We are well into the month of October and crossing off things daily on our Fall Bucket List.
Fall Food Fellowship for our church at The Rice Ranch ? Check. Sign the boys up for flag football and Abbi for cooking classes ? Check. Make pumpkin bread, banana bread, cinnamon rolls ? Check, check, check.
Enroll Lily in ballet and tap classes, just like last fall ?
I can't even tell you how psyched I was to put Lily in this class again this year. Last year was a struggle- the first class consisted of Lily sitting on my lap and sucking her thumb furiously while I repeatedly tried to coax her to sit with the other girls. She was painfully shy and did not want to even TRY to take part in that first lesson. The next session was a bit better, and by the end of the classes we had turned a big corner for sure. But it was work. She was obviously out of her comfort zone, taking part with a group of kids she didn't know.
Honestly, I really didn't think it had as much to do with her having Down syndrome as it did her age- she was three, almost four, and I don't know how many of my other kids would have willingly taken part in a class at that age without some coaxing. I enrolled her in the class last year knowing that she would have trouble joining in... I wasn't shocked at Lily's reaction to the class. We kept going each week, and some sessions were better than others. We pushed through, and I knew at the end of the term we would come back to the same class again - there was so much that she took from it, despite her hesitance to engage fully in every aspect of the class.
But can I tell you what a difference a year makes ?
Just as with my typically developing children - the difference between an almost-four year old and an almost-five year old is like night and day. Because this year, when we told Lily she was going to ballet class, she shot her two little fists up in the air and squealed BAAAAALLLET! with the biggest grin on her face - and promptly danced a jig. This year, when we walked into the building where classes are held, she confidently pranced down the hall in her ballet slippers as if she owned the place. Yes, there were still some shyness issues- she spent the first five minutes sucking her thumb and begging Abbi to stay in the group circle with her. She had to be prodded to run across the room and leap over the little carpet like the other girls. She still hesitated a bit when asked to hold hands with another little girl in the circle. But each little moment of hesitation was quickly overcome with the tiniest bit of encouragement.
And 500 reminders that she would get a cookie at the end of class if she hung in there.
She rocked it.
Behold, our tiny dancer ...
That little video above is pieced together with clips from week one and week two... we had even more success with week two, so I can't wait to see how she does in the last class. I can't tell you how proud I am of how well Lily is doing following directions and listening to her teacher and modeling what she and the other dancers are doing. I've watched these videos again and again with the biggest lump in my throat- I am seriously amazed at how far Lily has come in one year.
She certainly deserved a trip to Trader Joe's afterwards for the promised cookies :)
Halfway through this post I did a little phone interview with the sweetest graduate student from the University of Connecticut. We talked for almost an hour about disabilities, parenthood, and a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome ... and intertwined in that conversation was the part that my faith plays in those topics.
I knew I was going to be sharing our story this morning, but honestly- I didn't expect to cry. It's been a long time since I cried about anything related to Down syndrome, other than happy tears in regards to Lily's accomplishments or things of that nature. But just going back to the first few weeks of knowing our life might be changed by the words Down syndrome .... had me a bit emotional.
And in keeping with this being Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I just want to say this : we fear what we do not understand.
I read that somewhere on Pinterest yesterday and it really hit me - we fear what we do not understand.
I didn't understand Down syndrome before I had Lily.
I had plenty of opportunity to understand it - my mom was a "special ed" teacher for many years while I was growing up. My children had many classmates with Down syndrome when they went to a private school. I knew people with Down syndrome. I was familiar with what it was... to a point.
But living with a child with Down syndrome these past four years has given me such a great appreciation- and a wonderful understanding - of what Down syndrome is. And today I can honestly say the fear is gone. Raising Lily has its challenges to be sure. And we haven't experienced all of them yet. There will be struggles in the road ahead and challenges and setbacks- but the same holds true for ALL of my children. For all of humanity. None of us are perfect - we all have special needs, if you think about it. Our needs might not be as obvious as a crease in our palm or the shape of our eyes... but we all have needs. And the awesome thing about being needy is, there is Someone who can meet us right where our need is. There is a Father in Heaven who designed us and created us to need Him. We don't have to live in fear, we don't have to stumble through life without hope or answers. We can turn to the One who created us to have relationship with Him, through his son Jesus Christ. He is the answer to all of life's special needs.
So there you have it. From fall bucket lists to ballet to special needs to Jesus. We cover it all here on Perfect Lily ... yer welcome ;)
Happy Wednesday !