Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Was Gonna Be Wordless Wednesday: Who's Excited for Christmas?!?

(Btw, one of the winners of the 25 free Shutterfly holiday cards from my giveaway a few weeks ago never got in touch with me, nor did I have contact information for them, so I still have a code to give away.  If one of you out there hasn't gotten your cards yet and would like the last code, I'll give it to the person who, in their funniest, most pathetic best sob story "voice," can tell me why I should give it to them.  The code is good until December 31st, so even if you're the worst procrastinator, you can just breeze straight through Christmas and get Happy New Year cards instead!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Playing (Reindeer) Games

May I just say, for the moment, how appalled yet secretly pleased I am that Christmas has come upon us again so doggone quickly??  Wasn't it just so recently that we were packing up the tree and telling Samantha that Santa would come to visit again in 12 more months, worrying about how she'd handle such a long break away from the sparkling bulbs, twinkling lights and front-yard glitz (read:  tackiness) of the holidays?  Those are among the long list of things that makes this time of year so special, the things that bring the glow of excitement to the faces of children, the bubbling warmth in the hearts of parents who see it.

While many (primarily in the retail industry) argue that Christmas is perfectly justified in beginning before Halloween costumes have even been folded up and packed away, before the orange pumpkin buckets have even been emptied (this does not, however, include the poor retail associates and managers who are stuck listening to endless loops of holiday tunes, day in and day out - I know this from nearly 20 years of experience...), we follow English (or at least Steve's) tradition of putting our tree up on December 1st (when the Advent calendar begins), removing it by the 5th (or is it 6th?) of January, the 12th day of Christmas.  Traditional American views put the official start at the day after Thanksgiving, which is absolutely fine by me, as by that time I have personally (mostly) reconciled the rapid passage of time and the full year older that I have become and am ready for it all to begin again.

Friday I ventured out, intrepid (and childless - what, d'ya think I'm completely nuts?), into the wilds of the local mall.  Actually, it wasn't all that bad, and I was in and out in about an hour after hitting the 3 stores I wanted to visit.  I won't talk about how dreadful Bath & Body Works was, packed all the way from floor to ceiling with merchandise, the spaces in between filled in by the hundred or so people crammed into the tiny store.  And yes, I actually stood in one of the 5 lines to make a purchase, and no, it wasn't even for a Christmas present - I just needed to get one of those thingy-ma-bobs that you plug in that make a room smell good so the stench that normally comes from the basement bathroom where the cat litter boxes live wouldn't waft up the stairs and into the living room anymore.  Ugh.  (But for those of you who are curious - it seems to be working so far!!  Worth the wait!)  Oh yeah, and while I was in there, some crazy chick with a long, double stroller, a toddler and a newborn baby came in.  WTH?  When Sammi was a baby and in a stroller, there was no way in H-E-Double-Toothpicks I'd even attempt that.  And of course, one of the kids had a major meltdown while they were in there.  Lovely.

Soooo, back to the title of this post...  We're having a slightly difficult time trying to figure out what we can get Samantha for Christmas.  I mean, she has a lot of stuff, but I'm not convinced that it's all age-appropriate and stimulating.  I want things that will help her learn while still being fun.  If you ask the Princess what she wants Santa to bring her at Christmas, she states, simply, "books."  Works for me!  If you press her further, asking what kind of books, she'll reply, "Biscuit books."  Just goes to show her ever-increasing love of reading.  One other thing we're contemplating is a cash register.  She loves pretending to run a store or a restaurant, right down to fleecing me, highway-robbery style, on simple purchases ($10.00 for a banana, anyone?).  But currently our money is imaginary, and as math concepts are soon to be introduced at school, we'd love for her to be prepared. 

However, I'd like her to have some games.  She has Candyland and has played Chutes and Ladders, but can someone please tell me what the heck they were thinking, having such long, drawn-out games with so few rewards for young children with notoriously short attention spans?  She's pretty bored with them.  Come to think of it, so am I.  So on goes our quest for bigger and badder, age-appropriate, entertaining games. 

Suggestions, anyone?

In the meantime, let the decorating and front yard transformation commence.  I'm leaving that department to Steve, who is raring to go, dusting off the old and bringing in the new, ready to create a child's Christmas paradise in lights (and other stuff).  Mind you, our front yard is about the size of a postage stamp, but he's sure to make some pretty fun, lasting memories to reach the eyes of our 3 1/2' tall munchkin, who is ready and waiting to be dazzled.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Alarming Statistic

Tammy, at Praying for Parker, posted some very startling and unsettling statistics on her blog last week.  I've heard similar stats before, but have probably been in denial ever since. 

But denial won't make the problem disappear.

((deep breath))  Okay, here goes:  estimates show that  90% of females and 50% of males with intellectual disabilities will be sexually abused


Now, if I can get my heart to stop pounding and my brain to stop spinning long enough to continue, I'll give you some excellent ways to build awareness and help prevent this awful, awful thing from happening to your child. 

Tammy found the following list posted in a group she's a part of.  I don't know who the author is, but I send them a heartfelt thank you for posting this.  It's difficult to read, but so, so necessary.  Please take the time to educate your spouses and your children about this, and don't let your child become a statistic.

1. Start early. Introduce correct terms for body parts. This way a they can report clearly if someone engages in sexual misbehavior.

2. Introduce body privacy. NO ONE is allowed to tickle or play around with the private parts of your body. To counter any attempts at or*l s*x include the mouth as a private body part. NO ONE is allowed to put anything part of their body into your mouth.

3. Make it clear that if someone breaks the rules about body privacy, YOU (the parent) need to know about it.

4. Teach your child to stand back and hold out their arms and say – in a BIG LOUD – voice and say, “NO! STOP THAT!” “IT’S NOT ALLOWED!” Practice saying NO! assertively.

5. Practice distinguishing secrets to keep and secrets that must be told. Children and adults with intellectual disabilities often think they can tell good secrets but have to keep bad secrets cause telling a bad secret might make someone feel bad.

6. As sex abuse is about power, work to empower your child with independence in dressing and toileting.

7. Develop and practice problem solving skills. Role play different situations and how your child should react in them.

8. Bear in mind that if your child lacks physical affection, approval and attention, they become more vulnerable to predators.

9. Develop social skills. Personal space. Eye to eye contact. Make sure your child knows their phone number and address.

10. Often children with special have already developed a passivity to adults, especially to caregivers and other professionals. Teach your child it is okay to stand up for themselves.

11. With non-verbal children consult a speech therapist for communication symbols for sexuality.

Samantha is a very affectionate child, which is a really wonderful thing.  BUT...while she has gotten better about it, she does still like to hug random people.  It's so hard, as a parent, to know how to teach your child to distinguish between the people it's okay to hug, and the ones it isn't okay to hug.  Or to tell I love you.  We really have to work more on teaching her boundaries.  And, piggybacking on yesterday's post, teaching her Stranger Danger and how to fear and stand up for herself in certain situations.

Please re-post this, and share it with your special needs community.  Armed with this information we can help to reduce the number of incidents, and protect our kids.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting Until Monday

I know in yesterday's post I referenced a new post, a super-important post, that I was going to put up today.  However, given the impending holiday and the black hole in the blogosphere this week (whew, it's been quiet!!!), I think it would be best to wait until Monday. 

It's that important

And I don't want anyone to miss it. 

In the meantime, I hope all of my American readers have a wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving, full of friends, family, turkey and cranberry sauce! 

And a big bottle of TUMS, of course. 

Oh yeah, and headache meds to stave off the inevitable.

And a pair of pants a size bigger than you usually wear.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you get the picture.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I've often wondered if Samantha understands fear.  She certainly understands many other emotions, but how do you actually teach the concept of being scared?  Not like I want to teach her that, or to make her feel that, but it's actually an important part of self-preservation, something I know will be a challenge to get across and teach her.  For most of us, it's innate.  It's that intrinsic part of us, sheltered deep down inside, that we avoid at all costs, unless it's absolutely necessary.  We can acknowledge that it exists, but part of us just takes over, subconsciously, triggering the fight-or-flight reflex when we're placed in danger.

In recent months, Samantha has been showing more and more that she understands some of the basic situations in which children can feel fear.  Although she's faking when she says it, she'll sometimes say, at bedtime, I'm scared of the dark.  Now, having been her mother for 5 1/2 years, I know full-well that she is not scared of the dark.  She's never asked for a night light, nor has she ever had even the tiniest resistance to making herself quite comfortable and falling into a deep sleep almost within the minute her head hits the pillow (like mother like daughter...).  I know she's only saying it because she hears it on television or books or from other children.  And it doesn't bother me, and we'll both have a laugh about it when I call her bluff.  She also will show reticence, and perhaps fear, when climbing at the playground.  She'll begin to make her way up a climber, then stop, whine, and say she can't do it, it's too high.  She's definitely uncomfortable with the situation, although I'm not quite sure it's fear.

But she did something on Saturday that startled even me.  After a fairly busy morning, she and I headed across the schoolyard and into the next neighborhood to a small, local playground.  It was 3:30, and the sun was no longer shining high in the sky.  The closer we got to the playground, the less visible the sun became, falling behind the rows of townhouses around us.  It was chillier without the warm rays, but Samantha was perfectly happy to have me push her higher and higher on the swings, laughing the whole time.  Looking at my watch, I deduced that we wouldn't be able to stay too long before it got got dark, and I told her as much. 

Big mistake?  Not sure...

At that declaration, she suddenly looked up at the sky, a worried expression on her face. 

"I want to go home now."

And she wasn't just saying that.  She was adamant

I stopped the swing and got down close to her, asking her why she wanted to leave so suddenly, and that's when she said it.

"I'm scared."

Scared of what, baby?

"Scared a dark."

I hugged her, explaining that there was nothing to be scared of, and that we still had time before it got dark, but she grabbed my hand, pulling me out of the playground, back towards the safety and familiarity of home.

I felt really, really bad about it.  But that was something I was certainly not expecting.

I think I should actually be pretty happy about it, as it shows that she is thinking about consequence, such as having to walk home in the dark, but guilt for making her feel any kind of fear hit me pretty hard. 

How have your children expressed fear or self-preservation, and in what kinds of situations?  What kinds of concerns do you have about this topic? 

Tomorrow's post addresses one of the most real and frightening kinds of fears that we need to educate our children and ourselves to be aware of and to fight against.  I hate to have to post it, but it's too important not to. 

(And now for a quick old pic, perhaps showing overtiredness, perhaps showing fear?  From her 2nd Christmas, at a year and a half old)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Perfect Fall Day

Fall days don't really get too much more beautiful than this.  A few clouds, a lot of leaves in desperate need of collection, a lovely little princess in desperate need of a nap, and a closing-up-shop sale at Pumpkin Patch in the mall...

Nap issue aside, and still not convinced that I have the right photos yet for our Christmas cards this year, I strong-armed the little princess into some new clothes and boots, loosened her frizzy, slept-on braids to let her hair fall free, and tried to use my magic mommy powers to brainwash her into thinking that going outside to play in the leaves while Daddy was blowing them into big piles was a good idea.

And really, it was a good idea (even if I am omitting the photos where she's crying...).

I'm well aware of the fact that young children occasionally need naps.  Especially when they wake up before the crack of dawn, and even more especially when they have the oh-so-joyful addition of a head cold.  And when you tell a young child that they're going to get a nap, the telltale sign of just how much they need one is by the vast volume of tears they shed upon hearing that suddenly-shocking statement of fact.  

So!  Back to the beautiful fall day...  We really did have a good time, and even though she rarely looked at me when I had the camera up (think she's trying to tell me something?  Yes, yes, yes she did say, "No camera!", but does "no means no" actually apply in this situation?  Am I scarring my child for life?), I think I got some Christmas-card worthy shots from the 170-something images in the group.   

For those of you who wanted an after shot of the tresses minus 3"...  I'm really not sure if it's particularly even, but I must say, those clean ends really do look nice!

I'm not sure how I feel about this photo.  I think I like it, but she just looks kind of vapid and startled.  I like the composition more than anything else, and the fact that you can actually see her eyes (oh, hooray!).

Hide and seek.  Oh, how I love stripey tights!!  Anyone know why cute, multi-color, stripey tights are next-to-impossible to find without spending a small fortune, or jumping on a plane to some random Western-European country (any one!  you pick!)?  Sometimes I think that here in America, we just don't get childhood like they do in Holland or Germany or Italy.  We try to dress our kids up like little grown-ups (not slamming Janie and Jack or anything ((okay, I am)), but you get my drift...), completely missing the point of kids being kids.  I recently found this blog, and while I can't read a word of it (my sincere apologies to the year I spent in Germany and to my high school German teacher, Mr. Freimanis), it's a veritable feast for the eyes, summing up exactly what my (unfortunately cash-poor, empty-pocketed) vision is for children's clothes. If you visit my Pinterest page, you'll find a board of just such amazing items.  Okay, gotta get off my Oilily soap box now.

My absolute favorite from the session, and a shoe-in for the card if I decide to use these pics.  Woohoo!  I can see her eyes!!

My sensitive girl actually got upset when Daddy said he was going to put all of the leaves in bags.  Until, that is, he asked her to help.  He's really so much better at re-direction than I am.  I don't think I'm quite patient enough to re-direct and see it through to fruition.  It's not always a magical, on-the-spot process, and sometimes takes a few approaches before she warms up and comes around.  In this case, the process was quick, and she actually helped a lot.  She and I bagged for about 15 minutes before she'd had enough and started heading for the door.

Stay tuned for some possible card options.  I may be polling the audience...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Objective Reporting

Jenny, over at Our Little Chili Tribe, posted yesterday about her son's Developmental Assessment, and it reminded me of just how awful they can be.  We, as parents, know what our children are capable of, and we, as parents always need to know in what areas improvement is needed and what we can do about it.  That would be productive.  But those assessments can be really deflating, leaving you to wonder, "Why was that necessary?"  I think the biggest negative of those assessments is when, after reading all of the things your child can and cannot do in the testing environment, you are left with an age.  Not your child's current age, but the age at which they perform in each area.  Talk about deflating!  Really, there's nothing better than hearing that your child speaks/moves/handles utinsils like a child two to three years younger than their current chronological age.  Right?  I challenge you - give me one parent who smiles and says, "Okay!" and you'll seriously be able to knock me over with a feather.  Or I'll eat my hat.  Or I'll believe pigs can fly.  Or one of those other silly little idioms we use to make a point. 

I'm all for objective assessments, for learning what needs work, for collaborating with therapists to determine what tools are needed to stimulate growth and improvement, but I still have yet to understand why we really need to hear age.  There's got to be a better way.  Coming up with ideas and solutions is productive.  Making the parent feel defensive and angry, sad and helpless, is counter-productive.

Now that Samantha is in Kindergarten, I'm not so sure yet if those developmental assessments are a thing of the past or not.  I suspect that while the school-based services will not score her in that fashion in any areas, it is possible that her private ST and PT still may.  Now that Samantha is in Kindergarten, academics are on the table.  Academics, which are not a part of the IEP process, or at least not yet. 

I expect that as a fully-included member of her Kindergarten class, Samantha will be graded and scored objectively, along with her classmates.  Currently, the only modification or accomodation I am aware of being in place is the 1:1 aide, an amazing resource teacher who is so helpful to ensure that Samantha is able to keep up and stay on task with the instruction being given and to participate as a part of the group, something she sometimes has difficulty doing.  Currently, Samantha is tested alongside her peers, observed objectively.  I don't expect her to be babied.  

Yesterday we received her very first report card. 

And it was good!  The areas that are graded are both academic and social, scoring the children on their ability to either exceed the expectation, show sufficient progress, be developing emerging skills, or need improvement (those aren't the exact terms used in the scoring, as they varied from section to section, but you get the idea).  I am excited to see how those skills progress from marking period to marking period!  I really don't envy the teachers having to churn these out for so many students every few months - what a BIG job that must be!  But I am so grateful for it. 

The snapshot of Samantha's report card above shows the areas of Reading and Writing.  The black dots show areas that have not yet been worked on in the class, but will probably show up next marking period.  The "E's" are for Exceeds Expectation.  Ahhh, how wonderful that was to see!  And the most exciting part of that is that Samantha also does most of the items that they have not yet covered, as well.  If she's been working on them now, already, think how extra-ready she'll be for them next time!  Mommy and Daddy are so super-proud! 

The other areas on the report card covered more conceptual academic skills and social skills, all items she met expectations for or showed sufficient progress on.  There was one little itty bitty teensy tiny Needs Improvement, however, and one that doesn't altogether surprise me...Exhibits Self-Control.  Ha!  I'm reasonably certain that I scored rather low in that area as a child as well...

Back to my point about objectivity...I thanked the teacher today for her objectivity in grading Samantha's report card.  Really, as an educator, what else could she do?  My expectation is objectivity.  No free ride.  No coddling.  I think that's what we're getting.  Samantha will learn to hold her own, to think and react on her own.  This is the biggest life skill, one that will stay with her forever

And this is where it starts. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christmas Card Photos...Oy...

(Re-posting this, as Blogger got all weird on me today...)

On Thursday the school announced that it was make-up picture day. I guess I kind of knew that and had let the day sneak up on us because I knew it would be pretty futile to convince Samantha to have her picture taken by a stranger. The first go-round did not go well, and no photo was taken, even with Daddy's reassuring presence there. I mean, unless the photographer (who looked like she was about 16 and bored out of her skull) planned on spending about 15 minutes with Samantha to get to know her and warm her up, there is no way on this earth that Sammi would sit happily with no tears, let alone smile. She barely smiles for me, when I've got my camera stuck in her face, and getting her to even look at the camera is a real challenge. Ugh, when did that happen? And I've heard that this is pretty common for people with Down syndrome, I think, but I truly do not understand it. Any thoughts?

Sooooo...last weekend I got Sammi dressed and took her for a walk along the lake by our house to get some sweet fall pics to use for our holiday/Christmas/whatever cards this year. I've got my free card code from Shutterfly in my hot little hands, and am chomping at the bit to create and order them. Out of the 250 or so photos I took on our walk, there were 2 or 3 shots where she was smiling and looking at the camera. My math skills suck, but even I know that that ratio is not very good... And, of course, the very best shot, the one I had been waiting all morning for that I took right before we came back into the house (literally, it was the second-to-last shot), won't. work. Why? Because I cut most of her head off.


Now I am not in the least bit skittish about taking tight, tight headshots. When they're nice and tight like that, missing tops or sides of heads is actually okay! But when you want to keep the shot wide enough to show her cute outfit, you're kinda screwed.

I tried dropping it into some of the card templates on Shutterfly, and lo and behold, they looked totally weird. No surprise. It looks like she's ducking to be seen beneath a large overhang. I've also cropped the image into a tight headshot, and that actually worked a bit better. But, no outfit. Hmph. This past weekend, I tried again to get some decent shots, and again, got a small handful out of a rather large number taken, but I now have some options. I won't share them now, but as I get closer to making my decision, and once I can get Steve's opinion, I may publish a few... Not the etheral, angelic vision I'd had initially when I set out to stage the moment, but cute nonetheless.

Who'dathought getting just. the. right. Christmas. card. photo. would be such a production????

Today's Post About Christmas Card Photos...

...has been misplaced by Blogger.  So I'm a little bit confused as to why today's post has shown up in my blog feed below yesterday's post.  Any thoughts?  For those of you just bouncing onto my page who have already seen yesterday's post about Sammi's hair cut, please click here, or scroll down a little further to find today's real post about Christmas card photos...  Blah blah blah, Blogger...I still love and adore you, and can forgive this minor transgression.  Just don't do it again.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Biting the Bullet

I probably could have come up with some clever title referring to cutting or ties, (or both), or The First Cut is the Deepest, but really, the moment of steely willpower I had to muster, that gritting of the teeth and holding my breath and convincing myself that it was the best thing to do, biting that bullet and trying not to scream really summed it up so much more clearly and realistically for me. 

I did it.

For the first time in 17-days-shy-of-5 1/2-years, I did it.

I trimmed Samantha's hair.

It was never about the length.  I think it had more to do with the symbolic nature of the act, I guess I felt that it should be more ceremonial.  This was, after all, the hair that she was born with, that very hair that the doctor delivering her was so amazed by, the hair that never actually fell out, as it does in so many other babies.  Granted, the ends have been so ratty for so long, that most of what was in existence when Samantha came into this world has probably long-since broken off and disappeared into carpets and playgrounds across the region. 

I only took off about 3 inches.  As a matter of fact, you can't even tell, really, other than by looking at how smooth and shiny the new ends are.  She can actually still sit on it, which I don't necessarily think is a good thing...

Has this made me brave?  Nah, I don't think so.  But it has given me a wee bit of confidence, especially since I told her what I was going to do, and showed her afterwards, and she reacted with interest, not fear (as I, myself, had feared).  Has it made her brave?  Sheesh, I certainly hope not!  My biggest worry now is that she will think it's okay to try cutting her hair herself. 

Maybe it's time for a little talk...

And one day, when she's old enough to comprehend the act and make the decision herself, I'm hoping we'll cut with the intent of donating her golden tresses to Locks of Love, allowing her to give some of her beautiful hair to someone that needs it.

Christmas Card Photos...Oy...

On Thursday the school announced that it was make-up picture day.  I guess I kind of knew that and had let the day sneak up on us because I knew it would be pretty futile to convince Samantha to have her picture taken by a stranger.  The first go-round did not go well, and no photo was taken, even with Daddy's reassuring presence there.  I mean, unless the photographer (who looked like she was about 16 and bored out of her skull) planned on spending about 15 minutes with Samantha to get to know her and warm her up, there is no way on this earth that Sammi would sit happily with no tears, let alone smile.  She barely smiles for me, when I've got my camera stuck in her face, and getting her to even look at the camera is a real challenge.  Ugh, when did that happen?  And I've heard that this is pretty common for people with Down syndrome, I think, but I truly do not understand it.  Any thoughts?

Sooooo...last weekend I got Sammi dressed and took her for a walk along the lake by our house to get some sweet fall pics to use for our holiday/Christmas/whatever cards this year.  I've got my free card code from Shutterfly in my hot little hands, and am chomping at the bit to create and order them.  Out of the 250 or so photos I took on our walk, there were 2 or 3 shots where she was smiling and looking at the camera.  My math skills suck, but even I know that that ratio is not very good...  And, of course, the very best shot, the one I had been waiting all morning for that I took right before we came back into the house (literally, it was the second-to-last shot), won't. work.  Why?  Because I cut most of her head off. 


Now I am not in the least bit skittish about taking tight, tight headshots.  When they're nice and tight like that, missing tops or sides of heads is actually okay!  But when you want to keep the shot wide enough to show her cute outfit, you're kinda screwed. 

I tried dropping it into some of the card templates on Shutterfly, and lo and behold, they looked totally weird.  No surprise.  It looks like she's ducking to be seen beneath a large overhang.  I've also cropped the image into a tight headshot, and that actually worked a bit better.  But, no outfit.  Hmph.  This past weekend, I tried again to get some decent shots, and again, got a small handful out of a rather large number taken, but I now have some options.  I won't share them now, but as I get closer to making my decision, and once I can get Steve's opinion, I may publish a few...  Not the etheral, angelic vision I'd had initially when I set out to stage the moment, but cute nonetheless.

Who'dathought getting just. the. right. Christmas. card. photo. would be such a production????

(Btw...can someone please tell me why this post is appearing AFTER the post I published yesterday?  Makes no sense to me...)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Foto Flashback

Just a little fun for today.  Yep, it's 11/11/11.  I don't exactly know what that means, except that people all over the world with OCD (I'm convinced that superstition is bred from OCD, and so refuse to acknowledge the black cat crossing my path and the cracks I'm about to step on - okay, I admit to throwing the salt over my shoulder, though...) and who have rampant conspiracy theories are probably looking for somewhere to hide.  I don't know.  Who can keep all these Dates-of-Doom straight?  It's just another day.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll remember to look at my clock at 11:11 and think, Wow, that's kinda cool.

Here are a couple of old Sammi pics, when she was just shy of and just past a year old.  It's funny, I can barely see the resemblances sometimes between the pudgy baby of 4 1/2 years ago and the tall, mature 5-year old of today, but oh, that same old personality was shining through so brilliantly!  Gotta go get my shades... 

From March 2007.  Look at those cheeks!!

From July 2007

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Ticked-Off Father's Response to Joey Barton (or: QPR Premiere League Football "Captain" Goes Too Far)

My husband, Steve, called me at work yesterday to tell me about a bit of R-word controversy in the world of English Premiere League Football.  Two days ago, Joey Barton, the much-disliked, already-controversial captain of the team, Queens Park Rangers, tweeted, "Just LOL-ed at TOWIE retards picture, good banter from the producers there. Look at all the Lemmings, happily posing.........." in reference to a photo of a group of people from a D-lister reality program making mocking gestures towards him. 

First, let me just say, after checking out this guy's tweets in general, I can see he's a real jerk to begin with (I admit it, I originally said pig, but thought that might be offensive to pigs, and definitely did not think that pigs, in general, were jerks, and so I retract that comment lest I fall prey to doing the same thing others do so mindlessly and hurtfully - the very subject of this very post).  Every single thing that this guy writes is offensive, obnoxious and painful to read.  It's pretty obvious that this isn't the first time he's used the R-word, and probably not even the most offensive way in which he's used it (what are you willing to bet he's used it to directly refer to people with intellectual disabilities?).  It's also pretty obvious he's a miserable person, and probably extremely unhappy to boot.

Sometimes Steve and I can let crap like this roll off of us.


This guy's a public figure, one that people should be able to look up to, as the captain of his team.  He's got loads of followers, and things he says have a way of making their way to the newspaper.

As did this particular tweet. 

The English newspaper, The Sun, posted this article about the offense, stating that disability groups have made their displeasure known. 

Steve, additionally, has made his displeasure known by e-mailing the following response to the Club team, as well as to a few specific people within the team including their PR person and their Liason for Supporters with Disabilities (cool, huh?  Did you know that every Premiere League team has one of those?  I bet that phone is ringing off the hook right now...).

Yay, Steve!!

Good Morning,

Normally I would not give a second thought about the antics of Pro Footballers but what your "Club Captain", Joey Barton "Tweeted" recently is just too much. Mr Barton is Club Captain and with such a role, he should be more aware of what impact his comments have on the general public. His "Tweeted" comment of "Just LOL-ed at TOWIE retards picture." is disgusting and offensive to members of the public who live with various Intellectual Disabilities.

Mr Barton is in a position where he should be representing QPR as a "Family" Football club that values all of it's supporters. There is a move to drive out racism in football, well how about driving out all prejudice irrespective of race, creed, color, sexual orientation and yes.... DISABILITY.

I am the parent of a beautiful, smart, fun loving football fan who happens to have Down syndrome. She deserves to have respect and not have words slung around that can hurt and perpetuate discriminatory attitudes towards disabled people. I have no doubt Mr Barton was not refering to people with Down syndrome when referring to the people in the picture, but it is an insensitive and childish comment to make. He certainly has the right to voice his opinions but to do it with responsibility.

Football is a global sport and players have to understand that they are no longer private members of the public. They have an influence on millions of people. Along with big salaries come big responsibilities. I do hope Mr Barton makes a sincere apology and realises he has a forum to help not hurt people.


Steve Bates

Oh, and not an hour after he sent that e-mail he got a response thanking him for the message and stating that it would be sent down immediately to the training ground and to Mr. Barton directly.  A surprising response, and a good one.  Not sure what that means, or how they're presenting it, although I suspect they'll be rubbing his nose in it in some fashion.  We're not idiots, though, skipping through life thinking that when someone apologizes they mean it.  Joey Barton has this crap ingrained into his very being.  If he does come out with a statement of apology, we have no illusions about the nature of the apology and how it was probably garnered under duress.  But public is public, and we should be thankful for that (mind you, this apology has not yet come), and some people are just sick and miserable, and I guess I can maybe find some little fiber inside of me that actually feels sorry for him and his pathetic self. 

I'd love for sports clubs to have mandatory community service requirements for these kinds of things.  Being told they're wrong isn't enough to change some people's minds, but showing them the consequence, showing them the people they are hurting, showing them how others are more alike than different...that may be just the thing to help change minds.

Here's a random baby photo of Samantha.  I was always too scared to lie with her on the couch, afraid I'd fall asleep and she'd roll off, so these moments were reserved for daddy alone.  :-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Whimsy and We Have Winners!

Lisa L., Monica and Rob, step right up and retrieve your codes for 25 free holiday cards from Shutterfly!  Monica and Rob, I've already contacted you both and heard back from you, but Lisa, please e-mail me at and I'll send you the codes.  :-)  (Deanna, I'm sorry!!  I'd already picked the winners and sent out e-mails when I got your entries!)

Samantha always wants me to put "nakeup" on her.  After the gazillionth quick pat on the nose with my own nakeup sponge, I figured giving her her own (clean one) was the best solution (see below - works like a charm!).  Btw, notice the 3 clips in her hair (placed by Her Royal Highness herself)?  If I've never posted about how important routine is for our kids, remind me and I'll do it later.  Let's just say, for now, that 3 is the rule for her with those darn clips.  They're my clips, but I put them in her hair to keep it up for baths, etc., and if I dare to just put one or two in, I get a little tantrum on my hands until I'm in full compliance.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Yes, I've been a bit of a blog slacker the past few days.  After a whole month of posts, it felt like the right thing to do, sitting back a bit, avoiding the computer for a while.  But boy, did it feel weird.  I know I'm not the only one out there that's thinking that.  And yesterday at work I still kept an eye on my analytics in real time, watching each locale pop in and pop out, checking for updates (ahhh, don't think I don't know who you are!!!), and I also felt guilt.

So here I am, back in the middle of it, hopefully writing something relatively interesting, although I can't promise that.  I can only do what I always do, write as it all rolls out of my head and through my fingertips, winging it, hoping for the best and trying not to put you all to sleep.

Hey, you still with me?

So today's post is gonna be quick (how many times have you heard me say that before?).  It's to commemorate 20.


=175,200 hours.

=7300 days.

=20 years.

20 years of marriage to my wonderful husband, Steve, celebrated on Sunday!  Wow, such a long time!!!  We were seriously just kids, when you think about it.  We've grown so much together, been through so much, gone from the wild life of the London club scene to the responsible, domestic life of child, house and suburbs.  Steve recently found some old frinds from that wild life on Facebook, and they have tagged him in some old photos.  Photos that make some people, who didn't know us then, laugh, but photos that make me look back and say, "Wow, awesome!"  Amazing how that much time has passed and how we really don't feel like so much time has passed, until we look at the photos and see how truly young (and thin!) we both were.

So, how to celebrate 20?  We're not much for big to-do's.  We exchanged cards in the morning, then had a day of family time, just the 3 of us.  Took Samantha to see Puss In Boots (or, to her, Cat in the Boots the legendary pirate cat.  LOL).  Her anticipation certainly showed during each. and. every. interminable. preview.  After each one, she said, hopefully, and much to the entertainment of the people sitting behind us, "The cat now?"  She enjoyed the movie for the most part, getting a little bit antsy during some of the slightly long, drawn-out scenes and falling sound asleep in the last 5 minutes (what do you expect with daylight savings time rearing its ugly head and no nap?).  Later, Steve cooked a fantastic dinner, and exhaustion overcame us all early.

I love you, Steve, and look forward to the next 20!!!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

More About Those Holiday Cards...And Other Weekend Stuff

So, I didn't think I'd have any trouble trying to give stuff away yesterday!  LOL  C'mon, guys, don'tcha want some free holiday cards from Shutterfly?  I know the blogosphere's been a little saturated with this offer this week, but all I can say is for those of you who haven't submitted any entries, what are ya waiting for?  Seriously, I've been looking forward all year to making my holiday cards this year.  I loved last year's so much!  Please take a look at yesterday's post and the 4 ways you can get a chance to win one of 3 codes for 25 free cards from shutterfly.  Now with those odds, it's a pretty good chance you'll win...  Easy, right?  And one of those ways to win is by donating to the adoption fund of one of the Reece's Rainbow Angel Tree children.  I was kinda hoping to generate some funds here...maybe not the most efficient or effective way, but it's something, right? 

Anyway, that's my little bit for today.  :-)

Samantha was up at an ungodly hour again this morning (she's been skirting 5am all week - wth?  And I know it's only going to get worse when we change the clocks tonight...), but at least it's the weekend and I can give her a nap today (who am I kidding?  It's just my excuse to get a nap myself...).  Need her fresh and happy to go see Puss In Boots this afternoon!  Won't attempt the 3D version, as I highly doubt she'd keep the glasses on the whole time, but I think she'll really enjoy the movie.  Anyone else gone to see this yet?  Can't go wrong with Antonio Banderas, an animated cat and some brilliant Shrekian humor, right?

Oh, and back to the holiday card thing...I really want to do the photo shoot with Samantha this weekend for the card pictures, but I have this vision in my mind of where I want to do it, and how I want it to look, but logistically, it could be difficult, if not impossible, location-wise and, especially, cooperation-wise.  Maybe I'll just be brave and attempt it.  It's nothing daring, it's just not practical.  Whenever I try to stage something that's been growing and building itself up in my mind, a perfect scene taking on a life of its own, Samantha decides that she will do anything and everything to sabotage it.  Anyone ever see a Christmas card with a pouting, frowning, crying kid on it?  Me either. 


Friday, November 4, 2011

Shutterfly Holiday Cards - Where to Start?? (and a Giveaway!!)

Oh my goodness, I am in so much trouble this year...  Last year I blogged about Shutterfly's holiday card selection in exchange for 50 free cards, and have been extended the same offer again this year.  But this time, it's even better, because I've got a giveaway for you, the reader, too!  Stay with me here...

So back to the trouble I'm in...

I had the. absolute. hardest. time. ever. finding just. the. right. card last year to use as our holiday mail-out.  There were just way, way too many amazing options!  And it looks, if I'm not mistaken, that Shutterfly has added even more options this year!  Where do I start?  I thought the one I chose last year was the most perfect card (certainly the sweet little face featured on the card had something to do with it...), but of course, I can't use the same one twice.  That would be like, well, sending the same holiday card two years in a row!  Or something.

Here's the card I made last year.

This year I'm finding myself partial to the cards below, but ultimately, I think it'll come down to what photos I end up wanting to use.

It's no secret I'm a Shutterfly fan.  I love their gift selections and have two of the photo mugs (which somehow still have retained their original color and luster despite countless trips through the dishwasher), along with several photo books I have created.  Last year they introduced their new custom path, a way of customizing your photo books in even more creative ways.  I love this!  Can't show you my latest custom path creation, though, because someonewhomightbereadingthis might be getting one for Christmas this year...

So now here's the fun part (apart from the Sammi photo-shoot I'm planning for this year's greetings)!  I am giving away, with Shutterfly's blessing, three codes for 25 free holiday photo cards!  Yep, that's 3 winners!  These things ain't cheap, either, so this is a great opportunity (although only one code can be won per person - no doubling up!!) for all of you!  (Btw, I think this also applies to those of you in other countries - you would still pay for the shipping anyway.)

I'm going to give you each four chances to win those 25 cards.  Please submit one comment for each entry using the criteria below, and next Tuesday I will randomly select the three winners. 

1.  Show me a link to your favorite Shutterfly holiday card

2.  Make a donation in any amount to the adoption fund of one of the waiting children on Reece's Rainbow's Angel Tree (a $35 donation will get you an ornament of one of those waiting children, though!)

3.  Tweet the link to this post

4.  Link this post onto your Facebook wall

Good luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Love Surprises!

Sammi's teachers have asked me to be kind to them on my blog, to say nice things.  And to be perfectly honest, I don't think it would be humanly possible to say anything but nice things about them! 

And isn't that a wonderful place to be?

They are all truly amaaaaazing.

Our first Parent-Teacher conference was at 7am on Tuesday with Steve, Samantha and me, along with her main Kindergarten teacher and her Resource teacher.  Samantha was a real trooper, waking up early as if in anticipation of the before-sunlight trek (okay, 40 seconds in the car...) to school, making it super-easy to get her fed and dressed, hair perfectly braided and ready in plenty of time.  Once inside the classroom, she made a beeline for the library area, reading books and putting each one back as she finished with it.

We were all able to talk uninterrupted.

Now this was a meeting at which we were not expecting to encounter any surprises.  We speak to the teachers twice a day between the two of us, and have a pretty good idea how things are going for Samantha. 

But oh, how we were surprised!

First things first, our state has something called PALS testing for Kindergarteners.  Just when we thought we'd heard all of the acronyms we could ever, in our lifetime, expect to hear, we discover that there would be yet another lifetime's-worth of school-based tests, each with a name designed solely to boggle our minds (and while that did surprise us, that's not what I'm referring to when I say we were surprised...). 

PALS is short for Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (try saying that 10 times fast...).  It consists of 1:1 testing between student and teacher, once in the fall and once in the spring, for all students, to determine whether or not the child may need additional reading instruction outside of what is ordinarily provided to typically-developing readers.  I love that they screen early on to catch potential problems at the point the child is only just learning to read.

The Resource teacher, the person who had administered the test to Samantha and the other children, reviewed the exam and Sammi's results with us.  What surprised us was the page of the test that had five 3-letter, hand-written words, words that had been written by Samantha's hand alone.


That, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing, but I'm not too surprised she can do that - she's been writing her letters with more and more accuracy over the last 2 months to the point that you can tell her what letters to write, and she'll write them on-the-spot.  She writes her first name independently on each and every paper that comes home from school.  Actually, she writes her first name independently on each and every piece of paper, period, including whatever she can find at home.

But nobody told her what letters to write this time

This portion of the test consisted of the teacher saying a word, slowly, clearly, carefully enunciating the letter sounds, and the child writing the word.  By themselves.  By herself.  The margin of error allowed for the child to choose an "e" over an "i" or vice versa, or a "c" over an "s," etc., for those words that had similar-sounding letters in them.

Holy cow, she nailed it!!!  Did I know my daughter could spell anything other than her first name without seeing the word written in front of her?  Hell no

2 months.

2 months she's been in Kindergarten, and she killed each section of that test, getting scores like 8 out of 10, 9 out of 10, 24 out of 26, surpassing the benchmark scores that were set to determine pass/fail by miles.  And for the one section she scored just a 5 out of 10, the benchmark was actually set at 0.

Oh, and that night, while she was in the bath, she surprised me, yet again, by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (sure, the words weren't quite right, but hey, I never knew them the right way, either!), complete with one invisible nation.  Hehehe 

Sometimes I feel weird posting so many brags on my blog.  But I honestly can't help it.  This kid has amazed me from Day 1, and when I see how incredibly hard she works to reach the goals that are set, it overwhelms me, warms my heart, fills me with so much pride I just might burst.  How else can I get it out?

Samantha's class had a Harvest party on Monday (yeah, yeah, I know, it was really a Halloween party, but in the interest of remaining holiday-neutral, that's what it was called), to which parents were invited.  Steve and I were unable to attend, but one of the other children's mothers, stopping in at the office on her way out of the school (not sure if she went into the office specifically for this reason, or if it somehow came up in conversation while she was in there for something else), reported to the staff there that Samantha was the most polite child she'd ever met. 

Be still my heart...

Report cards come out in the next week or two.  Report cards!!!!!  How did I forget that HUGE milestone in the life of an elementary school child?  Okay, so it's more of a milestone for the parents... 

Fully-potty-training, turning 5, losing teeth, starting Kindergarten, reading, writing, walking to class on her own, taking tests, Parent-Teacher conferences, report much more of this big-girl stuff can I take from her??   

I am reasonably sure we will not be surprised by what we read on her report card.

Or will we?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Hooray for Halloween!  One of the most creative times of the year, when children can express their inner gangster/princess/witch/ninja/DarthVader/ghost/bumblebee/pirate.  Parents ask them, so what do you want to be for Halloween this year?  And the answers are almost always amusing, providing food for thought and some insight into the minds of the little ones. 

Samantha, ever-influenced by the tide of children's television that enters her brain daily, didn't susprise me one bit by her decision this year.  I saw it coming a mile away. 


What children's show doesn't feature at least one episode where the characters are pretending to be pirates?  Mind you, this is not fueled by current pirate-lore, the vicious drug-runners of the coastlines, but by the romantic pirate-vision of storybooks, of fairy tales, of history, involving (in realistic detail or not) parrots on shoulders, trunks of gold, damsels in distress and swashbuckling sword fights. 

So after vacillating back and forth a few times from pirate to ghost back to pirate again (at the moment, she's pitching ghost as the costume of choice for next year...what happened to princesses?), we were ready.  The only items I was prepared with were pirate bandana-hat, eye patch, gold earring and sword.  I figured we'd wing the rest of her attire, and with a few forays into the darkest depths of my over-packed and disorganized bedroom closet, that's what we did.  To be perfectly honest, I wasn't entirely sure, even up to the time I got her dressed to go out, of what exactly she was going to wear, but somehow, it all came together nicely. 

And voila, the New Romantic pirate in all her glory. 

Aaaargh!  Give me some candy!  (Please?)

Fabbo pink-striped Barbie socks from Target!  Could not possibly have done better!

Sporting, oh so much more fashionably than me, a black lace top I'd gotten for an 80s party last year.  And here I was, thinking it'd never see the light of day again! Oh yeah, and she's wearing one of my 3/4 sleeve white work blouses under at its very best...

Candy or plank-walking - your choice!