Thursday, March 21, 2019

Full Inclusion in Schools

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Raising Kindness

This past weekend we had our girls’ combined birthday party. Their birthdays are two months apart and we thought it would be fun to have them together. One big party a year is pretty doable.

Last year we had their first combined party and it was huge! A ton of kids and double the ton of gifts, it took them several days for them to open all the gifts, it was way too much. 

This year we suggested they would raise some money for the Stollery Hospital where Jordan Grace had open heart surgery. We thought it was be nice to pay it forward. They girls were all for it, well Ana María was, Jordan Grace doesn’t yet quite understand, but she does know about gifts and she likes opening them. 

We keep the expenses to a minimum. There is free community skating, all the kids are free and we rent a room with tables. We gather there after skating and have pizzas delivered, we bring snacks, juice boxes, and of course cake. 

The party was super relaxed and fun, no stress, just laughs and friends coming together. The girls had the best time and so did us parents. We couldn’t have felt more loved and blessed. 

The tears however came after the party. After getting Jordan Grace to bed, having more pizza and talking about the highlights. Ana María began to open all the beautiful cards, some of them homemade, but all of them filled with sweet words. I’m proud of my girls, but it’s so wonderful to hear when others say how sweet my girls are. 

And then the donations began to slip from each envelope and my tears just wouldn’t stop. Each bill donated with such love to a very wonderful cause. But the real breakdown, the loud, cry like a baby came when Ana María said “I want to donate some money.” I thought she was going to offer a couple of bucks, but she ran out of her room, I will never forget her beautiful face glowing with pride showing me a twenty dollar bill. 

This young lady had to grow up too fast, seeing her baby sister, the one she dreamed about for years to have, the one she prayed for so much, plugged in to all kinds of tubes in a hospital bed, she knew this money would go a long way. But she also knew what it truly meant to pay it forward. 

This year’s party was beyond a success! The grand total as I write this post is $1,088!!! Kindness is contagious! 💜 Pass it on...

Friday, February 23, 2018

Now I know my ABC’s

I have to say when I finally discovered my vocation that of becoming a teacher, I knew it was my true calling. I loved every second of it. I loved how the children came to school like little sponges, some of them learned differently and so I had to create ways for some kids to learn. But I didn’t like to see anyone fail. I was hard on myself if a child failed, because I’ve always believed that EVERY SINGLE CHILD IS CAPABLE OF LEARNING! 

One day as I was making dinner, Jordan Grace kept coming up to me and wanting to touch the stove to reach up to see what I was cooking. I was in a rush to finish dinner because as usual we had some kind of activity after for Ana María. 

I kept telling her to go get her toys but she wouldn’t have any of it, I finally grabbed the Leap Frog letters from the fridge and placed them on the floor away from the kitchen to entertain her. 

And that was the moment, the moment when she stopped me on my tracks, when I forgot about whatever was on the stove and honestly, I didn’t care if it burned or not. I also dropped to my knees and hugged her so tight, I cried and yelled “thank you God for this moment.” 

Because what she did was amazing! She began to grab each letter held it up for me to see and said the letter. They weren’t in order, she would just randomly pick them up from the ground, as I had desperately dropped them, and run back to stir whatever was on the pan. 

All that work, all those different activities I had placed in front of her, I’m not exactly sure what the magical teaching tool was but I’m positive it had a lot to do with consistency, perseverance, repetition and determination. I already knew she was capable! 

No matter how much we stress about our children typical or not, of how long it will take them to learn something, they will do it in their own time. But for my girls, it has always been a variaty of different tools.

Here are some of Jordan Grace’s favorite abc products. 


Friday, February 2, 2018

We are all her teachers

I received my Master’s degree in Elementary Education in Tucson, and I was blessed to teach second grade for about four years before I married Greg and moved to Canada eleven years ago now. 

Teaching was my true calling, though I didn’t realize it until after I graduated from the Univeristy of Arizona with a Bachelor’s degree in Busniess Management. I worked in Human Resources for a year and I knew that career was not for me.

When my oldest Ana María was born, I began to teach her things I thought she should learn. By the time she was in preschool, she could write her full name, yep, I taught her to write her entire name “Ana María” in her assignments and everything else she brought home.

On Valentine’s Day I realized her valentine cards were the only ones written by a child. Every single card that came home was written in either cursive or neat handwriting obviously done by an adult.  I was beaming with pride.

I do realize that I’m blessed to be home and guide my kids through the process, I cannot imagine coming home from a long day at work and having to sit for a few hours with both girls to do homework. There’s more time in the day to learn by play when a parent is able to be home. So I do count my lucky stars.

Fast forward to a Down syndrome diagnosis. Sometimes the unknown is a lie unfolding. I can honestly say I knew nothing about Down syndrome when I was told that Jordan Grace would have Down syndrome, I assumed the worst because the doctor said life would be hard, she wouldn’t be able to feed herself, or do anything for herself, he made it sound like she would be unteachable. 

When Jordan Grace came along, I didn’t acknowledge the diagnosis. I wasn’t in denial, I knew she had an extra chromosome, but she wouldn’t be defined by it. I was determined to get to know her for who she was, to know her personality and to learn what she needed from me, from us, from the world, before anything else. 

So I began to study her, sort of, I followed her lead, if she was curious in how a toy worked, I’d let her discover, if she was interested in eating toys, I made sure I got her the ones that were safe to taste. As she grew and grew, she began to show me she was capable of anything. 

Today, we have so many fun resources, she loves to learn, she loves to explore and she loves school. We have realized that she learns by watching others and imitating. She’s a fast learner and is interested in EVERYTHING. 

Here are some fun things she enjoys and work for her. Of course everyone is different and learns differently. My best advice is to know your child, know their interests, their loves and know you are their first and most important teacher. 

These felt ice cream counters are wonderful. I found them in the dollar section at Target. They have velcro to separate the ice cream scoop from the come. She counts the sprinkles and then matches it with the number on the cone. 

These pom pom balls are colorful and small enough to grab with different motor skill tools like these helping hands pack. She matches the color ball to the color ikea cup. 

These are felt shapes paired with lace to string all around. I got these at the awesome dollar section at target but I found these similar ones on amazon. 

She loves to color on anything and everything if I give her a pencil or crayon, so we are huge fans of any wonder or water magic tools. This Melissa & Doug water reveal pad is wonderful for tracing the alphabet.

Jordan Grace LOVES books so much, Elmo Clap Your Hands is fun and interactive. She places her tiny fingers in the Elmo puppet and hugs the babies and herself. It’s so adorable to watch. 

One of her very favorite things to do is “cut, cut” she used to say that before she could say “scissors” each Sunday when we go to Mass I have my bag of tricks, in it is always paper and scissors. It keeps her entertained. For Christmas we gifted her this awesome pack to teach her how to follow lines and cut straight. 

Hope you enjoy our ideas and tricks. Lots more to come. 

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

I Wish We Were All Color Blind

I vividly remember the first time I explained to Ana Maria that people had different color of skin. She had come home so excited to let me know that there was a new student in her class and that she had made friends with her so that she wouldn’t be alone at recess. This is the kind of girl my first born is. She’s the kind of girl who accepts and loves everyone, equally, no matter what. Sometimes we tease her and ask her who she loves more, mommy or daddy. She always gets uncomfortable and says she loves us both the same. 

When I asked her what her new friend was like, she immediately said “she’s very nice,” I kept asking questions like did she move from somewhere else in the city or is she from another city? She said she was from another country but couldn’t remember which one. I then naively asked her what she looked like. She said “I don’t know.”  She didn’t seem to have any idea how to begin to describe her. Somehow she finally said she looked like another friend, who is African American. 

So I asked her “is her skin black” and she looked at me puzzled, she then said “I don’t know!” So I went on to ask her if her friend’s skin was darker than mine and hers, she kind of closed her eyes to remember what she looked like and she said “yes” almost like a light went on in her little head. I then realized that we had never spoken to her about differences of people’s skin. 

We had mentioned how Jordan Grace was difference because she has Down syndrome, but even when we tried to explain to her that she was different she kept asking how was she different, she couldn’t grasp that she looked different than anyone else, she had hair, she had eyes, she had arms, I mean she looked like us, she looked like a little girl to her. And when I tried to explain to her that people would see the difference even though she didn’t see it, she said “so what if she’s different” it really didn’t matter to this big girl who had been begging for a little sister in her life. 

Ana Maria has grown up in a very culturally mixed school, which has been such a blessing. The fact that it took her until she was in 4th grade to realize people had different skin colors, I mean, I don’t think she’s color blind, but rather innocent at heart to see any difference. Her very best friends and who she always wants to be around is this very friend we speak of here along with another sweet little lady who is Philippine, and another who is part East Indian. I love that about my precious girl, she bases love on a person’s heart, not where they come from or the color of their skin. 

I wish we could all be this innocent and pure at heart, I wish we were all color blind to people’s skin and I wish everyone was accepted and included no matter what they looked like. Maybe one sweet day...

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Believing in magic

I have a precious 10 year old who still believes in all kinds of magic. She’s the kind of girl who believes in fairytales, who still looks forward to the magic of Santa Claus, who believes in the elf on the shelf, she loves magic shows, and learning tricks to share. She’s the kind of girl who believes all people are good and sometimes when things happen in this world, we have to remind her that bad people actually exist, her puzzled look and question is always “why” she can’t comprehend cruelty, tragedy and evil. 

Tonight she lost her 8th or so tooth. And so I’m always amazed of the beauty that she savors the process of losing a tooth, placing it under her pillow and waiting for the tooth fairy to leave her a surprise. But she also takes her time, tonight she said she wants to wait until we are back in Edmonton to place it under her pillow. 

I love that even in this day and age where kids her age are so advanced, that she can hold on to her childhood so passionately. I love that even though I came close to ruining it all for her years ago when we ended up at the wrong Mall, when we were meeting friends to take pictures with Santa, and then rushing over to the right Mall, that though she was very confused and surprised to see two different Santas she was able to continue to believe in the magic of the season. 

Tonight I’m reminded of the beauty that can still live in our hearts and project to the world around us. If we can hold on to magic and goodness, why can’t we spread it like wildfire? We can at least try. I’m proud that Ana María is my daughter, that she’s innocent and pure, that she believes in all things good and though this world is backwards and scary at times, that there is beauty in our world, and it lives in the heart and souls of our precious children. 

These lyrics are so powerful for me tonight...

“I still believe in Santa Claus, maybe that's just because I'm still
A child at heart,
And I still believe in old St. Nick, but then again maybe that's the
Trick we need, we need to retreat to a world of make believe.” I still believe in Santa Claus by NKOTB

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year’s Day

I’m not a big New Year’s resolution kinda girl. I’m not into doing anything every single day. I don’t really like to commit to challenges all the way. I’m also not good at doing something specific each day. I’m more of a practical ‘I know what I’m capable of doing’ kinda gal. This year like every year, I will try to be more patient, have more peace in my life, be more content and happy with the cards we are dealt. I will declutter, like I do each year and though I signed up to this “challenge” I know I won’t follow it as closely as it says, it’s not that I don’t like following directions, it’s just that I’m more of a ‘go with the flow’ kinda girl. 

Some days the girls may require more attention or I may just want to call it a pj day. I’m not structured to follow things on a daily basis. I’m not sure I ever was, whether I may forget or whatever the reason, I simply know, acknowledge and accept that I’m just not made that way. Even when it comes to prayer, I sometimes forget to pray before a meal and the girls will remind me, or prayers at night with the busyness of the day, Greg may have to lead in prayer. It’s funny because prayer is natural to me, but that’s just who I am.

For better or for worse. It’s truly a miracle I have dinner ready for the family each night. 😂