Monday, January 31, 2011


Four days after the snow that halted the DC metropolitan region (thank you, federal government, for letting everyone off work at the same time, the very moment the sky began dumping slurpees, turning 30-minute commutes into 9-hour commutes - I was one of the lucky smart ones, who took the day off work), it was finally time to venture out to play.  All in all, we only got about 7 1/2 inches, but the density made the refreeze the next morning prohibitive, and not snowball/snowman/toboggan-friendly.  Add to that a mysterious malaise that took hold of Samantha for a couple of days, giving her a fever, no appetite and lethargy, and we didn't really make it outside until yesterday.

But some late-afternoon sunhine and semi-melted snow made for a good preschooler-sized snowball fight, and a preschooler-sized snowman, complete with a carrot for a nose.  40-degrees and sunny does not, in my book, mean you can skimp on the apparel layers, however, but it seems to bring out some pretty interesting clothing choices in others.  Daddy played in his t-shirt, and one of Samantha's little friends down the street came by to say hello in a tiny tank top.  Don't know how they did it...maybe I'm just a wuss.  But a wuss without a cold, right?

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Gotta love the inherent mess of a batch of cupcakes helped along by the generous assistance of a 4 year old.  Pinkalicious (or "Pink Cupcake Deelicious") is Samantha's favorite book, and since she hadn't been feeling so well for the last few days, I thought it might be fun to recreate the sweet, magical, color-changing treats this morning, while still dressed in our jammies.  Of course, I made her recite the consequences of Pinkalicious' indulgence, and cautioned her that the only treatment would be to eat green food.  She is certain to heed my warnings...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A (Family) Tree Grows In...Somewhere

Nothing says "turn off your tv and go do something constructive" like a Presidential State of the Union Address.  And Tuesday night, we did just that.  This is nothing to make light of - in our house we pray to the gods of network television, so when there's a hiccup in the lineup, such as a political event, we tend to run aimlessly in circles (yes, I'm completely, hopelessly, 100% politically ignorant, and I admit it freely - please don't judge me...). 

And Tuesday night, our substitute activity was definitely constructive.  A few years ago, Steve began to research his family tree.  Being from England, this can be a very interesting endeavor, dating back before we Americans can comprehend.  I remember back when I was in college, my roommate was a girl from Sheffield, in England.  She came home with me for Thanksgiving, and we took a day trip with my parents into Philly.  Walking past a pollution-stained church of towering stone with a big wrought-iron fence and a placard that said something about it being built in the late 1700s or thereabouts, I marvelled at the astounding age, and remarked on it to her.  She laughed, and said, "Oh, this is not old!"  I never forgot that, and continuously kicked myself for my ignorant transgression bred from American self-importance.

But back to Steve's ancestry, he completely floored me by being able to trace back, on one side of the family, to the year 1400-something.  Now this is impressive.  Wow.  There was even a dowery document that noted the exchange of a cow and an iron pot, or something.  This week he began to trace another line of his family and on Tuesday discovered that one of his forefathers had moved to America (Virginia, to be exact) in the mid-1700s and had fought in the Revolutionary War.  Seriously! is a font of amazing information, even including screenshots of the actual documents on which the names of family members appear (military service records, census records, dowery documents, Ellis Island entry books, etc.).  And to think that this me ans we can trace Samantha's ancestry back to such dates and events just makes me feel very proud. 

My side of the family is a bit harder to trace.  And has a slightly more, uh...spotty history.  Tuesday night we got on the phone with my father and began to try to fit bits and pieces together.  We couldn't get past the entry of my great-great grandparents into Ellis Island from Russia, but will be able to build more laterally on the family that settled here.  Our original family name has been a big question mark for a long time, and the fact that it was changed somewhere around the turn of the 20th century to Benson from it's original Russian version makes tracing back pretty tough.  But Tuesday night, with the help of old census records, we found what may have been the original spelling.  We've got some work to do now if we want to move forward (or backward, as the case may be).

Also, a few years ago, my father had sent me an article written in a 1935 newspaper about some rather colorful members of my family.  I had been thrilled to read it at the time, and had nearly forgotten about it, but now that Steve and I are digging a bit deeper into the tree, it's got so much more meaning.  Lo and behold (sorry, Samantha, this part of your family history may not be one to brag about), two of my great, great, great (I think) uncles (that's great, great, great, great to you, Sammi), named Herman and Lew, were the leaders of what was called by the police, "The Benson Gang," a group of rogue liquor distillers with a massive operation tucked away in a South Jersey forest.  The cops had been hunting for the still for some time, and one day followed some members of the gang until they found it.  They took three of the gang members into custody (including Lew, who was the former police chief of the town my father is from and currently lives in), and Herman (the fire chief at the time of the same town), arriving on the scene later and attempting to break his brother and cohorts free, was killed in a shoot-out (the dialogue between Herman and the police that was recounted in the newspaper article was quite laughable - I have to wonder if they really talked like that, or if it was made up just to sound like an old gangster movie -  '"I've got you covered," [the officer] warned,  "Drop your shotgun."  "Oh, you're a wise guy?" Benson is alleged to have answered.  "A tough guy, eh?"')


Yep, pretty colorful, alright.  But these are the things that make family histories so truly amazing.  I love this stuff!  And I'm pretty sure my father's property is the original property settled by my great, great grandfather (gotta check with him about that), and that the stands of trees in the middle of the field where I used to play and find bits of pottery and dishware may have been the locations of the original houses is just so freaking cool.  I wonder if that may have fueled my obsession with becoming an archaeologist when I was a kid.  Well, besides Indiana Jones, of course.

I do regret that my great grandmother and then my grandfather and grandmother passed away before I knew the importance of chronicling family histories.  I just hope it's not too late.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It Made So Much Sense at the Time...

Sitting at the dining table tonight, watching Samantha carefully scoop chocolate pudding from her bowl onto her spoon, guiding it gently into her mouth without any spills, I was unexpectedly struck by an overwhelming feeling of awe, that I had grown such a big girl.  It was a sudden, sharp, and surprising moment, one of those times when you think, "But surely, I recognize these things every day - why am I feeling like this is the first time I've ever noticed this?"  It was like looking at her with new eyes, just for a moment.  Fleeting.

I think it was the normalcy of the moment.  The conversation that (mostly) flowed, Samantha recounting the things she and her aide, N., had done this afternoon, the look of surprise on her face when the dishwasher in the kitchen began a new cycle and roared to life, as she said, "Mommy, what's that noise?"  "It's the dishwasher," I said.  "Oh, dishwasher." was her reply.  The classic childhood love of chocolate pudding in all its sweet, sticky glory, and her ability to savor and appreciate every. last. drop.

She called me Dr. Mommy, as we discussed a boo boo.  I think this is what sparked it.  She has called me this many, many times while playing doctor, but suddenly I realized that I am no longer a baby, either, and am truly Dr. Mommy, every day.  I have learned to create and nurture, to cause this exquisite and rare flower to sprout and blossom.  This big girl was a baby, only yesterday.  Every beautiful cell and chromosome was created by us, her parents.  Her whole life has been in our hands, every beautiful pound she's gained, every beautiful inch she's grown.

In retrospect, I realize I can't adequately recount that feeling I had, and it misses so much in the translation here.  Sort of like having a vivid dream, then waking and telling someone about it.  It made so much sense at the time...
My big girl in her apron, helping to make her lunch.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Friends and IRL Fun

(Quick blog template note:  I have finally updated my blog template to give more room for pictures and text.  I had been thinking that I would go with a blank, solid-color background (ie. white or black or something), but fell in love with this floral motif from Blogger.  I had seen it on someone else's blog once, but could never find it anywhere, not realizing that it was a Blogger option until now.  I'd love your thoughts and opinions!  Still working on the header photo...)

I just love IRL (that's In Real Life to those of you that didn't know...) meet-ups!  Sunday we had the absolute pleasure of meeting Cathleen, Jon and the beautiful and captivating Miss Lilly from Lilly's World when they were in our neck of the woods.  Samantha was so excited to meet and play with Lilly that she talked about it almost non-stop before they arrived, and again after they left, running to the door to greet them, anxious to have someone her own size and gender with whom to have a tea party.
The two girls made an instant connection, and were off playing together as soon as Lilly could get her coat off.  Samantha has very few opportunities to play with other little girls her age, so it was really interesting to watch.  "Tea Party" and "Doctor" were the two games of (Samantha's) choice, and, like her only-child mother at her age, she loved showing Lilly all of her toys.  However, unlike, her only-child mother at her age, she loved sharing all of her toys, too.  Shocking.

We certainly enjoyed getting to know Cathleen and Jon, and while the visit was too brief, I'm sure there will be other opportunities to get together in the future!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Which Hand? (Updated)

You may notice first that I have finally begun to mark my photos with my blog address.  In addition to adding one teeny tiny little layer of defense against photo theft, I think it gives the appearance of credibility and snobbishness, don't you think?  Hehe, I'm not snobby, but I can pretend my photos are.  :-)  My next step in the blog-change department is to change from the current template to some new one that will give me a way to post the photos so they can be larger, without cutting them off.  Uh, as soon as I can remember how to do it...  It'll have to be a different background, however, or none at all.  I'm kind of sad, though, because I have really loved this background.  I remember the "eureka" moment when I found it - it just spoke to me of barefoot children in summertime, flowers, and wild beauty, all things that Samantha embodies.  Coincidentally, the template is called, "Sun Dress." 

Now on to some discussion of writing.  I love this photo below.  I hadn't been paying attention to what she was drawing, when she said "A!"  A few moments later, she said, "E!"  Looking over, I was thrilled to see such beautifully-crafted letters on her paper, and managed to grab my camera in time to capture the moment before she completely defaced the page.  I then asked her to draw an "S," and she drew the circle above the A.  She knows full-well what an S looks like, but just can't quite figure out how to draw it yet.  I guess it's kind of a hard one, since it's got so many curvy lines.
Her next, much more successful attempt at an S is below, on its side, next to the A. 

The photo below bothers me a bit.  She's still using her left hand for things, inconsistently.  Her daddy is ambidextrous, so perhaps I should be somewhat happy that she is so flexible.  But sometimes it almost seems as if she has not yet chosen a "hand."  For those of you with older children (both with and without Ds), at what point did your child designate "handed-ness?"  She can even kick a soccer ball with both feet, again, just like her daddy.

Working diligently...

Being silly and oh-so-unbearably-cute...

UPDATE:  I have been playing around with some adjustments, and have settled on a new format for the blog.  Still in the process of fine-tuning it, but I'll play around a bit over the next few days.  :-)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Walkabout Wednesday

Oh, the power of television and how it molds (think shapes, not fungal goop) little minds...  Samantha turned off the tv after breakfast yesterday and announced that she was running away and was going to go pack her stuff.  She then asked me to help her.

We had some extra time before school since her early private PT appointment had been canceled due to bad weather.  I followed her upstairs and told her to get a bag to put her things in, and asked her what she wanted to take with her.  "Max!" she announced, holding up a small, pink bear that she had named about a year ago.  "What else?" I pressed.  "Louise!"  She held up a pretty kimono-clad doll with long black braids.  "Don't forget Olivia," I said.  "Of course!" she responded, grabbing Olivia and stuffing her into Backpack.  "Look, Mommy!  I pack ah stuff!"  "Ah" has become the stand-in word she uses to fill pronouns, like "my," and other objects crucial to sentence structure, such as "to the."  "I pack MY stuff," I corrected her.  "I pack MY stuff!" she repeated. 

Gotta get those lessons in whenever possible!

The morning's adventure (to nowhere) was thanks to a sweet cartoon on Nick Jr. called Little Bill.  It was nothing bad, just an episode about a boy who wanted to run away from home because he didn't want to take a nap.  It ended with his family all packing their things and meeting him at the door as he was about to make his exit, telling him that they were going with him because they would miss him too much if he left.  So, of course, he changed his mind and took his nap.

I really love how Samantha absorbs what she sees and hears, really learning from everything around her.  Just to emulate what Little Bill had done was a big deal for her.  I am pretty sure she doesn't actually know what running away means (yet!!), but it was so endearing to watch her take such great pride in making the decision and packing her bag.

Not sure where she would have gone, but at least she had a Map.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

Yep, I'm a little bit late, but since Samantha has been happily tooting one of those paper blow-out noisemakers she got at a birthday party last weekend, yellling, "Hap-py New Year!," I suppose it's never too late for a few extra holiday sentiments.

Just wanted to show off our Holiday/Christmas card from this year, since (almost) everyone we sent them to received them well before Christmas.  I just love it!  I was so pleased with how it turned out, and even more pleased that they were free, since I got them in that blogging promotion from Snapfish.  Or was it Shutterfly?  Oh well, no matter.  They're all the same, right?

It's funny, because we sent them to my husband's family in England as well, and he was saying how they'd all think it was a very strange card.  I thought he was selling them short, because surely they do photo cards at Christmas in the UK.  Don't they?  Well, he got an e-mail from his auntie, who thanked us for a most lovely and unusual card.  I guess they don't.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Joys of a Cold Saturday Morning

A great find from Freecycle this morning, to make my angel and her PT happy...
A good book...
Some dress-up...
 And a quick chat on the phone...

Friday, January 14, 2011

thinking out loud: disappointed... the media.  google alerts lighting up like a Christmas tree.  glad for new low-risk prenatal test, sad for how it's being presented.  diminishing the value of "different" lives, singling out those with the extra 21st as the ones to kill.  should be marketed more as allowing women to have advanced notice, be able to prepare, make decisions, gather information, rather than solely how not to kill healthy babies.  does this mean it's okay to kill the others? 

New Down Syndrome Test Could Cut Healthy Baby Deaths

a headline?  a death sentence, if you ask me.  couldn't read the article.  too mad, although Dr. Skotko was  quoted.  still couldn't get past the title...

not judging people's decisions...just judging the people who don't provide the correct information for people to make informed decisions.  the doctors...  the media...

got a new girlie doc last week.  she's awesome.  supportive.  feels the same as me.  this is important.  need to know I'm backed up, that people like my daughter are protected.

but the media slant is still out there, still making people feel justified in their "decisions," pushing them into a choice they are not fully capable of making.

so disappointed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Randomness: Closet Cleanup

Steve worked soooooo hard on the upstairs hall closet the other day.  It's a linen closet, but the darn shelves are too narrow to actually fold linens!  We've had to move towels down to a cupboard in the basement, but are keeping the sheets upstairs.  Please don't ask me how he folded these sheets.  Frankly, I'm a little bit afraid of this closet.  I'm sure I'll feel mighty guilty as soon as I have to pull a set out and unfold it.  And I'll feel even guiltier every time I do laundry and have to ask him to work his magic and fold the damn sheets himself.  I am not a sheet folder.  Like some people don't do windows?  I don't do sheets.  I remember when I was a kid, my aunt tried to show me how to fold fitted sheets, making it look so easy.  I still try to recall her advice, but still can't replicate the magic.

Steve's on a rampage at the moment, clearing out and re-organizing all of the closets.  Trust me, they need it, too.  Mine has not yet been attacked, and I'm kind of scared to attempt it.  I have so many clothes I can't fit anymore (subject of a whole 'nother post about snacking, lack of exercise and old age in general) that I'm convinced that I'll be able to get back in to one day.  And when if that day comes, I suspect they'll all be too out-of-style to wear.

In the meantime, enjoy some (slightly blurry, cell-phone-produced) eye candy.  Anyone want to take bets on how long this feast for the eyes will last?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let's Wash Your Hair

I wonder how Rapunzel washed her hair.  If it were me toting along a quarter mile of those luxurious tresses, I'd tilt my head out the window during a rainstorm.  Washing Samantha's hair has always been a dreaded event for me.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm a bad mommy for only washing her hair once a week, but seriously, it's just too much of a pain to do any more frequently.  I am pretty sure my mother and my husband are reading this and thinking, "See...if she'd only listen to me and get that poor child's hair cut she wouldn't have this problem!"  But it really doesn't have so much to do with the length of her hair as it does with the fact that until recently Samantha would never put her head back to allow me to rinse the soap out of her hair without getting sudsy water in her eyes, and she hates getting water in her face.  What to do, what to do?  I mean, she's been perfectly capable of putting her head back so my water-soaked washcloth could be squeezed over her hairline without issue - she'd proven it on many, many dry runs.  She'd even say (in missing-word, gramatically-incorrect Sammi-speak), "Look up, no water in your face!"  Okay, child, take your own advice, please!! 

I did say until recently, though.  She's gotten much better about it.  It's like one day it just clicked, and we've had blissfully tear-free bath times ever since.  See, the length of her hair doesn't have a thing to do with it!!    The length does have to do with the amount of time it takes to ensure it's dry enough for her to go to bed, though.  So hair-washing nights have to be carefully planned so she doesn't end up having to stay up too late.    It's also planned carefully from the time she wakes up on the morning of hair-washing day.  She's a creature of routine, quick to absorb the run-down of the day ahead, reciting it back to you throughout the day.  She likes to be prepared (activity transitions for people with Ds can often be challenging), so we do tell her from the get-go that I'll be washing her hair that evening.  Seriously, it actually makes her accept the inevitable, whether  it's something she's looking forward to (ie. a birthday party), or something she would ordinarily resist (ie. hair-washing).  For those of you with young children with Ds, please take routine to heart, and get your kids on a schedule or be sure to give them plenty of advance warning.  Then sit back and watch the meltdowns begin to disappear.  :-)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fending Them Off With a Stick

A short and sweet post for today, since Samantha had to miss school because she was sick this morning and I took the day off to stay with her while Steve went to work with a client.  Nothing serious, and nothing lasting - I think something she ate yesterday may not have agreed with her inner parts, and she spent a good portion of the morning on the toilet.  Sorry for the TMI segment...  Once she was done, she was completely back to her normal, happy, chatty self, but didn't want to go back to school so we decided to keep her home just in case

So, the other day Samantha's teacher at her "typical" school informed us that one of the little boys has a crush on Sammi!  Apparently he's always talking about her and how pretty she is.  When I was there a few weeks ago to pick her up one afternoon, he and another boy practically ran some other kids down and tripped over themselves to catch her before she left the classroom so they could give her a hug. 

Warm fuzzies all over here.

Oh, she's starting to wake from her nap...must go attempt to get some stuff done quickly before she's fully up...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Remedial Prehistoric Portrait Drawing 101

Don't get me wrong, I'm not cruelly judging Samantha's artwork with my title.  I'm just being silly. 

I'm actually one super-proud mama right now. 

I know I tend to go on and on about stuff Samantha is doing or ways she makes me proud and little else, but seriously, our lives are pretty dull otherwise.  I could absolutely tell you about what I had for dinner (chicken quesadillas), or how many loads of laundry I did yesterday (zero), but I can already hear you snoring from here.  Really, there's not much else going on. 

Samantha, testing out her fresh, shiny, pointy-tipped new crayons (Oh!  Do you remember how wonderful it was to have the 64-count box with the built-in sharpener instead of suffering blunt, lackluster little stubs?  I'd have sooner given up drawing altogether...) that she got for Christmas, took it upon herself to draw a family portrait.  Our very first family portrait.  So precise, so perfect.  First of all, Daddy's the little one.  hehehe.  Not sure how that happened, but okay.  Second, if you look closely, you can see each figure has eyes, a nose, a smiley mouth (finally encompased within the confines of the gargantuan heads, rather than extending outward like a demented whisker in her earlier face-drawing stages), round ears at the sides of the head, hair, legs (coming out from the bottom of the head, of course, as extensions of the neck), a round tummy in the middle, and on mine and Samantha's at least, arms (those tentacle-like extensions wafting off to the right - looks like I'm doing the hula...).  

I will treasure this. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Who Loves to Tickle The Ivories More...?

Some time ago, I submitted a photo and some text for NDSC's "More Alike Than Different" poster campaign.  I sent a photo of Samantha playing piano, asking, "Who loves to tickle the ivories more, you or me?"  (The image below was an earlier incarnation where I inadvertently put the emphasis on the word "You" rather than "Me."  It was subsequently changed, cheerfully and graciously, by NDSC at my request, but for some reason Blogger won't let me upload that revised image.)
The posters were displayed beautifully on the NDSC website for a time, and it was a lot of fun clicking through and seeing the familiar faces of some, and the beauty and inspiration of all.

Sadly, hackers got onto the site and defaced the images and text, so the page was pulled down.  I won't go off on a tangent here about how sick some people are, as that's not the point of this post.  I never saw what they did, and am glad I didn't.  Ignorance really can be bliss in some circumstances.

Instead, NDSC contacted the people who had submitted their posters, asking for permission to use their images in a new awareness video they were creating.  The beautiful and breathtaking result is below.  Pay particular attention to ...dream of being onstage...  :-)  By the way, to fully view it (blog formatting issues here) and to see Sammi's pic, please click on the body of the video while it's playing to take you to the YouTube version directly.