Monday, August 22, 2011

Onward and Upward

Today is Aaron's third birthday! It's hard to believe it's been three years since our lives changed so dramatically. In some ways it feels like yesterday, in others it seems like it's always been this way.

We didn't know Aaron had Down Syndrome before he was born. I had the "quad screen" test while I was pregnant but the results came back normal so we thought there was no chance there was anything wrong. We were shocked when he was born and the doctor told us he wanted to have him tested. Even the genetecist wasn't sure, but a week and a half later when we finally got the results back, our fears were confirmed. I'm not going to lie, it was devastating. I knew what Down syndrome was, but I didn't know nearly enough about it. All I could think about was how people were going to be so cruel to him and it wasn't fair. I think I cried for a month. And it took a year before I was finally okay with it. That doesn't mean I was devastated that entire year, but it was hard to accept that life wasn't going to be what I had always thought it would be.
It is hard to explain to someone who doesn't have a child with special needs, but most parents actually go through the grief process when their child is diagnosed with a disability. Even though I didn't lose my child, I lost the child I thought I was going to have. It is emotional and traumatic and we (or at least I) won't ever be the same.

But now that I have had three years to process it and bond with my little boy, I don't think I would change it if I could. Of course I wish he didn't need therapy five times a week. I wish he didn't have so many medical problems. I wish he could eat the same food everyone else eats. But I wouldn't change him. Aaron is the sweetest, funniest little boy I have ever met. Jacob is sweet and funny too of course, but Aaron is different. He will love a stranger almost as much as he loves his family. He blows kisses and gives high fives to everyone he passes on the street. He will laugh and make funny faces a hundred times a day. He has brought so much joy to our lives - and to this world - that it amazes me every day.

That is not to say he's easy to take care of. He is a handful and so much more challenging than his big brother ever was. He has no concept of safety awareness and could care less if he is wandering off by himself. It makes for a very high stress level for me every time we leave the house, but it's just one of those things we have to deal with. Even though he isn't talking much yet, he has recently discovered that he has an opinion about everything. And he's not afraid to let us know. He wants things to be his way and if they aren't, he'll let us know that he is not happy about it. He is walking - and climbing - everywhere. He wears me out, every night I am utterly exhausted.

But he has changed us for the better. I look at the world differently now. And I tend to like this view better. I have come to appreciate every little milestone so much more. And there are so many milestones to celebrate that I never knew about! Who knew it would be so exciting when your kid learns to make the "guh" sound?!

So, I may not have the life I imagined having before Aaron was born, but I can actually say I'm okay with that. I love my little boy and I'm so happy that God decided to make him a part of our family. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Don't Wanna Grow Up!

So this week was my 31st birthday. This one didn't bother me so much, after all, it's just another day. Jacob woke me up in the morning and gave me a birthday card from he and Aaron. It was "Kittens From Around the World" Meowing their birthday wishes in several different languages. Quite hysterical. Aaron loved it and insisted that I push the buttons so the cats would meow all day long. Jacob then designed a Scavenger Hunt for me. He gave me some clues to find my "surprise" and when I found it, it turned out to be a picture he had drawn. A picture of a cherry (with a smiley face) that said "Happy Birthday Mama, You are as funny as a cherry". :-)  He was so proud of himself - he must have asked me two dozen times if I liked my gift.
However, the most significant event of the day had nothing to do with my birthday.

We had Aaron's IFSP meeting on my birthday. For those of you who don't know (which is probably most of you), an IFSP is an Individualized Family Service Plan. It's basically where we meet with his Service Coordinator (and sometimes one or several of his therapists) and discuss his goals for the next six months. We talk about what he has accomplished and what he needs to be working on.We do this every six months and they are not usually a big deal. But this one was a little different. It was our last meeting with our great coordinator who we have come to love and have a great relationship with. She works with the Early Intervention department which only services children from birth to age 3. Since Aaron will be three next week, we have to transition to the "Child" department where we will get a new coordinator. The way they work is a little different and we'll have to get to know a new person. I knew this would happen when he turned three of course, but it's still hard. It seems like just when we get used to one thing, we have to change and learn a whole new system. As soon as he starts school (which he will be eligible for when he turns three but won't be going yet) we will have to learn yet another new system. We "get" to start the journey through the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and do everything we can to make sure he gets the education we want him to have. It's stressful just thinking about it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We've Got a First Grader!

Monday was Jacob's first day of school - First Grade! He wavered back and forth between excitement and anxiety, but ultimately was happy to start school. He has come home every day telling me how great school was and how he likes First Grade even more than Kindergarten.
His teacher is very sweet and has told me every day that Jacob is such a nice boy and very well behaved. This is her first year at his school, but she has been a First Grade teacher before. One of his best friends from last year is in his class this year. They were thrilled to find each other in the same class at Open House, so I think that definitely helped ease his anxiety.
It's hard to believe that my little boy is already in First Grade. But I'm not really sad about it. I know many of my friends don't want their kids to go back to school or grow up so fast, but I just don't feel that way. Jacob is very active and I think he is so much happier when he goes to school and gets to interact with his friends rather than being dragged around to his brother's therapy appointments all week. I enjoy not spending my entire day fussing at my kids because they are screaming at each other. It's not that they fight all the time when they are together, they are just so loud and active, it is a bit much sometimes. So I guess I'm the mom who is thrilled school has started again! If that makes me a bad mother, so be it. For the record, I think we are all happier when school is in session - even if Jacob won't admit it. :-)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back to the Grindstone

We have been back in Arizona for a week now. We had a fantastic time visiting our family and friends in Georgia and the time went by entirely too quickly. Who knew a month could fly by so fast?!
Of course the boys have had a bit of difficulty adjusting to normal life again - that is, no grandparents around to cater to their every whim. :-)  But we are finally getting back into our normal routine.
Aaron started all of his therapies again this week. He wasn't exactly cooperative, so it may take a little longer for him to get adjusted to the demands that therapy involves. Luckily, he made a lot of progress while we were gone too.
He got his third set of tubes put in his ears the week before we went to Georgia and they have made a tremendous difference. He had been having problems with his balance for a few weeks but that improved immediately after the tubes were put in. It turned out he had a LOT of gunk in his ears that was certainly impairing his hearing. Since that has cleared up he has started speaking more, putting more sounds together and imitating us all the time. It is so exciting to watch.
Although he will be three in just a couple of weeks, developmentally he is only at about the 15 month stage with his speech. He can sign a lot and is able to communicate with us that way, but to hear him trying to say real words is like a dream come true. It is so exciting for both him and us when he says a real word and uses it properly. Of course it is exciting for any parent when their child first learns to speak, but when you have waited three years for it, it's just that much sweeter.  Hopefully his vocabulary will continue to expand quickly now that he can hear!
Today is also Open House day at the elementary school. We'll find out who Jacob's first grade teacher will be, which of his friends are going to be in his class and see his new classroom. I am definitely more excited about this than he is, but I'm hoping once we get there and he sees his friends again, he will be excited too. School starts on Monday, so he'll be back to his routine soon whether he likes it or not!