Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Buddy Walk and Dancing with the Stars

Saturday morning was the Colorado Springs Buddy Walk! We joined forces this year with the other dancers at Kemper Dance Academy who have Down syndrome and formed KDA Kuties. We had so many overlapping walkers last year that it just seemed like the logical thing to do. We had a lot of fun gathering walkers, raising money and of course walking!! Libert's Dancewear even donated a bunch of tutus so we could walk in style! ;) The boys weren't too sure about wearing the tutus until someone had the bright idea of wearing one as a hat instead and the trend caught on! haha! We love that KDA and the dance community loves our kids so much!

We were blessed once again to have a TON of support from Kennedy's school! Several of her friends and their parents came out to walk with us, her paras all came, her resource teacher and 3rd grade teacher were there and her principal came out again this year. It means so much to us that they gave up their Saturday to support and love our girl.

We had an amazing 95 walkers on our team this year! It made for a fun day, even though it was HOT! Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came out to support us!! Until next year! ;)





After the Buddy Walk we went home and showered and then Frank and I and the girls got ready to go to a fun night in Denver to help raise money for the Adult Down Syndrome Clinic. The evening was Dancing with the Stars and we got to see the many talents of the adult dance class full of members with Down syndrome show off their moves! They were SO good!

Before the dinner and dancing, they had a silent auction. While there, Kennedy spotted an American Girl that was being auctioned off. We placed a bid and kept checking back. We got outbid so we were waiting and watching so we could place a bid last minute (classic eBay rules, people!). In the meantime, Kennedy started talking to a family there and they ended up buying her the doll outright! Kennedy was SO excited!! We were happy to find out that we were sitting at the same table with them and got to talk to them throughout the night and learn more of their story and connection to Down syndrome. They are huge supporters of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and love people with Down syndrome. Kennedy enjoyed showing them pictures and telling them all about her dancing and her siblings and of course Kokonut. ;) They were a really neat family! I am sure we'll run into them at events in the future. :) Thank you GDSF for the tickets!! It was an evening we will never forget!! 

Anyway, here are pictures from the night... it was a lot of fun!!

 Beautiful girls... all dressed up and ready to go!



It was a long but super fun Saturday! More pictures soon! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

First Week of School

We are officially done with the first week of school in the Garcia household... true to form, it was a busy one! :) The theme of this year is going to be "Independence". For the first time EVER I have a kiddo on a bus. Kameron is riding the bus to school every morning since his middle school starts at the same time as Kennedy and Keeghan's school and is all the way across town. We've had some stress with the bus figuring out pick up location and times and it's STILL getting him to school half an hour late each morning prompting emails to teachers, passes to class and phone calls to transportation. Thankfully his teachers are understanding and the transportation office is "working on it". Kameron says he doesn't mind the bus ride too much, except for the fact that it takes him ALL over town before he gets to school. He just hates being late! On the way home he is part of an awesome carpool with some of his good friends and that's working out great! :) Besides the bus, he is loving middle school so far and is SO glad that he chose this school! It sounds like he has some fun teachers and fun classes, and one of his teachers has appropriately nicknamed him, "Bacon-man". ;) He is taking Accelerated Language Arts, Pre-Algebra 7, Science, Social Studies, Choir and Spanish. Here are a couple pictures from his first day. 
6th Grader!!!



Kennedy and Keeghan are now at elementary school without Kam, so this has been a big switch for them too. Last year, Kam would kind of hang out and make sure the other two got to my car in the car circle every day. This year, they're on their own... AND Kennedy's 3rd grade classroom is on the complete opposite side of the school. So for right now she has a para kind of shadowing her, making sure she makes it from her classroom to my car in the afternoons. We're not worried that she can't find my car or that she'll wander off, because she's not a wanderer. We're more worried that she'll stop and talk to everyone she meets along the way and NEVER make it to my car! HA! She gets out of school around 3:30 and has to be to dance by 4:15 or 4:30 three days a week. We have places to be! ;) So far she's done great in the mornings and has gone straight to class and she's done pretty good in the afternoons... we'll get there. They only had 3 days of school this week anyway because of Elementary testing, so they're not REALLY in a routine yet. All in good time. ;) Keeghan is giving his teacher a run for her money as he settles back into routine for the year... he has a GREAT teacher though and I have no doubt they will settle in and it will be a good year!! They both have lots of friends in their class this year which is exciting and Keeghan will be joining the school's running club in a couple weeks which should be lots of fun! :) Here are a couple pics from their first day! 

3rd Grader!!!


1st Grader!!!


Kassidy started school a day after the other kids... the joys of being an 8th grader, she gets an extra day of summer! ;) We spent the day getting her hair done, going to lunch and hanging out. It was a lot of fun! She is walking to school again this year which worked out nicely last year. Thankfully her middle school is really close by so it works out! She has several friends in all her classes this year which made her happy. She wasn't thrilled to find out she had PE first thing in the morning, but she just decided to wear her PE clothes to school and it's working out for her. She's also getting a chance to volunteer in the resource room this semester with students with Special Needs which she was really excited about, so she's looking forward to that adventure! I'm sure she will love it! Beyond that she is taking Algebra I, Social Studies, Language Arts and Science. She's also going to volunteer in Keeghan's running club and continue with her sign language classes. She loves working with kids, so I'm excited to see if she chooses to turn that into a career someday. I can't believe that in a few months we'll be touring high schools for her! CRAZY! Here's my sweet girl on her first day of school. 

8th Grader!!!


Anyway, we had an incredibly busy weekend but that is another post with A LOT more pictures so I will do that soon!! :) Bring on a new week!! :)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Surprise for Keeghan

Keeghan needed a new backpack for school this year. His one from last year got completely trashed... I don't know what those kids do in Kindergarten but they play rough! ;) Several weeks ago we started talking to him about what he might like this year. He still loves monkeys and all things firefighter so we went with that and started looking for something online. Everything we found was way too babyish for a 1st grader. We finally gave up.

Later that week I got an idea and called a friend of mine whose husband is a fireman. She thought it was a great idea and later that night I put a call out on Facebook and a plan went into action. We went to the mall and bought Keeghan a plain black backpack (which he thought was kind of boring, but decided was ok because it looked kind of cool) and told him that it would work for this year. In the meantime, firefighter patches from around the country showed up in our mailbox thanks to lots of great friends helping us. A couple days ago Frank stole Keeghan's backpack and brought it back today looking like this:


And here's Keeghan getting his new backpack: 

He was super excited and loved reading all the patches and seeing where they are from. Of course we have the Colorado Springs patch front and center... he can't wait to grow up and be a Colorado Springs Firefighter one day!! 

THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this happen!! He's going to have the coolest backpack in first grade!! ;) 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Friendship

Back in February, American Girl put out a call to girls across the nation to partner with their best friends and send in essays about what makes their friendship unique. Kennedy and her friend Brooklyn decided to enter the contest and waited impatiently for months for the results of the contest to come out. Sadly, they didn't win. We don't know who did win (they'll feature the winners in the American Girl Magazine in November) but we were still so proud of the girls for trying and thought we would share their essays here... they're too good to go unread ;). Love these girls!!!


Brooklyn's Essay:

Kennedy Garcia is my best friend. Even though she may have some special needs, she is just plain “special” to me.

Kennedy and I have many things in common. We both have a passion for dancing. Even though we are on different dance teams, we still cheer each other on during competitions. When we have play dates we make up dances and sing to karaoke. Every year our school has a family dance and we dance our little hearts out. Of course, Kennedy and I love to play with our American Girl dolls, combing and styling their hair, changing their clothes, and pretending they go to far away places. Kennedy has a wonderful imagination so I never know what adventures our dolls are going to experience.

Hanging out with Kennedy always makes me feel happy. She smiles and laughs a lot, even when she has to have medical testing done. She is one of the bravest people I know.

Another thing I love about my little friend is that she is brutally honest. If I am wearing something she doesn’t like she lets me know right away. I just laugh and say, “That’s my Kenn!”

I am amazed at Kennedy’s great self-esteem. Seeing her have so much confidence in herself inspires me to have more confidence in myself. She teaches me things and I teach her things. We make a great team.

Kennedy has been through so much in her eight years. She made it through spinal surgery and survived Leukemia. We recently celebrated her 5- year cancer free anniversary. We are friends through thick and thin.

I don’t see Kennedy as being different at all. She is just my funny, sweet, smart, crazy, special friend. I am so proud to call Kennedy my best friend. I know we will be friends FOREVER!




Kennedy's Essay:

Brooklyn is my very best friend! I love to go to her house for sleepovers. I bring Charlie, my American Girl doll, with me to Brooklyn’s house and we dress them up and have so much fun. Brooklyn and I are the same because we both love cute clothes, we love to go shopping, we love to dance all the time, and we love Justin Bieber! We even went to his concert once! Brooklyn and I are different because I have something called Down syndrome, and she doesn’t have it. But that doesn’t matter to me. She’s still awesome!

Brooklyn teaches me lots of cool stuff. She helps me with my reading, she does my hair for me sometimes, and she teaches me new dance moves. We like to listen to music and make up new dances for every song. We love to giggle about silly things, and we like the same shows on TV like “Shake it Up”, “Austin and Ally” and “Good Luck Charlie”.

When Brooklyn sees me at school, she gives me a big hug. We’re not in the same grade, but we see each other sometimes and I get to go to her class to read sometimes. She told all her friends they need to meet me and now they are my friends, too. That makes me happy.

I love my friend Brooklyn. We will be best friends forever!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Would You Take It Away? (Part 2)

Part TWO? Was there a part ONE?

Yes.

Back in 2009, I wrote this blog post about whether or not we, as parents of children with Down syndrome, would choose to take Down syndrome away from our children. At the time, it was a hypothetical question, yet it was a hot topic in our community because researchers announced they were going to start working on giving parents the capability of doing just that. Speculation ran wild. There were arguments on both sides of the fence. You should go read my post, it was a good one. Go ahead, I'll wait. ;)

SO this morning another article was released that has our community talking. This time though, it appears that a "cure" for Down syndrome is actually on the horizon. Once again, parents are stating their case for both sides of the fence. Some would take Down syndrome away from their child. Right now. No question. They say that it cannot change who they ARE and this is no different than taking them to therapy to help them improve their condition.

Others aren't so sure. Yes, it may help with the cognitive delays, but will it change their personality, the essence of their being, the "thing" that attracts everyone to them and makes them so loved by most of society? Messing with the chromosomes is a scary thing. They haven't said exactly HOW they plan on "curing" Down syndrome, but I imagine it's a little more than popping a pill.

One of the big fears, of course, is that this will be the end of Down syndrome altogether. With high prenatal abortion rates with a confirmed diagnosis of Down syndrome as it is, will this increase it to 100%? In the article they compared it to the end of Small Pox and Polio which really rubbed me the wrong way. Down syndrome is NOT a disease... so... does it need to be "cured" at all?

In my blog post 4 years ago I said that I wouldn't take Down syndrome away from Kennedy. At that point she had survived cancer and was about to go through major spine fusion surgery. We were in the thick of her medical "crud". We were at different doctor's offices on a weekly basis and I'm pretty sure I didn't eat. Or sleep. Ever. A year later we battled the school system for inclusion and that was fun too. ;) Down syndrome has taken us through some tornadoes, for sure.

Right now, we're in a sweet spot. Kennedy is coasting along in life with maintenance doctor appointments, doing well in school in her Least Restrictive Environment. She's doing well in dance, has lots of friends and is overall a happy kid (except when we didn't buy her a $1,000 puppy... which is another story for another time! HA!)

Is she behind her peers cognitively? Yes. Is that hard for her? Yes. She's well aware that she has to work harder for things than her friends, and she's learned to use it as an excuse ("I can't do my homework because I have Down syndrome.") which we squashed immediately. ;) Would I give Kennedy this "cure" for Down syndrome to make things easier for her?

I don't know.

Like most of my friends, I'm torn. I absolutely adore Kennedy for who she is. Her personality shines wherever we go. She is silly and spunky and sassy. She's full of attitude and determination and strength beyond measure. She is stubborn which can work for or against her on any given day, and she loves with her entire being. When she gets excited about something, you know. And the people in the next town probably know too, because her squeal of delight is not one that goes unnoticed.

However.

When I think about the future... and Alzheimer's disease... and shortened life span... it scares me. If I could take away the threat of THAT, without changing who she is, I would in a heartbeat. No question. It's going to be interesting to follow this project and see the results they produce in the years to come. For now, I'm enjoying every moment with this girl... just the way she is.


Friday, August 9, 2013

The Sibling Bond

All of my kids have a very different relationship with each other. Kassidy and Kameron have always been very close. They share very similar interests. They love books, video games, Mindcrap (errr... Minecraft). They can disappear for hours and I'll find them watching a movie or making some creation together. They love sci-fi and action movies and they're both self-proclaimed nerds. ;) I love watching their friendship grow and hope that it continues as they travel through middle and high school together.

Kassidy and Kennedy have a great sister relationship. They love to have "sleepovers" in Kassidy's room on the weekends and Kassidy will play games with her and teaches her all kinds of cool things that big sisters should teach their little sisters. Despite their completely opposite opinions of Justin Bieber, they still love each other, and Kassidy even said she'd still go to the wedding if Kennedy ends up marrying him one day. ;) HA!


Kassidy and Keeghan have a pretty big age gap and she has definitely stepped into the big sister role with him. She is protective and can be bossy and he can be bratty and annoying. ;) Since I have a little brother with the same age distance between us, I totally get it! HA! Still there are sweet moments, however few and far between, and I cherish them when they happen. ;)


Kameron and Keeghan are classic brothers - Keeghan idolizes Kameron. He wants to do everything Kameron does and gets frustrated that he can't do it as well as Kameron... because well, Keeghan is 6 and Kameron is 11. They play, they fight, they play some more, they fight some more. Sometimes Kameron is GREAT with Keeghan and other times I have to remind him, "He's six. He looks up to you. Be patient. Be kind." They're brothers.

Kennedy and Keeghan have a friendship much like Kass and Kam. They are best friends. I have seen Kennedy in Keeghan's room playing Legos and I've seen Keeghan in Kennedy's room playing babies (but don't tell him I told you that) ;). They like the same TV shows, the same music, the same games. I love watching them together. :)

Kameron and Kennedy didn't used to have much of a relationship at all. Sure, she is his sister and he loves her. He is her brother and she loves him. That's about as far as it went. There was nothing really more there. Then, over this summer, I watched something beautiful happen. I don't even think they realized it was happening... I think it was because of some maturity on Kennedy's part and some mutual interests showing up... I've watched Kameron and Kennedy go from brother and sister to friends. And it's been amazing.



I love my kids!!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Little Black Dots

I know, I know, I'm slacking! We have been enjoying our last few days of summer. I've been filling up my calendar with things like "Back to School" and "PTA" and "Test Days" and, and, and... and all of the sudden my iPhone calender is covered in these little dots. Sadness.



See? Every dot represents something... and that doesn't count our regular something(s) like dance and Kass' sign language classes when they start next month, and whatever after school activities the boys get involved with. Those are just... things to do. Places to go. Things I can't forget. Maybe I should schedule blogging time. LOL Thankfully some of those dots are fun things... like days OFF school (yes, already!) which means we can hopefully plan something fun and the Buddy Walk which is always so much fun!

We are also going at the end of the month up to Aspen to a concert for an early birthday present for Kass and Kam so that should be a blast! And somewhere in there, I would like to be open to having parties for the new business I started, if people are interested. :) But those parties may need to wait until September. ;)

In the meantime, we have been doing some back to school shopping, enjoying our last few lazy days of summer and preparing for the school year. It will be here so, so soon!! What about you all? Are you back to school yet? If not, do you go back soon and are you READY?? What is your number one tip for staying organized during the busy days of school/homework/sports/activities? I'd like to hear it!!