Tag Archives: personality

Little Boxes

Little boxes on the hillside,

little boxes made of ticky tacky,

little boxes on the hillside,

little boxes all the same…

And the people in the houses

went to the university

where they were put in boxes

and they came out all the same…

My life is filled with boxes. Boxes of toys and clothes and diapers and household products from Costco. Boxes of time in Microsoft Outlook, colour coded for each child with overlapping commitments. Boxes to check for another damn assessment.

The boxes keep us together. They bring order out of chaos. They are manageable. They are safe.

There are some boxes, not constructed with cardboard or computer code or even pencil strokes, which order our life as well. Boxes full of 8-year-olds who sit in their desk all day and listen to their teacher and keep their hands to themselves. Boxes of children who climb stairs one foot at a time and ride bikes and jump rope. Boxes of car keys and university applications and grandchildren.

It is everything we expect from life.

Then it happens. A child who simply won’t fit into our comfortable boxes. She is fun and interesting and determined and charming and challenging and not at all box-friendly.

So we try to construct new boxes for her. New expectations. We read books and go to workshops and join support groups. Special boxes, diagnostic boxes, supportive boxes, therapeutic boxes… all very good boxes.

It’s hard work tracking down, even building from scratch, so many different boxes. While the rest of the world takes their pre-fabricated, standard boxes for granted.

Then it happens again. And again. And again. She refuses to stay in the box. She is unpredictable and sweet and moody and unique and not at all box-friendly.

In a world full of boxes, she stands out.

And the world can’t help but take notice and smile.

Boxes are kind of boring after all.

So here’s me, celebrating all the Outside-the-Box beauty Down Syndrome brings to my life. This week is National Down Syndrome Awareness Week (Nov 1-7).

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

Finally! A post all about me, me, me…

I enjoy reading these on the blogs I lurk on ahem… follow. So I decided to link up to Jessica Bowman’s 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me post, with my own never-before-revealed-on-this-blog facts.

This is a picture of me,
if I looked like Uma Thurman.
And was in jail.

1. I prefer going to movies by myself.
This is not to say I don’t enjoy going with friends (and my studlier half). But, as far as I’m concerned, SOLO is the best way to enjoy a film on the big screen.

I used to slink in, embarrassed to be alone, imagining looks of pity and derision on the faces around me. “I’ve got friends! It’s not what you think…”

In those days, I felt defensive and ashamed of my unorthodox preference. No longer!

I don’t have to share my popcorn. I can pick any mindless sappy/historical/comic book/sci-fi/action flick I want (preferably all rolled into one movie). I don’t have to explain who that man in the hat is or that he’s actually having a dream right now or why the blond girl is ACTUALLY his sister. My conscious mind can be entirely enveloped by the plot without distraction. I can relish my few blissful, responsibility-free hours.

2. I have my next tattoo all planned out.
I love the two on my ankle. It took me 8 years to get the guts to actually go through with it. I got them to remind me of my sons, Noah and Simon, and the afterlife where I will see them again someday. And just a tiny little bit, to feel like a badass (which would have worked so much better if I hadn’t gotten pretty, girly butterflies; also if I hadn’t worn socks around my Grandpa for 2 years).

The next one? The Hebrew words “b’tzelem Elohim” which means “in the image of God.” If I can remember that about myself… if I can remember that about everybody else in my orbit… won’t I do better in life?

3. I am writing a novel.
At the rate I am going, I expect it to be finished by early 2042. Seriously, I only have a prologue and some of the first chapter, but the stories are spinning around in my brain and the characters feel like real people to me. I’m just worried that I don’t have the writing chops to do them justice.

I’m enjoying all kinds of writing. But fiction is new and different and exhilarating. I’m just one more dreamer with “Write a Book” on my bucket list. I don’t expect fame or fortune. Or even a publisher. I just want to finish telling this story. And maybe I’ll even let someone read it someday. Maybe.

4. Each time someone tells me they read my blog, I am simultaneously thrilled and horrified.
I’m crap at taking compliments. And usually people follow that revelation with some type of positive reinforcement. I’m just going to assume that everyone who doesn’t mention that they read my blog, does read it and hates it. It’s really awkward to bring up in that case. So, thanks for not mentioning it.

As for those who do: it feels kind of like you just admitted to seeing me naked. Which is awkward for both of us. And kind of scary. And I never know what to say. So I usually mumble something self-deprecating and change the subject.

But mostly, I’m thrilled. So thanks.

5. Every single blog post I write goes on the chopping block at some point.

I never feel good about actually posting anything until after I hit “publish.” And sometimes I wish I could take it back immediately.

But I make my peace with it eventually and I’m glad to have it out there (or I wouldn’t be doing this at all). If Glen didn’t edit and approve of almost every post, this little hobby would have stayed in my imagination along with hang gliding and mixed martial arts.

So here’s me, slightly less mysterious than yesterday.


Painting the Pink Room Green

She had her sulky face on. This is how it started. Petulant frown – check. Furrowed brow – check. Disgusted sneer – check.

Don’t ask me how she manages to sneer AND frown at the same time. It’s a natural talent. Thanks so much hereditary traits (yes, Glen, I’m looking at you).

“But it’s too crowded already…”

“We’re MUCH too busy…”

“But that is MY room…” (nevermind that she has been living in her NEW room for almost a year)

Then the kicker:

“Riley says that little brothers are a pain.”

And what do I know compared with Riley? Nine-year-old wisdom is unassailable… to other nine-year-olds, anyway. At the end of each conversation, she would grudgingly concede that maybe, just maybe mind you, it might be okay to have a little brother. She was willing to tolerate the situation, but wasn’t exactly thrilled about it.

Different words, different excuses, but each one a tentacle of the same monster. The I-Don’t-Like-Change-a-Saurus has been stalking our family for many years.

How We Feel About Change

She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t want it. And she sure as heck is not going to enjoy it.

Five-plus years after our move, her face still morphs into a mulish expression when we discuss the topic. It doesn’t matter that she LOVES her new room. Regardless of the fact that her BFF lives only 3 houses down. Completely overlooking the huge backyard and playroom. “I liked my old house. I don’t know why we had to move.”

She cried for weeks when we bought a new van (I did too, but mine were tears of joy and relief).

She orders exactly the same thing each time at the restaurants we frequent. Kraft Dinner at White Spot, really?! I can barely stand to allow it. But she likes what she likes, and frankly, it’s not worth the fight.

I knew this adoption would be hard for her to accept. Even a good change, but especially a challenging one is a hard pill for her to swallow. I knew, because she comes by it honestly. She is cut from the same cloth as her Dad, though he orders the burger platter with a ceasar salad. And, I’m not going to lie, I’m part of the club too (orange beef stir-fry, in case you were wondering).

She inherited a double dose of stuck-in-a-rut-itis. It’s hard to explain the angst and discomfort of change to you who fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, taking life as it comes with a smile of your face. You may wonder, “Why would he fish those raggedy old boxers out of the trash?” or “How come she chooses to stay home and sort laundry instead of joining an impromptu dinner party?”

Because there is nothing as comfortable as what we know. And what we expect. And what we’ve done a thousand times before.

That shiny new thing may be better: more fun, more interesting, more tasty, less drafty, even more life-affirming, but it is NEW, and there is nothing scarier than that.

What Made All the Difference

So, how did we turn it around? What was the twist that unlocked her sense of adventure? How did we get to the place where she is now: proudly displaying pictures of her new brother to everyone she meets, pestering us to find out when we can finally meet him and scrounging through the toy box to find the perfect stuffed monkey?

CONTROL

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. If change is frightening, control is soothing. She needed to be in charge of something, so this change would be HER choice, HER endeavor, and suddenly, HER adventure.

When Glen left on business a few weeks ago, he told us that we should paint the pink room. At the time it was a step of faith, trusting that this adoption would continue to move forward. Inching our way toward bringing him home.

I decided to turn the project over to the girls. A friend took B for the day and we set out on our mission. They were calling the shots.

First step: suss out the situation. I introduced them to a little obsession I like to call “Pintrest”. Before long, I had two opinionated interior designers debating the merits of blue vs. green. We discussed the concept of neutrals, but they discarded that ridiculous idea immediately (apparently it is not a concept that either 9 or 11-year-old girls embrace readily). They nodded their heads sagely as we discussed the need to decorate in increments – let him come home to a simple, uncluttered space and we will add to it over time.

We read through every e-mail from Foster Mom. He is a busy boy; he loves to climb and is into everything. He loves nature walks and playing outside in the dirt. And so, the concept of a jungle room was born.

When our little neighbour, the third member of their 3 Musketeers, came over with a dossier of ideas she had printed up, the ball really got rolling. Seeing how excited her friend was worked wonders for C’s enthusiasm.

Before I knew it, I found myself in an empty room with a full can of paint and three eager, though inexperienced, helpers. I’m not usually one to hand a loaded paint roller over to a 9-year-old (not even one with 10 and 11-year-old cheerleaders to advise her). But this was IMPORTANT. It was their first act as big sisters.

I wrote this in my journal that night:

Dear Little Brother

Your sisters painted the pink room green today. They looked at every single paint chip in Home Depot and picked this colour especially for you. They sorted through all the stuffies we own to find “jungle animals” for you to play with. And they set aside a few special ones that they knew you just HAD to have. Because all the babies in our family have had them.

They painted your room themselves, with help from our neighbour-friend P (who spends so much time with us she’s part of the family too). There were a few spills. There are more than a few touch-ups needed. And it doesn’t look exactly perfect.

Except it is. Because they did it for you. They were so careful. And they worked hard all day long. Your big sisters love you already and they can’t wait to show you your new room!

So here’s me, pretty sure that this blotchy green paint job is the best one I’ve ever seen.


You Can’t Make Me, But I Might Be Persuaded

I made a critical parenting error several years ago. I let the hairdresser talk me into restraining B on my lap while she tried to cut her hair. Hmmm… a sharp pair of scissors + screaming, thrashing child = all kinds of stupid. Leaving with one side quite a bit shorter than the other was the best case scenario.

In retrospect, I’m sure the big chair, strange women in smocks and tray of tools on the shelf reminded her of the lab. A frequent flier in the blood test game, she was already pre-disposed to hate doctors, dentists and white leather recliners. Unfortunately, this experience added “Hair Cuts” to the list of things to despise. Her reaction from that day forward involved kicking, screaming and wedging her body in the doorway of every hair salon we tried to take her to.

The next few years, we trimmed as best we could at home. A full hair cut could take weeks to finish – a snip here and a snip there, trying to even it out as quickly as possible, before the crying and head thrashing began. Sitting up with a snack, in the bath… I even found myself sneaking into her bedroom at night with a pair of scissors (yes, after typing that out, I realize how creepy it sounds).

Finally, my hairdresser (and friend) Rhianna came to our rescue. We slowly introduced her to the idea. At first she simply came and watched me get my hair done. Then, watching her sisters and sitting in the chair. Once she sat up and had a clip put in her hair. Each visit ended on a positive note; that was the key. At the first sign of trouble, Rhianna backed off. It was a good experience.

We didn’t push her and one magical day, she sat up and had her bangs trimmed quite happily. And then the next time, the whole enchilada! All that attention from the ladies in the salon and, later, from everyone who appreciates her funky pixie “do” have done wonders. In the space of a year, she became not only cooperative, but THRILLED to get her hair cut.

Until today.

She was singing in the car, SO excited to see Miss Rhianna and telling me how “pitty” her haircut would be. But we hit a speed bump along the way. For some reason, though she has done it several times before, she decided she was NOT going to get her hair washed.

I told her that she had to get her hair washed (or even wet down) so that it could be cut. I made it very clear. She was unwilling to budge. I had chosen my battle.

I’m not opposed to the occasional change of mind as a parent, but I was sure we could get this done. I dug deep into my rather large arsenal of parental manipulation. Every lady in the place (including the one with foils in her hair) offered a suggestion, or 10. We tried it all.

I let her choose – which chair do you want to sit in? which shampoo? who do you want to do the washing? I gave her control – climb up yourself, tell me when you are ready, you hold the shampoo. I set the example – close watching while both sisters had their hair washed, then I stuck my own hair in the sink and even got it wet (I straightened my hair today, so this is one of the greatest examples of maternal love in the modern world). I talked it through – reason, logic, persuasion, outright begging. I offered bribes – chocolate granola bars, a new clip for her hair; I literally held a lollipop over her head to get her to put it back. Rhianna made it a game – lots of counting, tickling, fun things to look at. I played it cool – “it’s up to you, wash and cut or we can just go home,” then tried to look bored and unconcerned. I tried to make it happen – picked her up, put her in the chair and held her head back (for about 2 seconds when she started freaking). I let it go – “okay, let’s go home;” then she would call me back and get close, so very close to actual H2O, and it would all start again.

“I dunno. I dunno. I DON’T KNOW!” – her answer to every other question.

The other answer, her favourite word – “nnnnnnnoooooooo! NOOOOOOOOO! nnnnnnooooo!”

She didn’t want to get her hair wet, but she wanted to get her hair cut so badly.

If we hadn’t come so very close, so many times, I would have given up much sooner. As it was, she left with a wet shirt, 3 clumps of damp hair and a grumpy, grumpy mom. Only B can take 2 hours to NOT get a haircut.

All this on the same day as our IEP meeting with her teachers, where we discussed her recent bathroom strike. After months of staying dry, she now refuses to even try on a regular basis. At home, the bathroom is going well, but tooth brushing has become an epic battle of wills (and ultimately a headlock and quick swish, swish… since dental hygeine is not remotely optional). This is our life.

I try to remember that determination (a much nicer way to say stubborn) can be a strength for a child with special needs. I have no doubt she will need every little bit of it to succeed in this world. And I’m not going to lie, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We’re pretty sure B’s personal motto is: You Can’t Make Me, But I Might Be Persuaded (also the title of a book by Cynthia Tobias).

If parenting B has taught me anything, it is this: There are certain things you CANNOT force a child to do, no matter how much you want to. There are tricks and techniques, but ultimately you cannot MAKE them eat, pee, blow their nose, sincerely apologize or, apparently, cooperate with the hairdresser.

So here’s me, and this is my inconvenient truth.

Can you think of anything else you cannot force anyone to do? Have you ever tried?

Also, thank you Rhianna, Kristen, Sasha and lady getting the foils in the next chair, for all your help this afternoon!


Mom Shrugged

My daughter threw up this morning. She leaned over her bowl of Mini-Wheats and puked up her daily vitamin. Half crying and half choking, she looked up with an air of bewilderment as we rushed to her side.

Nothing breaks my heart quite like that sad little face and the pronouncement of “owie tummy, Mommy.”

I should have noticed sooner…I should have scooped her into my lap…I should have bought more ginger ale…I should wash our hands more often…I should feed her more vegetables…I should buy organic…I should give her the latest trendy-hippie-health-freak-immunity-boosting-super-food…I should know what that is…I should have kept her home from school yesterday…I should put her in the bath…I should scrub the tub out more often, it’s gross…I should stay home from my class this afternoon…I should have finished my paper yesterday…I should worry less about rearranging my day and more about my little girl…

And the guilt game plays on and on and on… just like every other day in the life of a Mom. Though to be completely fair, I was an expert player long before my children came along.

A modern day Atlas, with the weight of the world on my shoulders, my reach often exceeds my grasp. I’d like to end poverty, cure the Aids pandemic, reorganize the storage room and teach my daughter to read, all while maintaining my ideal weight. I’d like to write a book, master every spiritual discipline, earn a PhD and design a Martha Stewart home with paper mache and a $10 budget. I’d like to teach seminars like: Flawlessly Understanding the Entire Bible, Effortless Parenting to Produce Perfect Children and, most impressive of all, How to Potty Train Your Special Needs Child in a Single Day (because I really should have figured all this out by now). I’d like to be everything to everyone.

So I feed myself a steady diet of comparison and perfectionism (and chocolate; there’s always chocolate).

While I may huff and puff and sigh about my problems with guilt, I still hold onto it with an iron grip. On some level I must believe that it is the engine that drives me. It’s a bad habit I keep returning to.

According to Greek mythology, Zeus condemned Atlas for his support of the Titans in their war against the Olympians. As a punishment, he was sent to the western edge of the earth and forced to hold the sky on his back. He literally became the axis upon which the heavens rotated.

I can relate. It’s hard being the centre of the universe.

This week was a complete write off. The flu took it’s toll. I spent entire days in bed. I missed meetings. I wasn’t there to pack lunches or drive kids around or check up on homework. And guess what? The world kept on spinning.

I am learning to ask for help, to accept it graciously and to put down burdens that aren’t mine to carry. Every day I must resist the siren song of pride and insecurity, and remember that boundaries and limitations are a blessing, not a curse. I find my worth, not in perfection or accomplishment, but in being the unique person God designed me to be.

The chorus of “should” begins to quiet when I remember my inestimable value.

I am just doing the best I can. And that requires no apology.

So here’s me, posting my life-writing paper as a blog post, because I just don’t have the energy to write anything else.


The Great Boot Debate of 2012

Call it karma. Call it genetic predisposition. Call it reaping what you sow. I call it parenting the child I deserve.

She is me. In so many ways, good and bad. A smaller, spunkier version of myself. And usually that seems like a good thing.

When I was 12, I put my foot down… right into a snow bank. What self-respecting 7th grader would wear ugly, clunky snow boots when they could be rocking a pair of thin white sneakers with flourescent green laces? So what if I had to walk 3 blocks to the bus, knee deep in the snow? What is a little suffering in the name of fashion?

Moms just don’t understand. After as much arguing and weeping as I dared, she decided to let me try it my way.

It took almost a week for my toes to thaw out.

I grudgingly wore my boots the next day. Lesson learned. Sigh.

Me 2.0 has had several upgrades. She is funnier, more creative and, oh happy day, even more stubborn. Excellent.

This morning was a blow out. Her black boots with the silver stars no longer fit. It takes her 20 minutes to squeeze her feet in and she can’t do the zipper up at all. I have 2 pairs that are a bigger size, but apparently the Hannah Montana pair her sister loved are “so embarassing” and the other pair “don’t work at all”.

With over a foot of snow in the school yard, we are out of options. We only have about 1-2 weeks of snow each year, so there is no way I am buying another pair. The school is not as forward thinking as my mother with her let-them-suffer-that’ll-teach-em philosophy. So she has to wear them.

By the time we were walking out the door (15 minutes late, mind you), I was in full froth. Almost an hour of relentless bargaining, whining and outright wailing had taken its toll. In my loudest Angry Mom Voice, much louder than I intended, I yelled “THEY. DO. NOT. FIT. YOU!”

YOU… You…you….echoes through the neighbourhood.

As my howling 4th grader throws herself into the van, I look up to see two sets of neighbours loading their own kids into their vans. Trying to pretend like they weren’t looking. Fantastic.

No one can push my buttons like this kid. I’m pretty sure she was put on earth lest I become conceited about my life and my superior parenting. And she is doing a fine, fine job.

After school, we talked about it. I apologized again (this time with my teeth unclenched) and I told her a story about the olden days when florescent colours were cool and I longed for sneakers in winter. I’m sure we’ll be recapping this discussion again tomorrow morning, but I think I’m ready for it.

The boots might not fit, but she does. Here, with me, always. I thank God for her, especially those rough edges that remind me so much of myself. My children are the best curriculum He’s ever given me. As I teach her, I am learning too: to be teachable, to choose substance over appearance, and that life may be full of necessary unpleasantness, but a good attitude can make all the difference.

I see the best of myself in her also, and am amazed.

I wonder, when God looks at me, does he see himself?

Creative.

Compassionate.

Kind.

Patient (okay, probably not that one).

One day when my little girl is all grown up, she will spit on her thumb to wipe the schmutz off her child’s face and come to the shocking realization: “I’ve become my mother!”

Oh sweetie, you’ve been there all along!

So here’s me, counting down the days until I can start giving my grandchildren ugly, clunky boots. Then I will sit back and watch the fireworks. And I will laugh and laugh.


You Can’t Make Me!

There are three things I really hate:

~threatening email forwards

~chain letters with dire warnings

~worship leaders who instruct you on what to do (now everyone raise your hands!)

Basically anything where someone is trying to guilt trip, peer pressure or trick me into doing something. It may be something I would have quite happily done on my own, until I realized someone was trying to guilt trip, peer pressure or trick me into doing it. I just hate being bossed. I’m more likely to dig in my heels and do the opposite, just to prove I can.

Pass this e-mail on if you really love puppies (or cancer victims, or your mommy, or Jesus) and suddenly I’m feeling an inexplicable irritation with puppies, cancer victims and even my mom (still love Jesus).

Seven years of bad luck if I don’t forward this letter and a thrifty crock pot recipe to 14 of my closest friends and neighbours. Bring it on! Perhaps I should break a mirror and open an umbrella inside while I’m at it.

“Sing loudly if you love the Lord!” Without fail my inner Quaker awakens, craving silent contemplation.

I recall telling an overeager family member that if she wants me to be receptive, it would be better for her advice to sound more like a suggestion than an order. I’m not sure she realizes how often her strident opinions cause me to take the exact opposite side, regardless of what I actually believe. Because you can’t MAKE me do anything.

I love free will! And I would love to see others embrace it. Not their own, of course, but MY WILL… especially my children. I am drawn to the parenting books and systems that promise cheerful, obedient children in a convenient one-size-fits-all. Some of them have value and may even work. Ring a bell and your children will immediately drool… wait, I think that had something to do with dogs?

I know in theory that the best form of discipline for my children is self-discipline, but that takes time, insight and a whole lot of failure to develop. There are days when giving my children the opportunity to make good choices (or bad and face the consequences) is exhausting. And I am tempted to manipulate, pressure or trick them into doing what I want.

Free will is God’s thing. I’m sure He would have saved a lot of time and trouble if He chose to simply impose His will on all humanity. Instead, we struggle, and learn, and fail, and start over again. And He never stops loving us, no matter how messy we get. I can’t think of a better parent to emulate.

So here’s me, composing an opening to this blog post. How about: If you love Jesus, freedom and puppy dogs, you WILL repost this at least 3 times.


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