Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brennan!!!

Today is Brennan's 1st Birthday!!! I honestly can't believe he's a year old already. This has been the fastest year of my life. And while the year has been a quick one, I feel like I have learned more than is possible in just one year. To think that one year ago, I knew absolutely nothing (really absolutely nothing!) about Down syndrome and now I know so much about all aspects of if Down syndrome has always been a part of my life. I have spent countless hours reading books, articles and blogs, have attended conferences, workshops, classes and have been honored to meet many families who are travelling the same path. But, alas, today is supposed to be about Brennan and not about me.

From the day Brennan was born, he has looked directly into my eyes, like he could see straight into my soul. He reassured me that I was the right Mom for him, even when I wasn't sure that I was. I will never forget the first time he smiled at me and the tears I cried as I felt like he was telling me that everything really would be okay. He has such a calming effect on me and on others. My friend, Brooke, once said "if you're ever having a stressful day, all you need to do is hold Brennan and you will immediately feel a sense of calm." Even Eric, who is admittedly not a "baby person" loves getting one on one time with our little man.

Brennan smiles like he means it. He gets the biggest smile when he sees me - as if I'm a long lost friend he is so happily surprised to see. He is adored by his siblings and loves them in return. He can be somewhat shy and reserved around people outside of our family, but at home he just glows. He's the perfect addition to our family and I love him more than I ever thought possible. Happy Birthday to our sweet little ray of sunshine!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Eric's sister, Lisa, and her baby, Cameron, came to visit this weekend from California. We had a great visit and were happy to finally meet Cameron. Cameron is just 4 months younger (and 10 pounds heavier!) than Brennan. He's a really happy baby with the best belly laugh.
It was the first time I've seen Brennan really playing with another baby. I caught part of their interaction with both of these teething babies really wanting the teething ring. At first, they were both holding it......
Then, Cameron pulled it toward him - but Brennan wasn't giving up quite so easily (can you see Cameron's displeasure at his cousins actions??)Then Brennan pulled the ring away and Cameron put his hand on Brennan's shoulder as if to say "hey, give that back to me."
It was so cute watching them play. I hope we'll be able to get them together again soon.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

World Down Syndrome Day

Who knew? This time last year, I had no idea. But, today is actually World Down Syndrome Day (on 3/21 - since there are 3 copies of the 21st chromosome....cute, huh?). In honor of this day, I wanted to share a couple of videos that I think are important to watch, to think about, and to hopefully share with others. Both have to do with the word "retard/retarded" - otherwise known to me and many other parents of children with special needs as the "R" word. This is a word that I know I have used in the past. I didn't mean any harm by saying it - but I said it. Looking back, I wonder who I may have hurt without even realizing it. I imagine that many of you who use this word and other similar language don't mean any harm, but it is hurtful - so incredibly hurtful. Hurtful to the many people who have intellectual disabilities...and to the people that love them.

In my journey thus far and when envisioning my future with Brennan - the hardest part is the prejudice and ignorance of others that we will encounter. It hurts to my core....a feeling so intense, I've never experienced anything like it. So, please think before you speak. Realize how hurtful words can be. Talk to your kids about it, too. Because the more we know, the better we are. Hopefully each generation will be more caring, more compassionate, more understanding and more accepting than the generation before. We can all do our part in eliminating hurtful and demeaning language and making this world a better place for ALL people.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hello Spring!!

A few pictures as we say a fond farewell to winter.......

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To Tell or Not to Tell

When Brennan was born and we learned of his diagnosis, I wanted to share this news with his siblings right away. It was weighing so heavily on my mind that I couldn't imagine not telling them. Eric felt that we should let the kids get to know and love their new baby brother before discussing Down syndrome with them. After much discussion, I agreed with Eric. At the same time, we also agreed we would be open with our discussions about Brennan around the house and in front of the kids. If they asked, great - we would take that as a sign they were ready to know the details. Jenna is an especially inquisitive little girl who is FULL of questions ("why is the sky blue" is the tip of the iceberg with her). If Jenna hears a word she doesn't understand, she will almost always ask its meaning to put it in context of a conversation (even if the conversation is not with her!). The kids must have heard the words Down syndrome 10 times a day in those first few months....but they never asked what it meant. I thought that involving them with the initial EI evaluation and the physical therapist visits at our house would certainly illicit some questions....but it did not.

When Brennan was 6 months old, I was dicussing the lack of the lack of inquiries from the kids with my dear friend Amy. She gently suggested that it was probably time for me to discuss it with them. Although we discuss Down syndrome openly at our house, she thought the kids may feel like they can't ask us about it and it might be better to be more direct. At about the same time, Eric and I both felt that Jenna knew there might be something unique about her brother. It showed in her daily interactions with Brennan and the love she showered on him. When another child remarked to her at the playground that her "brother is small," she instinctively responded "well...I like him small." What a great big sister.

My friend Amy also suggested that I make sure they know that they can always talk to us about Brennan and that we will answer any questions they have with complete honesty. Soon after, I talked to them about Brennan and Down syndrome. I talked to Jenna first. I explained that it would take longer for Brennan to learn things, that he would need extra help - like that from the physical therapist - but also that he would learn to crawl, walk, talk. She nodded, then went on to the next question "so, what are we going to do today?" I asked if she understood what I had just told her and she said that she did. Since I "opened the door", she has taken the initiative and asked more specific question about Brennan and Down syndrome. I am happy to answer them as she learns in her own way what Down syndrome means for Brennan, our family and her role as a big sister. I later had the same conversation with Tanner, to which he responded simply "I know" - like he had always known, which I think he may have. I'll have the same conversation with Parker soon, but I don't think he's old enough to understand quite yet.

In the end, I am glad that we let the kids get to know and love their brother before discussing his diagnosis with them. It may not be the right approach for everyone, but it was the right approach for us.

This weekend I am attending a workshop presented by Dr. Brian Skotko called "What the Other Children Without Down Syndrome are Thinking: Lessons from Brothers and Sisters." I hope this workshop will provide information that will help me understand what my other kids may be feeling and provide suggestions on the best way to help them with these feelings.

As a side note, there are two children's books that we received as baby gifts that I think are great. The first one is Ruby in Her Own Time. It is not about Down syndrome specifically, but discusses in a very sweet way how we all learn to do things in our own time. The other book, My Friend Isabelle, is about two friends, one of whom has Down syndrome. It describes the many things they do - some they do the same and some they do differently and makes the point that "differences are what make the world so great." I would highly recommend both of these books - for kids with and without siblings with special needs.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Welcome Baby Graham!

A belated congratulations to my sister, Shauna, her husband, Jay and their daughter, Camille on the newest addition to their family. Graham Hudson was born on February 9th and is so delicious.

Brennan and I went to New York recently to meet Graham. He is one cute baby and I hope that he and Brennan will be great friends.

Monday, March 9, 2009

THE Example of Down Syndrome

When Brennan was about 4 months old, my Mom and I took him and his big brother Parker for a walk. Parker had just turned 2 years old. We were walking along a path near the harbor and the only thing Parker wanted to do was to play by the water. He absolutely would not walk on the path. After many unsuccessful attempts to keep him away from the water - I finally put Brennan in the sling and put Parker into Brennan's stroller. Needless to say, Parker was not pleased with this arrangement and proceeded to scream all the way back to the car. People passing by would look at him, then look at me with that knowing smile - understanding how 2 year olds can be. My Mom and I wondered, in a couple of years, if the same situation played out with Brennan as the screaming child in the stroller, would people look at us differently? As if to say "so, that's what it's like to have a child with Down syndrome." My assumption is that they would. It seems that people will always attribute his behavior, good or bad, to him having Down syndrome rather than to his own unique personality. Given that he may be the only person with Down syndrome that many of our friends and acquaintances ever know - Brennan actually will be THE example of Down syndrome for them. Seems like alot of pressure for one little guy - don't you think?