Thursday, May 31, 2012

Celebrating 6, Part I

(Celebrating 6, Part II will follow, some time next week, after her party this weekend.)

This year felt different.  It may have been a new maturity level when acknowledging her birthday, this year over last.  I mean, she is a whole year older, after all.  But it's easy sometimes to forget, being as unbelievably old as I am now, how vast the gap is in between ages, especially in those young, formative years.  Of course it also may have felt different because it was the first time in 4 years that her birthday actually fell on a school day.   

The day started off with me really talking up the birthday thing.  Really reinforcing that she's six now, a really big girl, what a fantastic day, let's go open some presents...  Funny, usually she's a little resistant in the mornings, prefering to stay and play in her room over going downstairs for breakfast and getting ready for school.  *gasp*  Even funnier what kind of reaction you get when you tell a child that there are presents waiting for her downstairs.  Then watch how fast and compliant she is! 

She opened a few presents from us and from some far-away family members, oohing and ahhing as she opened a hand-knit sweater, a puzzle, and several books, extra-excited about the Matchbox car track with a loop-de-loop Steve had set up in the middle of the living room floor during the night while she slept.  We told her there would be one more present when I got home from work, and that it was a surprise.  Arriving at school a short time later, she was greeted with a card from the women in the front office, women who we visit each and every morning, spreading sunshine and receiving it in return, who set the tone for the school day ahead, then a gift and a card from her resource teachers, who I'd love to completely gush about, but since they read this I don't want it to sound like I'm putting it on, even though it would all be completely accurate and true. 

Yesterday evening, I brought 6 drop-dead-delicious mini-cupcakes home from a cafe near my office, lighting them for the birthday girl to blow out.  Never, in her 6 birthdays, has she blown out her own candles.  The first year she didn't know how.  When she was two, she never even got the chance, as another child attending the party pushed past her and blew them out himself.  At 3 she refused, so Daddy did it for her.  At 4, it was too breezy and we had to keep it quick, so again, she didn't get the opportunity.  At 5 she cried when everyone sang "happy birthday" so Daddy again did the honors.  I wanted her to have the chance this time, no pressure, no crowd, no wind, no nothing.

And she did it perfectly.

On Saturday we're going to request that people whisper the Happy Birthday song.

And, as promised, the last present...

Steve led Samantha down to the basement play area, asking her to keep her eyes closed and holding his hands over her eyes to keep our curious girl from peeking.

The look on her face here says it all

Pure joy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All Hail the Disability/Birthday(!) Wednesday BLOG HOP!

Meriah is a genius when it comes to thinking up brilliant ideas for blog posts.  Or for events.  Or for blogs themselves (just ask her...she's got a trail of littered blog titles fanning out behind her).  Or for...well...stuff.  All of it entertaining, all of it interesting, most all of it insightful and thought-provoking.  Well, this time she's outdone herself.  Introducing, Disability Wednesday, the Blog Hop with none other than...Captain Kirk.  Uh, not really, but he's optional, and I like him, and I'm a sucker for a guy in uniform (even if he has lace on his sleeves), so he stays.  This week, Kirk has asked us bloggers about our connection to disability. 

In all seriousness, my connection to disability really doesn't go back terribly far.  Some people have those other figures in their lives who helped shape who they were, other people who may have connected them in some way to the disability community.  Perhaps they were connected themselves through their own disability.  I have only minor brushes with disability prior to the birth of my daughter, 6 years ago today (yes, today is Samantha's 6th birthday!!!). 

Let me begin by clarifying that there is, to me, a huge difference between the words "disability" and "disabled."  My daughter has a disability, but in no way is she disabled.  She is perfectly able to do things, given the tools and the instruction.  Her disability prevents her from learning or doing things in the same way as other people, meaning there may be additional steps involved, a more circuitous (on my list of words I love, btw) route to reach her goals. 

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, while it doesn't seem all that long ago to me, was a very, very different time for the disability community.  Those times were still pre-enlightenment, as I like to think of it.  Before people with disabilities were brought out into the light.  When they were still shuttered away, kept out of view, pushed aside.  I have some brief memories of people who crossed my path, who made impressions on me, and I feel fortunate to have learned from them.

I didn't actually know anyone with Down syndrome, although when Samantha was born I was convinced, in retrospect, that my older cousin, L., had it.  It turns out that she'd had a birth injury that led to her intellectual disability, not an extra chromosome.  I spent enough time with her to know that she was different, that you had to be patient with her, but that she was part of the family, kept at home by parents forging the way, refusing to shut her away in an institution.  I never knew much about L., other than that she was just there at the family gatherings, one of us.  I haven't seen her in years, and think of her often. 

My next door neighbors during my grade school years, playmates of mine, had an older sister, probably in her late teens or early 20s.  I don't actually recall her ever setting foot outside of the house, not even in their garden.  But they loved her, their parents loved her enough to protect her from the world, kept behind closed doors with the mentality of a 4 year old.  She was always there, always doting on me, always disregarded, although not maliciously, as someone we didn't necessarily want to play with.  I had forgotten about her until recently.  It was almost a shock when I remembered her, suddenly, and I was sad.  I wished I could go back and spend time with her, to help brighten her day, open up her world.  I wonder where she is now...

There were the occasional glimpses of others, in the hall at school as they switched between those classrooms, the ones that were far from our own, separate, different.      

You know at the beginning of this post where I said that my connection to disability doesn't actually go back all that far?  I think I was wrong.  It went back way further than I realized when I began to write.  I think if we all dig back, dig deep, into the hidden corners of our memories, we may find those pieces of our puzzles and see that we were prepared long in advance for our enhanced lives today.

My latest connection to disability, the one that cements my life, has made it what it is right now, has enhanced it beyond my wildest dreams, began 6 years ago today.  May 30th, 2006.  The day Samantha was born, the day we were introduced to our new baby girl.  But our lives do not revolve around Down syndrome, they do not revolve around disability.  Our lives are normal, average, better.  Our eyes are more open to the world.  Disability exists.  Down syndrome exists.  That's the connection.

The big 6 year old, on her birthday morning before school (from my cell).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


On Saturday morning, Samantha and I took a drive down to Lake Anna to visit my parents for the day and spend the night.  It's always a nice little getaway, with a beautiful drive down to get there, through rolling countryside, barren green battlefields and small, historic villages.  To be perfectly honest, however, one of the highlights is always a quick stop at a Wawa just before we exit the more populated part of our trip.  Don't laugh!  I'm serious!  Don't know what Wawa is?  Let's just say that, having grown up in South Jersey in the shadow of Pennsylvania Dutch country, Wawa is the most awesome, fantastic, excellent convenience store chain on the planet, and we're very, very sad that there isn't one anywhere close to us.  Weird, I know, but I could easily write a whole post about it.  Take 7-11 and turbo-charge it with real, hand-prepared hot and cold sandwich selections, a massive coffee station, flawless customer service, and, in most cases, a nice, clean rest room.  Samantha knows it better as the place where we buy a donut for the road.

Anyway, I digress...

On a whim, I stopped off in the parking lot of one of the battlefields to take a couple of pics of my still-cooperative child.  The stop took us less than 5 minutes before that cooperative-ness degraded to an ornery whine, but I got some of what I wanted, and we carried happily on our way to the Wawa lake. 

Yes, that's an Olivia tattoo on her arm.  I'm knowingly contributing to the delinquency of minors.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Domestic Diva: Weekend Warrior Edition, Part 3 (?)

Continuing on with my (languishing) series about my quest to become a domestic diva on the weekends, I wanted to share some of the things I've been doing lately. This past weekend, I made a little pact with myself to ensure that I do a bit more cooking, especially for Samantha. Our meals consist of whatever's frozen and easy to make, and that's all for a very good reason - because it's easy, and we're lazy busy. But I'd like to try to find actual recipes that I can make that are just as easy, but fresher, (potentially) healthier, and more memorable.

(By the way, have any of you noticed that I've gone nearly a whole week without including any photos of Samantha?  Definitely just an oversight...I'm sure I'll more than make up for it soon enough.)

I know this is not a cooking blog, but because I don't cook, I get pretty self-congratulatory when I actually do. And my high fives and kudos and pats on the back need to be shared. With you, you lucky people. But, in all honesty, I know that you all benefit from it, too. You're just as "busy," right? So I'll do the test driving, then share my results, and you can all take from it what you will.

My requirements for recipes: 
  • Must be easily adaptable to hide include vegetables
  • Must have inexpensive ingredients that are easy to find, or, better still, in my kitchen cabinets already
  • Must have short prep times.  I hate prep.  Defeats the purpose of being labeled easy if it requires the peeling and chopping of 15 different vegetables, creation of sauces, or putting together fancy pieces of kitchen equipment that have too many parts and take too long to clean afterwards
  • Must use a minimal number of pots/pans/utensils/etc.
  • Must have easy instructions

Simple, right?  We have about 300 cookbooks in the house.  But Googling "One Pot Meals" is a great way to find something quickly to fit the bill.

This weekend I made 2 new things.  First was on a whim.  I had bought a quarter of a watermelon at the store, knowing that Samantha likes watermelon.  However, every time I offered it to her, she didn't want any.  Yeah, my kid doesn't really dig fruit all that much...  Worried that it would just sit and rot in the fridge until it became a liquified puddle of goo covered in Saran Wrap, I thought I'd look up a recipe for watermelon ice.  This is the recipe I found: Watermelon Ice

I made a few modifications, such as using a seedless watermelon (no seeding required!), adding a chopped mango, adding a handful of mint from my back yard, and using orange Jello because it was the only gelatin I had in the house.  Also, I highly recommend cutting the sugar back by about half of what the recipe calls for, if not removing it altogether.  Prep time was about 10 minutes, and by morning I had the perfect desert to serve to guests (uh, if we had any guests...guess I'll keep this under my belt until...well, until whenever). 

Photographed with another cut-up mango.  Missing a frou frou mint sprig for full-effect...  :-) 

I also made not one, but two huge dishes of baked ziti.  I've never made it before, but found this recipe that was too easy and too delicious to pass up:  Baked Ziti  Of course, I modified it (recipes are only ever guidelines to me, meant to be fixed) to include chunks of chopped zucchini and ground sausage (a 16 oz. roll of Jimmy Dean sage sausage). 

Coincidentally, I was approached last week by eFoods Direct who asked me to review some of their convenient, easy-to-prepare meals.  I haven't tried them yet, but can't wait!  I should have another post for you about it next week sometime.  Seriously, it sounds pretty fantastic, and if this means that I could actually have cooked, non-microwaved meals at my fingertips without expending any effort, I'm in!  EFoods' mission is to provide, in addition to delicious food, "food security" in the event of natural disaster, storm, or even financial crisis, like the loss of a job.  Their food packets store for as long as 15-25 years (!!!), and require minimal storage space.  How many of you actually have a disaster plan?  I know we don't.  Maybe it's time to start...  Check out this page for some fascinating information about their product:  Why Choose EFoods?  In remembrance of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, they're offering bloggers and our readers two special emergency preparedness offers, one for 50% off a 7-day pantry pack, and one for 40% off a 16 serving soup and entree pack.  Visit eFoods Offer to order and redeem. 

Stay tuned for my next post on this topic!  And in the meantime, I'll keep on with my quest for Domestic Diva-hood...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Life Like Yours, Redux

I wrote this post on July 15th, 2007.  It was my 4th blog post ever.  I got my first comment on it yesterday, and was reminded, upon re-reading, just how important that moment was for me.  And how long ago and lost in the mire of the 650-something posts since then it has fallen.  I don't know if anyone else had ever read it, and while it's not my finest example of writing, it still brings tears to my eyes to read, to remember my first experience in speaking with an adult with Down syndrome.  I think, somehow, she must have known that I needed to speak to her, while I, myself, did not know that at all at the time. 

It's funny the impression someone can have on you.  I never saw her again, but be very, very sure, I never forgot her.  Coincidentally, just last year, one of my friends reported on Facebook that she and her young son met an amazing woman with Ds at the movie theater when the woman approached them and surprised her by addressing her son directly, remarking that the two of them had something in common.  Excited by the possibility that it may have been the same woman (description and location were pretty right), I sent my friend the link to that post, and was thrilled when she confirmed.  I must apologize, though, I did not have privacy in mind back then when I posted the photo.  Now, being older and wiser, I only post photos of people when I've had their permission.  But it's one of my favorite photos of all time, and I'm not about to take it down.  Unless I'm asked to, of course. 

But this post is less about specific people than it is about what we can learn from our interactions.  Those of you who may now be the me of 5 years ago, mother to a 1-year old with that little something extra, no clear idea of what the future may hold, so much fear of the unknown, please keep your minds open, please be prepared to put yourselves into situations where you may learn from the others.  I have grown to truly enjoy speaking to adults, to embracing their lives, their families, their individuality.  I still have so, so, so much to learn, and I'm ready to let Samantha teach me.  I've let go of so much of my fear for her and her future, knowing that she can be and can do so much more than I ever thought possible before that one day, back in the summer of 2007.

I've copied that post here for you, minus the photo:

I had a conversation with an amazing woman named J.. yesterday. J. is 39 years old, and has Down Syndrome. Samantha and I attended the picnic for the Arc of Northern Virginia. J.came up to us and introduced herself and asked if she could sit on the grass with us for a while. I said absolutely. Now, I have never spoken to anyone else with DS over the age of about 1. Frankly I was a little nervous. I guess because I didn't know what to expect. I've wanted to speak to an adult, but there's always that fear of the unknown. Will I be able to understand them? Will I be disappointed in the glimpse into Samantha's future? Will it be awkward? I can only say how grateful I am for the opportunity J. gave us yesterday. She is an amazingly articulate, bright, self-aware woman, and I was absolutely drawn to her. I was disappointed when she had to leave. She asked a lot of questions about Samantha's development, and spoke about some of her own. She said that she was glad to see I kept Samantha, as her mother had chosen to keep her. It makes me teary-eyed to think about that. I would never have had it any other way. She, too, had had heart surgery to correct a defect when she was young. I asked her if she works, and she said that she has been working at one of the government agencies downtown for the last 10 years (and just received her 10-year pendant!) and takes the bus and the metro every day to get to work. I wish I could remember more of the conversation, but just the overall feeling of 'fulfillment' for having spoken to her is mainly what remains. I told her and her mother about the DSANV picnic in 2 weeks, and hope to see them there. I expressed my happiness at having met her, but wish I had told her what an impression she had made on me. I hope she knows anyway.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Two to Go

Yep, this is lame.  And super-selfish.  And completely not meaning a doggone thing.  Oh, and did I use the adjective shallow yet?  No?  Well, it's that, too. 

By way of a little background history, I started this blog with a whopping single reader.  My mom.  And she wasn't a "follower," either.  Just a reader.  Then, little by little, people not in my family actually started reading, although I'm not too sure why, since those posts in the first couple of years were beyond yawn-worthy, like the kind of things foreign interrogators will subject spies to when trying torture intelligence out of them.  I think they may have had a similar effect to waterboarding.  On second thought, perhaps those early readers were foreign's possible, right?  The photos were bad, the writing fairly attrocious (that's not to say it's not attrocious now, but eh, I'm glad you're here anyway!).

I then started to get followers.  I didn't really even know what followers were, but it sounded good to have them, and I was happy.  I remember the number stagnating at around 86 followers.  Like, it just sat there for days, then weeks, then months.  I would focus my persuasive mental powers on it, willing it to change, and that's when it would usually drop a few digits.  Like really, why would someone stop following?  It felt like a bit of a kick in the teeth, but I know in reality, people stop blogging.  Or they reach their limit for the number of blogs that they follow (seriously, I just found out that that's even a possibility!  I hit the 300 mark, and got an error message from Blogger, who I suspect are just trying to get some money out of me.  Who will probably be getting some money out of me in the next week or two...).  Or they die.  Or they just plain don't like me.

Then the number would rise, not just by one, but by 2, or 3 all of a sudden, like they were making up for the ones that died.  And so on and so forth, until I found myself in my current predicament (see, you knew I'd get to the point, eventually, right?). 


One hundred and ninety eight

A frustrating place to be.  Not budging.  So close to such a beautific round number.  Oh, how fun it would be to hear, "Two Hundred."  Such a regal number. 


So, if you happen to not actually follow me, but read my blog in some other way, feel free to click that little button on the right side!

I'd appreciate it immensely. 

Of course now, just to spite me, some of you will probably unfollow.  Just because you can, and because you now know the pain it'll cause me (*ahem*).

But I'm sure I'll be okay.  And I'll forgive you for your transgressions.  And the blog will go on.

Because I'm actually kinda nice.  :-) 

(Update: I wrote this whole post out and now, a couple of hours later, still a full 14 hours before I'm about to publish it, I need to actually change the title to "One to Go..." Figures. Now I look like a big fat liar. Gah.)

(Update to update:  You guys are awesome!!!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

New Obsession

Of course I'm way, way behind the times with some of this new-fangled technology...  Being within only a year of even knowing what an app is, I approach each one warily, not sure if it's going to confound my technology-soft brain, or if it'll make sense quickly and easily, if it's going to cost a bundle, or if it'll be free, or if it's compatible with my Android, or if I would need to have the reviled iPhone to make it work. 

For months I've been hearing about Instagram, but always in the context of iPhone technology.  So I shrugged it off, stated, with the overwhelming taste of sour grapes in my mouth, that I didn't want it anyway.  So there.  But secretly, back behind my contrary, could-care-less exterior, I longed to make my lame, cell-phone snapshots of my every-day activities look interesting, even artistic.  And secretly, I wished to have that unattainable app, too. 

Actually, I wasn't too worried - I have been assuming, for some time now, that anything that's available for iPhone technology only would eventually come around to the Android market anyway.  Naturally!  And after a quick inquiry to a co-worker on Friday, I found out that, lo and behold, Instagram had come to Android.  Naturally!

That night, after an effortless 30-second download (or is it upload?  I can never tell which is which), and a quick self-guided tour, I was ready to rock and roll. 

Dang this stuff is fun!  But, being as late to the party as I was, I'm pretty sure that means that the fad will end and I'll be the one left standing.  For a time.  Looking foolish.  In the meantime, I'll take what I can get.  And if I can get a snapshot of 3 ears of corn to look cool, then so be it.

Here are a few of my favorites (can you hear distant strains of the chorus from "Seasons in the Sun" as you re-visit my grainy, sepia-tinted childhood memories of the 70s?):

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Loving the Felines

Photo from circa 2004

My poor cats.  For 5 years Samantha barely acknowledged their existence, allowing them to be blissfully ignorant of the woes known to house cats the world over who have the misfortune of sharing their spaces with small children.

Blissfully ignorant no more, they have awoken to the dawn of a new day, a day in which a child, hopelessly in love with the very idea of feline companionship, sees fit to hug, kiss, chase, sit on and otherwise maul said felines.

Here's a sample:

Me:  Remember, just pet the cat, Sammi.  No, just PET her, don't pick her up!  PET!  What are you doing?!?  Baby, Delilah's really old.  You have to be gentle.  Pet her, like this.  God job!  Do you hear that?  What's she doing?

Sammi:  She's purring!

Me:  That's right.  And how does she feel?

Sammi:  She feels happy!

Me:  Exactly.  So pet her only

How many times, exactly, do we need to have this conversation?  How many times do I have to yell, "RED LIGHT!" to try to get her to stop running after a terrified cat, maniacally giggling, calling, "Here, kittykittykittykitty..." as her graceless feet thud against the hardwood flooring, contrasting with the mad scrabbling of cat claws.

Walking into her room one day, I saw one of the poor, cornered cats, being held upside down in her clutches.  More discussion of petting only and why what she did hurt him.  More pouting and the usual "Okay, Mommy." 
Oh, and did I mention that these felines in question are upwards in age of 16 years old?  I stopped counting a while back, so I'm guessing now, but they're at least that old.  And one has 3 legs and a raging thyroid condition and weighs a mere 5 lbs. in contrast to her healthier, younger 20 lb. self...

On the plus side, my child has learned how to feed them.  When I get home from work and am rushing around to get stuff done and get her ready for bed, all I have to do is say, "Samantha, feed the cats, please..." and she is beyond happy to do so, from getting a fork from the drawer to scraping the old food out of the dishes, to putting new dry food in the dishes, all the while saying, "No, Addy, don't eat the food yet!  Wait, Delilah, not yet," and gently pushing them away.  I do the wet food part, but that's because she can't yet open the cans.

Maybe that's why the kitties are so tolerant.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Froggy Soda

Sammi has a special friend.

A special little friend.

A special little pink friend.

A special little pink friend named Froggy Soda.

Don't ask. 

I have absolutely no idea where that name came from, since she's actually a child that doesn't even know what soda is.  I've always celebrated when Samantha names one of her toys something other than what it is (ie. Kitty, Bunny, Bear, Barbie, etc.). 

But this one baffles me.

I suspect the "Soda" part is not actually from the word "soda," but think she may have gotten his/her/? name from something else, and we just misunderstood her. 

But the name, whether correct or not, has stuck.

It's funny how kids latch on to things from strange and random sources.  A drawn-on paper placemat from a restaurant, a cat toy, a magnifying glass... Froggy Soda came to us from her dentist's office, from that little box of toys the children are allowed to pick from after their appointments. 

Froggy Soda often comes on car rides with us, guarding the car from would-be thieves when we're not in it. 

Look at that face and that cute little pink rubber frog - who am I to question why? 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pieces of My Heart

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

The photos below are proof of that Elizabeth Stone quote above.  Samantha is the best part of me.  My heart.  She has shown me exactly what being a mother is and should be all about.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

Truly Beautiful Days

There are beautiful days, and then there are beautiful days.  And Murphy's Law dictates that the truly beautiful days fall strictly on workdays, leaving them beautiful only to the sprawl and crawl of rush-hour traffic, and the brief, tantalizing glimpse during a rare lunch hour.  But once in a while, Mother Nature bares her rebelious streak and tries to buck the system.

Like Saturday, for example. 

We lucked out and were graced by one of the most beautiful days for outdoor fun that I have seen on a weekend in a long, long while.  The overnight temperature, according to the sensor on our back deck, was 49.  By 9am, it read 84.  Not like it was really 84 at that point, the sensor being squarely in the path of the rising sun in the East, but it gives you some indication of the way things were headed.  And, miraculous for this part of the world, there was no humidity to spoil it.  Like, none.

The day started off at 5:30am (what is Sammi thinking these days?  just because the birds are chirping and the sun is shining brightly through your East-facing window, does *not* mean you can get out of bed, Missy...) with the usual hang-around-the-house-type activities.  At 11:30, we went to the local DSANV picnic, where we met up with Megan and Ellie, Kelly and Charlotte, and Lexi and Abby.  I always enjoy those DSA gatherings, although there is usually more to do than any almost-6-year-old can handle without a nap. 

But, glutton for punishment that I am, I thought I'd push my luck just a little bit, and head from there over to the county Bluegrass Festival a friend had alerted me to.  Again, no nap.  Not even in the car.  Well, not anything more than a head nod requiring a shout from me to wake up!, as we came within a 1/2 mile of our destination.  Sheesh, seriously?  We could be in the car for 30 minutes, and she starts to doze then?  The misery to be heaped upon me if I allowed such a thing would, in absolutely no uncertain terms, not. be. worth. it.  And so it was not to be.

No nap.

Running on fumes. 

For Samantha, this kind of thing means, quite simply, that she doesn't listen.  At all.  Like, to the point that it makes me look like a shite parent for dragging her off some guy's guitar case she was lying down on.  Or for dragging her from the steps to the stage where a band was playing in front of several hundred people.  Or for dragging her away from the bird poop-covered bleachers she insisted on crawling up, hand over knee (picking my battles, I eventually gave in to that one - bird poop can be washed off...), or for dragging her out of the questionable mud puddle she and her bare feet in Crocs insisted on jumping square into the center of, or for dragging her away from the kazoo box as she tried to return the spitty orange one I'd just paid for that she'd been blowing her germs into for the past 10 minutes, and stopping her from putting a new yellow one she'd grabbed instead to her lips, or for.......yeah, the list kinda goes on like that. 

Sammi made a new friend.

Little girls in cotton, floral-print dresses.  So sweet, so nostalgic, so fitting

I'd never been to a bluegrass festival before, although I've always wanted to.  Bluegrass music is a funny thing - while I don't know all that much about it, and couldn't ever name a particular band, I just love it.  It seems to unite several very interesting segments of our society, from the country folk to the alternative hipsters.  It speaks so much to America's roots, pulling, further back, from the music of our European ancestors.  There's just so much feeling, calling a part of me that I can't quite put my finger on.  Maybe it's something from my childhood, maybe a past life, I don't know.  But just hearing it sets such a mood.  It reminds me of the time Steve and I drove up through Scotland 21 years ago, stopping several days at Loch Lomond.  We rented a rowboat and as we made our way out through the center of the quiet, still loch, we could hear a single bagpipe, off in the distance.  I'll venture to say, however, that bluegrass does not remind me of the unusual ripples in the water we witnessed as we sat on an island in the center, eating our lunch...  Don't they say the lochs of Scotland are connected via a labyrinth of underground caverns?   

Pick-up jam sessions, scattered throughout the festival site.  Have instrument, can play.

This stage, inside a huge barn, was on the flatbed of a semi parked there.  Totally cool.

Rebel.  On the bird crap-covered bleachers, exhausted beyond description, just about to stick her filthy, bird-crap-and-dirt covered fingers into her mouth just to spite me, just because I told her not to.  Defiance at it's most obvious.

Dang, that bus is beautiful!  Two of my favorite, favorite colors together (orange and turquoise).  Drool...

See that puddle next to the bus below?  Yep, that's the questionable one.  My initial thoughts were sewage leaking from a toilet on the bus.  My later (and more hopeful) thoughts were that it was from condensation off the A/C unit.  I believe that the photo below was just as she spied the object of her obsession and ran straight for it.  I'm thankful for paper towels and antibacterial gel...

All in all, Samantha had a good time, exploring.  I don't think she gave a rat's behind about the music (although she likes most music anyway), but what kid wants to stand in one spot for any period of time, anyway?  Will we do this again?  Absolutely.

Especially in perfect weather.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just a Number, or Does it *Really* Matter?

In a few short weeks Samantha will be turning 6. 


I can't believe it.  A year ago at this time, I was thinking that the preceding year hadn't really netted any major milestones met, no major happenings to report, nothing I could really put my finger on and pinpoint, no "these-are-the-amazing-things-that-happened-this-year" things.  It was a pretty ordinary year, during which we did pretty ordinary stuff.  She was completing her final year of preschool, and while we were thrilled at how well she transitioned to 2 days a week of full-day private preschool in addition to 3 days a week of half-day public Special Education preschool, and how well she made "typical" friends, it was all still pretty regular stuff.

This year, that is definitely not the case.

I've been bowled over by what 5 has brought (the first 3 are more our own personal "letting-go" milestones):

  • The elimination of pull-ups at night (they were already eliminated for daytime) started two weeks before her 5th birthday. 
  • The removal of her bedrail, and the child-proof door handle in her room (we finally let go and realized that she's not a wanderer, plus she'd certainly need to be able to get to the bathroom if necessary!).
  • The end of the audio baby-monitor.  Several months ago it just stopped working.  Which was fine with us. 
  • Reading!!!!  And not just reading books at her age-level, but reading, voraciously, just about anything she can get her hands on, including 2nd grade-level books.  I've posted about this before, but my dream was that she'd be reading by the time she got to Kindergarten.  She was, a little bit, but for some reason, by the 3rd week of school, something just clicked and she began to read, naturally, unhindered.
  • Writing!!!!  She has beautiful (to me, at least) handwriting, and is now responsible for writing out her own birthday/thank you/Valentines/whatever cards (with verbal prompts to help with spelling).
  • Picking up a few chores here and there.  Ask her to feed the cats?  Set the table?  Clean up her room?  You got it!
  • And so many more.

But it's bittersweet, really.  I was sad when she turned 5 because it was such a huge moment of growing up.  For me, and for her.  My baby was no longer a baby.  Now, I feel trepidation towards 6 because of what the number itself means.  Well, what it means to me, anyway.  While Samantha is still 5, I can say, when someone asks, "Oh, she's 5.

Like it's an excuse.

Oh, how awkward I feel for saying that, but it lives in a little box in the back of my mind.  Yes, my child comes across as younger than she is.  So five is a convenient explanation.  And, on the flip side of the coin, my child, academically, is pretty amazing, surpassing many of her typical peers in a lot of things (I only say that to make the point in the next sentence).  So five is used to boost that.  The expectation at five is that she shouldn't be able to do those things, and saying, "Oh, she's five!" sounds super-impressive.  The expectation at six is that she should, and the number is no longer a source of marvel. 

Yes, it's just a number. 

Yes, I'm being a tad bit ridiculous. 
Yes, I'm incredibly proud of everything she does, regardless of age!

And no, I cannot believe she's almost 6 big girl.  How time flies.  How amazed I am at her, each and every day, and all that she's taught me about oh, so many things.  How much I treasure every minute I get to spend with her, looking at her, marveling at this beautiful creation we brought into the world nearly 6 years ago.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Budding Artist

Sammi's beautiful capture of our house, complete with steps leading up to the front door.  We're working on perspective, which has come a loooong way.  (You didn't really think our door and downstairs window were on our front lawn, did you?)  Sometimes I can see the influence of her teachers at work, such as in the formation of a definitive torso, and the addition of hands and feet.  She's a natural mimic - show her a couple of times, and she'll begin to take on the stylistic elements of someone else's work.  Recently I showed her how to draw a flower.  Her afternoon caregiver drew a daisy chain, with each daisy sporting a smiley face.  That's now what she deems "drawing flowers."  Eventually these copied elements will taper off, become something uniquely hers.  All great artists betray their influences in some way.  Not like I feel that we're headed to the Louvre, but watching the evolution, the little details and factors that shape how she draws and creates, fascinates me.  The stronger and more confident she is holding a writing instrument, the more detailed her drawings become.  Just a year ago, we were seeing giant, potato-shaped heads with two legs coming out of the bottom.  The mouth would curl off the side of the face.  

I wonder what she'll show us next...? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Different Glove

8:15 on Saturday morning was as good a time as any to play catch in the front yard.  The morning was beautiful, warm, but with a slight breeze, the humidity just this side of acceptable.  Daddy came out to water the flowers that line our walkway, and Samantha and I came out to have a "picnic" on the steps with our breakfasts.  Hopefully the neighbors in our tightly-packed townhouse community are forgiving of the shouts and squeals coming from our little patch.

Steve got Sammi her very first baseball glove last week.  It seems to be easy enough to get over her hand, but teaching the skill of coordinating eye and hand and moving-object-being-hurled-through-the-air is a huge challenge.  I'm sure she'll get it eventually, but it's pretty amusing watching the process.  The biggest trick is trying to get across that she has to move her hand with the glove towards the ball as it comes to her, keeping her eye on the ball.  Uh huh.  Right.

There was no success, other than the acknowledgement that she has a great throwing arm, and that she had a lot of fun trying to catch.

Sunday's baseball game went oooookay...  She was resistant for the first two at-bats, happily carrying the bat to the T, then dropping it, hands behind her back, when she realized she was expected to actually do something.  It's strange behavior to me - happy one second, seemingly ready to go, then completely shut-down the next.  Steve tried some re-direction, then made a playful game of holding her arms with his, and batting the ball together.  Running was no problem - she ran full-out to the bases, Daddy jogging alongside, and made a big show of stomping on the bags.  Of course she had no interest in watching the other batters and waiting for the next hit to allow her to run to the next base - she went ahead on her own (stealing!), or ran back to where I was, looking for a hug from Mommy.  Eh, she's only played baseball 2 times before...she'll get there...  By the 3rd at-bat she was happy to hit the ball "all by myself."

I'm a little bummed - there's a big Challenger League tournament in Virginia Beach this coming weekend, hotel and fees covered by the league for everyone who registered.  When we signed Sammi up for baseball back in March, we knew about it, and thought that what we were signing up for was including the tournament and that we'd receive more info closer to the time.  Turns out there was a separate sign-up form for VA Beach that included hotel room preferences, but we never actually got that one.  We're 6th on the waiting list.  So, we're hanging in at home this weekend.  On the plus side, we don't have to ask the neighbors to cat-sit (I hate to ask because they're sooooo nice, and since we have such high-maintenance kitties) and the DSANV Spring Picnic is on Saturday so we'll likely go to that.  I suspect that weekends from now through the end of September may be pretty full of activities...

By the way, when did my little baby grow up so much to become this long-legged girl??  It's like she stretched out overnight.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Embracing the Quirks

The quirks are what make people interesting.  And not necessarily the kind of "interesting" that my grandmother used to use as a polite definition for something less than palatable, but the kind of "interesting" that makes people, well, the characters that they are - who they are.  I'm pretty sure we all have quirks, some more obvious than others, and if you think you don't, then you're a big ol' liar.  (For the record, I have no quirks...) 

Samantha sure does have her quirks, and I love most all of them.  Some of her quirks come and go in phases, which are the ones I think I find the cutest.  Mainly because I know we won't be stuck with them for very long...  For example, when she was about 2 or 3, she used to try on different laughs and smiles, feeling out the ones that got the best reactions or that felt right to her.  And as cute and adorable as they were for the moment, boy, am I glad some of those didn't stick...

On Wednesday, Samantha said she wanted to bring the blue-fluffy-thing-on-a-stick-cat-toy to school for "show and tell."  They don't actually have show and tell in Kindergarten, and if they did, I think her participation in the ritual would be a whole lot more show than tell.  I stopped her at the door and told her the kitties needed to keep it at home so they could play with it (okay, so that was a little fib - they're too old and lethargic to drag their sorry butts down to the basement litter boxes, or to even clean themselves, let alone play with a toy, but that's beside the point).  Thankfully, she was happy with that suggestion. 

On Thursday she insisted on wearing one of her pink gardening gloves to school, saying she needed to do some gardening.  Just one.  While I came close to yanking it off of her before walking out the door, I had to remember that all children probably go through stuff like this, and I should just pick my battles.  After all, what would it possibly hurt?  I was pretty sure she wouldn't be able to hold a pencil, but maybe that would be enough of an impetus to get her to take it off eventually.  Maybe her classmates would make fun of her.  But given the strange things I've seen them all wearing and bringing to school, I found that highly unlikely. 

Besides, it matched her outfit perfectly (yeah, yeah, I totally didn't even think about getting a picture and accept the self-wrist-slapping I've given myself).

Walking into the classroom, she took off her backpack and removed her jacket carefully, avoiding pulling the glove off.  As she made her way to her seat, she saw one of her little boy-friends wearing a fake mustache (see?  everything goes!).  Seeing her interest, he removed it and handed it to her, so she could put it on herself.  By the time I finished fumbling with my cell phone camera, it had fallen off of her and she was already moving on to give it to another child. 

Quirky, yes.  But any different from any other child's typical silliness and exploration at this age?  Nope.

By the way, in case you were burning to know, yes, she can hold a pencil and write perfectly well while wearing a gardening glove... 

On a completely different topic, I was pretty impressed on Saturday by her acknowledgement of somebody else's differences.  We were walking into a playground and saw a man up ahead of us with a very pronounced limp and walking with the aide of a cane. 

"Mommy, look at him - he needs some medicines." 

Choking back the surprised/happy laughter I felt threatening to consume me, I carefully explained to her that he likely didn't need medicine, but just needed the help of a cane.

"So he can walk!"


In the past, I would have imagined I'd cringe and hush a child that said that out loud.  Knowing what I know now of the disability community, I can honestly hope that the man heard her.  I think most people, including myself, appreciate parents taking the time to explain things to their naturally curious children, rather than hushing them and treating disability as a taboo subject.  How would they ever learn acceptance from that?  I wanted the man to know that Samantha, at least, is one who will spread acceptance through education, if not solely by virtue of her own differences.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

One of the (Many) Reasons I Love Photoshop

I'd love to be a purist, able to get the perfect shot on the first go-round, no editing required.  But to be honest, if I was a true purist, I'd want to shoot with film (although there is something to be said for the warmth you get with film...), and develop the images myself in the (imaginary) dark room in my basement, like my father did while I was growing up. 

the original, lovely in its own way, SOOC - Straight out of Camera(phone):

the edited version, with just a few tweaks:


I still have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, but slowly but surely I'm learning, creeping towards the desired results.  This was a particularly fine example, taken at the company Getaway this past weekend.  (Please ignore the hair-twirling...I think just about every photo I've taken of her lately has her right hand up at her temple...).  Note:  This particular edit actually needed one more little layer, but I didn't know that until just now, too late to make the change for this post.  For some reason what I see on my laptop, where I have Photoshop, is quite different from what I see on a desktop with a larger monitor, and I need to remember to compensate for those differences.

I haven't done it yet, but am always so tempted to go back through my old photos, taken with my crappy, old, original point-and-shoot digital camera when Samantha was born, and fixing all of those awful, formerly hopeless images.  I may one day, but it will be one seriously BIG undertaking.  I'm excited, though, to see what I might be able to get out of the project.

In the meantime, I'll keep on with the current backlog of images requiring attention, including about 200 from the big customer event my company held a few weeks ago.  Maybe I have a case for getting Photoshop loaded onto my work computer now...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bringing the Donuts

It sounds like a sentence you'd find in a Home Economics textbook, circa 1950. 

Bring baked goods to IEP meetings to help set the tone...

I've heard it many times before, that bringing treats to your IEP meeting will help foster a more congenial atmosphere, one that may help breed collaboration and agreement.  Too many times those meetings are a time to dread, to be suited up for battle with the school systems.  I've been there.

This time, however, we knew that would not be the case.  I consider us very lucky in that respect.  And I'm not bragging about this, I'm just stating that we're fortunate, as I'd mentioned in my post last week, to have an IEP team that is on the same page as we are regarding Samantha's education and development. 

We went through the document, page by page, nodding our agreement after each.  In a way, the document is more complex because it now includes academic goals going into 1st grade.  But in a way, it was much simpler because it didn't break out the short-term goals to be hit at each quarter.  We just had to agree on the end-result to be met by the end of next April.  And it was a bit simpler also because the goals were based on the standard 1st grade testing that would be given to all 1st graders next spring. 

1st grade.  Wow. 

Placement discussion was easy.  Typical 1st grade class, brief, 30-minute weekly pull-outs for PT, ST, OT, 1:1 aide (same one she has now, one of her resource teachers, who we absolutely adore).  See, simple.  ESY will consist of Samantha being placed in a typical Summer School class with 1st graders who are entering 2nd grade in the fall (again, likely with the same resource teacher as her aide).  There is no Kindergarten Summer School class, so I'm actually pretty thrilled about this placement.  And even more thrilled that it will be held in her home school this year.  Hooray for consistency!!!

There was no dread, no suiting up, no battle.  But there were baked goods.

This time, we brought a dozen donuts with us. 

Just because we like everyone.