Friday, August 31, 2012

A Great First Week!

Zoya's first week of school went fabulously! Her teacher is AH-mazing :) Every single day I picked her up she gave Zoya a compliment about her day. Talk about building trust and confidence. I really like the Montessori concept and Zoya's teacher really seems to understand that Zoya really needs to build a foundation of trust and know that she is safe, in order to effectively learn. Her teacher is the perfect mixture of nurture and high expectations.

Zoya has this amazing talent, you see, where she can walk into a room of 25 people and find each and every single person who has low expectations for her and totally play those people. Seriously, I don't know how she does it, but she certainly knows when she can get away with behaving in a way she'd never get away with here. I'm so happy that her teacher already has her card and knows that she is capable of behaving like her friends. Of course Zoya struggles a little more with some aspects of behavior such as attention to task and impulsivity, but she can clearly follow the same directions (just maybe with more prompting) as the rest of her class.

Zoya comes home each day exhausted, but singing songs she has learned and talking about her favorite friends. Sometimes she tells me things that really happened, while other times her information is not so accurate! haha! Her speech is still limited, but I try hard to ask a lot of questions about her day. I'm so proud of her great first week. I know not every week will be just as great, but I'm confident with her team this year, we can roll with the punches and make adaptations/accommodations that are in Zoya's best interest!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Zoya's First Day of School 2012

This is Zoya's second year of preschool! I can't even believe it. It was hard saying goodbye to her this morning even though I know she's in great hands. I just don't like being away from her!! Waaahhhh! Especially after we had all summer together! She woke up very excited and said "SCHOOL!" So many people are so ready for their kids to go back to school, and believe me there were a few days toward the end of summer where I thought that same thing, but today, I wish she could stay smaller longer and not have to go to school yet. But it is good for her, this mama heart just misses her! I know, it's only a few hours...and I'm counting down!

So blessed to love these two!

And she's OFF!

"What Mom? I have to wait for you?"

Really excited!

Silly girls!
Saying hello to her teacher!
Here's hoping for a good year!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Sign Language Post

With both girls we used sign language to help them with their communication since we knew speech would take longer to develop. I've heard the argument many times that teaching children sign language will hinder their speech, to that I say you're wrong! I'm sure there is some fancy research out there somewhere but I haven't looked. I don't need to because I've seen so many children learn sign language first and then take off with their speech later. 

Teaching my girls to COMMUNICATE is far more important to me than teaching them to speak, initially. But teaching communication is also so important for when that speech development DOES come! Depending on what type of therapist you come across you will hear so many different things about signing in regards to speech development. Some therapists will say to teach children very basic signs such as "more," "all done," "eat," "dada," etc. This is the path we've taken with both girls. Some therapists will say to only teach very specific signs, for example, you shouldn't teach them just to say "eat" you should teach them all the different food signs. Well based on their cognitive development as well as fine motor development when we started signing, we had to start on a more broad spectrum and then get more specific. For example, we started with teaching "eat" and when Zoya got really good with that then we would start teaching some specific food signs such as "banana." 

I think just the initial idea of teaching the girls that a sign gets them what they want is so important! "More" has been a really good sign for us to accomplish that with both girls. We've already seen decreased grunting and yelling and frustration from Mila because she understands that she is communicating her needs effectively. This makes her happy. Mila, like many babies learning sign, started using "more" for many things that she wanted (like when she wants my phone or a certain toy), but it was effective and we will expand upon that. They say it's like baby babble. When babies start babbling they babble the same sounds to communicate many different things until their speech develops further.  This is "sign language babble." Don't google that term because I just made it up haha. 

Here is Mila signing "More" and then "Eat." She started by needing hand over hand prompting to sign both of these words. She got really good with "more" and I would request that she sign "more" for bites of her snacks and meals. When she got that down and was doing it without prompting, I added "Eat."

Then she learned to sign "More Eat" all together. Today she was signing "More Eat" with no prompting from me (other than just waiting her out). 

I was talking to a friend who has a child with special needs as well and she said, "You know when we post things like that video you posted of Mila signing, many people don't realize that to get there you worked on that skill for every single meal and snack for months." She is exactly right. And I guess I didn't really ever think of that. Maybe that is why I am so proud when they learn something new, because I know how hard WE worked at it together. I know how many repetitions it took to cement the skill. So bear with me as I brag about my kids because they work so hard and when they meet milestones and accomplishments that might not seem like a big deal to parents of typical kids, it's definite cause for celebration here!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Babies with Down Syndrome Choose Life Too!

Have you seen the beautiful babes with Down Syndrome on REECE'S RAINBOW lately?
(P.S. I can't believe that picture on the fridge is really my Mila girl!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gearing Up for School!

Zoya will start her second year of preschool next week. She will be in a whole new program and classroom. We are very excited and hopeful about what Zoya will accomplish this year! She will be in a Montessori Classroom with 18 children from preschool through kindergarten age. Zoya will be eligible for one more year of preschool after this school year, or we could decide to send her to Kindergarten after this year (but I'm leaning toward keeping her in preschool longer just because it feels safer LOL).

We had Open House today and got to visit her classroom and meet her classmates. She did really great and had fun! I especially enjoyed the teacher's "no cupcake" speech :) I think she will be a fabulous fit for Zoya because she runs a tight ship and LOVES her job! She sees Zoya's potential already and values her for HER. It makes my heart so happy to know Zoya will be spending each morning with such a nurturing, caring teacher with high expectations who sees the value in each of her students! That combination is difficult to come by!

Here is our "little big girl" before leaving for Open House. She got almost 5 inches cut off her hair yesterday and I must say she looks so stinkin' adorable with her new do! She looks like such a big girl!!! Today as I watched Zoya in her classroom I was so thankful for this educational opportunity for her. I flashed back to our days visiting her at the orphanage and thought to myself how far she has come and how blessed we are to have access to such a great education for our sweet girl! I'll be praying for a super week for Zoya and her classmates as she embarks on this new journey on Monday!

Monday, August 20, 2012

9 Months Home!

Yesterday we celebrated 9 months home for Mila! We celebrated by having her last baba :( She has been down to one bottle a day for a while now and it was really more for me than it was for her. I loved snuggling her and watching her fall asleep drinking her bottle before her nap, but she was clearly losing interest in the baba. She knows bigger and better things are ahead I guess!

Having a bedtime snack and watching Mickey Mouse!

Beautiful Blue Eyes!

I love her little chin!

Smiling so big you can't even see her eyes!

The "look"

Smiling at Mickey Mouse!

Love this face!

Big Girl Milk-drinking!

Relaxin' in her pink chair!

Blowing Raspberries back at Mama!

Silly Girl!

Mila's new do after her haircut today!

Signing more (for more snacks) while mama keeps taking pictures

Continuing to sign "more" while Mama ignores her

Okay when that doesn't work just cry! That seems to get Mama's attention every time!!
Mila's first haircut today! She happily sat there and listened to me sing Baby Beluga! 
The past 9 months have been full of ups and downs and lots of growth, on Mila's part, and our ours as parents. She is teaching us so much and proving that love heals! We thank God for allowing us to be her parents! Happy 9 Months Home Mila!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mila On the Move!

Mila has been working hard in Physical Therapy to strengthen her muscles. Her goal right now is crawling. We know crawling is so important to develop not only core, shoulder, arm and hip muscles, but it is also important for brain development. I asked Mila's physical therapist if it's common for kids with Down Syndrome to walk before they crawl because Mila seems closer to walking than crawling. She said it is very common for kids with low muscle tone and that we'll just keep trying to get her to work on both crawling and walking. Zoya crawled first but very soon after she learned to crawl she was walking so she didn't crawl for that long.

Mila is starting to scoot around and try to figure out how to get her body to move when she is on her belly. She seems to have a technique unlike any other I've seen!

Here is the "lunge"

This is my favorite....she digs her right toe in and flings her left leg to lurch herself forward!

Trying to get her knees under her and pull with her arms...

A face also works as a third arm at times

Love that smile!

Working hard!

The "bear" pose that she hasn't quite figured out how to move forward in yet (only backward)

Extra points for creativity but not so much for form!

"How many push ups did you say I have to do?"

So close! 
Her funny face! 
And Mila has been standing and finally holding on with only her arms and not using her body to support herself! She even took the teeniest tiniest baby step using her toy walker during PT!!! She loves being upright. After about 3-5 minutes of standing her body starts shaking because she is working so hard so I help her to sit down and she gets mad and tries to pull right back up to standing! My frail little baby is getting so strong!
This picture reminds me of a little old lady with her dress, sneakers, and walker :)

Go, Mila, Go! We are so proud of your determined attitude! You have been a fighter from the beginning and we're seeing that more and more every single day!