Sunday, February 25, 2007

What Can Your Child Get Away With?

Yesterday my 4 year old Dear Daughter and I were standing in line for a frozen yogurt at the mall food court. DD held tightly to my hand while her other hand held a $5 bill (she insisted on paying). DD leaned forward, peered around my knees and spied something just a few feet away.

"Mom, look at that!"

"Look at what, honey?"

"THAT!" DD pointed with her $5 hand.

I looked in that direction and beheld a teen boy. He had jet black-dyed straight hair hanging in his eyes and down the back of his neck. Black t-shirt. Black jeans slung so low that everyone could see what pattern was printed on his boxer shorts. Black boots. Studs on boots. Studs and chains on pants. Studs on belt. Studs on wrist bands. Studs on dog collar. Studs through lips, nose and eyebrows. This guy would never get through security at the airport with all of that metal. Then it hit me: DD had more to say.........

"Oh, thaaat's SILLY!" DD start laughing. A gut-busting Tinkerbell belly laugh. Everyone around us heard her comment, including Mr. Stud Boy and his entourage. And the mall echoes. It sounded like a thousand gut-busting Tinkerbell belly laughs.

I tried not to giggle. Honestly, I did try to keep myself in check. But when DD laughs, its hard not to join her. Within a few seconds the people around us started laughing. The frozen yogurt workers started laughing. The Entourage started laughing. Finally, Mr. Stud Boy started laughing. What else could he do?

Leave it to DD to tell it like it is. And get away with it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Trials and Blessings......

When people find out that I have a child who has Down syndrome I often get the question "Is your life really hard?" I am always taken aback and I do a quick mental run through of my attitude to see if I act like my trials are overwhelming. I have always been able to think no, my attitude is not reflection of that question. So why am I asked that question?

The question is usually asked in the presence of DD. She is usually smiling, social, and moving. She has a natural curiosity about everything. She does not act like she is making my life hard. So, again, why am I asked that question?

Is it the stigma of the word "Disability"? Years ago, when I didn't know anyone personally who had a disability, did I feel the same way? I can't remember how I felt about that word. There was a young man at the grocery store who had Down syndrome. My kids loved getting into the line where he was bagging groceries. Porter knew every thing you ever could know about Star Wars. Every week my kids would try to stump him with a new question. Porter won every time. When he was done bagging my groceries he would give me a hug goodbye. That hug lasted until the manager came over to help extricate me from Porter's grasp. I didn't mind. His hugs were a guarantee for a good day.

When I think of trials, I think of Parker who has Ds, can't gain weight, has a slew of medical problems, and his parents don't qualify for Medicare yet just one of Parker's meds alone cost over $1000 a month. Check out his link on my blog page.

When I think of trials I think of Pam who has a son with Ds and a daughter with Rett's syndrome. The work she goes through to help her two kids with special needs as well as her two kids without special needs would seems overwhelming. But she is always positive. She is one of my heroes.

When I think of trials I think of a mom I visited a year ago. Her baby boy was born with Ds. Her husband refused to believe that this baby had Ds and adamantly refused the heart surgery that he so desperately needed (He also refused to let her tell anyone in their families that the baby had Ds). This family was living in a small 3 bedroom apartment with 7 kids. The mom had no emotional support. I went there to give her information and help her know what to do next. Her baby boy, named Michael, was beautiful. As I held him (and was tangled up in oxygen tubing) I started to cry with the mom. I shared my thoughts with her on how babies with disabilities are given to us because we need them. As I listened to her story , I became more grateful than ever for an incredible husband and wonderful sons,and a loving extended family.

My life isn't hard. I do have trials. I will admit to becoming a basket case for the day DD has her cardiology visit and they remind me how bad her heart defect is. Give me 24 hours to grieve and I get over it. She will have surgery someday. In the meantime, she loves school and does well. She loves to sing and wants to learn to play the piano. We plan on teaching her ASL as a second language. My sons are kinder because of her. They are the ones who single out other kids with disabilities in their classrooms and become their friends and helpers. As much as I would love to cure DD, I wouldn't change for the world how much she has affected our family.

My favorite quote is from Scott Hamil the skater: "The only disability is a bad attitude." To that I have to say a resounding AMEN!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Singing Is Ripping Your Heart Out And Handing It To Your Audience

Call me the craziest person on the planet, but I hate American Idol. I believe that you can give a dose of reality without being cruel. I can't stomach cruelty - there is NEVER a good reason for it. A.I., especially during the auditions, is saturated in it. I can't watch it.

A lot of my loathing boils down to a bad experience I had in college. A bad 3 1/2 year experience.

I was a musical dance theater major in college. I had a vocal scholarship and a healthy dose of self confidence going in. One of my professors (who was actually a visiting professor from another university) could have been Simon's Evil Twin Sister (SETS). Given the fact that she didn't have a british accent...I guess I could call her Simon's Evil Twin Sister Adopted At Birth By An American Family. This professor made it her mission to give us all a "healthy dose of reality".

We were all required to get up and sing every week. This meant a lot of prep work and memorization. Critiquing was involved, but all singers know that critiquing is how we improve. But SETS didn't seem to agree with the notion. Every week, one girl was told by SETS in front of our class that she was a flake and that SETS was determined to cure her of it. This had nothing to do with her vocal technique. That girl lasted one year. A guy was told weekly that he would never be a lead because he would never be good looking. He lasted two years. Our class kept dwindling and the MDT department struggled to undestand why they couldn't keep students.

Every week, I was told that I did not "do it right". I felt lucky to have ducked under the radar of SETS, as she had proven she could be so much more cruel. She made up for all of that and more at juries. Juries were held at the end of each semester. Each student had to sing, dance, and do a monologue in front of judges. My last semester I was singing in front of 6 judges , including SETS. It was always a stressful, nerve-wracking time. But after my song, SETS spoke up: "That was terrible. You can't sing and you really shouldn't be in this program." I was exhausted. I had mono and didn't know it. I hadn't slept for nearly 24 hours. With this comment I felt like I had wasted all my years of college. Two professors, including my vocal coach started arguing with SETS while the drama professors came over to me. I was in tears and still had to perform my monologue. The drama profs tried to help me turn my emotion and anger into my advantage for my monologue. They sat down as I started. Not three sentences in, SETS started to speak again. All the judges shushed her. I stopped and looked at her, picked up my music, and walked out as the judges started arguing with SETS about my vocal scholarship.

I did not sing again for two years. I did not even sing hymns in church. It wasn't until my DS#1 was born that I started to sing again. Lullabies, Primary songs, and hymns - they were good medicine for my damaged spirit.

Those years in college were the most awful time of my life. I wouldn't wish that cruelty on anyone. I never went back.

One thing good did come from that experience. I learned compassion and I learned how not to teach. When I teach voice lessons I do offer critiques. That is how vocalists learn. But before any student leaves my house, I ask them to list three things they did good in that session. The first few times are the hardest. No one likes to compliment themselves. I usually have to help them along with suggestions. Once they learn that they can't leave until they do, they play along and find three good things. Then it is my turn to list three more good things. The lesson ends on a positive note (oh, pun definitely intended) and the students leave my house standing a little taller.

We're taught that adversity makes you a stronger, better person. I just wish that adversity didn't have to be so darn painful. I probably should thank SETS. It was a horrible lesson but at least I get to finish the ending.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Good To Know:

"Mom", DS#3 informed me today, "I think it would be good not to ever race rhinocerouses."

(long pause)

"Are you going to tell me why you think so?", I asked.

"Well, if they tossed you over their head, you would get stuck on their horn and that wouldn't feel good", he replied matter-of-factly.

Hmmmm. That's good to know, love.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Days 5,6,7

I trekked to the Afton's Sweet Shoppe for the traditional 5 kinds of fudge. This year I chose Mint Chocolate, Raspberry Cream, Cheesecake Caramel, Butterfinger, and Praline. I took DD with me who charmed the shop owner and loved seeing all of the floor-to-ceiling displays of candy. We learned that Afton's will ship fudge to us every year so I can continue this tradition (if I really want to pay the shipping fees). The box was wrapped with a cute red bow. DD insisted on holding the box all the way home. I found out her intentions when I parked the car in the garage; she had tried to take the ribbon off the box , fully intending to open it and sample the fudge.

The box was on DH's dinner plate when he sat down. The kids did not care about dinner, they wanted dessert right then! We save the fudge for our Family Night Treat.

This morning DH woke up to 6 freshly made cinnamon rolls. (This meant that DH actually had to eat breafast, which he rarely does.) The kids enjoyed as much as they could eat at the kitchen table. Tomorrow DH will be given a letter stating that there are seven more days until he can enjoy his Vanlentine's dinner: Crab Cakes, Garlic Lover's Shrimp Pasta, Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Brown Butter, and a Caramel Apple Tarte Tatin for dessert.

The best day so fat was Day #4. I couldn't find frames that I liked so I taped each child's black & white 8x10 on his bathroom mirror and wrote in red lipstick "On the 4th Day of Valentines - 4 kids who love you!" On the bottom left corner of the mirror I taped my 8x10 portrait and wrote "and 1 cute wife who loves you, too." DH came into the bathroom to get ready for church and started laughing. He laughed the entire time it took him to comb his hair and shave. The pictures are still up along with the lipstick'd note. The kids keep walking into the bathroom to look at it.

I wonder how long it will stay up?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Fourteen Days of Valentines

It's that time of year again. It is the 14 Days of Valentines. Here is your chance to strengthen you marriage, show your kids how to be romantic, and smother your man with sentimental sweet love.

Today my Darling Husband opened his truck to find a cute Valentines Day gift bag with......a Sarah Boynton book. For those of you not in the know, Sarah Boynton is the favorite author darling daughter. It is a little kid's book. But before you think I lost a few more brain cells: DH reads to DD every night. Every night she picks a favorite Sarah Boynton book: Oh My-O-My-O Dinosaurs, Dogs, Barnyard Dance.... she has the whole collection. Tonight, and many nights after that, she will ask DH to read to her this new book called About Love. Every night DH reads the book, he will think about me.

Oh, yes, I am very sneaky.

Tomorrow will be a sweet valentine card with the my side of the story about how he kissed me on our second date. (This is a story he will not let me live down, a story that will remain legend in our family.) I was so shocked that I did not kiss him back. He didn't kiss me again for SIX MONTHS and then asked permission before he planted one on me. (I did kiss back that time.) That kiss was tres romantique.

Day three happens to be DS#1's fourteenth birthday. DH will discreetly recieve a gift cert for two movie tickets and a box of his favorite movie candy. Datenight will have to wait for another time as we focus on our first born.

Day four will be 4 8x10 b&w photos in black frames, a head shot of each of our kids. I have to buy AA batteries today so I can take the pics this afternoon and get them to Costco for developing. These will go into his office with a second copy for me to hang at home. I hope the kids cooperate.

You'll have to wait for the next week's ideas when I post again. Pick some simple ideas and try it yourself. It's great marriage therapy (and don't we all need marriage therapy?)