northeast of us so that he can take the kids for a quick ski day in North Carolina. This year, the two events lined up together.

A snowstorm (an Atlanta snowstorm) was due to hit us yesterday around 10AM, providing a few hours of snow followed by about 24 hours of below freezing temperatures. We all predicted the day off of school for today (due to all of the snow being frozen on the roads), but it was anyone's guess what they would do about the day the snow was actually coming. Out of an 'abundance of caution' (the most common words used to describe their snow decisions in the last few years), Cobb decided at noon on Monday to cancel school for Tuesday. So Lehr decided to pack up the kids and their snow gear after Maddux's basketball game and head out before the snow hit the roads. Because he's the amazing dad he is, he invited 4 other kids to go with them. Two of the kids went (one friend each for Eli and Maddux). They had a great time, piling into a motel room for about seven hours of sleep before carbing up with a pancake breakfast. They skiied all day, enjoying awesome fluffy snow continuously refreshing the trails for them. After grabbing some dinner, they drove back to Atlanta.

Ruby and I stayed here and enjoyed about 90-seconds of a flurry in the sky, followed by sun and very mild temperatures (maybe 42?). The kids all returned to school today.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Wrestling Championship

Eli's introductory season of wrestling culminated in a Metro 10 Championship yesterday. He ended up wrestling four (or five?) times, and it was pretty much the perfect end for Eli.

All season long, he's been learning new moves, but had only had one win (meaning he scored more points than his opponent and didn't get pinned before the time ran out). But on Saturday, Eli's extra practices over the holiday break proved to be that extra push he needed. His first match was a bye, so it was mid-morning before he finally got on the mat. The opponent was a good wrestler, and held his points higher than Eli throughout, but Eli stayed mentally in the game and didn't get pinned until the final 10 seconds. (There are three rounds, totaling four minutes: 2 min, 1 min, 1 min. It is exhausting.)

This is when I knew something was different. Those rounds were tough; Eli was in a choke hold a lot and he had his shoulder in a less-than-great position a lot. A LOT. (Immediately afterward he told me he seriously worried it was out of socket.) This scenario is one that typically results in Eli anger (out of frustration and pain, no doubt) and some playing the victim. Eli didn't do that. During the match he visibly listened to his coaches instructions. Afterward, he pulled himself together pretty quickly and immediately went to cheer on his teammates. That's another thing that was new. Eli is definitely one to clap for or feel happy for his friends, but he was actively seeking their matches out and loudly cheering them individually in a way I've not seen him do before. Already, my day was made.

Then Eli had a match to determine if he would advance to the top four. My phone was dead, so I have NO video to show, but Eli pinned his man. He PINNED him! He was so excited. I was so excited....it was amazing! From there, he wrestled for 3rd place and won....it was a long match that went down to points (so the full four minutes), but Eli had the points, so he won! Here's where it got even more interesting - since he'd not yet wrestled the guy who was in 2nd place, Eli could challenge him to take his position. This was a kid Eli had wrestled once or twice through the season already, and the two of them chatted it up off the mat, so I already had the warm and fuzzies. (Eli is a little too adversarial for my taste sometimes.) They had a great match, and Eli came out on top, having pinned him. And when I asked him to offer the kid an additional handshake and word of encouragement after all was said and done, he didn't fight me at all.

Seriously. The humility. The joy of competing. The team-player attitude. The determination. There was such a shift in him, in such a positive way, yesterday, and it was so awesome to see. I can't even complain about being at the gym for twelve hours (630-630) because it gave me the best front-row seat ever. And for him to be rewarded with the wins and the pins...icing on the cake. Eli and another team mate both ended up with some hardware for finishing 2nd in their weight classes, and the team had a tremendous showing, especially for this being the school's first full season of wrestling.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Maddux's Heart for Service

I honestly wonder how many times I've blogged about this... I do know that whatever the number, it pales in comparison to the amount of times I take note of it, which is likely a fraction of the number of examples in each day. I know this sounds braggy, but for the oh so many times I get it wrong, especially with Maddux, by pointing out the ways she doesn't do what I think she should do with her time and energy, I want to be sure and document how much right I see in her heart.

I have to remind myself that what I think I want for her might not line up with what God has planned for her.

My girl...she loves, she loves kids, she loves serving kids. Since leaving Kids' Ministry, as a participant, last May, she has probably only attending the 'big' service with us 2 or 3 times, one of those being the Sunday that she was baptized. Every week she volunteers in the Preschool Ministry, willingly. She is now a volunteer that gets signed up about once/month, but whether signed up or not, Maddux reports to the coordinator when we arrive each Sunday and she has never been turned away.
It's not just that she volunteers though. Anyone can do that...I even do that. But my heart is not in it even half as much as Maddux's is. She loves working with those kids, and not just the fun parts. She will crawl on the ground to pick up goldfish, usher kids to the restroom, pick up mini crayon bits off of the table again and again and again...none of it phases her. I've seen her patiently cutting out a craft for the kids, while carrying on a conversation with one kid to her side, while another sits on her lap, hugging her for comfort. All the while, she is calm as a cucumber and so in her element. And she seeks out the ones who need the most, whether it's manifesting in tears or acting out, she's usually right on it.

I want to be her when I grow up.
About once a month I am approached by an adult at church that works with her for the first time, or maybe just talks to me about it for the first time, and they 'just have to tell' me how awesome she is or what a good worker she is or how great she is with the kids. Sometimes they'll ask me what I did to help her be so great. This is the part where I seriously laugh out loud because I had nothing to do with it. Seriously - she is the nurturer I never was (even at my best). This is all God, growing her gift for nurturing and serving, and it brings me so so SO much joy to be able to watch.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas

It was the first year that it's been just us at our house in probably forever. It was quieter but still a lot of fun. We spent Christmas Eve making food and playing outside. Just before we left for church, we took a walk to drop off some of our baked goods at a friends house. The girls rode on the electric skateboard, which sounded like a great idea at the time. However, on the ride home, the board got going too fast for Maddux to control it, and they toppled. Ruby was such a trooper - no tears, just a pouty lip. Her face, however, tells a different story.
At church, Ruby fell asleep on Lehr's shoulder, which was probably his favorite part about the whole day. We stopped for sushi on the way home (our new Christmas Eve dinner), and then we went home to change for holiday light-seeing. The kids put on their matching PJ's and we made some hot cocoa and set out with my pre-made map/list. There were a few really cool houses, but the winner was the one that included a neighborhood full of ball-type light creations that were strung high in the trees. It was taken to the next level when one of the houses started lighting up sky lanterns just as we drove by. We pulled over and watched them light about a dozen before letting them loose in the sky. So pretty and fun to watch. The night finished with the kids opening their gifts to each other - their tradition.
Christmas Day started with our scavenger hunt to find Baby Jesus to put in the manger. (Of course, that included some arguing also, as it always does.) We opened some gifts, ate some breakfast and enjoyed just being. Just after noon, we gave the kids their 'big' gifts. We usually don't do a big Christmas, but each kid wanted something larger than usual this year, and we went for it. Maddux opened an iPod Touch (which she's begged for since forever), and Eli received a new guitar. They were psyched, to say the least.
After the gifts, we started our (new) annual Christm-olympics. It was a lot of fun, Ruby had a blast, and the big kids actually got along!
It was warm and sunny outside, so we got to do at least half of the events in the backyard. Maddux and Eli legitimately tied for first place, and in an unexpected twist, Eli said he did NOT want to do an extra game to determine the winner - he thought it was best that they tied.
We followed that up with homemade spaghetti and meatballs and an ice cream birthday cake for Jesus.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Youth Christmas Party

As much as the big kids (Eli, especially) love our church youth group, the annual Christmas Party takes it to a new level. The year before he could join the big kids, the 5th grade party included a costume component, and he rose to the challenge, dressing in a sweatshirt that we decorated (a la Ugly Christmas sweater). The following year, he didn't get a chance to go all out because we came directly from a Revivalists' show in town (priorities), but last year he jumped back in by wearing a tree skirt covered in lights and tinsel and dollar tree ornaments. It was fantastic.

But raising the bar like that each year can be hard, so when he brought up this year's party, I really thought he might opt to dress in nice clothes instead (the alternate option). Nope; a few days before he decided to create a Charlie Brown costume. We bought a yellow shirt for $2.95 and sharpied the black zigzag, and he pulled shorts and the rest from his closet. Then he constructed the Charlie Brown Christmas tree on his own, down to the lone red ball ornament.
You're a good man, Charlie Brown!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Basketball

Maddux just started her winter season of rec basketball. Although she's only played one season before, she really enjoyed it and (of course) picked up the game fairly quickly. Her athletacism comes into play a lot with games that require speed because my girl can sprint!

There have only been a few practices and a few games, but already she's made some baskets! She got one basket in first game, and three in 2nd game! Maddux has shown great blocking and speed on the court, and this season we've seen an increase in her reaction (and action) time. When she gets the ball, she already has a plan for it this year, which is such a vital tool out there!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Therapy Update

It's been a while since I've posted an update on Ruby's therapies. Here we go!

Speech
Ruby is stringing together words more and more often now. Instead of saying, "Tall", she might sometimes ask, "how tall Eli?". And one of her favorites right now is "Stop mommy!" She will sometimes follow it up with something like "my turn" or "No sing".

The emerging sentence structure is a good thing, no doubt, but it is a reminder of just how delayed her motor planning is in regards to speech. That girl barely gets cut a break in our house with her speech. (i.e. When she say, "milk", we make her give us a sentence or request like, "More milk, please." or "Can I have milk, please." Repeat this with every aspect of her day, all day long!) Even though she is improving, it is a sloooow process.

Ruby is repeating everything, which is huge! I remember vividly when she was two, turning over photo cards with her and saying the words with the hopes she would make any kind of approximation. Now she will not only read words (or identify photos) spontaneously, but when she hears her siblings say things, or especially if she hears a new word or phrase, she will repeat it intelligibly.
Sight words are something we've been working on for a full year, in preparation for this kindergarten year, which is so focused on sight words. Ruby currently does 35 of 50, give or take a few, on the first try, without any prompting from me. She is starting to read more and more, but that's almost always directed by me; she has yet to discover that she can find those sight words in her books without me next to her.

OT
Ruby is buttoning and unbuttoning big buttons on sweaters and jackets! Unfortunately, most of her clothing is smaller buttons, but you have to start somewhere. Her OT at school has a few sweaters for Ruby to use as practice and her manipulation is coming along. At home we are starting to see her become more skilled in zipping up her jacket too. She has yet to be able to line up the zipper on her own, but once there, she usually holds the bottom and zips up herself.

Regarding scissors, she is getting much better at cutting shapes with scissors. Turning her paper to get the corners or curves is a challenge, but with minimal help, she is making it all of the way around shapes like circles and rectangles.

PT
We are not formally doing PT at this time, and we don't have swim or dance classes. BUT we are always looking for physical therapy opportunities in our day, so it is still something I can measure growth in. Ruby now often alternates feet when walking on stairs - up is easier than down, but if she's holding my hand, she'll do it on the way down.

Ruby's jumping stamina is still increasing. Just a year ago we finished Aquatic Therapy because she was finally able to jump enough to clear the height of a pool noodle. Now she jumps on and off curbs, over small sticks, and in place just for the fun of it!

Another big thing Ruby is doing, something she's always done, is mimicking and imitating other's actions. If she sees someone doing something of interest, she intently watches and then repeats it. This is a HUGE part of why we push for inclusion at school for Ruby, and it is helping with PT things as well, like balancing, running, riding a bike, bouncing a ball, etc. One fun way it came into play last week was during Maddux's basketball game. The players and coaches circled up for prayer before the game, and Ruby grabbed an older friend's hand, and Daddy's hand, and led them to circle up as well.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christmastime Is Here

Probably our longest lasting holiday tradition is going to cut down our Christmas tree as a family. We stumbled upon a tree farm when Maddux was a wee little one, and we've returned every year since. Because I know how our schedule(s) tend to get, especially during December, and because I know I'm cheap thrifty, and while I like to send Christmas cards, I have to get that Thanksgiving weekend 50% off deal, I decided to tempt fate and try to get our family photo at the tree farm. Hey, we were going to be there anyway, amongst the beautiful background. Why not just throw on some coordinating clothes and let me take a handful of photos? And then we could ask a stranger to snap a few photos of the five of us together.

Even though I was formulating this plan all week, I don't think i clued anyone in until the morning of, so we had a little bit of a scramble to find clean, photo-worthy clothes (meaning Eli and Lehr may or may not be wearing the same thing they wore last year). Ruby absolutely took her hair out on the drive to the tree farm (despite my labored efforts to braid it up for 15 full minutes at home). And when we arrived, Ruby's boots were not in the car. I honestly wasn't phased; Lehr could hold her for the photos and I knew most people wouldn't even notice.

The big kids did what they do every year: feign protest to me shooting photos.

I made each of them pair up at some point, jackets were sometimes on and sometimes not (it was FREEZING!).

I got a few of Lehr with each one, shoes or no shoes.

Then I passed off the camera to Maddux so she could take a few of me with Ruby and me with Lehr. As expected, she was amazing.

Finally, I picked the lucky family to take a few of us all. Some maneuvering of our people later, we had 4-5 shots of us all with eyes open and pleasant looks on our face. Thank you, random stranger.

And we also had these fun ones the rest of the time.

Monday, November 12, 2018

IEP

Those three letters carry so many feelings with them, and they are all over the map: dread, anxiety, hope, fear, defensiveness, (over)protection, anxiety, pride...did I mention anxiety? The lead-up for them has been so anxiety-inducing for me that I actually had an 'episode' during one a few years ago. It was an IEP (Individualized Education Plan/Program) called by us after Ruby was (wrongfully, IMO) denied qualification for the Special Needs Pre-K. We worked for six months to prove that she needed to be in there, so that meeting was one I was especially nervous about, as I thought we might have to continue the fight. We didn't - Ruby was given correct placement, but not before I felt like I was about to pass out and had to excuse myself from the meeting for 10 minutes to get fresh air slumped against the building outside of the school.

I know...sooo professional!

Today's IEP was scary for me because it was the first one since she entered the elementary school. With real report cards and typical classrooms and all kinds of areas where Ruby needs help. The year has not been going perfectly, and that definitely caused me some anxiety when it comes to what her team might suggest for placement going forward. She started the year in the inclusion class (typical kids, about 4 of them have IEPs), with only one segment of pull-out services (this is considered a big win for a child with Down syndrome in our county). One of my many fears was that they would suggest that she be pulled out more often, or (even scarier for me at this time), that she be in a different classroom altogether. For the last month I have been meeting with friends who have gone before me, acquaintances online who are in the know, peers who have insight, therapists who know Ruby - all in preparation for this meeting. I've been over and through everything from what we think her placement should be for her to be successful, to what is legally required, to what is actually realistic, and everything in between. I've said it before: it feels like I'm cramming for a semester exam, but I'm not sure of the specific class I'll be tested on. When I went into this meeting today, I wasn't sure what they planned to recommend for Ruby, which means I didn't know what kind of defense, or offense, I needed to pull out.

The good GREAT news is, it went well. Very well. There were three extra attendees in the meeting, all either county level or school administrators, and those three brought a lot to the table. So much so, in fact, that I had a looong list of things I wanted to discuss and point out, and one by one, members of the team (many times two of the three) brought them up before I had a chance, and presented them in our favor. It was as if they were my advocates and had already seen my notes.

So, the battle is not over. There is much hard work still ahead, for Ruby, for the team and teachers, and for us, but there will be some new supports in place that should help her achieve more success. But more importantly - no, MOST importantly - today gave us a glimpse of at least two 'new' people that see Ruby. Truly see her, and are in her corner. That is what I want. That is what we have with some of our therapists, that is what we had with her Pre-K teacher(s), that is what makes all of the difference, in my opinion. People in her corner give us hope. People in her corner see her potential and work harder to help her achieve it. People in her corner are God's way of giving me renewed strength in my advocacy for Ruby. So as far as I'm concerned, today was a rainbow!