Wednesday, August 31, 2011


(I take back any thought I may have had that cell phone cameras can't capture a true feeling.) 

9am on the beach - I couldn't believe how calm and still the Atlantic was, how empty the beach, apart from a brief glimpse of a tiny crab hurrying to burrow back into the sand, a sand piper in hot pursuit, a pelican flying low over the water looking for breakfast.  Still the last vestiges of August, the children of Georgia back at school, the beach all to ourselves.  I miss it already, dreaming of another visit next summer... 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Little Kindergartener

I think I may say this every year, but why does the first day of school always feel like the first day of school?  It's like suddenly the humidity breaks, and you feel a slight crispness to the air.  Long sleeves aren't a silly concept, and those new back-to-school clothes get their first test of the school fashion-parade.  I am sitting here writing this at 6am, freezing in my dining room, with open windows behind me and an outside temperature of...wait for it...54 degrees!  This is just bizarre to me.  Granted, today will be the 2nd day of school, but you get the picture.

You are now gazing upon a brand. new. Kindergartener.  I never knew how hard and how exciting and how rewarding this moment could possibly be.  It's not like Samantha hasn't been in school for, like, forever already, but we have now said goodbye to special education preschool, and hello to the Big Time.  We're grateful for this opportunity, and so proud of how hard Samantha has worked these last 5 years to get to this point.  Sounds like I'm giving a graduation speech already, and I'm sure that, itself, will sound very similar (...we are so proud of how hard Samantha has worked these last 18 years to get to this point...), but really, she has debunked so many myths for so many people, already changed so many minds, exceeded so many expectations.  This, my friends, is what it's all about.  The teachers, the therapists, the advocacy in blogging, in talking to others, in just being Samantha.  She doesn't know it yet, but it's only just beginning...this girl will move mountains.  (No pressure, right?)

The first day started off with a walk to school.  Samantha was ready and willing to wear her backpack, and quite happy to be going.  I was chastised by the teachers for walking on that yellow line you see on the curb in the photo below - apparently it's a bus danger zone, and they teach all of the children to stay away from it.  Good advice, a little twinge of shame that I hadn't followed the rules (okay, so I didn't know the rules, but hearing a teacher tell you not to do something still brings back those feelings).  And we were also instructed not to walk along that side of the school, as it crosses over the bus driveway or something (there's that twinge again...), so today we'll be heading around the other side of the school (heck, we live directly behind it, so either way is equidistant for us to the entrance).

So now we know.

As soon as we walked into the cafeteria, where they were lining up and organizing the children by class, we were greeted by a woman who spotted us immediately and asked, "Oh, is this Samanantha?"  She introduced herself as the Resource Teacher who would be with Samantha in the classroom every day and working with her afterwards.  We had to leave the cafeteria, as it was too noisy and chaotic (in an orderly way...) for Samantha, so we took a little walk to kill time and went directly to the classroom as the rest of the children began to file in.  That's when the lip went, and the tears began to flow (Sammi's).  I have to hand it to the teacher, everything was so organized, a real change from our usual 1st day experiences.  The children all sat down at the tables and began to color some pages that had been printed and set out for them, bringing nearly instant order and calm.  Wow

And that's when we made our hasty exit.

And that's when the lip went, and the tears began to flow (mine).

But we knew she'd be okay.  Actually, she was better than okay!  The report from the Resource teacher was glowing - she said she'd had a quiet start, just crying a little bit, then began to follow the teacher's directions for the most part.  She was surprised by her academic knowledge, and with the extra hour of resource time after class ended (devoted to reinforcing the day's lessons) she would be working on writing her name, since she already knows the stuff they're learning in class each day.

Day 2 Update:  We just dropped her off at school again this morning, and it was a completely different experience!  Samantha was happy and smiling, all the way into the classroom, and settled down to color with the others as soon as her backpack was off.  Wow!!  Honestly, I'm not sure how long she's going to need to have the 1:1 aide during class time - as soon as she gets into the routine and learns to listen and participate, she'll be ready to do it on her own!  It's only Day 2, but I can see that she's got a truly amazing support team there.  We are so fortunate...

Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Play it All Out?

On this morning, this very first morning of Kindergarten, this first Monday back after a week away on vacation, I have so many things to say, so many stories to tell, so many pictures to show, but I just don't know how to present them all.  I could create an outline, and just short-change everything, or you can just be patient with me (please!) as I let everything tumble out over the course of the next week or so, in completely random order.  Oh, and I'd like to apologize to all of you other bloggers for having absolutely no clue what you've been up to for the last week or so.  Looks like I've got a lot of catching up to do on reading your blogs! 

As I haven't even downloaded the majority of my photos from my camera onto my laptop yet, I'll start today with a recap of Days 1 and 2 of our trip, in Charleston, SC. 

We knew we wouldn't be able to make it all the way down to St. Simons Island, Georgia in one day.  Well, really, we could have, but it would have been folly to try, and really wouldn't have been fair on Samantha.  So we did some plotting, and I cashed in some of my Expedia Rewards points for a night at a historic inn (Fulton Lane Inn) on King Street in Charleston.  King Street reminded me a lot of King Street in Old Town Alexandria, here in VA, only with much nicer shops, palmetto trees, and buildings painted in beautiful, soft hues.


We grabbed some burgers and then ice cream (not realizing that this was a first glimpse of our diets for the upcoming week), and retired early.  I have to say, it's kinda hard to get a 5 year old to go to sleep at her regular time when she's sharing a bed in a single room while you're watching TV.  But it is possible.  And once she was out, I had a soak in the bathroom jacuzzi and dove into my vacation reading, The Help (which I have now finished, and which was truly excellent).

The next morning, after having breakfast in our room, we headed down to the waterfront to meet up with blogging/FB/IRL friends, Michelle, Joe, Kayla and Lucas for a few hours before we had to get back on the road. 

The kids had a ball playing in the fountain, as you can see by the water dripping off of Samantha's dress...

Samantha and Lucas jumping off the step.

A stranger was recruited to take this picture, explaining why Samantha looks so miserable...

We enjoyed what we saw of Charleston, but the trip was short by necessity, and the beach was calling to us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

*Gasp!* So Soon...??

I know we haven't even gotten back from vacation yet, and I still have a mental drawer full of blog posts about our week away, but something much more important, much more urgent, much more...imminent is upon us.  Earth-shattering, if you will.  Something I've been dreading for 5 years, right along with the wiggly teeth (more about that later).

Kindergarten.  I know we're not alone in this - I've seen numerous blog and Facebook posts from other terrified parents of children with special needs who have been preparing the backpacks and steeling their nerves, willing themselves to take one breath after another, feeling each heartbeat as if their hearts are threatening to escape the confines of their chests right up through their mouths...  And don't get me started on how brains are racing, considering every possible scenario of how the day/week/year will go for our children. 

Alarmist that I am, I am also quietly confident that it's all going to be just fine.  Her new teacher sounds patient and nurturing, and Sammi's IEP contains exactly what we want, obtained without too much fanfare.  Actually, after all of the drama and dread leading up to it, most of what's on the IEP was suggested by the other IEP team members and we were very happy with their outline and accepted it enthusiastically.  So we're feeling that Samantha is set up with the tools and supports for success this year. 

But that still doesn't minimize the fact that my sweet, little baby girl is actually going into Kindy.  This is the Big Time.  Seriously.  Preschool is now behind us.  School rules now need to be followed to the letter (oh, how will I remember not to send her to school in spaghetti straps?).  I may even have to (*gasp*) join...the PTA...  I'm seriously not the Stepford Mom that so many others in our town seem to be - far from it.  But as the parents of one bright, beautiful little girl with special needs, I feel that we may need to get involved in a way that's completely foreign to us, to ensure Sammi's acceptance and painless integration into the school community.  Not sure what that involvement is going to look like yet, but I feel certain that on the first day (Monday) Samantha will be coming home with a backpack chock-full of flyers, sign-up forms and other scintillating reading material.  Can't wait!  *insert rolling-of-eyes here*

We're now about to head back towards home, leaving our idyllic holiday haven to outrun a hurricane as it barrels towards the coast.  We'll be driving a slightly longer route, more inland, making an overnight stop on the way.  Just had to squeeze a quick post in, though, of course. 

Worrying about Kindy can wait until Monday morning, as we walk the 100 yards beyond the house with Samantha, bringing her into her new classroom  full of strangers, loud and chaotic as first days always are.  Oh dear, yes, I will definitely worry then...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Drink, Monkey, Drink!

"Mommy, fun a pub playing Chug Monkey!"

Those were the first words spoken by Samantha when she woke up the other morning.  I knew, immediately, that a blog post would be imminent, but how to write it without it sounding really, really bad?  Read into it what you like, but I'll start by saying that no, Samantha does not drink beer.  Or any other alcoholic beverages, for that matter.  Neither does her mommy, really, other than the occasional glass of wine after Sammi's gone to bed.  Personally, I hate beer anyway.

But as I had written once before, Samantha loves her occasional visits to the local watering hole to pick up Daddy after a few games of darts or pool.  It's a family-friendly environment, where babies and small children can often be seen having dinner with their parents (oh, and the food is goooood!).   Samantha loves to throw money into the fountain out in the courtyard, roll the balls into the pockets of the pool table (preferably when someone else isn't trying to have a game...), pretend to order food at one of the tables ("Hello!  May I take your order?"  "Yes, please, I would like some pancakes please."  "Coming right up!", over and over again, with Mommy and Sammi taking turns for the roles of customer and waitress), and most of all, playing Chug Monkey.

(I checked the video out below before posting it - it's just a camera phone video of a couple of guys playing the game, but I didn't hear any profanity or anything, so I think it's safe.  It's *crap* but it's safe...) 

Awful, I know.  Samantha freaking loves it.  She doesn't play it properly, although I'm sure she could.  She just likes to make the monkey fall off the stool and laughs up a storm when she does.  Oh, and Sammi holds the high score record for Chug Monkey on the touch-screen, multi-game, bar-top machine, which would indicate that either a) nobody else plays it, or b) Sammi's just really good at it.  My money's on the first option.

I'm thankful that there is also a skee ball program on that machine, which Sammi actually does happen to be good at.  Actually, she's very good at it, and puts me and Steve to shame!  Makes us look like slightly less negligent parents...

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Frog Princes

Posted on a scheduled timer while we're away on vaca...

Several years ago, I became "virtually" acquainted with Jim, father of a young man with Down syndrome named Ray-Man.  Jim, an artist and photographer, meticulously documented Ray-Man's early years on video and in pictures, pushed him to achieve accomplishments beyond the scope of what was deemed possible for people with Ds at the time, and raised a funny, well-rounded, inspirational, independent and able young man, who I hope to meet one day.  Jim and his wife, Carole, never expected that he couldn't or wouldn't do things, and brought him up like any other typical child.

Last year, Ray-Man entered into a program for adults with intellectual disabilities at Concordia University in Montreal, where he joined a drama group and starred in their production of The Frog Prince.  A documentary crew was on hand to film the events leading up to and following the night of the performance, and it's an amazing and touching look at the lives of this dedicated group of people and the man who led them to victory.

It runs about 1/2 hour, but I beg you to watch.  You won't be sorry.   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Silent Sunday: She Shoots! She Scores!

Let's see, can I make it...?

Did I do it...? 

YES!  Thank you, thank you! (doin' the happy dance) 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Georgia On My Mind

We're about to head waaaaay out-of-state to the beach on vacation, and while I have about a half-dozen, half-completed blog posts in the pipeline, I'm not so sure I'll be able to finish and publish them while we're gone.  Our only internet access will be via cell phone (which doesn't always agree with Blogger, and which I have heard may not work where we're going anyway) or from a local coffee shop, and judging from the, uh, active force that is a 5-year old named Samantha, those visits to get coffee and access the 'net will be brief, if not fleeting.

I'm reasonably certain I'll be sending status updates to Facebook like there's no tomorrow (ahem, if I can get cell service...), though, and my radio silence on Blogger will be more than made up for upon our return (I can hear you crying "uncle!" already, before the picture overload has even begun!).

By the way, if you're thinking about robbing our house while we're gone, you ain't gonna find much, other than some dehydrated house plants, two unmade beds, my anorexic, 3-legged, half-dead attack cat (and her slightly more able-bodied sibling) and my next door neighbors who hopefully have a shotgun baseball bat...  (Note to self:  must check with them about that.)  Oh, and you're welcome to any about-to-expire food you may find in the fridge.  As an added bonus, we'll leave $50 on the dining room table if you'll clean the reeking, overflowing litter box...

While we're off soaking up the sun and shaking sand out of clothing and crevices, watching the pelicans and eating barbecue and seafood until we burst, I'm sure I'll be thinking of you all.........maybe

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Tooth Fairy and Other Stories from the Loss of Babyhood

The moment I've been dreading for 5 years is just about here.  I knew it would happen eventually, but I don't think I've ever really been prepared for it.  Several of my blog and Facebook friends have reported it happening in their households with their 5-year olds, and I just kept thinking, not my 5-year old, not my baby... 

The loss of babyhood.

The loss of teeth.

Oh, how I love those sweet little teeth of hers, small, white, slightly crowded.  They hadn't been delayed by all that much, her first one making its appearance at 11 months, and the rest to follow, all in correct order, by the time she was 2.  It was all a lot of no-muss-no-fuss for her, and as parents of only one child, we were fortunate to have one that never teethed.  Yes, be jealous if you want, but this child showed absolutely no discomfort, no fevers, no crankiness, no nothing at the emergence of her baby teeth.  And I learned to stop sticking my fingers in her mouth to feel for them pretty darn quick.

In the last few days (or has it been weeks?  who can tell?) I've noticed that her bottom teeth have been looking a little more crooked than usual.  My imagination?  Perhaps...  But there was just something...different.  Couldn't put my finger on it.

Then, with a realization like being hit by a Mack truck, it came to me.

Wiggle one...

And wiggle I did.  And I was immediately rewarded (?) with movement.  Not just a little movement, the darn thing teetered like a weeble wobble (anyone remember those?) under my finger.  Nearly crying, but still overwhelmed with excitement, I explained to her what it meant, and marched her into the other room to show Daddy, which she did with great pride. 

Then, with yet another realization, perhaps this one more like a bolt of lightning, I was struck with another thought...

Maybe they're BOTH loose!

And so they were.  Omg, my girlie is about to lose not one, but TWO teeth!  The bottom front two, at that.  And I'm not entirely sure that she didn't already lose one or two that flanked those, actually...there looks to be a bit more space in that mouth, but it could be that the movement of these two has created that space naturally.

Knowing how Samantha feels about change, such as wearing band aids, temporary tattoos, facepaint, etc., I panicked to think that she would absolutely freak out at the loss of a tooth.  Or two.

But explaining some things to Samantha is often easier, thanks to some of the cartoons she watches.  She's seen the Tooth Fairy come to Peppa Pig, Max & Ruby, and Little Bill, to name a few, and the thoughts that a) she was a big girl to lose her teeth and have new teeth grow back and b) the Tooth Fairy would be paying her a visit soon to leave money under her pillow, excited her, and she is now only too happy to tell everyone about it!


And is it so wrong that I'm completely, hopelessly, unbearably grossed out by it?  I touch them because I have to in order to brush them, ever. so. gently.  But otherwise, it kinda makes my stomach turn to knots when I see/feel them move.  Poop I can handle, the occasional scraped knee I can handle.  Heck, I can even work with a splinter, and vomit's no big deal.  But give me a wiggly tooth, and I get weak at the knees...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Over the River and Through the Woods, Fruit Picking We Will Go...

For a day that by all accounts was supposed to be a total wash-out, I took my chances and packed Samantha up to go to a pick-your-own farm to gather blackberries and peaches on Sunday.  I know pretty well what she thinks about this sort of thing, but I wasn't truly invested on necessarily getting the fruit, I was more interested in finding something fun to do outside of the house, somewhere we could attempt to soak in some of that elusive Vitamin D while we could.  A morning shower nearly deterred me, but the farm wasn't far and I figured if we got a little wet we'd survive with dignity and grace (and I'd immediately drop my camera into the plastic bag I thought to bring with me).

As truly amazing, sheer luck would have it, the sun came out and stayed out, pretty much all day, and apart from a few muddy puddles I had to struggle to keep Samantha from jumping in (thanks a lot, Peppa Pig...), everything was pretty much dry.

It was a long walk to the orchard from where we parked the car, and Sammi's good-spirited ambling eventually became a whiny, foot-dragging crawl (figuratively speaking), getting worse and worse each time I said, "Oh, it's right up there!  Come on!"  Right up there?  Yeah, right, Mommy, I've heard that one before...  I felt bad, but really, we were getting so close!  By the time we reached the blackberries, she'd had about enough, picking a few, then plopping down in the middle of the row, complaining that she wanted to go home. 

Can I just say how difficult it is to carry heavy, hot, sweaty child on hot, sweaty me, while balancing a camera on one shoulder and a bucket of fruit in the other hand, walking on uneven paths of dirt, tractor treads and fallen fruit?  Well, that's what I did.  For a short while.  Then I made her walk anyway, with the promise of a rinse-off in the creek we had to cross via two flat planks masquerading as a bridge. 

Poor girl hates berries.  She ate a few once we returned home by asking me to dip them in sugar, like the successful experiment we tried with some strawberries last week.  I was pleasantly surprised that she even suggested that - I had completely forgotten!  And she ate several, asking for more with each mouthful.  Everything's better when it's dipped in sugar, right? (And we won't mention how much sugar I put on my Cheerios every morning...)

Sammi's hand, reaching for the peaches.  I have absolutely no idea how I managed to get that shot with her balanced on my left hip and my camera wobbling precariously in my right hand.  Oh, and what a sky!  Did someone say wash-out? 

I love Queen Anne's Lace.  I remember, when I was a child, my mother proclaimed it her favorite flower.  One day, when I was 6 or 7, driving to the beach, she asked my father to pull the car over onto the hard shoulder so she could pick a few that were growing along the side of the road.  Remember that, Mom?

Don't let her purple face fool you - she's pretty much anti-fruit these days (except, of course, for the precious and delicious bananas that she can't have due to their, uh, binding nature...).  She was pretending to eat the berries for my benefit, succeeding only in covering herself in the sticky, staining juice.

Crouching on the "bridge" over the creek to rinse her hands and face. 

Success!  I was so proud - she did a great job with absolutely no help from me (who was too busy taking pictures), and without the benefit of a mirror.

Now that's what I call breakfast! (Yes, I took my cereal outside to photograph it - wanna make something of it?)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Of Rashes and Lollipops

The fashion accessories Samantha is sporting on her shoulders in the photo above are none other than band aids.  And band aids from the doctor, no matter how cute they are, adorned with Tweety Bird and Daffy Duck, are still a source of tears as she recalls the reason for those band aids and how much those darned things hurt being ripped off your skin.  Thankfully, three of the four fell off on their own, and Daddy distracted her enough to pull the fourth off sans drama.

However, the reason for those band aids was a series of injections.  On Friday, Daddy took her for her 5-year check-up before school starts, and while 3 shots were supposed to be the norm, a 4th booster that had been unavailable at the previous year's appointment was added.  And they were all shots for the icky, rashy childhood illnesses, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Chicken Pox.  Yum.  All things I managed to escape with a natural or acquired immunity growing up, but watched my mother suffer through at 30.  Samantha weathered the shots well with just a few tears, and went back to her summer camp class right afterwords with no adverse effects.

Until morning.  She woke up on Saturday with a nice, red, raised rash around her feet and ankles, hands and wrists, elbows, and knees, with a little pinprick rash all over her body.  Now even if you're a medical professional that I have called on Saturday morning to get advice about what's going on, don't tell me that it doesn't sound related to the vaccines.  Seriously?  Now that would be highly coincidental not to be.  Ridiculous.  Just because her reaction came immediately afterwards instead of days/weeks later, and was more localized to particular parts of her body instead of uniformly all-over, I should take her to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room (peds office was too fully-booked on Sat. to even have us come by to just take a look at the rash??) to see if it's something else?  I was never worried.  There was no swelling other than the raised rash, and she wasn't itching or in any apparent discomfort.  I let it go, and by Sunday the rash was pretty much gone.

I'm not one to ignore something that could be a serious concern, especially when it comes to Samantha, but really?  In this case why couldn't anyone just say, oh, it sounds like it's from the vaccine?  Not a coincidence, not contagious, not a problem.  Rant over.

So I got my healthy, rashy, Benadryl-sotted child dressed and did what any concerned mom would do - took her to her school's little fun-fair, where they had a moon bounce, music and games for the kids while they drummed up some new enrollments for fall.  Samantha loved the bounce, as always, but was otherwise less-than-social.  The meds, while they did absolutely nothing for her rash, did make her sleepy and a bit cranky.  We went back home and she slept for two hours before an afternoon playdate that this unconcerned mom didn't feel necessary to cancel.

Down Syndrome Squirrel

You've Got The Wrong Blog!!!

On Saturday I got 28 hits on my blog from people all over the world googling "Down syndrome squirrel."  Weird, huh?  Granted, they found my post from last autumn about the squirrel that chewed the stuffing out of my patio chairs to line his nest...  Whatever this search is for, it's obviously a viral internet sensation.  And while I was too chicken to actually google it myself and see what kind of offensive item this was (sometimes ignorance is bliss, right?), I was told that a) squirrels can, indeed have Down syndrome (huh?) and b) there was a video on the net about someone who had a pet squirrel they loved that had Down syndrome or something.  I don't know.  Any of you other bloggers get these hits this weekend?  Any of you hear about this story/video/whatever?

Still too chicken to check it out myself, so I'm relying on you news hounds out there to break it to me gently...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hello, New Person!

Kids can be so literal sometimes, making a very simple and purposeful statement into a source of humor for those of us who more fully comprehend the original idea that led to the statement.

I don’t mean to laugh at Samantha, but she eventually realizes what she’s saying and uses the humorous version specifically to be humorous.  That girl has quite a sense of humor...

Then sometimes it gets old.

For those of you who may have caught it on my FB wall last week, we lost another in-home aide for Samantha. M. had been with us for a few months, and left because her boss at the agency wasn’t giving her enough hours (nothing to do with us). It was no great loss, other than an inconvenience while we wait for a new aide.  Samantha walked all over her, didn’t seem all that invested in her, and she didn’t speak a word of English anyway.

This week we have a new aide, filling in for 2 weeks until we leave for vacation. Then yet another new aide will start then. Which kind of sucks, since that means Steve has to be there with her for several days, showing her the ropes and making sure we’re comfortable leaving her and Sammi alone, then we’ll have to do it all over again in a few weeks. And we kind of like this one, too. I. is from Russia, and her English isn’t too bad. The biggest bonus is that she can read to Sammi. I won’t say anything about her inability to back her car out of our parking space, but that’s another story for another time…

Before I. started, and before we knew her name, we told Samantha that a new person would be coming. A new person, not M., would be playing with her.

So, New Person it was.

Sammi’s innocent, literal mind told her that the new person, while introduced to her by name, should from that point forward, be called, New Person. Besides, it was a whole lot easier to say that than I.’s real name, so why not? Samantha knows that I.’s name isn’t really New Person, and she does make an attempt to say her name correctly. But Wednesday, with a sly look on her face, Samantha said, on our way out the door to ride her bike, “Come on, New Person, hurry up!” Embarrassed, I quickly apologized to I., who laughed and waved it away.

She still calls her that.  I think she just finds it convenient now.  This morning she asked if New Person would come and play with her today after school.  I told her, no, I. would not be coming today and she'd see her on Monday.  She smiled, knowingly.

Some other fun things she's been doing to let loose her budding sense of humor, so typically child-like, are to ask, "Are we there yet?" (on relentless repeat at each of my responses, punctuated by giggles at my expense) or, "Why?" (on relentless repeat at each of my responses, punctuated by giggles at my expense). 

The kid's 5.  It's what's expected.  And I get nervous giddy thinking about what these emerging comedic skills will blossom into.  Bring it on, girlie!! 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

...and away we go...

What good is a brand new bike, given to you by your grandparents for your birthday, when the weather continually sucks so bad?  

I don't like to take Samantha out in super-humid, hot temperatures.  Actually, I don't like to take me out in those temperatures, either, but I have less of a choice in the matter.  Finally, we have some beautiful, low-humidity days upon us, and I remember thinking last year that August, while it sounds daunting, is actually so much better than July.  No wonder my memories of the first day of school were always of crisp, cool(er) days, just perfect for modeling the new back-to-school clothes your grandmother had taken you shopping to Rovner's (anyone remember that one?) for.  August marks the winding down of summer, the last gasp, the final carefree moments.  Oh, I'm talking about kids, by the way.  I think summer is pretty much the same as any other season for us working parents outside of the occasional vacation to the beach.

So.  I took Sammi out yesterday afternoon to have a ride.  I know she can pedal a bike - she had been riding a tricycle from time to time, both at home and at school.  But she was bored and frustrated with it, and she had outgrown it, both in size and in skill level.  This is a big girl bike.  I think I was more excited than she was when it was given to her.  

And she blew my mind.  Funny how just a few months ago the attention she paid to the bike was minimal.  Short and sweet, a few feet advanced, then a request to remove the helmet and go back inside.  And now, suddenly, she was pedaling up and down the block, looking up and steering when reminded to do so.  And she picked up a decent amount of speed there, too!  

Now I just have to teach her how to stop...

I just realized that you can't see the training wheels in any of these pics.  Yes, of course, she is riding with those!  And yes, that is a Barbie helmet you see there.  I have decided, with age and wisdom, that Barbie really isn't so bad.

She let out a massive yawn just after this photo was taken.  Bedtime fast approaching, smiles not very forthcoming...

A most regal passenger.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Q&A (sort of...)

(Still photo-less.  5 minutes before I had to run to get ready for work this morning, I scrambled to try to find a photo I could post, just because, but I still got nothin'.  hehehe)

Q.  What do you get when you cross a sweet, beautiful, 5 year old girl with a previously-thought-to-be-empty bladder, a full night's sleep and 2 feet of braided hair?

A.  An emergency morning head-to-toe bath before school.  

Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep...

To her credit, however, for the next two mornings, when she woke up dry, she was more than excited to tell me, "I'm dry, Mommy!  Look!  My sheets is dry!"

Oh, how I love that girl.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nothing, Yet Still Something

I feel a little odd not having posted yesterday. I think that if I look back at my history over the past year, I’ll find that I blogged at least something every single Monday. And probably every single Tuesday, too. Actually, I’ve been on quite a roll this year! I vowed to make a real concerted effort to keep my blog going on a regular basis about a year and a half ago as a New Year’s resolution, and have stuck to my guns pretty well.

And I can only hope that yesterday doesn’t mark my descent into slackerdom. Can you believe I’m already beginning to obsess about writing 31 for 21 in October? Maybe I can’t do it. Maybe I won’t do it, so “can’t” won’t have to be a part of my vocabulary… Maybe I’ll pull up my big girl panties and stop whining and obsessing about it and making excuses now, nearly 2 months in advance, and start to stockpile some blog posts I can use in a pinch when my slacker alter-ego rears her ugly head (hey, who you callin' ugly?).

Of course, this post is still essentially about nothing. And that’s okay. Seinfeld pitched an entire 9-year series of episodes about pretty much nothing, and even called itself “a show about nothing.” There’s something to be said for that. Like good comedy writers, I think.

So this past weekend, while full and varied in its activities (and sadly, notably absent of a trip to San Antonio for the NDSC conference), has no photos to show for it. Yep, I took a mini-vacation from my camera and decided that rather than worry about how I’m going to juggle expensive-piece-of-photographic-equipment, small child and large bag (trust me, I’m not very coordinated – just ask my husband), I’d enjoy the freedom of movement and only think about trying not to conk the small child in the head with the large bag while walking hand in hand with her. No wonder she sometimes stops in her tracks and says, “Other hand, Mommy.” Yep, she’s smart, that one (unlike her mother who hasn’t yet gotten the hint…).

We attended the DSANV summer picnic/pool party on Saturday, and, for the second year in a row, I did not bring our bathing suits. I just assumed the weather wouldn’t be conducive to playing in the water. No, that’s a lie. I just chose not to bring them. I always balk at the high-maintenance quick-changes that are required to get into the suits and get to the water, then to get out of the wet suits and changed back and presentable again.  Besides, I had just washed her hair that morning and didn't want to have to go through that again any time soon. Sigh. I opted for the easy (and less satisfactory to the child) way out, and told her we could just dangle our feet in the deliciously warm, oh-so-tempting pool while watching so many of our friends frolic and enjoy themselves in the water. After sitting in a puddle, thus soaking my entire backside, and after struggling to keep Samantha next to me instead of hurling herself into the aqua blue liquid temptation, I wrestled her away and back to the picnic area where I bribed her with treated her to ice cream.  And some chips.  And some grapes.  And a hot dog.  Never any worries about her starving at a cook-out.  We saw some old friends, met some new families, and Sammi got to play with her bff.

On the way home, my butt still wet from the pool-puddle, we stopped at our local Borders.  I swear, I nearly cried.  How seriously depressing it was, to see that place so decimated.  For those of you that don't know, a few months back, Borders announced that they were closing a large number of their stores and were sparing only a select few.  Ours was one of the lucky ones to miss the hatchet.  Until last week, when they announced that they were closing all stores and just plain old going out of business.  Borders' children's section has been a source of bad-weather solace on the weekends for a while now, with an exciting visit to the adjoining coffee shop for chocolate milk and a read of our new treasures.  Samantha loves it.  But now with winter coming again (ohhh, did I really just say that???  How strange...), we'll have to find an alternative.

Sunday I wanted to get us out of the house.  Going outside would require lessons in a mermaid's ability to breathe under water, which we just don't have time to find just now.  So the next best alternative was the perfectly air-conditioned mall, germs-be-damned.  Pizza for lunch, a couple of rides on the carousel (woo hoo!  Samantha is no longer afraid to go on the horses!  "Mommy, I like the horse!  Look, no crying!" as she held on like a pro, laughing and waving to Daddy waiting outside the gate), and a nice, healthy (not including the proliferation of germs) run around the kid's play area.  It's so nice now to see her strong and confident in there now, able to hold her own against the bigger, faster kids, and be sweet and gentle with the little ones.  I know she'll be too big and too old for it soon, though.  *sniff*  But at least I found this winter's new hideout!

After the mall, it was time for a nap.  I promised her that when she woke up we'd get to play in the kiddie pool outside in the back yard.  Needless to say, she fell asleep almost instantlyAnd woke a few hours later to a thunderstorm.  Bummer.  I gave it a little bit of time, wishing away the clouds, and cheered when the sun peeked back through.  And off to the kiddie pool we went.

And that concludes the run-on weekend run-down of nothing.  Heck, if we can have another weekend of nothing like that again this coming weekend, I'll be pretty darn happy!  But next time I'll be sure to bring my camera...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cowtown and the Creepiest. Doll. Ever.

Peek-a-boo, where are you?  Where are you hiding?  I'll find you...  Peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo,

When I was a child, my grandparents took me to the Cowtown Rodeo on a few occasions.  It was a magical, mythical place that catered to every child's deepest desires, from funnel cakes to cowboy hats, dolls and dress-up clothes.  My eyes would go wide with excitement as I spotted the giant cowboy standing watch over the property from the side of the road like a sentinel.  (Think Toy Story's Woody on steroids.)  It was so very, very far away, and on those evenings that I was treated to the joys of Cowtown, I would invariably fall asleep in the car on the oh-so-long ride home.  In actuality, it was only about an hour away, and was a giant flea market - a mecca of kitsch.  But that's what childhood fantasies are made of right?  My most prized Cowtown find was a suede cowboy hat with silver rivets, but I'm sure I came home with plenty of other treasures - crap to my parents, I'm sure.  And while all the years have made my memory a bit fuzzy and I can't be positive, I don't think I ever actually saw the rodeo itself, the event that Cowtown is so famous for.  

Not Woody, not my photo...
  I have driven past Cowtown many times since then, but have never stopped to take a look.  From the outside it doesn't seem like much has changed, and I usually went by on days when it was closed.  Saturday, as Samantha and I drove to my father's house, I decided to make a pitstop.  Just because.  She was in a happy mood, and I had some time to spare.

The place is huge.  It just so happened that we found a parking spot right away, right next to a stall selling dolls.  And not just any dolls...dolls that talk and sing and look like her (okay, other than the freaky, vacant, brown eyes).  Instantly suckered  drawn in, Samantha wouldn't let go of one particularly sweet one (I liked another one, but it spoke Spanish, so I put her back - can I just say how suspicious I always am of the voiceboxes of cheap, foreign, mass-produced dolls?).  Cute clothes, double-braids and pink, pink, pink, and that. was. that.  $15 (and a new pair of sunglasses from another stall) later, and baby was ours (after listening very carefully to everything she had to say...).  And can I tell you how eternally grateful I am that the freaking thing has an off-switch?  Seriously.  Whoa.  On the rest of the ride to the farm all I heard was her sing-song-y voice chanting, "Peek-a-boo, I love you, I can't see you, where are you?  Peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo,  I see you, do you see me?"  Okay, so the voice sounds innocent enough, but aren't the words reminiscent of a million different horror movies?  Peek-a-boo, I love you, where are you hiding, I'll find you!  (Omg, I'm in the freaking closet holding a knife, you crazy beeeyotch psycho-doll!)  And trust me, that's exactly where I will be if I so much as hear a peep out of that thing one night when I know full-well I've left the switch in the off position. 

Baby's clothes were off by the time we got to my dad's.  Me:  "Sammi, what are you doing?"  Sammi:  "Taking a clothes off!"  Me:  "Why?"  Sammi:  "'s too hot!"  So it was, considering the poor thing was wearing a knit cap, a puffy vest, a turtleneck and boots.  What am I gonna say to that?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Connections: Part II

You may remember the two posts I wrote a few weeks ago when we were up in New Jersey for my class reunion.  The first one was about the farm where we picked blueberries one morning, and the other was about Connections.  If you didn't read them, please take a quick peek, especially at the one about Connections.  I wrote to the owner of the farm last week before we drove up to Jersey for the weekend, and sent her the links to those two posts.  I received the following e-mail from her the next day, which made me catch my breath and brought tears to my eyes.  It left me speechless, made me worry about how I could possibly respond to her, other than to say that it's her that's the inspiration to so many.  I hope her story is heard loud and clear by others both within and outside of the ID community, and that her wonderful program continues to thrive and grow.  Sadly, we were unable to find time to visit her farm again on this visit, but I will certainly make another effort the next time we're up that way.  (By the way, I did receive her permission to re-print her e-mail.)

Just read your blogs with tears in my eyes. Before becoming a wife and mother of five very special children, and before becoming a nurse I taught special ed and worked in a residential facility run by Italian nuns, long before state involvement. These children were so happy and so loved, they worked on the farm, in the kitchen, in the laundry, older children learned to care for younger children. It was special, so that connection was always there for me.

"Our" program runs year round. I say "our"; I provide the farm and sometimes my kids are among the workers. C.D. actually runs the program which we hope will grow and inspire many and branch out to other areas in the community so our "kids" can be connected. My kids range from 17-23 but they will always be "MY KIDS".

Thank you for everything. You are an inspiration.



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Angel of the Morning

I have so many pics from the weekend, as brief as it was.  We were up bright and early, down on the farm.  There are few things (besides the beach, of course) that I love more for peace, quiet and an atmosphere of pure natural beauty, than being outside in the morning at my father's farm, sharing the fresh, not-yet-humid air with grazing deer and wild turkeys.  Samantha loves it, too, and there are few things more beautiful than the sunshine lighting up her face, reflecting in her eyes, elevating mere strands of hair to the finest, most precious golden threads.

Although vanity often gets the better of me, those early times with my Princess, even before the tidy enhancements of braids and makeup (but not before the all-important cup of coffee that I was dragging along with me), are worth it even in the harsh, interrogating lens of a camera.  She is always perfect.

Here I am, once again, braving the camera.  And braving it with unwashed, slept-in beach hair and no makeup is a seriously bold feat for me.  What was I thinking?  (Just a side note...beach hair is awesome and you can even buy products that make your hair look like you just got off the beach, but it is *only* awesome before it gets slept on overnight...)