Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

 Dear Friends and Family,

Every morning we wake up to the sound of beloved sisters playing together in their room. "Claire, lay down. I will change your diaper, lay down please." Makenna is such a little Mommy! "Dust, dust, dust" Claire sings to herself as she cleans up her room with a dried out baby wipe leftover from yesterday's fun. Opening the door to a "good morning Mommy!" greeting, the girls run over anticipating the big decision, what is for breakfast. As long as one ingredient is peanut butter they are satisfied. We sing songs as we eat our "toast, toast, I like it a lot. Toast, toast, when will it pop?" So many perfect mornings; there are no little things, no insignificant moments. The seemingly small are brush strokes of a larger picture. The work of art that forms my life, the lives of these beautiful girls. Every moment is in the maker's hands. We are so blessed to have been given three amazing gifts, three little girls. 

 If I said Makenna was looking forward to her third birthday December 27th it would be an understatement. Makenna cannot have a conversation with anyone without her mentioning the big day. “I will be three on my birthday, three candles on my cake... but I'm not having cake. I want triangle brownies... I am going to be so big and ride a sheep!” We saw mutton busting at the fair and her mind is made up, when she is three, she wants to ride a sheep, but it has to be a white one, not a black one. 

Makenna and Uncle Garrett after a caroling carriage ride.

Claire is still our friendly little sweetheart. She turned five in June and lives for “dates” with Dad and Mom. Even just taking her on a milk run, if we call it a date, it makes her day. There are not many days we go without princess dress up. She is convinced of her adorableness in a puffy ballerina skirt and rightly so. Claire also loves to paint.

 Claire was the happiest cow in the nativity story at church.

Baby Alice had her first birthday on the 14th. She has such a sweet little personality. She loves to follow her sisters around and clap along with their songs. Alice always has a smile and a little wave to say “hi.” She really is a doll.

 Nate and Alice's 
(first carousel ride)

Claire and Alice at Alice's birthday party.

Nate has been all over this year. After finishing his deployment this summer he worked out of Moses Lake through November, loving visits from our Ephrata family. We are excited to have him back flying out of Spokane. What a great dad he is, most of his free time is spent playing dress up and having tea parties. We started running together and Nate gets lots of encouragement from onlookers pushing our bright red triple jogger. It's kind of like having the float to our own little parade and everyone stops to look and our little girls wave like princesses in training. 

 Nate and Claire enjoyed camping and swimming this summer.

I have been enjoying Kindermusik, preschool co-op, gymnastics and much more with my girls. Young Athletes, the Jr. program for Special Olympics, moved to Spokane this year and we are all having a blast participating. We even made the news in October, Down Syndrome awareness month. I have been volunteering with PAVE, helping families navigate their IEPs (Individual Education Plan). I also was invited to share a little about my family and what inclusion has meant to us to some of the parents of typical children in integrated classrooms. It has been a lot of fun and I look forward to continuing.

Girls on a pumpkin picking hay ride, look close you can see Dad.
Please check out our blog. There are lots of stories about Down Syndrome awareness, humorous parenting blunders and being a military family,
God bless and Merry Christmas

The Leitz Family


Friday, November 25, 2011

Beautiful, Messy, Included

I was invited to share a little about my family and what inclusion has meant to us to some of the parents of Claire's classmates.  I know, super exciting!!  So here is what I have so far, what do you think?

First off, I thought I would tell you about our family so you can get a better picture of who Claire is.  My husband and I received Claire into our home through the foster care system about five years ago.  She was our first foster child and we did not have any other children.  Claire has Down Syndrome, which means she has an extra pesky chromosome tripping her up in every cell of her entire body. Down Syndrome has a very large spectrum and we are frequently asked "is she high functioning?" There are so many factors and no two children with Down Syndrome are the same. Claire tries very hard and does well.  We are so proud of all that she has overcome.  Just learning to eat and breathe, things we take for granted, are milestones for Claire.

After two years of foster care we were able to adopt Claire; shortly after, we had a baby girl, Makenna, who is now almost three and Claire's closest companion.  We also have another bio child, Alice, who is nearly one. 

Second, what is inclusion? Well, simply put, it's students with special needs spending most or all of their time with non-disabled students. Maybe a story is the best way to explain. 

Claire jumps off the bus and tells me she ate play dough today.  Sounds funny, but I am overjoyed that 1.she said "ate play dough today" and 2. She was at school today, sitting at a table with other students playing.  My heart for her is just that, messy, imperfect, included.

Truth, inclusion probably won't bring her up to grade level but being included makes her a part of so much more; a class, a community, friendship, a positive self esteem.  She feels valued, that is what we strive for. More then that, Clarie affects others in a very important way.

One of the things we considered while adopting a child with special needs was how this would affect our other children.  Makenna (Claire's little sister) is an example of so many positive benefits; reduced fear of people who are different, increased patience, improved social emotional growth, improved personal conduct and self esteem.  Makenna could tell you how she loves her sister.  Down Syndrome means nothing to her.  She has learned how to interact with Claire in a way that works for them.  Really, isn't that what we all have to do when we grow up.  We are constantly trying to figure out how to be in relationships with people who are different than us.  Makenna gets to learn how at two years old.  Adopting a child with special needs is intimidating but it was the right choice for us.  Claire, Makenna and Alice are all growing to be amazing people because of their shared experiences.  

There is nothing to fear.  I think some of us don't reason it out and live under the incorrect conclusion that if our children are exposed to people who are different it will be contagious.   I want to say thank you to every parent who has simply allowed their child to play with mine.  Really, your child is my child's greatest teacher.  I know it is not always easy.  My heart breaks every time I hear that a child doesn't want to play with Claire because of her sometimes inappropriate social skills but when a parent or teacher steps in and teaches our children how to be friends I am truly touched.  

We were at a store the other day when Claire walked up to another child; arms outstretched in the universal sign for "hug me." The little girl just stared back at her.  "Hug?"  Claire said.  With no reply from the little girl Claire walked away to play with her sister.  Wow, pinch me, I thought.  She learned!  Claire is a hugger through and through and she struggles with giving people their space.  But there, that time she did it and I know it's because of all the wonderful practice she gets at school. 

Being able to attend this ECAP was a huge accomplishment for Claire.  We are grateful to God for providing Claire the opportunity to learn with her typically developing peers for the second year now.  She has such an amazing team here.  It seems obvious but being with peers is actually a pretty big deal.  Navigating education for a child with special needs is tough.   It's a mix of too much and not enough at once; always riding the line between more therapies and just being a kid.  There is always something to accomplish (OT, PT, and speech goals, books to read, specialists advice to impalement...).  This is such a wonderful balance for her right now. 

There are always so many questions when we look forward.  Will children accept her enough for integration to continue to be a positive experience?  Will the curriculum be so far over her head that she losses her academic education in a classroom? If she does go to Special Ed, will the children there have extreme behaviors that will rub off so much that she isn't appropriate in other settings?  I do not know the answers.  Each child is so different.  We will take it one year at a time.  We are constantly redefining education for Claire and at some point she will probably have an opinion too.  I can't wait to see who she is growing up to be.  

We are raising her to be a part of society.  We want her to be able to interact in the world.  To have meaningful relationships and a positive affect on her community.  Like any parent, we want her to graduate with people she knows, go to football games, spirit week...  With that in mind it seems imperative that she does stay in relationship with her peers.  Inclusion isn't an amount of hours in a class room.  Being included means being a part of a community, accepted for who you are.  It is knowing your best friends favorite color, going to birthday parties, and hopscotch on the play ground.  Yes, Claire is learning how to interact appropriately when she plays with a friend and that is amazing but other children are learning an equally valuable lesson along the way, compassion. Inclusion benefits everyone because everyone plays an important role.    

 Claire this Summer playing with Makenna and our friend Silas.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas Gifts For You, Blessings For Haiti

 Flower Head Band
Baby's, Girl's and Women's sizes all in gray
There is no age limit on cuteness.
They are perfect for the day you just want to pull your hair up and still look cute.

 Scrabble Letter Magnets
25 cents each
first come first serve

 Hair Flowers
Large Clip $7
Small Bobby Pin $5
What a great Mom, Sister-in-law, sister, friend, teacher... present.
Claire's teachers loved them! 

Christmas Play dough and cookie cutter

 Alice models the headbands.  What a cute baby shower gift, stock up! 

Five Cord T-Shirt Headbands  
Sizes and Colors
Baby- Light Pink and Gray
Girl- Purple and Gray
Women- White and Gray

The sale is on from now until December 3rd.  Shipping, just $2 (no shipping on the play dough) More great gifts  to come so keep looking!

All proceeds to our church Haiti project.  Don't forget the Funky Christmas Festival were everything and much more will be sold  (but get it before we run out of what you need).  Saturday, December 3, 11:00am until 2:00pm at Kaleo Church, 4904 N. Harvard Rd. #5, Otis Orchards, Washington.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Wonder Pets Save Mommy

Day 31!  (31 days for blogging for Down Syndrome awareness, AKA 31 for 21)

We made it, thanks for all the comments and encouragement Facebook and blog friends.

Honestly, not sure where to start tonight, it's been a hard couple of days with the little cutie.  My sister-in-law Jennifer totally came and saved the day.  Truth, Some days Down Syndrome is hard.  I'll spare you the list of reasons why and just say I had to apologize to Claire for loosing my temper, sigh.  

We belong together babe.  You are a precious gift from God.  I know we have hard days but life wouldn't be the same without you.  I love you my little love-bug. XoXo

 Priceless, this is just so my life right now.  
We just take turns.

 Lenny (Alice the hamster), Tuck (Claire the turtle) and Ming Ming (Makenna the duckling) too.  
We are wonder pets and we'll save you! 

Sister love

 Alice and Makenna at Kindermusik this morning
 Candy at EWU with Auntie Jennifer 

 "sad face" 

 Showing off her "pumpkin guts"

  Pumpkin puzzle 
I love the after fun, paint smeared faces. 


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Puffy = Popcorn

 I don't think it has anything to do with Down Syndrome, just a Claire thing, it is so easy to tell when she is not feeling 100%, she gets so puffy.  We acctually had her tested for allergies many times because she would be super grumpy all day, then get rings around her eyes, then she would cry and her face would puff up like a balloon.  Nope, totally fine, just what happens.

Well, today was a puffy day. She wined all through day and was just not herself.  We had plans to go swimming in the evening but I knew it would be a total desaster if Claire went, judging by her facial swelling.  However, I had already told them we were going swimming, there by violating parenting guide line number seven...

#7 Never promise your child stuff because inevitably it wont work out and they will be devastated and you will be hearing about how you betrayed them for the next three months.

I did not want to visit the repercussions if we didn't go, AKA major Makenna melt down.  So my wonderful parents took Makenna while I stayed home with Claire.  She was sad to miss out but fortunately I have the magic treat that trumps all others, POP CORN and a movie.  Rare and coveted at our house (I hate the mess), it's the perfect thing for a puffy day.

Unfortunately, because we don't eat popcorn we don't have any of those handy throw in the microwave, push the button ones.  We got to make it the old fashioned way. 

Place 2 T vegetable oil and 3/4 C popcorn kernals in a large pot with lid on Medium heat.
Once kernels begin to pop, sake the pot.
When the "pop" is three seconds apart take your pot off the heat.
Sprinkle with salt (and add melted butter if desired).

 Popcorn for Claire, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers for Mom and we are all good.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Little Brothers, Big Uncles

Claire and Harley
 Makenna and Tony

I told you that Claire is adopted but not that I also have two AMAZING brothers who were also adopted through foster care.

Where to begin...

My parents had triplest, crazy I know.

 Garrett, Tami (me), Brice
 That's me and my two triplet brothers.

Then they decided "four wouldn't be so bad but the potential to have two sets of triplets was, yes, crazy."  So I grew up just us three.  After we all graduated and they became empty nesters (possibly not a real word) they were like, hey we have energy, we love kids, we want to make a difference in someone's life.  So they started doing foster care.  Long story short, after a lot of temporary placements called respite they decided God was leading them to adopt and soon after my first little brother Harley became a permanent part of the Klein family in 2006.

 Our neighbor has a big boat, isn't he cute?!
 Harley's adoption

Well that was awesome!  Let's do it again so along came Anthony, affectionately called Tony in 2008. Tony was adopted the week after Claire.

Tony Klein with Holly the family dog. 

Tony's adoption 

I don't think my parent ever would have guessed it but now they have a family of seven.

 Four brothers! I'm still working on the sister adoption, they aren't going for it.

 Best part of brothers? SISTER-IN-LAWS
Nate (my husband), Claire, Harley, Me (Alice in the belly), Breanna (Brice's lovely wife), Brice, Mom, Jennifer (Garrett's lovely wife), Tony, Dad, Garrett, Makenna

Harley and Tony love our girls and the girls love them back.  They all pray for each other (unprompted) every night and look forward to their times together. The boys are so good with them!  

Here are some cute pics from today at the soccer game.

 Makenna watching the game with my Dad
Tony and Claire
 Harley and Makenna
They won!

Thank you God for adoption, brothers, daughters, sister-in-laws and little uncles.  What a beautiful family you have made.