Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year in Posts

Last January I made a conscious effort to begin to really work harder on my blog, to really write from my heart and to attempt to make it interesting.  Not sure if I succeeded on the second point yet, but I think I've managed to accomplish my two biggest goals when I began my blog - to let my friends and family know what we've been up to, and to chronicle the important moments, thoughts, images and events of Samantha's life and development, as well as the (occasional) struggles.  If there weren't 325 posts on this blog (most of which were written this year), I'd love to create a book of everything.  It just sounds daunting and expensive right now, but definitely something to think about for a rainy day (or a decade of rainy weekends).

As the year comes to a close, I am trying to remember some of the pivotal moments from the last 12 months. I got this idea from Beth at Our Typical Life, who got it from to list one post from each month.  Sometimes it was a post that I found most interesting, sometimes most important.  They in no way sum up the amazing year, and choosing was difficult.  Feel free to pick through, and enjoy, and stay tuned for many more posts in 2011!  Happy New Year!

October  Ah, this was Down Syndrome Awareness Month and I blogged 31 for 21.  Please scroll back to my October posts and take a look - there are plenty!!  Here's the first:  Let's Raise Awareness, One Day at a Time!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Therapy (mine)

Arrrrrrggggghhhhhh...I can't take all the cuteness at once!!!  I'm seriously overloading here.  All the time.  Totally.

I couldn't possibly be more in love.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday Whimsy - Dressing-Up with Dolly

Any parent of a little girl knows that dressing up is inevitable, but they may not know that it is also an important part of development.  It shows the power of imagination, teaching self-confidence, problem-solving, creativity, and social skills.  It also helps them to explore their personalities, role-playing and acting out different scenes and emotions.  Little girls don't only like to dress up themselves, but they like to dress up with other little girls, or their dolls.  Sammi doesn't often have other little girls to dress up with, but she sure does have the dolls (and frankly, those dolls need a bit of dress-up every now and then, as they spend most of their lives naked)!

I love being able to catch Samantha doing things when she doesn't know she's being watched.  The number of times I have completely missed getting capturing her tea parties and circle time leadership with her dolls on video is astounding, but I happened to have my cell phone handy the other day as she explored the new dress-up bins I set up in her room.  The pics suck spectacularly, but the fact that baby was wearing a purple tutu was too cute not to post here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Aftermath and Reflection

The days following Christmas are always kind of funny. Not funny as in ha ha, but just a little odd. We’re always so pumped up and excited about how exciting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were that we’re almost stunned into silence when it’s all over. I mean, how many times do you return to work or run into someone while you’re out and about and hear the cursory, “How was your Christmas?” And how many times do you reply, “Oh, it was really nice! How was yours?” And their response is, invariably, “Oh, it was really nice!” Sometimes more gets said, but I doubt anyone’s really listening, as they’ve gone on to revisit their own happy memories inside their heads as the other is speaking theirs out loud. 

So, I have my blog. I can tell whoever wants to listen about our holiday…

…about a child knowing that Santa would be there that night, helping to put decorated Christmas cookies on a festive ceramic plate as I poured a glass of milk, about her insisting that they be placed on the mantle (“chimney!”) instead of on the floor by the tree.

…about a child waking in the morning to discover two wrapped packages waiting at the foot of her bed, a glimpse of what awaited her downstairs (oh, who am I kidding? She woke up wet, calling to us to take her to the bathroom before she even saw the gifts, so the presents had to wait – she was no less excited by the delay, however).

…about how wide and sparkling her eyes became when she saw that Santa had eaten the cookies and drunk the milk (“Santa eat cookies and drink milk!”).

…about the unwrapping of the presents, and the need to open and play with every toy and read every book (rushed by mommy and daddy who knew that we’d be there all day and dinner would be late if we let her take too much time between gifts).

…about the impromptu drive Samantha and I took at 8:30am to look for fresh bread for dinner, snow flurries falling fast on the car’s windshield, a child’s patience ebbing as every supermarket appeared to be closed. (After giving up for the moment, I ventured out again in the afternoon to find a single Safeway open in another town, loaves of fresh-baked crusty bread ready to go and still warm in their paper wrapping, employees cheerfully basking in double-time pay.)

…about the aromas of garlic, mushrooms, thyme, rosemary and roast lamb filling the rooms, warming against the gray and chilly day outside (Steve is a truly amazing cook, slaving in the kitchen for the better part of the day, but turning out a perfect meal!).

…about the arrival of family and friends for the very first Christmas hosted at our house, the opening of even more presents, and the sharing of a traditional English Christmas dinner, complete with paper hats from gold crackers and a flaming Christmas pudding for dessert.

…about the angelic child – the one who enjoyed every minute of the day, who provided endless entertainment to the rest of us, and who sat uncomplaining and downright cheery through all three courses of dinner.

...about staying in jammies on Sunday, no need to do anything.

And so we begin to decompress, to breathe a sigh of relief that all of the hectic fury of the season has come to a close for another year, still nursing the euphoria and still feeling that little bit of sadness that it’s over. It’s not about presents, although they certainly are a fun tradition. It’s all about how the season makes you feel. Christmas has an inherent warmth and glow that is just there. I know that there are many, many more Christmas memories to be made at Christmases-future, and that the next year will go by even more quickly than the last. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to enjoy and appreciate the quiet seasons as well, before the next busy summer that marks the halfway point to the next Christmas.

I hope you all enjoyed your holidays, and look forward to catching up on your blogs shortly!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Pics (oh, what a dull and unimaginative title!)

I don't have the time to write much now, but thought I'd leave you with a few photos from the weekend.  My parents gave me a new lens (50mm/1.8) for my camera, which I'm thrilled about!  See if you can guess which pics were taken with it (not all of these are)...
Twinkling lights on Christmas Eve

Santa has paid a visit...
...and had a snack.
Happy and most cooperative little girl!
The dinner table, set for guests.
A quiet moment (well, not really, but it looks like it was...)

Angel with butterfly wings.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Elves of Christmas Present, or Adoption of a Different Kind

Elves come in all shapes and sizes.  I'm not a real elf, but I got to play one on Sunday when I helped to deliver gifts to some local families in need.

Northern Virginia is a big place, with an equally big (massive, if you will) Down syndrome population.  A group of Ds parents from my town and a few of the surrounding towns decided to "adopt" two families from the Down syndrome community here in NoVA this year for Christmas, to brighten their holiday with gifts and necessities.  With the help of my friend and Parent to Parent coordinator, Heather, two families were found.  And trust me when I say that these two families were definitely in need

Hard times for most people mean something completely different than the definition these families know. 

We're talking about parents who dread the discovery that their children's feet have grown because it means they have to buy new shoes.

People who have a roof over their heads...just.

People who have little more than the love they feel for their families, and few "frivolous" personal posessions.

One family didn't have a Christmas tree.

When asked what they wanted most that we could provide for them as gifts, the humbleness of their basic needs brought tears to my eyes.  Shoes.  Warm clothes.  A chicken and a bag of rice.  Really, this put things in perspective for me, as I would hope it would for anyone.

I won't say much about the visits to the homes of these two families, as their anonymity has been assured and I don't know who reads my blog.  But I will say that they were all lovely people who love their children.

We are very fortunate, indeed.  I know I end my posts frequently with statements of gratitude for the things I have, the opportunities I'm afforded and the joys I have in my life.  We don't have a lot, but I'm so glad for the opportunity to help someone that has significantly less.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sad Time of Year

I feel a little bit silly saying this, but at 5 days before Christmas, I'm a bit sad.  Not sad in the usual melancholy way people can get at this time of year (seasonal affective disorders, missing family, etc.), but sad because it's almost over


It hasn't even come yet, and it's almost over in my mind.  I've shopped, wrapped presents, helped decorate the house, baked, visited Santa, listened to Christmas music ad nauseum, you name it...and I've loved every minute of it.  I'm not sure if it's different this year over past years, but it kind of feels like it.  I guess it's because Samantha has been able to help and participate more this year than in any of her previous four Christmases (oh, holy cow, is this seriously her 5th Christmas???).  Not like she's all that helpful in baking cookies, but she thinks she is, and just the fact that I got 5 minutes of pouring and stirring out of her and another 5 minutes of her just watching and being interested (and sticking her hand into the batter bowl to grab some nice, sweet, buttery goo) was enough for me to say she helped.  And it was wonderful.  Her appreciation of brilliant holiday lights, of colorfully wrapped presents and of the soft and silent falling snow has warmed my heart beyond any possible description.

We had a beautiful moment the other night.  The fire was lit, Christmas music was playing, the tree was twinkling, Steve was wrapping presents, and Samantha was standing on a stool in the kitchen attempting to sprinkle (read:  pour uncontrollably) rainbow sprinkles onto a mushy raw batch of green Christmas tree cookies, giggling as she did.  So many things to come together at once, one brief moment as a Norman Rockwell confection.  I know there will be many more such moments, if not this year, then the next, or the one after that, or the one after that. 

Just 5 more days.  The joys of waking on Christmas morning and seeing a child's eyes light up as she discovers that Santa has been here (as evidenced by cookie crumbs, an empty glass of milk, and some presents sitting at the foot of her bed) will be upon us.  The lamb and potatoes will be roasting in the oven, company will come, and wine will flow.  For a few hours we can prolong the experience.  Then everyone will go home, we'll clean up, and it'll be over for another year. 

At least we get to keep the decorations up for a few more days, and we'll have new memories of the best Christmas yet.

That's something, right?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

First Snow of the Season

I've been a bad blogger this week.  Soooooo much going on, as is expected when there's a HUGE holiday looming just around the corner.  I interrupt this blogging silence with a brief post to share some snowy fun.

Samantha got the double WOW factor on Thursday with not only a visit to her school from Santa, but with a visit from the first snowfall of the season!  Upon waking up that morning, there was nothing on the ground.  Nothing.  But we knew it was coming.  I had been talking it up with her, so she woke up asking for it, and was very excited at the prospect. 

And she loved it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Pox on Our House!

Okay, well not really a "pox," but sickness has descended.  Started off with nasty, nasty colds for Steve and Samantha that never really went away.  Which then changed to a fever for the little one and a sore throat for Daddy.  Which got diagnosed yesterday at Urgent Care as strep.  And quite a serious case for him, unfortunately. 

I'm not sure how we should feel about our Wednesday night sick appointment at Samantha's pediatrician's office.  Steve wants to call and give them a mouthful.  It's a large practice, so we don't often get to see her regular doctor (who we love), and the doctors that cover the evening sick cases are truly a random luck-of-the-draw.  Wednesday night it was a visiting doctor, whose name I don't recall, from their sister office in another town.  She was nice enough, and we explained that Samantha had had a fever all day, going up to as high as 101-something.  Now, Sammi almost never gets fevers.  She's just not one of those kids.  She went through teething, including all of her molars, without so much as a whimper, a speck of drool or a spike in temperature.  She's had ear infections with no symptoms other than a whole lot of whining.  And the list goes on.  Not to say she's never had one, but just saying they're rare.  Anyway, the doctor listened to her heart, looked in her nose, ears and mouth (briefly) and declared that her throat was red, and that she must have a strain of the virus that causes hand-foot-mouth disease, and that there's nothing that can be taken for it.  She said she'd be fine in a few days.

So we left.

Samantha seemed to start to feel better, and her temperature seemed to return to normal by Thursday afternoon.  We're now questioning the battery life of our little temporal thermometer, but she definitely didn't feel hot to the touch anymore.  Steve, on the other hand, got worse and worse, barely able to get out of bed.  On Sunday he drove himself to Urgent Care and reported back that he had a particularly bad case of strep.  The doctor at the center suggested that he get Samantha in for a strep test asap, and the rest is history (incidentally, her temperature registered 100-point-something there, further leading us to believe that we may need to change some batteries...). 

I, on the other hand, tested negative and have never felt better!  LOL 

Should we be annoyed that the pediatrician's office never even mentioned strep or thought to suggest a strep test?  Wouldn't a red throat lead to some further investigation on their part?  Perhaps they would have then spotted the rash she was developing on her arms and torso (which we had not yet discovered).  I think I'm annoyed.  Not like I think medical professionals should be perfect in all diagnoses, because I'm sure they're not, but given a preschool-aged child, a red throat, a fever, and a season conducive to that sort of illness, I'd think they should have checked. 

I am very, very thankful, though, that Steve's strep drove him to visit the clinic.  He had thought it was laryngitis, as he was also losing his voice (lo and behold, the doctor said it was strep-induced laryngitis!), and were it not for the unending pain, he would have waited it out.  Samantha had seemed better and we thought that whatever she had had passed (other than the snot pouring from her nose continuously, which I'm not sure was related or not)  Strep apparently can seem to go away on its own, but actually does some pretty nasty things to the body, especially in children. 

Yes, very, very thankful...

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Most Important Post - Part II

Just a quick post to say that the outpouring of support towards the adoption fund of little Olga has been astounding!  Thank you to everyone who has donated - your efforts, no matter how small, have brought her current fund total to $5278!!  And rising.  And just a quick note to those of you who click on the Reece's Rainbow link to Olga's page (in my post below), the reason the amount has not risen past $60 is that the funds are registering on her Angel Tree total (click on this link and scroll down close to the bottom of the page to find her) over the holidays.  This eliminates the fees charged by Paypal. 

We are truly an amazing community to pull together like this.  It's also testament to the kinds of parents we are to our children, those that nurture and love unconditionally.  Now it's just up to someone to step forward and adopt this beautiful little girl.  Oh, how I wish it could be me...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Most Important Post...

My heart breaks when I read about all the children on Reece's Rainbow, those orphans with special needs who have been abandoned and, in the case of the children of many of the Eastern European countries, will be institutionalized when they turn 5.  I, myself, would love to adopt.  Financially it's not in our immediate future.  But I'd like to be able to do my part to spread awareness among my readers, hopefully to make a difference in at least one child's life.  I read this post, re-printed on The Naretto Family blog today.  I, too, am re-printing it (along with a link to the original post by Patti at A Perfect Lily).  Please read below, and help bring the beautiful little Olga home to someone who can love her forever.

Monday, December 6, 2010
The Most Important Post I Have Ever Written

Dear Readers,
My hands are shaking as I'm typing, so if I misspell some words, that's why.
I spent the day with a little girl on my heart..her name is Olga.

I can't even tell you the burden I have for this little girl.
I am so heavy of heart because of this little baby. She could be my Lily.

Olga turns five next month. In Eastern Europe, babies with Down syndrome are deemed unacceptable at birth. Olga has spent her life in an orphanage...until now. Soon she will be transferred to a mental institution. Forever.
If you don't like to read those words, if hearing about the plight of these orphans turns your stomach (it does mine), if you just can't bear the thought of what happens to those children...
Then be thankful.
Be thankful you have the option of hitting that tiny x at the top right hand corner of your screen.

Because Olga doesn't have that option.

She can't close her eyes and make her whole bad-dream-of-a-life go away.

She is destined to a life of abandonment and grief and ugliness so horrid most of us can't even stand to watch a five minute video about it.

So today, I was praying and crying and writing this post and asking God- what would you have me to do.

Sam came home and we ate dinner as a family, and I tried to enjoy our time together as a family. But I wanted him to read my post from this afternoon, part two of my interview with Lisa Peele, who adopted this year from Reece's Rainbow....I wanted him to tell me what we could do for Olga. We don't have the income to qualify for an adoption on Reece's Rainbow.

But someone out there does.

Tonight while I was searching other adoption blogs, trying to see what could be done to raise money for Olga's adoption fund on Reece's Rainbow, I ran across an amazing story.

One mama, blogging from the heart, raised $20,000 for one little orphan. In five days. She called her post The Most Important Post I have Ever Written. (please click on this link if you want to read her story.)

So tonight I was reading and praying and thinking and brainstorming about how we could help Olga. My husband was doing the same thing, while drafting a letter to friends on his laptop, asking them to help. As I stared at the blog post I mentioned above, I said to him, "I just read about a mom who raised $20,000 in five days."

"How?" Sam asked.

"She had a giveaway on her blog. For an iPad."  **side note: I am so stuck in the nineties...I don't even know what an iPad is. But it must be good :)***

My littles kept coming in for extra goodnight kisses, so I went to tuck them all in and finish up some dishes in the kitchen...still praying... brainstorming... thinking what I could sell...I even looked at my cock-a-poo and wondered how much I could get for her:)

Sam walked in the room with a grin on his face...told me to close my eyes and put out my hands.

And in them he placed a brand new iPod touch.

I have no idea how to use it, or why people like them...but I knew what he was thinking.

Can I just say I love that man????

Turns out he opened a bank account 6 months ago, and "earned" a brand new iPod touch. the NEW iPod touch with a built-in camera. It just came in the mail. He was going to sell it and spoil me with something I would really use for Christmas;) But he knows what I REALLY want.

I want to bring Olga home.

We don't meet the income requirements for Reece's Rainbow.

But someone out there does.

And this is where you come in, dear readers.

I'm giving away this brand new iPod touch (valued at $229 )to one lucky commenter. And I am hoping, praying, shamelessly begging you to give til it hurts. And tell every blessed soul you know about this giveaway. As my husband loves to say- tell your in-laws and out-laws too! Blog about it, Facebook about it, tweet it, text it...just get the word out- Lily is giving away an iPod touch, and all you have to do is donate to Olga to enter.

So here's the deal:
*leave one comment if you give to Olga at Reece's Rainbow (click here!)

*leave another comment if you blog about this giveaway (post your link)

*leave another comment if you post about this giveaway on FB

*leave another comment if you tweet this giveaway.

* leave another comment if you sign up (at the bottom of this blog) as a follower...and if you are already a follower, you can leave a second comment as well;)

Five ways to enter...but only if you first donate to Olga.

If Olga has a huge amount in her fund- bank on it- a family will come forward to adopt her. There's not a lack of families who want these babies- there's a lack of finances.

Please spread the word, and please pray for Olga.

I can't think of a better Christmas present, then knowing Olga will be rescued. will draw a winner from Lily's comment section Saturday night.


I'm going to bed a happy woman:)


Posted by Patti at 10:40 PM

(By the way, feel free to comment here if you feel like it, but remember the iPOD giveaway is through Patti's blog.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mixed Bag

I'll keep this post brief. I probably don't really even have enough to say today, but since it's Monday I feel like I should post something.  (Note:  I just proof-read this, and realized that the previous two sentences are complete and utter lies.)

This weekend was kind of a mixed bag of stuff. I had lots of fun plans set up in my head, involving a holiday party, a playdate and a concert, but you know what they say about the best laid plans... The DSANV holiday party went off without a hitch, at least. I had been looking forward to it for one primary reason - so Samantha could see Santa for the first time this year. It's not like she's obsessed with him or anything, but it's been so much fun watching her grow over the last year, listening to her mention things she's seen or things she is looking forward to doing, and Christmas and Santa have been pretty major players. If you ask her what she wants Santa to bring her this year, she says, "presents!" Smart girl! She still doesn't know what exactly she wants, so hopefully that will be the exciting new developmental phase to look forward to next year. I think she's just happy having new toys, or new anything.

Speaking of new, on Saturday, Steve put princess/castle appliques up on Samantha's wall, door and headboard while she was downstairs playing with me. When she went back upstairs, she was SO excited about the new decor. See, just about anything new is good, especially when it fosters imagination, of which she has plenty. Change just one thing in a room, any room, and she is all over it, instantly. Can't get anything past that kid.

Steve did a lot more decorating this week, including hanging the lights outside and the Christmas stockings over the fireplace. The latter was done while Samantha was napping, and when she woke and came downstairs, her eyes went wide and she said, "Wow, beautiful stockings! Thank you, Santa!"  She now says thank you Santa to any new holiday decorations that appear when she's not in the room. 

Anyway, Samantha was absolutely thrilled to see Santa at the holiday party, and I got some cute photos, which I'll have to post later this week. Lucky little girl will get to see him yet again this week at her school. I can't make it to that visit by the jolly, bearded weight-challenged one, but hopefully Steve can go and get some photos. Then, I'm sure, we'll make a paid visit to the jolly, bearded weight-challenged one of-the-shopping-mall-variety before the season is over.  (Was my description of Santa falling into unfair stereotypes? Like what happens to our kids all the time? Maybe I shouldn't characterize him as being "jolly." I'm willing to bet that, like our kids, he certainly can't be happy all the time...? Shame on me.)

On Sunday Samantha became supremely snotty. Classic cold. Yuck. We had planned on a playdate in the morning, with an outdoor holiday concert at Wolf Trap in the late afternoon, along with one of her friends from her typical school. :-) Sadly we had to bow out of both, partly due to her condition (which included plenty of contrary and cranky in addition to snotty), and partly due to inclement weather (gusty wind, feeling like it was in the teens).  Wolf Trap puts this concert on every year, and every year I want to go, and every year we can't go.  The first year we tried, Samantha was sick.  The second, it rained buckets (I'm not brave enough to drag a toddler out into crap weather).  The third it snowed.  And this is the fourth.  *sigh*  What ever happened to the early Decembers of the years before Samantha was born?  I kid you not, there were like 3 years in a row where it was in the 70s or 80s in early December.  One year I remember riding my bike along the Potomac to the National Mall dressed in a tank top and shorts, on December 8th.  I'll never forget that.

So, I've rambled on enough for now.  I actually wrote a lot more than I'd expected.  That's what happens when I get started.  I have this stream of consciousness issue that I try as hard as possible to reign in, and while I didn't go off on too many tangents this time, I'm sure I'll be completely out of control one of these days and (hopefully not) scare all of you off.  My husband gets fed up sometimes when I will talk about 3 or 4 different topics, one after the other in rapid succession, in the course of one or two sentences.  It's not pretty, especially when I consider that I'm the only one that truly knows what I'm talking about...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Sammi Funny

So this is old news if you read my post on Facebook last week, but I'm still chuckling over it.  This is the 2nd exciting new developmental milestone I alluded to in my post on Monday.  I guess technically it's not a milestone, but to me it is.  It's that moment when you realize that your kid, like other kids of the same age, can come up with some unbelievable, innocently funny stuff coming out of their mouths, the kind of stuff you read on the last page of Parents Magazine - you know, those unintentional double entendres, those misunderstandings that result in a gaffe that keeps on giving.  Hehehe.

Maybe I'm making more of it than it is, but hey, indulge me. 

Samantha has a childproof door handle on the inside of her bedroom door.  It's ostensibly to keep her from wandering around.  I actually don't think she would anymore, but I worry more about her possibly getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and falling and getting hurt in her sleepy haze. 

At any rate, she closed herself in her room while playing one morning last week, unable to get out.

Sammi:  Mommy, open the door!

Me:  What's the magic word?

Sammi (without missing a beat):  Abracadabra!

I was floored, having been caught completely off-guard by her response.  The incident will probably be ingrained in my memories forever, as such a typical moment.  Trust me, I grasp on to those typical moments when I can get them, and have found that they occur with more and more frequency these days.  And I am proud.