Monday, November 4, 2013

Isabel says, matter-of-factly, that Mama doesn't like drawing.

I really appreciate how clearheaded Isabel is most of the time, and the other day she really made me stop and think. She was talking to her dad about drawing, and complimenting his. Marco said how good my drawing was, and Isabel agreed that I was good at drawing, but added that I didn’t like it.

What to say. How sad that she should think I don’t like drawing, but what evidence does she have to the contrary? She looks at how I spend my free time, and doesn’t see me drawing. What has always been hard for me is how little interest I have in the things I do well. I don’t know if it’s a cause and effect thing, or which way it goes if it is. It’s certainly a sad state of affairs. 

Is the answer is to try harder to like and invest time in the things I do well, or to just accept that what I like is learning new things, and acknowledge that as I get better at them, I will lose interest? The second sounds sadder, doesn’t it? I'm not sure staying true to yourself is always the best idea. The first sounds better.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Small epiphany over ice cream

I went to Safeway with James and Bjørn for a few groceries and a treat while Isabel was at a play date, and James asked for ice cream.

I found some single-serve cups and we made our way to a table outside. James was waxing almost poetic over how yummy his vanilla ice cream was, and Bjørn was enjoying the ice cream he shared with me.

There was a small pause, and James said "Thank you, Mommy. Ice cream." I said "You're welcome, James."

He smiled so big, and said "Best friends, right?"

I couldn't move for a second. What an incredible thing.

"You and me? Best friends?"


"Yes, James. You and me are the best friends ever."

" Yes."

This was a couple days after a birthday party he went to, and I wondered whether somebody had introduced this phrase to him there. Still, to me it was just an overwhelming feeling of joy that he would think of us as best friends. It's such a wonderful thing when you like, and not just love, your children.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A beautiful music room

We've had lots of nice moments today. Here are a couple.

James picked up Bjørn and put him on his lap, and said "I love you", and then Bjørn gave James a hug and then sat there for a while, quietly playing and babbling.

Isabel came in a few minutes ago, excited to tell me about the beautiful music room she'd made, and wow, it WAS beautiful. Instruments hanging from the top bunk, others spread artfully around the room in stations. She played a little piece she'd memorized from a book on the piano (I gave Isabel a 15-minute lesson once, and she still knows how to read the notes and explain all about it), and it took me a few minutes to realize that the incessant fluting of James had actually turned into a song that I could recognize. He's actually learning to play the recorder!

Of course this last was all happening while Bjørn is asleep, but being a third baby, he stays asleep rather nicely. :)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Who are we independent from again?

As a parent, I've often heard that it's wisest to be careful to give only as much information as a child is really asking for when talking about potentially complicated topics, like sex, for example. The trouble is, apparently I'm not very good about judging which topics are potentially complicated, or maybe it's just that Isabel reaches a critical mass of knowledge rather early in the game, but lately I've been finding the simplest conversations going off the rails way earlier than I would have expected. A little while ago, it was the possible instability of banks.

Now, it's Independence Day. So I come in to hear Isabel heatedly and emphatically declaring,
"Bjørn is NOT independent."
Marco: "Yes, it's you and mommy's, and James' and Bjørn's independence today."

And I'm thinking, uh-oh, of course I've been spending the last couple days emphasizing the things the kids are independent in. Isabel tends toward unnecessary dependence in things she's already mastered completely, and though a little of this is fine and even endearing, a lot can be wearing. And, well, I did say that Bjørn was not very independent, because he needed help to do lots of things (being a baby and everything).

Me: "Isabel, Daddy's talking about our country. It's our country's independence day today. It used to be a part of a different country, and now it's its own country."
Isabel says, brightly, "That's right. It used to be the United States of India, and now it's the United States of America."
(pause--me thinking, What?....oh.)
Me: "The United States did used to belong to the Native Americans, and then it belonged to England, and then we got our independence from England."
Great. Clear as mud. History majors forgive me, but that's how I explained it. She seems satisfied with it. 

And here I thought this was a nice uncomplicated holiday, even taking into account my husband's situation. After reading about Native Americans who celebrate it, and those who don't, I've thought about something I haven't before on the 4th of July. Thanks, Isabel. Even for the extra dose of guilt. :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The night before kindergarten

This is a post I wasn't sure I should publish at the time--one year ago. I was worried about sounding insensitive to other parents, but as I read it now, it doesn't seem to read that way. I hope I'm not wrong about that! Everyone's allowed to be worried on the night before kindergarten, lest there be any doubt. :)

I've been rummaging around tonight, printing out a couple of forms that need to go in with James tomorrow, making sure he's got clothes, and putting a couple juice boxes in the freezer. Mostly I've been trying not to do what my whole body wants to do, which is worry.

Most parents do this, don't they? They're so excited about their kids' first day at kindergarten, but they are scared, too. To me it's amazing that I can be having the same kind of experience as so many other parents, and to realize that our levels of worry are probably about the same. The fact that James has Down syndrome, and that the list of things that could go wrong at kindergarten is almost literally endless, doesn't seem to change matters much. What surprises me even more tonight than that parents can be so worried about things that seem pretty minor to me, is that I can only be a little bit worried about James. We've had a few babysitters tell us, after babysitting James the first time, that they were worried or scared before they came. They'd think: "Will I be able to figure out at all what he wants? I don't know any sign language, and he can't talk! I really don't know anything about Down syndrome. What if something happens?" Afterwards they'd say, "I don't know why I was so worried."

The thing is, it's easy to underestimate a kid who doesn't talk. One wonderful thing about our daughter Isabel is she's grown up without this prejudice--she knows that what a person understands can sometimes have no relation at all to what he can say. She talks to James completely naturally, and always expects him to answer somehow, and she can play with him for hours. It's really fun for me to see her try to do the same with other kids who don't talk, and even, with rather more success than I would have bargained for, with the neighbor's cat. (She suggests rather elaborate pretend play schemes to the cat, tries to teach him how to use the toilet, asks him if he wants some water and waits for an answer, and politely insists on finding out his favorite color, pausing for long minutes while she waits for a response. She's also trying, without any visible success (yet), to teach it ASL. We've had a discussion about paws, but I'm not sure it's sunk in.)

We used to get so many people telling us, "We’re not equipped to have James in our class". It made me mad at the time, but now it's just a bit funny. Equipped? Almost all you need to know, I've concluded, is how to be patient. It makes me smile to see my old scriptures, from when I turned eight. I haven't used them since college. The end pages are covered with scripture references on pretty much one subject only--"patience".
There are times, for a mother of a child with special needs, when being a good neighborhood mom means concentrating very hard on being very quiet. Because, when other parents worry aloud about their five year old not reading yet, or acting a little young for his age, or making friends, it's hard not to think: you have no idea. Because what you want to say, so badly, when having this thought, is "Please don't worry about this. I just can't believe this is what you're worrying about." I watched "Marley & Me" the other week, and stopped in my tracks when I heard a line something like, "When you're having a crazy day, and even the laundry isn't done..."

Really? That's a crazy day for you? And the funny thing was, so much of that movie was so real-sounding--I had to wonder, is that what makes a crazy day for most people? Did that sound real to other people? I hope not. I hope when I say I've had a rough day, that you're not picturing a neglected washer/dryer combo.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Futility, thy name is Mama.

Why do I do this?
Re-attach the Little People plastic silo to the barn every night.

Think I’m going to remember which stack of clothes in the drawer belongs to which size. What I should do, is just have a “too small” drawer, sort it every time it gets full, and box the clothes by size. The trouble is that last step—I sort it, think, “I’m sure a box will come along before I need to put this stack away.” It doesn’t. Back in the drawer! Re-sort! Re-sort is SO different from resort. Though, it is oddly soothing.

Save EOBs for more than a year. Am I going to be nostalgic for how much Blue Shield covered for the audiologist? Am I going to be tested on this?

Think that someday, “Cookie” magazine will send me more alphabet stickers, and I can finish labeling the binders that look like “I__B_L” and “J_M__”.

Balance my toothbrush on top of stacked men’s razors in the medical cabinet. It will always fall down into the sink when I open the cabinet the next morning. In my defense, the toothbrush cup also often mysteriously falls down, but onto the floor.

Give the "Band-Aid lecture" about how Band-Aids are for when there's blood (a little simplified, I know), and then worry that the constant stream of hurts are actually intentional attempts to draw blood in order to acquire the coveted Band-Aids. Just give them the Band-Aids already. Accept that they are small child body art, and that they must be placed in the exact, invisible location of the deadly injury caused by stepping on a single unpopped popcorn kernel.

Think, at the grocery store, that there is enough milk at home and that I don’t have to get another gallon.
Similarly, think: “We have eggs, don’t we?” The answer is always, “Yes, we have ONE egg. In a closed egg carton that looks optimistically full.” Also, by the time you get home, someone will have added it to pancake mix that doesn’t require eggs. He will also replace the empty egg carton, closed, in the fridge. You will discover this halfway through making chocolate chip cookies.

Thank goodness I’ve stopped:
Stacking the Ikea children's plates in rainbow order

Ditto with the Ikea children's cups

Keeping the HIPAA forms. You can tell a veteran hospital mom because she takes it, says “thanks”, and then gives it back with some deprecatory remark about shelves full of medical binders. Because you do have to take it, but you can also give it back. :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Older sister goes back to baby days

I've spent the last couple days making a baby book for Isabel on Shutterfly, where there is, appropriately, a Mother's Day sale going on. Since Isabel's baby brother was born, she's liked hearing the stories of her birth and babyhood, and instead of asking for stories about ponies or ducks from an improvising Mama or Daddy at bedtime, wants to hear about when she was a baby, especially about the part where she was in the hospital for a while, and Mama stayed with her.

Isabel on the day she was born
Baby Bjørn had to stay for a while, and I stayed with him, as I did with both of my other kids (they've all needed more care in intensive or intermediate care nurseries after birth). I was glad I was able to stay this time, too, but it was hard for the kids. So Isabel, especially, likes to hear about how she wore an eye shade and lay under the lights to help her with jaundice, and how James and Daddy would come to visit.

It isn't just the stories--she likes to alternate being a baby, drinking milk out of a bottle, with being a mama, who always breastfeeds (the disconnect doesn't seem to bother her!). She cries more in general and makes "Curious George" sounds more instead of talking, but she's also very helpful--fetching the "C pillow" (Boppy nursing pillow) at opportune moments without being asked, and getting a wipe wet in the sink. Even the dolls are getting a lot more milk than usual, and more walks in their pram around the house, even if they do get toted around by the hair quite a bit.

Isabel now!
She's been very nice to Bjørn--kissing him and gently stroking his forehead, insisting on his right to more milk even if he just finished eating 2 minutes before (she's usually right!), and also wisely refraining from doing anything when she can't cope (she closes the door to where he sleeps if he starts crying, and sits on the couch with her hands over her ears). We've spent time together just we two while Bjørn is napping-- reading books, painting, and playing with toys. I think, though, she still needs a bit more help with the adjustment. Any good ideas for helping older siblings?

(Right now James doesn't seem to be having very much trouble, and he's incredibly soft and gentle and interested in Bjørn, but I remember he didn't have any trouble with Isabel either, not until she started sitting up.)