Monday, September 30, 2013

#7, Like Any Other Day

Two princesses - Samantha with Cinderella

I woke in the wee hours of Sunday morning with a single, jarring thought.

The 29th.

Today was the 29th of September, a day that snuck up on me again, as it so often does.  A day that people would wonder how I could possibly forget.  A day that should be so perfectly etched into my memory that the other 364 days of the year would be moments of nothingness, mere blips on the calendar in a daily practice run of preparation for this monumental occasion.

I exaggerate, certainly, but really, the 29th of September often passes like any other day, usually one clad in crisp, sunshine-soaked air, blue skies and the amber hue of the turning leaves, another school day, another day at work, another busy weekend...  They're all pretty much the same. 

And, when I awoke with that sudden memory of the date, I thought I'd try something a little different for Samantha's 7th Heartiversary. 

She knows about the wide, white scar on her chest.  She knows it's the badge of a near-perfect heart.  When you ask her about it, she will tell you, in a matter-of-fact tone, that a doctor fixed her heart. 

Seven years ago, Dr. Spray, a top pediatric cardiac surgeon at CHOP, stopped her beating heart, re-routed the blood flow, and, with meticulous precision, patched and sewed up the gaping space between the ventricles that allowed oxygenated and un-oxygenated blood to mix in a state incompatible with life beyond a few short and very ill years.  Sammi's recovery was quick, and the routine visits to her cardiologist are now few and far between. 

And Sunday morning, when Sammi awoke and came to join me for a cuddle in my bed, I decided, this time, to tell her about the celebratory date that has usually just been kept in my own mind throughout the day every September 29th previous.  She's old enough to revel in her own celebration, to understand what the date means.  So I told her that it was the 7th anniversary of the doctor fixing her heart.

When I told her, "Happy Heart Day, baby," she said, "Thank you, Mommy." 

My heart is happy, too.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Irrational Fears and... Part 3: The 11th and 12th Swim Lessons

Continuing my "Irrational Fears and..." series, which began with a post about fear of the dentist and continued with a post about fear of the doctor, I now am writing about a fear of the water...sort of.

Sammi has always loved the water.  So much so, that I was terrified that she would never understand the dangers and the need for boundaries when it comes to being safe vs. jumping in without a second thought.  I had always intended to put her into swim lessons, but was too afraid to, because, until very recently, she didn't know how to hold her breath and had no clue how to *not* breathe in when water hit her face.  Sputtering and choking was always the inevitable outcome, and I was discouraged, disappointed, and nervous about her future safe enjoyment of water.  For years I had been reading stories about people with Down syndrome on their Special Olympics swim team, or swimming Lake Tahoe, or just being real fish when it comes to water.  I wanted that for Samantha.

Just two summers ago, she had even gotten brave enough to jump off the side of the pool and into my waiting arms again...and again...and again...  This actually made me more nervous, but I was pleased that she enjoyed it.  This past winter I finally got off my duff, shelled out the prohibitive fee for a series of sessions, and finally signed her up for swim lessons.  Private lessons, because she needed that 1:1, at least until she was able to be safe in the water independently for a few minutes at a time.  I figured once she was able to hold her breath and, perhaps, doggie paddle, I could switch up to the slightly-less-expensive and more motivating (due to peer modeling) semi-private or group lessons.  After some scheduling snafus, we finally had an instructor and began her lessons on Sunday afternoons. 

I knew at the beginning that even though Samantha refused to let go of the instructor's neck and only just barely did anything she asked her to do, that given enough time and patience, she would eventually come around and relax a little, and would actually learn something.  But, after about 5 lessons, nothing had changed except my wallet was a little bit lighter, and, on 2 occasions, Sammi had actually done that jump-off-the-side-of-the-pool thing for her.  It was discouraging, but around that time the instructor informed us that she was moving away, to another state.  I liked her, but who knows how Samantha felt about her?  Perhaps the fit just wasn't right and that was holding her back.

We were assigned a new instructor, a very sweet high school girl, who really knows her stuff.  Actually, I didn't know she was in high school, nor would I have ever suspected it, until we'd seen her a number of times and she mentioned looking at colleges.  Hahaha, boy, do I feel old!!  She was great with Samantha, and Sammi actually seemed to do more with her than she'd ever done with the previous instructor.  Score!! 


Soon after, she began to show real resistance to even getting into the water.  It took the bulk of each lesson just to coax her in.  Once they did get in, Sammi was content to just do the exact same things they'd done time and time again at previous lessons, refusing, with both a howl and real tears, to try anything new. 

And then...not even that.  She was regressing.  We never saw her jump off the side of the pool again.  She stopped holding onto the floating barbell and kicking.  She increased her death grip on the instructor, crying any time even the slightest suggestion was made to remove a hand to hold some sort of float. 

Then she stopped going into the water altogether.

I tried everything.  Leaving the pool area so Sammi couldn't see me, hoping that without the Great Enabler there she'd do better.  Getting in the pool with her.  Everything.  Sammi had gone from talking excitedly about going to her swimming lesson all week long to saying she didn't want to do it at all.     

It got ugly. 

As a matter of fact, the last two lessons, her 11th and 12th, for the record, the instructor was kind enough to not charge us, thankfully.  And, at that point, I decided we needed a break.  A break from what, I don't really know.  She's always had her lessons at an indoor pool.  On her last lesson, we tried her with one of the outdoor pools.  Same issue.  No dice.  She and I go to pools from time to time together, and, while she won't let go of me, she still enjoys being in the water.  She even still loves to hold her breath and blow bubbles in her bath, so excited for me to watch, and trust me, I'm really excited that she's finally figured out how to hold her breath!  At least one hurdle has been covered. 

I just don't know what happened.  Was it because I have been telling her how important it is for her to learn to swim so she can be safe in and near the water?  Did she suddenly start to view the water as an unsafe environment rather than the fun place to spend time?  Is it just one of those random, weird, completely irrational fears that's cropped up for no reason (and is that even possible?)?  Will she ever want to try again?  Most importantly, will she ever learn to swim?  

I'm fully paid up for a 5-lesson series right now, just waiting until we are ready to try again.  I don't want to push her, but I also want to find her triggers.  Any advice from any of you?  I'd love to hear it...  I have another Irrational Fears and... post coming one of these days soon about my child's inability to have fun (don't look so surprised!).  Go figure...

On another note, please remember to visit my post from yesterday for a chance to win a great Betty Crocker prize pack!  It's easy, and is running through next Wednesday.  :-)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cooking, Made Easy (Great Betty Crocker Giveaway!!)

I've been a reluctant cook.  It's not that I feel like I can't cook, but more that I know that if I am cooking, I'm going to make things that I like, rather than the things I know my husband and daughter will eat.  And trust me, generally they differ.  In recent years, I must admit, I've completely forgotten about Hamburger Helper, something that used to be a staple in our house before we had Samantha.  You really can't get much easier, and who doesn't like hamburger (or, as I sometimes substituted, ground turkey) and pasta?  And it's so easy to even modify by adding in some frozen vegetables or diced tomatoes.  You really can't go wrong. 

So, when I was asked to participate in this great giveaway, I jumped at the chance! 

Betty Crocker, through MyBlog Spark, provided me with information about the products as well as the fabulous prize pack that they sent me (pictured above), along with an extra for one of my readers!

So, last week I put on my handy dandy Betty Crocker apron and got to "work."  Seriously, this stuff is so ridiculously easy and quick to make, I barely needed the apron.  With all-new Betty Crocker Ultimate Potatoes and Ultimate Helper mixes, I was able to give Steve and Samantha a delicious dinner I knew they’d enjoy. Each box comes with both seasoning and a rich, creamy sauce, and while I certainly wouldn't mix a pasta meal with one involving mashed potatoes, I did the Ultimate Hamburger Helper first one night (the Three Cheese Marinara variety), and then, on a different night, made a meal of baked chicken, and the Betty Crocker Ultimate Cheddar mashed potatoes (can't even begin to tell you how yummy those were, and you can see for yourself how good the pasta was in the pics below!).

There are 4 different varieties of the Ultimate Hamburger Helper, along with lots of other "Helpers," such as Tuna Helper, Cheesy Favorites, Chicken Helper, Italian Favorites, Homestyle Favorites, Asian Favorites, Mexican Favorites, Wholegrain Favorites, Helper Complete Meals and regular Hamburger Helper options (I think I may try the Creamy Parmesan next time!), and numerous potato varieties (Roasted Garlic mash is on my radar...).
Spinach is my favorite vegetable.  Thought I'd try Samantha with it, but, sadly, it turns out that it's most definitely not *her* favorite...  I'm sad.  By the way, check out the cool bowl, serving spoon and plate!  All part of the giveaway!  See below for instructions...

Here's what I need you to do to win the prize pack shown above (includes 4 melamine plates, a 3-piece serving bowl set, a serving spoon, 1 box of Ultimate Helper mix and 1 box of Ultimate Potatoes!):

1)  Leave me a comment, below, with your e-mail address, telling me what your favorite Helper variety is (visit for the product listing) for one entry

2) Get an extra entry if you share this post on Facebook (mention it in the comment)

3) Get a third entry if you share this post and giveaway on Twitter (use #MyBlogSpark, and, again, mention it in the comment)

The winner will be drawn on Wednesday, October 3rd.

Good luck, and happy, easy, yummy cooking!

Friday, September 20, 2013

(3) on the 21st: A Blog Hop

Thanks again to Meriah for hosting this month!  Blog hops are fun, and of particular interest to me these days.  I feel like I let my blog lapse over the summer and have lost most of my readers and commenters.  It's been a little depressing, actually.  I vow to do more reading of all the blogs out there, and hope I can woo some peeps back to my own ramblings...  Blog hops are GREAT ways to do this!  :-)

The rules today are to post One Truth (about Down syndrome or our lives with Down syndrome), One Tip (Ds-related or related to parenting a child with Ds), and One Photo (easy!). goes!

One Truth:  People with Down syndrome have a MUCH higher chance of developing early-onset Alzheimer's disease, with a 50% chance by the time they're 50, since they have the presence of beta amyloid plaques (the same thing that's present in the brains of Alzheimer's patients) in their brains from birth.  These plaques build up over time, appearing earlier and with more frequency than in the "typical" population.  This truth scares the crap out of me.  Alzheimer's researchers are looking to the Down syndrome population for answers and the keys to combatting the disease for everyone

One Tip:  Don't push.  It takes a lot  of trial and error, tears and frustration to get to this point.  Sometimes you have to realize that you just can't make your child do something that they refuse to do - there are often reasons for their reticence, and for Sammi there are most definitely environmental triggers.  For example, birthday parties.  I have tried her time and time again, gotten upset about it, blogged about it, banged my head against a wall (figuratively, mind you...) over it.  She cries nearly every time we attend one.  Doesn't matter where it's held for the most part, but I think over-stimulation plays a big part.  I've tried everything - pulling her out of the room before the group sings the Happy Birthday song (she doesn't like the sound of loud singing), wearing headphones, you name it.  It's not worth her fear/terror/being upset.  I've decided to pull back on the parties, give them a rest, and understand that there are just some things we can't do

One Photo:  Sammi started soccer a few weeks ago.  While she's not completely sold on it yet, we're working on it slowly...  Hopefully before the end of the season she'll be having a great time out on the field!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dreams of Death

It was 6:30am. 

Time to make the donuts wake the child... 

I have a 10 minute window from that moment to the moment at which she needs to be happily chewing on her breakfast of toaster pancakes, milk and Fruit-Eze, watching her favorite shows on TV, while I braid her impossibly long hair.

I leant over her sleeping form, always amazed at how un-rumpled her sheets and blankets are, how quietly she breathes, how she looks like she couldn't possibly have moved even one inch from the position she'd been in when I'd tucked her in the night before, gently kissing her forehead and wishing her sweet dreams before leaving her room. 

Rubbing her back and bidding her to awaken with the simple request, "Wake up, sleepyhead..." she began to stir, eyes still closed...

And then she bolted upright, her blue eyes wide, pupils still pinpricks in the dim light of the room.

"Mommy!  You're all better?" she does dream...

Yes, baby, I'm fine.

"You're not sick?  You didn't go to the doctor?  You didn't fall out of bed?  You didn't die?"

How to answer...  I surprised myself by not being completely freaked out by the questions.  This is motherhood.  Allaying the fears and nightmares of the young, reassuring them that all is well.

No, baby.  I'm not sick.  I'm perfectly fine, and right here with you.

She repeated her concerns again and again, not upset, just relieved

Then she surprised me.

"You're not a cat?"

It didn't take me long to remember that her only real frame of reference for death had been the passing of our two elderly cats a year ago. 

Cats die.

I immediately wondered when it would be prudent to tell her that their ashes are in the two little wooden boxes on the shelf.  That Addy and Delilah are still here, in a way... 

One day...

Not now...

Glad that shelf is too high up for her to read the names inscribed on the fronts...

Coming home from work yesterday, kissing her hello, she asked, "You didn't die?  Everything's back to normal?"

I wonder what she thinks, why she repeats the obvious, how much it actually takes to reassure her that all is well

Little things affect her more than we can comprehend, and we need to stay conscious of that fact.

She's got a keen mind, that one...

The Great Blog Revival

My Fashion and Frugality (for Kids) blog has been gathering dust lately (okay, more dust than this one!), and I've finally decided to get back on with it.  Summer is over, the 2014 DSANV calendar is in the printer's hands, and, well, I can breathe a bit again. 

If you're not familiar with Fashion and Frugality (for Kids), it's a blog I started last winter, inspired by one of Sammi's teachers who said I should start a blog about Sammi's clothes.  I want to inspire people to be able to dress their children in a way that's fun, practical and gets attention without breaking any banks, by sharing advice and photos in each post.  I'm a true bargain shopper, and rarely pay full price for things. 

Today I'm posting over there about one of my great consignment finds this summer.  I hope you'll join me there, become a "Follower," and be inspired!  (Ugh, that sounds so self-centered...but I think you'll see what I mean...)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Down Syndrome Registry - Have You Signed Up Yet???

The Down syndrome world has been buzzing over the last few months since NIH announced their creation of a Down syndrome registry, escalating to a fever pitch in the last two weeks since the registry went live, allowing people to sign up and begin to enter data.  I have now signed up for Samantha, and have nearly completed the process - you can start it, then save it, and go back to either edit or complete.  This is a huge step in the right direction for making things happen, for getting the moving and shaking started, to help researchers find what they need, to do what they do, to help understand and, subsequently, improve the lives of people with Down syndrome.

Please read ONE21's statement below for more information and how the Registry is an important partner to the proposed Down syndrome biobank.. 

From ONE21's e-mail blast last week:

Last week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the first national Down syndrome registry as a resource for connecting researchers with families and self-advocates willing to participate in research and clinical trials. Called “DS-Connect,” the NIH Down syndrome registry will also help researchers improve our overall understanding of DS as a condition with the health histories, symptoms, and diagnosis information that families voluntarily provide.

For decades, DS researchers have lacked commonplace tools and capabilities necessary to advance their work to the next level, including a national DS registry. Without them, we can’t move from basic research to clinical trials to drug therapies or best practices that can meaningfully improve the quality of life for people with DS.

That is why the ONE21 Campaign fully supports DS-Connect, and encourages families to participate. DS-Connect is a positive step forward that complements the proposed biobank under ONE21.  In fact, both can work harmoniously to provide researchers a powerful portfolio of capabilities that will transform research and allow breakthrough discoveries not someday, but today.

For more information about DS-Connect, please go to:

For more information about ONE21, please go to:

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Little Post-Soccer Fro-Yo

There's nothing like celebrating a good run around the soccer field (with Daddy's assistance and relentless motivation and redirection...) with a visit to one of the 1,794 (estimated) frozen yogurt places that have cropped up in our town over the past 2 years.  I remember the first time I brought Sammi to one - she was terribly upset that what she was being served was not being called "ice cream" nor did it quite taste like it - I had to use every trick in the book to con her into opening her mouth, knowing full well that once the cold, creamy sweetness passed her lips she'd be sold.  And once she learned that M&Ms, rainbow sprinkles and Nutella were perfectly good on top, the new term "frozen yogurt" soon became a welcome addition to her vocabulary and Sweet Frog and Zinga became destinations of choice.  I still can't get her past the chocolate and vanilla standards, but am confident we'll work our way up to such exotic novelties as raspberry or peanut butter eventually.  No rush.

Now that's interesting...why on Earth did Daddy just put ice cream on his nose?  This guy's weird...

Correction - this guy's mischievous!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Running Late, As Always

One month and one event can make all the difference in my personal time management.  Just one month.  Just one event. 

The DSANV Buddy Walk.

For me, it's not just an event I pack my family up for, jump in the car, and attend, although sometimes I wish it was.  And I'm not even on the committee, a group of hard-working individuals who plan and prepare all year and then sacrifice their family time during the months/weeks before/day of the event to ensure all runs smoothly and everyone has a good time.  No way.  I think I'm too selfish for that.

BUT, I like to try to fund-raise in creative ways, to try to hit the $2,000 mark each year, and to get lots of people involved that are not necessarily a part of the Down syndrome community, to spread awareness and support the amazing organization that supports my beautiful daughter.  And I like to have as much time as humanly possible to get the annual DSANV wall calendar done in time for it to debut at the Walk.  There's so much last-minute stuff, in particular, finding out a model and a photographer never managed to connect for a shoot...  Every. Year.  And this year there were 3.  (yes, those are *real* tears of frustration streaming down my cheeks...

And this year, much to my dismay, the Buddy Walk was a whole month earlier.  My hopelessly procrastinating self shivered at the prospect, shut down at offers of help, retreated into the hole I hoped nobody could see me in, until I could formulate a plan to make it work.  And so that's kind of the stage I'm in now - it has to work, and I have less than a week to get it done so it can go to production and be ready on time.

And, just to prove I've been living under a rock, I created my Buddy Walk team yesterday, sending out fundraising e-mails a mere two weeks from the event. 

The event is a very worthy cause, and I ask you all to support our efforts to support an organization that has helped us immeasurably over the last 7 years, an organization that has helped so many families new to the Down syndrome fold, that continues to provide educational programs, scholarships and events for everyone, to help make a difference in the lives of people with Down syndrome.  Here's the link to our Team Page.

Join us in-person for a fun day for everyone, or donate today!

And hopefully next year the Walk will be a little bit later...  (hint, hint!)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Irrational Fears and... Part 2: A Visit to the Doctor

(Just a quick note before I get into the post - Readers come back!!!!  I know my hiatus over the summer was long and painful, but I want to write again!!  Okay, begging over...)

Dr. Sammi strikes again

Things just get weirder and weirder with Samantha.  For a kid that must play doctor for at least a quarter of her waking hours, who owns not two but three doctor's kits, whose insatiable appetite for books includes anything that's got a character that goes to a doctor, who will tell you she wants to be a nurse when she grows up, whew, she's got a real fear of going to a real doctor that has cropped up in the last year.

Again, not really based on too much, although I think past strep tests and flu shots may have brought this on full-force.  The last time she had a strep test, the nurse had to pry her mouth open to get that horrible stick down her throat.  It was heartbreaking, and I've felt guilty ever since.  While I'm pretty sure that she did have strep that time, we suspect she's a carrier, and will always test positive.  And, as luck would have it, the only way to test that theory and get proof is to give her a strep test when she's obviously not sick.  Ludicrous, right?  Won't happen - I just can't put her through that. 

So last Thursday it was the day for her annual physical.  Just a physical.  I assured her they'd just listen to her heart, look at her ears, eyes, nose and mouth, and that'd be pretty much it.  She didn't have any vaccines due, no need for a strep test, we should be golden, right?  Nah.  Tears, tears, tears at the initial mention that morning of going to the doctor.  But they subsided, and, at the appointed time, she marched up to the office without a care in the world, even greeting the nurse who called us back, happily stepping up on the scale for weight and measurement (just FYI, she's 61pointsomething lbs., and stands 46.something inches tall).  All good signs in my book. 

But that's where the good signs ended and the fun began.

The nurse practitioner, a very nice, warm woman we'd seen before, entered the room, and the kid pretty much shook in fear through the paper gown she'd let me put on her.  I explained the situation to the woman, who took things slowly, explaining exactly what she was going to do.  Samantha, through her tears, said, "no stick!" in reference to the strep test, and we assured her no stick, no shots.  She eventually cooperated (sitting in my lap the whole time and getting to hold the lollipop the nurse had given her to hang on to until the exam was over), and the nurse was nearly finished except for the part where she has to press on Sammi's stomach.  Even after telling Sammi she was just going to tickle her tummy a bit, Samantha all-out bawled until the woman's hands were on her and she realized that it really did tickle.  I just love that laughter-through-tears thing, especially when it's proving I'm right.  :-) Suddenly, Sammi SHRIEKED and screamed, "Not my bum!"  The nurse had reached down to press her femoral artery in her leg to check her pulse, and my kid, proving that there's no grass growing between her ears and that she's been paying attention all along, reacted just as I would want her to react.  Just before the nurse had entered the room a few short minutes earlier, Sammi and I had been reading a leaflet for kids about how to stay healthy and safe, including not letting anyone touch their private parts. 

Wowza, that nurse's hands flew up in the air so fast, I actually felt sorry for her.  I explained quickly what we'd just been reading and the lessons she'd surely been taught several times before, and she was perfectly happy to skip that particular portion of the exam.  Let's just assume her circulation is perfect

Can I just tell you that for all the frustration of her sudden lack of cooperation at her physical, how proud I am of my girl?  How relieved I am that she reacted that way?  How hopeful I am that she will not become one of those frightening abuse statistics found in women with Down syndrome?


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Irrational Fears and... Part 1: A Vist to the New Dentist

In the last week or so, I've dealt with a barrage of Sammi's pretty irrational fears that I decided warranted a whole series of blog posts.  Samantha is full of irrational fears.  There are triggers everywhere.  I don't know if they're true fears most of the time, as sometimes I suspect her reactions are OCD-based and the idea that something in her world did not just go exactly as she had wanted it to go...  But one that seems to have remained consistent over the years has been the fear of the dentist. 

Welcome to the first installment of my "Irrational Fears and..." series. 

We all have had a fear of the dentist at some point or another in our lives, many of us still holding on to it long into adulthood.  And often, we call it fear, when it's really just that we don't like to go to the dentist.  There is a vast difference.  If you say you're afraid of something, it gets elevated into a whole new category of things that should not happen without a whole lot of preparation.  If it's that you just don't like it, then you'd darned-well better suck it up and deal with it.  You get me? 

But for a kid who has been going to the dentist every 6 months since she was 12 months old, for a kid who watches no TV other than cartoons geared towards her age group or younger, for a kid whose mother champions the dentist as a necessary thing to do to keep her strong and healthy (nevermind that her father has a massive phobia of the dentist - thankfully, he respectfully keeps that fact under wraps around her), for a kid whose favorite game since she's been 2 years old has been to play doctor, who has absolutely no problem with having her teeth brushed at home and even having mommy floss her teeth, or with reading books and social stories about dental visits by kids, there's absolutely no rational explanation for her absolute, numbing petrification at the mere mention of going to the dentist. 

Oddly, we can get to the dentist's office with relatively little issue.  She tells me she's going to be brave, that she'll let the dentist look in her mouth, count her teeth, brush them with an electric toothbrush.  She walks through the door like a pro, plopping herself down in a seat, exploring the children's waiting room and its toys. 


And then the nurse comes in to call a child back.

And Sammi loses it.

Did I mention that Sammi has been going to the dentist since she was 12 months old?  Well, she has.  And there have been absolutely no traumatic experiences, from what we can recall.  And she has never allowed the dentist to do a cleaning or take x-rays, and has only barely opened her mouth long enough to have her teeth counted with the promise of nothing else being done (and mouth opened only after incalculable minutes of cajoling and bribing positive reinforcement). 

Two weeks ago, after 4 unsuccessful years at one local pediatric dentist, after a disastrous appointment last December in which a frightened Samantha lashed out at the dentist's gloved hands with her own, tearing through the latex and drawing blood, we visited a new dentist, one that I hoped would be more patient with her, would ease her into the appointment more successfully than the last doc, with whom we never fully felt comfortable.

Again, the waiting room visit was just fine.

And then the nurse came in to call Samantha into the Back Room of Doom, her face mask pulled down below her chin, a lovely smile and perfect teeth revealed. 

And Sammi lost it

"No mask!  It's scaaary!"

Okay, I can get on-board with that.  And so could the nurse, careful to remove said mask before coming any closer.

And, even with the sweet and smiling nurse without a face mask, the Back Room of Doom was only reached after nearly 15 minutes of relentless begging reasoning with her, promising nothing more than a tour, and a bit of strong-armed picking-up-and-hauling-the-child-while-tickling just so it seemed like a game and got her laughing. 

But trust me, I was not laughing.  Actually, I was just a mere second or two from giving up by that point, but eventually we got in.

But can I just tell you how amazing the nurses were at this new dental office?  Omg, the one assigned to Sammi on Wednesday was fabulous and more patient than I could ever, in this lifetime, hope to be.  I let her work her magic, and Samantha eventually warmed up to her.  The dentist was equally patient (oh, and did I mention young, foreign, handsome and super-stylish?  I noticed his Prada belt buckle right away - Hey!  Get your mind out of the gutter!  You seriously couldn't have missed it if you tried...) and Sammi actually looked at him and spoke to him, shocker! (smart girl...)

She wouldn't tolerate actually going into the exam room, which was in a fairly open space, but she sat with me just outside the space in a hallway, close enough for the equipment to reach, and, after nearly an hour, actually let the nurse clean her bottom teeth, actually opened her mouth with the light shining into it so the doctor could have a quick look, actually seemed to enjoy most of the visit, even if we didn't get too far into the process (do you know how much sheer willpower it took for me to not to risk destroying the moment by running to get my purse on the other side of the room, grabbing my cell phone and snapping a picture?)

Baby steps, right?

So, while we've been invited back for another interim visit to maintain her comfort level, we may be okay waiting for the next 6 months.  But seriously, this office is a keeper.  If you're local, I highly recommend Dr. Skordalakis, in Sterling, and they take Medicaid, too, which makes them extra awesome. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blaming Arthur

Poor kitty.  We knew Arthur would become a scapegoat for something.  I mean, he's a little over a year old, freaking huge, and akin to a bull in a china shop on most days.  He gallops around the house like an elephant, flawlessly hunts mosquitos and crickets (and the occasional stray lizard...yuck!), and attacks my feet when I'm sleeping.  But I love him dearly.

So does Samantha. 

Especially now that she's discovered he's really good for something.  Now that she's discovered the little white lie

We've been talking about truth a lot lately.  Discovering that it's sometimes easier to get real information out of her using the process of elimination in conjunction with the magic question, Is that the truth?  She's only too happy to answer that one surprisingly truthfully.  Here's a lame and fictitious example:

Me:  Is the sky purple?

Sammi:  Yes!

Me:  Is that the truth?

Sammi (grinning):'s blue, silly!

So, last week, when I walked into the powder room and discovered the walls literally dripping water, the sink top soaked, and puddly drops all over the floor, naturally I asked her who got water all over the bathroom.  And I was pretty sure I knew the answer to my own question... 

However, I was not prepared for the answer I got.

Sammi (totally composed):  Arthur did it. 

Not a crack of a smile, not a giggle, nothing.  Deadpan. 

I had to laugh.

Is that the truth?

Sammi:  No.

Me:  Who really did it?

Sammi (grinning):  I did!

Okay, so I'm glad she finds it amusing.  I gave her a caution, and let it go.  Of course now, after that exchange, she thinks it's perfectly fine to pull my chain and say that Arthur did it whenever I ask who did something naughty. 

But we mamas know better, right?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Week 1 School Recap & Memories of my Own 2nd Grade Career (Updated)

It's Thursday, Day 3 of Sammi going back to school and entering the unknown wilds of 2nd grade. 

Wow, 2nd grade...  I have (mostly) good memories of 2nd grade, specifically some of the arts & crafts projects I made in class (one of which graces our living room every Christmas), the accelerated reading group I was in with two other people, and the two detentions I got for talking too much when nobody was supposed to be talking.  Whoops...  Ohhhhh, my parents were mad.  (And, just for the record, I received detention once for not following directions, but it honestly was not my fault.  I remember it clearly!)  I was informed recently by an old friend that he and I used to frequently get in trouble for talking too much, and the teacher, Mrs. Pio, made us sit in the hallway outside the classroom, where, as he put it, we made out


Now, in all honesty, I seriously have no memory of this.  (Repressed, perhaps?)  But it certainly secretly pleases me to know that my first kiss was not, in fact, all the way in 6th grade when I played spin-the-bottle at a birthday party with a cute, popular boy from another school.  But kissing in the hall in 2nd grade does seem a little young...

Now, back to Sammi's new school year...

Somehow I truly cannot see any of that happening for her.  She's a good reader, but needs to work on comprehension.  Arts and Crafts?  She's definitely not an artist, and is not really all that into art, either.  I'd like to see her broaden her horizons, however, beyond the occasional stick figure and house with a tree out front (and, just for the record, we no longer have a tree out front, so I'll be interested in seeing if she changes that particular image up at all).  And making out???  Well...I think nothing needs to be said about that, although I'd love to see boys pay attention to her at some point.  Gotta give Daddy something to do, fending them off with a stick or something...

Quick recap of the first 3 days -

Day 1, she refused to even go into the classroom.  I left her in the capable hands of her aide, since my presence would likely not be helpful in the least.  Eventually, she had to be pretty much forcibly put into the classroom, where she sat, sullen and non-responsive for most of the day, except at recess, where she saw one of her friends, who's in another classroom, and played with him the whole time.

Day 2, we were met in the front entrance hall by her aide, who walked her down to class herself.  Her sitter picked her up from school while I was at work, and called me to tell me that all reports were that she'd had a much better day.

Day 3, this morning, I walked her to school, walked her to the classroom (which she'll be able to do herself starting next week), and she marched right in, removed her backpack, and began to hang it up on the peg before I realized she was going to go about her day without giving me a goodbye kiss, which I remedied immediately.  Her aide had not yet entered the classroom, but I felt pretty confident that Sammi knows what to do and would do it, so I left.

I suspect today will be the best of three.  I'm thrilled to know she's settling in well!  I have a meeting with her new Resource Teacher tomorrow morning, and am looking forward to meeting him formally, giving him some background, and making a request for a 1:1 aide for Sammi (Mr. C., if you're reading this, here's your heads up...).  She does fine in class, but she's not learning as much as she could with more 1:1 assistance.  There are too many other kids in the class with IEPs that need the assistance of the aide currently, and that assistance is spread thin.  I figure it can't hurt to ask and see what channels we need to go through to attempt to make that happen.

Next week I'll be starting a 3-part series on Sammi's irrational fears.  Intrigued?  Then stay tuned!

Update:  Sammi did *not* have a very good day on Day 3, as her aide was out sick.  After a long talk with the Resource Teacher about how big 2nd graders should behave and how proud she can make her mommy and daddy by behaving, she did *much* better, talking repeatedly about making mommy proud. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Issue with Photographing the Oddly-Reluctant Child

You've all seen Samantha's photos here on my blog, on Facebook, on Instagram and, perhaps, way back in the past, on Flickr.  If I must say so myself, she's very photogenic - beautiful, composed, and cooperative, a ready, warm smile so often lighting up her face.

But that's generally only when I take her photo. 

Just me.

Ask her to cooperate with anyone else for a picture, be it for an informal ID, a class photo, or a school project, she crosses her arms, lowers her head and her eyes, pouts and shuts down.  Samantha?  you may ask, incredulously.  Certainly, not her!  Yeah, you would think.   

It's this weird phenomenon that I have not been able to explain.  It makes pretty much no sense.  Even her beloved 1st grade teacher tried to take her photo for a silhouette project the class was doing for President's Day in February, and she wouldn't cooperate with her, either, not even in an empty classroom on a weekend with me present.  Seriously, we tried everything.  And because Sammi knew that it was for that project, just. because., she wanted nothing to do with it.

The photo below, from an impromptu opportunity at some kid's expo to get an ID printed for her a couple of years ago, is a prime example.  It just doesn't get any better than that - I may hold on to it just to use it against her one day when I need her compliance during the tempestuous teen years.  Blackmail might just work.

So naturally, I was apprehensive when I needed to take her last week to our local post office to turn in her passport renewal forms and have her photo taken for her new passport.  She had been photographed for her previous passport at the tender age of 7 months, just prior to a trip to England.  It was a little awkward going back to England again when she was nearly 5 years old, as her original photo looked nothing like her anymore.  And I just could picture the conversation that would ensue on our next trip, as immigration agents looked from the sullen, miserable vision of the child I knew would be peering out of her new passport book, to the lovely, semi-cooperative traveler standing before them, unsure that it is the same child, chuckling to themselves as they wondered how she could live with that horrendous passport photo for the next 5 years, stretching into the combustible, hormonal, uber-sensitive pre-teen years.  I would suspect the necessity at some point of that book becoming conveniently lost...
So, as I stood before the gentleman in the passport office, signing papers, Samantha sat on a chair behind me playing a game on her tablet.  The man got up, came around his desk, and said, "Okay, time to take the picture." 
Poor man, had no idea what was in store, I thought.
Samantha looked up, said, "Now?" and closed her tablet cover, hopped off her chair, sat herself like a prim and proper little lady on the stool in front of the generic white backdrop...
...and smiled.
Wait a this my child?? 
After sitting happily for 2 identical shots, she stood up, put her arm around the man's shoulders, and asked to see the photos he had just taken, which he was pleased to show her.
And, to sweeten it even further, two days later was her school's open house, where she got to go to her new classroom, meet the teacher, and have a look around.  Her new teacher asked us to come a half-hour early, knowing that she may become a bit overwhelmed once the event actually started and students, parents and bags and bags of supplies began to stream in.  The teacher wanted to take her photo for a project she was working on, and would be photographing each of the children in turn.  Samantha cheerfully stood where she was asked, flashed her most beatific smile, and even pulled me into a couple of shots once the desired image had been captured.
Does this mean that I may not need to take and submit my own photo of her again (standing in our first floor powder room where the walls are a similar shade of purple to the school photo backdrop) for this year's yearbook?  I can only hope...but based on her reaction to the whole of the first day of school yesterday, I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Staycation, the Single Parent and the Surprising Ascension of the Domestic Diva

I found myself without my mate for nearly two weeks while Steve traveled cross-country and over the border to British Columbia to visit his brothers, who, much like he himself, have taken up residence in countries far from the one in which they were each born.  Because one of those two weeks happened to be the week before school started for Samantha, a week in which she had no other activities lined up or caregiver other than her sitter who arrives in the afternoon, I decided to make much of it a staycation, in which I stayed at home, worked a few half-days from my company-issued laptop set up side-by-side with my personal computer on my dining room table, and tried to keep Samantha occupied and entertained in creative ways.

Determined to have dinner with my girl every night, a luxury I am not afforded due to my usual work schedule, I cooked casseroles, baked cookies, made hot dogs which we ate out on the deck on a warm, breezy evening, and tried to change things up a bit.  I kept the house tidy, did several loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen floor (gasp!), and even (bigger gasp) went to the bank to deposit checks and to the grocery store to do shopping, both tasks that my other half usually completes.  I made all of Samantha's compulsory appointments for the week, torturing her with a dentist appointment (more on that in another post), a doctor's appointment (also in another post beyond that), and a visit to the passport office in the post office to start the process of renewing her passport (in yet another post!), which expired nearly two years ago with a photo that had been taken when she was a mere 7 months old.  But the biggest torture of all was taking her, along with her sitter and her son who is the same age as Sammi, to a local orchard to pick fruit.  We had been hoping for peaches, and were disappointed to find that we'd missed them, and that only apples, a few pears and blackberries were available to choose from.     

The last time we went fruit-picking, as well as the time before that and the time before that, you'd have thought I was being unspeakably cruel to my girl, doling out a punishment worse than death.  That a fun outdoor opportunity to actively participate in the gathering of healthy things to make into even yummier healthy things was really more akin to waterboarding, or having one's fingernails removed by force, one at a time.  I thought perhaps age and maturity would change that.
I thought wrong.
Don't let the photos above and below fool you - the kid doesn't even like apples...

This is a much more accurate depiction of her crappy attitude when I wasn't carrying her piggy-back up and down hills, over uneven terrain and in the blistering heat of a perfectly seasonable August day:

And here's the beautiful face of undisguised and unmistakable relief when I told her it was time to go home:

Right.  Thanks, kid.  At least I didn't have to carry her back to the car...

I can't even begin to explain why, but this particular orchard always has a gruesome selection of skulls sitting on a lovely red and white checkered cloth covering the folding table at which you check out.  Perhaps they're trying to pass along the message of what happened to the last creatures that ate the farm's fruit without paying...

So, the question of what to do with the apples?  Peaches would have been easy.  I'd eat them.  I love fresh peaches.  Apples not quite so much.  And Sammi doesn't either, as I'd already mentioned.  And these apples were pretty sour.  I made apple sauce last year after an orchard visit, but I turned out to be the only person who actually ate it, other than the batch I had frozen and then thawed for Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's house.
A quick Google search for how to preserve apples yielded scores of recipes for oven-dried apple chips, which I suspect *may* actually make it past Samantha's lips as a good, healthy snack.  And if not hers, then most definitely mine.  And other than the tremendous amount of time it takes to make them (they need to bake at a very low temperature for 7 hours), the process was painfully easy. 
First, I searched for my over-10-year-old, never-been-used mandolin that I bought from one of those house-gadget-parties at a friend's place (you know, the kind where you feel obligated to buy stuff).   

Then, after coring, peeling and slicing the apples and pears (and wondering how the hell I managed to live this long without ever having used that amazing, awesome, most-useful-gadget-on-the-planet, the mandolin), I gathered a few rubs to add a bit of unexpected flavor to the finished product.  Below are apricot Jell-O powder (because that's what I had in the cupboard), cinnamon/sugar, and cayenne pepper/sugar.  I put the apple slices on silpat and parchment paper-covered baking sheets, sprinkled them with the different mixtures, then rubbed them in quickly with my fingers before putting them into the oven at 170 degrees to bake.  

After the 7 hours was over, I turned off the oven and let the trays remain inside until the oven was completely cool.  Then, voila!

Crispy, crunchy and delicious.  Unfortunately, I think Sammi's not that into them, but I'm going to try her again when she's not expecting it.  Keep in mind, they shrink as they dry.  This small-ish jar is holding about 3 apples-worth.  I have a plastic bag with the broken bits and the spicy ones, since I'm the only one who's going to eat those (and they are sooooo good).

Staycation is over, and life is nearly back to normal now that school has started.  I'm not sure how much of the domestic diva-hood will stick around, but I'm motivated to keep it rolling.  I like it, but bills gotta get paid, y'know?