Friday, August 31, 2012



...and Arthur!

A longer post about the completely ridiculous circumstances leading up to their entry into our home will come once the adoption is completely complete, after they've been spayed/neutered on September 12th.  But in the meantime, I will say that they're making themselves right at home, and are as entertaining as they are cute!  A perfect match!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Subsequent Days

Day 2 went pretty well.  Samantha had some hits and misses throughout the day, including a lot of pouting and a flat-out refusal to participate in gym.  But who could really blame her?  I hated gym.  Although that was more towards Junior High and High School...  But I still hated it.  Her teacher did manage to convince her to at least go into the gym and sit on the bleachers to watch.  If she does that every time, I'm sure it'll just be a matter of time before she wants to participate.

I hope.

One of the cool things about her week (well, cool for me, anyway...) is that one of my favorite bloggers, Chris, from Riding the Crazy Train, actually gets to spend about an hour or two with Sammi each week in class.  I expect glowing reports to be forthcoming...  Actually, I ran into Chris this morning when I was dropping Samantha, and...(yes, I actually meant "dropping" Samantha - she was doing her awe-inspiring but thankfully-not-too-frequent-anymore flop-and-drop routine in the hall at school, I picked her up in her cross-legged position, and she went limp again, slipping through my hands the 8 inches or so to thud to the floor. There would be far fewer abductions, both adult and child alike, if we could *all* learn how to do that and just magically slip through the fingers of the abductor!)...and she said that by the end of the day yesterday, Sammi was pretty much done.  In my opinion, and just in relation to Sammi's strengths, the daily schedule for 1st grade is a little bit backwards (I'm sure it's just perfect for the majority of the students, though).  Reading and writing take up the bulk of the morning hours, before lunch.  After lunch, they do math, and then the specials, such as art, music, gym, etc.  All those things that Sammi couldn't really care less about.  Because reading and writing are actually Sammi's favorite things to do, they would certainly keep her engaged through the afternoon hours. 

That being said, it is only now Day 3 of school, and as I'd said before, the routine will become just that...routine.  She'll get the hang of it, and will eventually rise to the occasion to shine, as she usually does. 

And now, just a little sweetness for your day, with photos of Sammi and her BFF, Lilly, playing together on Saturday afternoon.  While Lilly's mom and I sat down in the dining room, talking, Sammi and Lilly went upstairs to play in Sammi's room.  After some time had passed with no thuds or screams, Lilly's mommy went up to check on them.  Hurrying back downstairs, she asked me to come quickly, and bring my camera.  There, in the middle of the room, static dance music blasting from Samantha's Hello Kitty radio, the two of them were having a dance party to put John Travolta to shame. 

I just love seeing them together.  We're hoping to schedule their first sleepover soon - it's the first thing Samantha asks about when she wakes up in the morning, and the last thing she talks about when she goes to bed at night.  Think she's excited?


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hooray! We Made It!!

We made it through Day 1 of 1st Grade!!  The BIG time!  The day I'd been sweating over, worrying about, fabricating worst-case scenarios about (well, not really that, but it sounds good...). 

First.  Grade. 


My girl is now in school full-time, sitting next to familiar faces at her very own desk, filled with her very own workbooks, having structured reading and math, art and music, PE three times a week (good thing we got her those new Pumas!!  Practical and stylin'!), and taking lunch with her 3 days a week and buying lunch 2, including the all-important Pizza Day, on Fridays.  Ummm...if my memory serves me correctly, Fridays have been Pizza Day since about the beginning of time, or at least since I was a kid.  And Wednesdays were pasta day.  Not sure if that one is still happening, but I'll have to check.

Yesterday, Monday, Day One, Samantha had a very good day.  I didn't get much in the way of details about her day from anyone, other than that she did well in the cafeteria, and stayed in her seat in class, and started to get a little tired by the time they did Math, after lunch, after Art.  Heck, that kind of timing would knock me out, too.  But up until the very end of the day, she did well. 

And then she lay down on the floor and wouldn't get up until Daddy came to pick her up.  But apparently that wasn't a very long time.  And apparently all of the kids were pretty spent by then, some laying across tables while doing Art, wishing for the now-impossible nap.  And we've had a little chat with the Princess to ensure that she understands that that is not acceptable behavior, so I doubt we'll see that again.

Oh, and about the bathroom?  Her resource teacher said she's going to get Sammi into the habit of going right after lunch.  Sounds perfect to me!  That way she'll expect it, she won't resist it, and she won't hold her water for 7 hours. 

This morning, I kissed my girl goodbye at the door to her classroom, then watched as she removed her backpack, hung it up, and took her seat at her desk.  And she was happy

And I was happy

Happy girl, on the walk to school.
Outside her classroom, before everyone else arrived.
Visible, in her pencil box, are just 2 of the 30 (!!) gluesticks required by 1st graders.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Keeps Me Up At 5am

I woke up at 5am this morning.  The ancient desktop in the room down the hall was painfully churning away, as it always does when I forget to turn it off at night, but usually I can sleep through that.  Not today.  Today I was up.  My brain suddenly wide awake, worrying, worrying, worrying about school. 

About what?  Sammi's excited to start, she has a new Rapunzel backpack with a new princess lunch bag for the days she takes her lunch, we won't have to worry about "fall" clothes yet for another 2 months or so in our climate, so her current wardrobe can still stay, the teacher is awesome (and she said she reads my blog every day!  Hi, Mrs. R.!), she'll have the same amazing aide as last year, and she'll be attending full-time, finally, as we've been looking forward to for the last 6 years.  LOL

So what, exactly, am I worried about?

Bathroom breaks, that's what.

Lastnight I attended Back to School Night at Sammi's school, a night when parents can go and see their child's classroom, speak to the teacher and fill out paperwork.  I got the amazing privilege of sitting at Sammi's desk and leaving her a secret love note inside.  I heard about lunch menus, lunch money, daily schedules.  I felt a pang of fear at the mention of spelling and math tests, Phys Ed 3 days a week, and self-guided group reading activities.  I laughed to myself when the teacher said her goal was to have kids reading, eventually, 20 minutes per sitting, starting off in 3-minute sessions.  Right.  (Sammi could tear through book after book, reading each and every word, for 2 hours, if you let her...the teacher will find getting her to stop and refocus on a new activity to be the real challenge...)  I was a little sad to see that one of the little girls that was so close to Sammi in Kindergarten, who we were told would likely be placed in her 1st grade class with her as peer support, has actually been placed into another class (even her mother was surprised!).  Parents asked great questions about some of the more minute daily details, the answers to which I paid very close attention. 

But I totally forgot to ask about bathroom breaks.  And I totally don't recall seeing a bathroom in the classroom. 

Not like I mind Sammi using the group restroom down the hall.  That's absolutely fine.  Ordinarily none of this would worry me, but we heard from her aide last year that she never used the bathroom at all during Kindergarten. 

My child, with the bladder of steel, who I made sure used the toilet twice before leaving the house every morning, just never needed to go while in the half-day Kindergarten program, and just waited until she got home. 

First grade is going to be very different.  There is absolutely no way she could hold her water from 7:30am to 2:30pm, and if there's no bathroom in the classroom that she can just get up and use when she needs to go, will she ask to use the other one when she does?  If the class goes en masse to take a lavatory break, will she go then, or say she doesn't have to (the mantra of the stubborn - okay, willful - child) and then be stuck later? 

I'm not worried about accidents.  Steel, remember?  But I am worried about my silly girl getting sick if she holds it every day.  I'm probably worrying about absolutely nothing.  I'm sure she'll get into a routine soon enough, and, with the help and encouragement of her aide, she'll be fine. 

But that's what kept me up this morning.

Oh, that, and carrying her lunch tray without dropping it.

And math and spelling tests.

And the self-guided group activities.

And recess.

And PE.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Letters From School

Samantha got mail yesterday.  A postcard, printed carefully in ink, addressed directly to Samantha.  A postcard from her new teacher, Mrs. R. 

How awesome is that? 

Samantha read it over and over again:

Dear Samantha,
Welcome to room 3!  I am so excited for the wonderful year we will have in first grade.  You will have your own desk, new notebooks, and many fun things to explore.  I will see you soon!  :-)
Mrs. R
What a perfect way to start off the school year!  Something this simple just made such a difference in both the minds of worried parents and the mind of a child, anxious to meet her new teacher. 

I'll be meeting her new teacher tonight at Back To School Night.  I'm not sure if I'm more excited to meet her for the first time, or to perhaps ask her why, oh why, 1st graders need 30 glue sticks EACH?!

Can't wait!

Yes, I think it's going to be a very good school year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Making Up is (not so) Hard to Do

At my parents' house this weekend, Samantha decided she'd had just. about. enough. of hanging out with us boring grown-ups downstairs, and left, Android tablet (with the internet access shut off, of course!) in hand, up to our room for a little peace and quiet. 

Now, with Samantha, there's rarely true peace and quiet.  If she's reading, she still reads out loud.  If she's playing a game, you can generally hear either the game, or her talking about what she's doing.  If she's playing with her dolls, she's having long, drawn-out, detailed conversations with them.  So when she went upstairs, I was still able to hear her. 

Until she slammed the bedroom door shut.

I gave her a few minutes, respecting her privacy (as much as any 6 year old should have), until I realized just how quiet it really was.  Then I called up to her.

Under ordinary circumstances, she would have readily called back.  But not this time.  I gave her another chance, calling to her once more to tell me what she was doing.  And, realizing that she was in a room that was not hers, that was actually full of someone else's stuff, it dawned on me that the reality of the situation was that she could be doing just about anything.  Which would not be good.

I made my way up the stairs, terrified that all I could hear was complete. silence.  Opening the door, I saw that she was lying, face-down, on the bed, the tablet on the floor by the door, still on, waiting for her next move in the game on the blinking screen.  I walked over to her, asking her to sit up for me.  That's when I saw my pink Coach makeup bag, out of our overnight bag, sitting on the floor, mascara, blush, foundation and lipstick containers all spread out around it. 

And she was lying on a white, quilted, decorative pillow.  Crap. 

Sitting up, she revealed the new her to me, mascara streaking her left cheek like an 80s New Romantic pop star, lipstick dotting her right, pillow miraculously untouched by the carnage, a look of mild fear on her face.

And after a stunned pause, I laughed.  And she grinned, no doubt relieved. 

Me:  Samantha, are you allowed to put on my makeup?

Samantha:  Noooo.  I'm sorry, mommy.

Frantically, I patted my pockets for my cell phone, which, unfortunately, was left on the kitchen counter downstairs.  I guess I should have been more forceful, but when I asked her if I could take a photo of her makeup, she said no, and I let it go, instead leading her into the bathroom to clean up.  So, my apologies to you for not capturing the moment.  But I did think about it.  Guess that's gotta count for something.

What is it with little girls that they feel compelled to play with their mommies' makeup bags, anyway?

Keep in mind, this is not the first time this has happened.  At home, any time she goes into the bathroom I share with her, shuts the door and does not make the legitimate tinkly sound of peeing, I get suspicious, and have twice now caught her in the act there over the last 8 months or so.  I really can't get mad, though.  It's too cute, and such a typical rite of passage for any child, be it boy or girl.  I'd like her to remember the moment fondly, too (while still aware of my displeasure).  It's a delicate balance, but one I think we've sorted out pretty well. 

Could be worse, right? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Public Restrooms and the 6 Year Old


Holding my 53 lb., 6 year old child out in front of me, high above the height of a toilet while simultaneously squeezing my own oversized derriere through the narrow opening of the public restroom stall, shifting her weight about a foot to the left to avoid the protruding toilet paper holder, her legs dangling dangerously above the filth-coated cesspit we're trying to avoid, the door squeezing my middle as I do my very best Houdini-like dislocation of multiple body parts to get in...

You get the picture. 

I'm guessing that unless I'm just off my rocker, and a complete germaphobe, or that you yourself just have absolutely no regard for how horribly disgusting public restrooms really are, then you've certainly been there many times before with your own child.  Heck, even without my child being with me, I still manage a very similar dance routine on the path to relief. 

Me (taking a deep breath now that we are both firmly entrenched within the closed, locked stall):  Now, Sammi, what do you not touch?

Sammi (enunciating very clearly and carefully, so obviously painstakingly-schooled by yours truly):  Don't. Touch. Anything.

Me (crouching precariously over the yucky object of fear and terror):  Right.  Good.  No!!!  Don't touch that - it's dirrrrrrty!  Just. stand. still.  Let me pee first, then you can go, okay?  Wait - don't open that door!  Don't even touch the doorknob, okay?  Sammi!  When I say "don't touch," I mean "Don't. Touch."  Good girl.  Thank you.  Ewww, you touched the wall.  Sammi, please don't touch anything else, okay? Hey, GET OFF THE FLOOR!!!

Then, finally, it's her turn.  Wiping the toilet with a giant wad of balled-up paper, probably way more than is necessary, carefully laying some flattened sheets on the seat in preparation for the certainly freakishly-clean, certainly germ-free buttocks of my certainly perfect child, I lift her carefully, gently, trying not to disturb the alignment of backside on paper.

Until she innocently shifts her body to better align her backside on the seat itself, and the paper all but disappears into the cesspool...aaaaaaand...her bare bum actually comes to rest on and in direct contact with the bare seat, and bike shorts and underwear actually touch (gasp!) the underside of the porcelain beast. 

I cringe inwardly.  No, wait, that's a lie.  I cringe outwardly, obviously, sighing loudly as I contemplate ways to keep her clothing from touching her body/my hands/the car seat/air afterwards until I can rush them all into the wash (I'm pretty sure you can wash air...). 

And let's not even talk about Sammi's sensitivity to noise.  Heaven forbid the rest room has those auto-flush toilets that not only suck urine and feces down into their depths, but threaten to implode the entire universe around you with the loudest SWISH of water you've ever heard.  Sammi can't get her hands over her ears fast enough.  Yes, those very same hands that had touched the wall/door/littleflappyfemininehygeineproductdepositbox...  *Sigh*  (Can't we just wrap her in cellophane with holes in all the appropriate places?  Boys sure do have it easy!!)

I do cover the auto-flush sensor with toilet paper when I can.  I read in Parents Magazine once that it's a good idea to bring Post-It notes to cover the ones that are wall-mounted.  Brilliant idea, but the likelihood of me remembering to stick a packet of Post-Its into my bag as I run out the door is pretty slim these days.  As a matter of fact, I've thought about it, and told other people about it, for about 6 years now, but have yet to do it myself.  I'm lucky if I remember my ID. 

And then there's the automatic hand dryer.  The slow, inefficient, old-fashioned ones are just fine.  She doesn't mind them.  She'll even laugh while she dries her hands.  The modern, turbo-dry, jet-engine ones, the ones that are so amusing to watch as they blow the veins across the backs of your hands, are not, even remotely, fine.  Amusing when you're by yourself.  Terrorizing when your child is screaming, crying, alternately trying to dry her hands and cover her ears.  I usually pony up my skirt as a towel at that point and hustle her out of there, for which she is grateful. 

Trips to public restrooms often result in a) mommy yelling, b) Sammi crying.  It's a wonder she hasn't developed a complex, a phobia of public restrooms everywhere.  I'm thankful she's flexible and not yet scarred for life.

My next goal is to figure out how to become brave enough to allow her to go into the stall by herself to do it on her own, like she does at home, or at school.  My thought is that I now have to wait until her feet can touch the ground so she can put her butt on the seat without using her hands to pull herself up.  So does that mean I actually have to go into the stall with her until she's 8?  Or do I send her in with a box of antibacterial wipes and teach her how to clean the toilet herself before she touches it in any way?  Oh, the dilemmas...

We're fresh off a 12+ hour road trip two weeks ago, followed a week later by an 8+ hour trip, followed by a 4 1/2 hour trip just this past weekend.  While my kid has a bladder of iron, I do not, and took every opportunity to make sure she used the rest stop bathrooms nearly as often as I did, just to be safe.  How about you? How do you deal with it and keep both yourself and your child sane (and germ free, of course...)?  Am I the only one in this predicament? 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cormorant Island

Thank you to everyone who responded to my question last week about when you catch up on blog reading - your answers were very helpful to me!  Oh, and thank you to everyone who caught my faux pas in posting to the wrong blog, who were kind enough not to ridicule me too mercilessly...

I'll save the new post I referenced there for tomorrow, however.  I'll be very interested in knowing how many of you actually relate to what I'll be talking about...

This past weekend, Samantha and I drove up to New Jersey to visit my family.  My father and I went out on a photo-taking expedition yesterday morning, just the two of us.  We've been wanting to do this for quite some time, but finally managed to pull it off.  As I arrived to his house completely unprepared for spending any time outside (flip flops and sleeveless shirts are not conducive to tromping around in marshes or tall grasslands in the company of nasty little biting things such as deer flies, chiggers, ticks, etc.), he took pity on me and lent me one of his long-sleeved shirts, a pair of tall, bright blue sports socks to pull up over the bottom of my pant legs, and a pair of his gargantuan sneakers, tied tightly to keep me from walking out of them.  I made quite the fashion statement.

We stopped to photograph anything that caught our eyes, with the exception of occupied houses, no matter how quaint or historic, lest we be mistaken for peeping toms.  In search of a local lighthouse, we came around a corner and were astonished, I mean really, truly blown away, by the sight of an island literally covered with hundreds of cormorants and egrets.  I wish I could describe the sound, as their calls echoed through the marsh.  Surreal.  My dad got much better photos with his amazing telephoto lens, but below are a couple of my own.  I suspect I may have been a bird watcher in a previous life.  I've always been fascinated and excited by seeing different types of birds in the wild.  After we left this spot we discovered an osprey's nest, disturbing a family of the beautiful and elegant raptors who were obviously not happy about our presence.  I'd never seen one so close, and was surprised by how much like eagles these birds of prey look.   

By the way, if you're wondering where Samantha was while we were out for the nearly 4-hour odyssey, she stayed at the house with Memom.  Here's a snippet of my phone call to check in on her...

ring ring...

Samantha (answering the phone by herself!):  Hi, Mommy!

Me:  Hi, sweetheart!  What'cha doin'?

Samantha (sounding pretty damn cheery):  Making cookies with Memom! 

Yep.  And playing hide and seek with Memom and the dog (who happens to be the love of Sammi's life), building a fort, playing shop with the toy cash register, playing doctor, having a snack...  That kid lives a seriously busy life. 


Osprey on its nest

Osprey, from my dad's amazing lens


Friday, August 17, 2012


So, I've been debating about whether or not to put a blog post up today.  I wrote one yesterday that I quite like, and am sitting on it, wondering if now is the right time, or if I should wait until Monday. Or Tuesday.   Not "is it the right time" because of appropriateness, but "is it the right time" of day/week?   I know I write for me, but sometimes I like to know if there are times when more people will be reading.   Selfishly, I like the accolades. LOL   Unselfishly, I suppose I could just say, I like to write for other people.   Eh, "read" into it what you like.   

I usually post on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, thinking that weekends are not big reader days, but with summer, who the heck knows?  It's a bit of a crap shoot (just wait until my next post to appreciate the irony of that statement...).  

So, in an informal poll of sorts, when do you read blogs?  Morning?  Lunchtime?  At night?  Do you read on your smartphone?  From your home computer?  From work?  What days of the week do you usually read?  Weekends?  Weekdays?    

Personally, I won't answer those questions for fear of incriminating myself, but I'd love to hear from you!

(And just for giggles and to face my own embarrassment head-on, I think I should inform you that this post accidentally went up on another blog that I'm a moderator for this morning, thinking that it was my own blog I was posting on.  I caught the error immediately and deleted it, but the first paragraph still showed up on Facebook, on Blogger, probably on Twitter, and who knows where else.  eeek...)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Island Life, For a Week

Astonishingly, we have taken a whopping three vacations this year!!  How spoiled are we?  I don't think I've ever taken three actual vacations in one year in my life, but somehow we managed to pull it off.  In my mind, these trips are not for me.  They're for Samantha.  I want so badly to continue to create bold, happy childhood memories for her, like the ones I had at her age.  I want to start to create traditionsPatternsThose are the stuff of permanent recollection, of joyous reflection.  And photos certainly help to cement those memories, digitally creating a more vivid, lasting picture, certainly, than I ever had as a child.

Last week we drove down to St. Simons Island, Georgia for the 2nd year in a row.  My cousin, again, generously offered up his house there for us to use, and Samantha remembered it from before.  In going with tradition and consistency, I love the fact that for both of our beach vacations this summer, we've stayed in places that were already familiar to Sammi.  And, of course, I love even more the fact that we can stay somewhere that we don't have to pay for and can drive to...  Gas and food costs were the only expenses, thankfully, as they were certainly high enough.

Sammi is a real beach freak.  Give her an ocean and a vast sea of wet sand to dig and she's totally in her element.  We spent 4 days actually on the beach, discovering that 9am is the absolutely best time to hit the shore, before the thick blast of heat and humidity, before the crowds, before the swift afternoon thunderstorms roll in.  The rest of the time was spent bathing and showering (that's the one thing I really dislike about the beach - the way the sand and the salt just stick to you, covering every inch of your body, making the desperate run to wash it all off a race against the clock and against the others jockeying to reach the shower before you), exploring the island and environs, absorbing the vast and ancient history around us, and watching the Olympics.  The history of that part of the country is fascinating.  I won't go into any detail now, but it spans from original Native American settlements, through the early British colonies, Spanish settlements, the Revolutionary War, slavery, the Civil War, and so, so much more...  Just...amazing.  There's a real mystical feel to the island, its winding avenues so heavily canopied by stately old oak trees, Spanish moss draped across the branches like a dark, green waterfall.  You can really begin to imagine what life may have been like there hundreds of years ago.  The next time we visit Samantha should be old enough to explore a bit more with us, to tolerate a bit of additional sight-seeing, not her current forte.  There's so much more to learn.

And now, some photos of the Butterfly and her daddy, on the Island pier where we stopped to watch men, women and children cast their fishing lines into the water below, pulling up all manner of sea life.  I hate the idea of fishing, knowing that these beautiful living, breathing creatures are about to meet their maker, and perhaps not always in the nicest of ways, but I also know that it's a way of life, part of the full-circle, survival of the fittest, reality.  And I am at peace with that.  You just won't catch me with a fishing rod in my hand... 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Blogging Caterpillar

In looking back into recent blog posts, I have realized that there is a definite shortage of photos of Samantha.  Shocking, I know.  I mean, what is wrong with me?  A whole summer goes by, and results in a mere handful of images?  In retrospect, while I do wish I'd gotten more, it was also somewhat freeing not to have to carry my camera around, schlepping from pool to beach to party...  And the time away from producing posts full of photographic filler actually made me think a bit more about what I've been actually writing in my blog, perhaps refining my topics some. 

The topic of reasons people blog has come up a few times recently in different fora (plural for *forum,* although "forums" is still acceptable - I checked Wiki, so I know...).  Some people blog as a stepping stone to writing a book.  Some blog for pure-hearted altruistic reasons, raising awareness or funds for causes that are important to them.  Some blog as a way to keep family and friends in the loop of their every-day activities.  Some blog to stretch their creative wings, either through visual or written art.  Some blog to gain support for their business.  So many purposes, so much flexibility.  And to think, just 5 1/2 years ago I didn't even know what a blog was.  My boss at the time was talking about holding a blogging event in the local park to raise awareness about and build visitorship to the DC neighborhood she oversaw.  I managed my previously-perfected nod and smile reaction, pretending I was more worldly and internet-savvy than I was, to save face.  Blogging event?  Whatever would they say, what would those weird people sitting in the park with their computers actually be doing?

And I'm happy to say that I do finally know now.

I blog for a variety of reasons.  I feel like a caterpillar, slowly shifting form over time, changing and growing, finding my wings, so to speak.  The evolution of my blog has taken me from one stage to the next, building my confidence from the drab here's-what-we-did-today format to a concerted focus on Samantha's development, to a jump to other Down-syndrome-related topics, to allowing myself the freedom of blogging about whatever-I-feel-like-blogging-about, Down syndrome or not, to thinking more carefully about my choices of words, my sentence structure, the input of my own personal thoughts, feelings and emotions, finding my own voice. 

And have I found it?

Am I a butterfly yet?

Not even close.  Nor do I think I will ever fully unfurl a set of color-emblazoned wings to fly high and free.  I still bow to some convention, still hide from some truths.  I still have so much to learn, so much more to see and do.  When I was the boss at my job, doling out performance reviews to my staff, I never gave anyone top scores.  If I had, what else would they have to reach for?  Nobody is ever truly at the top.  There's always room for improvement, room for growth.  I choose to continue to grow, to learn from others, to try to write what pleases me and what others will want to read.  And I'm sure the caterpillar in me will continue to morph, slowly, deliberately, to better itself, taking the blog on a ride to who knows where.

And, with that, I leave you with the Child-of-a-Million-Nicknames, my one, true butterfly, Samantha.     

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Celebrating Breakthroughs

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a hug.  As a matter of fact, it is usually a familiar and welcomed form of greeting or a warm show of affection, depending on the context.  However, children have a difficult time gathering context in just about any situation - their trusting nature and penchant for literal interpretation put their parents into the difficult situation of having to teach boundaries and to teach the children the difference between the types of hugs they can give and to whom.  It's so hard to take the kind actions of an innocent child and have to burst their bubble, so to speak, by telling them it's wrong sometimes.  When is it wrong?  When is it right?  How can they learn to read other people, understand stranger danger, differentiate between friends and family and aquaintances?

Samantha's empathic nature has made her a natural born hugger.  The affection she feels for all people betrays her innocence in the ways of the world.  She is just 6 years old, after all.  But it's been difficult for us, as her parents, to teach this valuable lesson of appropriateness.  For a long time she would hug pretty much anyone we passed on the street, whether we stopped to talk to them or not.  (Can we say awkward?)  So many times we gently, carefully, explained that she can only hug Mommy, Daddy, Gramma, Grampa, Memom and Pops, and then only anyone else we said it was okay to hug.  And while she'd nod in understanding, saying yes, she understood, that agreement lasted only until the next stranger walked by. 

Sammi's school aide, Mrs. D., has been working with us to help curb Samantha's indiscriminate hugging.  It's so hard, though, as everyone is always cooing over her at school, saying how cute she is, asking for hugs themselves as they know she will likely reciprocate.  But Mrs. D. has been keeping the ever-watchful eye, stopping either Samantha or the other teachers and administrators before it happens, educating the others and determined to create an alternate solution.  The fist-bump-fireworks-thingy (I have no idea what to call it) seems to work pretty well, and Sammi gets a giggle from it every time. 

The fruit of all of our efforts became evident last weekend, as we stopped for the night in North Carolina on our way back from the beach in Georgia.  Samantha, walking with the two of us through a mall department store, stopped where an old man was sitting on a chair talking to a store employee.  She gave them her customarily cheery greeting, breaking the focused conversation they were having and bringing big smiles to their faces (seriously, this kid makes everyone smile!).  She then put her hand out to the gentleman and said, "Shake hands?"  And shake they did, with an exchange of "It's nice to meet you!"

Steve and I looked at each other, incredulous.  How easy was that??  How impressed we were by her confidence, her composure, her restraint!  And we praised her up and down for giving such a perfect greeting to strangers, for being such a big girl.  And she grinned ear to ear, as pleased with herself as we were with her actions.

And it was not an isolated incident.  She repeated the act several other times over the next 2 days, indicating a true breakthrough in her development and maturity. 

But I still demand my hugs, thrilled that I'm on the top of the good-hugger's list.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Is It Weird...?

...that I'm totally in love with Samantha's new shoes?  Like, love, love, love, love, love them?

Like, I'm totally jealous.  I want a pair of my very own.  But, alas, as is the problem with having been cursed with impossibly huge feet, many styles of shoes, this one included, if it even happened to come in my size, would look positively ridiculous.  Kind of like two giant barges parked themselves at the bottom of my legs, or like two mob-sized blocks of colored cement suddenly attached themselves along with the threat of chucking me off the pier for having even entertained the thought that those shoes might look okay on my gargantuan, size 11s. 


And so I project my own sense of style on my daughter, my sweet girl who goes along with it so complacently for now but is sure to rebel one day soon, who will likely one day opt for polo shirts (gasp!), shorts (horrors!) and sneakers (egads!) over what I would consider cute and fashionable.

And you know what?  I'll certainly enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Just a typical teenager, talking on the phone...

What's that you say?  She's only 6?  Oh, dear, I'd completely forgotten. 

"Moooooooom!  I'm taaaaaaaalking!  Go away!"

Friday, August 3, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Photo from circa 2004, Addy on the left, Delilah on the right.

We said goodbye to our beautiful fur-boy, Addy, yesterday.  It was an incredibly difficult decision, but we knew that he was not going to get better, and that he would be declining very rapidly now - in fact, he had declined noticeably over the last week.  And with our vacation starting on Saturday, we couldn't leave him like that - it wouldn't have been fair to him, and it wouldn't have been fair to our neighbors who have so generously cat-sit for our high-maintenance kitties over the last few years.  He likely would have been in distress, and we would never have wanted him to get to that point. 

We lost track of the years with Addy.  We got him and Delilah after we'd been in DC for a year or two, which would make it @1997 or 1998.  He was about 1 1/2 when we got them from a friend who had to leave the country, so I'm putting him at about 15 years old.  The addition of the two cats brought our pet count to 4 cats and 2 rats at that time.  He was always the consumate kitten, knowing no boundaries when it came to tearing through the apartment at 2am, meowing playfully with a pent up energy as he jumped from couch to entertainment center to French door frame, teetering wildly as it swayed back and forth under his weight.  He and Bully, our little tom-boy princess, were fast friends, and followed each other into endless nights of entertainment and broken picture frames.  Sadly, Bully died of what we believe was cancer, in 2001, at a mere 5 years old.  Even right up to yesterday, nobody would ever be able to guess his age, sleek, and devastatingly handsome. 

I sat down with Samantha last evening.  As I'd mentioned before, we had been talking to her about Addy's imminent departure, and before bravely taking him for his last car ride, Steve had Samantha kiss him goodbye.  I said to her, "I'm very sad today, Samantha."  Sounding appropriately sympathetic, putting a small, comforting hand on my shoulder, she replied, "I miss Addy, too.  Everything'll be okay, honey."  Empathy at it's very, very best. 

Then she asked if we can get new kittens.  (I laughed, and said yes, after our vacation.)

On a much happier note yesterday, we learned that a neighbor's10-year old indoor cat who'd escaped outside 2 weeks ago, was finally back home.  After putting out cat traps every night hoping to catch him, putting up signs in all of the appropriate places and calling around to all of the veterinarians, our neighbor had had no luck.  He then discovered that some sort of Amber Alert for lost pets exists!  We, along with all of our neighbors in a rather large path through town, received an automated call asking us to contact him if we saw his missing cat, and lo and behold, someone 4 or 5 blocks away called him back to let him know they'd spotted his missing feline.  Who'd have thought an amazing service like that even existed?  I know someone who was very happy to have his furry friend back home lastnight as a result.

This morning I woke early, expecting to hear the usual meowing of hungry cats, as I have done for the last 15 years.  I lay still in bed, waiting, wondering when it would come.  Addy had been my alarm clock for the last several years, the electronic device by the side of my bed squealing the arrival of 6am laying dusty, unused.  I may have to start using it again...  Samantha slept unusually late this morning, again, missing the call of the hungry beast.

Now, cat-less, we say goodbye to you as well, likely for the next week or so, until we return from our beach utopia in the south (okay, so to be utopia, the heat and humidy would likely be a hell of a lot less, but we're certainly not complaining).  I'm hoping to be re-inspired to take photos on this trip.  It's been a while, I guess I've just been in a bit of a slump.  We've purchased a MiFi unit and some pre-paid GB of data, so I will still have internet access while we're gone, but laziness just may trump your need to know of what we're up to. 

And, like I'd cautioned last year at this time, don't bother trying to rob us while we're gone - even though our attack cats are gone, you'll be sadly disappointed, unless rotting bananas, wilting plants and a slow, data-eating, gazillion-year-old desktop are your style.  And in that case, good luck to you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Service Industry (To Serve Man)

Anyone remember that old Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man?"  A clever play on words that I won't go into here, but do look it up!  Hilarious!

I've known for quite some time that Samantha has one heck of an imagination.  Her ability to conduct imaginative play began way back when with putting her dolls to bed, and has evolved into mini-plays about being a waiter or a customer in a restaurant, or being a shopkeeper or a customer in a store.  Imaginary product is exchanged for imaginary money, or real product exchanged for the play money in her toy cash register, and the politeness with which she conducts her business would put most retailers/restaurateurs to shame.  She could definitely teach them a thing or two about customer service...

I mean, if you don't like your job, get another one!  Ohhh, don't get me started...20 years of retail have made me such a discerning and critical audience for good or bad service...

I actually started this post a long time ago, and for some reason set it on the back burner.  But each and every day I see how much Samantha has to offer others, to offer the community at large, to offer people in need.  I suspect that the extra chromosome she has comes equipped with an empathy gene.  One that makes her care.  About just about everything.  And trust me, this kid has an eagle eye and nothing gets past her. 

Especially boo boos.

The kid is fascinated by them.  Well, by the boo boos of other people, at least.  Not so much her own.  She freaks out about her own, won't let you so much as look at them, which poses some problems, as you can imagine.

But dare to show her a band aid, a scratch, a mole, sun burn, even a pillow line on your face, and she's all over it like white on rice.  And trust me, she'll be keeping an eye on it, too.  Just this morning, walking up to her school, she saw one of the teachers she knows outside.  She looked at her face carefully, and said, "It's not red anymore!  You're all better!"  I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, but the teacher said she'd had a very bad cold and one of her eyes had been very red and bloodshot.  She was as surprised as I was at how observant Samantha was to have noticed she was better.

People look at their kids and say, I want Johnny to be a doctor.  Or a lawyer.  Or a pro football player.  And the reality of the situation is that little Johnny is going to be whatever the heck he wants to be, parents-be-damned.  We all say, when our children are born, and even before then, that we want our children to be happy and successful.  It's natural.  And we all know that our children will do what they want.  But that won't stop us from helping to steer them into a particular direction, you know? 

But when a child is born with an intellectual disability, you have to face a certain modified reality.  Can our child be happy with whatever they do when they grow up?  Certainly.  Can our child be successful?  Absolutely!  But can our child be a doctor?  A lawyer?  A professional football player?  Not likely (and I say that with the most open-ended anything-is-possible respect). 

The reality is, with that amazing empathy gene, that Samantha may be more suited to work in the service industry in some way, shape or form.  Perhaps as a teaching assistant, or a customer service rep, or working in a store, or maybe even as a nurse's aide.  She may become a brilliant public speaker, a self advocate touring the country. I'd love that, too. And that's also a service.  It's a different path, but no less fulfilling.  Am I projecting these ideas onto her, nudging her in these directions?  Absolutely.  Will she still do whatever it is that she wants to do, even if it's nothing to do with any of those possible careers?  Yep.  But I love to imagine the possibilities, to see those hints of her future self in my now-6-year-old.     

This photo is about a year old....Sammi with her friend, Marie, taking turns serving each other cork-trivet-pizzas in Sammi's restaurant.