Thursday, January 31, 2013

It Is So Hard to Keep It Real

Last night I wrote a post about the days when I was not an ok mom (prompted by an excellent post on Gillian's blog.) It was an honest post that described my struggles to overcome rageful reactions to ordinary kid stuff that my kids do. It was the kind of post that might touch someone out there who needs to hear that she is not alone, that there is hope, and that change is possible.

But I did not end up posting it. I may never post it. In fact as I read through my posts of late (the past year or so) I wonder if I will ever post real stuff that matters ever again... because too many people I know IRL read this blog (ahem, not that you would ever know that by the comments or rather lack there of.)

I struggle as a mom. I have body image issues. I am sad about my daughter Kimani... it twists my heart and mind. I have not-so-nice but true and rather funny opinions of some people around me and in my virtual world. I am seriously no longer convinced about God. I hate being a SAHM. I miss the freedom to travel. My husband doesn’t get enough sex. I am often tired of being me now and ache to be me then. I am conflicted about abortion. You get the idea.

But if I step off the cliff and write about all that, what does it really matter and in the long run it will only hurt me. When I go to publish my nonfiction book about parenting infants with Down syndrome, people will say, "That is the same woman who writes all that awful crap on her blog." When I try to set up playdates for my kids the moms will remember what I have written here and think maybe they don’t want their kids around her kids. I have already lost much of my Christian readership and would likely lose the rest.

Why blog anymore? I don’t know. There must be a reason I still feel drawn to write the truth as I see it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gecko Scores

My 9 year old son Gecko plays on a premier soccer club team. He is one of the youngest and most developing kids on the U10 (boys born in ’02 & ‘03) team. He is also one of the smaller kids, though surprisingly not the smallest. But he is built for soccer. He is fast, agile, and aggressive and for the most part he holds his own.


For some reason though, he doesn’t shoot for goals. He plays forward or midfielder and he does great getting the ball and moving it, but when he gets close he just doesn’t take the shot. I chalk this up to focus (too focused on controlling the ball to plan for a strike and not focused enough on where exactly he is and what the goal opportunities look like ahead of him) and perhaps even a bit of uncoordinated motor planning (the switch from controlling it to actually shooting it).


I am not some crazed soccer mom who lives and dies for her kid to be the best, to be the star but I know that for his sake he needs to take that next step and start taking goal shots. I have been subtly mentioning it to him and when it comes up he tells me he prefers defense. And so I leave it alone hoping that by the end of this first year he develops to the point where he wants it.


Last Sunday when I did a little birthday shopping for myself at the Pandora store, he was with me. He goes there often with his dad to pick out my special occasion gifts and he enjoys looking at and picking out the beads he thinks I might like. As we were eying the lovely baubles in the glass cases, he said, "Mom, don’t you have a football? Maybe they have a soccer ball."

The sales lady was quick to tell us there is a soccer ball bead and to pull out the tray that it sits on. I smiled at Gecko, "I do have a football bead. And when you score your first goal, I will buy that beautiful soccer ball bead to celebrate it." He smiled right back at me and said, "Ok mom."

On Wednesday (the very next practice) the boys played against themselves, and lo and behold, Gecko scored not one but two goals. The minute he got home he yelled to me, "Guess what mom? We can go back to Pandora now." I was very excited for him and proud of him.

But later that night I wondered about it. When your children are really little, you know them so well. You know what each of their cries means, you know everywhere they go, everyone they see, all the things they care about... but then they begin to grow up and away from you. They have crushes you don’t know about, thoughts they don’t share, friends and enemies at school you don’t know. They have fears and desires that you are not privy to. Was it a coincidence that he scored those goals the very next time he was on the field? Or is he that motivated to please me/make me proud? Is that a good thing? Was it to show that he loves me or does it mean he feels like he needs to measure up?

soccerballToday he came home late from his game. He walked into the kitchen with a little Pandora bag in his hand and a wide grin. As he handed it to me he excitedly told me that he took a goal shot during the game but "the goalie just barely got it!"

That little silver and enamel soccer ball charm on my bracelet means a lot to me. While it won’t give up the secret of why he wanted it so bad, it reminds me that my boy is superstar to me.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Wicked Stepmother

I came across a blog written by a woman who is the stepmother of an 11 year old girl with Down syndrome. This mom is young, and pretty, and struggling with rage and resentment. Reading her posts ruined my day. I know lots of kids are ignored, unloved, screamed at, disdained, and all kinds of other descriptors that border on abused but when it is because the child has Down syndrome that hits close to home.

"I could see all these great attributes in her, attributes which she would receive compliments on almost regularly. For me, however, all I could see was the disease. Ugliness. Stupidity. Mental inabilities. Physically odd attributes. A disability. A down syndrome."

"Give her away!" I yelled at the screen, "Just give her away to a family that will love her."

What really irks me about the blog is that the whole thing is dripping in Christianity. As in this excerpt,
"Today I needed an extra dose of prayer. Perhaps I got it but ignored whatever God was trying to send my way. In fact, God knows what I need. He gives what I need every day. Yet failures threaten to take over - and oftentimes they do. This weekend (child’s name) became a full-blown nuisance. This weekend nobody really wanted her. This weekend she was tossed around from family member to family member. Tag! You're it!"

Or this gem which makes me wonder what her hands have done...
"Now, when I feel overrun with guilt over what my angry lips have said yelled or what my hands have done out of hatred, I can see that God is there beside me. He is with the ones I have hurt, too. He is their comforter and my redeemer."

WTF? I am a stepmom and an adoptive mom... I get it, it’s complicated bonding with a child who didn’t spring from your loins.

tkMy stepdaughter looked very much like her beautiful mother and growing up she made the same facial expressions as her mother (the eye roll, the FU half smile, the evil glare) and so she was a constant reminder of another woman my husband had once loved. But as much as I abhored that woman, I never took it out on my stepdaughter. I grew to love that little girl and I wanted her to love me. Now she is an adult and I see both her mother and myself in her. Hopefully she retained the best of both of us.

meeting_mgMy older adopted daughter was so alien to me. With a judge’s signature she became mine for all time... but she didn’t feel like mine. I was grossed out over her boogers, her poopcidents, sharing a straw with her... I admit that I often felt like the fulltime caregiver instead of an adoring mother. I knew that those little things that grossed me out were anachronisms still present due to her having Down syndrome. I knew that these were things beyond her control. Knowing it did not help fix my heart. I loved the idea of loving her, but I did not feel a motherly love for her. So slowly it grew that I worried there might be something seriously wrong with me. I have a best friend who fell for Masha hard, and all she ever saw was the beauty, the cuteness, the dearness of her. She would laugh at the booger kisses, share her food, and clean her up like none of that bothered her at all. Her love for my daughter was a different lens for me to see through. Her love for my daughter helped me to be the best mother I can be be to Masha.

I wonder what it would be like to combine those two scenarios and drop the cute baby phase out of it (that mom got her step kid past the toddler age). I can understand that mother’s feelings but I cannot relate to her refusal to try actually loving the kid as a possible solution to their fractured relationship. Love is not just a feeling... it is not something that happens to us or doesn’t... it is action. If I could give that mother one piece of advice I would say, "Fake it till you make it." Smile at your stepdaughter, hug her, paint her nails, forgive her her mistakes, let her play the way she wants to, praise her, protect her dignity, compliment her, be a model for her of what a Christian woman should be like. And one day you will find that you aren’t just acting in obedience to your God, but also out of a real love and enjoyment of this girl who will forever see you as what a mother is.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Ten Things that Will Make Me a Happier Person

This is the month for articles and blog posts on getting happy, making changes, and reaching goals. It’s a new year and what better milestone is there to use as an excuse to do better than before? Do this, do that, or not... all with the prize of happiness hanging just out of reach. But the title lies... happy is not my goal, happy is not even on my radar. I just want to be peaceful, content, and fulfilled. No small potatoes, eh?

With that in mind, I made up my own list of things I believe will get me there. They are in no particular order, and one is as important (or not) as another.

1. Make a short daily To Do list that has two or three things on it that I want to get done for that day. I can make the list the night before or first thing in the morning while I am getting the children off to school. What kinds of things go on this list? Schedule a necessary appointment, pay a bill, do one load of laundry, prepare a grocery list, write a blog post... bite-sized bits of running my life. Checking those things off my list will help me to feel that I have done my job for the day. All the other things I manage to accomplish will be frosting on the day’s cake.

2. Pick something in my environment that is bothering me and make a strategy for changing it so that it no longer causes me stress. The first thing I have chosen is my kitchen pantry because I am tired of stuff falling out of it every time I open the door, and even more tired of only getting to use the front edges of each shelf. When that problem is resolved I will pick another, and little by little I will revamp my surroundings so that they work with me, not against me.

3. I will get rid of things. Say it again, louder this time, I WILL GET RID OF THINGS. Seriously, instead of stuffing it away somewhere hoping that I will fix it, find the rest of it, reuse it, give it away, shrink back into it, craft it, sell it, find a way to keep it out of a landfill... I will chuck it in the garbage.

4. Do something healthy for myself everyday. I am not talking about working out or dieting or anything time consuming and potentially guilt inducing... I mean stuff like I will take a multivitamin or drink ice water during the day instead of tea or coffee. If eventually I add in a daily walk or some super good foods, yay.

5. Make time for laughter. I am going to make a point of watching stand up, or a great comedy, or at least an episode of The Big Bang Theory every week or so. It feels so good to bust out with a real guffaw. Laughing is good therapy, really really good therapy.

6. I will write down one most important long and short term goal on a paper along with a visual of those goals, and then stick it up on the wall right next to my computer. Then I will break the goals up into steps, and get started on step one of each goal. The long term goal is to make our house bigger and the short term goal is to finish the book I am writing. Since I am way past step one of writing the book, I will make a list of steps that begins where I am already at.

7. Practice saying yes to things that make my life easier and no to things that complicate it. This not only means being judicious with my time (no, I can’t be the room mom, or on the PTA, or in a book club, or at the gym) but also with my resources. Yes to online grocery shopping, housecleaning help, pressure cooked meals, an occasional nibble of Valium, and going places without my all my kids.

Did I say ten things? Heh, that would be too overwhelming. Seven is good enough. How about you? What concrete things can you do this year to get a little closer to the contented life you deserve?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

I love my birthday. I never used to... maybe because I was worried about getting old or because I had no one except my parents to make a fuss over me. Now I don’t care about the numbers, and my husband and kids always spoil me, and my friends remember me and I feel loved.

This year (as in many years past) my dad sent me a card with a check in it. I used to put that birthday check up in the bills/checks file and deposit it in the bank without ever doing anything for me. But this year I decided to spend it on me... all $100 of it.

And this is what I bought:

Three Kindle books...

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Next I visited the Pandora store and bought two beads...



And finally with the leftover couple bucks, I bought a delicious Starbuck’s vanilla latte.

It was really fun to pick out things for myself... things I wanted, not things I needed. And I did not feel guilty about it because it was money meant for exactly that purpose. Thanks dad :-)

If you had $100 and you had to spend it on yourself, what would you buy with it?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

She Tries Not to Cry, She Fails


Alone in the parking lot, the loaded question he asked plays over and over in her head as she turns the key in the ignition. "I will not cry. I will not cry," she whispers into the darkness as the van’s engine purrs to life. "You knew this was a possibility," her thoughts chastise as hot droplets spill over her lashes against her will. She swings the van around in the school parking lot and lets its bright headlights lead her home.

"Have you considered keeping her where she is now?"

That is what he asked her. But what he meant was that her little girl is not even good enough for the self-contained Kindergarten room she’d fought to keep her other daughter out of.

What he wants her to do is send the girl to a private school for very special children but she is afraid. (The school is in the same center as her babygirl's current preschool.) She has seen the children who comprise that K-2nd grade classroom. She knows she is a hypocrite but her heart can’t help it.

Why can’t pre-K last forever?


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake (Pops)

I told you a couple years ago that Jade is a budding chef and since then I have done everything possible to encourage his cooking adventures. I had hoped if he was involved in the cooking he might actually taste or even eat the food we make, but alas that is not usually how it goes. Except for when we make goodies... then he is all about eating... he eats the ingredients as we put them in, slurps the batter off the mixers, spoons, and bowls, licks the frosting knife, and of course smacks up every “accidentally” spilled sprinkle he can find.

So for Christmas I bought him the Wilton Kids Mega Sprinkles Toteand my mom got him the Nordic Ware Cake Pops Baking Panso that we could make chocolate and sprinkle-covered cake pops.


He was very excited about the idea of making cake pops and has been bugging harassing reminding me almost daily that we have to make them. This week three of my five kids had a snow day on Wednesday... what better way to pass the time but making cake pops?

After the fourth go-round with the pan in the oven (for 16 minutes each time) and lots of batter still left in the bowl, I decided that we are definitely buying three more cake pop pans. Then once the house smelled truly delightful and all the candy melts and sprinkles were lined up and ready, I read the part where Gina (of Skinnytaste) says to chill the cake balls for 45 minutes in the fridge. Uh, ok...

It felt like hours after we had first begun our big adventure when we were finally ready to start dipping. The Gecko chose black candy melts, Jade chose red, and I chose white. I microwaved the candy to get things going and then put the glass cups into a pan of simmering water to keep the chocolate soft. The first thing we realized is that the little cake balls did not want to stay on the sticks and that the chocolate was too thick and heavy for them. We glopped the chocolate on and then watched sadly as the sticks poked through or the cake balls slid down their sticks.





No matter the setbacks, the boys totally enjoyed decorating their cake pops and you can surely tell they are just about ready to debut in Martha Stewart...


And no matter how ugly naturalistic my boys’ pops turned out, rumor has it that they were delicious anyway.


I don’t know if I ever told you this but I loooove to cook, and I am kinda good at it. And totally screwing up cake pops is just not acceptable to me so... today we tried again. This time I thinned the melted chocolate (with a big dollop of Crisco...ewww gross, I know but, a). it works and b). there are grosser things in life to worry about) and I insisted that we wait the minute after dipping and before decorating that Gina suggested (and in our excitement we disregarded last time). Those two little changes made a huge difference in physical as well as aesthetic results as you can see...



And a little birdie told us this batch was scrumptious too...


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stupid Is Not the Problem


I would wager that quite a few people who read yesterday’s post were anywhere from uncomfortable to horrified that I told my six year old son Jade that his four year old sister Kimani is in fact stupid.

Before I go on, let me put it out there again that Kimani has suffered brain damage. Her having Down syndrome is secondary to that. I would give most anything I have for her to only have Down syndrome. I would never, ever say that her sisters Masha and Autumn (who also have Down syndrome) are stupid, because they are not. They have a good measure of common sense and the ability to process and store information at a functional and educable rate.

Which brings me to the classic definition of stupid: lacking in common sense, perception, or normal intelligence; having dull mental responses; slow-witted. There is no value judgement inherent in the definition of stupid... nothing to say that it is a bad thing.

But we know that being stupid is bad. We know that calling people stupid is an insult. We know that actually being stupid gets you picked on and often abused. Those problems are more about us than they are about Kimani. She is who she is and has the brain capacity that she has. It is us, those around her who will place a value on her head. I happen to think she is worth her weight in gold.

As for stupid... instead of me trying to paint some prettier words over it (intellectually impaired and cognitively delayed) which have less stigma attached to them, I simply admitted to my son what he can already see for himself. His sister lacks the ability to do many things because she lacks common sense, perception, and a functional level of intelligence. What is most important is not that he believe that she is NOT stupid but rather that he believe she is valuable and lovable despite being stupid, and I am pretty sure he gets that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Minus the Sugarcoating

Every now and again I keep Kimani up late and I snuggle and play with her in the livingroom, and it is wonderful. For the most part she is calm and open to my affections, and she plays, she actually plays with me... in her own divergent sort of way.


Tonight I let her stay up because during her bedtime routine she kept saying "No bed" to her father, and when she manages to speak, she always gets what she wants, provided we are able to give it to her.

Jade was also up and playing with some new Melissa & Doug stacking toys—trucks and trains—in the livingroom. He wanted me to play with him too. So she and I did. Vroom, vroom, I loaded wooden cars onto a wooden trailer while he built a bulldozer. Kimani tore it apart and put some of the pieces in her mouth.

Jade got frustrated and very upset with her. He let out a short angry cry and then accused her to me, "Sometimes I think she is stupid!" I could see it in his face, in his eyes, that he was afraid of what he had said. Maybe he feared getting in trouble, or maybe he worried that he hurt her feelings... either way the words just hung there in the room, and the tears welled up in my eyes.

I didn’t know what to say to him. I hate parenting moments like that... when there is something big, something important, perhaps crucial and I have no idea what to do with it.

Even though I didn’t know what to say, words came out, "Yes, Jade. She is stupid. She cannot think like you can. Her brain was hurt when she was a baby and it made her stupid. But we don’t say it like that because that is mean. It is not her fault. She cannot help it. Can you forgive her for ruining your things?"

He said he could.

(Can the mother forgive Fate for ruining her child? She said she cannot.)