Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beauty

I have had much to say, but a lacking desire to post it. So much has happened in the past two months that I do not wish to share only because I have been allowing myself and the family to process these things together. So, yes, I haven't posted, but I think those sabbaticals are something I will need to allow myself. This post has been rolling around my thoughts for a while, I hope it bears out well.

The background began last fall. My oldest girl came home unhappy about life and began to ask me about hair removal, specifically arm and eyebrow. A girl had pointed out to her that her arms and her eyebrows were, shall we say....generous. I have no way of knowing if this girl made a big deal of it or not, it really doesn't matter at this age anyhow. It stuck and thus the exploration of what I would allow her to do began.

I know kids, and I know my kid, so I had the conversation as though I was completely fine with it. (I was not. She was 9. What the heck?!) I explained that she could do as she liked with her arm hair when I wasn't paying for it, but that shaving it would cause whiskers on her arm. I offered her some Sun In and a hair dryer as a consolation prize, which she accepted gratefully. As for the eyebrows, I offered to pluck them. 

"Does it hurt?"

"Terribly, though perhaps when you are older I will take you to get them waxed. That hurts also, but is much faster."

"I can wait." (Toldja I know my kid.)

A few weeks ago the eyebrows came up again. Rather than force the poor thing into a dance with the devil, who would surly tempt her to pluck them behind my back, I offered to take her to a pro. If any of you are judging me harshly for this, I thumb my nose at you. I sported eyebrows shaped like sperm for a year because of my poor plucking skills, a fate I spared my daughter. I deserve a medal for that. (Incidentally, the woman who did the work was very good about only removing the extra growth under the brows, did nothing to shape them, and left them looking like the eyebrows of a little girl who is not especially hairy.)

As we drove to our appointment we began to discuss some of her social anxieties. These car rides with my children always bring forth such great conversations about life, this was no different. In regard to one girl in particular, she stated that because this girl is so admirable and likable my Kate used to want to be her. It made her feel anxious to be more like this girl, but now she just wants to be herself. It was as if the Holy Spirit dropped a script into my lap so that I wouldn't screw this up. Usually I would go on and on and on about "Be yourself! You are the best you!" Instead I went against type and asked her what caused her to change.

"Mariana."

I began to string my next question slowly, as though I were luring a wild rabbit into my hands. "What is it about Mae-mae do you think that made you change how you....that made you want to be more yourself."

"She has to be happy just being herself, so I thought that maybe I should be happy with who I am. Maybe that is what we are supposed to do."

My soul leaped with joy in that moment. There was no self congratulatory feelings that we had done well as parents. Right then I saw the soul God Almighty designed, and right then I saw the absolute glory of being shown such a thing. If you knew her you would know how much she wrestled with self-doubt and how much she plays Peacekeeper. You would understand the profundity of such a statement. In that moment my daughter showed such beautiful receptivity to life lessons, such clarity on how to allow something to inspire, and a vulnerability without a hint of guile. Forget pretty, her whole being shone with Beauty. 

This is the intangible about life that we try so hard to communicate to the world about our loved ones with Ds. Many of them won't ever leave home, make a great living, make any exciting discoveries, or even pay much in taxes. We need not act as though our loved ones count as much as the next person. We know it, we live it, we experience the change it brings forth. We become more human as we give more of ourselves to a future that is uncertain. We teach and teach and work and work and coax and coax in never ending hope that it will yield fruit, and it does, though it is a different fruit than we could have ever imagined. It is the fruit of a sweeter life, a kinder soul, a more compassionate nature. It is the fruit of loving more deeply and with less self interest. The good of the other becomes more in focus, almost surprising us out of our blinders we had worn unnoticed. It is the fruit of longing to become whomever you were all along, but somehow shut out of your life in pursuit of becoming whomever you wished to be.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man about how education had become focused upon raising people to think without the being encumbered by morals and emotions. One of my favorite quotes of his was, “It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.”  His point was not some feel-good, "Follow your heart." philosophy, but that all the knowledge in the world is still lacking if we have no ability for compassion, love, understanding, empathy, grief and joy. This is what Mae brings to our family. She makes each of us better because she teaches us the importance of being beautiful rather than chasing the fickleness of looking so.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Molly: Age 7

Really?! Molly is 7? I feel like this is some kind of cosmic joke. My baby is growing by leaps and bounds, maturing and becoming a kid who has empathy and generosity. Molly was always my Molly, you know, that girl who does what she does on her own schedule when she feels like that is a good idea. I noticed at some point this year when her teacher would say things like how disorganized Molly is and I would tell my princess how she is so neat and here is a cool way of staying on top of things, and then this girl went and took my advice.

I give all credit/blame to La Dee, my sister. She and Molly are the same. She's the one who told me Molly is a carrot v. stick type kiddo, and so it turned out to be true. Perhaps all this maturity is due to getting older, or perhaps I have unlocked the amazing puzzle of my Molly. It's hard to say. What I can say is that 6 has been good to this girl. She got the exact teacher she needed, one who took her measure early, but was willing to be proven wrong. I will never forget that parent/teacher conference and being told Molly was doing just what was asked and that she would probably have trouble the second half of the year. I can't forget it because it was one of those times when I knew what it meant to know your kid best. I knew why Molly was doing just what was expected. I knew that she had figured out how to skate by with good grades, but not expose her hand of brilliance. Molly is so so bright, manipulative and crafty. That is not to say she is dishonest, but that she can charm you out of your favorite shoes and make you feel good for it. This girl has the rest of us figured out.

I have to say, Molly is delightful to raise. It is precisely because she is so different from me, and because she scratches that itch I have always had to work puzzles. Between her special inflammatory responses to foods, her charm, her quiet defiance and her comedic genius, I find she is the girl I wished I were growing up. She's gorgeous, but unimpressed by it. She moves fluidly through peer groups, she defies expectations (for better and worse), she is always her own self and she never tries to be anything but her self. Recently we had specialty cupcakes at the house for Charlottes birthday sleepover that had to be postponed. Molly was aching for one. I offered her the chance to make the choice for herself by telling her that it was up to her to deal with the consequences. 

"What are the consequences again?" she asked as she eyed the Boston creme cupcake.

"Eczema, belly ache, and possibly those joint pains, but I'm not sure if that one is a compounded issue or not."

"Forget it, just give me the icing." she replied dispassionately. She had calculated the risks and deemed them unacceptable. When I was her age, I'd have devoured 6 of those suckers and enjoyed every ache that came from it.

I know she isn't perfect. I know she needs to be better with girls her age and needs to learn to try someone else's idea once in a while. She's stubborn, yes, and that has had major drawbacks. But this year, I've seen maturity, empathy, and interest in others bloom. I've seen her take responsibility for something someone else was blamed for, a major deal for a girl who is happy to be naughty undetected. I've even seen a healthy dose of humillity, which just about knocked me over.

Maybe I idealize this golden child. She is so different from the other kids is so many ways, I notice her nuances. Maybe because she reminds me of the big sister I idolized, I feel awed that I get to raise one like her. Maybe because Molly is in the middle I pay special attention to not letting her get pushed aside or ignored. Who knows why this little girl captures my affection so easily? All I know is that she was supposed to always be my baby, but she's started to grow up anyway.

Happy birthday Molly Mack. I love you inside and out, upside and down. 




Friday, April 11, 2014

Quick Takes Volume: Scatter Brain


Spring break was a bust. We all had some kind of illness in a staggard timeline, so no one realy got to do anything fun. Charlotte turned 9 and had her birthday saved by my dear friend. She hosted C on her birthday and then I proceeded to ruin a night in with her husband by using her as my therapist when I went to pick C up from her house. Luckily, we are close enough for me to call myself out to her husband, who was gracious enough to laugh at me. Good friends are the best medicine, are they not?
I will be bragging about my children in this post. A lot. First up is K & C combo. These girls won an iPad at school because some wonderful person donated enough money to the Fun Run and then asked that two students who had worked hard, but got smaller donations be given iPads. Kate and Charlotte walked the neighborhood together and turned in a sheet explaining that they wanted to work together for a bigger prize. They really wanted to collect $700, but fell way short even though every neighbor did donate. I was very pleased that they were able to learn that hard work is rewarded in unexpected ways, and I am very happy someone had that insight when making their large donation. It's a good idea to pay forward, for sure!
When things get a little wonky in terms of familial chaos, I sometimes get a little fixated on things I can control. Like painting inside the house, painting Molly's new loft bed and reseeding the lawn. That lawn. It is my nemesis, I tell you. Just shy of a year under purchasing this house we spent an obscene amount of money to redo the front landscaping because the landscaper for the builder thought that half the front yard should be mulch and the other half should be covered with the cruddiest sod in the southeast. Now I'm convinced our soil is poisoned because everything is dying again. In my fantasy Scott would pull up everything, including the topsoil, lay manure and organic soil, new sod and beautiful flowering bushes. And hire a painter. And a contractor to build a half-sized barn door at the bottom of the steps that swings all the way to the wall and latches there as well as wood shutters for the XL window in the stairwell and also put the distressed wood panels under the bar. And not go into debt. Luckily, I've been pulled out of my fantasy because we are all well again and order is going to be reinstated. 
I must brag about Kate again. She one second place in an art contest. It was one that included many schools from the area and her category included three grades. We were not able to go to the show because of the illnesses in the house, but I couldn't be more happy for her. The truth is, I'm not even proud of her, just happy she gets to experience success at something she enjoys. So often we enjoy things we don't have a lot of time to develop, and that's okay, but kids often abandon things they enjoy because they mistakenly believe they ought to be great at it. Kate doesn't seem to be a remarkable artist to me, but she does have a good eye and great imagination. I hope that this award gives her a boost to continue enjoying this portion of her creativity. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong and she's got phenomenal talent. Either way, I am thrilled she was chosen and thrilled she won something.
Molly is going to be 7. The wonderous thing about her is that she is acting like a 7 year old. I always thought Molly would be my baby forever, but instead she is blossoming into a kind and considerate girl. I blame her teacher. No, seriously though, her teacher does a beautiful job of teaching the kids that life is about learning skills and information, and that they are all capable. She has been sending home "concerns" about Molly here and there, and you know what? They are all slowly being weeded out. Molly is trying to impress her teacher and show how bright she really is. Her teacher has gone from being concerned she wouldn't keep up to recommending she be tested for the enrichment program. Better than her academic success, I have over heard her being kind and generous to her siblings and to her friends. She is really growing up, and I feel so lucky to be able to know her.
                                                                       --- 6 ---
Um. We have another snake. That's two total living under my roof. I know. I feel compelled to be an amazing mother here, you guys, and I don't even think my kids understand how amazing I am being. This snake is named Olaf, and he is Popcorn's brother from the same clutch of eggs. Whatever. I hope St. Francis is taking notes. Also? Paul needs to take notes. I mean, really.
John Paul II and John XXIII are being canonized this weekend. If you are not familiar with these two wonderful people, I hope you will find out more about them. I was not familiar with John XXIII, but have read a little and find him to be an very interesting person in a very interesting time in history. As for JPII, well Charlotte is named for him in a round about way. In short, I'm a fan.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Three-in-One Postacular

I know. I know. I know. I flaked on the 3 posts/week pretty quickly. How was I to know that raising 5 children while caring for a 6th M-F during school hours and my husband gone most weekdays would be so busy? Honestly, what am I, a fortune teller? Let's not split hairs over whether or not I should or shouldn't have been posting. Let's move on and talk about  more important things.

Last week was incredibly busy. There was nothing bad-busy about it, but I found myself with more appointments than I recalled making and more decisions than I ever feel comfortable with. Scott was taking the last of his out-of-town trips, which had been getting rather taxing on everybody. Because he couldn't do it, I felt I needed to show up at some school functions. Obviously I had to be there for Kate to receive her Principals Honors certificate since 4th grade has been a bear. 3rd quarter I let it go, as they sing these days. Low and behold the child came home with straight A's. Well, and I bribed her with goodies. Either way it was super fun to see all the kids afterward and have to stop Mae from trying to slip into line with the big kids and head off to class.

The next day I felt it would do the kids good to see me at the Fun Run, which incidentally was actually fun. They did a great job, and I was able to see all but Kate. I didn't watch Molly run, but I saw her at PE, so that was neat. Once again, Mae wanted to join the big kids running laps. After Paul's class finished they all got popsicles, and Mae kept going up and leaning toward their faces with her tongue out hoping for a lick. Little Guy got to see one of his big sisters, and I was so happy to see how excited she was to see him at school two days in a row. I had to haul it out of there to a pediatric consult, and was nearly late because I also needed coffee.

Friday was a rough day. All week I could feel myself running on mental fumes. My short term memory was so fuzzy I wondered if I needed a boost in Synthroid. That afternoon I did something so boneheaded I knew instantly I would carry that mistake for a while. I locked Mae and Little Guy in the car in the hot sun. Both sets of keys were in there, one in my purse the other on the console. I contemplated smashing the window with a bat, but I was afraid the glass would cut the kids. I called 911. When the rescue team arrived I learned they didn't have jimmies anymore because if they broke my window they could be held liable.

This is the craziest thing I've ever heard. I was furious. Who on earth would hold the fire department liable for his own mistake?! I did this, you guys. I locked babies in a hot car! MY FAULT! I didn't care what happened next as long as those precious people were safe at the end. When it was clear that the locksmith that 911 called was not going to come for some time, I told the firemen to break the window. They have that cool window punch that causes all the glass to fall like rain rather than spatter everywhere. I immediately grabbed both babies out of the car. Poor Little Guy was a ball of fury and sweat. Mae was mildly uncomfortable and damp, but then again she's a full 19 months older than the baby. I cooled off the baby with a damp towel and we made sure he and Mae were fine, though I think they were more concerned about me. It turned out alright with the glass guy coming the next day and completing the install before the afternoon downpour. I ended up feeling extra blessed because LG's mom still had us over for my birthday and spoiled me with yummy food and a cool gift of relaxation gear. I spent the weekend recouping mentally and physically by sleeping as much as I wanted to and going to lunch with my friend.

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Mae is just becoming some kind of kid. Lately she is all Daddy's girl. She dives over into his arms when he gets home, turns to me and says, "Bye." waiving her fat little hand in a dismissive manner. She continues to do this particular dismissing when she doesn't want you giving her the business for something she suspects she shouldn't do. Catch her mulch throwing? "Bye." Tell her to use her spoon? "Bye." Prevent her from smacking the baby with a toy? "Bye." She is also guilty of a LOT of technology thievery. Don't leave your phone laying around because Mae will have that sucker in no time, and will be very dismayed if you try to take it back.

I guess because Daddy is bearded she has also shown an indiscriminate preference for bearded fellas. One of her OTs is bearded and she loves him. Today there was a student at therapy and she wouldn't leave that guy alone. The second he put her down, she would pull on his pant leg and demand, "Up." She lay her head on his shoulder and fully intended to take a nap right there in his arms after speech. In fact, she has been a little reticent in speech lately, but with our dear bearded friend present she suddenly was a little mimic. I find it interesting that she prefers males and shows bearded men even greater preference. Her little mind is a mystery.

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Other things of note are that my brother finished a 150 mile ultra. While I am impressed and happy for him, it has not inspired me in the least to run more. There are a lot of birthdays in our family this month. We still have spring break to look forward to, and I am forcing my children into either swim team or swim lessons. Yes, that includes Mariana. I am interested in how this will turn out since swim team seems more like a cult than a sport with all the practice and regulations and such. Who knows, maybe it will turn out I'm one of those ladies with the sticker on her window proclaiming to be a "Swim Mom". (Okay, I know that I'm not one of those ladies because I announced very early in this parenting gig that I would never have an Olympic commercial dedicated to me.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Can We Pray for Snakes?

So it didn't take Popcorn long to get himself into a fix. We have a warming rock for this snake so that he doesn't die of hypothermia. Because I was worried about him getting loose I told Scott to use Gorilla Tape to tape the cord of the rock to the side of the enclosure lest this snake climb the cord and somehow with his massive snake body push the 5lb books off the lid and escape. Hey, what do I know? Not much other than a loose snake in the house is to be avoided. I guess the action of rooting around in the mulch for the snake caused the tape to come loose and the snake did in fact climb the loose cord, but he became stuck to the tape. Enter panicked children.

Now Mama has to treat this beloved creature like, well, an actual beloved creature. Listen, I love nature, I really do. I still have preferences, like birds not flapping their wings near my ears and keeping their bird feet from my person. Another preference I have is to avoid animals that seem sneaky. I easily startle, so while I can admire a creepy-crawly on a hike in the woods where I expect to encounter it, finding a scorpion on the underside of the toilet seat causes me to jump back 10 feet in a 5 foot wide bathroom. (Incidentally, if you are holding the toilet brush, you get the added pleasure of flinging toilet water and toilet cleaner on your face.)

Had you been there you would have seen 6 (2 were school friends) children hovering around while I expertly cut the large piece of tape smaller until I couldn't get any more off without cutting the skin. This was done while the beloved creature writhed and wrapped and constricted himself around me, the tape and himself. The poor thing was freaking out, not that I blamed him. I really felt sorry for this troubled snake who had now become an educational experiment for a family of small and loud humans who were giving off major stress pheromones. Much to his credit, he didn't bite me, or even attempt it. I would have, had I been him, but I'm surly that way.

So now Popcorn has some tape on his back, and faces peering in on him and grimy fingers touching him to confirm he is still alive. I have assured the little ones that he would shed his skin and all would be well. Would y'all mind praying for Popcorn? If you are not comfortable praying for an animal used in the bible to represent Satan, then just pray that I'm not a liar and that I haven't destroyed my kids trust in me. Thanks!
In other news: Gorilla Tape makes an excellent snake trap.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Comic Relief

On Sunday Scott and I went to see Brian Regan perform. Let me tell you something, Brian Regan is by far the funniest comedian in the known world. I understand that comedy is difficult to gage, but know this; every comedian working today thinks Brian Regan is a genius. Every. single. one. The reason is simply that on the way to a punch line every detail of his story is funny. All of it. He squeezes the comedy out of every story like an apple through a Breville juicer. My goodness he's hilarious.

Comedy is my favorite art form. I consider myself an art appreciator. I am not creative and I cannot produce art, but I am the exact person an artist wants to show his work. (Real artists, not faux artists who excrete edginess and condescend to those who don't get it.) I admire those who can take their ideas and create intricate pieces of art. I can most easily see God in the artist as he creates beauty out of seemingly senselessness. It never matters what the art form is, I love it, I appreciate it, and I'm transformed by it, even when I don't expect it. I'll notice the craftsmanship of a hand carved door and have an emotional reaction to its beauty and integrity. I love comedy because it draws out the simple joy of being happy. It makes fun of the painful moments in life and allows the audience to release those frustrations in laughter. It cuts tension, releases endorphins and creates a natural high that will last you a few hours if you are in good company. A good comedian will make everyone in the room feel funnier and does it in an extremely vulnerable fashion.

This week threatened to be overwhelming. Scott was leaving early Monday morning and I had many appointments and a messy home to attend. Mae had her MMR vaccination, one I can not stand because combo vaccines usually result in crabbiness for a few days. There are a host of other things still coming down the pike that I am hopeful will go off without a hitch. Needless to say, starting my week taking in a show performed by my favorite comedian was a great way to cut all the anxiety I was feeling about the coming days. It was a feeling that lasted through the week as I faced tantrums and teething and sibling rivalry. When I couldn't sleep Monday night I thought how it would make for a good story if I wasn't jerky to the kids the next morning. (I mostly succeeded, but one kid got under my skin and I fell short of perfection.) I found myself finding the silliness of having two babies crying in stereo while the dog gagged and I raced to get her outside before I had another mess to clean. It's all a little silly when raising little kids who have free will and wield it often. What a gift to have the eyes to see the joys in all this chaos and loosening all that anxiety with a little laughter.

My friends, comedy is God's anti-depressant, and it usually fertilized with pain. Rejoice in the gift of comedy, quick, before you lose your mind!

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Down Syndrome Day

I am super tired these days because we have a weirdo insomnia running through the house. Posting is tough thanks to the lovely creativity drain that not sleeping adds to the mix. The nights I sleep well, one of the kids doesn't. The nights they sleep well, I don't. Pray for me, my patience is way depleted, but I am resisting napping because I want to sleep at night, like a human being.

It is still World Down Syndrome Day, and we are so blessed to have Mae to celebrate today with us. While Down Syndrome causes some complications in our lives, it's added more patience, love, kindness and consideration to our household. May we all be so lucky to love someone with Trisomy 21. If you are so moved, look right, pick a place and donate $3.21 to the charity of your choice! It'll be fun!