I was tossing and turning and finally decided to get up and get thankful so I can go back to sleep peacefully. Maybe I couldn’t sleep because I was worried that I hadn’t gotten my Thankful Thursday post up on Thursday or, for that matter, my Special Exposure Wednesday post up in several weeks… sorry, gotta download the 834 pics the boys took so I have room for more photos on my camera. Or maybe it was just too hot in the bedroom. Or maybe one of a hundred other things running through my mind at 3:07 AM. Who knows? But, each waking thought points to something I’m thankful for, so I thought I’d come down and share:
 I’m thankful for the heat in my house. It got REALLY cold yesterday afternoon and into last evening and we finally dropped below the freezing mark last night. But, my home is toasty and warm and welcoming. Like I said, my bedroom is a little too warm for my taste… However, my boys who currently share the room with the Sarge and I (due to ongoing construction in their bedroom) have not yet mastered the use of a blanket so a little too warm is perfect for them. Otherwise I’d be up worrying that they were too cold. And, I’d rather be warm than cold. Once again, I’m ever so thankful I have the luxury (and it is a luxury to be warm inside when it’s so cold outside) of heat when so many do not.
I hear that the orphanages in Russia that house countless numbers of children with Down syndrome who are given up for adoption don’t bother heating because, I understand, the cost of the heat and the value of the residents are not considered worth it. God help those poor babies who are layered with clothing in such a frigid place just to survive… barely. I’m grateful for the heat in my home that keeps my beautiful children, 2 of whom also happened to have been born with that extra 21st chromosome, warm each day and night. I wish every one of these babies had the same!
 I’m grateful for the computers — that’ right 3 of them — that I have in my home. Sure one is more than 10 years old, another is 5 years old and one is pretty new… But I have 3 good working computers that I, the Sarge, and our children use daily as tools to help us learn something new every day. The boys love all the educational games we have and play to the point where I can barely get them off the computer to eat dinner. They especially fight for time on the one that has the Dora Lost City game… or the one that runs the Jump Start Animal Adventures game. The other day, the boys and I were watching the movie “The Hulk” (they LOVE that film) and there was a scene shot in a small, remote city in Brazil. I noticed the living conditions in this city were unbearably crowded (bear in mind that I come from one of the most crowded areas of the USA here in the NYC suburbs) and sparse. The most basic amenities were missing. Now I know it was just a movie, but I’d venture to say that this is more the norm than it is the exception in many parts of the world. So, I’m grateful to be here, in my toasty warm house, with 3 computers to choose from, back in the good ol’ USA. It’s a huge luxury and one that I do not take for granted at all!
 I’m thankful for all the engaging and EDUCATIONAL computer software and games available to help my children with Down syndrome learn. At last year’s national Speech & Hearing Conference held in Chicago, they held a special track of workshops focused on working with children with Down syndrome. The outstanding emphasis was to get these children on the computers because, generally speaking, this population does incredibly well using and learning via this amazing tool. My guys are no exception! They LOVE the computer and are mastering and demonstrating academic skills that their Pre-K-4 teacher still does not believe they are capable of (because they don’t have the opportunity to demonstrate them in the classroom the way they do on a computer). Yeah, I’m all for the use of computers in educating my children! I’m for anything that helps push them along academically. So if any of you have any suggestions for computer-based educational programs I can use with my boys, please drop me a line and let me know.
 I’m thankful that my Dad is still here and well enough to walk around the corner — as he did last night — to visit with his grandchildren. With his rapidly-declining memory, his independence is waning… I and the Old Soul were relieved to see him looking so well after reports otherwise. The Old Soul has a special relationship with her Grandpa as he’s been picking her up from school for the past 3 years. And, though his stint as her sole pick-up guardian has recently come to an end — he still rides with me for afternoon pick-ups — she has not lost the connection and misses his company terribly. I was heartened to see the relief in her eyes when he showed up and to watch her hug and kiss her grandpa and engage in their special give-and-take teasing as they have always done. There’s a special relationship there, and regardless of what difficulties have passed in our lives, it is there with my Dad and I too.
 And may I never fail to recognize or take for granted the beautiful relationship the Old Soul and I have with my Mom who supports us in extraordinary ways on a regular basis… not the least of which is participating every other Wednesday as a chaperon for the Old Soul’s Brownie meetings. During meetings and trips, she helps me keep track of the boys and is ever engaged in the activities of the troop with all of the girls too… all of whom are getting to know and love Grandma Alice as well. This week we took the troop caroling at the local senior center. With only 10 girls, the Old Soul commented that it was harder than the trip they made with the entire 2nd grade last year because “there was nobody in front of you to hide behind” (LOL, she’ NOT a performer). After singing their 6 songs for about 60 old folks in the “big dining room” we went to share our holiday cheer with the 15 people in the “little dining room down the hall”. THAT was tough! Those relegated to the little dining room are suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Unfortunately, a few of the residents’ behaviors there were a bit upsetting for some of the girls and for one mother. Honestly, I’m sorry for their discomfort, but I couldn’t have been prouder of each and every one of them for the way they bravely carried on gracefully through their performance despite what felt to them as heckling. I explained to the girls what had been taught to me all my life — not so much in words but in action — that the folks here were old and not necesarily in control of their minds and mouths. Hence what seemed like heckling during the performance was not personal or directed at the girls at all. I explained how thankful these folks were to see and hear the girls perform. As I talked with the girls, I realized that watching my Mom, my daughter and even my little boys engage with the residents, shaking hands and touching them, my Mom even putting an arm around an upset resident — even in that little dining room — that my ability to see past an individuals difficult behaviors or physical limitations and to recognize the human being within comes from my Mom. Some of the girls were traumatized by the mental condition of residents… but not me, not my Old Soul, and not the boys. My 3 children followed their Grandma’s beautiful example, as I have always done, and walked away from the experience not traumatized but grateful for the opportunity to bring a little joy into the lives of people who might otherwise not have been visited. I recognize it was hard for each and every one of them. But, when I asked the Old Soul how she felt about the patients’ behaviors, she said, “Oh, it was just a little distracting.” She’s a chip off the old block all right… I’m not talking about me so much as about Grandma’s block, really! It’s true, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m happy that I had my Mom to teach me that no matter what the conditions, you need to see the person. And I’m grateful that this lesson has been passed on to my Old Soul and the boys. Thanks Grandma.