Catching Up #2 – County Fair

We went to the county fair just once this year (instead of our usual two trips) and we all went together – Jordan included. This hasn’t been successful in the past, but this year was really fantastic! Part of the reason for our success is that Jordan has a stroller again! It’s really more like a wheelchair, but functionally is a larger sized stroller. This helped him rest when he was fatigued, helped him have a familiar and restricted space to lower his anxiety and was handy for the other kids too as needed. He really did great with all the noise and action – so did the other girls! They all got to go on a few rides (which I took the pictures of), we took in a few fun shows and ate overpriced fair food and kettle corn. It’s something we look forward to every year and I’m happy to say this year was a success. I love watching the kids’ faces as they ride the carnival rides… and this year for the first time, I got to see Jordan on some.

Jordan was pretty curious about the spinning carousel.

Jordan was pretty curious about the spinning carousel.

Buckled in!

Buckled in!

Seeing the sights.

Seeing the sights.

Merry go rounds are still a favorite for all the kids.

Merry go rounds are still a favorite for all the kids.

Maggie chose a zebra!

Maggie chose a zebra!

It's so fun to watch them! There's no way I would get on something that would spin myself, but I take pictures and close my eyes for long periods and I do okay.

It’s so fun to watch them! There’s no way I would get on something that would spin myself, but I take pictures and close my eyes for long periods and I do okay.

Jordan was technically too tall for this ride, but they let him on. Thankfully, he didn't climb off mid-ride!

Jordan was technically too tall for this ride, but they let him on. Thankfully, he didn’t climb off mid-ride!

Oh, the thrill!

Oh, the thrill!

Jordan, not being into make-believe much yet, didn't get the idea of the handle bars, but he loved the driving around bit!

Jordan, not being into make-believe much yet, didn’t get the idea of the handle bars, but he loved the driving around bit!

Brian and Maggie went on a proper roller coaster!

Brian and Maggie went on a proper roller coaster!

Big smiles from both wild ones.

Big smiles from both wild ones.

Anna is following in her mother's footsteps of preferring the tamer rides.

Anna is following in her mother’s footsteps of preferring the tamer rides.

Yep. This one! :-)

Yep. This one! 🙂

Sweet girl. All by herself!

Sweet girl. All by herself!

She is four!

She is four!

Anna and Maggie went on the mid-sized swing ride.

Anna and Maggie went on the mid-sized swing ride.

Jordan was NOT a fan of the little roller coaster that had a sharp, jerky turn.

Jordan was NOT a fan of the little roller coaster that had a sharp, jerky turn.

All six of us rode!

All six of us rode!

We were in front.

We were in front.

We bought the noses!

We bought the noses!

These two are one of my favorite shows. We've watched them two years in a row now.

These two are one of my favorite shows. We’ve watched them two years in a row now.

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Catching Up #1

Back in August, we had our annual family “camping” trip. It’s basically camping, except we’re at my house. Got that? Camping. But with a home and all its amenities like beds, bathrooms, living rooms and all that. We think it’s pretty stellar. We have tents set up and a campfire and hot dogs and spend lots of time outside. 🙂 🙂

We had another batch of adorable kittens back in August!

We had another batch of adorable kittens back in August!

Austin and Brian played with the Erector set that I found at a garage sale. Complete with Baby Tessa!

Austin and Brian played with the Erector set that I found at a garage sale. Complete with Baby Tessa!

Austin is a real pro when it comes to baby handling while playing games.

Austin is a real pro when it comes to baby handling while playing games.

Mom and Dad fixed our breakfast! It's my kind of camping.

Mom and Dad fixed our breakfast! It’s my kind of camping.

So much fun was had by all the cousins!

So much fun was had by all the cousins!

Kids primarily wore dressup... followed closely behind by pajamas.

Kids primarily wore dressup… followed closely behind by pajamas.

It was warm, but not hot and we all went to the park for a nice walk.

It was warm, but not hot and we all went to the park for a nice walk.

The park happens to be by the river... and we were just going to stop and look at it.

The park happens to be by the river… and we were just going to stop and look at it.

Just looking. Staying dry.

Just looking. Staying dry.

Maggie has very good balance.

Maggie has very good balance.

And a sense of exploration.

And a sense of exploration.

It's a beautiful river on a beautiful day. Want to guess how long they stayed dry?

It’s a beautiful river on a beautiful day. Want to guess how long they stayed dry?

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We parents were happy and relaxed.

We parents were happy and relaxed.

Neal was teaching rock-skipping skills and generally being agreeable.

Neal was teaching rock-skipping skills and generally being agreeable.

The river exploration began.

The river exploration began.

All the "big kids" made it across!

All the “big kids” made it across!

Champions!

Champions!

We held the four and unders back on our side of the river. They didn't seem to mind.

We held the four and unders back on our side of the river. They didn’t seem to mind.

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Attachment and School

Ready for the bus.

Ready for the bus.

Here’s a look inside Jordan’s attachment development via his back-to-school note this week.

Intro for new readers: Jordan was adopted into our family from a Eastern European orphanage when he was 2 1/2 years old. He is 7 years old now and has Down Syndrome. Usually though, it’s his time socially neglected in his orphanage crib that affects him more than his chromosomes. His perception of the world and other people is so different due to those 2 1/2 years spent alone. He has a great team at school, but adoption/attachment issues and Down Syndrome are an unusual combination and I wrote this letter to give his team a head start towards success.

September 6, 2016

Dear “Teacher” and all of Jordan’s wonderful team,
Please take the time as soon as possible to read this update and the first of the connected articles listed below. I’m looking forward to working with you this year and am glad to have you on our/Jordan’s team.
~Mom

New school year notes:
• [… some other stuff and then:]
• The biggie: “Orphanage behavior” – continued below
Jordan is a little guy with Down Syndrome. He is learning self-control and sometimes he avoids work out of laziness. But when he acts out he is usually driven by his developmental years in the orphanage. I hear it from seasoned social workers, therapists, parent peers and other professionals involved in helping to rehabilitate children from institutional backgrounds, so please give my words due weight. Jordan has an attachment disorder that causes him to seek control of his environment.

Jordan is a sweet boy, but he doesn’t behave like a nice person when he is manically controlling his environment. He is not learning. Controlling might not be the perfect word, it’s just the closest I can get. It’s not a power struggle and it’s not out of curiosity. He controls his environment for a primal, visceral need for safety. And he does it by doing things he knows you don’t want. It’s a demand for structure and follow-through. He needs his people to follow through to show themselves trustworthy and competent.

If he is able to manipulate his aides, he reverts to these behaviors out of a sort of gut-level fear. He usually giggles and laughs in a wild sort of way and behaves hyperactively. When he is stripping, peeing, peeing where he shouldn’t, grabbing, swiping, running, or flipping light switches, he knows what he is doing is not acceptable behavior, but is not able to control himself, because he is driven by fear and needs us to help him feel safe.

At the moment this starts, which may very well be the moment he arrives at school and continue more intensely for several weeks, STOP EVERYTHING. Have him sit down (chair, floor, corner… so long as it is your choice) until he can sit politely. If he swipes, grabs, throws, slaps, or tries to run off, he should return to sitting. It’s a place of safety. It’s where he has a chance to let his fear cool and his trust grow.

At this point, with somebody he trusts, we can work towards more and more interesting and challenging tasks. He knows you there, so you will get some of this! But it’s been a whole summer and he is developmentally another leap ahead from where he was last year. So I think he is going to test you with a new level of understanding.

With somebody he is still testing, he will fight and fight (adoption counselors describe Jordan’s perspective as feeling like he’s literally fighting for his life) and have periods of exhaustion and tears. Any amount of yield/trust is important to praise immediately. It’s also important that the whole scenario play out with no anger on the adult’s part. We are there helping him find safety. We love him and want his success. Our eyes express love, our postures express patience… and we are strong and resilient and able. That’s the kind of leader he is willing to follow.

It is 1000% worth it to spend lots of time practicing “safe sitting” or “strong sitting” so that you have a foundation of trust to build upon. If he misses art or recess or potty time, etc. that’s too bad, but I expect it will take a fair amount of practice to be able to work up to doing those tasks. It’s my hope that you will be able to help him through these issues and be able to participate in more school activities than ever before. He is developmentally ready for them too! But feeling safe comes first.

I can foresee some challenges if he is not ready to comply but he needs to have his diaper changed or go to the bus, etc. I’m not sure what the best options are for that. Sometimes we just do the best we can.

This is the system that is in place to help him succeed and thank you in advance for your participation. This method and understanding comes from a well-researched and understood background. Because of his developmental delay and being non-verbal, we’re not sure exactly which attachment disorder Jordan has, but we can learn a lot about how Jordan’s brain works by learning about kids with RAD. Here are a few links that will help you gain insight into working with a post-institutionalized child with high baseline anxiety and poor attachment foundation. I think you’ll find them both interesting and useful. Let me know as you see additional needs and have questions.

http://www.attachment.org/letter-to-teachers/
http://www.attachment.org/letter-to-bus-drivers-and-monitors/
http://www.attachment.org/teachers/consequences/
http://www.attachment.org/attachment-disorder-articles/

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Summer from the Cell Phone Perspective

Flexibility and being easily amused is probably not on the college course guides for prospective Occupational Therapists, but man, those are just two qualities that Joanna possesses. She is a unicorn.

Therapist awesomeness.

Therapist awesomeness.

OT time with Joanna!

OT time with Joanna!

Carolyn is such a sweetheart.

Carolyn is such a sweetheart.

I am working towards better physical health by using the Couch to 5K app on my phone. I just finished week 3 and can now jog for 3 minutes straight. I am pretty proud of this since I couldn’t jog for more than a few steps a month or two ago when I started. The app says I’m supposed to jog 5 minutes straight next week. I think it’s mad. We’ll see how that goes. 🙂

Anna and I walked/jogged a 5K together. She got first place for her age group!

Anna and I walked/jogged a 5K together. She got first place for her age group!

Since we’ve been doing well the last six months, we have wanted to provide respite for family and friends. (That’s like extended babysitting in this context.) I got to watch my sister’s kids a couple times when her baby was born and I’ve got to watch my friend’s son Levi a couple times. It really has been a pleasure each time. Yes, there is more going on in the house, yes, it can be tiring to have more kids, but YES, it is a pleasure and an honor on so many levels to provide respite. One, my kids love having other kids here. Jordan too. Two, I enjoy the extra energy in the house. Three, I can manage the additional energy output, because it’s temporary. Four, I love having respite provided for me and it makes me happy to give back.

Jailbirds.

Jailbirds.

Levi finally zonked out after a few days of visiting a new house.

Levi finally zonked out after a few days of visiting a new house.

Meanwhile, I am using any other motivation and energy to make jam. Yummers.

The plum jam is this color, because of the color of the plums!

The plum jam is this color, because of the color of the plums!

MMmmmmm

MMmmmmm

Blackberry goodness.

Blackberry goodness.

There were some relational breakthroughs for Jordan when Levi was over for a week. Jordan struggles to be socially aware and active. The rest of the world moves so much faster than him that he rarely engages with others in meaningful ways. Levi and Jordan, however, are so close to each others speed. They were both modeling and practicing awesome communication behavior with each other. They observed, tried, played, pushed, were puzzled and teased and basically were awesome. They weren’t always enjoying it, but it was so successful, because 90% of the time, they were tolerating and enjoying each other.

This one makes me chuckle. The bowls of soup had just run out. :-(

This one makes me chuckle. The bowls of soup had just run out. 🙁

Jordan's new stroller/wheelchair getting put to good use when Levi tagged along to Jordan's speech appointment last week.

Jordan’s new stroller/wheelchair getting put to good use when Levi tagged along to Jordan’s speech appointment last week.

Blackberry and plum jam.

Blackberry and plum jam.

Peaches!

Peaches!

The peach jam turned out runny (learned that overripe peaches have less pectin) but it's still soooo yummy!

The peach jam turned out runny (learned that overripe peaches have less pectin) but it’s still soooo yummy!

Matchy matchy!

Matchy matchy!

Day 1. Not sure what to do about each other. Trapped in jail for an unknown length of time. Decided to sit on same side of room. (me chuckling)

Awkward beginnings:

Levi tries to engage Jordan:

Jordan engages with Levi!

They were handling this situation pretty well, but I did go in eventually and make Levi let go:

The jumprope

So flexible!

So flexible!

Jordan was happy to hang out like this.

Jordan was happy to hang out like this.

Goodnight sheepies!

Goodnight sheepies!

Goodnight, little farm.

Goodnight, little farm.

This is an elephant cabbage we grew.

This is an elephant cabbage we grew.

This is a normal cabbage we grew.

This is a normal cabbage we grew.

Okay then! I’m off to freeze some cabbage now….

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2016 Summer Vacation!

Warning – this post has some 60 photos plus four videos at the end!

If you visit our home and Ruby sheds on you... just know that it's less than she would have shed on you if I hadn't done this.

If you visit our home and Ruby sheds on you… just know that it’s less than she would have shed on you if I hadn’t done this.

The rodeo had free pony rides! Look at my big girl!

The rodeo had free pony rides! Look at my big girl!

I love that Royal Ridges provides pony rides!

I love that Royal Ridges provides pony rides!

Pleased as punch to get on a horse.

Pleased as punch to get on a horse.

Time for a rodeo! So nice to spend time with family.

Time for a rodeo! So nice to spend time with family.

Maggie is not a fan of having her picture taken.

Maggie is not a fan of having her picture taken.

Carolyn and Margaret played a hat-stealing game with Pappy's hat.

Carolyn and Margaret played a hat-stealing game with Pappy’s hat.

Maggie was about to make a face at me because she noticed me trying to take her picture.

Maggie was about to make a face at me because she noticed me trying to take her picture.

Carolyn is so silly!

Carolyn is so silly!

Over the years, I've grown to love the princesses more and the actual events less.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love the princesses more and the actual events less.

Beautiful girl.

Beautiful girl.

Even Great Grandpa came! Thanks, Dad D. for picking him up!

Even Great Grandpa came! Thanks, Dad D. for picking him up!

Grammy and Anna are two peas in a pod.

Grammy and Anna are two peas in a pod.

Ruby is a big doggy!

Ruby is a big doggy!

Margaret and Carolyn put on veils to come check out how the bees are doing with me.

Margaret and Carolyn put on veils to come check out how the bees are doing with me.

Ooooooooooh.

Ooooooooooh.

Fascinating stuff!

Fascinating stuff!

Brand new comb is beautiful! (older comb is dark)

Brand new comb is beautiful! (older comb is dark)

Again - fascinating! These ladies are making a chain of their legs to guide the comb building.

Again – fascinating! These ladies are making a chain of their legs to guide the comb building.

Anna went to summer camp (day camp) for the first time this summer! It was a big hit. I recommend Royal RIdges!

Anna went to summer camp (day camp) for the first time this summer! It was a big hit. I recommend Royal RIdges!

I scored a big set of this stuff at a garage sale and it was worth every penny. The kids have been inventing lots of strange and wonderful things.

I scored a big set of this stuff at a garage sale and it was worth every penny. The kids have been inventing lots of strange and wonderful things.

I don't know what it is, but it's cool!

I don’t know what it is, but it’s cool!

And now onto camping!!! Jordan's new stroller/wheelchair was a lifesaver. He is pretty happy in it and it keeps him out of the dirt and so he can't run away when we need it.

And now onto camping!!! Jordan’s new stroller/wheelchair was a lifesaver. He is pretty happy in it and it keeps him out of the dirt and so he can’t run away when we need it.

It took me until the day we left for me to figure out how to get my little camp kitchen working, but it was ooooooh, so yummy to eat outside.

It took me until the day we left for me to figure out how to get my little camp kitchen working, but it was ooooooh, so yummy to eat outside.

Sausage and pancake delight!

Sausage and pancake delight!

The weather was cool, but not too cool with warmish afternoons and we loved it.

The weather was cool, but not too cool with warmish afternoons and we loved it.

I love taking pictures of this beautiful girl even though she doesn't like me doing it.

I love taking pictures of this beautiful girl even though she doesn’t like me doing it.

Cheese! Carolyn likes her photo taken.

Cheese! Carolyn likes her photo taken.

Jordan's all curled up in his chair and content.

Jordan’s all curled up in his chair and content.

Hey, I got in a photo!

Hey, I got in a photo!

We stayed five days (four nights) and on the fourth day, the sun warmed up and we spent most of the day in the water!!

We stayed five days (four nights) and on the fourth day, the sun warmed up and we spent most of the day in the water!!

haha

haha

Jordan played in the water too!

Jordan played in the water too!

I just love this brave little girl.

I just love this brave little girl.

And this one too!

And this one too!

A wonderful young lady named Alexis spent the week with us. It would have been much more difficult without her. Also... the intex kayak was a big hit.

A wonderful young lady named Alexis spent the week with us. It would have been much more difficult without her. Also… the intex kayak was a big hit.

I laughed that Margaret laid on her towel on the rockes!

I laughed that Margaret laid on her towel on the rockes!

Throwing dirt and rocks!

Throwing dirt and rocks!

Brian and Jordan have a shared passion...

Brian and Jordan have a shared passion…

Throwing rocks into bodies of water!

Throwing rocks into bodies of water!

Love these two boys.

Love these two boys.

There is something sacred about dirty camping faces.

There is something sacred about dirty camping faces.

If Jordan's arms can reach you, he will grab hold and climb up you like a ladder. Brian found a solution!

If Jordan’s arms can reach you, he will grab hold and climb up you like a ladder. Brian found a solution!

Home sweet home.

Home sweet home.

Beautiful day! Since we had life vests for everybody, it was low stress... even if somebody fell in on accident, they wouldn't sink.

Beautiful day! Since we had life vests for everybody, it was low stress… even if somebody fell in on accident, they wouldn’t sink.

Look at Margaret! She rowed Alexis up and down the shore.

Look at Margaret! She rowed Alexis up and down the shore.

Carolyn was quite brave the first day we swam, but too tired to be brave the second day.

Carolyn was quite brave the first day we swam, but too tired to be brave the second day.

I read Prince Caspian out loud while camping.

I read Prince Caspian out loud while camping.

Cuties.

Cuties.

Waves were bigger the second day, but the water was still pretty warm.

Waves were bigger the second day, but the water was still pretty warm.

Brian and I had a blast.

Brian and I had a blast.

It was quite deep, so I needed a life vest too if I was holding anybody.

It was quite deep, so I needed a life vest too if I was holding anybody.

The logs were lots of fun to climb on and jump off... and fall off. They kept rolling! Both Brian and I got to swim thanks to Alexis.

The logs were lots of fun to climb on and jump off… and fall off. They kept rolling! Both Brian and I got to swim thanks to Alexis.

Cutie.

Cutie.

It was a great time.

It was a great time.

Happy boy!

Happy boy!

Cold daughter.

Cold daughter.

Wrapping up.

Wrapping up.

Farewell for now!

Farewell for now!

Everybody playing in the water… Brian sinking the log:

Brian “going fishing” with Jordan:

The lady at the garage sale i bought these little tents from said they fold up easy to store. I told her after my kids were done with them, there wouldn’t be anything left to store.

Just a little bit of laid back outside time:

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