Monday, April 26, 2010

Visions Debunked

Feeling a little nostalgic here, as Samantha's 4th birthday approaches, so please bear with me...

Roughly 4 ½ years ago, while I was pregnant, Steve and I went up to a Philly suburb to visit some friends. We hadn’t been up there in many years, after having lived there for a while, and things had changed a bit. As we sat in the local neighborhood hangout bar eating dinner, one of the barmen, who had been there for a very long time, sat at a table near us, having dinner with his 8 or 9 year old daughter who hadn’t existed when we had last visited. I couldn’t help staring, as the dynamic between the two of them was so captivating. Here was a beautiful little girl wearing a soccer uniform after having obviously just finished a game, her hair in two long braids down her back. They were engrossed in conversation. I couldn’t wait to have the same sort of moments with my daughter, and fantasized about what she would be like at that age.

When Samantha was born and we received the diagnosis, that moment was one of the things I mourned almost immediately. Sounds funny that that would have popped into my mind at that time, but it goes to show what an impression it made on me. It had become almost mythical, and I began to think that it would remain a myth.

Another vision that I felt would forever be fantasy was of being able to travel with Sammi, and to see her excited at the things we were seeing, the places we were going. I pictured myself standing in London’s Tate Gallery, a child-sized adult holding onto my shirttail, staring at the floor, no feelings one way or another about the beauty we were standing before.

Now here we are, preparing to take our second overseas vacation with Samantha. While she is not even 4 years old yet, I already see how my preconceptions have been destroyed, crushed, decimated, gone forever. Happily. My little girl, with her almost backside-length hair, often styled into two braids ala the little girl of my dreams, is turning out to be pretty good with a soccer ball. And she’s becoming a heck of a conversationalist. I can imagine her next week, in the cobbled streets of ancient York, saying, “Oh, pretty church!” and meaning it. She already talks about going to “Iglid” on an airplane to visit Nana. I do understand that a greater appreciation will come later, as she gets older, but the foundation has been set. She has already shattered the panic-filled myths in my head from four years ago.

Not the first, not the last. I know I’ve mentioned some of this before, and will probably have many more posts about this over the upcoming years as Sammi grows, learns and continues to amaze me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Almost Wordless, Almost Not Wednesday Anymore: Cuppa?

Thanks, Rob, for the wonderful tea set!  Yes, thanks.  Really.  We're now subjected to endless tea parties, and the tinkly strain of I'm a Little Tea Pot over and over and over and over again as our beautiful, polite and insistent little hostess ensures our cups are full.  Tea never tasted so good!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monkeys and Tigers and Guinea Pigs, Oh My!

Swiper the Fox is a real superstar.  I mean, as much as the kids love Dora, it's that sneaky-fox-that-tries-to-swipe-their-stuff that holds the biggest place in the hearts of children. 

Samantha went to the theater on Saturday for the first time.  Nothing too fancy, and certainly an appropriate entry into the Washington socialite scene...for the 5-and-under set.  Nickelodeon Storytime Live certainly drew it's fair share of the over-30-set, but only because said 5-and-unders don't drive and can't afford the tickets.  I had to laugh at the number of empty seats visible from a cursory glance behind me (yes, everything was behind us, as we were perfectly situated in the center of the 4th row from the stage).  Those seats were paid for, for sure, but their occupants were happier sharing seats with their parents, perched on their laps for better views, giving the occasional elbow-to-the-face as they bounced up and down with excitement.  Luckily, Samantha didn't do that much bouncing, as excited as she was.  Although her eyes were glued to the action in front of her, it was quickly passing naptime and she held her blankie tight to her lips. 

Kai-Lan, the Backyardigans (not a favorite), Wonder Pets and Dora all played out their stories, with the biggest noise erupting from the audience when Swiper snuck out from behind the curtain to terrorize Dora.  Sammi put her blankie down long enough to say, "Oh no!  Swiper!"  And in a flash, before I could pull out my camera to capture the moment, Swiper was gone, foiled again, thanks to the combined efforts of Dora and the audience, chanting those magical words, "Swiper, no swiping!" 

After a painful (and claustrophobic) half hour or so of trying to get out of the packed-to-capacity parking garage, we were on our way home, and Samantha was sound asleep in her car seat.  I look forward to doing more of this sort of thing with her in the future, now that I know that she really enjoyed it.  I had visions beforehand of her deciding she'd had enough, heading toward the door, throwing a tantrum when she couldn't climb fast enough over the people blocking her path to the aisle.  I guess I underestimated her.  Not the last time that will happen, I'm sure... 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Scenes from the Bedtime Routine: The Blankie

Samantha is in her jammies, sitting with her daddy on the couch, cuddling her tattered pink blankie, Caillou on the television in the background. I am sitting in the armchair next to the couch.

Me: Sammi, come sit with mommy!

Samantha (playfully): No!

Me (whining): Oh, please? I’m going to cry!

Samantha (making absolutely no move to join me): Mommy is sad.

Me: Can you bring Pooh Bear over to give me a hug, then?

Sammi climbs off the couch and picks up her giant, stuffed Winnie the Pooh who is sitting by the fireplace. Bringing him to me, she plops him down in my lap, tossing her beloved blanket to me as well.

Samantha: Blankie!

Me: Why, thank you! Now I’m so happy!

Samantha (standing back and beaming): Mommy happy!

She then proceeds to grab the blanket back from me, climbing back onto the couch with daddy. She puts her head down on his shoulder, cuddling the blankie.

Me (pretending to cry): Oh, no! You took my blankie!

Sammi suddenly looks up from daddy’s shoulder, surprised and indignant.

Samantha: It’s MINE!

It was definitely one of those ROTFL moments for us.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Keeping it All in Perspective

Some of you may already know by now that birthday parties of “typical” children are particularly tough for me. I don’t mean to whine, but because so many things are going on all at once that our children are expected to participate in, I can see exactly where my child falls behind the mark. It’s nothing bad, just eye-opening, kind of like hearing your kid’s PT tell you that your almost-4-year-old is at about a 24-month level physically. But that’s been hashed out already in a previous post. Add to the mix that you’re generally with a bunch of parents you don’t already know, and you always wonder, “what do they see?” Do they feel pity? Do they just thank their lucky stars that it’s not their kid? Who knows? Maybe they see/feel/think nothing outside the usual sights/feelings/thoughts that they have at any given time. Now to be fair, those parents have never been anything but friendly with me, and I can stand and gab with them like anyone else. Except when I’m chasing my child around to a) keep her from running out the door to get to the room where the birthday cake is hiding in all it’s Dora-covered glory, b) keep her from getting hurt on the equipment, c) keep her still when all the kids are supposed to be sitting quietly and listening to the instructor tell them the rules. Rules? Hah! Trust me, Sammi is not listening. And even if she was, I don’t think she’d care for them much. Samantha’s kind of hot and cold with these kinds of parties. Sometimes she’ll really participate and get into the action, following along, singing, etc.. Usually she’ll get ridiculously and uncharacteristically shy, arms folded across her chest, head down, pouting. And here I am, doing all the exaggerated motions just like the instructor, like a pathetically ineffective mime, trying to get her to join in.

Yesterday’s birthday party at The Little Gym was a very interesting experience for me. A mixed bag of sorts. Although Samantha was being completely uncooperative, she sure had her moments. While all the children were sitting in a circle (Sammi struggling to get off my lap) to listen to The Rules, the birthday girl, a very sweet, typically-developing child from her class at school (I don’t know why she’s in Special Ed, but I’m sure there is a good reason), spotted her and called out to her, “Sammi, Sammi!!! I missed you, Sammi! I missed you!” With a nudge, Samantha went and sat down next to her, giving her a big hug. I think every parent in there must’ve breathed a collective, “awwwwww” at that moment. I think every parent in there must’ve seen my eyes tear up, too. It was a stunner.

Perspective came to me with another child from her class, a boy with multiple physical and intellectual disabilities. Samantha has mentioned him before when we’ve asked her about school (well, she says his name frequently, anyway). He didn’t seem to interact much with others, and his mother had to stay close by him, monitoring all of his actions. While I watched her struggle to contain him on occasion, his size nearly half of hers, I saw that as he grows up her struggle will be infinitely compounded as his strength and size increase proportionately. She was so sweet and gentle with him, and I spoke to her when I could (when one or the other of us was not preoccupied). I didn’t recall seeing any of the other moms talk to her. I wondered if she felt isolated. I wondered what she saw. While I was feeling frustration that my child was throwing a tantrum about having to eat pizza before cake and while I had to stay near her to keep her from grabbing the cake off her neighbor’s plate, this mother praised her son for trying the cake, for chewing it so well, and for sitting in his chair instead of throwing himself on the ground. For all the times I wished Samantha could sit and enjoy her pizza and cake just like the other kids, did this mother wish her son could just eat his like Samantha? What did she see? What was her perspective like?

My daughter has amazing empathy. Makes me realize what’s truly important. As this little boy threw a small tantrum and cried on his mother’s shoulder, Samantha walked over to him, put her arms around him, hugged him and told him “’s’okay.” He calmed down instantly. His mother turned to me and gave me a look that I, myself, had had just a short time earlier. A look of amazement and hope that our little people can see past the surface and truly feel for each other.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

We're Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo...

Beautiful weekends are meant for many things – playing hooky from work (okay, so I used a vacation day), planting flowers, building patios (GO, STEVE!), cleaning bathrooms (wait…how’d that get in there?), playdates, and outings to the zoo. Friday was the perfect day to do most of these, and the rest of the weekend played host to the others. Samantha was still on Spring Break from school, Steve happened to not have to work, and I took the day off. The weather was unseasonably warm for early April, but we’ve come to expect “unseasonable” here in the mid-Atlantic. We always do. (I think that’s what I like about living here – you never know what to expect from one day to the next. As if 19” of snow weren’t enough in December, hey! Let’s try 50” in February!)

Anyway, on Friday we took Samantha to a local farm zoo. I remember 20-something years ago, before this area was built up to what it is now, I would see the camels and ostriches roaming over the hills of the large enclosure as I drove by to visit friends. It was a startling sight if you weren’t expecting it, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But the signage has gotten larger and more prominent, and the area surrounding it has been developed beyond recognition. Now, with a small child, I have discovered what other wonders live on the other side of the gate. It’s perfect for children, with small monkeys, exotic birds, kangaroos, zebras and sheep and goats to pet and feed. The sheep/goat enclosure was definitely the highlight for Samantha. This child has no fear (except of playground equipment – go figure). Samantha did get nipped by a kangaroo, however, which put a damper on the rest of her visit. Crying made her particularly tired, and she became somewhat uncooperative until we left. No permanent damage was done, fortunately. But how cool is it to say you’d been bitten by a kangaroo? Okay, maybe not so cool. But different, for sure.

A tractor ride took us out into the big field, where we could get up close and personal to some other large animals (can’t identify the big thing with the horns, but we had to sit waaaay back from the edge to avoid getting gored). As we were disembarking, some lady kept saying over and over to us and then her children, how beautiful and sweet Samantha was. I smiled and said “thank you” the first time, but then began to ignore it. I felt that while her intentions were good, and yes, I know Samantha’s beautiful, she may have been a little over-the-top. Did she think I needed to hear it? Did she suddenly get stuck on that broken record thing that often happens to people when they don’t know what to say when faced with someone with a disability (or is that just me?)? Did she really mean it and was so dazzled that she had to say it numerous times, whether or not I was facing her/acknowledging her? Interesting. Have any of you experienced the same sort of reactions from people?

Big Thing with Horns

Peek a Boo with Sammi's Blankie

Kangaroo Love Bite


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Send Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses...Your Blog Advice...

Today I'm seeking advice. Not for me, or for "a friend," but for my blog. It's time for a change, I think. So, I have had this blog background for more than a year now, and absolutely love it. It was the only one of the free ones from Cutest Blog on the Block that really spoke to me. It's called "Sun Dress," which I think is just perfect. Granted, I haven't perused Cutest Blog's backgrounds recently, so they may have added more "perfect" ones, but the biggest obstacle I seem to be coming up against with this format is space. It seems that the body of the blog is too narrow, with margins that are too wide on either side. So to have anything in my sidebar, which I do, it eats into my writing space and you have to scroll down forever and ever just to get to the bottom. I'd love to have enough room for two sidebars. And since I tend to get a bit verbose in my posts, having a wider writing space will at least make them look like they're not so massive and won't necessarily require numerous cups of coffee to keep the reader awake while they read. And read. And read. (However, the content may still require said cups of coffee, but that's another story altogether...)

I've seen some pretty amazing blog makeovers in the last year or so. I am hesitant to pay for a new format/background, but depending on what the costs are, I may be open to it. Do any of you know of any free or inexpensive options that will give me a background I like (I'm not asking you all to be psychic here for me, but I will say I don't like tacky. 'nuff said.) and the space that I need? Thanks in advance!