Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas was lovely, despite my terrible cold. I was actually feeling better on Christmas eve but I may have overdone it that day and kind of did myself in for the next few days.

Livi singing carols at her preschool performance the week before. 
Sofie had to miss it because she was sick. 

Christmas eve my side of the family came over for our Christmas fruit crepe breakfast, presents and then a turkey dinner before church. A lot of family but that's how we roll! Crepes are a family tradition and I would have been happy with just that for dinner too!

Playing with the stuffed nativity while waiting for presents to start!

Maggy was very excited.

One of Livi's presents from Marmee was a Hello Kitty Snuggie. She loves it :)

Sofie all wrapped up in her snowman blanket.

We were well enough to make it to church thankfully! Sofie didn't go up with her class because it was past her bedtime but Livi went and "recited" part of the Christmas story. She had missed some weeks recently so she was a little unprepared, plus she goes between the preschool class with Sofie and the K-2 class with her friend so she isn't always consistent. She was excited to be first in line though because she was the shortest :)

Livi with her K-2 class!

After church we went to look at a few Christmas lights. The last house had a hologram Santa in the window and Livi freaked out with excitement. She didn't even want to stay. "We have to leave and get to sleep! Quick before Santa comes!" It was the fastest bedtime routine ever! After she went to the washroom Jon went outside the girls window and rang Santa bells and said "Ho Ho Ho". Livi was so excited she couldn't handle it. She nearly started crying and just buried her face in my neck. It was perfect.

Setting egg nog and cookies out for Santa.

Ready to pop at 40 weeks

Christmas morning was just with us four. We opened presents and had pancakes and bacon for breakfast, topped off with egg nog to drink. After a short quiet time we headed off to Jon's mom's house for the girls to get more spoiled! There is something about being the only grankids on both sides! The dinosaur from uncle Tony and Auntie Lisa was the winning toy this year. Livi has barely put it down!

Opening presents on Christmas morning! 

Santa got her a "real pedal" bike! It was what she had been asking for since Thanksgiving.
It's a little big for her but I think she will grow in to it by summer!

Sofie got a tricycle to help her learn to pedal! She was already doing really well on it :)
Yes, I bought my girls matching pj's for Christmas Eve!

Sofie heard the mention of desert and climbed up to the table signing to eat at Gramma's house.

Boxing day was a little rough. I was so tired and such a mess the next morning. I think the two days of Christmas was hard on my cold and I was back to being sick. Jon was a little grumpy too because my coughing had kept him up. I also thought I might  have been slowly leaking amnio fluid for a few days so my midwife wanted me to get it checked out. We finished packing our hospital bag, just in case, and headed off to get checked out. I think everyone had the same idea and the maternity ward was packed. Everyone waited through Christmas and came on boxing day! It wasn't amnio but there is some extra discharge to keep an eye on. Fun times! Thankfully, one of my midwives happened to be there and did all the checking for me. No nurses needed :)

I'm still just less then 2cm dilated and haven't had much else change. The full moon is coming on Friday, which is my period based due date. That tends to bring out the babies so I'm still hopeful for this week! I  saw the midwife again today for our regular appointment and got the midwife to strip my cervix to hopefully get things moving along. 

I still need a lot of prayer to get healthy though to make it through labor. Coughing hurts during braxton hicks, I'm scared to cough during the real thing! This is really wearing on me and my family. I'm feeling guilty for neglecting my kids for sleep and putting so much pressure on Jon. He is still getting over the cold too. Livi is acting over compensating a little for attention and dealing with her own worry about me I think. I've tried to reassure her as best as I can but she doesn't understand all my emotional ups and downs. I don't cry often so I think that worries her the most, and I cried a lot yesterday. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

No Baby News

No baby news. I'm sick. I have a terrible cold that has me snotting, coughing and aching. Jon is sick too. It is going on three days now. I'm terrified of going in to labor feeling like this but I also want this pregnancy to be over so badly! I think it would be best at this point if I got healthy first. The girls seem to be on the mend but are still sick. They are dealing with the boredom and hours of television a day well but are starting to go a little cabin fever crazy.

The possibility of messing with people's Christmas', if that is when I go in to labor, is weighing on me. My doula has 4 little kids who I'm sure would not be happy having to wait for presents while their Mommy is away, not to mention my own kids who believe in Santa! We want to foster that belief so he has to come Christmas eve. Plus, if it happens Christmas eve or day my friend who is a photographer won't be able to come. My sister can take pictures but I was really excited to have pro shots this time. I know I'm stressing about things that are outside of my control but what else do I have to do with my time? Everything else is ready! Please pray for me and my family. This whole out of control thing is always hard on me!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Almost There

Christmas is coming soon and so is this baby! We have been so busy but I don't know if I have anything really that interesting to post about. Plus, that blogging 7 posts in 7 days at the beginning of November was exhausting!

Me:
I'm feeling VERY pregnant these days. I'm have a little more than two weeks left until my official due date. Only one week based on my calculations. I'm feeling every symptom in the book. I feel swollen, huge, and nauseous again after eating almost anything. Heartburn has lessened because the baby dropped a bit but breathing is still labored at night. The midwife said that was because of hormones. I'm craving tons of milk these days. I don't even like milk. At least it is healthier than all the popcorn chicken I ate when I was pregnant with Livi. I did have one evening of pre-labor that actually had me a little worried I was going to go in to labor but the contractions stopped once I sat down and relaxed. The last few days have brought on braxton hicks' every hour throughout the day which is no fun. They are so strong I frequently have to breath through them. I'm convinced this baby won't be late.

Just about 37 weeks here

Preparations for Baby and Christmas are just about done. I just finished a 12 dozen baking exchange on Friday so I have lots of goodies in my freezer. We hosted our extended family Christmas again but got it catered this year! 30 people in my house was a little daunting but I enjoy having people over. This may have been a crazy undertaking so close to baby time but I survived! Plus my mom and Grandma hired me a cleaning lady for a few hours the day before to make sure everything was done. Now I have a clean house all ready for baby!

I just have to pack for the hospital and would like to bake some muffins with the girls yet but I've stocked my freezer with meals. All the baby stuff has been taken out and set up. Christmas presents are all bought and just need to be wrapped. Just want to clean the car out a bit and set up the car seat! Then done!

I'm really hoping to have this baby before Christmas, like this weekend. That gives me enough time to get home and recovered a bit before Christmas. If she doesn't come until after Christmas I think I'll be really anxious that she won't be here before the new year. And she HAS to be here before the new year! It would mean having to keep her back a year from school. I'm fine with keeping her back if she needs it but I want the choice!

Jon:
Just found out that Jon is going to take some months of parental leave. Such a blessing! I love that he can do this. He isn't going to start until January 23rd, so the first few weeks with baby might be a little rough but we have some help lined up. My sisters and Mom have some holiday's and Jon's mom is going to come help for the first two weeks of January. Yay for family!!!

Livi:
She is growing up so fast. She is so helpful and independent. She has been taking a lot of pride in being able help me out, particularly with Sofie. She likes to get things for me to use on Sofie, sweep up the daily spilled Cheerios, and fold laundry.

We are planning to have Livi at the birth of her baby sister. We have talked about it a lot with her and she wants to. I warned her that I might cry, and scream and use adult words. She tells me that it's okay... she will just stand quietly beside me and she knows I'll be so happy when the baby comes out. I even showed her some very explicit YouTube videos about birth. Her reaction? "Oh WOW!.... yuck." We have my sister in charge of her, so if she can't handle it she can take her out. I'm pretty sure she will be fine though.

Livi loved decorating for Christmas and was so helpful. She is looking forward everyday to opening the advent calender. I bought a little wooden Christmas tree made out of boxes so I could put notes in it every day this month. Some are fun things for her to look forward too. Some are facts about Christmas and some are little love notes to my girls. We are two days in and each day she has carried around the note to show every one. She is so cute.

She is very in to sounding out letters and words these days. She spelled Mom and Dad all by herself today by sounding out the letters and was very proud of herself. Although afterwards she said "I wish Mom was spelled M O O." Thanks Livi.


One of Livi's favorite things last month was learning about dinosaurs at preschool. She came home everyday telling us fun new facts. I helped on the the Dino Dig where they went looking for bones. SO MUCH FUN! She has a best friend at preschool too. It makes my heart so happy for her. The two are inseparable. She seems like a really sweet little girl too. So thankful for that because some things she comes home with from a few of the kids is a little questionable. If I'm still pregnant next week I want to invite her friend and her mom over for a play date. We'll see how I'm feeling though.

Sofie:
She is flourishing. She had a bit of a lull with her speech for a while but it seems to have taken off again. She is starting to put two words together and repeat things verbally when she wants something and we are saying no. She even tried to tell Jon about visiting Santa the other day... at least that's the story we think she was trying to tell. Most perfect Santa picture ever!


She LOVES preschool, although it is a little hard for her at times, particularly when she has to sit through circle time. All the kids seem to be really great with her and welcome her by name when they see us coming. I'm so thankful for that! The teachers and EA are really awesome with her too. I'm feeling really positive about this first introduction to the school system.

As far as the attachment goes she is very attached to us and the people she knows but has no hesitation to go up to new people and ask to be held. Me having this baby will be hard for her. She is differently attached to me in particular and I don't really know how to handle it. She will be in a perfectly good mood, engaged with what she is doing, or who she is with, until she sees me. As soon as she sees me, she will whine and flail and even cry. It is frustrating. Part of me just wants to hide in my room because with me gone she will be fine with Jon, another part of me wants to go and cuddle her (although that doesn't always help, she might still flail and whine even in my arms) and another part of me wants her to deal with it. I will have to do housework and she can't have my attention all the time. I foresee many hours of her crying at my feet while I breastfeed in the near future. Any adoptive mom's reading this and dealt with this? Not really sure what to do here.


Sofie has just begun really enjoying watching cartoons and will bring us DVD's that she wants to watch. I love this. We love movies in this family and I'm glad that she is starting to enjoy them too. We watched Brave together the other day and I don't know if it was more entertaining watching the movie or her reaction to the movie. She was yelling and shouting at the screen and throwing herself around. It was so epic. She was VERY involved..

video


All in all, we are surviving. Getting ready for Christmas and baby is consuming most of my energy right now. I waddle slowly these days but things are getting done! I have a week dedicated to relaxing now. Yesterday I got to have a mani/pedi with Em for "work" (it was our end of the year get special treat), today was a massage, tommorow is the chiropractor and Thursday is accupuncture (for pain and induction) accompanied by some membrane sweeps from my midwives. I will also probably take some castor oil on Friday... it worked last time! Pray for baby this weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Being Her Mom (Day 7)

It's been a long day. Not sure if that will be a good thing for this post or a bad thing...Here is the final post though celebrating DS Awareness week!

I love being a mom. It is one of the most rewarding, beautiful roles I could imagine. My kids bring me more joy than I could have hoped for. I always knew I would be a mom but I didn't think I would be so fulfilled in it alone. My children are truly gifts that shine. Being a mom is also one of the most difficult jobs I can imagine. I am exhausted most days. I can't keep up. I frequently have to choose between being a good mom or being a good house keeper. Not a fair choice in my opinion.



I think I do parent my girls slightly different while remaining consistent to our parenting style. I'm not sure if this is normal with having more than one kid or if this is just something that I'm doing with respect to their different needs and personalities. I do think each child needs something different from a parent. Thinking about the difference between my own sisters and I, we each wanted different things from my mom. I always wanted more talking while another sister wanted more physical contact like hugs. While trying to meet each of our different needs, my mom's general parenting style remained the same for all four of us.

For Sofie, I do alter my parenting a bit more than I think other parents might for a second typical child. I'm not so quick to answer the question "What's it like to be a mom to a child with Down syndrome?" as my husband is. He would say it is exactly the same as parenting a child with out Down syndrome. I don't think I fully agree, although I want to. Maybe that's because I'm with her so much more and am constantly juggling all her therapy, doctor appointments, behaviors and extra-curriculars. I also don't think Dads feel the same judgement's from other dads that Moms get from other moms. Let's face it... Moms can be judgmental bitches to each other. Parenting sometimes seems like a competition or something.

 
I do struggle with what other parents think sometimes. I know... not typical of me, right? I worry that they don't understand what Sofie's needs are and why it may seem like I let her get away with some things more than others. I worry about Livi thinking this too. I don't want Livi to resent her sister for "getting away" with more than she does. It is a hard line to walk.

With Sofie I have to parent her differently. She is not a typical 4 year old. It would be ludicrous to treat her like one. Developmentally she is about 1. She has behavioral issues that stem from her institutionalization, not her Down syndrome. These behaviors CAN NOT be helped with typical discipline tactics or even talked out like I was able to do with Livi from a very early age. This is my biggest struggle. I am mad at what the orphanage did to her and get frustrated with the behaviors that exhibit. I wish everyone knew that her behaviors had more to do with the abuse she endured and not because of her Down syndrome. I guess I feel defensive maybe? I want to make sure people don't judge the Down syndrome?


For the most part being her mom isn't all that different from being Livi's mom. The differences come in when I need to be more relaxed about negative behavior than I was with Livi for the sake of her attachment (not if that behavior is hurting some one though) or where I need to be much more consistent and on top of things if I want something to sink in. It does take her longer to process things. She also likes me to be holding her for quality time but not face to face. Where Livi likes to know I'm watching her and engaging with her fully.


Sofie is a pretty great kid to parent. Both my kids are. They each have their own quirks and secrets but I think I'm figuring it out. Sofie takes some extra consideration sometimes and I do have my struggles but they are just different struggles. Not more difficult, just different from the norm. Sofie having Down syndrome really isn't what makes my being her mom different. Yes, I will be in certain parenting stages longer with her but the major differences come from her being an orphan. I know we will one day get past that and she will heal fully. I feel so blessed to be her mother and get to support her through that process but some days, like today, with the tantrums, flailing, crying and snot, are hard.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Inclusion (Day 6)

True inclusion is an attitude, a life style. It doesn't just include people with Down syndrome or different abilities. It includes respect for all types of people, all ages, all abilities, all different points of view, all religions, all sexual orientations, all parenting styles, etc. It is a hard thing to achieve but so worth striving for.

Not sure where exactly this came from but the Principles of Inclusion are:
- that EACH person belongs
- that EACH person can learn
- that EACH person has the right to dignity

For the most part I think we do an okay job at including people in the community, at least from an integrated point of view. Sure there are the few asses we come across every once in a while with archaic views about other peoples right to practice their religion or people with special needs out in public, but I think they are few and far between. There is wheel chair access most places and you will usually come across numerous people willing to help out where needed. You will also come across many starers or avoiders when it comes to people with special needs... I usually stare right back and try to make them uncomfortable :)

The problem with people practicing true community inclusion is the lack of peer relationships between neuro-typical people and those with developmental disabilities. Sure, people with disabilities get out in the community but not usually without family or a support worker. People with developmental disabilities frequently are only friends with other people with disabilities or their staff. I would like to see more friends out in the community with people with different abilities. I hope that my girls have good relationships with all types of people and I hope I can set a good example for this.

Inclusion in schools is a tricky one sometimes. Sure there is integration but there is still the learning assistance room where a lot of kids are ostracized too. Kids who go there usually have a diagnosis of some kind and their peers know this and label them for it. Sometimes families or schools have certain expectations or a lack of expectations that don't fit with the child, the school, or the family for some reason. This is a difficult conversation to have at times.

I was an EA in a high school for a little bit and worked with one student with DS whose parents wanted him fully included in every minute of the class and didn't want much adapted for him either. I don't disagree with this strategy completely but I do think there were things the parents didn't consider. This child was years behind academically and at the high school level he was very bored during certain subjects. Because of the boredom he was disruptive. This outcome wasn't fair to the child who wanted to learn or the other students in the class.

I haven't had to tackle the school system as a parent yet, that's next year. I'm sure I will gain new perspective and ideas as I grow in to that role. I think inclusion in the school system takes open minded teachers, EA's, principals and parents who work together to come up with the best strategies for the child to succeed. All children can learn, they just may need a little extra assistance. That assistance will look different for each individual child so it is unfair to paint them all with the same brush and expect them to all succeed in a fully integrated classroom or ostracized in a learning assistance room.

The hardest point of inclusion that I have found most difficult for people to truly get is the dignity aspect of it. Dignity needs to be considered in many different areas for people with DS and different abilities. Dignity in their privacy, their rights, their choices, their successes. Frequently, their lives are decided for them to a certain extent, because of the extra support they may need they are on someone else's schedule and way of doing things. Their choices are limited because of how society views them. I have frequently been out with an individual who is taking the lead, making choices about their finances or even just their food, and the person they are talking too looks back to me for confirmation that the individuals choice was okay.

One of the biggest frustrations I have is the lack of an individuals dignity to succeed or fail. As a support worker or family member it is our job to make sure they don't fail... right? WRONG! Everyone fails! It is part of life. It is part of being human. We try things and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail.

I remember working for an agency as a support worker and taking an individual who was obsessed with food to the pet store in the mall. It was a spur of the moment decision for us, although I did know that we weren't supposed to take her to places where there might be food. (I didn't agree with a lot of the practices of this agency and toed the line frequently!) We had a great time at the pet store and she loved seeing the kittens. The outing was a huge success. Yes, it could have failed. She could have noticed the smell of cinnamon buns coming down the hall way and chosen to demand one, possibly even causing a scene, but she didn't. When I got back and my manager found out, I was reprimanded for the possibility of it being a failure. WTF?!

Maggy, my sister with DS, has had many successes and failures with us. Her weight is a struggle but she keeps it in check. One of her most controversial successes was getting a tattoo. A few people didn't agree with us "allowing" her to get one. We all have numerous tattoos in our family so it was no wonder that she wanted one too. We knew she may not completely understand how painful it is but figured if she ended up with only half a tattoo because she didn't want to endure the pain anymore, then so be it! She was hard core though and has been talking about another one on her shoulder! You can read all about her success HERE!

Here is another little saying that has been grilled in to me over the years that I can't remember where it is from...
The role of a support worker:
-if a task can be taught... Teach it.
-if it can't be taught... Adapt it.
-if you can't adapt it... Support it.

I actually kind of love that one.

Like I said, true inclusion is hard and takes a certain frame of mind. I just hope that as my daughters grow up they will be able to lead by example and experience this in a powerful way. I'm sure I have a lot to learn myself. I'm excited to see what they teach me and how they, along with their friends, will help to change the current attitudes in our society. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Father's Perspective on DS (Day 5)

I promised Katie that I would write one blog entry for Down Syndrome Awareness week, so here it goes.

My journey towards living and working with people with developmental disabilities started after high school. Looking back now at that fact is a little strange. After all, I was a part of the inclusive generation. I can remember kids in my classes who had disabilities all through school, but for some reason it never clicked with me. De-segregation had happened, and kids with disabilities were a part of the classroom and not simply observed through the glass of the Learning Assistance room. I was never really friends with anyone with a disability in school, but I don't remember shunning them or doing my best to avoid them. They were simply there alongside the rest of us - albeit usually with an aide or other adult with them. Of course, simply recognizing the existence of people who deal with disabilities is not a form of inclusion in itself. At best, it was a cold sort of recognition of the larger societal context. People with disabilities were there, but they had no impact on my life.

There was one exception to that rule, and that was Brent. Brent was a tiny little kid with Down Syndrome, who had been adopted by a family in our church. Brent was a chatty little guy, who would jabber at you non-stop with such speed and ferocity that it took a pretty keen ear to recognize what he was trying to tell you. He would run around after the service, arms and legs flailing like he was about to fall over at any second - but he rarely did. His chest was covered in scars from repeated surgeries to correct his heart, beginning when he was only days old. But his smile usually stretched from ear to ear, and his happiness was infectious. For reasons that I won't go into here, I tended to keep my school life and my church life very separate, and so my appreciation for my little buddy Brent didn't bleed over into any sort of generalized awareness of disabilities.

It was after high school that Brent's dad, John, asked if I wanted to come and help at a camp for adults with disabilities. I had been laid off from my job at the local bookstore, and was looking to keep myself busy with something, so I said yes. I remember regretting my answer almost immediately, and trying to think of a way to back out without coming across as an ass. I hoped that some kind of opportunity would come my way that would be impossible to refuse, so I could avoid an experience which I was sure would be a disaster. Obviously, that opportunity never came. I went off to a week of training camp and did a crash course in caring for people with disabilities. John had alluded to the kinds of things I would have to face, but that first week made me even more nervous than I was. The thought of doing personal care for another person was revolting. The idea that I would be presented with every part of the spectrum of developmental disability was nerve-wracking.

The first week was a disaster. I was in an integrated camp, where there were two campers with (diagnosed) disabilities, and the rest were inner-city kids. I was responsible for one kid, Nathan, who had a diagnoses of Autism and ADHD. The rest of the counselors and volunteers trundled off to different camps, and I was largely on my own. It was hell. Nathan was physically aggressive towards both me and the other campers. He tried to break windows and doors, he almost broke my glasses, and I couldn't figure out any rhyme or reason to it. I had very little understanding of how to deal with complex behaviour - I was just a kid trying to do his best. I could see very clearly that even Nathan didn't understand what was happening to him in those moments.

Nathan was sent home halfway through the week. I seriously thought about going home myself. But for some reason I didn't.

The rest of the summer was a marathon. We were short staffed almost every week, which meant that I had very little down time (which as anyone who knows me will attest to how important it is for me to find time by myself). I was introduced to wheelchairs and mobility aids, g-tubes, more behavioural challenges, augmentative communication systems, and people with all sorts of varied complexities. I learned to change a diaper on a sixteen year old teenager (which, incidentally is far more difficult task than changing an infant). I had sleepless nights. I cried. I cursed. I worked 18, sometimes 20 hour days trying desperately to meet the needs of a different set of people each week.

And I changed.

I began to realize that the people I so self-righteously thought I was helping really had the world figured pretty well. They knew the importance of friendship, the joy of helping out, the reward of working (we were never short of volunteers to help in any way, including mopping the dinner hall after meals). The people I was there to support were far more in touch with their humanity than I was. I remember watching two ladies stage a feud that had most of the camp worked up into a frenzy, and then release all that tension in a moment of tears when they apologized to each other in the dinner hall, and embraced as friends once again. I saw every human emotion present in those adults, from anger to love, from anxiety to hope, from fear to trust.

That fact should not be as surprising as most of us find it to be. Because when you get down past the prejudice and the sneering intellectualism of our society, the truth is that regardless of IQ score people with disabilities are still people. They have the ability and the right to experience everything that the rest of us experience (and everything that we take for granted). They can work, they can love, they can fight, and do everything else that we expect of those of us who appear to be neurotypical.Whether despite their disability or because of it, there is a resiliency that demands our respect and admiration.

I wrote this post as an explanation to a question. The question was, "What is it like to be the father of a girl with Down Syndrome?" My answer was immediate and instinctive.

"The same as it is to be a father to a girl without it."

Sofie has challenges  - but the vast majority of her challenges do not exist simply because she has Down Syndrome. Her challenges are related to coming out of an orphanage, missing those key years of development that all children experience. And in some ways, her challenges are no more and no less than than Livi's, whose emotions and obsession with detail often get the better of her. Sofie's challenges may not be any more substantial than those my parents had to deal with, in an arrogant and often angry son, who believed that he was too smart for school and nearly wound up paying the price for it.

My interactions with Sofie are not really any different than my interactions with Livi. We play, we sing, we deal with the tantrums and over-attachment. But when I look at Sofie, I don't see a life of challenges - I see a life of opportunities, opportunities that she would not have had in Bulgaria because they believed that her disability was really an inability. I see a life where she has the same opportunities afforded to any of the rest of us.

Because we're all human. And we all deserve to be treated like one.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Living With DS: Then & Now (Day 4)

People with Down syndrome live very different lives now than they did one hundred years ago or even 50 years ago... in Canada anyway. Sofie came from a country that is many years behind Canada in how they view people with different abilities. They are very similar to how Canada was.

Then:
People with disabilities were not seen as real humans. They were hidden away from society and placed in to institutions. Parents were told that it was the best place for them. A place where they could be taken care of by the doctors and health care professionals. The parents truly believed they were doing the best thing for their children. Here is a link to a past post of a letter from a parent sending her son to Woodlands, the local institution that was phased out and shut down for good just 15 years ago.

http://www.afamilybecominghuman.blogspot.ca/2010/11/letter.html

Institutions were similar to prisons... big common rooms, cold walls, sterile rooms with little to no personal belongings. Food was served cafeteria style. The people who lived  there frequently had no concept of how food got made. It just appeared. There was no community inclusion, no jobs, no future. A few high functioning individuals were able to help with tasks around the institution, like laundry, but nothing outside the walls.

Staff were minimal and rotated. People were kept in cribs for their usually short lives and had mangled tight limbs because of it. Or they may have been locked up if behavior "required" it. Abuse was rampant. Care was based on what was easiest for the staff, not the individuals. Entire mouths of teeth were pulled if they bit anyone. Lobotomies where regularly preformed. Corporal punishments were acted out to the point of breaking body parts. I've worked with individuals from Woodlands who are afraid of running water because they would be sprayed with either cold or scalding water from a hose as a form of a shower and had undocumented scars. Death was imminent. The average lifespan of an individual with Down syndrome 60 years ago was just 15 years old.

This is a video of pictures of Woodlands after it had been shut down for 15 years...


Now:

Things have changed for our angels... at least in Canada. There is inclusion, respect and care. I'm not saying our society still doesn't have some work to do and attitudes change, but we have come a long way.

Individuals with special needs and Down syndrome are raised with their families. Families are given support to aid in the extra challenges that they may face. They are included in typical classrooms and have goals to one day get a real job! There is wheelchair access almost everywhere too! (Inclusion is a bit of a larger and complex issue which I do recognize and am not going address in this post... stay tuned though!)

As adults, individuals may choose to stay with their families or follow the normal way of life and set out on their own. There are many options such as supported independent living, living in a home share setting with another family, or a group home if the needs are more complex.

Although many people in our society still see individuals with special needs as weak there is an attitude of respect from most.

People with special needs or Down syndrome born in other countries are not so lucky. This is part 1 of a documentary done on the state of the institutions in Bulgaria a few. There have been improvement since the media coverage of this documentary but definitely not enough. Surrounding countries have also not followed suite. This is where Sofie came from... I've read the current average life expectancy of a child with Down syndrome in Bulgaria is 8 or 9 years old.



This is a bit of a weird post to write and think about. It isn't always pleasant thinking about how things where then, when we are mostly happy with the way things are now. This is something that is very real though and still affects many of our peers and people in our society. My home share sister, Maggy, was one of the few who was not placed in Woodlands, (she is 45 yrs old now) while her peers were. Her mother decided to keep here. Sofie would have seen this institutionalized fate if she were not adopted. She was already severely malnourished and neglected. She also has a scar that was not documented anywhere. I think it is good to remember and to keep moving forward. Support the healing and never go back.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Adoption & Choosing Down Syndrome (Day 3)

This is a post that I have thought a lot about but still don't have a clue how to start it or what to all say. This is the topic that is so dear to me that I rarely share my true emotions with those around me because I know some of my points of view offend people. I don't think this will be my best post ever but hopefully I get my thoughts across!

We adopted Sofie from Bulgaria. She was just about 3.5 years old when she came home with us in August 2011. She only weighed 19lbs, had dark circles under her eyes, a bald patch of hair on the back of her head and a raw, open, sore rash all over her bum. Shock of all shocks, she has Down syndrome... and we requested a daughter with Down syndrome!


 Jon and I always intended on adopting a child with special needs. It was something we were committed to early on in our dating relationship. He has his own story about coming to that decision. For me, it was my home share sister, Maggy, that really influenced this choice. I had talked about adoption since I was young, but it wasn't until Maggy came when I was 16, that I wanted to include a differently-abled person in my own family future. When Livi was 18 months old, I tentatively suggested that maybe it would be kind of awesome to adopt another little girl sooner than later. He stopped for only a second to think about it, then wholeheartedly said "I think that could be kind of awesome." We are truly blessed to have been so well matched for each other in the parenting department. We agree on almost everything when it comes to our kids and how to expand our family.

Aunty Maggy and Sofie 

The whole adoption process only took 18 months from start to finish. That is very fast by adoption standards. The reason being is we didn't have to wait for a referral of a child. There are thousands, if not millions, of children with special needs and health issues waiting for families that people don't even consider. People will pay tens of thousands of dollars and put their bodies through hell with fertility treatments, then as a second choice wait years and years on a wait list for a "healthy" baby to adopt. I don't get it. Seriously, I have a hard time understanding and empathizing with this way of thinking.

Here is where my really inflammatory views come in...  The world is grossly overpopulated. Humans are sucking the Earth's natural resources dry. The Earth can not sustain this ballooning population, especially in our wasteful society. People have too many children while there are millions upon millions of orphans in the world. It was one thing to have a handful of kids 100 years ago, with the mortality rate so high and young as well as needing a large family to work on the farm. It is quite another to have numerous children this day and age for our own desires. If society would change their attitude about adoption being a second choice, the world might not be so overpopulated and there wouldn't be so many orphans in the world.

I know my thoughts on this are different than most and I'm not trying to offend or judge people... unless you have 10 birth kids, then I might judge you :) It is just something that I do feel strongly about. We are all different and think differently. Maybe I just don't fully understand. I know I don't understand the struggle with infertility because it is not something I've ever had to deal with personally. From the various reactions that our family gets, I know that many people don't really understand us. It is obviously a complex issue that is emotionally charged... maybe I should delete these last paragraphs, but that would be very unlike me.


Adoption was NEVER a second choice for us and Sofie is perfectly healthy! Down syndrome does not mean the person is sick, unhealthy, diseased or even really disabled. Jon and I wanted to expand and grow our family through adoption. Plain and simple. Just as a couple might decide to try and get pregnant, we decided to adopt. Our only parameters were that she was a little girl, born in 2008 or later and had Down syndrome.


I don't really know how to make people who don't understand our reasons for choosing Down syndrome get it. We've gotten some pretty amusing and angering responses when we have told people we were adopting or have adopted a child with DS. Wide eyes, responses like "Why would you do that?", "Did you know she had Down's when you got her?" and "We only want more like Livi" were spewed back to us. Depending on my mood and temperament at the time, I handled each response differently with or without the grace that was required.

Honestly, my best answer right now to why we would choose a child with Down syndrome is "Why not?"  Why not choose this precious child? Why is it better to choose a child that society views as 'perfect'? No one is perfect - each of us is unique. In a way, Down syndrome was the easy choice for us because I had so much experience with extra chromosomes! We love the dynamics and awesomeness that people with different abilities bring to life and the community around them. We wanted to ensure our family was a a big part of that community.


My hope is that one day that community becomes everyone's community and society in general. I hope that people with Down syndrome are not overlooked for adoption. I hope they aren't seen as the second rate children, especially since an adopted child is frequently looked at as second choice already. I hope more people consider adoption and at least change their views towards it! I hope more people get to experience the awesome and challenging journey we are on!


We did not adopt to save the world, to follow God or be seen as Saints. You don't have to be religious to adopt, which was another assumption a lot of people made. Through this process I did experience God in a way I hadn't before. Despite being raised a Christian, neither Jon nor I were practicing in any traditional sense at the time. We adopted because it was a desire of ours. It was how we wanted to expand our family. We wanted to experience adoption, just like some one might want to experience pregnancy.


People sometimes say that Sofie is lucky to have us, but the opposite is true. We are so blessed to be her parents and in her world. We are better people because of her. She is perfect.


*You can read more about our journey by going back in our blog if you are interested. Our Adoption Details and Sofie's Birth Story are also linked pages on the top bar of this blog.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What's Life Like? (Day 2)

Our life is a little on the crazy side most days, but at this point I don't think we are that different from a family who has a typical 4 yr old and 18 month old. Although Sofie is 4, not 18 months. Developmentally, Sofie is probably somewhere between a one and two year old, depending on the area being observed.


My girls are difficult at times, but what preschoolers aren't. Some people thought we were insane for adopting a child with Down Syndrome because of the different challenges we would face. There is a key word there... We will face "different" challenges. Every family has their stuff. Some parents will have to deal with their kids turning to drugs or alcohol, both things we will probably not have to deal with for Sofie. The most pronounced challenges I expect to deal with is her delayed development, which just means she will stay in certain stages longer than other kids. It has been and will be frustrating at times but what challenges aren't?
 


Sofie is a typical toddler. She sleeps in a big girl bed, but does manage to fall off and sleep soundly on the floor. We put her to sleep in a sleep sack to keep her from getting naked and playing with her poop... we are in that stage right now, but I am assured it will end. She wakes up around 7 and takes a long time to be ready to face the day, just like her Daddy!

Sofie has her favorite breakfast food  (dry Cheerios) and enjoys the times I have energy and time to change it up. She has favorite cartoons, toys to play with, sides of the bed, ways and places to sit or cuddle. She loves helping and watching me bake or cook. She likes too look through books and spend time alone in her room. She likes going out, anywhere almost. Her favorite thing in the world is music. She dances, sings and rocks out endlessly.


She gets in to cupboards and drawers like any typical 1 year old. She only says and signs about 40-50 words but is excellent at getting her point across. She whines, cries, laughs, and gets excited.


Our days are pretty typical, I think. Crazy, tiring and hectic but normal. Sofie gets her diaper changed and help getting dressed. We eat breakfast, she has her favorite food just like Livi, although does need help feeding herself. We either stick around the house playing and cleaning, run errands, go do something fun or watch cartoons. After lunch is either quiet time or preschool, depending on the day. Then usually cartoons and playtime while I make dinner. After dinner is play time with Daddy. The girls are both usually pretty eager to jump all over him. Sounds pretty normal, right?


With Sofie there are extra things I need to keep in mind. For eating, I need to ensure there are as many calories packed in to meal as possible. She drinks whole milk mixed with whip cream with each meal. I put extra mayo or margarine on everything she eats. This is because of the malnutrition she endured in the orphanage and not typical of DS. She does have some behavioral issues that have more to do with her time spent in the orphanage too. Her Attachment Disorder is also due to the neglect she's experienced. I actually find this the most frustrating hurdle we have to overcome. The only thing that really is related to her DS is the fact that she has more doctor and therapy appointments than the average kid. Probably a couple each month. They can get tiring but I know they are for her own good of course and will help her and me in the long run!



So, no, I don't think our lives are that abnormal. I don't think we were crazy for wanting a child different abilities. I think we are blessed. Actually, I know we are blessed. We have an awesome, exhausting, fabulous life that I love! We approach it differently sometimes and have some different lessons to learn but it is so amazing and worth it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What is Down Syndrome? (Day 1)

The States have a whole month devoted to Down syndrome Awareness and I know a lot of Canadians celebrate that month too for DS. There can't be too much celebrating and awareness for our angels! But in Canada October is Autism Awareness month, another different ability that affects many of our kids with DS and something that is dear to my heart since I work with a little girl on the spectrum. In Canada, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society has set aside November 1-7 as DS Awareness week. Since, I'm Canadian and didn't want to take anything away from Autism Awareness month I am celebrating DS now in November. I've decided to do a blog post each day (or at least try!) to tell you a little more about our lives and create some more awareness! I think I even convinced Jon to write a post on his journey and life as Sofie's Dad. I talk to so many mom's and read so many Mommy bloggers but don't always get a Dad's perspective. Stay tuned...

My first post is going to just touch on what Down syndrome actually is or isn't. I'm not actually sure I've posted on this before! It is such a norm in my world that I rarely think of the label any more. I forget that others might not understand fully.

The only consistent thing people with Down Syndrome all share is the presence of extra genetic material around the 21st chromosome. Even around that 21st chromosome there can be three different patterns it can fall in to. 95% of people with DS have the Trisomy 21 pattern where there is an extra chromosome in every cell. About 3% have the Translocation pattern where part of the 21st chromosome breaks off and attaches to another chromosome. About 2% have the Mosaic pattern where there is impaired cell division so some cells have 46 chromosomes and others have 47.

Most babies with DS are born to mother's under 35 and is usually completely random with no family history of DS. I've also heard that DS is the most common chromosomal difference affecting about 1 in 800 births. Not sure if that is true but I thought that was interesting!

Giving you a list of characteristics common in people with DS is no different than giving you a list of characteristics of people in general. They have two eyes, ears, arms and legs. They have a heart, a brain, a smile, a laugh, and a cry. They can be happy, sad, frustrated, selfish, loving, mean, and every other emotion that people have. Just like any other person. People with DS are more alike to 46 chromosome people than not.

Other characteristics vary greatly. Yes, there are things that are associated with having DS or show up more often in people with DS than in 'typical' people, like low muscle tone, almond shaped eyes, and a smaller body frame. There are also health concerns that seem to be more frequent in people with DS, like heart complications, hyperthyroidism, Celiac, hearing or vision concerns, and cognitive or developmental delays (which aren't really health concerns but I don't know what category to mention that in). A person with DS may have many or none of these characteristics or health issues. Like I mentioned before, the only thing they all share is the extra genetic material on the the 21st chromosome.

There is nothing wrong with people with DS. They are not medically fragile, diseased or contagious. DS is something that causes delays but that's all, JUST delays. It doesn't mean that the person with DS will not be able to accomplish something. It just means it might take them a little longer to accomplish them. They can do ANYTHING any other person can do or dream of. They can and have scaled mountains, been business owners, traveled, sky dived, owned a home, married, parented, worked, gone to college, got their drivers license, and anything else you or they can think of.

People in general are pretty amazing. People with DS are just as amazing. They are individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, desires and struggles. They have more abilities than disabilities. Look at the ABILITY.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween was much anticipated by Livi this year! She had started off the month saying she wanted to be a ghost. Not that I have any problem with that choice but she had a kitty costume from dance that I had to spend $70 on and I wanted her to reuse it! Sofie fit in to the lady bug costume from last year so it was a cheap Halloween! I think a teacher or friend at preschool said something about being some 'nice' and not too spooky which thankfully changed her mind for me :)

Livi drew the face then I cut it out.

It was a self portrait of her making a silly face. 

Off to their preschool Halloween party day!

The girls had a preschool party where they got to wear their costumes and then sing some practiced songs for us parents. It was super cute. Then in the evening there was trick or treating of course! Our new neighbourhood is quieter which we werent expecting. So much candy it left over! Sofie didn't do to many houses but was crazy happy and excited in the stroller watching all the kids. She was elated each time Livi came back from a house. Livi was little Miss Independent herself. "I can go to this house by myself! I'm not scared!" For spooky houses she would tell me where she wanted me to stand. 

I know the flash is terrible but I love their faces here. So much excitement just before trick or treating. 

Bed time was terrible. The girls were hyped up on sugar and excitement from the day. I expected something but not another of Livi's epic meltdown. Second one ever. It sucked but she calmed down... eventually. They were both up past 9pm which doesn't happen in this house. Tomorrow will be a quiet day :)

PS. Because I know there are a few anti-Halloween readers and I saw a few negative status' on FB I thought I would re-post my Facebook status on my blog. I got some good feedback so I thought it would be worth a read here too...
"As I'm already seeing some anti-Halloween status' I would just like to remind any naysayers that God delights in His children having fun AND Christmas used to be a pagan holiday too. Why not try taking a redemption attitude and see what God can teach you through this cultural experience?"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn

I'm loving this new crisp air and reason to wear a scarf. It makes me happy. That heat was wearing on me. This fall has been so busy for us though. I don't know what I was thinking with the schedule I arranged... I do see an end though. Just over a month left of this schedule! Music class is over at the beginning of December and the speech therapy class I'm taking to help Sofie ends mid December. Gymnastics goes in to January but Jon will be able to take them while I sleep with the baby! I don't know what the girls will be doing in the spring but I'm thinking just swimming.

The girls are both loving preschool. It took Livi a little while to settle in. I think it was actually good for her that Sofie was with her instead of it being good for Sofie. Livi stayed very close to Sofie, particularly at transition times, like from art to circle time. I was worried about it at first but she is more comfortable now and making her own friends. I didn't need to be worried about Sofie at all. She is doing awesome! She loves preschool and charges in ready to go. I just need to say the words "go to the car for preschool" and she charges down the stairs to the door. She has an aid who is pretty good with her. Being in preschool and around so many other kids is helping her development too. She is throwing and hitting much less which is AWESOME!

The big event of the month is, in preparing for baby, we painted the girls rooms, set up the bunk beds and moved Sofie in to Livi's room, which is now the "big girls' room". Surprisingly they are doing awesome with it. The first two nights they giggled and played but were asleep by the hour mark Since then (about five nights) they have fallen asleep pretty quickly and slept in until after 7! They woke each other up once or twice but always slept in past 7 and once until almost 8! I'm loving having them going to bed at the same time. Before we would always put Sofie to bed first and let Livi have some big girl time. Now they are going to bed together which leaves me with more alone time!

Their room is kind of awesome too. I love it. The girls really like it too :)

We also went to the corn maze with the Down Syndrome support group we are a part of. We went last year and I don't think I can adequately tell you about the change in Sofie from last year to this year. She just whined and didn't move last year. This year she was chasing the other kids, playing in the corn box and smiling! It was so cool to see.

(These are all pictures of Sofie there because all the pictures of Livi had Emma in them too and I didn't think I should post pictures of her with out permission)

 My two wimps bundled up!

 Smiling!

In the corn box! She wouldn't even touch the corn from our hand last year!

Yesterday we went on the girls first field trip with preschool! Livi was SO excited. We went to the "rain forest" to find jaguars, toucans and huge spiders. We ended up going up the mountain to a trail that was basically a hike! I nearly died pushing Sofie in the stroller. It was one big hill! There was no way Sofie would have gotten very far if she had been walking. Thankfully Sofie's EA pushed her up the second half of the hill. I was super impressed with all the 4 year olds and glad that I could help include Sofie in the walk :) She kept giggling at all the bumps in her ride!

Back at school for a snack!

Sofie got glasses too... Not sure how that is going to work out. She doesn't really keep them on. She is a little far sighted and has an eye that turns in, especially when she is tired. The doctor said if it was one or the other he would probably leave it for another 6 months but the two together needed glasses. We haven't pushed them on her yet because I don't want her to start associating them as negative and something to fight. I do need to bring them to preschool but I keep forgetting. She'll get the most benefit there anyway when she is doing writing and up close work.


Livi is doing really great right now. She is learning so much and very proud of how she is helping to teach her sister. "It's kind of like you have a teacher living with us at home" she says. So modest too. She is definitely an amazing little helper, while being little miss independent who is quick to frustration if she can't do something herself. She definitely has an attitude but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Another amazing quote from my "humble" child...
Livi - "I know everything about the world."
Me - "No Livi, you don't know everything. Only God knows everything."
Livi - "Well, I guess I'm like God then."
A little sacrilege never hurt anyone, right?
She loves monsters and "spooky" things which is really getting exemplified with Halloween right now. She wanted to be a ghost, which I don't really have a problem with except for the fact that she has a very adorable kitty costume from dance that I want her to wear to save money! I think I had to spend about $70 on that darn costume! She has also decided she wants to ask Santa for a peddle bike for Christmas, which I am all for! She is getting a little big for her run bike and since her birthday is at the end of summer I think it is a good idea to get it for Christmas so she can use it in the summer.

I think I'm starting to nest a little bit. I've done a lot of cleaning this week and organizing for the baby. This pregnancy is still crazy difficult but I'm surviving for now. All the exercise I got this week was good for me! I need to keep it up. My back is starting to hurt a bit more and some motions are starting to get limited. Shaving my legs is a joke. Tons of spots get missed. If Jon wants to sleep next to smooth legs he may need to shave them for me! Picking up Sofie is getting really difficult and she is having some behaviors because of it. Lots of whining! Heartburn is terrible and my hips are getting worse at night. Braxton Hicks contractions are almost an hourly thing thing now. Sometimes they take my breath away. The literature says they don't hurt... bull shit! I did go to the chiropractor once but I wanted to spread them out since we only get $8 back from a $40 appointment. I know I'll have to go more in the last month so I'm trying space it out. It could get expensive! Hopefully less than two months to go though! I need this kid out of me  by December 31 so I don't have to keep her back a year! This is a serious concern for me! I'll be starting inductions at home on the 17th.

I am enjoying all the movements I'm feeling from her. I thought Livi was active? Well, they aren't even comparable. This little one must be hyperactive. I was told because of the placement of the placenta I might not feel her as much! Hah! She moves so much that I almost get concerned if I don't feel her for an hour. I can watch my whole belly rumbling and jumping. It is kind of cool. It sure does hurt sometimes though! She will kick me in the ribs and bladder at the same time. Sometimes she'll make me pee myself a little too... awesome. Too much info? Deal with it. This is what YOUR mother had to go through! I recently measured 4 weeks further along than weeks I am. Baby must have had a growth spurt. I was always right on for measurements. Hopefully this all means I can get her out on time!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! I love Thanksgiving... mainly because it gets me starting to think about Christmas! I LOVE Christmas :) I'm already starting to talk about Santa with the girls and plan Christmas decorating and parties! Not that the Christmas partying will be too involved this year as I'll be 9 months pregnant.

I'm so thankful for so many things in my life, which I sometimes shocking to me. I don't mean that in an ungrateful way. I just mean that sometimes I feel SO frustrated and tired yet I'm still authentically able to be purely thankful for what I do have. Maybe that is a growing up thing. I'm sure my old self never would have been content, let alone thankful, for my life. But, I truly am! My life rocks! That doesn't mean I wish some things were different, or that I never complain. I'm sure I complain way more than I need too. I still have some epic meltdowns after long, hard days, (sometimes at the beginning of those days).

I asked Livi what she is thankful for this year and she listed off Mommy, Daddy, Sofie, Parker and Monster (her imaginary friend). That almost sums up my feelings exactly... minus Parker. I hate that cat. The only reason he is still around is because she loves him so much. 

Here is my list....
I'm Thankful for:
  • Jon. He is a great partner and fabulous father. I don't know how I was able to end up with someone who is so good for me. I never expected that. I was sure I would be a single mom. He is patient, kind, dependable, and a great comfort to me. Not to say we don't have our issues but we always manage to work through our crap, together and separately as needed. I'm thankful he is willing to work for the lives we are building together. I'm not sure all men truly understand what that means. He does.
  • Livi. She is incredible. I love her spunk, her intelligence, her zest for life, and her attitude even! She is so creative and such a daredevil. She makes me laugh and can frustrate me with her stubbornness and ability to negotiate with real logic!
  • Sofie. She is our miracle. She is growing and developing daily. She survived unimaginable hardships and amazes us daily. She is her own person. She learned to understand an entirely new language in a matter of months. She is learning so much and has such a pure joy when she accomplishes something new. She is an inspiration.
  • My mom. I would be no where with out the support of my mom. She is everything good.
  • My sisters. They are there for me when I need them and can always make me laugh. Plus, Maggy gives the best hugs. 
  • My home. I love my new house. It is perfect for us. I feel so terribly blessed. 
  • Co-living. Living with your family is so perfect. I honestly don't know why more people in our North American culture don't do it. It has countless benefits for everyone involved. 
  • My baby Evie. I'm thankful that I have one more amazing little girl coming to round out our family. I'm thankful I get to feel the movements and kicks of new life in my belly one last time. I'm also thankful this is the last time :)
  • Family and Friends who love me. I love the encouragement and support that they are all to me in each their different ways. 
  • My job. It really isn't a job! I get paid way to much to hang out a few hours a week with a little girl who has Aspergers and take her riding and to Color Me Mine. I have a really good working relationship with her parents too which is so nice and something I'm so thankful for. 
  •  My life. I love my life.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Poop

Today has not been good. I cried... a lot. I'm blogging because I need to vent.

After having a wonderfully busy weekend, cleaning my house very well yesterday because a speech therapist was coming over this morning and having to go out late Monday and Wednesday night, my body was sore. Particularly my hips. This is my life, always busy and frequently sore from the baby. It isn't terrible, just tiring. I'm excited to not be pregnant one day and have my hips back to normal. This pregnancy exasperates everything right now.

The therapist that I was expecting at 9 called at 9:20 to ask to postpone our appointment until 10:30. Not a big deal but annoying. Today was supposed to be a baking day for Thanksgiving goodies so that pushed our baking back a little but still very doable. Then just before 10 I found it....

Sofie had gone to her room, taken off her pants and diaper, pooped A LOT on the floor and smeared it in to our cream colored rug and most of the walls. Her hands and feet were caked in it so much that you couldn't see her skin. It was awful. I cried, so much. Aside from obviously getting her clean, I didn't know where to start.

Once Sofie had been hosed down and cleaned I let her play in the tub to keep her occupied while I tried to figure out what to do. I cancelled the therapist and called Jon sobbing, asking if there was anyway he could come home and bring a steam cleaner with him. We are still a one car family so I had no way of going and renting one myself. I was scared that if we waited to long, the stains would set in. He could be home for lunch and brought a big industrial cleaner with him that he rented. It, thankfully, worked really well and was relatively easy. I do need to re-clean the walls but it is nap time and that is more important to me right now.

I love Sofie and did not get mad at her... surprisingly. I think my old self would have been very angry and resentful. I just cried and kept saying "Oh my Gosh. What do I do?" I think I freaked Livi out a bit... I had to apologize to her later and assure her that Mommy was not mad at Sofie but just upset at what she had done. She understood that I was "emotional" since that is what we talk about with her when she is having tantrums for no reason. I had a good reason though!

Parenting is hard some times... most times. Sofie has done this half a dozen times. Today was the worst. The really "crappy" part of all this is that she had pooped the night before and this morning already! And she is usually constipated! Argh! Plus, I think she knows when she is going. She frequently says "poop" when she is peeing and she took her pants and diaper off before she pooped in her room today. I think I might get her a potty seat for the toilet and see what she thinks of it. I have no plans to potty train any time soon because of Sofie's communication issues, but maybe I should give it a shot and see what she does. I'm not holding my breath but maybe she'll surprise me. She has before!

My day ended well. I had promised Livi I was going to bake with her since this weekend is Thanksgiving. I was able to keep my promise and we got a lot done! We made a batch of pumpkin muffins, my amazing apple pie, including a home made crust, Rice Krispie squares, and dinner! It will be a yummy weekend! Plus we are painting the girls rooms and their bunk bed is waiting for pick up! Getting ready for the next stage of our life!

On another note... I've been reading a lot of posts about Down Syndrome Awareness month. It is actually only DS Awareness month in the States. Canada celebrates DS Nov 1-7. I was wanting to put together 7 posts about DS, our adoption, Sofie, Maggy, inclusion, life celebrating DS, etc. I was wondering if there was any specific questions out there to help write a few posts. Let me know here or on Facebook!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meal Planning Week 3 & 4

Last Tuesday I went grocery shopping and spent $227 for the next two weeks of groceries. This will cover more than two weeks because I bought a 10lb box of lean beef and some pantry essentials which will last longer than the two weeks. We will need to buy some milk in the next two weeks I'm sure too.

Wednesday, we had Perogies fried with onions and some Farmer sausage and our towns famous corn on the cob.

Thursday, I made split pea soup with left over farmer sausage in the crock pot. I LOVE this soup. Unfortunately, the split peas took a lot longer too cook than I planned. The 8 hrs in the crock pot weren't enough. So, I popped one of my back-up lasagna's in the oven... unfortunately I forgot to turn on the oven. Thankfully, the lasagna was still frozen so I could just put it back in the freezer. Since it was after 5 when I realized that, we ended up having to get take-out. The girls needed to eat quickly.  I tried! Unfortunately, that  puts us at our eating out budget for the month. I think with the fall coffee's that are now out at Starbucks, we may go over on our eating out budget.... although we WILL NOT blow this budget as much as we have been in the past months.

Friday, we got to eat the soup I had made for Thursday. I also made some biscuits to go with it :)

Saturday, we had home made pizza! This was a huge hit. I had forgot to purchase mozzarella for this so I had to go out and pick some up. I ended up getting some more milk and chips for a movie this night too. I ended up spending $20. That puts us at $396 so far... hopefully I don't need anything else!

Sunday, we ate that lasagna that I had taken out and forgot to turn the oven on for.

Monday, I was working so Jon looked on my printed menu and made the creamy chicken and rottini primivera. I liked it but it wasn't a favorite. I will most likely make it again though because it is a good way to use leftovers.

Tuesday, we ate tortellini and homemade Alfredo sauce. It was really yummy. I don't measure very often and what ever mixture I did with this sauce turned out really good. Everyone ate more than usual :)

Week 4 -

Wednesday, I used the left over tortellini, chicken and Alfredo sauce to make a casserole. Not sure what it is called but it is tortellini, chicken pieces, mixed veggies and a can of mushroom soup all mixed together and baked. Easy, cheap and a great way to use up the leftover tortellini if you buy those big Ziggy bags from superstore that my family never finishes in one sitting.

Thursday, we ate home made hamburgers and store bought frozen fries. I can never get home made fries crispy so I buy them.

Friday, we had a kid favorite that is SUPER easy. Chicken sausage and apple pieces baked with maple syrup. Mmmmm! We ate it with some mashed potatoes and canned corn.

Saturday, we ate Chicken sandwiches with the left over chicken we had to use before it went bad. It was also a movie night with a guest so we did buy some junk food when we went to get milk. $17.49

Sunday, we tried a new recipe that basically turned out to be pasta with a weird alfredo sauce and tomatoes. Not a favorite for anyone. Plus, Livi hates tomatoes.

Monday, is a busy day for me so I took out one of those casseroles I had froze from week one! We had the chicken cauliflower casserole over some sprouted rice and quinoa.

Tuesday, I made beef stroganoff! It was a new recipe and a big hit! I think I will add some more flavoring and hidden vegetables next time I make it though. I ended up doubling it because in my head it was only going to yield as much as a Hamburger Helper package makes, since it calls for the same amount of beef. I was wrong though. A double recipe made more than enough for two dinners and a lunch or Jon! Leftovers tomorrow! I'm not sure if the noodles I used would freeze well.

So, at the end of 4 weeks of meal planning the dinners I spent $413.49! Awesome! I still have two meals in the freezer, plans to make baked mac n' cheese, 3kg of chicken breasts, a bag of shrimp and 8lbs of beef in the freezer for the next 4 week plan! Super awesome! I will need to go shopping in the next few days to buy milk and bread though. I'm going to try to put off doing a big shop until October 1 so I can start meal planning on a monthly basis to mesh with my budgeting better. I think between the meat, rice and potatoes I have on hand I should be able to do this!

But basically, the $413.49 lasted us a full 4.5 weeks. That's less than $100 a week and only about $13 a day that covered breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2 adults and 2 kids! I'd still like to get it down to under $400 but hey, this is my first try and I'm pregnant. The baby wanted sherbet this month!

Some people have asked for recipes or more details on my meal planning... Honestly, all I did was Google "cheap meal plans" or "low cost family meals" or "easy, cheap meals", copy and pasted some recipes that looked easy enough. I kept in some low cost family favorites and splurged a few times. I also included some recipes for meat that I already had in the freezer, like the whole chicken from week 1. I printed out 13 meals and recipes for each two week period and made sure that they sort of "fit" together... meaning I didn't have us eating chicken everyday for two weeks and that I could use leftovers from one day in a recipe for the next. I kept the meal plan and recipes easily accessible on the fridge so I didn't have to go search through recipe books. I doubled up what I could to put in the freezer for another day too, which I will now use in my next months plans to keep the costs down and not have to cook those days! Win!

If you want any specific recipes that I made this month, let me know and I'll email it too you!