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Box(ed) Score!

 Back during the President’s Day holiday, I posted about the importance of keeping my guys busy on days off of school. Well, those clever folks @ Boxed.com did it again! This month’s Creativity Kit is filled with all sorts of goodies to turn a cardboard box into hours of fun!

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The Boxed Creativity Castle kit includes template cutouts, markers, glitter glue, flags, assorted size googly eyes and more. There’s an instruction sheet with additional ideas but Boxed is careful not to stifle creativity — something I really like, as it allows the kid in this Dad to have a little fun as well. I’ll get back to that in a minute!

 Using the stencil, I traced the drawbridge door and side windows then cut them out with a utility knife. I kept the bottom portion of the drawbridge attached to the castle.

Using a Phillips head screwdriver, I poked a hole on both sides of the door post, one above the center post and two holes on either side of the door

I took the supplied rope and fed either end into the door holes and then into the ones in the doorpost. I brought both rope ends through the top center post hole from the inside of the box. Finishing, I tied them in a knot. Pulling on the the center post knot closes the drawbridge! See that cardboard packaging next to the castle? That inspired my creativity Eureka moment!

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Here’s what that was protecting:

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That’s right – Boxed.com – delivers a variety of delicious wines! and that’s the Big, Bold Red collection!

The Eureka? The packaging screamed, “Those look like castle turrets!!!”

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Nailed it!!!

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A little hot glue to the turrets and we turned the guys loose to decorate.

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And here are the finished products!

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Now, every castle needs a queen and we have six highly qualified candidate.

There was no competition when it came to who to coronate!

Maddie – the girl in the crown!!!

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Boxed.com hit it out of the park once again!!! Here’s to you!

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Boxed is a company who’s mission is to “make shopping for bulk easy, convenient and fun”.

Mission Accomplished!

Interested in trying Boxed.com? How about Dad Just Happened! refers you? Fill out the contact form below and I’ll e-mail you a $15 credit code. You’ll also be helping us cause we’ll get one too!!! Put “Boxed Referral Code” in the comment section and include your e-mail address!

Thanks for reading DadJustHappened!

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4

Living Jesus

A father of children with special needs can easily overlook providing one of life’s essential components –  spirituality. You can get so busy with the educational, social and medical needs that feeding their souls can take a backseat. If I’m honest,  I neglect the same need in my own life.

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.

Deuteronomy 6:6, 7

Ultimately, I believe God knew exactly what He was doing when forming my children. He intended a very special gift for my wife and me. A gift that shows joy even in hard times, success through perseverance and love despite circumstances. Our children teach us the things that Jesus lived in His life, so it only makes sense for us to nurture these in theirs.

We are fortunate to attend a church that partners with us in this endeavor. Each Sunday, a group of volunteers runs a program for children and young adults with special needs. Lessons are adapted to cognitive abilities, music and videos inspire dancing and singing and the love poured upon each child by their individual “buddies” produces an inner peace that is not easily understood.

My wife and I also benefit by being able to attend to our spiritual needs and sustenance without distraction or concern. It is an hour of freedom we both desperately need! Life with our gang is rewarding but it does take a toll. The time we get to spend in church reflecting on God’s love and help is often the very thing that gets us through our week (Seven days without God does make one weak!)

Recently, hospitalization and other life events have kept us from our Sunday ritual; this didn’t go unnoticed by the leader of the special needs ministry. Instead of judging our absenteeism, she looked for a way to meet us right in our place of need. Last Sunday, she and two volunteers took the 30 minute trip to our home and brought Sunday School into our living room – it was a Palm Sunday Spectacular!

Here are some pictures:

Additionally, Sunday dinner with all the fixings including the creative and delightful dessert below was provided. The restoration of mind, body and soul by these wonderful people led me to reflect on their reason for serving us.

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It’s found in Jesus’ final direction to his disciples during his last meal with them:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:34, 35

Wow! People knowing Jesus not by what He hated, what He’d never do or where He’d never be found but instead, He is seen when lived in the actions of others — like those of our dear friends ministering to our children. As Easter approaches, it is easy for this dad to claim – Jesus certainly does live!

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Playing 21: Down or Out?

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This week World Down Syndrome Day occurred and I love the celebratory nature of this special day.  Kids head to school with colorful, mismatched socks to say, “Being a little different is normal”. Facebook recognized the week o17361538_743916415787141_6525614584071599992_nffering their “We Got 21” frame for your favorite people with Trisomy 21. Other social media venues lit up to celebrate these special people. Special because, in my experience, most everybody that knows someone with Down Syndrome (DS) possesses a funny and/or a heart warming story about that person. On the other hand, if you simply Google search “Down Syndrome” or “Trisomy 21”  you’re likely to get a list of traits, characteristics, descriptions and symptoms; most of these fail to capture the wonderful realities.  To this end, I offer paradoxical insights into my life with those with an extra chromosome against the findings of my web search.

Trait 1: Delayed or unintelligible speech (verbal apraxia)

Reality 1: Masters of Communication

The many faces of my girls tell you the words we use make up very little of what we trying to say. Try to match their expressions with the appropriate captions below:

1.Whadya talking’ bout Dad!       3. Eeeeew Dad

            2. Stop Dad!                                      4. Voodoo on you Dad


img_1216-2Trait #2:  Congenital Heart Defects
Reality #2: Unconditional Love

I wrote about DS and unconditional love on my other blog, A Patient Nurse. The story featured my sister, Sherita and is available by clicking here. I attribute my love for DS to her and hope (if it’s not asking too much of your time) that you’ll read her story.

 


Traits #3: Shortened Stature

Reality #3: Larger than Life

Blair just had a bone age x-ray completed. It revealed his skeleton is 4 years older than his chronologic age. This means at 4’9″, he’s done growing. Despite this, he has no problem taking 6’2″ 165 lb me down to the ground in three easy moves:

  1. Jab to Gut
  2. Anaconda around my legs
  3. Tickle

This three-point attack gets me laughing to the point of incapacitation. It lead me give Blair whatever he wants just to get a breath. Typically, I go down to the ground and a Downy pile-up follows.

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Trait #4: Slow to Learn (intellectual disability)

Reality #4: Quick to Speak the Truth

If an 11 year-old tween girl tells you you’re ugly:

  1. She’s trying to hurt your feelings
  2. She’s trying to start a fight
  3. She’s  looking for a role in “Mean Girls 3”

If an 11 year-old tween girl with DS and a touch of autism, tells you you’re ugly than sorry Dad,  you is ugly! The good news is she loves you just the same as if you were Mr. Universe (see Reality #2)


Trait #5: Low muscle tone (hypotonia)

Reality #5: Tower of Strength

DS certainly comes with some setbacks but take a look at Blair. Blair took on open-heart surgery, the loss of his parents, life in an orphanage, failure to thrive and near loss of his life by the age of three. Ten years later our  “Hulky” has amazing take down skills,  the ability to make everyone smile and faces each day welcoming any challenge. He truly loves life!


This brings me to the “Out” part — my Google search did bring me to a website that raises DS awareness and also raises some uncomfortable questions. At this site, I learned  Iceland isn’t able to celebrate  World Down Syndrome Day with the same joy as others. Advanced non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is credited with reducing the number of Icelandic children born with DS to near-zero. Photographer Sigga Ella  highlights this in her photo essay First and foremost I am (click!). Her portraits of 21 Icelanders with DS are taken in the same setting and backdrop. Their personalities magically shine through and need not a word or caption. Click the link above and scroll through her work. Then, ask yourself the questions below:

  •  Is the world worse or better for having these citizens in it?
  • Are we eliminating a disease or a people?
  • What consequences come from reducing chance by choosing choice?

If we look only at the traits, characteristics, descriptions and symptoms of a Google search, we may never see reality.

A reality of beauty, perseverance, laughter and joy!

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School Holiday: A Survival Pictorial

Well, it’s yet another day off of school for President’s Day. In fact, it’s vacation day five for some of our crew and the “I need my routine back” is setting in hard. Thankfully, we have sunny skies and 60 degree weather in February!

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So we pack ’em up and take them to the place where everyone, and I mean everyone, else is eating lunch today.

The price I pay for my rookie parenting mistake is getting to enjoy listening to this Junior Road Rager scream “CMON MOOO IT” continuously for the 23 minutes it takes to get our order (she’s not talking to the cow mascot. She means MOOOVE it)!

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So we survive the remainder of the 10 minute ride to an adaptive playground and everyone digs in to lunch.

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I attempt to charge a Dad Tax of one chicken nugget per kid and Maddie isn’t going for it!

Knowing she’s a force to be reckoned with, I don’t push it (Provoke not thy children!)

In the end though, I achieve what I call 6 for 6 PCFAS or Post Chick-fil-A Satiation:

 

One of my rules though — a good carb load needs an equal off-load, so we head to the courts:

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It’s all fun and games until someone catches a ball to the head. Why does it have to be her?

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Irina starts flipping out and yelling so Amy takes her over to this clever device:

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I’ve got to install one of these face mufflers at my house!

Poor Maddie is on neck precautions until her surgery next month. Thank goodness for this swing set that keeps her safe and, for a brother that’s willing to hang with her!

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Now back in the car (Irina all the way in the back now) and to home we go!

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Seven pottied, showered and backpacks packed in preparation for school and it’s playtime before dinner.

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Dinner becomes the favorite leftover from the past 3 nights including Italian Wedding Soup, Thanksgiving Dinner with all the fixings and/or Turkey Noodle Soup.

Then it off to bed for Kindle Time (Barney, Power Rangers and iCarly) for an hour before sleepy time!

Then a homemade dinner for parents only — Pepper Beef and Scallops in Garlic Sauce!

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But just as I put a bite in my mouth, a college kid calls looking for something @ home that had to be found immediately! And…

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that’s when I went a little Daffy!

I almost made it then…

Dad Just Happened!

5

Idle Hands are Indeed the Devil’s Playground

Many look forward to upcoming school holidays as times of relaxation and recuperation. I, on the other hand, dread them like a pending root canal. Kids with ASD and Down Syndrome love routine and when the routine of going to school is canceled, you’re going to pay. I awoke last night in a cool sweat just thinking about it!

Typically, I fail miserably in meeting the kids needs on these days. There is just not enough Barney, KidzBop Kids or Avengers to satisfy the savage souls I usually refer to as my children. Add Winter to the equation and there’s no going outside to run off the pent up energy!

Today though, I might be winning. Amy uses an online company called Boxed (boxed.com) for bulk item supplies. These supplies include paper products, cereal and school snack items. Thank goodness my brilliant wife put in an order last week and included the 45 snack pack of Goldfish. I’m not sure what Pepperidge Farms puts in these nuggets of gold but Irina will do anything for a mere five fish bribe. A one fish penalty is applied for each instance of non-compliance per directive given. Rarely does Irina need to pay more than a two fish deduction.

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So that’s one kid solved leaving me six others to entertain. Just as I start to wonder if I’ll make it to bedtime, Amy calls me to the kitchen for a little surprise. Here’s what she shows me:

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The folks at Boxed are marketing geniuses – they’ve included this “Reveal Your Treasure” kit for kids to make a faux aquarium from the empty box. Fish stencils, markers, paint and even googly eyes are included with directions (they obviously don’t realize I’m a man and have no need for this last item!). This is something I know my guys are going to enjoy. Let me show you how we did it!

STEP ONE: Got Fish, You’ll Need an Aquarium

You need a suitable box to start this project and what better one for a faux aquarium then:

Bam!!!

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STEP TWO: Cut a Window and Side Portholes
STEP THREE: Make the “Fish Net”

I punched five small holes using a small Phillips head screwdriver across the top of the window. Blair strings decorative pipe cleaners to corresponding holes on the back wall.
Two lengthwise pipe cleaner are then woven through the widthwise ones.

Your Fish Net looks like this when you are done:

STEP FOUR: Put them Kids to work! (SlideShow)

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We backed the stencils with 3×5 index cards to give a firmer “fish”. The younger kids used markers and crayons instead of the supplied glitter paint (because this ain’t our first rodeo!)

STEP FIVE: “Fill” Your Aquarium

Ivan’s my big guy and more than responsible when it comes to painting with blue glitter. He coats the four sides and ocean bottom like a pro!

STEP SIX: Hook ’em and Hang ’em!

I staple the fish to the pipe cleaner, cut pipe cleaner to length and make a “hook” at the top. My guys then hang their catch from the fish net!

STEP SEVEN: Add a Bottom Dweller and Some Flora (Added Bonus Dad Joke If You “Click the Pic”)
STEP EIGHT: Enjoy the Catch of the Day!

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A great little project to keep in mind as President’s Day and probably some snow days lie ahead. Have Fin Fun with your own little project!!!


Special Shout Out!!!

Special Thanks to Dana T. for her generous donation of Arts & Crafts supplies. We hit the jackpot on this one and couldn’t have gotten this done without you!!!

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What’s in a Name?

I’ve taken a bit of heat since starting Dad Just Happened related to the nicknames we use to describe our kids. “It sounds like you’re making fun of your kids” is what we hear. This made me realize not everyone knows us as well as others and I thought a post to clarify some of this might help (and entertain).

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The HKBs

img_1074The Hong Kong Boys, are Ivan, Blair and Yul. Blair and Ivan were born in Hong Kong (yes, they were Made in Hong Kong!); Yul is an honorary member since he exited China via Hong Kong. These boys have most held true to their Chinese heritage (particularly when it comes to food) and we’ve incorporated aspects of their culture into our family. Additionally, it is amazing to take these three strangers and turn them into brothers. Their bond is inseparable and touching. The Hong Kong Boys is a term of endearment, a recognition of these three amazing guys.

 

The UTTs

d65d584a-f18f-4841-9f6f-cf3d7f28a8e2The Ukrainian Twins of Terror, while subtle, is also term of endearment. Amy and I possessed no foreknowledge of what we were getting ourselves into with the adoption of Luke & Irina. Yes, some clues existed on our first visits to meet the UTTs – Luke taking off his baseball hat, urinating into it, then returning it to his head. Irina scooping up and eating handfuls of dirt. They really earned the nickname, though, flying home from Ukraine. The 17 hours of hell (note: I was at home with the other guys while Amy and my mom endured this peril) included two Russian-speaking children who did not sleep a second of the 17 hours of travel. Irina opted to bomb dinner rolls and other food items at fellow passengers instead of eating. Restless and rammy Luke continually kicked the seats in front of him and barked like a seal for the entire flight over the Atlantic. Things got much worse on their arrival home including attempts to escape the house, sleeping 1-2 hours at a time followed by a minimal 8 hour period of wakefulness. Not to mention, both of them applying the non-stop torture of banshee screaming through all hours of the day and night.. The relief we experienced from professional diagnoses of autism and ADHD, in addition to Down Syndrome, enabled us to seek appropriate resources to help. The Ukrainian Twins of Terror earned their nickname; Amy and I earned the right to give it!

 

The Eastern European Front

96537324-48be-4e93-96fc-aa2711816816The UTTs plus Sammy and Maddie, represent Ukraine and Bulgaria; they make up “The Front”. Divided they are easily conquered, but as a bloc they are a formidable force! It takes the skills of a secretary of state, cold war spy and Jeff Probst of Survivor to parent these guys. The Front unites Amy and I in a way that draws us closer together as wife and husband. The Front strengthens the vows we took at marriage and makes us “The Unified Front”! Additionally, we faced many barriers, prejudices and evils through their adoptions. This animosity fueled purpose to our mission – every child deserves a family! The Front’s existence is a testament to this!

 

The Downy Gang

IMG_6191.jpgSix of our 12 children have Down Syndrome. We often take heat for using this moniker, primarily from parents of other children with Downs. Instead, we apply this nickname as a badge of honor. Their kindness, positive attitude and fulfillment from life’s smallest pleasures (butterflies, Barney, ice cream, hugs, etc.) make our guys an indescribable joy! We’ve experienced many dark times in our history as a family but there is a place we can always turn to for unconditional love — The Downy Gang. The number of pregnancies terminated due to the diagnosis of Trisomy 21 breaks our hearts. I believe our world is so much better, kinder and loving when it is blessed with those with an extra 21st chromosome; celebration, instead, is what they deserve!


Laughing is always better than tears. A sense of humor is essential to taking on hard things. We are certainly serious in the situations that call for it. We are also able to not take ourselves too seriously. I hope this gives a little insight to the critics!


Live
Love
Laugh

 

4

Say What? A Research Study

Objective: Many sayings are stated as fact and yet these have never been placed under the rigor of the scientific process. It is not clear whether certain phrases merely add to the senseless dribble that is American dialogue i.e. “It just entered my brain. I must say it”. Or, does actual harm occur in the receiver(s) of said logorrhea (verbal diarrhea). To this end, our research seeks to prove or disprove the idiom “There are no stupid questions!”

Methods: Data are obtained in random encounters with known and unknown subjects happening upon a given family. This family is composed of 12 kids from 4 continents, one deaf dog, seven chickens and two exhausted parents all living under one roof. We record questions asked of and replies given by this family over a 20-year period.

Results: Bivariate illogical regression models confirm that there are indeed stupid questions!

Conclusions: The idiom “Think before you speak” is a statement that is both valid and reliable in not cramming ones metatarsals deep into ones oropharyngeal cavity!

I present a top 10 list of questions asked by various subject matters. Random answers by the study family members are expressed following each inquiry.

  1. “Are they all yours?”

“No, they just keep following as I play my magic pipe. There seems to be a new one following me each time I turn around. I’m not sure why they keep saying ‘Dad, Dad, Dad’. Can you help me?”

zerotipSpecial Mention: The waitress whose follow up question was “Even the black ones?” soared to new heights of offense!

 

  1. “Are they adopted?”

No, every other child born in the world is Asian, every third child is African. You’re looking at child #2, #3 and #4”

  1. “They from a group home?”

“No, I enjoy the lost talent of cat herding. I am practicing this art by bringing children with sensory disorders, intellectual disabilities and those needing wheelchairs to my local grocery store. I’ve randomly collected these children to show off my skills.”

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This sign is from our home

  1. “Which kids are your real ones!”

“Which ones appear fake?” (Sometimes a question to a question is the only option.) The questioners statement “You know what I mean” is said 87% of the time in response.

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Maybe this wasn’t the best example of fake vs real

  1. “How much do you get paid for them?”

“Hold on! You can get paid for being a parent?”

  1. “Does your wife work?”

“Not at all, unless you consider making 42 meals/day, laundering clothes for 14 people, vacuuming 4000 square feet, grocery shopping for an army, scheduling over 100 physician/dentist/therapist appointments annually, etc. work. Then no I cannot say she works.”

  1. “Do you have to pay full price to adopt a handicap kid”

SPECIAL NEEDS!!! And no, there is no Scratch & Dent when it comes to adoption!”img_0139

  1. “Do you drive a bus?”
    “No, we drive an airport shuttle.”

 

  1. “Are you getting a Reality TV show?”

“I really hope so! Seeing the triumph of the Jon & Kate, the Duggars, the Big World, Little People families, why wouldn’t I want that “success” for myself?”

  1. “Are you like, um, really religious?”

“Oh you bet I am. There’s no atheists in foxholes and there ain’t none parenting a large family.”

The fact is, I love talking about my family and how they have changed my life. I never mind answering well-intended questions and inquiries. Our skin is thicker now than at the start; I now consider myself more of an educator than someone easily offended.

I hope you take this post for the fun that’s intended.

Be warned though, you never know when Dad Just Happened – you might end up on this page!

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