Día de la Canción Criolla

While our friends and family in the states celebrate Halloween today, Santiago and Adriana will be celebrating Día de la Canción Criolla (Day of the Creole Song) at school.

They and their classmates are dressed in traditional clothing as they enjoy a style of music that dates back to colonial times.

Peru celebrates its traditional music and dance in restaurants and parks; on sidewalks and on the beach; in the mountains and the jungle.

Here are few pictures of the kids before they headed off to school.

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Tonight, we’ll break out the Halloween costumes!

Be safe, everyone!

My daughter needs me, doesn’t she?

At some point, every parent realizes that for a child to flourish, one has to let go.

To be independent, free thinkers, children must explore on their own, make new friends (and enemies), make mistakes, fall down and pick themselves back up.

Thinking metaphorically, I have no doubt that when our children experience setbacks in life, they’ll be perfectly capable of “picking themselves up again.”

But, it’s harder for me to think in literal terms when it comes to Adriana’s special needs.

If she physically falls down, she can’t pick herself back up. The genes Gaby and I passed on to her simply won’t allow her to do that.

My instincts tell me that she’ll always need our help along the way, until they find a cure for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and she walks and gains the strength to function on her own.

IMG_0397It wasn’t until I saw Adriana in her music and art class that I caught a different glimpse of the future.

One where Adriana would still need help, but not necessarily from mom and dad.

Meet me halfway

Normally, Gaby takes Adri to her class. But for Mother’s Day, she needed to be with Santiago at his school for an afternoon of activities.

So, it was up to me to take Adri to class.

I’m slowly getting comfortable moving around  Lima. My “neighborhood” is getting bigger.  I’m teaching English part time and commuting to different parts of the city.

But, I still get anxious when I’m faced with new experiences – new places to go.

IMG_0398The first class I took Adri to was wonderful!

But, I was by her side the entire time.

All the other parents dropped off their kids and left. I was just too scared to do that.

The regular teacher was absent, and the substitute wasn’t fully aware of Adri’s situation.

I sat Adri on the mat where the kids play music and sing. The mat got crowded as more children joined the class.

My anxiety heightened as I pictured one of them accidentally bumping Adriana, causing her to tip over and hit her head.

I sat in the back (cape and all), ready to rescue her when she needed me.

I think the teacher’s assistant noticed my nervousness and didn’t question my staying in the room.

As the class progressed, I began to notice how engaged Adriana was. She wasn’t asking for me. She wasn’t shy. She was simply another 3-year-old, interested in what the teacher was teaching.

She needed a little assistance now and then.

Adri’s arms aren’t as strong, so she needed some help holding the instruments, or a little coaxing from the teacher to play the instrument.

For one of the activities, the teacher had an alligator muppet on her right hand, and each child was supposed to place a little toy inside the muppet’s mouth.

I was ready to jump in and help Adri lift her arm up, but I held back.

With all of her strength, Adri lifted the toy as high as she could. I prayed to God to give her a little more strength.

Just then, the teacher met her half way, bringing her hand down to meet Adri’s.

She met her half way.

A that moment in time, Adri didn’t need me. She was having fun all by herself!

The compassion and understanding that I believe are in every human being – whether we see it or not – were all Adri needed to succeed.

Granted, it may be a small task for some. But in my eyes, it was momentous!

We really don’t need you here

Yesterday, Gaby needed me to take Adri to her class again.

I got the typical butterflies I get when I have to do something out of my comfort zone.

I complained a little — because it’s what I do. But, I quickly stepped up to the task.

The first time I took Adri to class, Gaby drove us there. This time, we would have to take a taxi.

Taking a taxi in Lima is an experience worthy of its own blog post (or two), so I won’t go into details here.

Fortunately this time, it was a relatively painless experience.

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Snack time with Adri at the head of the table.

I had Adriana in my arms, and my backpack and her Seat-2-Go on my back, as we headed for the corner to hail a taxi.

For every 10 cars on the road, about nine are taxis (slight exaggeration), so there’s never a wait.

The driver didn’t haggle over the fare, and we arrived in one piece….a true sign of God’s presence.

The regular teacher – Ms. Betsy – was there this time.

I put Adri’s Seat-2-Go on one of the chairs at the table. The seat allows her to sit at the table, strapped in, so she doesn’t lose her balance and fall.

I then sat her on the mat on the floor in the center of the class and asked Ms. Betsy if I should sit in the back, as I’d done the last time.

She said it was actually better if I wasn’t in the room.

I voiced my concern about Adri losing her balance and falling backward, potentially hitting her head.

IMG_0582She said they would take care of her, and if they needed me, they would call me.

They never called.

“We need to teach her independence,” Ms. Betsy reminded me.

A ray of light made it’s way through the clouds that day.

A glimpse into a future where Adri gets the help she needs…just not always from mom and dad.

A Small Step Toward “Normal”

It’s hard for me to think about Adriana going to school by herself, without her mom or me by her side.

The thought of her in a classroom with a dozen or more kids — without someone there to lift her up if she falls over — terrifies me.

But of course, it will happen. She will go to school.

She will succeed and make new friends. She will fail and cry.

She will be strong. She will be weak.

She will be a kid.

Her first class

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Adriana’s art class starts with story time. Cushions at her side and back keep her from falling.

This week, we took what I think is a huge step in Adriana’s life.

Gaby enrolled Adri in a summer art class at one of the local libraries, and Monday was the first session.

Adri’s first “class”.

During story time, the kids gathered on mats on the floor. Gaby sat Adri at the front and placed cushions at her side and back to keep her from falling.

Isabella, who is a classmate of our son Santiago during the regular school year, is taking this same class. She sat next to Adri and was very protective of her.

It’s a wonderful feeling when other children see Adriana and want to be near her.

Kids seem to have a natural kindness about them and a desire to help when they think help is needed.

Adri was attentive during story time. She didn’t participate when the teacher asked questions, but that’s o.k.

I have a sense that soon, the teachers won’t be able to keep her quiet.

The art project

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Adriana and Isabella getting ready for their art project.

Next, the kids moved to the circular tables to do some artwork.

We have a positioning seat for Adri called a Seat2Go. It’s designed for special-needs children, and has a belt that straps around her chest to keep her from losing her balance.

She sat patiently and participated without a problem.

The project involved some painting, as Adri brushed glue onto a picture and then applied glitter on the glue. With painting, she exercises her fingers, hands and arms, which improves her fine motor skills.

Slowly letting go

Gaby was present the whole time, but she tried to make herself as invisible as possible.

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Adriana applying glue to her picture.

Adri would look to her occasionally, but Gaby was sure to direct her attention to the teacher if she had a question or problem.

Adri was fascinated when she asked the teacher a question, and the teacher actually answered her!

Her mind, which is in no way affected by spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), was no doubt absorbing every experience (as tiny as they may seem).

What’s most important is that she’s now part of a group of classmates working and learning together.

We’re starting her off slowly – just two days a week for a couple of hours at the most.

Adri does get tired, even though the physical work seems minimal. Her muscles can only take so much at a time.

Signs of strength

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Adri showing off her painting from today’s second class.

With a summer full of therapy and activities, she’s up to the challenge, and she’s showing signs of greater strength.

Just yesterday, I was holding her with her back against my chest.

I placed her feet on a short wall and told her to push with her legs.

Normally, I feel a slight push, but this time she pushed strong enough to make me take a step back.

Seems small, I know.

But I pray for the day when she knocks me over!