Friday, January 24, 2014

She is different and that is OK

Thinking back over the past few years of blogging, it's amazing to me at times how much my perspective has changed towards Down syndrome.

When I first got the news, I was very torn up about it. I've written quite a bit about those raw emotions and how they have evolved since.

After she was born and we worked through some pretty major health issues, I came to a place of peace about it all.

Then- during that first year of blogging, I put on my rose colored "I love Down syndrome" glasses, and blogged quite enthusiastically about something that I frankly didn't know anything about.

"She can do anything she sets her mind to do!"

"Nothing will hold her back!"

"She is a rock star!"

"Watch her wow the world one unexpected achievement at a time!"

"Her extra chromosome gives her extra super powers!"

In a sense, as I stared at my cute little baby who wasn't THAT far off from other cute little babies her age, I worked my words to make her life and future achievements seem as normal as possible. But even more than normal. I put her on a pedestal of "AMAZING" while insisting that she wasn't special...she was just a little girl. She had Down syndrome, yes, but she was MY child therefore she would be the most NORMAL child with Down syndrome to ever walk this earth. She probably wouldn't be affected much by it. She was a perfectly normal little girl wrapped in the gorgeous attire of Down syndrome, using that label only when necessary. The hard stuff and the difficult times didn't exist because in my mind she would be pretty darn normal if it killed me to get her there. Therapies, school, adorable outfits, gymnastics classes, swimming, skiing. SHE WOULD LEAD A NORMAL LIFE and I would push her there. An extra chromosome wouldn't hold HER back!

But as life would have it, the parade of time has marched on and my adorable little cheerleader has fallen further and further out of sync with the other cheerleaders her age. She has fallen so far behind that she is now marching in a completely different group. A group that I didn't sign her up for. It just- happened. Her carefully coordinated outfit doesn't match her new group, and yet she can't keep up with the pace or coordination of her age-appropriate group that has the matching twirly skirts and batons.

And there have been moments during this falling behind that I wanted to grab her arm and push her along to keep up. YOU CAN DO IT! You're a ROCKSTAR! Let's wow this crowd with everything that you can DO! Throwing myself into the parade and carrying her where necessary- I wore an "DON'T PANIC you can still be NORMAL!" smile plastered on my face as she stumbled to keep pace with the cheerleaders effortlessly doing things that she just couldn't.

And somewhere in those first few years of panicked frustration, I slowly realized- she is going to be different. She IS different. No matter how much I try to normalize her- she will always be different.

But more importantly? I realized- that is OK. Different is OK. Her pace is OK. Her goals, hopes, and dreams are OK- even if they aren't "rockstar" status.

Different can be beautiful. Different can be awe-inspiring all on its own. Different isn't something to be afraid of.

Being Different is OK- even more than OK- it can be a wonderful, amazing thing. Addison doesn't need to wow anyone. She doesn't need to "overcome" Down syndrome. She doesn't need to prove anything. She doesn't need to keep up pace with the crowd that was born 4 years ago.

She is just...Addison. And her name brings with it such a mix of personality, difference/normalness, amazingness/not amazingness, achievement/non achievement, happiness/sadness, brilliance/slowness- a mix all her own. A mix that I have come to accept slowly over the past years. A mix that I have come to love all on its own not because I created and pushed it to happen but because she did.

She will march in the parade of life to her own beat. She will wear her cheerleader outfit with pride and not make a big deal that she is no longer in the group that she started out with. She will fall behind and my job is not to push her to where I think she should be. It is my job to stand on the side lines and cheer enthusiastically for how beautifully she is marching and twirling her baton. At her own pace. In her own group.

I am not responsible for pushing her to achieve normalcy in life. I am responsible for accepting her- for exactly who she is. I am responsible for loving HER- not my expectations for her. I am responsible for seeing that she is different- and loving her for it.

Don't get me wrong- I do intend on helping her get the best- education, opportunities, and life experiences. But how she marches the parade of opportunity in front of her is her choice. This is her life- her diagnosis- her best work. Not mine. And I accept her for who she is and her best for the achievement it is...

...even if the parade is picking up pace while her marching speed is slowing. Because if you knew how long we worked for her to be able to march on her own? You would understand the fantastic celebration going on on the sidelines.

A celebration of difference. And achievement. All at once.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's Been 4 Years


Dear Addison,

In a few short weeks you will be turning 4. This is kind of unbelievable to me because it seems like just yesterday I found out that I was pregnant with you.

I was so excited to see that positive pregnancy stick, and then so utterly devastated when your gender reveal ultrasound turned out to reveal so much more. You would not be normal- they told me.

They were so sorry. You had an extra chromosome, and their voices dripped with pity as they talked about your life suddenly becoming expendable- if we were to so choose.
All of this seems like yesterday. The grief that consumed me as my perfectionistic side grappled with the thought that I was going through a very difficult first pregnancy for a baby who would not be perfect. The prayers that maybe the amnio was wrong even though I was assured that it never was. The horrific labor that ended with you being whisked off to the NICU with health problems that hadn't been anticipated. Five long weeks there, nine months of oxygen at home, a g-tube, two heart surgeries, countless doctor's appointments, therapies- my life revolving around your care- the first year of your life was such a blur and yet I can't believe that it didn't just happen. Yesterday.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. As I look back over the past four years of your life and the months before that after getting your diagnosis, I have to agree.
The baby I thought would be imperfect turned out to be the most perfect gift I have ever been given. The long months of grief and worry turned out to be just the stretching experience I so desperately needed to prepare me for the difficult task of motherhood ahead. The extreme health issues and need for therapy helped a super competitive person not to be a hyper competitive mother. So many details that at the time seemed unfair and awful now fall into their places of the puzzle of my life. And even if fairness hasn't been achieved, purpose and a greater design has been. The dark pieces of the puzzle are nestled into lighter pieces, causing an overall picture of beauty and grace. A picture far greater and better than I ever deserved.
And now you are turning 4. Where did the time go?

I watch you with your brothers- roughhousing with Carter and gently soothing Eli. I watch you read, babble, and play so imaginatively. I see the sparkle in your eye when you ask to go to school, and I laugh right with you while you dance to your favorite tunes. I cry with you when you're frustrated, and sometimes I wish that you had gotten a better mother to help you through tough communication issues. I love it when you snuggle up next to me on the couch and put your blonde head on my arm. I have a hard time not busting out into laughter when I catch you doing something naughty- like resting in the baby's rock 'n play while sucking on his pacifier and clutching his blanket. I rejoice when you eat well, and I shake my head at all the snacks you sneak through the afternoon right before snubbing your nose at dinner.

It is true- you are not normal. And yet you totally are.
You have Down syndrome. And yet your status reads "little girl" first.

You have the features that I feared- and yet- they are so beautiful. You are so beautiful. You are beyond my wildest hopes and dreams for a daughter.
You have this wide range of emotions: happiness, anger, frustration, joy, silliness, jealousy- and even though there are moments that I want to resign my position as mother and watch from the side lines while someone else does the tough work- most of the time I am overwhelmed with the thought that you are my daughter. I get to spend every day with you. You come to me when you've been hurt. You race to show me your school crafts. You laugh with me during your daily silliness. There are many moments that I just stop and think with wonder how extremely lucky I am that you are my daughter.
As a 25 year old, the chances of me having a child with Down syndrome was 1 in 1400. It's like winning the lottery. The odds were slim. And yet I won. I got you.

But then, I strongly believe that there was more than luck at stake. There was a Creator up above who didn't look around for someone to "handle" you. He looked around for someone who needed you desperately to teach her so much about life that she didn't even realize that she didn't know. And he picked me.

God designed you perfectly. You are one of a kind. You are special. You fill an Addison-shaped hole in my heart....whichever cliche you want to use works for me. Because as far as I'm concerned- they are all true.
I love you, sweet little girl. And I still have so much to learn about you. But the good news is? We have a lifetime ahead of us to keep learning together. One day at a time.

I am sorry I ever doubted your goodness in our lives. But thank you for so graciously teaching us about love and life. We are supposed to be teaching you, but more often than not the tables are turned, and I walk away with my mind blown yet again from an Addison lesson. Thank you. I think you are pretty amazing.

Your Mommy
(who loves it when you now call for her by name when you need something)

p.s. can't wait to help you celebrate your big day

p.s.s. sorry we left your glasses at Papa's House this week...


Monday, January 20, 2014

Toddler Fun

We have been adjusting to life to 3 small kids, and it is very cold outside. Therefore- our trips out have been limited. Not complaining, just explaining the background from which this post stems.

The challenge of keeping 2 toddlers entertained without letting the TV do all the babysitting has been huge. Especially since juggling a newborn leaves little time for complicated activities.

Today I am sharing some of the simple activities that have kept us out of trouble (relatively) so far. No doubt you already have a library so much bigger than this of indoor toddler activities (that work well with a child with a disability), but just in case you are feeling bored yourself- here is what we have been up to lately:

(If you follow me on IG, no doubt you have already seen some of these ideas, but I thought it might be helpful to put these together all in one place)

1. Baths. Oh so many baths.
-with bubbles (blowing bubbles onto the kids while they are in the bath has extended many baths and made them sooooo much more fun. This has also given us many opportunities to work on the "B" sound with Addison. When Carter is yelling "BUBBLES!" over and over...Addison's "B" sounds have dramatically improved as she yells to keep up.)

-with shaving cream (spray them down with shaving cream and instructing them to "wash" also takes up a lot of time and is fun. They end up squealing for "more! more! more!" as soon as the water dissolves the shaving cream suit that they have so carefully "washed" all over their bodies)

-basketball (last night the baby bath was set up next to their bath in the tub. They stood in the bathtub with their small bath play balls and took shot after shot, trying to land the colored balls in the baby's bath. I was surprised- Addison has shockingly good aim. We will be doing this one again.)

2. Coloring/painting
A few Cross connections ago, I was given the idea to completely cover the table with paper and let the kids go crazy with paint. Such a simple idea- and yet perfection.  (LOL Addison's face in this picture)
 With the whole table taped up with paper, I don't have to worry about them keeping the paint on one piece of paper. They can paint the entire table however they want. This is very kid friendly paint, and the paintbrushes with the wide grip have been perfect for Addison's small hands.
 Carter prefers to paint with cars. (We have 2 cars set aside specifically as paint cars)
Normally we start with crayons or chalk and work on our letters/numbers/shapes and then it goes into a free for all painting time as we turn on some tunes. Their current favorite is the 100 Sing Along Songs CD that they got for Christmas. Seriously I love watching Addison dance in her seat while painting away. She often requests "paint. paint." and loves to mix the colors with her brush as we talk about the colors that she is making or sing along to her favorite songs. (I love that this CD includes a lot of Sunday School songs that I had completely forgotten about.)
^^^^^This was a fun morning. We colored, painted, danced to tunes, and then took a shaving cream bath. The activities pair well together since after painting they are usually covered. (-: After it was over? They were ready for lunch and a long nap.

Sometimes we'll color in the morning, use the paper as our lunch table cloth, and then after lunch and nap do painting after their attention span has renewed. There are so many ways to spin this- I can't believe I didn't think to do this years ago when they could first sit up in their booster seats and hold a crayon. It would have saved my walls a lot of abuse! Like I said: perfection.

Cleanup? Fold up paper. Put in Trash. Wash brushes. (and I do usually give them a bath afterwards- but mostly just to continue the entertainment.) I have also heard of saving the paper and using it as wrapping paper. I haven't done that yet- but maybe next Christmas we'll limit our colors to red and green and see if we can paint up some pretty paper.

3. Vocabulary Wall
Addison has always been very hard on books- ripping them every chance she gets. The other day I was organizing through their toys and ended up with an entire bag of book remnants. Instead of tossing them, I taped them all up on a wall (a wall that Carter had previously colored before we started having our table time to get the coloring bug out). Her speech has started really making progress, so I thought that trying this out could maybe help push some more words through- or at least start new conversations with her since she is such a visual learner. This wall is right outside their rooms, and when they walk by after naps or in the morning, we stop to name objects. Vocab wall doesn't take up a ton of time- but small snippets here and there have helped add some more color into their stuck-at-home routine.

My biggest concern with this one would be that they tear them all off the wall. So far they have both tried to tear one off (the same picture too lol) and after one timeout apiece they decided not to touch them again...yet. We'll see how long this lasts, but even if it is a temporary thing it has already been worth it!

Note: When she first saw the wall, she immediately pointed to the "P" and said "P. Papa!" and then pointed to the house and said "House. Papa's House." Mind blown. I had no idea she could do that.

4. Spread-the-water-with-the-sponge 
You might roll your eyes at this one, but they had a blast doing this, and they really helped me out! I was frustrated because the Dining Room floor was soooo sticky and I just couldn't find the time to mop it between diaper changes and feedings. One morning they were bouncing off the walls, so I filled up a small bowl with lukewarm water, squirted in some dish soap, handed them both clean sponges, and told them to spread the water all around the room with their sponges. I got down on my hands and knees and helped them- hitting the corners as they got the main area and the worst of it under the table. When they were done playing in the water, we took one big bath towel, wiped up the excess water, and had a floor that was pretty darn clean. Success!

5. Misc.
I've been working on getting more creative on including them in household tasks. Whether turning laundry folding time into "what color is this shirt?" and "who does it belong to?" time, and having them put their own clothes away (even if it means they get unfolded in the process)- I have been trying to turn basic activities into learning time for all of us. Making them pick up their own toys, put away their own books, throwing trash away, taking their plates to the kitchen counter, and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper- these things all take SO MUCH LONGER than if I would just do them myself, but they have been learning responsibility along with keeping them busy...aka out of trouble.

Carter stacks a mean spice tower while I cook dinner.
 and Addison rolls out pizza crust like the best of them (with some slight help) (-:

Of course we are doing lots of reading, playing with toys, and fiddling around with new apps on the phone...and I'm not going to lie- they have watched a quite a few episodes of Sesame Street, Signing Time, and Thomas the Train- but these activities so far have helped add in some variety while not letting their brains go to mush! And of course...we have a dance party contemplating what the fox says almost every night before bedtime while getting the last of those wiggles out...(-:

Life with toddlers is a constant mix of teaching/terror, and I have found it to be quite interesting adding in the newborn dynamic. Life is never boring for sure!

*this post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

transitioning to 3

A lot of people have asked me how the transition to 3 has been. I've noticed that most of the people asking are parents of 2 asking with a "Hello, brave pioneer. How does the weather look ahead?" type of look.

Someone just today asked me if the transition from 2-3 was easier than the transition from 1-2. I stuttered a bit over the word "easy" in any form being used to describe the addition of a new baby.

Easier?

I don't know. For sure I am more confident in my mothering. The doctors called me a "veteran mother" in the hospital when I had Eli. If "veteran" means more white hairs, fewer outfits without stains, and a sense of humor bordering on insanity- then yes, yes I am.

But also? I now have more children than I have arms.

Today I made my very first outing with the 3 alone. It wasn't even a necessary outing. I'm just trying to get my feet back under me and get more comfortable with leaving my house alone with them before my husband's busy season starts up again.

And as I was standing in the playroom, watching the two tots scoot away into the store while I was holding Eli- it occurred to me that I could only grab one of them to bring them back as I only had one free arm. So I grabbed Addison and bribed Carter with some juice when we got back to the car if he obeyed. First battle down- victory won. Although really, I just got lucky my first go of it.

Some days are awesome. This morning Addison was at school, Eli contentedly played on his blanket, and Carter messed around with the new tractor aps on my phone while I actually got some cleaning done (thus getting the kids out of the house this afternoon...so it could stay clean just a bit longer). I felt like superwoman, and it was amazing to be able to claim back some portions of my house.

Other days absolutely nothing gets done other than 3 sets of bums being kept in clean diapers, 3 stomachs are kept full of good food, and 3 sets of eyes close for sleep promptly at 7pm. If you were to unexpectedly drop by my house at the end of one of these days, you would gasp and no doubt feel the need to call someone to have my children taken to a safer environment. These days happen when Eli is particularly needy in the eating department, meaning that he gets held a good portion of the day while hurricane #1 and #2 set to work. No complaints about getting to hold my newborn for long hours (clean up duty notwithstanding). Although it would be nice if I could sit and feed him while picking up and putting away the toys off the floor with my eyes. Apparently "veteran mother" does not include having eyes with magical powers. Not gonna lie- it would be nice.

So is it easier than when Carter was a newborn?

It is so hard to compare because Carter was such an incredibly demanding baby. Eli is a pretty easy going baby (knock on wood). But now I have two toddlers to continue to parent whereas when Carter was a baby- I just had Addison who was still pretty babyish herself.

I think the easiest thing about 2-3 compared to 1-2 is that I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know that they will adjust. I know that Eli will grow into different stages. I know that my ability to juggle whatever necessary to parent my children will continue to expand with them because I have seen it happen before.

So when I have rough days when Carter is destroying one room, Addison is destroying another, Eli is pooping through all his diapers and screaming with rage if he isn't eating constantly- I know that these rough transition days are numbered because before I know if they will all be in the next stage and I'll be wondering where my tiny babies went.

It's strange to me how 3 children can be completely overwhelming and yet be completely wonderful. I already can't imagine life without Eli. My little family has expanded and yet it seems perfect and just how it was supposed to be. We sit at family dinner. We hold tiny hands as we pray. We talk and listen to toddler jabber and cradle a newborn in one arm while trying to eat salad with a non dominant hand holding the fork. Life with 3 is chaotic and strange, but also very good and right.

1. 2. 3.

Most days I blink in awe that I have 3 kids. THREE. How is that possible??? Of course, this is only after I consume large quantities of coffee. Because on this amount of sleep, counting to 3 without caffeine would be quite the achievement.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Now

It's the end of another day.

Laundry, pick up, diapers changed, dinner prep, sweeping, mopping, nursing, toilet bleaching...it was another busy day. And even though I worked constantly through the day- by the time the kids are fed, bathed, and snuggled in their beds- I look around and it seems as though I did nothing all day. The last half hour before dinner things just seem to unravel and the house implodes on itself. Somehow. Every day.

And today as I did my endless list of chores, I thought a lot about how a new year just started (it did....right?) and how people were posting resolutions and changes and goals for the new year. The days are blurring together, so I totally lost track of when this new year started. But I know it did not that long ago. Facebook is still weeding through the last of the status updates on it, and when I'm up at 2am feeding a hungry baby- Facebook status perusal keeps me awake.

As I pondered this new year, I knew that this year I'm not going to see any big career accomplishments. I'm not going to get in the best shape of my life, and I'm not going to travel to the exotic places that are tucked away in my "someday" file. I'm not going to cut out all sugar this year- or cut out caffeine (oh heavens no). I'm not going to get another degree. I'm not going to turn my house into my dream house on Pinterest.

I thought about goals and resolutions that would be reasonable for me to set for myself this year, and all I could think about was "the now". Not next month. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Not six hours from now. Right now.

My whole life I have wasted far too much time looking for the next exciting moment- or just for things to get easier. I have ignored the "now" for a glittery "then", but by the time "then" arrived it was the "now" and was rushed past for the fireworks up ahead.

I am the mother to three very small children. They are all in different stages- stages that each have their own, unique trials. When Addison and Carter were newborns, I wished it away so that we could get to an easier stage that involved SLEEP. And then I wished for them both to be walking so that my back could catch a break on carrying them both everywhere. Then I wished for them to TALK. Then I wished for.... you name it. And every time we passed by current trials, we moved onto new ones.

I know how easy it is to say that life is hard with three small children. NEXT YEAR IT WILL BE EASIER! Next year they will be doing ________ that they aren't doing now. EASIER! But in telling myself that (which probably won't be true, either) I will miss out on the gift of what I have now.

So for 2014, as I have these three very small children in my care, I want to commit this new year to enjoying the "now". Yes, the future up ahead looks exciting too, but I am painfully aware that they will only be these ages once, and even though these ages are physically demanding- they are equally amazing and beautiful. (I don't promise to enjoy every moment, because I'm no fool. Some moments are meant to be hurried through with a ginormous "YOU SURVIVED" trophy handed to you when you're through.)

But the now.

I want to commit to enjoying every single baby snuggle without thinking how much better he'll sleep when he's bigger.

I want to kneel down to the toddlers' level, look them in the eye, and work my very hardest to understand them NOW instead of envisioning our improved communication when they've grown a bit more.

I want to spend my days LIVING them instead of focused on documenting them.

I want to take longer to make cupcakes so that my children can "help" even though it would be so much easier if I just did it myself.

I want to put off folding the laundry just a bit longer so that we can have a random, 3:30 pm dance party.

I want to take my time with diaper changes, instead of hurrying through them- so that I can find that tickle spot on their bellies and hear them laugh.

I want to continue to make and enjoy making nice family dinners even when I know they'll be snubbed 50% of the time by the toddler food critics who would much prefer chips and m&ms for dinner.

I want to take a deep breath and remember that these lives are a gift even when the witching hour between dinner/baths/bed has come and they are acting like complete brats because they are exhausted from a long day.

I want to take extra time to give more hugs, kisses, and snuggles as we take extra time to sit on the couch with a book on tractors. Even though the mirrors probably won't get cleaned that day as a result.

I want to slow down and learn patience instead of yelling at those super frustrating moments when they are going three different directions and ruining all my plans for the day.

I want to focus on what they are amazing at instead of complaining about what they can't do.

I want to smile at them more.

I want to bond with them on things that they love instead of on what I think they should love.

I want to teach instead of nag, pray instead of guilt, and take deep breaths instead of stressing the small things.

I want to relax and be present even when my mind wants to travel to the list that isn't getting done and bathe the day in tension.

I want to be fiercely thankful for them even when I'm cleaning up bathroom accidents or picking up broken pieces of things that were MINE or trying to find the second earring from my favorite pair that is clearly gone for good.

I want to love. I want to listen. I want to learn.

I want to mother with everything I have and be convinced that that is enough.

I want to enjoy every day with 3 small children without hoping for a better tomorrow. Or next month. Or next year.

The now. 

I want to commit 2014 to seizing the now and enjoying the task that is set before me- the lives that are mine to mold, the house that is mine to make a home, the dinners that are mine to create, the laundry that is mine to control. I want to embrace my job with renewed enjoyment. Even when I do it imperfectly, with a toddler hanging off each leg and a baby waking up in the next room.

The now holds so much more than dirty diapers and dishes. If I let it.

It's going to be a great year.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Addison and the Baby

Those of you who follow me because of our connection in the special needs community no doubt have noticed that it's been a long time since I have mentioned Down syndrome here on the blog. "Unsubscribe!" may be your battle cry, and if so- fine. I have always said that this blog is for me and what I need to write rather than what I feel that everyone would want to read. I am not in the market to change that now. (I need my therapist too much to let it go!)

But today I need to break my silence and talk about Down syndrome.

My avoidance of the subject has not been deliberate. It simply has not been forefront in our lives. Getting ready for new baby, going through some 2 year old issues with Carter's bed transition, welcoming new baby, adjusting to being a new family of 5- we have been busy.

And parenting a child with Down syndrome through all of this has been interesting. There are moments that are incredibly difficult. There are moments that are blissfully amazing. And then there are thousands of moments in-between that just....are.

So many people keep asking me "How is Addison doing with the new baby?" I can only assume that they are picturing Carter constantly in a time out with his toddler sized bat just to keep him away from practicing ball with the new baby- because the questions are rarely about him. The questions are almost always about Addison and the new baby. (btw...thanks Aunt Andria for buying him the bat. Can't wait until I can start buying toddler sized explosives for your kids. (-:)

When the baby first came home from the hospital, I was stressed out about how little I could trust her. She didn't deliberately want to cause him harm (unlike when Carter was a baby and she was still just a baby herself). She was just extremely uncoordinated around him. Placing her hand on his belly to push herself up from a sitting to standing position, walking around his blanket-tripping- and falling on him, flipping his bouncy seat as she tried to figure out what this thing was (not while he was in it thank goodness), throwing books down around him for him to read while he was chilling in the pack 'n play- she was just extremely curious with no "careful" filter in that curiosity.

As time has moved on- her trustworthiness has gone up. Not 100%, but upper 80s for sure. She has been spending lots of time just sitting next to the baby, watching him. She'll lay on the blanket next to him while he has tummy time, quietly staring into his face. She'll give him gentle back pats (unlike Carter's back pats which are more like a "remove stuck food from your throat to help you stop choking" type of pats). She'll readjust his blanket (although sometimes she'll put the blanket over his head). Several times Eli has been crying, and before I could get to him, she did first. She'll just sit next to him, staring at him, perhaps giving him some gentle pats. 9 times out of 10 he'll stop crying and just stare back at her.

She wants to hold him a lot- and very intently stares down at him and "holds" (with assistance) her baby with such love.

She is fascinated with all of his stuff. The bouncy chair and his rock 'n play make the BEST reading nooks for her. She'll climb in with a book, settle in under his still-warm blanket, and spend time just chilling in his digs. She says "Baby" a lot. She won't say "Eli", but she finally stopped trying to give my belly a kiss after a few explanations of the baby no longer being there- he is here with us now!
It has been so sweet to see her mother him, and I am already sensing a special connection between Eli and Addison. I hope they will be best friends.

But in the same breath- there have been times in this whole transition process that I have been extremely frustrated with the fact that my oldest has Down syndrome.

She will be 4 in less than a month. I am not the first person in the world to have a 4 year old, 2 year old, and newborn. Far from it, actually. I know many people with this exact same spacing. But the fact that my 4 year old is behind my 2 year old developmentally in a lot of areas has added in a lot of extra stress.

The fact that I have 3 in diapers, her stubbornness in pretending not to understand basic instructions (she does), her fascination with taking off her diaper during nap time and relieving herself all over her room (every.single.day), her refusal to walk on snow (it's almost impossible to carry a 30 pound toddler and an infant seat while holding Carter's hand too), her inability to communicate a lot of basic needs and wants- turning to incessant whining to get her point across-

there have been many times while juggling my newborn on top of dealing with these issues with Addison when I have thought "It shouldn't be THIS hard. She is almost 4. WHY do I still have to deal with some of these things with a FOUR YEAR OLD."

she takes advantage of baby nursing time to do stuff like this:
in the cup: cereal. In the spray can: jock itch spray. Um....
the storage location of these items have since been changed...now that she can climb to the tallest and highest cabinet shelves and help herself...

And the thing is- when Down syndrome all of a sudden becomes forefront in my mind in a negative way, I know that this isn't something that she will grow out of- or somehow be cured of- or something that will just disappear if I don't think about it.

My daughter has Down syndrome. My four year old daughter has Down syndrome. My oldest- the one who I should be able to rely on the most to "help" with the new baby (or at least be able to do a few more things for herself- like walk to the car) has significant developmental delays requiring much more care, help, and patience than a typically developing peer would require.

This isn't new information to me. But when I forget about Down syndrome because of how busy we are- when I see how well she's doing in so many areas- when I am so busy loving my little family that I forget to think about the labels in our lives- a reminder is a bit like a slap in the face. I forget that anything is different about us- about her, until these reminders.

Last night Aaron wasn't home, and I was in charge of getting them all in bed by myself. Carter went down pretty well (at least quietly), and Eli immediately fell fast asleep. Addison? After a full day of play, attention, and good food- she sat at the door of her room and just whined. Whined and whined and whined. Every time I asked her what was wrong- she just whined more. No words (except to ask for Daddy once). No explanation. Just a madness inducing whine for an hour and a half.

I was frustrated. I went in there multiple times to talk to her and figure out what she needed. Nothing.

Finally she seemed to be falling asleep at her door. I picked up her little frame and placed her in her bed. She looked ready to whine some more and get back out of bed, when I picked up her blanket. I waved the blanket over her body- "gooshing" the blanket (as Aaron calls it). The blanket rose and fell over her several times, and for the first time that night- she relaxed. The whining stop, and in its place came a little giggle. The giggle widened into a full body laugh which continued as long as I gooshed her sheets. All it took was a few seconds of this laughter to erase the memory of the past hour and a half of whining.

Her laughter was a much needed reminder. Yes- there are moments that are hard- perhaps stinging a bit more than the "hards" we have with Carter. But life with Addison is extremely worth it all. She is an amazing, smart, person that truly is growing and learning so much every day. Her frustration most likely equals mine in this whole process. Her smarts are so far ahead of what she can communicate in words. I guess that would make me turn to whining too.

We are in this weird transition time- adding a new person to our family. (Although- seriously Eli is the best baby in the world. God knew we needed an "easy" baby this time around.)

When transition and hard times roll around, the bumps already in our path seem to increase in their intensity. When we balance back out to normal life, the sting of having a 4 year old function less than a 2 year old becomes one of those things that just...is...instead of something that makes me overwhelmed to leave my house with all three.

So to answer the question "How is Addison doing with the new baby"- she is doing great. She loves him. She is fascinated by him. She is acting out a bit more as she adjusts to another brother in her crew. She is thrilled that she still has her school time because it is HER thing- her time with her aide- her learning time without being weighed down by little brothers.

And Eli? He seems to really love Addison. Enough to attempt to pull her hair already, anyway...


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Getting 3 Kids To SLEEP

I have concluded that getting 3 young children to sleep simultaneously is a bit like juggling a watermelon, a grape, and a carving knife. It is unbalanced, chaotic, and potentially hazardous to your mental health.

When I am successful balancing the three- I feel like queen of the world. I work constantly to figure them out- cuddle the ones who need cuddling, let the independent non-cuddlers cry out what they need to cry out, give ginks (drinks) to those who need them to fall asleep, sing songs when necessary, and tweak schedules here and there to make sure that I'm not missing the window of sleep opportunity (not too early so that they whine for hours about how they're not tired- or too late where they just cry and cry because they are over tired...right in-between: the window of sleep opportunity.) This is a constant learning game. Never do I feel confident enough to say "NOW! I have figured them out. HERE IS THE SECRET TO SLEEP!" Because they are all different, respond differently, and each and every day varies in what they truly need to pass out drooling and adorable on those little pillows.

3 children. None of them are the same as far as sleep goes. And yet my job is to get them all consistently on the same schedule. This is where superpowers would be useful in motherhood.

Addison's sleep habits as a newborn were ideal- although we didn't realize it at the time. She spent her first 5 weeks in NICU and when she came home, not only was she still physically very weak and required extra rest, but she also had a g-tube. A g-tube means that you can silently send food into your child's belly WHILE they are asleep. You can stave off hunger before they even feel it enough to wake up and cry. As Addison has grown- she has continued with her good sleeping habits excepting 1. She tends to get up very early in the morning no matter what time she goes to bed and 2. If Carter is sleeping in the same room as her, he WILL keep her awake no matter how tired she is. (when Carter was a newborn, not gonna lie- there was a time that we truly missed the magic of a g-tube with night feedings).

Carter's sleep habits as a newborn are the kind of sleep habits that maintain that that child will always be the LAST baby (thank goodness for oopsie #3). Up every 45 minutes for at least the first six months- refusing to be rocked or cuddled to sleep- randomly having screaming night terrors- getting worked up and on purpose vomiting if he felt he was put to bed too early (as he grew into toddlerhood). His sleeping habits are still a bit questionable- getting up at least once a night to cry about the unfairness of life, and don't even get me started on the transition to the toddler bed (before we built his "baby gate" that kept him confined) where he would get up at 2:30am to scout out cookies and sweets in the kitchen to consume while we all slept.

They both need a lot of sleep. If Addison doesn't get enough sleep she gets sick. If Carter doesn't get enough sleep he is an absolute brat the next day, and no measure of obedience training works to get him to shape up.

Eli so far has been way better than Carter as far as infant sleep goes. He loves swaddling, white noise, his rock 'n play, and a 7pm bedtime. But if there is one thing I have learned as a mother of 3- it's that this sort of thing is never a constant. It changes faster than clean clothes end up in the giant dirty pile (and that is fast).

One day I'll be juggling my watermelon, grape, and carving knife- carefully getting my children all to sleep at the same time and feeling so proud of myself for tiny successes, when all of a sudden the grape turns to an orange, the watermelon transitions to a bowling ball, and the carving knife explodes into a sphere of fire.

The one thing that is constant? Flexibility, willingness to rework preconceived notions, and ability to survive on little sleep when you least expect it.

We had just fallen into a decent schedule with the 3 (the tots sleeping from 7pm to 7am and Eli varying from 3 hour stretches to 4 and maybe 6) when we took an impromptu vacation this past weekend. The vacation kind of fell into our laps, and was amazing- but that's not the point of this.

The first night in this new, strange place- little Eli got up once. ONE TIME! YAY! Sleep for this Mama! (Confession, I still got up every couple of hours to make sure he was breathing)

The problem with this crazy "sleep" plan was that this same night Addison woke up in the strange, new room at 3am requesting a drink. She woke up Carter. When she was ready to go back to sleep, he was bouncing off the walls and using all his powers to keep her awake. They fed off of each other's energy, and we spent the next four hours constantly putting them both back in their beds begging, PLEADING, sobbing for them to go BACK TO SLEEP. (Side note: I find these nights my prayer life really gets a kick in the pants. Oh how I wish prayer worked like wishes from a genie in the bottle. sleep SLEEP sleep amen. /child passes out on pillow/)

The next night, we learned from our mistake and put them in separate rooms- far away from each other. This meant that Aaron and I had to split up as well to make sure they were both being monitored in this strange, new place, but it was worth it to finally get a little shut eye. Worked like a charm. They were both exhausted from the night before. They passed out and slept soundly all night long.

Only problem with this "sleep" plan was that Eli was up every hour that night, sometimes more frequently- requiring "snack" feedings and demanding cuddles. Sleep achieved that night: a few broken hours. The third night they switched it up and took turns being up every few hours as well as one refusing to go to sleep at night and another getting up super early the next morning- just to keep us on our toes.

Vacation was awesome, but you know what else is awesome? Sleep. I'm beginning to crave it intensely. And I have a newborn who normally loves sleep. Who knew that the tots and newborn would be equal offenders on the sleeplessness scale??? No one warns you about that.

I wish they would just get together and plan a couple sleepless nights a week, and let all their good sleeping fall on the same nights. But no. And that's where the juggling comes in. And the naps. And the self medicating.

Anyway, we're home now. And one of the nights I was awake most of the night on vacation I thought of the watermelon, grape, and carving knife illustration, and I just had to use it somewhere- even if it meant giving up that first peaceful hour of 3 sleeping at the same time to type it out. Because the "hazardous to my mental health" thing has already kicked way in. If this makes no sense to you- two guesses as to what I blame for my incoherency and the first guess doesn't count.

Now if you will excuse me, it's 7:30pm and I have an important appointment to keep with my pillow. #partyanimal #thisiswhygodmakeschildrensocute #stillworthit