Saturday, February 27, 2010

5 Little Words

"Goodnight, Sammi, I love you."

"I luff you mommy, too."

The understatement of a lifetime.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Samantha is a strong, independent little girl, who loves to “read” her flashcards, build towers with blocks, make the entire 7-person Loving Family sit down around the table in her doll house to eat breakfast (pizza and cupcakes for breakfast – yum!), have long conversations between her stuffed animals as they go for walks around her room or get tucked into her bed, blankets pulled up under their chins, watch Max & Ruby or Kai-lan, and “feed” oversized Tigger & Pooh dolls from the basket of food in her toy kitchen. She can sit for ages reading her books (well, re-telling them in new ways, based on the pictures, or her memory of what someone has read to her before), stacking them neatly one on top of the other until the book basket is empty. She’s started to get into the concept of “dress up,” wearing her pink organza tutu around the house over her pants. Sometimes she’ll ask to wear one of her princess dresses.

I love the idea that she’s with other children while she’s at school every day, both to continue to learn appropriate social interaction as well as to keep her more active. But the Great Snow of 2010 made me nervous. While Sammi probably didn’t mind one bit that she was cooped up in the house for nearly three weeks, I worried that the break would make the transition back to school more difficult, and that she would become too sedentary, or dismissive of anything to do with other children when the time came to reintegrate her into the classroom. Of course, I knew that was silly. She’s very flexible, really. My nervousness was most likely just me worrying that she would get bored of us and that we wouldn’t be able to stimulate her the way the class environment does. I’m willing to bet that any wind that blew last Monday was the release of the collective sighs of relief from tens of thousands of parents in the DC metro area, that their children were going back to school.

At their last home visit, Samantha’s teachers said that Sammi tends to play independently of the other children. She’ll play next to them, but not really with them (of course, about 80% of the class is comprised of boys, so who could blame her?). Except there is one little girl that she does play with. We had that little girl over this weekend for a playdate, and I was so excited to see the level of interaction between the two of them! Samantha was the perfect hostess, giving her a hug when she arrived, then grabbing her by the hand and towing her along into the living room to her doll house, saying, “Come on! Let’s play!” And play together they did. For an hour and a half of sharing, helping, and having fun. It was a beautiful, beautiful sight, and one I hope to see repeated again one day soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scenes from After Dinner

Samantha has just finished her after-dinner cookie, sitting at the child’s red plastic activity table in the living room and watching Yo Gabba Gabba. She picks up her small green plastic plate, spilling crumbs onto the floor, and walks across the living room, then the dining room, and into the kitchen. Daddy is watching her go, waiting, and listening to hear what she’s going to do next. He hears a clatter as Samantha dutifully reaches up and drops the plate into the sink. She then makes her way back into the living room and picks up her purple plastic straw cup that still holds about an inch or so of milk. She repeats the journey into the kitchen, but this time, no clatter. She walks back empty-handed, and sits down on the floor, back to watching her show.

Daddy asks, “Samantha, where did you just put your cup?”

Samantha pauses, thinking. She widens her eyes with dawning realization.

“Oh!!” she exclaims, as she gets up and heads back toward the kitchen. This time Daddy follows her, reasonably certain of what she would do, but no less thrilled anyway.

Samantha reaches the entrance to the kitchen, steps on the foot pedal of the large black Rubbermaid trash can, and watches the lid rise. Reaching in, she pulls out the purple cup and carries it to the sink, where she drops it in, listening to the clatter…satisfied that she’s done the right thing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Inadequate Advocate

I often feel like I'm an inadequate advocate (try saying that 10 times fast) for my daughter. I know that my family will all say that isn't so, but I don't feel like I get involved in the issues enough. I'm aware of the issues, sometimes just peripherally, but I'm just not willing to sacrifice the time away from her to attend meetings/conferences/educational seminars/other events, or to speak up beyond the occasional Facebook post. Part of it is selfish, as I am very protective of my time with her, and not being with her for the few hours it would take to attend one of these events (outside of work, of course) makes me feel like I've been cheated and that I'd be missing out on something equally important. But I think some of it may stem from a lack of confidence in my knowledge of the issues, and I certainly can't speak about what I don't think I am fluent in, and am woefully unprepared for. While I know that there are so many other people out there who are making their voices heard, I also know that it's never enough. There is always so much need for so much more.

I am truly committed to my little girl. I want the world for her, and I expect the world to fall at her feet. That's a part of the problem, too. Denial. Denial is a dangerous thing and to deny that there are and will continue to be obstacles is to deny my daughter of the power to stand up and advocate for herself one day. We need to know what those obstacles are in order to overcome them.

I'm keeping this (relatively) short and sweet today, for once. I think I've quite possibly rambled on more in three paragraphs than I ever did in my super-long, book-sized posts. I just hope that nobody who reads this will take what I say the wrong way, or think that I'm off my rocker - I've just been aware of how much is hitting the fan right now in the media, and I realize that now is the time to really try to step up and take advantage of this door that's opening for all of the people out there whose lives have not yet been touched by someone with an intellectual disability. The time to try to take advantage of it without compromising the indescribable, overpowering joys of mothering this amazing, beautiful little girl.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Scenes from the Blizzard of 2010

32.4". Unbelievable. The initial weather reports prior to a flake even hitting the ground on Friday had everyone scrambling to the supermarkets for toilet paper, bread, milk and beer based on an estimated accumulation of 10-20". After I returned home from work early on Friday to beat the slippery commute, my intrepid husband decided to drive over to the local pub for a couple of hours to get a jump on the impending sense of isolation that was sure to set in over the weekend. While there, one of his compadres informed him that the government had been holding back on information relating to snow totals much higher than what had been broadcast, to prevent panic. Personally, I don't think I necessariy belive this, because I don't know that hearing 40" would make me panic any more than 20", if I were a panicking sort of person. I might have been more diligent to stock up on more essential provisions, though.

As it was, we ended up with approximately 32.4". It snowed from 10:30am on Friday until 5pm on Saturday, when the sky turned blue and the sun came out.

I always think I can "feel" my house when I'm sleeping. I could be in a totally sound sleep, yet hear (or feel) the tiniest change in the house that will wake me instantly. I've always been like that. The tiny click from my cable box woke me at 5:15 on Saturday morning. After two such power flickers and a massive blue flash that lit up my bedroom (even behind the blinds), the power went out. Ugh. Here I'd been spouting off to people about how the power lines of the Ashburn neighborhoods were underground and we were unlikely to ever lose power (hey, we lived in Adams Morgan in DC for 11 years and never lost power there once due to the underground configurations!). That's what I get. The entire neighborhood was out. We didn't panic about this, other than the fear that we wouldn't be able to have our morning coffee. That particular worry was removed when Steve dug a path to the grill out on the back deck and boiled water in a pot on the grill's side burner, snow swirling all around him. It was quite a sight, and I was grateful. The second concern was that our gas fireplace had an electric ignition switch. I had also been previously spouting off that we had a gas fireplace and if we were to lose power, all we'd have to do would be to put a flame to the pilot light. I had completely forgotten that our fireplace has a glass front, and that even if we could get it lit, how would we turn it off? Steve was down on the floor in front of the glass door, puzzling over this very thing, when he had the brilliant idea to just flip the ignition switch, just because. If he hadn't done this one thing he thought he was going to look stupid for doing, we would have looked even more stupid for not having done it. He flipped the switch, and that beautiful flame jumped up over the fake logs and began to warm the quickly-chilling house. Fabulous!!! Don't know how it worked, don't care. Just happy it did. The power came back on at 2pm, just as I was telling a very unhappy Samantha that she couldn't have grilled cheese for lunch.

Here are some pics from the day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Sure Beats Washing Dishes With 'em...

The Creative Art

Ansel Adams once said, “Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.” How right he was, especially with the dawn of the new medium of digital photography, although one could say he was wrong about the medium for factual communication now that image manipulation has become so simple and seamless.

I have always been interested in photography. I remember when I was 8 or 9 my parents bought me my first camera. It was a 110, plasticky and simple to load. Perfect for a child’s first memory captures. I still have the photos I took, kept squirreled away safely in a box along with the negatives. My next camera was also a 110, but a bit more high-tech. Metal this time, with a leather holding case. I got this for Christmas in 1981, when I was living in Okinawa. I still have this camera. It wasn’t until I was in college that I actually took a photography class, but unfortunately it wasn’t as in-depth as I would have liked. As a matter of fact, it did very little to boost my confidence behind the lens and the images I took were all pretty blah. I remember one of the assignments was to photograph evil. I loved this project, and loved my results. While others in the class were taking pictures of toy monkeys hanging from ropes (seriously!), I went out and photographed dead roses on thorny branches reaching up to the sky, the Washington National Cathedral looming behind them. (National Cathedral’s rose gardens were one of my favorite places to take pictures and experiment with my mother’s 35mm Olympus.) I got lots of nods of approval from my classmates that day, and got an A in the class.

I stopped taking photos as anything other than a record of events for a while after that, until Samantha was born. We bought a new digital point-and-shoot, and I rediscovered my love of photography, especially given my new, (awe) inspiring subject matter, and last year upgraded to a digital SLR, the Nikon D40. Now I know this camera can do amazing things, but I also know that I’m still using it as a point-and-shoot because I haven’t yet read the manual and I’m not brave enough to fiddle with the settings to experiment and not screw something up royally. But the image quality is wonderful, and I’ve still been extremely happy with the shots I’ve been taking on it. A guy at work is a photographer on the side, and had been conducting some lunch-and-learn sessions for a while about DSLR photography, and I’ve saved his presentations to re-read when I am ready. It’s funny, as jazzed up as I got during his talks and as comfortable as I thought I was with the lessons, when it came down to actually doing some of those things I completely forgot everything. An hour during lunch every once in a while just wasn't enough.

I’ve decided now, in 2010 (a sort of belated New Years’ Resolution), to get my act together and actually learn something about it. Bethany has posted a great giveaway for moms from ClickinMoms, a site for both amateur and professional woman photographers. A site I’d love to become a member of myself, so I can take my photography to a new level (well, the level that follows reading the camera manual). Learning how to take great photos shouldn’t be “work” (and editing software shouldn’t be priced as if it were made of platinum, btw…), but I have to remain diligent, take notes, and actually figure out what I’m doing. And who knows where that will take me?