Thursday, August 27, 2009

Memory of a kindred spirit

When the Love Magnet was just a couple of months old, Mr. Wonderful and I were at a jewelry store getting his wedding band fixed. While we were waiting we perused the jewelry. An older couple was in the store. They looked like they would have been farmers. The husband was trying to convince his wife to pick a ring for their upcoming anniversary. She kept protesting, saying that she didn't need jewelry. She emphatically stated that there were plenty other things to do with the money such as spend it on the children. The husband was getting frustrated.

I could not resist. I stuck my nose in their business. I sat down near her, caught her eye, and said "If the man you love wants to buy you something nice you should let him. He wants to show you how much he loves you. He is trying to tell you that you deserve it."

"Yes! That is what I'm trying to do!", Mr. Farmer exclaimed. I think he was glad that someone else put it into words. Mr. Wonderful was trying to catch my attention, no doubt to get me out of their business. It was obvious that Mrs. Farmer did not welcome my opinion.

A few minutes later their teenage daughter came into the store, dressed in a pink plaid western shirt and jeans. She was silhouetted against the bright light of the windows and I couldn't see her face. I didn't give her much thought until she started signing.

Her dad looked up and said "Oh, are you hungry? What do you want for lunch?" The girl signed again. As she moved closer My eyes adjusted to see her face. She had Down syndrome.

My heart nearly stopped and I had tears in my eyes. I whispered to the wife that I, too, had a daughter with Down syndrome. Mrs. Farmer's look changed. Where she had been slightly annoyed with me before, now I suddenly was recognized as a member of the T21 club. Boundaries dissolved. I produced a picture of The Love Magnet. We started talking.

And talking.

I think we were there for 30 minutes longer than we planned. I don't remember the advice they gave us. This was the first family we had met who had a child with Ds and were willing to talk about it. Just being there with them was such a wonderful opportunity. Seeing their daughter, happy and healthy (and insistent that she needed a cheeseburger right now!) was incredible to me. Their daughter wasn't verbal, but she certainly could communicate. She was involved in horseback riding and rodeo activities. It was obvious that they loved her.

God bless that family. We needed them in our lives even if for just under an hour. I wish I had written down their name.

A few days later I was at a Halloween Buddy Walk with the kids in costume. We met Morgan and The Seal Bark family. My support system started. It was with Heather that we started a playgroup.

Good memories.

Five more days and counting (impatiently)...

"Mom, is it school today?"

I'm hearing that phrase multiple times a day from a little girl who is anxious to get back. Earlier this week she received a postcard from her teacher. She has carried it around ever since, telling everyone that her teacher loves her.

The Love Magnet talks about her two aides and how much she misses them ("and can they come to our house, Mom?") She talks about her speech therapist, her occupational therapist, the physical therapist, the school counselor (who, for some reason, The Love Magnet insist on calling Mrs. Sugarmama. The school counselor loves the title so much she has joked about changing the nameplate on her door).

Last year they taught her to get her own lunch tray, carry it to the condiment table to retrieve her utensils, and make it all the way to her table by herself (something many parents take for granted but parents of kids like mine will understand and cheer). She eats with her aide and her friends. Some kids make a point to come to her table. She has social interaction. The aide also takes her to recess and keeps an eye on her to prevent wandering.

Last year, her teacher introduced a mix of ASL and phonetics to teach reading. My daughter can read and write and spell, something I did not think she would achieve at age 6. She also learned class routine and manners. She loves being with her friends. Those kids are a great influence on her and her social skills.
These are the people who make it possible for my daughter to be mainstreamed. God bless every single one of them.
What is your school like? What would you change?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Gratitudes

Our combined Priesthood/Relief Society lesson today was amazing. It was based on Elder David A. Bednar's talk titled Things As They Really Are given at a CES Fireside on May 3, 2009 at BYU-Idaho. You can see the transcript by clicking here. BEtter yet, you can watch it here. I love Elder Bednar's counsel - he is one of my favorite speakers during General Conference. We were asked to take copies of the article home and teach it to our families. There is enough instruction to fill many Family Home Evenings. It will be a challenge to fit the lesson to the attention of kids whose ages range from 16 to 7. But I am looking forward to it. I'm grateful for Family Night. Some lessons at our house last only 5 minutes. But there have been some where the kids keep involved, asking questions and offering comments, that make it last all evening.

My youth choir sang for the first time today in Sacrament Meeting. It was a bit intimidating for them but they did great. I am thankful that they had the courage to get up and sing. I'm even more grateful that they showed up today for practice, wanting to do it again. I hope they bring more teens into the choir.

I am grateful for books. I have loved reading non-textbooks for the past two weeks.

I am thankful that school starts tomorrow. I'm looking forward to each semester that brings me closer to a degree.

Tonight I packed my messenger bag for the new school year. I know this sounds cheesy, but I am very grateful for the person who invented erasers. It's nice to be able to erase a mistake. I love packing a new pink eraser.

While I am at it (how is this for a segue?) I'm grateful to my Heavenly Father for providing an eraser for the mistakes in my life. One of my mistakes was lovingly pointed out to me by Mr. Wonderful during one of my venting sessions this past weekend. I was holding anger bout something instead of letting it go - Mr. Wonderful pointed out the obvious that I was too blind to see. He was right. I'm working on changing my attitude on that front (it was VERY negative). I have repented and looking forward to having that burden off my back.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My most favorite place on this planet

Where it is beautiful when it rains. And beautiful when it doesn't.
Where I can watch the 'quakies' quake and just be.

Where the only noise comes from the wind and the bees.

Where a kid can be a kid.

Where the cousins bond over fun and games. No television. No cell phone service.

Where grandma has a one-year supply of important things - like bubbles.

Where there are acres and acres to pretend.

Where grandpa sings.

Where.....hmmm...well, I have no idea why Cousin E was doing this. I think Secondborn snuck off with my camera to have some fun.

We just got back from a mini-vacay to Utah where we spent time at my parent's cabin. We also had a great time at the UDSF Lagoon day. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera into the park. We got to see (and hug!) our friends Morgan and Mrs Seal Bark and also
Lily from Lily's Life Is Great. Check out their blog for fun pictures at Lagoon.

I start school next week. HOpefully I will be back to the regularly scheduled blog by then.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy Birthday to The Love Magnet

Shhhh! It's tradition to sneak into the birthday child's room and wake them up with singing. The whole family crowds in and starts to sing........
The Love Magnet does not wake up.
Are you kidding me? She has woken us up around 4:30 every single morning for the past week, asking if it is finally her birthday. Now she decides to sleep in?!

Wake up Love Magnet! With great herculean effort, she sits up...
Thankfully she wakes up in earnest when she realizes the day is here. No pictures as we were rushing for the bus. Later I took birthday treats to her summer school and met the peer tutors. These kids do not get paid. They are absolutely amazing. The Love Magnet surely thinks so.

Grandma and Grandpa arrived that evening. With Mr. Wonderful and Secondborn at scout camp and Firstborn working, we made for a small dinner party. Still, it was so much fun to be with grandpa...

and grandma.

The Love Magnet made sure that everyone knew it was her birthday. She was so excited to be sung to and to get a birthday sundae.

That night we sang Happy Birthday just as The Love Magnet instructed us "with cha-cha-chas, Mom!" She picked out her own cake as I didn't have time to bake. (It was finals week, for heavens sake!) The Love Magnet thinks all birthday cakes should be chocolate.

One of her fave gifts came from her brother. She wanted to wear them to school.

The next morning, as soon as my finals were done (what was I thinking?!) I rushed home to finish getting the Birthday Tea Party ready. Did I say how grateful I was for my mom? She saved me. She came up with this fabulous tea-party hat craft. Those hats were originally for the 4th of July. Take off the red/white/blue ribbon, add tulle and flowers, and it become instant glamour.

My mom also provided nail polish and fingernail jewels to make little fingers ready for a party. The girls loved the girls fun instead of games. Afterwards, we had a photo session. Just a few:

The Love Magnet was surprisingly good at posing. Where on earth did she learn that?

They were ready to do kicks...

and dance poses...

All the girls were finally ready for a tea party.

The girls weren't sure what to think about trying cucumber sandwiches and cranberry-orange scones. I told them they must take one bite and then could politely refuse. We practiced manners for hostess and guests.

The Love Magnet knew the drill and ate everything.

The best for last: singing and candle blowing!

I had a lot of compliments on the cupcake recipe. I tinted the frosting barely pink and sprinkle pariels in pink and yellow. The cake itself was the best cupcake I have ever eaten. Give the credit to the inventors of this fab recipe. Here it is:
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing: Vanilla Buttercream, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream:
The vanilla buttercream we use at the bakery is technically not a buttercream but actually an old-fashioned confectioners' sugar and butter frosting. Be sure to beat the icing for the amount of time called for in the recipe to achieve the desired creamy texture.
(My notes: I added much more powdered sugar than called for as I wanted a stiff frosting suitable for piping.)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Yield: enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 (9-inch) layer cake

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunday Gratitudes

I am thankful that our Heavenly Father answers prayers. I've needed a lot of answers in the past two weeks.

I'm thankful that Heavenly Father uses ordinary people to be His angels on earth. He knew this time that my emotions were loud and that I needed straight talk to help me find the answers I needed. This time His angels were my parents. Their wise counsel was reinforcement to what I already knew. I just needed to hear it from cooler heads than mine.

I'm grateful for the family stories I learned this past week with my parents and in-loves visiting. While talking about my tea party recipes, my mom talked about hunting the ditches near her home for asparagus and watercress. She loved to pile sandwiches thick with watercress and then smash the bread and watercress down before eating. Just a small snippet of childhood memory, but I found it precious.

We also talked about her daddy being drafted in WWII and having to leave his wife and three children to head to boot camp. WWII ended while he was in boot camp. I can't imagine the sacrifices made by those who served and serve now in the military. We explored a WWI museum while my parents were here. I am so grateful for those soldiers whose stories I read. I'm grateful for all those willing to fight for freedom and their families who support them while they serve.

I'm grateful for the help my mom gave me for The Love Magnet's birthday party. Mom brought everything needed for decorating proper tea party hats. She also brought fingernail polish and manicure jewels to help the girls feel glamorous. I wouldn't have survived finals week and putting together a birthday party if it weren't for my mom.

Thirdborn has officially started his tutoring program and has been doing well. I am grateful for this new teacher in his life. I know she is good since Thirdborn talks about her and how much he likes going to tutoring sessions.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Slowly coming out of the Pit of Despair

I know - Pit of Despair sounds a bit over-the-top. Cliffs of Insanity, maybe? My inner drama-queen tends to resurface whenever I feel like I've been thrust back in time to my high school days.

Big hair - no.

Upturned collar and grandma's paste jewelry brooch - no.

C minus in math - check.

I earned an A in my English tech class and a C- in Mathematical Thought. I felt like I was in Mr. Anderson's geometry class all over again. I felt.......incapable.

So I pouted. I cried. I moped. I didn't write my Sunday Gratitudes because I didn't feel grateful. I ran gamut through ever single insecurity that plagued me in the 80's. My face broke out. I had dreams of being in high school, acting in the school musical and forgetting my locker combination.....every answer to my final exams....

Mr. Wonderful let me vent. He patiently listened to all of my frustrations. When I finally stopped to breathe, Mr. Wonderful asked me one thing:

"Did you give it your best effort?"

I had to think about that for a bit. Yes, I did. I gave it my best effort with four kids, a 5th temporary child whom we were taking care of until Family Services could find him a foster home, taking care of our home, a math professor who did not like my essay answers and who taught far beyond the parameters of the course, and all of the crazy things that have happened this summer.

When I went through all that I realized that I could then let it go. I have received all A's so far in the past year. A low grade in math was incredibly disappointing to me but it doesn't define who I am.

I now have three weeks to read Maeve Binchy, try new recipes, take my kids on fun trips, and decompress. I plan to take full advantage of no school. No textbooks. Double gratitudes on Sunday. A catchup blog post about The Love Magnet's 7th Birthday and Tea party.

PS: Today I received my shipment of textbooks. It's taking all of my willpower not to open them and explore the world of Clinical Phonetics, Deaf Studies and Basic Sign, and Language Science and Development.