Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Creep-ing Skeleton!

Those slippery wood floors at Nonny and Grandpa John's house were just the thing Nate needed to show off his new moves! For Nate this is big stuff. You know we joke around a lot about how easy we've got it because Nate isn't walking (or crawling for that matter). But truthfully I think his immobility is getting to us all. Nate clearly wants to go places and his body simply can't cooperate. Although in some areas he's becoming more independent, this is one area in which he is still very dependent on us - and at 25 pounds he's a heavy load! So to see our little skeleton creep and pull on the floor like this was just beautiful. And so very exciting.

Happy Halloween!!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The first time Nate spoke to me: Written by Nonny

This past weekend,when Crista, Eric, and Nate were visiting for a glorious five days, Nate spoke to me. Now, I had seen Nate sign words and more recently, actually say words. Many of these times the speaking had been a response for a request to "bandstand" for us. For example, we would go, "what does an owl say," and Nate would intelligently respond with something that sounds like "who cooks for you!" Or we would say, "say hi," and Nate would shyly say in a little voice, "hi." But on Saturday night, he actually spoke to me, completely unprompted.I was getting him ready to go to bed by rocking him and singing to him. Foolishly, I thought any song would do. I began singing practice pieces from the choir I sing in. At one point, I sleepily lapsed into "la,la,la" when I heard a little voice slowly and quietly say, "luga, luga." Suddenly I got it. He wanted me to sing Baby Beluga! So I quickly switched into a much more formal singing mode and broke into Baby Beluga. Every once in a while, Nate would join in. Perhaps it was just my own vanity, but I had the sense he was thinking, "Gosh my Nonny is smart. She understands me and can sing any song I ask of her!" I hope this is just the beginning on many long conversations with my grandbean!

(Nate and my mom, "Nonny")

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My list of 21

things about Nate!

1. Nate can have the worst night of sleep and still wake up smiling. He just sits up, looks at us, and says , "hi" with the most beautiful smile.

2. When he's tired , Nate makes these squirty sounds with his mouth. We've actually tried to reproduce these sounds, but can't. Nate will "squirt" and then pull on our ears (not his own). Usually within minutes he's asleep.

3. Nate loves to read books. This has been his most favorite activity since he was just a little bean. Favorite books include The Very Busy Spider, Brown Bear, Whistle for Willie, and More More More. He just started pretending to read which is the most adorable and absolutely sweetest thing in the world. Nate's perfectly happy in the morning with a basket of books and a bowl of cheerios.

4. Nate really wants to do things like a big boy. He tries to put his socks on by laying them on top of his feet. Today he even tried to put his DAFOs on!

5. Nate is working on generalizing his learning. All things red are Elmo and all things that look like balls (like blueberries) are balls.

6. Nate loves laughing so much that he will even go as far as to tickle himself. He totally cracks himself up!

7. Nate is a totally love bug. He gives these big, loud dramatic kisses. I should also tell you that we made the mistake of showing him how mommy kitties clean their babies. You can imagine what Nate also likes to do now!

8. Music is clearly one of Nate's languages. He loves playing his drum, xylophone and toy piano. Nate also has quite the voice! He always chimes in when I sing to him at night. He loves Baby Beluga, My Favorite Things, Row Row Row Your Boat, and Itsy Bitsy Spider.

9. Sometimes it feels that Nate has one personality at home and one out in public. He's mister chatty at home and can be so quiet in new situations. It kills us when he gets that glazed over eye look and his head goes back, resting on his shoulders. I want to say, "that's not my kid"! Really!

10. He's not a multi-tasker. Mid bite (of a delicious chicken nugget, for example) Nate will decide he wants milk. Just thinking about wanting milk seems to make him feel some urgency to spit all of his food out. Aye aye aye!

11. Another big boy skill Nate loves to show-off is his ability to press his munchkin straw milk container shut. Over and over and over again. Then he acts like he's going to give it to us but then tosses off the side of his food tray. Yes, we are still working on this - haha

12. This is hard to explain, but Nate has these little special exchanges he does that are unique to certain people. For example when he sees his SLP, he always makes "fish lips." With me, he makes this scrunched up kissy face. When he sees his grammy, he coughs (because she does!). When he sees his 1:1 at school, he starts doing the little hand rhyme she taught him. These special exchanges with people seem to create much more intimate relationships. It's really pretty amazing.

13. Nate has just discovered (thanks to Grammy) that when you drop something, people will say, "uh oh." Of course Nate has his own variation of this, "uh UH oh."

14. I'm not sure if it is because of the last sound he hears, but Nate is starting to say words by their ending sounds. Milk has become /k/, for example.

15. Nate LOVES Elmo just from seeing a few DVDs on our laptop. He sleeps with his friend, "Mo" every night.

16. Nate is a total water boy. He could easily stay in the bathtub for an hour. He loves to scoop, pour water, and splash splash splash! On of his favorite things to do is pour water on his head. Go figure!

17. Nate is fascinated by light and shadows. At night when I put him to bed he loves to wave his hands in the air and see the shadows dance on the wall. When we're in the car, he loves watching the flickering light coming in through the car windows. I have to say that I love looking at light patterns too....

18. He also likes to identify all light sources by pointing them out to us. We swear he's communicating with some alien friends when he looks up at out dining room light. We also wonder if Nate is destined to be an electrician.

19. Nate isn't big on sweets except for vanilla ICE CREAM!! This summer I think he asked for it by sign every night.

20. His all-time favorite food is yo-yo. He eats yo-yo with Earth's Best's pears and mango every day.

21. More than anything Nate wants to be noticed you. He wants you to make faces with him, read books with him, sing songs, roll around with him, give him snacks or just be silly with him.....

Monday, October 11, 2010

We've been busy!!

So busy that I am having a hard time keeping up with the 31 for 21 challenge!! Yikes!!

It took us about a week to recoup the Brattleboro Buddy Walk. I don't think I had mentioned in the Buddy Walk post that we had been in the ER two nights before the walk because of croup! Nate's airway just closed right up on him! Well during last week Nate's cold got worse again (maybe a new virus - who knows?) and sleep deteriorated for all of us. I only have Nate so don't have much perspective on this but congestion for him is really pretty awful. Is it worse for DS kiddos? I don't know. He (and us) are just miserable when he gets sick. Nate takes these gurgly breaths and then chokes on all that phlegm. When we listen to him it feels like we're drowning. At one point on Saturday night we had to put him back in his crib for an hour just so we could get a little sleep. He snores, chokes a bit, then gasps for air. Just writing about it makes me feel short of breath. Ironically when are completely beat in the mornings Nate wakes up like a bright new penny (in my mom's words). Big green snot runs down onto his lips, eyes are totally crusty, and there's this scab of white snot above his lip and yet he's in the BEST mood! -- Smiling, making faces, giving us loud silly kisses. Just amazing.

Anywho, even though we were completely exhausted Sunday morning we packed up and headed out early to the MDSC Buddy Walk. We had been waiting for it all week!!

Our hero and inspiration Rachel Coleman performed before the walk. Yes, the Rachel Coleman from Signing Times!!! She was incredible with the kids and just as beautiful in person. Just about every sign we know is because of her. Nate can communicate with signs because of those wonderful Signing Time DVDs. Check her out!

Here she is performing......

We even got a picture with her and Hopkins!! --- Of course here I am trying to get Nate to just look at Rachel (not even sign) and all he can do is stare at Hopkins' fingers - hahaha

For the walk we joined our friend Noah's team. Noah's Dad is on the right. He helps to organize the Massachusetts D.A.D.S (Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome) chapter -
How cool is that?

They had over 3000 walkers on Sunday and raised over $326,000! WOW!!

After the walk we enjoyed catching up with old friends. We even got to see our cousin Meghan! She took this picture of us at the end of the day.....

AND.....I can't write a post without mentioning that my two most favorite brothers Jesse and David had birthdays in the last few weeks. Jesse turned 20 and David turned 30! This picture still cracks me up. Yes, there is our Nate, "kiss-a-saurus" magee, going after Jesse! Too cute.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What was your first introduction to inclusion?

Last week Eric participated in a panel discussion through our local childcare association about early childhood inclusion. The panel included a preschool directer, early interventionist, a EEE teacher, child care provider and a parent. Each of the panelists were asked to answer the following questions:
  • What was your first experience with inclusion?
  • What is one example of a time inclusion worked well--what made it go well--what did it look like/sound like/feel like?
  • What is one example of a time when inclusion didn't go so well--what did that look like/sound like/feel like?
  • What is one recommendation/wish/ piece of advice you would give to others regarding inclusion?
When Eric was asked to address his first experience with inclusion he talked about an experience he had in college. He shared that one day when coming home from his classes he found himself on a bus sitting next to a young man with Down syndrome. Being friendly, Eric decided to ask the young man what he was doing. This young man shared with him that he was in the process of building a surfboard. Of course this peaked Eric's interest for two reasons: one because we live in New England and nowhere near the coast and (2) because it isn't very often you hear about an individual with Down syndrome building something like a surfboard!

For Eric that encounter represented the spirit of inclusion. Eric didn't know what kind of education this person had, but he knew from talking to him that something had worked. The fact that this young man was riding a bus to town (independently I might add) and talking to Eric about his surfboard showed that something was right about his education. It was clear that this young man's family, teachers, and community found a way to give him the skills and support he needed to pursue his dreams. Isn't that what inclusion is all about?

What was your first introduction to inclusion?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Airbrushing away diversity?

Our friend Jane shared this article with us soon after Nate was born. In light of all the advances in prenatal testing (which we hear is becoming safer and more accurate), we are faced as a culture and as a community to consider what this testing means for individuals with Down syndrome. Will we someday have a world without Nates?

This whole idea of prenatal testing feels a little like pulling a thread on a sweater. First we may be diagnosing Down syndrome prenatally, but down the road it could be the breast cancer gene or something else. It also makes me wonder about "designer" babies with pre-selected genes. Are we saying that there is more value in a certain kind of person or a certain kind of life?

On top of it there is so misinformation expectant mothers receive about Down syndrome. Unfortunately the medical community doesn't always give parents accurate and complete information about DS. Dr. Brian Skotko from Children's Hospital Boston reviewed research that showed a 15% decrease in births of babies with Down syndrome between 1989 and 2005 in the United States. Talk about airbrushing diversity! By no means are Eric and I advocating that prenatal testing not be done, or that other couples should make the same decision we did, but we do want medical staff to have accurate information about Down syndrome and a protocol for how they talk to families about what a Ds diagnosis really means in 2010. Things have changed a lot in the last 30 years!

Below is a picture of our Bean (and hopefully future taxpayer) that was taken at our first trimester screening.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The language we use...

Thank you to Bill and Ria ( for sharing this language guide written by the United Parent Support for Down Syndrome: Go to Click on "Information" in the drop down menu and then "Brochures" and "How do I talk."

Good words to use:
Baby/Child/Person with Down Syndrome - the emphasis should always be on the person first, not the disability. When we take care to put children first, and let the disability remain in the background, we are teaching others where the emphasis needs to be.

Developmentally Delayed - This term is the common reference to describe delays in development, such as language, walking and all other areas of a child's learning process. Most families find it less offensive than the term mentally retarded.

Has Down Syndrome - Someone who has Down syndrome is not a victim of, diseased by, nor do they suffer from or are they afflicted with Down Syndrome. They simply have Down syndrome.

Mental Retardation - This is an accurate term to describe developmental functioning level, but is less acceptable to many parents than the term "developmentally delayed". Use it with caution.

Typically developing/ Non-disabled child - Both of these terms are acceptable and positive ways to refer to people who do not have Down syndrome or another disability.

Big No-No's:
A Down(s) - A person with Down syndrome is not the disability. There are many things that should, and do, define that person. It is dehumanizing and strips people of their dignity to be referred to as a disability. Instead of saying "He is a Down" or "She is a Downs", try "He or she has Down syndrome."

Down Syndrome Child/Baby - This goes back to referring to the person first, not the disability.

Normal kids - Please realize that we perceive our children as being pretty normal kids. Comparing them to normal children implies that a child with Down syndrome is something less than normal.

Retard/Retarded - The best reference is developmentally delayed (for children) and developmentally disabled (for adults).

Mongolism - As most of us know, this is an extremely outdated term that was once used to refer to people with Down syndrome. This word should never be used when referring to or about someone with Down syndrome.

"They" as in "they are so loving; they smile all the time; they are always happy." - Please don't generalize about people with Down syndrome. "They" are not all alike; nor are people with Down syndrome "eternal children."

"How mild/severe is it?" - A person either has Down syndrome or they do not. Down syndrome is not an illness. Having Down syndrome does not mean a person is sick.

"But you're so young!" - Although the chances of a woman having a child with Down syndrome increase significantly over the age of 35, there are far more children with Down syndrome born to younger mothers - they are having more babies.

Handicapped - Use "has a disability" instead.

Downs or Down's Syndrome - There is no "s" or "'s" in the name of this syndrome.

Suffers From/ Afflicted With Down Syndrome - Our children are not suffering or afflicted. We must instill a great sense of pride and self-esteem in all children, so should ensure that we do not make anyone feel that Down syndrome is something terrible or something to be ashamed about.

I imagine that there are different opinions about whether or not some of this terminology is acceptable. More than anything, we want our friends, family and community to be thoughtful about the language they use about our sweet Bean.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Do you have a favorite place?

We do. It's Green Mountain Orchard in Putney,Vermont. Besides the fact that they have the most amazing apple cider doughnuts, sticky buns, pumpkin muffins, and apple pies, they have gorgeous rolling hills with beautiful apple trees --- And blueberries, plums and a pumpkin patch too!

I'm not sure how exactly this happened, but we've now been there every weekend since the last weekend in July. Sometimes we just walk and visit with the horses and chickens and have a snack. Other visits we load up on their fruit. I am loving those Macouns.

The vastness of the orchard seems to open us up. We find respite from our daily unfinished to-do list. Breathing in that sweet apple air, we fall into that happy, sleepy, silly, no worries kind of place. We walk, talk, listen, and laugh.

The pictures above are from today's visit with our love-bug. What a kiss-a-saurus!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The 2nd Annual Brattleboro Buddy Walk!

I have to say that today was pretty amazing. It was a cool crisp morning with bright blue skies and a warming sun. Nate was up early like last year - and so was I. This is a day we'd been waiting! We had a few minutes of family snuggling time (which these days mostly involves making funny sounds and funny faces) and then we were up and moving.

This day came together pretty perfectly.......Dedicated volunteers, amazing supporters, great vendors, an inspiring key note speech, lovely walk, great music and yummy lunch. Not only did we get to see old friends, but we made many new friends today as well. It just felt so good to be there. I think we must have had at least 300 people attend and had over $9500 in donations. Wow.

The best part of this magical day is that everywhere I looked I saw people smiling. It was just one of those days....

Thank you my family..thank you friends...thank you beautiful sunshine.
And most of all, thank you Bean for being you. We love every one of your 47 chromosomes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

31 for 21 Blog Challenge!!

Did you know October is Down Syndrome Awareness month??

We've decided to accept the 31 for 21 Blog Challenge from Unringing the Bell! (I'm having some difficulty connecting her link to this post).

It may be late -- but we're in ; )

Quote of the day....

“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities,

and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric,

one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.
-Margaret Mead off to get some sleep before our 2nd Annual Brattleboro Buddy Walk tomorrow!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Having a voice....

In the last few months, Nate has really started to talk. At night before Nate falls asleep we hear him babbling up a storm in his crib (mostly to his friend, "Mo"). It takes all of us not to go in there and just swoop him up into our arms and start yakking away with him. It's just too damn sweet. There's some level of seriousness to what he's saying and yet it's so silly and playful at the same time. He babbles out a clear story and then inserts a few good raspberries at the end.

This is a video from over a month ago... I think Nate's vocabulary has tripled (at least) in the last few weeks, probably with his return to school. Even though it's sometimes hard to understand Nate, it's clear that he has something to say. The more words (and signs) he learns, the less frustrated he seems. Nate just seems like such a different kid now that he has some communication tools....

All we can hope is that Nate always feels this joyful about talking..........We want our Bean to know that what he has to say is important and that when he talks, we will always listen....

Yep, our Bean has a voice!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Relationships & Collaboration- The Bridges to Inclusion...

A follow-up to our January post on inclusion (click link below to read)...

This weekend a friend and former colleague and I were talking about issues that are important to us as we head into the new school year. I excitedly shared that our school district will be showing a free screening of the documentary, Including Samuel at our local theater and having presentation by the associate director of the Institute on Disability at UNH (Dr. Mary Schuh) during our opening day district meeting. I talked about how we have been working to create a more inclusive school district. My friend shared that inclusion doesn't always work - and may not always be what is best for a child all the time.

The bottom line is that inclusion is complicated....there are so many pieces to it. In some ways I feel like it's just become this blanket term about students with disabilities being able to learn with their non-disabled peers (that inclusion just happens and students are successful if you do this). Of course we want that for Nate when it works. But how we think about how Nate is
included and learning is more than just having him in a classroom alongside of his peers. It's of about how we work together. Also, as we have mentioned before....having Nate participate in all general education programing and classrooms may not always be best for him at times during his schooling. Of course we don't want Nate to be excluded from opportunities with his peers and feel he should always have the choice to participate with his peers -- but we also know that for Nate participating in tenth grade Biology may not be providing him the optimal learning environment for where he is developmentally (then again, Science could be Nate's thing - who knows!). The point is that we don't know where Nate will be in his learning from year to year. More than just seeking inclusion for Nate, we hope that he has the opportunity to work with a team of teachers who are thoughtful, creative, and caring about his school programming. We want to learn and work together with his teachers and specialists to make thoughtful decisions about how Nate participates in school. This collaboration, like a beautifully woven quilt, is what creates a meaningful school experience for Nate. It is what ultimately helps Nate become a productive and included member in his community...

So what makes this collaboration work?


How we work together...How we listen...How we share we share our opinions...How we share our knowledge and expertise...How we respect each other...How we value what each member of his IEP team brings to the table.

The relationships I have with Nate's teachers and the relationships his teachers have with him are just so very important to our work together...

I am not sure Nate would have had the kinds of successes he had last year if it weren't for his amazing teachers and specialists and the time they took to work with us...for Nate.

Yes, relationships and collaboration are the bridges to inclusion....

Here is Nate with his beloved teacher, "Aggy."

Thank you to all of Nate's team ...

You have done so much to help Nate learn and grow
and be included in his classroom community...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2 years ago today...

we welcomed our sweet Bean into our family!

Happy Birthday Nate!!

The night before you arrived...

Born at 7:06 on July 11, 2008...


....And our now two year old!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

We love our Daddies...

...Nate with his Daddy

with Grampy...

with Grandpa John..

with his Papi...

and his Papi with me....

So much love!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

He ate a whaaa?

A cinnamon raisin bagel.......

and a BLACK.....



So essentially Nate went from eating 4 foods, to about 8 in a week! We're over the moon! I actually got a little teary when he put the quesadilla in his mouth. Any of you who have dealt with picky eaters who try new foods know the feeling I am sure..

"Look Ma, I can even eat it with no hands!"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Becoming a Momma....

took a very long time for me. I remember when Eric and I started trying to get pregnant. We were so sure that first night of unprotected sex would surely knock me up. We laugh about it now.

It's hard to describe the pain of infertility to those who haven't experienced it. I felt broke...incapable...and end...not enough...and so very alone. I was an outsider to a club I wanted so desperately to be a part of. So many nights I would put my hand to my belly trying to will life out of it. It felt so cruel and unfair to me. I felt like a misfit. Each month I didn't get pregnant I felt myself giving in more to the anger and hopelessness. I secretly cursed my pregnant friends. Although I knew it wasn't their faults (that they had what I wanted), I hated and envied them anyway.And I just couldn't (or wouldn't) accept being childless.....

Four years later, after 8 IUIs, an IVF and subsequent miscarriage, and a FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer), I became pregnant with Nate. Although I had taken about 8 pregnancies tests (at least!) I got the official HCG blood test results the day before Thanksgiving. Yes, how perfect is that?

Becoming a momma...and more specifically becoming Nate's momma has been a journey into love.

I still remember the first time Nate really saw me (and not just my boobs!). We were out apple picking and Nate was in the baby bjourn. Eric likes to characterize this time as the beginning of "momma worshipping." That look was full of anticipation...curiosity and vulnerability (Or maybe it was me who felt vulnerable with those eyes locking into mine...)

Over the last two years, we have learned how to communicate with the most subtle of looks or touches....I know all of the ridiculous faces he makes by heart...I know what will make him laugh and that tears won't last as long if I sing My Favorite Things (yes, this is one of Nate's most favorite songs). I feel phantom touches - little fingers pinching my neck - or hands gliding up and down my arm - when we're apart. I know him (as he knows me)...

This love we share is intimate, full of trust, knowing and belonging....

for both of us.