Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Grampa Kind of Weekend

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with its passing, has ushered in the whirlwind that is the holiday season.  Seriously, it's like all of a sudden everything is about to explode with color and sound, movement and scent.  And it isn't going to stop until January.  And I love it.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and my step-father, along with two friends of the family on Thursday at their new condo here in NoVA.  I made whole-berry cranberry sauce, and Steve made sausage rolls and honey-ginger carrots to accompany the amazing feast my mother prepared.  I seriously don't know how she does it, and am not sure I want to know, to be honest.  But I am always very, very impressed.  We have decided to host a traditional English Christmas dinner this year at our house, which should be both fun and interesting.  Steve will do the majority of the cooking, which, I'm sure, will be amazing, and I'm sure that will warrant a series of blog posts in the future...

On Saturday Samantha and I drove down to my parent's lake house for the weekend, as we hadn't been there in a while, and Sammi was excited to spend more time with her grandparents.  As beautiful as the lake is in the summer, it's almost more beautiful in the winter when the leaves are gone and the view from the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows is unobstructed and  just spectacular

Below are some pics of Sammi and her Grampa.  :-)

Reading on Thanksgiving night

Reading at the lake
"Helping" Grampa plant

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Naming of the Dolls

Sammi has hit a few really important developmental milestones recently.  Well, I assume, they're important.  I'll refer to only one in this post, in the interest of not writing yet another book.

The first one I've been holding my breath and waiting for for a long time.  The Naming of the Dolls.  Certainly, for several years now, Samantha's dolls and stuffed toys have had such wonderfully descriptive and creative names as "baby" or "bear."  I've asked her what their names should be, and her answers remained the same - baby or bear, or whateverotheranimalitmaybe.  Which is just fine, but something was still missing from the picture.  We've suggested names for a few of her dolls, and occasionally one would stick. 

About a year and a half ago, Samantha received a toy Care Bear.  I asked her its name, and she responded "Max."  Nevermind that the bear is bright pink, the name "Max" holds a point of reference for her, as in her long-time favorite cartoon, Max and Ruby.  It's not like I'd expect her to pick a random name from somewhere.  I was pretty excited about the bear's new designation, but I never heard her call it Max again, and the bear got tucked away somewhere in the bottomless depths of the stuffed-bear-basket in her room, forgotten by both of us.  Bears went back to being just bears, and babies continued to be just babies. 

Fast forward to a week or two ago.  Samantha, loving pretend-play of all sorts (usually scenarios involving babies in time-outs for hitting, visits to a doctor's office for itchy-foot-itis, bedtime routines or just general doll-house play), has begun to hold circle-time sessions with her toys.  I didn't realize it at first, but after listening in and spying on her a bit, I've seen her line up several bears and babies next to her, singing some sort of "good morning" song that I assume they sing at school.  It's a song where they call out each person by name.  She had started out using just her dolls that already have obvious names attached (like her Max & Ruby dolls, Olivia, and Tolee, HoHo and LuLu from Kai-lan), singing (without carrying any discernable tune whatsoever), "Good morning, Olivia, Good morning, Olivia, Good morning, Olivia, How are you today?" and so on and so forth, down the line.  One of her baby dolls got added to the mix last week.  I was in another room, but heard her in her room speaking to Marie.  Intrigued, I popped my head in, and saw her holding one of the dolls she's had since she was less than a year old (see the photo above).  Excited about the answer I hoped to receive, I asked her, "What's that baby's name?"  And sure enough, I got the answer I wanted - Marie.  And yes, she does know someone named Marie, a real girl that she's played with many times.  

A few days later, the licensed wunderkind of Nick Jr. were mostly all replaced by random bears and babies.  And the circle time song changed.  It was music to my ears to hear her go down the line, calling them out each by name, Marie, Jack, Olivia (yes, Olivia was still there), Milan and Max (the return of the forgotten Care Bear!!).  I was one proud mommy!  And the names stuck.  Each one still retains its new identity, holding a new and treasured place in her heart.  No longer relegated to the bottom of any basket, they now hold prestigious spots on her bed, and at the forefront of all games of pretend-play. 

Creativity is a beautiful thing...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Creating Smiles, Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is upon us. Unbelievable, but true. Makes me feel old, thinking about how quickly time is passing, but that commentary can be saved for another post at another time.

While I’m thankful for SO many things, not the least of which are my family and my (our) health, I thought I’d make this post strictly Samantha-centric. Let’s face it, the (my? our?) world revolves around that child. My blog friend over at Chromosomally Enhanced posted 21 things about her adorable daughter, Maddie, that make her smile, and just the fact that Samantha also makes me and everyone around her smile constantly, is reason to give thanks, so I’m stealing that idea.

These exist in no particular order:

1. how she asks, “Mommy, you happy?” as her gauge of how copacetic things are and whether all is right with her world

2. how she “wakes” her daddy up by tickling him and saying, “tickle, tickle, tickle!” a la Kai-lan and Mr. Sun

3. the way she tries to whistle by pursing her lips and saying “hoo hoo hoo

4. her generous but mischievous spirit, offering everyone around her a bite of her snack, then snatching her hand and proffered snack back and giggling

5. her empathy for those who are sad or in pain

6. how she totes her Olivia doll everywhere she goes

7. her attempts to convince us she thinks something is yummy (when she really thinks it’s yucky) by scrunching up her face in disgust and saying, “mmmm, yummy (insert name of yucky vegetable here)"

8. her sweet little voice when she sings her ABCs or Happy Birthday

9. how she treats me like one of her dolls, tucking me into her bed and scolding me if I speak or try to get up or even open my eyes (“lie down! no talking! go to sleep!”)

10. her ability to charm the pants off anyone we meet (seriously, maybe we're just lucky, but I have never gotten a negative reaction to her)

11. how gentle she is with the cats

12. her desire to “help” with whatever you’re doing

13. her intoxicating blue eyes

14. her evil laugh (oh, she is so up to something!)

15. how she stalls at bedtime, making every detour known to mankind before finally heading for the steps to go up to her room, me right behind her, attempting to corral her

16. how she announces her entry to the day when I walk into her room in the morning or after a nap with, “I wake up!”

17. her ability to love unconditionally

18. how she stops to hug or kiss each and every child and baby we walk past when we’re out and about (okay, this is actually kind of annoying, but sweet nonetheless)

19. the scar on her chest that signifies how truly thankful we are that her heart has been repaired

20. all the out-of-the-blue hugs and kisses that are planted on me when I least expect them and most need them

21. hearing “I love you, too, Mommy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Characters Unite: Take the Pledge!!!

Today I was made aware of a campaign by the USA Network to get people to take a stand against intolerance and promote acceptance and respect.  This covers so much ground, from the realms of disability, bullying, gender-based intolerance, religious tolerance and general hate crimes.  And the most wonderful thing of all, they're donating $1.00 to their non-profit partners, including the American Association for People with Disabilities, for every pledge made over the next 4 weeks.  In the description of the campaign's mission, they write:

"(The) USA Network launched Characters Unite, a multiplatform campaign designed to combat intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and hate, and to promote greater acceptance, understanding and mutual respect for all people.  Because life is richer and we are stronger as a country when we see beyond stereotypes and appreciate each other for the characters that we are."

This campaign comes at a good time, a time when the news is blanketed with stories of bullying, some with unspeakably tragic endings.  This holiday season, give thanks for the love and compassion we are able to show to others, and know that we can make a difference, especially if we all work together.

Please view USA's brief PSAs here and please take the pledge here

Repost this wherever you can, and get the word out!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Adequacy in Advocacy

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a blog post called The Inadequate Advocate.  I felt that while I am aware that there are endless issues in the Down syndrome and disability continuum that require strong advocates to help work through and raise awareness, I was unwilling to sacrifice the time that I felt it would take away from my family to do so.  I work full-time, and treasure every moment that I can spend outside of work with my family.  My daughter shouldn't have to know her mommy as someone that's sometimes there, because she's off attending sessions on the Hill (one of the guilts of living so close to the nation's Capitol) or somewhere else to provide solidarity in numbers in front of local or state government representatives, even if it's all in the name of Down syndrome awareness and for her benefit.  There are so many opportunities for this sort of advocacy, and peer pressure can be a bitch. 

But what I was not aware of at that time, and what became clearer to me from the responses I received to that post both on the blog and on Facebook, was that advocacy takes so many different forms.  Sure, there are people who can do that kind of advocating, but speaking out for her anywhere from school meetings to Facebook, putting together the DSANV calendar every year, writing this blog...are all ways to advocate for her, while refusing to compromise my first mission of being Samantha's mommy. 

Please watch the brief video below, where Martha Beck, a writer for Oprah Winfrey's "O" magazine and mother of an adult son with Down syndrome, talks about advocacy.  Wish I'd read this last year, but hope it helps those of you out there who may feel helpless every now and then.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Newest Snapfish Book (Updated at end)

Just a quicky today.  I received my new photobook from Snapfish last week, and am completely blown away.  I have purchased books before, but this one was a larger format, and, I must say, that makes a huge difference in the aesthetic quality!  Can't post a pic here, but here's the link if any of you are interested in viewing it!


UPDATE:  I see now that unless you have a Snapfish account (which is free, and easy to create, and they send you lots of great offers via e-mail), you probably won't be able to view the book with the link above.  Which sucks.  So, while the book is beautiful, Shutterfly allows you to embed the projects directly in your blogs, etc. (see my Shutterfly book embedded at the top of this blog) and to share it much more easily.  Something to be said for that...  Sorry!!

And just because I haven't added a photo in a while, here's one for smiles.  :-)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Phone Call from a Little Piece of Heaven on Earth

Steve (to me, on the other end of my office phone):  Would you like to talk to Samantha? 

(Would I like to talk to Samantha whilst toiling away at my desk at work, pushing papers and typing the prints right off my fingers?  Let me see...uhhh, yep!)

Samantha (taking the phone from her Daddy):  Hi, Mommy!!

Me (melting into a happy little puddle of Mommy-like goo):  Hi, baby!  How are you?

Samantha:  Good.

Me (already in posession of the correct answer to my question):  Where did you go with Daddy?

Samantha (not knowing the name for Starbucks):  Coffee shop!

Me:  What did you have at the coffee shop?

Samantha:  Cake.

Me (again, knowing the answer, as it is their once-a-week after-school ritual that she now asks for when he picks her up):  And what else?

Samantha (pronouncing each syllable deliberately, enunciating carefully):  Chocolate milk!

Me:  Yum!  How was school today?

Samantha:  Good.

Me:  I'll see you soon, honey.  I love you!

Samantha:  I love you too, Mommy.  Bye bye!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Typicalness of Friendship, Part II

Most days I really want to take the time to create a (reasonably) well-crafted post, using all the words I'd like to use, and getting out all my thoughts in a (reasonably) clear, (reasonably) logical order.  But then there are days when I have only about 10 minutes to blog and just want to get the words out, with more emphasis on content than on the picture I want to paint.  It's kind of like photography - you can have, in your mind, the most perfect shot, all the colors, the poses, the backgrounds, set up in perfection.  But circumstances work against you (lighting, an uncooperative subject, a short window of opportunity), and you settle for just documenting the moment rather than capturing a feeling.

Anyway, today started out as one of those fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants blog days, with just a couple of moments in which to write, but I did manage to eke out a little extra time in my life, and dedicated it to this post.  Uh, instead of doing something else with my multiple seconds and minutes, like watching tv, reading a (rare) book, cleaning the house.  Tempting, I know.

On Saturday, Samantha was invited to a birthday party, for one of the "typical" children in her "typical" school.  I suppose I could rejoice in the fact that this was her first fully non-disability-related birthday party invitation (other than the ones we've gotten for my friend's son every year).  But I almost don't count it as such, because there are always so many "typical" kids at most of the birthday parties she goes to.  Also, considering she's been in school since she was 2, that adds up to a whole heckuvalot of birthday parties.

But the real interest in this party for me, was that I could actually meet her classmates, meet their parents, see how she interacts with the other children and how they interact with her.  I had written before about how I never get to drop her off or pick her up from that school, and have no real visibility into her day there.  I just get the 2nd hand reports from Steve, or from Samantha's resource teacher.  And I had also written before that I thrive on it, gleaning every little detail for clues to her future.  Yes, I know she's only 4...

I must say, I was blown away.  I didn't feel at all that she didn't fit in (okay, other than the fact that she sat for about 20 minutes eating every last teeny tiny drop of ice cream cake off her plate when the other kids abandoned theirs mid-consumption to go back to the bouncy-thingies to play), and was really, truly heartened by the way the other children interacted with her.  I believe that they know she's different in some way, needing some extra help with things, but they don't really treat her too much differently.  They seemed to have developed a patience with her, an ability to help her do the things she's not as good at.  They were happy to see her, encouraging her to come do the things they were doing (even though my stubborn little girl could not have cared less if she was playing alone or with them).  As she climbed the long "staircase" up to the top of the blow-up slide, taking her time and being careful, she caused a traffic jam to develop behind her.  But I didn't hear even one complaint from the others.  Occasionally someone would sneak under her arm to climb up ahead of her, but most just waited, calling words of encouragement.  I discovered later that if I told her, "go faster, Sammi!" she could and would climb up much, much faster.  If only I had thought of that then...

While I didn't get too much time to speak with the other parents, it was clear they treated her just like any other child.  She was particularly attached to one of the dads (one that Steve had already told me she liked), and launched herself into his arms when we arrived.  Something I found rather curious, though, was that the mother of the birthday boy was telling me that her son is a real challenge in the classroom.  She said that he has a hard time sitting still and focusing, to the point of disruption during group times.  See where this is going in my head...?  Remember my post about our meeting with the school, when they told us that they weren't sure about Samantha's placement in the class since she couldn't focus during group times?  Uhhh, I certainly hope a similar discussion was held with his parents...I sure didn't want to ask, and didn't want to discuss our experience with her.  There's a new teacher in the class now, anyway, and Samantha seems to be more interested in her than in the other.  Or at least she talks about her more.

I'm very proud of my little girl, holding her own, being a good friend.  Her classmates are drawn to her, I think, because she's nice.  One of the parents mentioned that to Steve one day.  She doesn't know how to speak ill of anyone, or how to exclude someone.  Children see kindness and heart.  I like to think that she will always be able to exude these qualities, and certainly hope that children of all ages will still be able to see this, beyond preschool.    

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For the Love

Gina and Sarina are sisters, one born with Down syndrome, the other born to care for her, both inseparable and as dependent on her sibling as the other. Gina Favazza Rowland, one of my Facebook friends, has recently published a book of her life with Sarina, as the sister born with a purpose. For the Love follows their journey from childhood to adulthood, the ups and downs, the struggles with family, the struggles with “the system,” the road to independence for each, and the unwavering love between them through it all. The title holds dual meaning; as an exclamation of frustration and as a constant reminder of how they are bound together forever, and these two meanings are woven beautifully through the story.

For the Love should be required reading for anyone going into any field that involves caring for people with "different" abilities, to remind them of the beauty of the human spirit, of the capabilities and the possibilities that exist within everyone, and of the non-negotiable need for dignity and respect. The book pleads with caregivers to remember those things, to help to make changes to the system that was created to help and protect, but often serves only to confound and damage. I am grateful for the wisdom found here, the stark warning to parents just starting out on this journey, that information will not be handed to us. That nothing will be easy (think Medicaid and HIPP, folks!). That there will always be obstacles. That we have to rely on each other to find the way.

As someone who has barely had time to read a newspaper, let alone a book in recent years, I couldn’t put this one down. It made me smile, made me hold my breath in fear of what would happen next, made me angry, inspired me, made me love these two women and all that they have fought for and accomplished so far in their lives. I hope one day to meet them both, to learn from them, and celebrate the indomitable spirit they possess.

You can buy a copy from Amazon.com here. I hope you’ll all share the journey!

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Because" Part II: Scenes From the Morning Rush

Me (teetering on the edge of feeling either super-human or just generally insane after the usual morning rush to get up, feed cats, make coffee, get child up, get said child dressed/washed/fed/hair-do’ed, put dishes away, make beds, gather and put out trash and recycling - all within about 45 minutes): “Samantha, it’s time to get on the potty so we can get you to school.”
Samantha (digging her heels in and burying her elbows and her face into the couch): “I don’t want to.”

Me (looking up at Steve and suppressing the overwhelming desire to laugh out loud): “Did she really just say, ‘I don’t want to?’”

Steve nods, trying to hold back his own smile, looking amused.

Me (to Samantha, a little worried about what the answer might be): “Why not?”

Samantha: “Because…because…I don’t want to.”

Good answer, child.

Couldn’t hold the laughter back that time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In the Valley of the Dinosaurs: Look Out, Little Girl!!!!

As promised, here are pics from Dinosaur Land, nestled in the woods in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  We didn't stay long because it was so freaking cold, but it was an awful lot of fun!  We followed this visit with a very rare trip to Mickey D's and Samantha's first Happy Meal.  I'm not proud of that fact.  We were hungry and it was the first thing available.  And personally, I don't see any issues when something like that is doled out in moderation.  And she drank milk with it.  Funny how we feel the need to defend that, but I guess that's just how things are these days.  Well, that and the fact that I seriously need to lose about 35 lbs. and am feeling a bit defensive anyway.  :-)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Hide and Seek on a Perfect Day

I had some problems uploading the photos from my SD card onto my computer yesterday, so I don't have the pics from Dinosaur Land yet.  The issue seems to have resolved itself now, this morning, so I will hopefully be able to get them a bit later on to post tomorrow.  In the meantime, here are some pics of Samantha playing hide-and-seek outside, with nothing but two skinny trees and a plastic slide to hide me.  She insisted on doing all the counting and seeking - think she knew she had the major advantage here?  Little sneak...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I’m continuously just so blown away by the things Samantha is learning and coming up with. I think most of them have to do with her “typical” school and the learned behaviors she’s developing from her interactions with her typically-developing peers.

We have long worked on who, what, where, when, why questions with Samantha. She answers some of them with infrequent consistency, and some of them not at all. The most commonly answered ones are who and where, with what following closely behind. We’ve recently introduced why more regularly, knowing that it will really make her think to answer. Her stock response had either been to parrot the word “why” back to us, knowing that she didn’t quite understand what we were looking for, or to answer in an incomplete sentence (“Samantha, why do you want a wet wipe?” “Baby bath.” Or, “Samantha, why did Pinkalicious turn pink?” “Cupcakes!”). But in the last few weeks, her stock answer has changed to a much more mature one-word response. Because. And she doesn’t say it like a statement, as in, “Samantha, why did you put baby in time out?” “Because.” She says it like she’s thinking, and thinking hard. More like, “Samantha, why did you…(whatever)?” “Because…because…" She definitely likes the sound of the word. She says it with a grin, like she’s just tasted something delicious that she knows she isn’t supposed to have.  Or like the cat that caught the canary.

This morning she took her full and correct sentence building to the next level. As she “read” Goldilocks and the Three Bears while sitting on the potty (complete with super-whiny baby bear voice upon finding that his porridge had been eaten, his chair had been broken and there was some crazy blond chick in his bed), she said, “Daddy bear mad. Baby bear sad. Mamma bear angry.” I seized the opportunity to test her. “Samantha, why was Baby bear sad?” “Because…because…chair is broken!” Ahhhh, such a sweet sound, so lovely, so musical, so…right. Because. How do you explain a concept like because to a child? There is no concept – it’s just…because.

Steve is the lucky one (no, really!) who gets to drive Samantha to her “typical” school twice a week. He gets to see how she’s received into the classroom, hear the other children greet her, watch how she reacts. And I thrive on these reports. I watch my clock from my desk at work, waiting for the moment when I think he’ll have dropped her off and will call me to tell me the latest, greatest story. And to most people, these reports consist of something terribly mundane and innocuous. But to me, they’re reports containing the keys and practice runs for Sammi’s future. No pressure, right? Time and time again, I hear of the other children flocking to her, Samantha taking their hands and walking into the play areas. Steve said he’s struck by how appropriate it all seems, how appropriate she is with her peers, doing the same things as them, being embraced by them. I asked him this morning if he ever got the sense that parents may not want her to play with their children – you know, the old stereotypes, the old fears of the unknown. But he said the parents he’s met all adore Samantha, encouraging the interactions with their own children, treating her like any other.

Twice a week I wait for these reports, and while they’re always the same, I still want to hear them. Just…because.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Brief Hiatus

So, after 35 days of blog posting, it really did feel pretty weird not to have posted a single thing for a whole 3 days.  And it isn't like I didn't have anything to say, but really, I did need a little break from, you know, thinking.  And so, a blissfully thought-less weekend ensued.  Sort of.  Action packed, and requiring very little thought, may be a better way to describe it.  And it was good.

I've now officially entered way-beyond-old-married-folk status.  Steve and I celebrated our (gasp) 19th wedding anniversary.  I used to have a hard time remembering if it was the 5th or the 6th of November, always reciting the Bonfire Night rhyme, "remember, remember the 5th? 6th? of November," and getting even more confused, but it turns out that it is not on Bonfire Night, and Bonfire Night is the 5th, so, by default, our anniversary is on the 6th.  Glad to clear that up.  I think it's kind of like how I used to not know my right from my left when I was taking horseback riding lessons back in 7th grade.  My instructor would tell me to turn left, then, upon watching me deliberately point the horse's nose to the right, would sigh, exasperated, and tell me, "No, the other left."  Not really the same at all, but it still reminds me of that innate, very difficult to remedy, confusion.

This weekend was also jam packed with other stuff.  Saturday morning, as Steve was out at work, I dressed Samantha in some fall-appropriate attire and sent her outside to play (woefully inadequately dressed in the name of fashion, hoping she wouldn't catch on and tell me how cold she was) so I could get some shots worthy of this year's holiday cards (remember Shutterfly's bloggy special to get 50 free photo cards?).  I succeeded, and have a beautiful design sitting in my Shutterfly shopping cart, just waiting for me to hit the submit button. 

I also hosted a playdate on Saturday morning consisting of 5 adults and 6 children (ranging in ages from 3 mos. to 5 years) crammed into my little house.  The party ended abruptly with a crash and the tinkly melody of breaking glass when Samantha reached for a bowl of fruit from the counter and forgot to catch it on its way down.  I have learned immense patience since she was born, not because she does many things that require it, but because I have learned that the little things (ie. the proverbial spilt milk, or broken bowl in this case) just don't matter.  Samantha was upset not because we reacted to the broken bowl, but because we reacted to a concern for her safety around the glass.  I hope she understood that.

Saturday night Steve and I got a rare night out and attended a friend's surprise birthday party at a winery out in the country, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  A lovely way to celebrate both her wonderful day and our anniversary.  The next morning brought yet another road trip, out to the Shenandoah Valley, to a place called Dinosaur Land.  Wow, what an interesting place!  Photos will follow soon, once I get a chance to unload my SD card.  Steve had run across it a few times while travelling out there for work, and thought it might be fun for Samantha.  We weren't there long, as it was probably the coldest day of the Fall so far (does the fact that Samantha actually asked to wear her knit hat tell you how cold it was?  You know, Samantha?  Who refuses to keep anything on her head for more than a few seconds?), but I'm certainly glad we went.  It definitely is a testament to Samantha's growth over such a short period of time as the last 6 months, that we wouldn't have thought her old enough to appreciate a place like that back then.  But we didn't even question the idea now.  Samantha knows what a dinosaur is (roughly), and has become more positively affected by each new experience (okay, so don't go running back to my post about the Pumpkin Pick in September and call me a liar, okay?).  I chalk it up to that whole new level of sentience I blogged about recently. 

I had thought that I may get a teensy, tiny little break in our weekend activities once Summer left us high and dry (and super-chilly), but it's beginning to look like the fun has only just begun.  Little Miss Popular has not one, but two birthday parties to attend next weekend.  One is for a little boy in her "typical" preschool class.  I'm pretty excited for this.  I think I won't be obsessing about this party as I have done at others in the past, comparing her abilities and activities too closely to those of typically-developing children.  I have seen so much growth in her, both physically and socially, over the past year that I feel pretty good, and more confident.  Not to mention, these are children she knows, and interacts with regularly.  The dynamic should be pretty fascinating.  I'm also looking forward to meeting some of the other parents of the children in that class.

Enough for now.  Must get this posted before I get too sidetracked and set it aside for another few days of slackerdom.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Love Christmas, and I Love FREE!

I’m a little bit frightened that with the completion of Halloween, Christmas is now officially right around the corner. And with the rapid approach of Christmas comes preparations. Holiday shopping to do, a house to trim (both inside and out), the usual debate about whether to put up our tired, old plastic Christmas tree for one more year, or to purchase (and care for) a live one, and holiday cards to send. I think the holiday card portion of the equation takes the most advance preparation. What type of card to purchase? Do I want plain, pre-printed, or photo? If photo, what photo do I use? Do I want flat or folded? Big or small? Multiple cards for people of varying denominations, or a generic holiday message? And that’s not even factoring in writing out a card list of who to send them to…

I love to receive holiday cards from my friends and family. We run a string across the wall draping the folded cards over it and punching a hole in the flat ones to hang them on it as we get them. They make a truly lovely display.

Last year I purchased my cards from Shutterfly. Seriously, that had to be about the best thing I could have possibly done. I was able to have a hand in the personalization of my cards, without having to cut and glue or tape a hard-copy photo onto a generic photo card from somewhere like Target, which is what I had done in the past. It was so easy. Personally I prefer the non-denominational holiday designs, like ones you can find here.  This way I can create one card, and send it to my non-Christmas-celebrating friends without worry.  Last year I chose a flat style, turquoise with snowflakes. Here’s an example of a design I may use for this year's card (just pretend it’s got beautiful pictures of my little princess instead of someone else’s family…):

You can find so many other fun ideas on Shutterfly for the holidays, too, such as gift tags, calendars, and great photo gifts! I’ve created several photo books with Shutterfly, and will likely create more for gifts this year.

Know what else I love? I love FREE. Shutterfly is offering all you bloggers out there 50 free holiday photo cards, just for blogging! Go to http://bit.ly/sfly2010, fill in your information (just say that you heard about it from the Bates Motel blog!), and wait for the e-mailed instructions. How much easier could it get? I, for one, am just glad for the reminder that it’s time to start thinking about this in earnest, and love the little jump start by getting my free cards.  Think they may be willing to throw in the stamps?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Whole New Level of Sentience

The flurry of Halloween photos has descended on the blogosphere this week. I won’t bore you with too many pics (especially since you know how I feel about flash photography…LOL), but today’s installment just features a couple from her school parade last Friday. I’m not sure how she did it, but she has managed to become quite the little celebrity at the school. I’ve seen it on numerous occasions, Sammi walking past a group of children lined up in the hallway, shouts of “Hi, Samantha! Sammi, over here!” as they reach out to her, Sammi sometimes reaching back, sometimes waving. I just love the older children in Samantha’s school. I feel that the level of acceptance is overwhelming. A group of 5th graders assists the preschoolers getting on and off the bus each day, too, sometimes joining them for activities in the classroom. I’ll save my I’m-so-conflicted-about-what-school-to-send-Sammi-to-next-year-and-for-subsequent-years whine for another post, and get back to the Halloween stuff.

So FOUR is the year for a whole new level of sentience in the life of a child, I have discovered. Birthdays and holidays seem to have taken on a whole new meaning for her, suddenly popping into existence as days where something different is done. All of those cartoons on TV that have holiday themes now make sense to her, and I think (oooh, my fingers are sooooo crossed right now!! I’m so excited!) the holiday classics like Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will be watched eagerly in our house this year. Considering Sammi was obsessing with Santa back in August, I think Christmas will be a real blast this year. Halloween was an easy sell, too. I had been obsessing over what to have her wear for Halloween, and even how to present Halloween to her this year, since last year she’d been a little too young to really get the concept (not to mention, she was sick and super-cranky on Halloween night then, so we only went to one or two houses before abandoning the mission). While we talked about her Halloween costume regularly from the time we purchased it, allowing her to respond appropriately when anyone asked what she be, we waited until the last minute, the day before, to talk about going to the neighbors’ houses to ask for candy.

The school parade was the first opportunity for Samantha to wear her nurse’s costume, which she had picked out herself a few weeks ago in Walmart (I was not surprised that she chose the nurse over the others, including a princess of some sort – this completely fit her nurturing and empathetic personality), and she was only too happy to don it again on Sunday to trick-or-treat. She absolutely loved walking up the steps to each door, but contrary to her usual enthusiasm for doorbells, she refused to ring any of them, allowing me the honor instead. She was her usual polite self, however, thanking the homeowners for the candy and cheerily waving goodbye. “Next door!” she said after each visit. As the sun began to set and the winds picked up, we settled back in at home so she could have dinner and get ready for bed. We managed to tear her away from the Halloween episodes of Max & Ruby long enough to dole out some candy to the trick-or-treaters at our door. She enjoyed her responsibility to put the goods into each child’s bucket (or pillowcase…when did that become a trend?), and threw a fit when one little boy took his own candy from the proffered bowl, leaving her clutching a Kit Kat, pouting, and yelling after him, “Candy! Hey! Candy!” She took her job very seriously.

And it was definitely time for bed.

Nurse Sammi, at your service...

Out to meet her adoring fans...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Where Olivia Goes, Samantha Will Follow

Okay, so I was going to take a little break for a few days, but man, it's in my blood now!  hehehe  Somehow I still feel compelled to post every day, which I'm sure will change when I realize I have nothing to yap about.  So I'm taking it a bit easy, sharing some pics from yesterday of Samantha and her best friend, Olivia.  (Some are from my SLR, and 3 are from my cell phone - any guesses which ones?).

I'm still going through and editing the pics from Samantha's school Halloween party and from Halloween itself, so they should be ready in a few days.  In the meantime, here's a glimpse of the beautiful day we had yesterday - crisp, cool, breezy, sunny, sky dotted with white fluffy clouds, ground littered with the bold reds and yellows of fallen leaves.  It was just...gorgeous

Just like my girl.

Going down the slide just like Mommy does with Sammi.

Samantha being a good friend and letting Olivia slide first.

(yep, there are some continuity errors here - note the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't coat).

Pointing out the big, fluffy white clouds in the sky.  I know it won't be long before she begins to think about what animal/vegetable/mineral/fantasticalcreature the clouds look like.  I'm so looking forward to the day when we can both lie on the grass, looking up at the sky, telling stories about what we see.