Fall 2012

Fall 2012
[learning to live a perfectly imperfect life]

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Christmas 2009

We fell in love with his photo...



and, if you asked the kids, we "sent him money so he could buy a Mom and Dad."

We hung the ornament we received on our tree -- the ornament represented a little boy who needed a home. And so we talked about him, and thought about him a lot.



I didn't stop thinking about him.

In fact, to be honest, there were many moments when I wondered if he should be ours.

My heart really wanted him.

But our lives weren't ready.

* * *

Christmas 2010

He was still there.



More money.

Another ornament -- another reminder of a little boy without a home. Without a family.



More thoughts. More desire to bring him home. To our home.

Waiting for something to tell me it was right... that he was ours.

* * *

April 2011

We found out he wasn't ours.

We found out where he belonged.

He belonged with his family...




Jake and Ashley Gibson were his Mom and Dad,



and they began their journey to bring him home.






In November, they did just that. They brought him home.



And now, my thoughts aren't about where his home is... now I know.

He is exactly where he belongs -- I can see it in his smile... his laugh.

He is experiencing fun toys and dogs and popcorn ball-making and gifts from far-away friends and haircuts and car seats and unconditional love.



And this year, because of an incredibly thoughtful Mom, we have a 3rd ornament on our tree.



The ornament doesn't represent a little boy who needs a family... a home.

The ornament represents a little boy who has a family...

He is home.

Happy Holidays 2011!

Thoughts

I feel most inspired to write when I can't. Or I shouldn't be.

Like right now.

Right now I have two kids, watching a show on the couch, periodically requesting more grapes. Right now I have 3 cupboard doors open in my kitchen and a dishwasher hanging wide open, half-emptied. (Or half-full, I guess... depends on your mood.) Right now I have a dog shuffling her food and water dish around the kitchen floor with her front paws, signaling to me that she's ready for supper. Right now I have a clock nearing 5:30, which means that I should have supper started. At the very least, I should know what I'm making for supper.

The truth is... right now I have a ton of thoughts in my head. Thoughts about the holidays, challenging child behaviors, brownies and iPads. I have thoughts about friends, Christmas presents and raising a teenager (who is now living here full-time.) I have thoughts about cleaning the house, finding time for my husband, and strawberry daiquiris. (Actually, not much thought on that last one except for wanting one.)

But, the kids' requests for more grapes are becoming louder and more difficult to ignore, the dog is now sitting at my feet whining, and supper is not making itself.

So, my thoughts will have to wait. And later, when the kids have gone to bed, the hum of the dishwasher washing dishes can be faintly heard from the kitchen, the Christmas tree lights are sparkling and reflecting against the window... the perfect environment to reflect and write.... I will be tired and my mind will be trying to recollect just what on earth I had to say about brownies and iPads that was inspiring (or even remotely interesting.)

For now, I will leave you with this.



As soon as I can wrap my arms around the overwhelmingly wonderful feelings I have for this little boy,

and now his forever Mom and Dad,

I will be back.

Fashion Statement

This is where we wear our skirts... so why wouldn't the tree?


First Time

First time walking to the Metrodome for his very first Vikings game



First time posing in the cold weather just outside the dome



First time watching the players come in from the parking lot
(spotted Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Kevin Williams)



First time at the official "Vikings Locker Room" purchasing his first game souvenier



First time seeing the field



First time finding his seat



First time discovering that kisses are nearly impossible wearing a helmet



First time showing his "tough face" and getting psyched up for the game



First time watching the Vikings ship inflate and the fireworks explode for the introduction of the players



First time cheering the players on one by one as they come onto the field



First time taking pictures of the action with Mom's little pocket camera



First time watching a pro-football game live and in person



First time munching on popcorn in a very large and over-priced popcorn tub.



First time realizing that the 1st half of the game is intriguing, but that he's only four, and he still gets bored for the 2nd half and needs his Mom's phone to keep him entertained. (At least her phone case is purple, so he still looks supportive of the team.)



First time covering his ears when the crowd gets a little rambunctious



First time falling asleep in the car after his very first Vikings game




First Vikings loss of the season.

Okay, so maybe that last one wasn't a first.

Preparation

Cards have been written (and adequately covered in stickers),


(Adding his name was an afterthought... so he squeezed it in where it fit!)


smoothie cups have been decorated and labeled,





and the cake has been frosted and bowls of cake batter have been licked clean ,


(Any guesses on the cake?!)


all in preparation to celebrate THIS DAY!


(Thursday, November 6, 2003 at 9:12 am • 6 lbs 2 oz • 19" • 4 weeks early)


It's Party Time!

Inadequate

Blogging is always on my mind -- every time I take pictures I already have thoughts on what I'd write about -- but somehow I've let "my blogging time" be swallowed up by everything else in life.

I don't feel quite complete when I'm not blogging consistently. It's strange. And when it's been awhile since I last blogged, the words don't come as easily as when I'm blogging more frequently.

There are several blogs I follow regularly -- blogs written by remarkable, creative, inspiring women. And when something happens in my life that inspires me to write, I grab my laptop and click on "Blogger", visualizing this wonderfully-written post with breathtaking photos. But before starting my post, I take a little detour and click on the blogs of these other women.

I read. I look. I smile.

And then I allow myself to feel inadequate.

Why do I do that?

Suddenly my moment of inspiration is gone, and what's left is the feeling of "um... nevermind."

My thoughts, my photos, my experiences, my everything suddenly pales in comparison to these other women.

My excitement to blog is gone.

If I consider myself to be confident (which I do), why do I let that happen? *hmmmm*
Must be just moments of uncertainty peeking through the confidence sometimes...

But because of those feelings, I've missed out on blogging some really fun moments in our lives...
and that just bums me out.

So, I'm making a New Year's Halloween Resolution. More blogging. More of our family. Whether the thoughts are eloquent or the words stumble over each other, I'm going to say them. Whether the photos are magazine-worthy or slightly blurry and underexposed, I'm going to share them.

And with that resolution out there, I'm going to show you our two little Halloween kiddos... our two little ones who often say the sweetest things to me,

as if they're helping me to see there is nothing inadequate about me.




Have a fun and safe Halloween everyone!

(Take a peek at our Halloweens from the past here and here!)

Letter to 2nd Grade Classmates' Parents

When Rylee was in Kindergarten and 1st Grade, I wrote a "Letter from Rylee" to send home with her classmates, written to their parents (you can read that letter here.)

This year, as Rylee began 2nd Grade, I knew it had to be different. I am often approached by other parents as to how they can appropriately and positively talk to their children about disabilities. We all want to raise children who are very accepting and appreciative of differences in others, but it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly what to say or how to say it.

So, this year's letter wasn't written from Rylee's perspective, but instead Jeremy's and mine. It went home with all of her 2nd grade classmates (for their parents) the first week of school, and we got really kind feedback!

Rylee is very lucky to have some wonderful friends with amazingly supportive parents -- parents that I now consider to be great friends of mine! I know Rylee will grow up with a tremendous support system around her at school!





Dear Parents,

Can you believe we have kids in 2nd grade?! Many of your children have been here at our Elementary School since Kindergarten, so we already know you! But there are others who may be new to the school. We thought it might be helpful to write to you. As our kids grow and change, they notice more, inquire more, and understand more.

Our daughter, Rylee, is a fun little girl with a dynamic personality. She has an infectious giggle, and loves playing outside and reading books. Besides being very “typical”, she also has Down syndrome. Your child might come home with questions for you, wanting to know more about Rylee. As parents of a child with Down syndrome, we are often asked how to address some of these questions. Below are some common questions and answers that we hope are helpful.

Research has shown that children with Down syndrome benefit from being placed in a regular education class, receiving their education alongside typically developing children of their own age. Typically developing peers give children with Down syndrome the role models they need to acquire new skills, encourage age-appropriate behavior, develop independence and friendships.

It’s also important to your child! Studies have shown that inclusion is beneficial to the other children in the class. Inclusion facilitates greater understanding, patience and compassion as well as learning to be supportive of one another. Children also learn to value diversity and to appreciate that everyone has something beneficial to bring to the life of the school and the community.

We are grateful for the support that Rylee has had here at our Elementary School! We appreciate being in a school that teaches understanding and embraces and values differences!

We look forward to a great year in Mrs. Smith’s classroom and can’t wait to share this school year with you all! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Sincerely , Carin & Jeremy Griffith
(phone number and email address)

* * * * *

Thoughts on Talking to Your Children About Down Syndrome:

What Is Down Syndrome?

“Our bodies are made up of cells, which are so tiny that we would need a special microscope to see them! Inside these cells are even tinier things called chromosomes. These carry the directions that tell our bodies how to grow. People with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome. This means that the growing plan works differently than other people. If someone has Down syndrome, they have that extra chromosome before they are even born. It’s not a disease or sickness, so you can’t “catch” Down syndrome from someone who has it. If someone is born with Down syndrome, they will always have it. Often people with Down syndrome look a little bit like each other, but they also look a lot like their parents and brothers and sisters.”

What Does Down Syndrome Mean to Someone Who Has It?

• “Kids with Down syndrome will be able to do nearly all the things that other kids do. They just may take a little longer to learn them. They may also have to work harder to learn them. Some kids may have to work harder to speak clearly; others may need to work harder to learn to skip or jump rope.”

• “Having Down syndrome also means that there may be muscles in the body that don’t work like other kids; for example, being able to control going to the bathroom may take a little longer.”
(At this point, it’s helpful to discuss with children the things that are easy for them to do, and things they needed to practice more to do them... such as, “Remember when you found it hard to _______? It helped you to have extra time, lots of practice, and some help when you needed it.”)

• “Kids with Down syndrome have some extra teachers who will help them, in addition to your classroom teacher. These teachers have different classrooms where the kids will go during the school day for a while, and they help the kids work on things that may be more difficult for them. Kids with Down syndrome may also have an aide who will help them if they need it.”

What Can You Do to Be a Friend to Someone with Down Syndrome?

• “The most important thing you can do is remember that kids with Down syndrome are KIDS FIRST! They feel, love, play, laugh, learn and have fun just like you! They would like to be treated as you would treat any of your friends. They may not do all the things that you do, but they are not babies and would be hurt if you treated them that way.”

• “It’s important that you not do things for them... it’s better if you can show them how to do something so they can learn to do it themselves. If they do not understand the rules, help them!”

• “You can be a good friend to them by being patient and kind. Even though kids with Down syndrome may not be as quick or as good at something than you, give them a turn! Give them a chance to show you something they are good at!

• “If they do something silly, don’t laugh at them... instead just show them a different way to do it.”

• “If you don’t understand what someone with Down syndrome said, politely ask them to say it again or ask an adult to help you understand.”

Different and Same

• “Look around your classroom... you will see that all of your classmates look different. Here are some things that you might notice: Kids have differently colored hair & eyes, and have different shapes to our faces and bodies. Some kids learn quickly, while some take longer to learn. Some kids like to run, while others would prefer to read a book. Some kids are very friendly, while some feel shy. Everyone is unique! You don’t have to be exactly the same to like being together, to be friends or just to be classmates.”

• “There are also ways that make all kids the same! Kids with Down syndrome actually are more ALIKE you than they are DIFFERENT. You laugh at funny things and cry when you are sad. Kids with Down syndrome do, too. You get upset sometimes and make mistakes. Kids with Down syndrome do, too. You like it when kids are kind to you and you cry if people make fun of you. Kids with Down syndrome do, too. You like to have fun with your friends, learn new things, and feel good about yourself. Kids with Down syndrome do, too.”

We hope this is helpful to you! Thanks for spreading awareness about Down syndrome!

* * * * *

If you would like to read other "Letters from Rylee",
please click on "Letters from Rylee" at the top.
(You may then click on each letter to download a pdf file.)
Thanks for passing along and helping to raise awareness!
© 2011 Carin Griffith • Disability Awareness Alliance™

Always On My Team


Tonight was the first time he laced up his cleats...



joined others on the field...




dribbled the ball and fought the temptation to pick up the ball when it got away from him



and gave soccer a try!



Carter enjoyed his first soccer practice... and as for me?

I don't know if I was more excited to watch him play, or to find out that the ball we bought him matched the team shirt they gave him at practice to wear each week, which wound up matching the goal for a super-cute color-coordinated picture!

Seriously, though, it was an absolute joy watching him! I don't think I stopped smiling the entire hour. Between silent giggles at the parents yelling at their son to "Go get it! Go get it!" as if we were in the midst of the World Cup playoffs, and the little girl who continually picked up her soccer ball every time someone else got near her, I watched Carter.

I watched him think. I saw his little brain spinning as he processed all the rules...

"Tip my foot so I kick the ball with my shoe laces... keep the ball close to me... turn my body so that others won't take the ball from me..."

I saw him make choices.

"Should I go get a drink right now because I'm really thirsty, or should I wait here until Coach says it's time for a drink break?"

"Should I help the little boy that just fell down, or take the ball from him because he's not on my team and head down the field to make a goal?"


My heart smiled when Carter stopped, looked our direction, and gave us a smile and wave.

I don't know if this is the start of many years of soccer-playing, or if he'll decide to hang up his cleats after this 6-week session is over.

What I do know is that it was pure joy watching him tonight...

and I am so happy he's always on my team.

She is...

... spunky.

... delightful.

... strong-willed.


First Days of Kindergarten (2009), 1st Grade (2010) and 2nd Grade (2011) with Dad


She is kind-hearted.

... thoughtful.

... silly.


First Days of Kindergarten (2009), 1st Grade (2010) and 2nd Grade (2011) with Mom


She is growing up.


(More on Rylee's start to 2nd grade to come...)

Today

We spent today at the lake...

swimming,





sweating,

eating snacks,

trying to avoid the rowdy group of young adults using inappropriate words and indulging heavily in adult beverages,

taking walks hand in hand,



and stopping along the way for smiles




and funny faces,



applying sunscreen every 47 seconds because of sunburn paranoia,

fishing,



and enjoying the beautiful day!

The holiday is a tough one to explain to young kids... to them, today was a day Dad didn't have to work, Mom tried telling them about something (or was it someone?) called "America", and their neighbors made lots of noise outside which would have made it difficult to fall asleep had they not been completely exhausted from the fun day! (Some day they will understand the importance of this day!)

We will soon post our annual 4th of July family photo! (You know... after we take it.)

Hope everyone had a great holiday!

Sportsmanship and Dirt

I am not big on competition. I am usually the one that feels more bad for the team who loses than happy for the team who wins.



(I do know that conversations, car rides and overnight stays with Jordyn following softball games are much more pleasant when her team has won.)



But, what I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing is Jordyn grow as a player over the years.



I remember when I first met her at six years old... she was a good player -- hitting, fielding, pitching -- but her attitude and sportsmanship was... well, in need of some work.



But let's be honest. It's hard as an adult to handle pressure and disappointment...



so for a six-year-old? Yeah, it's tough.



(Jordyn was picked up by another team, the Sioux Falls Flash, to play in a tournament 4th of July weekend... hence the different uniform!)



Today, at 16, Jordyn has great sportsmanship.



She has found that delicate balance --



the drive and determination to win,



and the accepting attitude that comes along with loss.



She's got a lot going for her...



and I can't wait to see where softball takes her!




* * * * *

Though Carter loves his big sister, I don't think it's necessarily her softball-playing that draws him to the field.


I think it's the dirt.



I mean, with all the dirt just laying around, what's a 4-year-old boy to do but sprinkle himself with it?



Carter has also become a big fan of ball retrieval. The moment a ball is hit outside the fence, he's scanning the crowd to see if there are any other kids he's going to have to out-run to make it to the ball first.






And when there's a lull in the game, shouting "Blue!" and tossing the ball over the fence to the umpire... well, it doesn't get much better than that.



(We're grateful to have had some very patient umpires... it doesn't always make it over on the first toss!)

* * * * *

(Note: Rylee's not a fan of softball games this season, so we're finding her fun babysitters or wonderful grandmas to stay with her!)