Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Delicate Balance of Sleep

Sleep is a funny thing, and it comes in all shapes and sizes.  Or, rather, all lengths and qualities.  And what works for one, does not necessarily work for another.  In summary, one size does not fit all.  Samantha, as I have said  before, is a very good sleeper.  That doesn't mean she doesn't still wake at an ungodly hour most mornings, but she does have good quality sleep leading up to that. 

I sleep mostly well, so long as I've gone to bed at a reasonable time (read:  10pm).  There's a bit of a delicate balance for me, as I know I will be awoken at an even more ungodly hour by one of the two cats each morning, howling for food (okay, s**thead, there's still food in your dish) or general attention, sneaking into the bedroom to make little brrrt? brrrt? sounds every pointfivesecondsomg, dashing under the bed where he can't be grabbed and throttled  taken down to be locked in the basement (there are numerous, numerous logistical and building-structural reasons as to why this doesn't happen before I go to bed every night, not to mention the fact that I still like the little furball to sleep curled up with me, so don't even bother suggesting it).  On the occasions I am able to catch him at 4:30-ish AM, I will carefully climb over the baby gate at the top of the stairs (holding the limp, aquiescent cat in my arms as gently as possible, although throttling is still top on my mind), take him down, and drop him under the baby gate at the top of the basement stairs, lowering it to the floor to prevent his escape.  I then creep back up the stairs, carefully stepping over the squeaky step, climbing over the baby gate, hoping not to wake either Steve or Samantha, and crawl back into bed, trying to slow my breathing and my pounding heart enough to fall back asleep.  Shortly after this, Samantha decides she's going to wake up and come into our room.  As it is still a full hour and a half before she should be up, I have two options against the overwhelming urges she has to turn on her light and read her books:  bring her into our bed, or go and lie with her in her bed.  Either is fine, but only if the evil feline is already in the basement.  Otherwise, said evil feline would ensure it would be a major lose-lose situation with all three of us humans prematurely awake, one more irritable than the others...

like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth...

I accept that Samantha may awaken at 6am.  That's a totally acceptable time for her to do that, considering she is in bed and sound asleep by 8pm every night.   It's when I wake up to shower anyway, but keeping her quiet so Daddy can still sleep while I'm in the shower is more of a challenge, unless I can convince her to either stay in the bathroom to hang out with me, or go into her room, shut the door, and read her books, both of which are perfectly fine options for her most days. 

I said most days, right?

Let's take Saturday morning as an example of the exception to the rule (btw, Saturday does not mean "sleeping in").  She came into the bathroom just as I was stepping into the shower.  She agreed to hang out in there with me.  She sat on top of the toilet lid.  She decided she had to use the toilet.  She decided she would use the toilet and then get into the shower with me (a child who hates the shower).  She took off all of her clothes, ever-so-carefully stretched one foot through the shower curtain into my space, then instantly retracted it, saying "Ewwww, it's too wet!"  Uh huh.  Yes it is.  I had just soaped my hair, and I knew I was in trouble.  No clothes means she needs to find clothes.  Finding clothes means rifling through her dresser, anchored to the wall in the middle of the upstairs hallway since she pulled one of her dressers on top of her in her room when she was 3 years old.  And let's just say that 20 foot ceilings, hardwood floors, heavy dresser drawers and a wide-awake, 5 year old child banging them, insisting on dressing in the hall with the bathroom door left wide open emiting the cacophany of light, shower and ceiling fan all running at once, do-not-a-restful-sleep-for-Daddy make...

Yep, definitely a delicate balance.  I think I'm beginning to reach a point where I'm looking forward to not having cats for a while, and in their advanced age, that may not be too far off.  (Hastened by my desire to throttle, of course...)

The child I can handle.  :-)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Wish It Would Snow


When I was in high school, my friend Suzy had a very special cassette player.  It had a unique feature that didn't mean it was an extra good player, but more likely that it was just particularly crap.  We discovered, while listening to one of the new albums she'd recorded onto cassette (I am not Wikipedia - if you were born after 1983, you can look up album and cassette player yourself...), that if there was nothing recorded on the 2nd side, you could play the blank side 2 and hear side 1 playing backwards.  In the belated wake of the frenzy over some Beatles songs that were reputed to foretell a grim future for Paul McCartney when played backwards, we thought it would be fun to do some experimenting on our own.  Supposedly, Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven also contained secret devilish messages when played backwards, so as she happened to have a copy of it handy, and as we were in her well-lit living room, her parents chatting in the kitchen nearby, the giant chicken in me was held at bay for a time and we recorded the song, flipped the tape over (Wikipedia, folks...), turned up the volume, and had a listen.  And we heard it say...

...I wish it would snow...

Seriously, we both heard it, clear as day.  And, unravelling in fits of laughter (uh, maybe hysterical relief on my part), we knew how ridiculous some of the claims of other people could be.

So, on a completely unrelated note...

...the birds have started to venture out of their nests, chirping at the crack of dawn, heralding the awakening bloom of the grass, the trees, the flowers...  A rabbit, white cotton tail bobbing along behind it, hopped through our yard yesterday, and the herons have begun to soar out of their nests in the nearby colony, landing on the lakes to hunt for fish.  The reports have started in the local newspapers of car accidents caused by sleepy deer venturing out of the woods and into the paths of oncoming traffic.

A beautiful spring we've been having here in the dead of winter.

And it kinda sucks.

I got Samantha a small sled two years ago, hoping to be able to take her out for some fun in the snow, but last winter brought the disappointment of snow neatly covered in a shiny layer of ice.  And this winter brings...nothing but a disappointed child, and a mother, disappointed that her child is disappointed.  At least I don't have to be bummed that I forgot to get Sammi a pair of snow pants this year, although her new snow boots will be in perfect condition to give away next. 

The mid-Atlantic region is a funny place for weather.  And the less snow we have, the more anxious I get since I've just recently heard that mild, calm winters will bring more tempestuous weather (ie. tornadoes) in the spring.  And last spring is certainly not one I'd like a repeat of, as far as that kind of weather went.  Hiding in the basement at 6am, driving home from work with one eye on the swirly black clouds behind me and the other on the swirly black clouds with the bolts of lightning coming down in front of me, moving ever closer to home, worrying about the unpredictability of nature...

I definitely wish it would snow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Letter to Zoey

Sometimes along this fascinating journey, a journey that's no longer new, but that still holds twists and turns and joys and surprises around each corner, I get the honor of meeting, either IRL (in-real-life) or virtually, some of the most amazing and inspiring people.  Certainly, those virtual friendships are based on a whole set of different circumstances and are often bathed in the facade of something that may or may not be real if translated to IRL, but sometimes you feel you can honestly see into the hearts of some of those people, and you just know that they're as beautiful on the inside as they purport to be virtually.

Heather, mommy to Zoey, is one of those people.  I must say, I have felt privileged to have gotten to "know" her and her precious girl over the last couple of years.  Never IRL - yet  (hoping to change that on our vacation next month...?  Got that, Heather?  LOL).

Last week a package arrived for Samantha. 

From Zoey. 

It was the doggondest cutest book ever, and Sammi now demands that I read it to her for bedtime every night. 

On Saturday, Samantha wrote a thank you letter to Miss Zoey, and posted it in the mail.       

(FYI, just in case you think she is magic or something, I told her what letters to write...I mean, *I* think she's certainly magic, but she doesn't have any magic *powers,* even though that *would* be pretty nice...)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Walk to School

Oh, lordy, sometimes Blogger (and my temperamental laptop that seems to want to write and edit my posts on its own) just. drive. me. craaaaazy.  Twice today.  Twice, I've clicked "enter" to start a new paragraph, and the post published frustratingly prematurely.  Like, this post wasn't supposed to go up until Thursday morning, but made a little bare-bones sneak preview at 9:50pm on Wednesday night.  And hitting Publish sets off a chain of events that are impossible to revert.  But that being said, I guess it's better to accidentally publish a post than to accidently delete it...which also may or may not have happened recently... 

But for all of those pesky little setbacks to my day (or night), despite the hectic starts to the days that may or may not involve a defiant, stubborn, cranky little girl sitting on the floor in her room at 6:30am, with a death grip on her book as I try to convince her she needs to get her clothes on and get her backside downstairs for breakfast, NOW! so-we-won't-be-late, there is always the exhilaration that I get the absolute privilege of feeling every morning when walking Samantha to school.  It truly is the highlight of my day.  Once the clothes are on, once the backside is firmly seated in her chair, once the food is eaten hair is done teeth are brushed face is washed toilet used shoes, coat and backpack put on, once we set foot outside the door...the tables turn, and the fresh, cool air colors her nose and cheeks, and the brilliant sunshine lights up her face.

After a quick game of Duck-Duck-Goose to get her moving and giggling, she slips her cool little fingers into my pocket, enveloped by my own hand.

The banter begins, conversation easy between the two of us, and we walk and talk about her day and who she's going to see, what she's going to do.  This is always a good time to reinforce our expectations of her for the day.  (Remember, Samantha, listen to your teachers...)  Expectations are so important, buy-in is crucial... 

She knows.


I feel like the luckiest mommy in the world to get to talk to her teachers, to watch her take off her backpack and coat, turn her folder in, get her morning work and settle into her day.  That little glimpse, that sneak peek into her other life, that life without Mommy and Daddy, tastes so sweet.

ESY (summer school) meeting tomorrow morning - not quite sure what we want yet, what kind of model to pursue, but we know everyone has Sammi's best interests in mind, and we'll come up with something...wish us luck!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is It Weird That I Find This Hilarious?

When Sammi was just shy of 4 years old, we went to England to visit Steve's family.  It was my little world traveller's second trip there.  I remember being in the supermarket (always a favorite place to go on those trips!), looking through the children's books, when Steve pointed out a sweet little box set of 6 mini Peppa Pig books.  We'd heard of Peppa, but didn't know anything else beyond the name.  Samantha refused to let go of it, and it was only a couple of quid (that's the British Pound equivalent of "bucks" to you...), so we bought it. 

Little did we know the craze...the obsession...we were in for.  And not just Samantha's.  We'd never actually seen a Peppa Pig episode, and based on how much Samantha absolutely adored the books, Steve ordered a dvd from England (where the show is HUGE) for her birthday.  And we were hooked.  Any adult that came over to our house for a visit was subjected to a private viewing, willing or not.  Surely, we couldn't be the only adults that appreciated it, surely I couldn't be the only person wiping the tears from my eyes and struggling to breathe between fits of uncontrollable laughter...

Around the same time, we discovered that Nick Jr. was also showing the quick, 5-minute shorts in between programming.  Currently it runs on the weekends in 4-episode blocks, and we now have about 100 episodes on our DVR - good thing they're only 5 minutes.

The appeal of Peppa to adults is kind of like the appeal of shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle, or Bugs Bunny - staged for children, yet cleverly-crafted with enough subtle hilarity to grab onto a grown-up's slightly more mature, slightly ludicrous sense of humor.  It's all in the narration... 

While we have calmed down now and don't find the episodes quite as funny anymore (who could blame us, after having seen them all at least 150 times each, at Samantha's insistence?  ...anything's bound to get old that way...)  But on Saturday we were treated to an episode block that we'd never seen before, and I was quick enough to hit "record" to capture it. 

It has now become my favorite. it just me, or is this completely, ridiculously funny?  (It's okay if you say it's just me...I promise I won't send anyone named Micky Knuckles over to your house to change your mind...)

There was another episode in the set about Mr. Wolf's new house (Ahhh...loook...little piggies...what's *your* house made of?) that I really wanted to post here, but I couldn't find it on the web anywhere.

Cracked. Me. Up.

But you kinda had to be there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Keepin' it Simple: October 2008

I've gotta remember that people don't do much blog-reading on the weekends.  And while I was working yesterday (trust me, some federal holidays are an easy sacrifice when we get a couple of floating holidays at Thanksgiving and Christmas!), I had completely forgotten that most people had an extended, 3-day weekend. 

And while I liked yesterday's post, today I've got nothing.  And, what better filler for a day with nothing and absolutely no time to even attempt to think of something, than some old pics and another trip down Memory Lane.  Here's a flashback from October 2008.  At 2 1/2 this little Miss had some serious 'tude.

(No watermarks, since I'm pulling these last-minute from a different computer...)

Yep, this camera was kinda crap.  This pre-dates the DSLR by about 2 months.

Dang, I look young!!  Gotta try to get some of that back...anyone know a good dealer in wish-granting for soul-selling?  Or perhaps the address for a reputable Fountain of Youth?  (Okay, okay, don't say the *gym*, smarty-pants...)

Monday, February 20, 2012

The (Not So) Guilty Party and the Search for the Swamp Creature

In a 5-year-old's mind, Valentine's Day probably shouldn't ever end.  The sugar is just too sweet.

Li'l Miss, creating her very own super hero without even realizing it, has developed the powers of stealth and speed.  Just ask my unattended cell phone, as she runs off, clutching it in her hot little hands, giggling maniacally and cackling in her best Swiper the Fox voice, "Hahaha, you'll *never* find your phone now!"

Valentine's chocolates, secured in their shiny, red, heart-shaped box, do not have the super power of invisibility, much to my dismay.  On Saturday, after reaching into the fridge to get a bottle of juice, I turned around to find her hands in the candy box, a piece of chocolate held tight, that first bite taken before I could snatch it back.  In all honesty, it was quite funny, and I was quite impressed with her craftiness.  And I wouldn't have had much of a problem with it, except for the fact that it was one of those super-gooey, super-chewy, super-tough pieces of chocolate toffee encased in the milk chocolate, something she wasn't quite expecting, but did really well with anyway, as the photos below suggest.  Heck, it's sugar and chocolate - of course she did really well!  Now I'm wondering if the problem I had with her getting that particular piece of chocolate was more about the risk of choking, or about the fact that I coveted it for myself... 

And this, after shoving the large remaining portion in her mouth, suddenly discovering that a piece of candy like that is rather difficult to chew...

On another note, Samantha is no longer boycotting the Backyardigans.  I think she was just faking with her whole I'm scared of the Backyardigans spiel, and on Saturday, when she and I took a walk over to the lake in our neighborhood, she insisted (incessantly) on searching for the Swamp Creature.  Seriously, we could have been sitting there all day if I didn't eventually tell her (in my own, slightly more insistent way...) that the Swamp Creature wasn't there because he was having lunch with his mommy in another lake, and that we could go back and look for him another day. 

I don't think she bought it, but she relented and we finally left, the Princess already plotting out our next visit to the lake. 

Good thing it was a nice day.

"Swaaaamp Creeeeeature, where aaaaare you?  Come and see me, Swamp Creature!  Come on!  Swaaaaaamp Creeeeeature!!!!"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Light in the Dark

One of the (many) things I can say with certainty about Samantha is that she has always been an incredibly fantastic sleeper.  Not to make y'all jealous or anything, but we got her onto a schedule within a few months after her birth, and never looked back.  There's never been any question about when it's bedtime, when it's naptime (erradicated except for boring weekends now), when to wake up.  Try to keep her up past the usual, designated time, and she'll beg to go to bed.  Try to awaken her before the usual, designated time, and you've got quite the challenge on your hands.  Good luck...  Her internal body clock is a well-oiled machine. 

I'm not prefacing this post with that paragraph because she's not sleeping well anymore.  Well, not exactly.  She's still sleeping well, but we've added a new element to the pre-bedtime mix. 


I mentioned fear before.  I believe I said something akin to the fact that we're not really sure if Samantha understands the concept of fear.  Sure, she can be startled, or she can feel uneasy in anticipation (like when going to the doctor), but I don't think that's the same as actually being afraid of something.  In my previous post I'd also said that she had begun to mention that she was afraid of the dark.  Guess I should have seen this coming, eh?

And of course, we didn't believe her.  It had to be her just testing the waters, trying on a new concept for size, mimicking something she'd seen on tv, or heard spoken of by her classmates.  And she'd just said it a couple of times, a few months ago.  And we pooh-poohed it, and nothing ever came of it, and she stopped saying it.

Until this week. 

Ahhhhhgggghhh, these crazy, crazy stages kids go through!!!  How something could be perfectly acceptable one minute, then completely, irrationally unacceptable the next. 


Sammi and I stayed at my parent's place last weekend.  The room we sleep in is very, very dark.  Like the kind of near-suffocating dark that your eyes just can't adjust to.  I always keep my cell phone on the nightstand next to my pillow so I can a) see what time it is and b) see.  Gotta love all that ambient light.  She's slept in that room many, many times before, and she's never thought twice about rolling over, shutting her eyes, and going to sleep on her own while we grown ups socialized in the living room just outside the door.  But this time she was insistent that she was afraid of the dark, and wanted a night light.  So I turned the night light on, and she was mostly satisfied. 

And then, for the last 3 nights, she has insisted that I put a night light on in her room, saying she 's scared of the dark.  The first of these nights, she actually came out of her room about an hour after she'd gone to bed (and I'm pretty sure she'd already been asleep for most of that time), and when I went up to take her back to bed, she said she was scared.  I actually forgot the nightlight lastnight, and she immediately jumped out of bed, climbing over me as I knelt on the floor next to her, to go turn it on.  And even that didn't fully satisfy her - I'm feeling thankful for the dimmer switch we have for her overhead light...  "Thank you, Mommy," she'd said quietly and with real sincerity when I gently raised the lever. 

My big fear is that by turning on a night light I might be indulging her, giving in to a negative behavior, an irrational fear, perpetuating that same behavior going forward.  But I think I know better...haven't kids, just about every normal, red-blooded kid on the planet, been afraid of the dark since the beginning of time?  And isn't there a huge market in children's night lights for a reason?  I suspect this is just a stage that she'll outgrow eventually, but without experience of other children to draw on, and without a clear memory of my own childhood experience in this matter (I think I had a night light, too), I can't be sure, so I'll ask you all...what do you think?

Oh, and in just about the same period of time, she has stopped watching Backyardigans altogether.  Suddenly.  And she has told me she's scared of the Backyardigans.


Sounds like a whole 'nother set of issues to me...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday Whimsy: Dancing With Daddy

We've created a monster.  For some reason, starting very recently, Sammi has decided that she wants to dance before bedtime.  Because there's nothing better than a completely wired, wound-up 5 year old that then gets turned over to Mommy to be coralled into bed and convinced that it's time to sleep, right?  hehehe 

Actually, I love it.  We are not a terribly musical family, and rarely even have music on in the house.  I have many early years of classical piano training under my belt, but that doesn't really make for fun family time (not to mention, my confidence in my abilities is at about zero right now since it's been soooo long since I've done it).  And watching Shark Tank the other night, I was completely inspired to run out and get the Chord Buddy and a guitar.  Haven't done it yet, but don't think I won't have one by the time my birthday rolls around and be fully able to play all the family favorites by the time the next holiday season arrives! have these precious moments together, Sammi and Daddy dancing together, Mommy doing something she thinks might be considered dancing, Sammi rocking out with her very best air guitar to Quiet Riot Slade (sorry, Steve, couldn't resist...)'s pretty magical. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Domestic Diva, Valentine Edition

Couldn't really include this in yesterday's post because Sammi's teachers read my blog.  And these cookies are for them. 

So, continuing with Saturday's productive activities, Sunday also proved to be fairly productive, even if it involved staying in jammies.  While the cookies were (just skip the next part of this sentence, teachers!!) not totally made from scratch, I did add some ingredients, add food coloring, roll the dough, cut the shapes by hand with a knife, and attempt to decorate them.  Okay, so they're sort of from scratch, right?  Sammi helped a little bit, but being a control freak, I couldn't let her do much more than sprinkle the red stuff on.  She was more interested in scamming ways to eat the raw dough.

And scamming ways to eat the finished product, of course.  "Mommy, I need another cookie!  Please?  Please, Mommy?  I need it!  Pleeeeeeeease?

May I just say that there are a freaking gazillion kids in Sammi's class?  20-something.  Way more cards to address than a child with a short attention span can hope to knock out in a week.  We did Hello Kitty for the girls, and Star Wars for the boys.  Would have done them all the same, but the cards came with magnets.  I don't really think the boys would really appreciate the Hello Kitty magnet.  Besides, (and I'm gonna make my geek-girl confession, here...) I wanted a Star Wars magnet (or 8) for myself...

The Valentine's Day Princess, getting ready for school.  Thank you to Steve's friend, who made this adorable dress for her!  

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Domestic Diva, Weekend Edition

As I have done so often before, I will bite the bullet and date myself by recalling a rainy day elementary school memory.  You know, those days too wet to go outside for gym or for recess, the days when the tall, metal A/V cart was wheeled into the classroom, a reel-to-reel projector perched on the top, the teacher spending entirely too long trying to feed the film end into the empty reel...  The movies watched on those occasions, miraculously, have remained in my memories, ingrained in most of my senses, from the sound of the scratchy audio track to the plasticine scent of the celluloid, mixed with the dust settled onto each tier of the cart, the visual smorgasboard projected before us, my emotions, some more intense than others, piqued. 

I remember one film with a catchy little tune and no dialogue, of two little animated characters, one round and one tall, best friends, torn from each other by misunderstanding and jealousy - something to do with a rolling stone (the title, perhaps?)...funny how it feels so fresh, yet the details remain just outside my grasp...  One film was a puppet animation, King Midas.  Another, most certainly the one that affected me the most, perhaps the one that shaped a big part of who I am today (dramatic?  not really - it was devastating to me), was a short nature documentary about a fire in a field.  No dialogue, but the soundtrack was intense as the camera zoomed in on a nest of baby birds, alive, mouths open searching for food in one scene, their blackened carcasses smoldering in the next.  I cried every time, the rest of my class seemingly untouched...  I was in 4th or 5th grade.  I still wonder why, and at that moment, I could only think that the cinematographer must have no soul, no heart, no conscience (neither did my teacher, for that matter, for thinking it was okay to show that)Why couldn't they have intervened?? 

Anyone else remember that? Sorry, didn't mean to put a damper on your day, but sometimes I just don't want to be the only one with the memory.

But, as usual, I digress.  One other film we viewed was a documentary of a little girl and her family, their garden overflowing with a bounty of fruits and vegetables, her fingers digging in the rich, dark dirt to pick fresh legumes, washing each item with such care, cutting them, tasting their fresh earthiness.  Seriously, watching that I could think of nothing better at that moment than eating a raw carrot, crunching into a lettuce leaf, eating fresh peas right out of the pod.  Maybe it was close to lunchtime, maybe it was just my first taste of pure documentary filmmaking, romanticizing such an ordinary activity to evoke a strong emotional response.

I thought of that film on Saturday.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before (on numerous occasions) that I don't cook.  But on the weekends, especially on the cold, dreary winter weekends, I always vow to at least try to make something that I think Sammi will actually eat, or that can involve her in the preparation.  And sometimes food just begs to be photographed. 

I'll start you off with my Saturday lunch, enjoyed by me, myself and I.  Avocado and Laughing Cow blue cheese spread sandwich.  Yummiest. Lunch. Ever.  

Next I dusted off my neglected slow cooker (something I've been meaning to do on many a winter weekend) and attempted a recipe my mother had cooked for me just last Saturday - pork chops and sweet potatoes in an apple cider reduction (okay, reduction may not be the correct word to use here, but it makes it sound fancier...).  And, if I must say so myself, it tasted great and the ingredients were pretty darn beautiful. 

I love how, through well-staged photos, my kitchen (sorry, Steve, for my use of "my" here, when I'm so rarely in it...) can look like this beautiful, old, country-style kitchen, nestled at the back of a cozy farmhouse instead of a typical townhome-builder's mass-produced cookie cutter creation.  Or maybe I delude myself...

Our newest furniture acquisition, thanks to many months of Steve trawling Craigslist for exactly. this. piece.  So sick of dust-covered items on the silver bakers rack that formerly occupied this space.

Guess what else we made yesterday?

Um, yeah, definitely not a country farmhouse sink.  Oh well, it's nice to dream.

A carefree moment, Mommy relaxing her rules (ie. over-cautious fears of salmonella poisoning) and letting a kid be a kid.  Poor Sammi, she relentlessly begged me to let her lick the spoon.  How could I possibly say no to this face?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In Search of Perfection: OCD and Down Syndrome

Somewhere, embedded in the extra chromosome that graces the genetic makeup of our children, there is a little compartment labeled, in neatly-organized organic matter-type letters, "Perfectionism," and I don't mean the kind that just says our kids are perfect (which they ARE!).  I'm pretty sure they all have it.  Somewhere.  Although, in anticipating some of your responses about how messy or disorganized your children are, I'll venture to say that that little "compartment" may not have been accessed just yet... 

First of all, I have not done any research into this topic, although I'm sure plenty of data exists.   But leaving it up to individual experiences and heresay is so much more fun, don't you think?  And trust me, if I thought there was a problem, I'd be all over the web in a hot second to find out more from that expert data, wherever it may lie.

Samantha likes to have order in her life.  Advanced warning of things-to-come is key to a smooth transition from activity to activity, and following the rules on how things should be, or how she thinks things should be (often based on something she'd observed us doing on at least one occasion, whether right or...gasp...wrong...) is just something she does (okay, not always, but most of the time).  Especially when we've given her some sort of reasoning as to why something should be done a certain way.  Telling her that a seatbelt needs to be on so she can be safe (thank you, Dora!) is a very compelling reason, and she's obsessively gung-ho about it, to the point where she yells for me to wait and not drive the car yet because Daddy's seatbelt hasn't been fastened yet.  Okay, okay, I got it!  Right now we're working on the "Don't use too much toilet paper because it'll break the toilet, okay honey?" lesson.

Closing the downstairs powder room door is a biggie for her, and one for which I don't believe I've ever given her reason to feel that need.  I'm thinking that she's seen us do it often, which is reason enough for her. 

Changing her underwear twice a day...well, I have no idea about that one...  Any time there's a clothing change, it has to include underwear.  Or she has a whiny little fit, eyes squinched, feet stomping, arms crossed...  Do I give in?  Well, unless I can provide a compelling reason not to let her change, yes.

There was a scene in Monica and David that both Steve and I call back to memory often.  Monica and David were making their bed, carefully, neatly.  When it came time for them to place the little decorative pillows on top of the spread, there was an urgent back and forth between the two of them, one moving the pillow into a position they thought was perfect, the other tugging it back just slightly into what they thought was the right place.  Samantha does that when she helps me make our bed.  If I move it to where I want it, she jumps in and quickly edges it back, just. so.

Consistency.  Order.  Object Permanence, perhaps.  Control

Such important concepts that shape the brains of our children. 

Is this a bad thing?  Nah.  Well, not unless it starts to get in the way of daily functioning or leads to anxiety.  Applying reason to the situations may help mitigate some of the less-desired behaviors, but for now, I'm going to pick my battles and enjoy the nice, (mostly) tidy room with Samantha's name on the door. 

What has your experince been with OCD and your child with Down syndrome?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Educating the Masses (A Quick World Geography Lesson...)

So today I'm gonna do my husband a little favor and give my fellow Americans a quick lesson in World Geography (Rochelle, let Jason know this is for him, too!).  I won't say why I'm bringing this up today, but let's just say I'm reasonably certain that this is not being taught properly in American schools, threatening to ruin our long-standing relationship with our closest ally.

I am talking about the United Kingdom and all of its parts.  If we fall out of favor, what would we do without Masterpiece Theater?  Posh and Becks?  Cadbury?  Dr. Who?  Madonna?  And do you have any idea just how many of the television shows we produce ourselves in the US were actually based on shows previously and originally created by the folks across the pond?  What on earth would we do without those?  I think we'd be forced to revert to new programming, the likes of Starsky and Hutch, Man from Atlantis, Happy Days...

So, in an effort to promote peace, here we go...

England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Ireland (Eire) are all countries.  That's right, folks, they are each separate and individual countries. 

Great Britain is comprised of England, Scotland and Wales.

The United Kingdom is actually a "sovereign state" (don't worry, that won't be on the quiz...), more formally known as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Still with me here?

Ireland (Eire) is a completely separate country, not in the United Kingdom. 


Now, just to reiterate and check for understanding:

*  England is a country.  Here is the flag of England (the symbol is known as the St. George's Cross):

* Scotland is a country.  Here is the flag of Scotland:

* Wales is a country.  Here is the flag of Wales:

* Contrary to what many, many people think, this is NOT the flag of England:

It is the flag of the United Kingdom (hint:  see how it contains elements of the flag of England and the flag of Scotland?  Wales is not represented due to factors in play at the time the flag was designed...).

I think it's time we begin to practice Country First language.  England is a country.  A person from England is English first, British second.  Call Steve British, and he'll be quick to correct you, to tell you he's English.  Why shouldn't he be allowed to feel pride in his country?  Sometimes we Americans can be pretty self-centered to think that downplaying the importance of someone else's national origin shouldn't be offensive to someone.  I won't even go into the cringe-worthy pain and offense he feels when people think it's funny to mimic his accent.  It's not.   

In teaching school children, I think this distinction should be made.  It doesn't have to be a complicated lesson, but it does have to be something that is understood.

'nuff said.

Okay, now, back to your regularly-scheduled airing of the Golden Globes... 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hearing Our Voices

Let's face it, there just isn't enough money for everything.  Needing more money for things, tangible or otherwise, is just a fact of life, unless you're some sort of mega-star bleeding enough cash to pretty much close off the entire maternity ward during the birth of your beloved daughter or trick out a new babymobile with enough bling to be seen from Jupiter (Beyonce, you know I'm talkin' about you...). 

County public school systems are no exception to the need for money, and the need for bucks at the County level affects so, so many people in a rather abrupt trickle-down effect.  Perhaps spalsh-down effect would be more accurate.  Our county announced recently that it was considering cuts to the Special Education teachers' salaries.  One such cut would involve reducing the hours-per-day of the Special Education classroom aides to make them ineligible for benefits.  These aides are incredibly valuable and brilliant resource teachers here, most of whom do what they do because they love the job of working with the children, not because they're making much money, which they're not.  The result of the cut would force many of these teachers to resign, causing less classroom support and making self-contained classrooms an ever-present, proliferating wave of the future, making an archaic jump backwards, away from inclusive classroom settings, and stunting so much of the progress of the last 20 years.

Last Tuesday the School Board opened their doors to an evening of public comment at one of their meetings.  This was the last opportunity for people to speak out in front of the Board before the decision is made.  Now as much as I, personally, would have loved to have attended, Steve and I discussed it and decided that he should go and speak.  I'm way too shy and know I would have instantly balked, and having a man, a father, get up there and speak out for his little girl also would likely make a bigger impact.  He called and got himself on the speaker's list, at number 53

The audience was comprised of approximately 400-500 people - teachers, educators, parents, etc.  He was a little dismayed to see very few parents there speaking out against Special Education cuts - the bulk of the speakers were bus drivers, another group being similarly affected.  He left after he spoke, and there were many speakers still to come, but of the 53, only about 10 were there regarding Special Ed. 

He got oohs and ahhs when he showed a blown-up and laminated photo of Sammi from her preschool graduation, and had a house-full of silent applause, arms waving furiously in the air, when he finished.  He was followed out by a reporter from a local NPR affiliate radio station and briefly interviewed, the audio of which aired the next morning, missed by us but heard and recounted back to me by a friend. 

Below is his basic speech that he gave, minus some effective ad-libbing, at which he tends to shine.  He has also sent an e-mail to the Board, something I am hoping all those who were absent or who did not speak that night have done.

This is a picture of my daughter, Samantha Elizabeth Bates.  Remember that name, because given the opportunity through education, she may be able to achieve things that would not have been possible without the dedicated Special Education teachers and aides in (this) County.  Please do not restrict my daughter's education by cutting any of the positions currently occupied and by not supporting other proposed positions.

My daughter did not choose to be born with Down syndrome, but she *does* choose to participate alongside her peers in reading, writing, playing and learning.  This would not be possible without the support and love of the great team of special educators involved in Samantha's life.

Samantha and students like her have the right to be given the chance to fulfill their potential.  Not just part way, but to the limit of what they are capable of achieving.  Samantha loves to read books, she loves to learn her numbers and letters.  She loves to play doctor and has told us numerous times that she wants to *be* a doctor.  That may not be a realistic option, but at least give her the chance to try, and don't restrict her education because of money and statistics.  You have the opportunity to make the lives of these students exciting and less restrictive.  They will have many challenges throughout their time in the school system.  With your help, they may just surprise you all.  I'm going to go now, so my daughter can read *me* a bedtime story.

Thank you for your time.

For those of you who live in this county and were not able to make it to that meeting, you can still submit an e-mail to the School Board.  Do it today!! - I think tomorrow is decision-time...  Fingers crossed...