Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Space We're In

In the blink of an eye. Expectant parents hear it over and over from those who have gone before them. And it rings true for every stage from the nighttime feedings through college. Never have I been made more aware of that than this fall. While I've noticed Eli and Maddux growing up, and I've seen some 'stage-passing', I suddenly find that we are in a stage that I didn't even realize was so close.

In the last 4-6 weeks Maddux has started 4th grade which has proven to be a pivotal year in our house. She has more homework (not necessarily in a bad way) than before, her classroom responsibilities (independent of family support) has increased, she has freedoms at school that she didn't before (pre-school day activities and recess activities that foster some Independence and choice), and she is staying after school two days each week for various activities. All of that in addition to soccer, which we were overjoyed to find out she wanted to try again.
At the same time, Eli started middle school and its obvious new stage. He's got way more work than before, and I don't even know about most of it, he carries a laptop throughout his day (heavily monitored by the school), he participates in two after school activities meaning Friday is the only day he comes home before 5, he is involved in baseball again, but in the second to last tier of the league (aka BIG kid ball), and he is participating in band.

Sound like a lot? It is! We didn't intentionally get to this 'lot' place...Maddux has been less than enthusiastic about a sport or extracurricular for the last few years, so this fall we decided to not push a team, but instead to try two 'FAST' programs so she could try something on for size with very short commitment. She opted for a running club and a chemistry program. Then, after those had started, she started speaking up about soccer. We did what we could to get her on a team, but this now meant two day/week practices in addition to FAST. The girl is handling it like a champ so far. She is LOVING soccer and thriving at it, and she seems to have a flair for running; she currently holds the #4 fastest girl in the school title for the mile run.
Our rule has always been one activity at a time for each kid, but with Middle School comes school teams and activities that require less commitment from the parents. And I wanted to encourage Eli to try all of this cool new stuff that was available to him. He is always up for that kind of thing, so he hopped into Cross Country two weeks before school started. He runs 2-3 days each week for practice and has 1-2 meets a week. The meets require driving, but the practices are right after school on campus, so it's 'easy'. Robotics just opened up and Eli signed up. Only one meeting each week, but again, it's easy. Now he's talking baseball (for the school) or swim. And of course he's playing a team at the same league he's been involved with since he was 4. But this baseball team is so different. The boys are so big and the rules are getting very 'real' is amazing to watch! Oh yeah, and Eli needs a ride to and from school each day.
So this 'lot' requires much coordination on our part. My logistical gymnastic ability (or lack there of) is being tested daily, and I am ever grateful of the village around me that allows for carpooling and kid shuffling. This fosters some Independence from my kids as they are in and out of other families' cars often now, hopefully being gracious and courteous. All of this 'lot' of school work and activities has quickly become the new norm and I couldn't be more proud of Maddux and Eli for how they are handling it. Grades are not perfect but really good, and through minimal nagging and/or assistance from us. These kids are growing up and becoming responsible in ways I didn't even know I could expect of them yet. God is good.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Paving The Way

No time for fancy things like editing tonight...busy week. 

Ruby has speech at Maddux's school every Tuesday. Luckily, her start time allows Ruby and I to pop in to the lunchroom to see Maddux for a few moments before her speech session starts. Most of the time it involves us walking to Maddux's table, giving a hug and leaving. However, that takes no less than five minutes because on the way to Maddux's table, about six kids stop and wave or hug Ruby. Then when we get to Maddux's class table, the girls swarm. I mean swarm. Only one or two of them know her from outside of the class, but the rest are basically strangers that just see her on these lunchroom occasions. (I don't know about 50% of these girls.)

I go back and forth in my head about if I should continue to bring Ruby into the lunchroom, as it's a bit of a disruption sometimes. However, this week I vowed to not stop until asked because the impact for everyone is too important. I realized as I watched the girls take turns hugging Ruby this afternoon that with each hug, Ruby became more alike than different in their eyes.

Of these girls, we only know of one who knows about Down syndrome because Maddux 'taught' her in her on World Down Syndrome day last year. Maybe a few of the others have some idea, but none that Maddux could confirm. In fact, at least one of the girls has no idea that Ruby 'has' anything.
So the way I see it, these girls getting to dote on Ruby for 20 seconds each week gives them a connection to her. Hopefully that connection makes them able to connect with someone else who might look or act 'scary' at the playground or at church or in a future classroom. And wouldn't it be cool for the parent of that child to walk into a situation where their child was welcomed and included immediately?

I know that is one of the things I am most anxious about as we enter a new social situation with Ruby (everything from a new class to a random day at the pool): how will the other kids react to her? I am painfully aware that I will become more anxious with time over this issue because kids will grow more aware of differences as they mature, and the developmental differences between Ruby and her peers will continue to grow.

So disrupt the cafeteria, girl. Let your light shine bright.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Different Sides of Ruby

With the introduction of a schedule for Ruby where she is away from me, but in an reoccurring environment that includes social and academic components, comes stress. But then, what doesn't stress me out these days, right? My stress is in the not knowing. In order for this to be the type of success I'd like it to be, it's necessary for me to not be present in that classroom. This is Ruby's chance to work on her own, with people other than me or Lehr. Even more than with Eli and Maddux, this is so important to start the expectation of Ruby being able to find success through her own means.

So far, school has been great. Ruby loves it and her teachers report she is doing well. Last week one of her speech therapists asked if she could go to the school for Ruby's session (instead of meeting with Ruby and me at the house). It was one of those moments where I chastised myself: why didn't I think of that? OF COURSE this would be a good idea. Not only could this therapist give me a clearer picture of what Ruby is doing/not doing (because she knows Ruby outside of that classroom, which the teachers don't), but she can also help Ruby find a few strategies in the moment, and she can give the teachers insight into how to best help Ruby and the class be successful.

The report was generally good, but nothing on this road comes without bumps. Ruby is not using her words in the classroom. At all. That is frustrating to me because she is such a chatterbox at home. And because Ruby does not show me any signs of shyness, I just assumed she was talking (in her own way) to the other kids and in general. It makes me sad that they haven't been able to see that very curious, very social, VERY talkative side of Ruby. Another thing our therapist addressed is Ruby not initiating play with others on the fact, it sounds like she just plays by herself most of the time. That is a really tough one for me, since Ruby is so social anytime I see her with other kids (not at school). The good news is our therapist helped facilitate some interactions on the playground that went very well and hopefully helped Ruby realize she has to talk to the other kids (like she does to me and her siblings when she's playing with us at home).
The different sides of Ruby...I had no idea she had this one that is showing up at school! It's so crazy to me to think of this playground side of Ruby, especially when a day doesn't go by that Ruby isn't continually tugging at my hand to 'ccccc-ooommmm' with her to play with the doll house or her kitchen (initiating play). A day doesn't go by that she doesn't play with me or Maddux using as many conversational imitations as possible (the 'talk' is incessant). We are very hopeful that a few more facilitated playground visits will find Ruby and her classmates initiating play together during these times, so that they can see the Ruby that we see.

Thursday, September 08, 2016


Speech updates to follow, but here is an example of one of the ways Ruby and I work on speech each day. Today we used plastic letters to practice our alphabet recognition, but sometimes we use flashcards of animals or objects, sometimes we use small plastic animals....whatever works! This day also found her not in a chair, hence the very busy back and forth. So many times when I work with her we are in a chair to keep her focus, but sometimes we incorporate moving across the room to put things in another area (couch, bucket, etc.) to incorporate following directions AND movement (which is her favorite part).

LONG edits.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Band Geek

When Eli started Middle School, he only had one option for class choices: Band, Chorus or an Art/Stem combo. It should not surprise anyone that Eli chose band. The first two weeks of school were spent with the students learning about and trying out different instruments during class. Then they were able to request which one they wanted to play, and all of that helped the teacher decide what to assign them. Eli chose trumpet and he got his wish! He is very excited to start playing 'real' music, but for now we are just trying to master quality sounds.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Dancing Queen

This post is from months ago (check the hair!), but I had a hard time publishing the video which is vital to the context! She has since added many songs to her list of favorites...I will get more video soon!

This girl loves music, loves to dance. Just like her brother and sister. Even more though, she has her own favorites when it comes to music, and it often surprises me which songs she leans towards. Ones that get played around the house while we are dancing or in the car while we roll down the windows and rock come as no surprise. But other, more random ones (like "Hello" or "Bad Blood") that don't get anything other than occasional radio play, are less expected.

201605RubyDance from Nicole Eliason on Vimeo.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Therapy Update

As I've said before, gymnastics is our only official PT these days. Ruby still loves it. Stays with class and gets help from the teacher when needed (but does lots on her own too). We use the short balance beam in the backyard to help Ruby with her balance and core strength often, and she loves to climb on all kinds of playground equipment. She's running...yes, running...all of the time. Still not jumping with two feet, but we'll get there!
Speech! Ruby currently has three speech therapists. The school system every Tuesday, and Thursday is alternating with myofunctional (more correct lip/tongue placement for sounds) and regular speech. She is stringing more words together, "Thank you, mom", "More water, please" and the likes. She will also put two of those together: when she sees one of the kids or Lehr walking towards the garage she will say, "Bye, Eli. I love you." She is also commenting on her environment more and more daily. Ruby will see something or point to something, look at me and tell me what it is. Her favorites are umbrellas, airplanes, and babies.