Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Today I Am Thankful

I've been thinking a lot about motherhood lately.
As a mother to young children, oftentimes I spend a lot of time wondering what sort of mischief will befall that day;
what awesome new things they'll do;
 what new things they'll say;
what kind of amazing moments we'll have together.
 And yet as I walk through each day with one small hand clasped in each of mine, I am well aware of how little control I have over their protection, future, and lives.
 I do my best. They do their best. But the rest we have to leave to a sovereign God.

I don't often talk about my faith here on the blog because to be honest I grew up in an environment where pat spiritual phrases were overused. I tend to err to the side of silence.

But today I am thanking God for my children. And for keeping control with a perfect plan for our lives.

For giving me a beautiful little girl and a handsome little boy who are both perfect beyond my wildest dreams, for giving me the ability to mother them each and every day, for allowing our family to be as happy as we are, for protecting and loving us.

Today I am thankful.

pssssst: On Tuesday, April 2nd, get ready to see a brand new ebook on the market- "Diapers, Onesies, Stretch Marks- Oh My!" Yes I wrote it. Yes it's about new motherhood. Yes, I definitely think you should read it. More on this later....of course!

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Celebratory Mom

I try to be a celebratory mom.

You know. Make a big deal of small moments, make a cake for the medium sized ones, and throw a parade for the big ones.

And I try. Honestly I do. But without fail, the celebratory moment efforts that I put into it all always seem to come back and bite me in the...well, you know where.

Case in point: Last Thursday was World Down syndrome awareness day. "Awesome!" I thought excitedly to myself. A day to celebrate!

Well the morning of, I awoke at 3am, completely unable to fall back asleep. "No problem" I told myself, getting up and putting in four hours of work. YAY more time to celebrate when the kids are awake plus I got so much work done! Win/win!

When Addison woke up at seven, I changed her, fed her breakfast, and then took the opportunity to snuggle with her on the couch watching Signing Time. What a great way to start a celebration!

The next thing I remember was Aaron shaking me awake, saying "Isn't today Thursday? Why isn't Addison at school?"

Current time: 8:32am
School starting time: 8:30am

Addison was still in her pjs, with crazy hair and a yogurt smudged face. I was still in my pjs, with a much less cute version of crazy hair (that was still wet from a quick shower I took before getting Addison up). In my sleepy haze, I saw a naked Carter Henry go running by the couch holding a handful of crackers that he was crumbling on the carpet as much as he was stuffing them in his obviously starving face.

It's for moments like these that God invented the mom pony tail. And sweatshirts. And...basically the whole "mom look."

I whipped my pony tail into place, threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt, and then focused on dressing Addison in preschool attire.

While packing her snack, I asked Aaron if he could please feed Carter breakfast while we were gone. It was then Aaron informed me that he had a meeting in ten minutes and could not help with baby boy sitting.

Current time: 8:45 am.

I considered calling in sick to preschool since Addison had felt rather lousy earlier in the week. But as I looked at her bright, smiling face- feeling completely 100%- I knew what I needed to do.

I dressed Carter-quickly. I laughed a bit that the only thing I could find for him was a super formal sweater/corduroy pant outfit.

We all finally loaded up in the car at 8:55am and arrived at preschool a few minutes after nine.

As the normal drop off line was absent and the secretary gave me the side eyes as we slunk in a good 35 minutes past our normal arrival point, I felt as though I was making a new sort of walk of shame. "The mother who takes her child late to school" walk of shame. I never realized it existed until that moment.

Celebratory morning? Fail. Addison was over a half hour late to her favorite thing in the world that only lasts two hours anyway.

I tried to make it up to her after nap time. McDonald's! Surely a lovely trip into her favorite restaurant with a few french fries will help celebrate this wonderful day!

At first it went really well. Both kids contentedly sat in the wagon as we rolled into a not crowded restaurant. Addison gave huge smiles to everyone else waiting in line. Their Happy Meal came with a cute little bracelet for Addison to wear. They got buckled up in their adjourning high chairs and eagerly started in on the McNuggets.

Addison was laughing. Carter was smiling. My heart was happy. We practiced dipping chicken into the sweet and sour sauce. So simple and yet so special for them at the same time. YAY! We were celebrating World Down syndrome day!

It was when I doled out a few fries to them that the problems started. Carter decided that he liked the fries SO MUCH that he was going to stuff ALL of them in his mouth at once! Of course he only had three had a time in front of him, but that was all it took.

Before I realized it he had initiated his horrible gag reflex and vomit was spewing all over the table, all over the rest of the Happy Meal, all over his corduroy pants, and all over the floor underneath the table.

I bent over to start wiping up with not-enough napkins, and the rank odor of soured milk filled my sense with enough kick to take my breath away. I glanced over to my left and saw a table of teenagers hanging out after school. The looks they shot our way guaranteed that I just gave them the best birth control lecture ever. You are welcome, parents of these high school students. (Strangely enough I got those exact same looks of disgust from a group of teenagers when I walked into a Guess outlet store to buy some discounted jeans a few days later... so maybe it's just me.)

Trying to be a thoughtful mother, I handed Carter the cup/straw full of water so that he could rinse out his mouth with a refreshing drink of water. He chose that moment to pretend like his wrist was too weak to hold a cup of water (FAKER).

I tried to catch the cup as it went crashing in slow motion down to the floor. But my best efforts were just a millisecond behind the evil cup. As our half of McDonald's flooded with ice water from a little boy's errant cup, I saw the teenagers beat it faster than the reflex from touching something super hot and being afraid of getting burnt.

Giving up at this point, I took the kids out of their high chairs to put them back in the red wagon to get them back out to the safety of our car. I let Addison stand alone for just a second and next thing I knew she was rolling around in the water. As I tried to pull her out of it, I noticed that she had dropped her bracelet into the deep end of Lake Carter and was trying to retrieve it.

I finally got both tiny, strangely-strong, writing bodies buckled back into the wagon. By this point they were both fighting, crying, shrieking, and whining- yes all at once. I stopped by the front counter to let them know that there was a small pond that needs to be cleaned up over yonder, received my second pair of side eyes of the day, and then safely got my charges back out to the car.

We had to stop by the grocery store quickly (Addison then lost the bracelet for good at the grocery store), and while we were there we picked up some ice cream to try to salvage the celebration after we got home. But the kids were fighting so aggressively that I didn't want to add to their sugar intake at all.

Celebratory afternoon? Fail. Both children reeked of vomit, their throats must have been sore from all of their whining, and my patience had been ground to bits.

A few hours later when they were finally fed, bathed, and in bed, I saw down on my couch with the ice cream and celebrated World Down syndrome day between me, my spoon, and those delightful chocolate chunks.

It's not how I pictured it would go when I thought about celebrating the day. It also doubled as a "yay we survived today" type of thing.

So yeah, I'm not a very celebratory mom when it comes to big events. Yes, I do try. Yes, it usually ends badly. But yes, I will keep trying.

Today we are celebrating the life of my nephew John William who was born 3/17/2012 and died 3/25/2012. He will always be loved dearly even though his presence here on earth was so short. His precious life made an impact on us all.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy World Down Syndrome Day and Thank You

Today we are celebrating World Down Syndrome Day, a day to think about individuals carrying that extra chromosome and respect what they have overcome .

I feel like this is a place where I should get up on a soapbox and rant and rave about how my daughter doesn't get enough respect in this world, but the truth is- I don't know of a more respected or loved little girl.

I know her number of daily contacts is rather small right now- family, friends at church, friends from gymnastics/playgroup/NICU/other places, friends from preschool, random strangers in the grocery store. But honestly I can't think of anyone in Addison's life who has shown her anything other than true admiration for everything that she overcomes every day.

She is encouraged, smiled at, fought over, cherished, "just one of the girls", loved.

And so I want to say thank you. (I totally don't do this enough.)

I want to thank all of you who looked at my new little baby with her face covered in tubes, told me that she was beautiful and perfect, and truly believed it.

I want to thank all of you who then walked every step of the way from 'there' to 'here' with us.

I want to thank all of you who let me be open and honest about how Down syndrome has impacted our lives, never judging or saying an unkind word.

I want to thank all of you who teach your children to treat Addison just like any other child- including her, being sweet to her, and expecting the same behavior back from her.

I want to thank all of you who have shouted louder than I have when Addison accomplishes something new and amazing.

I want to thank all of you who tell me often how much hearing about Addison means to you.

I want to thank all of you who rejoice daily over Addison's life, almost as much as we do.

Addison is surrounded by support and love that goes much deeper than our small family of four. And I am beyond grateful.

I joked with Aaron the other day that my blog is 99% people checking up on Addison and 1% who actually put up with my writing nonsense. And that's OK. Because I feel that by putting Addison front and center here on the blog we spread Down syndrome awareness every day. You all let me do that with so much encouragement shouted my way as well. Thank you for that.

If you don't know anything about Down syndrome and you are visiting here for the first time? I thank you too. I do love blog visitors. But just so you know what I'm talking about...

Addison is different from most little girls because she has a third copy of the twenty-first chromosome. This is called "Down syndrome" (upper case D lower case s) because of the scientist who was the first to observe this to be true- John Langdon Haydon Down.

Because of her low muscle tone (hypotonia) and extreme flexibility, her first three years of life included a lot of therapy to help teach her body the correct way to achieve milestones. Children with Down syndrome accomplish all of the things that a typically developing child do. It just might take them a bit longer. To have the help of professionals through Early Intervention was hugely beneficial to Addison.

She is not suffering. She is living a normal life full of the ups and downs that you would find in any little girl's life.

Parenting a child with Down syndrome includes as much good as parenting any other child.

Last year I published a short ebook detailing our journey through the diagnosis and her first couple of years.

We have come a long way since then. 

Our lives are not all about Down syndrome. We are a happy family with two toddlers who often forget that there is even anything special about us at all.

With that being said, I raise my coffee mug high and wish you all a Happy World Down Syndrome Day. We celebrate every day. But today is as good a day as any (3/21 representing the third copy of the twenty-first chromosome) to celebrate it out loud.
(thank you, Aunt Andrea for editing this picture!)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Being Different

We are all different.

We are all different in the way we dress, the way we talk, the things we like, the reasons we get up in the morning, the things that make us happy.

I have struggled for a long time with my own difference. It is easy to pick out someone you admire, respect, and learn from and then push it to the next level of trying to be them. It's easy to see people who are doing things seemingly better than you are doing them and push yourself to make your story just like theirs.

It's easy to try to fit the mold of what society tells you you should be doing. It's easy to work to fulfill the expectations of perfection. It's easy to take sandpaper to your square peg so that it will roughly fit into the round hole of where your mind tells you you should be.

The hard thing with being different is simply accepting yourself for exactly as you were meant to be. Accepting your difference and knowing that it is your perfect. Accepting that your story is not and never will be the same as someone else's story- for good or bad.

I have learned a lot about difference in the past three years. Because as much as my personality, likes/dislikes, habits, and styles might be different than I sometimes think they should be, I have learned that sometimes individuals have much deeper differences that make all the external things that used to worry me seem petty and silly.

I spent twenty-five years trying to find my place in this big world of possibility, and then I was introduced to the world of Down syndrome.

A world defined by difference- starting with the number of chromosomes- a basic genetic occurrence that I had always taken for granted up to that point.

At first I felt like I was kidnapped, chloroformed, and shipped off to this foreign world. I certainly did not willingly buy a ticket. I did not choose to visit- and for sure not to stay as a permanent resident.

But after being introduced to this world of Down syndrome, I started to learn a lot about difference, what truly matters, and strangely enough- myself.

First thing I learned? It is not bad to be different. It is not bad to look different. It is not bad to enjoy different things.

In fact, there is a sort of strange peace that comes from acknowledging that different is the way things were meant to be. Looking at the story version of your life and seeing that even though your ideals didn't write this book, someone who knew what you needed far more than you even knew- wrote this story perfectly for your greater good.

The daughter I was sent was not the one I dreamed up in my head while dreaming of my "someday" motherhood. The daughter I gave birth too was not the one that I would have picked out of a line-up of tutus and hair bows. The daughter that entered our lives three years ago at the time seemed like a sort of punishment to our family.

Because she was different. She looked different. She needed different medical care. I was told that she would learn differently. She would talk differently. Her entire future screamed "DIFFERENT."

And to me? That was a bad thing. Because I wanted "same." I wanted a daughter that was the same as all the other little babies. I wanted a daughter who would talk the same, walk the same, dream the same, and live the same as my mind demanded a little girl should.

But just as my story took an unexpected turn into this world of Down syndrome, my attitude and realization about the difference in all people changed dramatically.

If we were all the same, life would be boring. If we all thought the same, looked the same, loved the same, lived the same- the diverse nature of the world would instead become a Stepford wives freak show.

As Addison smiled her different smile my way, my heart lightened like it never has before. As her different medical needs pushed me to my breaking point, a stronger Deanna was put in the place of the previously weak one. As Addison struggled to learn in a different way, I was forced to put aside my tunnel vision of life and explore this different way with her. As Addison walked, talked, and demonstrated knowledge in her very unique, different ways- I rejoiced with more exuberance than I ever before thought possible as I learned how difference can bring so much appreciation for skills and processes I previously took for granted.

I often tell you (shout to you from the rooftops) that Addison is just like any other girl. And this is true up to a point. She loves to live life doing the things she wants to do. She loves to dress up in pretty clothes. She loves to steal toys from her brother. She loves to eat sweet foods. She loves to play with her dolls/stuffed animals. She is stubborn. She is sweet. She cries when she doesn't get her way, and she laughs hysterically when something strikes her as funny. She shows opinions, personality, and reasoning skills. She loves. She hates. She whines. She talks.

Addison is just as deeply dimensioned as any other little girl, which is why I often focus on the fact that she is JUST like any other child- deserving of the same love, compassion, and respect.

But in the same breath, I would be lying if I didn't also say that she is different.

I don't say that with shame, hurt, or sheepish disappointment.

I say that with pride.

Because she has taught me that it is OK to be different. It is wonderful. It is a new world full of amazing possibilities.

After three years of immersion? I am a proud new citizen of this country. I am a proud participant in celebrating difference. I am a happy mother to a perfectly different little girl.

Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day. Maybe you don't know anyone with Down syndrome in person. Maybe you don't know how to celebrate a holiday focusing on a syndrome that you only know through a cute little girl's smile on this blog.

I see it as a chance to celebrate difference. Not expecting the world to conform to our own ideals. Not turning away from those who don't communicate on our level. Not snubbing, judging, or laughing at difference.

But rather accepting it for what it is- a perfect variation on the theme of life.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Expectations vs Their Ability

I've been thinking a lot lately about expectations that we put on our children. Scratch that. I can't speak for any of you. I've been thinking a lot about expectations that I put on MY children.

For example:

Addison has Down syndrome, so she probably won't be able to_______by_______if ever at all.

Carter does not have Down syndrome, so he probably will be able to_______by______.

Specifically for me right now, I have been thinking about speech. I wrote not too long ago how frustrating it is to have a three year old screaming in a heap on the floor instead of communicating simple concepts to me. In my mind, I secretly wondered if maybe this would be my constant reality with Addison. Being nonverbal is not out of the question, but I think where I went wrong is that expected it.

We have worked SO HARD on speech with very little reward for...three years. I know that parenting requires patience. I know that parenting any child requires a lot of work with delayed rewards. But I think that parenting a child with delays takes this to a whole new level.

To have a three year old with fewer spoken words than I can text in ten seconds is tough. So without realizing it, I placed expectations on her and let myself forget to hope. We hadn't seen any explosions of speech yet, so perhaps it was never going to happen?

(On the other hand, the fact that Carter didn't say "I love you so much Mommy" within the first few hours of his life was hugely shocking to me. I mean, he didn't have a diagnosis, so what was he waiting for??? HA)

With this in mind, you can imagine my amazement when the conversation at the dinner table the other night went something like this:

Addison: "Chicken"
Carter: "Chicken"
(both said this word for the first time in response to the chicken on the menu that night)
Addison: "Meow"
Carter: "Cat"
Addison: "Mooooo"
Carter: "Cow"

Then they both broke out into legendary monkey noises and arm waves, interspersed with frequent giggles.

Then, yesterday at Costco, I handed Addison a pretzel and she said "Tank You."

Not signing it. SHE SAID IT. (we'll work on adding in the "h") (-:

A few minutes later she said: "Doggy"
Me: "We can't buy a doggy at Costco, silly"
Addison (the only logical next thought): "Baby"
Me: HAHAHAHAHAHA....let's check the poultry aisle

She now greets everyone with an exuberant "HI!" which just melts my heart

And then this morning when I heard she was awake, she was standing next to her door, signing all done. When I asked her if she was ready to get up, she SAID "All Done."

She is saying new words right and left. She is extremely competitive, so if Carter breaks out a new word, she is not far behind with her own version of it. He stares at her adoringly when she does, and she smiles triumphantly.

Therefore, since Carter is entering an explosion of speech= Addison is entering an explosion of speech.

And I am awed. And humbled. And unbelieving that I was so fast to expect when they had plans of their own, in a timetable of their own, with a flair of amazing of their own.

I have a feeling that this is a parenting lesson that I'm going to have to learn over and over again. But for right now? I am taking it a day at a time. Praising where I see progress, but not limiting that progress to something inside my head that is so quick to pile on expectations.

MY CHILDREN ARE TALKING!!!!....well, one well placed "moo" at a time anyway. I'll take it!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Little Mommy

One of my fears about Down syndrome pre-Addison was that she would mostly just exist- with no personality, no reasoning skills, no ability to make choices for herself. I thought Down syndrome would steal away her "person-ness" and replace it with a stereotype. (Yes, it's my blog. I reserve the right to make up words!)

Well from day one she has shot the "no personality" fear right out of my mind, and her ingenuity in getting her way with (and toys away from) Carter has been pure genius with making choices and then reasoning how to make them reality.

I wasn't planning on blogging today, but what I just witnessed has to be shared because she continues to defy these fears that used to be a big reason why I was so scared of Down syndrome being in our lives.

So we've been faithful with our toy fast, with the exception of breaking out a rocking horse a few afternoons ago when snow cancelled our outside play time and taking afternoon trips places where there would be toys for the kids to mess around with (stores with playrooms, etc.) We've been really faithful with it- until this morning.

I packed away all of the toys away in the basement except for one large bag that I kept in the back hallway to stash toys as I would find them throughout the day in random spots of the house. Today while Carter was fast asleep and I was cleaning the bathroom, Addison took matters into her own hands.

She went back into that back hallway and pulled out three of her favorite stuffed animals. Taking them through the house into the living room, she sat them each carefully on or around the little plastic chair that hangs out in a corner of the LR. Then she tore out pages from her Daddy's work notebook and placed a sheet of paper on each bear's lap and went to work with her sippy cup. Armed with the cup full of water, she went from bear to bear giving long drinks of water while staring down lovingly at her charges.

I know this because I came back into the Living Room to check on her and I saw her little school room all set up, and Addison "little mommy" in full caring mode:
Seriously, the level of attentiveness that she was giving to her pretend play completely blew my mind. Abandoning the bathroom cleaning, I sat down to watch her. She smiled up at me, said "baby", and then moved on to give the next bear a drink after re-situating the reading material. Apparently she felt as though they needed to be rehydrated after their long trip away from her.
After she was satisfied with the drink situation, she placed the white bunny (and the other stuffed animal hanging out under the chair) next to the brown bear, settled down into the green chair herself and very expressively and thoughtfully read them a book. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of this. I was afraid if I moved and reminded her that I was watching that she would stop. And I live for these moments.

I don't know how a typical 3 year old girl pretend plays, because I have never mothered a typical 3 year old girl. I only know that I found this completely awesome and think that this says so much about Addison's personality, reasoning skills, and choice making that I used to think would never be reality for her.

Thank you Addison for being such an incredible part of our lives! (And your bears and bunny wanted to thank you for the drink of water. It was just the pick-me-up they needed after spending the week in a plastic bag.)

Anyone want to guess what the first toys to break the toy fast are?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Check List

I stood still in the Pediatrician's waiting room while keeping a close eye on my happily playing kids. In my hand I held THE clipboard. At first I read and checked without thinking.

Does he respond to his name?
Does he follow simple, one step directions?
Will he point to objects?

And as I checked, yes, yes, yes I felt the familiar ache from the last time I stared at the 18 month check list. I always felt it was kind of cruel for the Pediatrician's office to hand me a typically developing child's checklist as I stared down at my beautiful princess who was already so far behind.

Will he look you in the eye?
Can he kick a ball?
Will he feed himself?

My hand kept checking- quickly. Yes, yes, yes. My mind cycled through so many memories of frustration when I had to check No, no, no, no, no, no and hand the clipboard back to the nurse while fighting back tears.

Does he imitate?
Is his vocabulary growing?
Does he show emotional attachment to certain people?
Does he walk with ease?

Addison always seemed to take a sort of pride in taking her sweet little time getting to these milestones, just now able to do some of these for the first time- at 3 years old. I always felt somehow that if I could check Yes to all of these questions that this would somehow all be easier. That this motherhood thing that held so many surprises for me would then be a piece of cake. I secretly thought that her delays were what made my job so hard. Because maybe if she COULD follow one step directions, feed herself, and walk at 18 months she could help me just a little bit instead of me having to do everything for her.

Remembering that as I checked off half a page of more Yes, yes, yes, I thought back over Carter Henry's last eighteen months. He is very typical; he hits those milestones right on track; he delights in pushing the limits; and he is a lovable, handsome boy.

As I held this same checklist, but with completely different answers this time, I laughed at that past version of my self who always trembled at these checklists- thinking that they meant something. I rolled my eyes that I used to put so much stock in how easy/hard my job was based on when these milestones were achieved.

Because to mother Carter Henry is just as difficult as it is to mother Addison. They both have strengths and weaknesses. They both have bad habits and the stubborn gene. They both can be sweet, horrible, or hilarious- depending on their mood. Yes, Carter Henry DOES follow one step directions and answers to his name and kicks a ball, and imitates all day every day- but all of these things don't erase the difficult that comes with being a mother to an 18 month old.

Checking Yes versus checking No wasn't as satisfying as I thought it would be. Because it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. And it didn't define my children in a way worth remembering.

As I gathered up my small brood to go back to see the Pediatrician, I smiled as that bit of pain in the past slipped away to only a memory. I might be called a special needs mother, but to me I am just a mother standing in the Pediatrician's office trying to finish the checklist before my children run down the hallway/terrorize another child/launch themselves off the chairs head first. The actual material on the checklist? Doesn't matter. I have all the answers I need in the small bodies running down the hall with curiosity and laughter as they push and shove to be the first explorer to that magical exam room (one that is already occupied by other children....of course).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Toy Fast

I did something a little crazy the other day. I took away all of my kid's toys. All of them.

Just like the Grinch on the infamous Christmas DVD, I snuck around the house during naptime with a bag thrown over my shoulder while whispering chortles of glee and with crazy eyes popping out of my head while non-manicured fingers selected every "fun" item and packed it away. 

"WHY OH WHY" I can hear the sympathetic ones among you asking. "Why would you take away their TOYS???"

It's a strange thing that I've been noticing. My children have a lot of toys. We have pickup times. We have an organizational system. We rotate out toys. And yet their biggest joy with their toys these days seem to be dumping out ALL of them....spreading them throughout the house...and then playing in the pantry or asking to stand on a chair next to the kitchen counter so that they can "help" me cook.

When we had all of the therapists still coming to our house, all of the toys were amazingly helpful because they gave the therapist a lot of variety of material to cycle through. Now? Now the toys were sending me right over the edge.

At the end of a long in bed...husband job was then to meander around the house (stepping on random blocks) to figure out WHY there's a green tractor under my pillow, stuffed animals soaked in the bathtub, small various objects placed carefully in every corner/under every furniture item/in my kitchen cabinets.

The toys were bringing me down. We live in a small house with no playroom, and for the longest time our system in the Living Room has worked. Bins to store toys? check. Corner to keep larger toys contained? check. But now? The toys were suffocating our living area- growing over night like a virus or a mold that touches everything in the house and leaves no family member unaffected.

The kids seemed so used to having toys that they no longer served the purpose of fun and merely were "those things we can throw around and scatter."

Before taking this drastic step, I simplified the toys. I took a third of them away, and felt like my problems would be gone! Turns out there 2/3 left still got treated the exact same way right before the children then concentrated their efforts on tearing apart the pantry. And while I stood in my house that always seems to be a disaster these days, breathing in the toy fumes, and feeling my sanity slip slowly away into that pink picnic basket that was singing my name in a voice that sounded a lot like the Phantom of the Opera...I had a brilliant idea.

Well, I wasn't sure if it was brilliant. It just seemed like the next thing to try: a toy fast.

I packed away all of their toys, had a date with the steam mop and the floor I could finally see again, and felt the atmosphere of my house return to peaceful once again.

I did leave out: 
1. Books (although I am feeling the need to maybe cut back on the number I have available to them)

2. Bath foam letters (I love working on letters with them during this time)

3. Coloring books and crayons (out of their reach)

4. The kitchen playset (with no play food or utensils in it. It's part of the Dining Room decor right now)

This is now our third day of Addison and Carter Toy Fast 2013

Some observations so far:
1. They have been spending a lot more time with their books and perfecting their dance moves (we did not replace toy time with DVD time)

2. This has forced us to make an afternoon trip out for just a little bit each day...which lets face it I probably should have been doing anyway

3. We went to a store yesterday that had a small Duplo table. The kids sat very quietly and played with this table for a good fifteen minutes, actually allowing me to get some shopping done. Last week they would have rolled their eyes at this table and proceeded to do some unauthorized shopping of their own.

4. This has forced me to be more present and aware of what they're doing each minute. Coming up with creative natural "toys"- bowls of rice to spoon onto another bowl of rice, spilled frozen peas and corn became a game for them to pick up into separate bowls...and of course important science lessons that involve keeping your boots on even when the forces are against you (ha)
5. At the end of the day AND throughout the day, my house is so much more picked up so that I can focus on other household chores that were previously getting neglected. Since the house was always covered in toys, my motivation to have everything else done shot down to a fat ZERO. Now it's looking pretty good, and I feel challenged to up my game on everything else (with helpers, of course)
I'm not sure how long we're going to fast, but this week so far has been amazing. When we do bring some toys back, I think it's just going to be a handful at a time. I've been thinking a lot about the best way to handle toys around here. They're too young to pick their favorites and fill their own bins (plus they only want what the other one has), but I like the idea of having Carter's room toys, Addison's room toys, and Living Room toys and rotating them through.

How do you do toys at your house? Have you ever done a toy fast? How long did you do it for and did it seem to help?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dear Monday Morning,

Dear Monday Morning,

You are a beast. A cruel beast that attacks right when I'm still digging out from a long week followed by a long weekend. You never give me a break!

But this Monday morning- waking up with a sick child, a disaster house, and deadlines that aren't going to write themselves- I have decided that I won't let you win. I won't let you bring me down.

Because I have decided:

 I will jump. High. And have fun doing it. 
 (psssst, thanks Shannon on IG for pointing out the mouth similarities here. made me laugh and smile!)
When I freak out at the constant mess and the children who ignore boundaries,
 I will drop it all to go play in the mud. While holding one shoe. And feeling the ooey gooey slosh against my socked foot with no thought to how I'm going to clean this up.
I will enjoy small pleasures when I can.
I will laugh when my children do silly things like telling me "NO" and thinking they bested me to play in a "glass house" while I sit calmly with my cup of coffee and Kindle watching them "hide".
I will sing Hallelujah when God sends a nod of spring our way.
I will listen to my wall art
and my children's laughter.
I will stop taking myself so seriously.
I will take a nap and not feel guilty. (I will also redesign how a sweater is to be worn.)
I will take the time to lose myself in a good book.
I will jump some more even when my children stare at me like I'm crazy.
I will choose happiness...and a good seat on which to watch the world around me.
You know, Monday Morning- it's strange. I'm supposed to be the teacher to these two kids, and yet they seem to have been the ones to teach me.

How to deal with YOU, depressing, coffee-inducing, overwhelming beast.

Because you're just not worth the drama. You're just another day. To live. Awesomely. Out loud. In full color. While making the most of each moment, even the not-so-fun ones.

Now as much as I've enjoyed our little chat, if you will please excuse two teachers are waiting. I have a full day of lessons ahead of me!

p.s. Winner of the Signing Time DVD is Maria Watkins...EMAIL ME!

p.s.s. Thank you for all of your encouragement and for laughing with me last week. You all are completely amazing!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Smelly Mommy Gets A Thriving New Career

This has been such a weird week.

First there was the "ER glass eating" incident.

Then there was the Pediatrician's appointment where I got in the teeney tiny exam room with the heat jacked up to 105 and realized that I had completely forgotten to shower anytime in the last 24 hours. Showering completely slipped my mind before I hauled my two 28 1/2 and 28 1/4 pound babies to the small room furnace to sweat middle-school-boy-smelling-buckets while holding wriggling children still so that a Pediatrician could get up close and personal to examine their ears, eyes, and mouths.

Not my finest moment. Good thing their Pediatrician is so awesome and is probably used to the middle-school-sweat smell overwhelming those itty bitty exam rooms. But I have seriously cringed at this memory all week. Forgetting to shower? What is my life coming to?

Then, to cap off the fabulousness of my week, I started a new temp job. I have been jumping through hoops for the past two months to get the paperwork, security clearance, and recommendations in place to work this

1. Second shift job (so that I could still spend the day with my kids and not have to put them in daycare which would eat up the whole paycheck anyway)
2. Data Entry desk job (nothing that would require any creativity on my part so that I could reserve all my creative energy for my continued writing endeavors)

Different than anything that I've ever done before, I was looking forward to a chance to try something new- using my typing skills for something other than my "tunnel vision life" which includes only the four walls of my house. Also, I would get to talk to real people, wear real clothes, and be someone other than the human dish rag my kids think I am.

It was supposed to last only a few months, but I needed a chance to get out of the house and clear my head before my husband's schedule really got going with the landscape season.

As it ended up, my new temp career that I have been stressing over for the past two months lasted exactly eight hours. One shift. Sixteen episodes of Signing Time.

I didn't anticipate that the slight back aches from lifting my 28 1/4 and 28 1/2 pound babies would compound into severe, flaming back pain when I tried to stay stationary in a seated position for eight hours.

I didn't anticipate going to a new job with excitement to be able to hold actual conversations to then be told that I wasn't allowed to talk at all except while on the super short breaks as to not take away from production.

I didn't anticipate that my dreams of calmly sipping coffee while typing in peace (without tiny hands reaching up in a mad attempt to steal my cup away and scald themselves) would not be possible as no where in the building was there actually any place to get coffee. (This should be illegal)

I didn't anticipate my husband's schedule changing ten million times from the time I originally asked him if he could be home by 3:00 certain days to the time that it became reality.

I didn't anticipate dressing in my finest (with matching socks!) with happiness to be wearing business casual once again to arrive to the location and see that it was casual week. My "mom pajama" uniform would have fit in much better than my classy jewelry set paired with my dress pants.

I didn't anticipate the stress; the new work clothes ending up costing more than the total made in my "career"; the flaming back pain that is still present even two days later; the panic attack as I realized I couldn't physically go back the second day; the sadness about the children's bedtime routine happening without me; the frustration from arriving home to find that a well-meaning husband who tried to make the dishwasher run better actually broke it which meant that the kitchen was piled high with more dirty dishes than I even remembered owning when I walked in the door at 12:30am.

So while I was almost passing out from the back pain- wearing a ridiculously dressy get-up while everyone else was slumming it in hoodies and "juicy" sweatpants- NOT spoken by anyone pretty much for the entire eight hours- without any coffee or any type of caffeine to help my heavy eyes stay open until midnight- full of worry about how I was going to be able to swing the rest of the week with childcare......I realized that this particular job just wasn't worth it.

After that eight hours, my tunnel vision life all of a sudden didn't seem so bad.

I had to make the difficult decision to say "no". It seemed unfair to my temp agency to bail like that, but it was even more unfair to my poor back, my poor children, my poor husband, and my poor dishwasher.

This morning as I sit writing in a house that looked like a bomb very well could have gone off in it only minutes before, sipping my coffee while the children watch Signing Time, and preparing for a new day with nothing more than my "tunnel vision life" ahead of me- I'm trying to shake off this past week and start new.

So to sum up my week:
1. Bad mommy takes child to Emergency Room
2. Smelly mommy forgets to shower
3. Unreliable mommy bails on her new job after eight hours

(I'm calling it: time of death for mother of the year...March 2013.)

Pretty much a stellar week, huh? I guess you all are stuck with me here with my obsession with sarcasm, pictures of my children, and long rants on everything and nothing. Speaking of pictures of my children...
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a sudsy bubble bath waiting for me some pretty serious housework damage control to do around here. 

p.s. I have extreme respect for all of you mothers who do work outside the home. Not for the faint of heart, that is for sure.

p.s.s. It's totally OK if you laugh at me. Goodness knows I'm laughing. And then say something nice. Because I could really use some nice words right about now.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

R-Word Awareness

(I promise there's a 'please' in there somewhere)

Today is the official day to talk about the r-word.
To you maybe it's just a word. An innocent grouping of letters. A seemingly cool way to distinguish things in your life that aren't awesome.

"That movie was so retarded!"
"Wow I look retarded in this dress."
"I can't believe you tripped in front of him! Retard!"
"I've never seen that team play so badly. What a bunch of retards!"

But to individuals with intellectual disabilities, this word means so, so much more. I challenge you to think about what your use of the r-word in such a fashion says about those with intellectual disabilities and what it might mean to them.

If you don't see a big deal with the word 'retarded' and find that you "need" it to pack a verbal punch in certain situations,  I would love for you to take this quiz: Do You Get Why This Word Hurts So Much

If you think I'm being ridiculous by singling out this word, why don't you read what a grown man with Down syndrome  has to say about it: A Word Gone Wrong

“The hardest thing about having an intellectual disability is the loneliness,” he once wrote in The Denver Post. “We are aware when all the rest of you stop and just look at us. We are aware when you look at us and just say, ‘unh huh,’ and then move on, talking to each other. You mean no harm, but you have no idea how alone we feel even when we are with you.”
“So, what’s wrong with ‘retard’?,” he asked. “I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the ‘in’ group. We are someone that is not your kind.” -A Word Gone Wrong, New York Times
As a mother of a child with an intellectual disability, I beg you to please help make this world a more respectful place one word choice at a time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Saturday That Was

Spoiler Alert: Carter Henry is OK

It was a typical Saturday morning.

Make chocolate chip pancakes
Watch happily as two children devour pancakes using mad self-feeding skills
Clean up Kitchen
Post a cutsie picture to Instagram sharing the good news about the self-feeding skills
Tackle some housecleaning duties while the children work off the pancakes running circles around me
Rush Carter to the ER for eating a glass ornament
(apparently he wanted a bit more crunch as a side to his pancakes)

It all started when Aaron left right after breakfast for the local flower show. Since this show only ran for three days, Aaron had to be in his booth every second it was open as to maximize the money he put into it. I should know by now that as soon as Daddy becomes unavailable? Something will happen.

I was cleaning out from underneath the couches (anyone else's couch serve as a magnet for toys, odd socks, empty water bottles, and the randomnest of, just me?), and between the time I swept it out and turned my back on the kids for thirty seconds to put the broom away, an errant silver Christmas tree ornament must have been exposed to a certain pair of curious blue eyes. Pudgy fingers picked it up. Turned it over. And then decided to further investigate with a large bite into the delicious silver foreign object. Was it chocolate? Salty? Creamy? There was only one way to find out.

I didn't discover his activity until he walked up to me, handed me the other half of the ornament, and smiled with bleeding lips a glittery smile full of silver glass pieces.

My heart started pounding, my eyes grew two sizes, a hot sweat immediately broke out over my body, and my legs went numb. I wasn't really sure what to do next.

This is where the toddler stage frustrates me. What I really needed was to ask- Dude, did you swallow any glass? Can you breathe OK? Does your throat hurt? Stomach? Do you taste blood? Instead, impish blue eyes stared solemnly back at me before he broke out into a victory swagger to the rhythm of "Weeee are the Champions of the Wooooorld", escaping away from me and my obviously ridiculous questions.

I will never understand toddlers.

Chasing him down, I tried to fish out all of the pieces of glass out of his mouth. I gave him a drink of water trying to rinse out his mouth (I found out later this was a mistake) while dialing up the Pediatrician's office.

When the nurses pauses and then slowly tells you to head straight to the nearest ER, you know you're in trouble. She told me to look in his mouth for blood, but all I could see were shiny silver spots on his guilty, guilty gums.

Have you ever seen a set of guilty gums? They are covered in things that should not be ingested and instill fear into the heart of all who see them.

I quickly dressed the kids, changed into something other than pajamas, brushed my teeth, and rushed them to the car. We set a record for how quickly we got out of the door.

While driving, shaking, and obsessively looking back at Carter to make sure he was still breathing, the fuel light on my car came on accompanied by all sorts of alarms and beeps. Pretty sure along with "YOU ARE OUT OF GAS" my car also shouted "YOU ARE A HORRIBLE MOTHER". I didn't want take the time to stop, so I pressed forward, praying that the gas fumes would get us there. I ignored the accusations. Whose idea was it to make cars that talk, anyway?

We got to the Urgent Care that was the closest to our house, loaded up into the red wagon, and ran inside. After waiting ten minutes to be seen, the nurse heard our story, observed that Carter's airway seemed free, and told us that we needed to go to the other ER since they didn't have a Pediatric probe to pull out any glass pieces they might find via X-ray.

I loaded the kids back up into the car. They were at this point starting to become super whiny since naptime was supposed to have started fifteen minutes ago. The concern issued by the nurse and the words "pediatric probe" escalated two things that seem to accompany motherhood all too frequently: fear and guilt. While driving to the other ER (having to take five minutes to stop and put a gallon of gas in my car so that we could make it there) my shakes intensified from slight breeze to hurricane winds as my mind explored the possibility of how this could go down.

When we got to the ER, the receptionist looked appropriately shocked when I explained that my son had eaten a glass Christmas ornament, but then when she saw his rambunctious self trying to free himself from the restraints of the wagon and heard his loud protests of the cruelty of having to wear a hospital bracelet, she appeared to be an unbeliever of my story letting several more urgent cases go ahead of us. (Because yeah, I had nothing better to do with my morning than try to make up a crazy story about my son eating glass in order to hang out in this super plush waiting room with two naughty toddlers during nap time. Yes, receptionist lady. You got me.)

So even though the waiting room was empty when we got there, we still had to wait a while to be seen. (This extra time made me wish I had taken the necessary two minutes to create slightly-less scary look for myself via some makeup application.) I wasn't supposed to give Carter anything to eat and drink (as to not push any pieces of glass any farther down), so I couldn't give Addison anything to eat or drink either because whatever she had he would have screamed until he got equal shares, and he was supposed to stay calm.

It was naptime. They were both hungry. Not even the most tempting of iPad games kept their attention for very long.
After fifty "I promise to never___ again if you speed this up" deals with God, we finally got back into an exam room. As soon as Carter was freed from the wagon, he bounded up onto the bed then immediately dove head first into the nearest wall attempting to self-medicate with those obviously needed oxygen cords. The large red welt on his forehead looked concussion-worthy. Good thing we were already at the ER.

When I at long last got him settled back down and turned thirty seconds of attention to Addison who was being an absolutely angel, a nurse came running into the room like it was on fire. "WHAT? Is everything OK? What's wrong?"

I was confused until I glanced over and saw Carter Henry making out with the call button. Of course.

Little boy screamed and fought through the indignity of his very first X-ray, had a complete meltdown when Addison finally got a cwacker and he couldn't have one yet, and continued to assert his opinion of mean mommy making him spend the morning in the ER without food and drink. Halfway through the visit Addison started dissolving into puddles of tears and shrieks of anger for no reason at all due to her missed nap.

Basically the morning was like a fun walk in the park.
Long story short, his X-ray was clean, inside his mouth didn't show sign of bleeding, and he wasn't in any apparent pain. We arrived home at long last and I found the large missing piece of the ornament over in a corner of a living room which set my mind tremendously at ease.

After this experience, I have come to a few conclusions:
1. My son hates me

2. Cleaning underneath couches is evil. Objects lost in the shadow of a couch should be considered lost souls and left to their fate

3. My son hates me

4. Allowing silver ornaments to decorate the mantel long after Christmas is stupid. You let down your guard, and then your children forget everything that you spent the entire month of December learning.

5.Wearing a hospital bracelet is apparently one of the top three horrors to ever happen to a young boy. This unfair twist of fate is surpassed only by having your food stolen by your sister and not given equal time on the iPad.
6. My son hates me

We all caught up? I was pretty excited about a fresh, new week until both children woke up this morning at 4am and my first cup of coffee tasted like black sludge.

March, I am so not impressed. I think you can do better. yes?