Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our Butterflies Are Free To Fly!

Butterflies are one of the most beautiful gifts of nature I know. Their striking colors and effortless flight make me feel free to fly myself... in my own way, my own direction. The mystery of the Monarch's flight home to it's roosting grounds, 4 generations removed from ever having been there, knowing just exactly when and where to go engages me. They make this age-old journey hundreds of miles and countless hours away to a place they've never been but have been preprogrammed to return to so that their kind continues to exist. Surely, this is nothing short of miraculous!

My daughter, the old soul, is equally enchanted by the butterfly. And so, was very excited when her 2nd grade class raised Painted Lady butterflies last year. She was even more ecstatic to be gifted her very own butterfly house by her all-knowing and loving aunt. Out of season, Olivia waited patiently for the "right time" to raise her own butterflies.

Being an outdoors[wo]man, I am hesitant about taking God's creatures from their natural habitat and holding them captive for any reason but to heal a wound or protect them from predators. (I know this last part is in the natural order of things, I just don't want to be witness to it.) Still, at Olivia's insistence, I hesitatingly agreed and we ordered her "pillars" as she playfully referred to them, for delivery on return from our recent camping trip. The small box, clearly marked "this end up", was upside down and so were our 5 caterpillars, surrounded by their life-saving gelatinous caterpillar food. We righted the cup and found a spot on our overcrowded counters for yet another of Olivia's science projects in process.

According to the instructions, we had 7 to 10 days of caterpillar-ness before our new friends -- of COURSE she named them: Pumpkin, Dino, Catrina Cat, Elizabeth Anne and Tinker Bell -- finished spinning their silks and hung themselves appropriately from the roof of the cup. Extraordinary quiet was required as they built their iridescent chrysalides where their metamorphosis would occur. In just 5 days, and under Olivia's watchful eyes, the first part of the transformation was well underway when I heard her gasp... one of the chrysalid had fallen. According to her teacher, this was suicide and the fallen comrade was already doomed... 2 days passed as we looked on with concern. Olivia being she and me being me, we determined that the fallen chrysalid was worth saving... Or at least attempting to save. As per the instructions, we gently removed the paper disc where 4 of the chrysalides remained, then we carefully spooned the fallen chrysalid out of the caterpillar food. Startling us as it wiggled mightily, seemingly attempting to wiggle itself into a hanging position again, we gently wrapped some of the remaining silk threads around its curled top and -- because the silk is sticky like Velcro -- rehung the supposedly-sleeping-but-clearly-awake creature on the disc with it's siblings. We gently paper clipped the disc to the side of Olivia's butterfly tree house and set it back in its protective and quiet corner -- if that's possible to find in our home -- to incubate. All was quiet! Once hung, even the reborn chrysalid quieted down immediately in preparation for her (Elizabeth Ann) miraculous metamorphosis.

Another 7-10 days of waiting! On day 4, as she had done every single day since they arrived, Olivia bounded down the stairs to check in on her butterfly children. "Mom! The butterflies hatched! There are 5 butterflies! WE SAVED HER!" She laughed at their cute little fuzzy faces, their buggy eyes and how they moved their heads like robots to look around their new home. It was wonderful to watch as they slowly flapped their newly minted wings to dry. FIVE perfect Painted Ladies!

If you're not familiar with the Painted Lady, she is a small Monarch-look-alike. Though not poison to its predators like the Monarch is, the Painted Lady mimics the grand Monarch for its own protection. As Olivia explains it, "it dresses up like a Monarch so it doesn't get eaten. A predator says, 'I don't want to eat that! The last time that thing made me sick!' And, as Olivia is my co-writer here, she'd also like to add some Painted Lady facts: Did you know that Painted Ladies have 10,000 eyes and they can travel 1,000 miles over the course of their lifetime? True!

Back to our butterfly-raising instructions... We learned that our friends need cut flowers sprinkled with a home-made sugar solution to mimic the morning dew. Still in pajamas, Olivia and I cut some of the HUGE yellow flowers -- we have no idea what they are -- from our garden and a few blooms from her new butterfly bush. We spooned the sugar water onto the flowers, placed the flowers in small containers with water to sustain them and placed them carefully in the bottom of their butterfly habitat, careful not to crush any of our friends in the placement. It was Catrina Cat, we think, that came to investigate first. And, she was eventually followed by all of her siblings. They chased each other around the netted pen, up and down the walls, under and over the flowers, tasting the sugar water dew on the flowers with their feet -- because that's how Painted Ladies taste things -- and sipping with their deep purple proboscis -- a long butterfly tongue that's like a little wire robot. The butterfly's mouth opens up and the long swirled proboscis uncoils down to the flower's nectar, poking in and out to suck up the sweet juice.

Olivia called them her butterfly sailors because when they closed their wings they looked like sail boats, she said -- appropriate, as our school teams are the Oceanside Sailors. The gentle wind of Olivia's breath as she spoke softly to them would cause their wings to flap gently as if smitten with her natural breeze. Such a Beautiful sight! Olivia and her FIVE Painted Lady butterflies... We were both so relieved they were all alive and well.

I noticed, they did not fly yet. Perhaps too young. Perhaps too trapped, I thought! Almost immediately I wanted to let them go. My heart ached for their freedom. But, hurricane remnant rain pummeled our neighborhood throughout the day. Now, I'm not sure what I think wild butterflies do when it rains (sounds like a topic for a good children's book) but Olivia had relayed a story about one of her classroom butterflies accidentally landing in water which caused its wing to rapidly disintegrate and the poor thing died. Desperate now to have all 5 of her butterflies go free, I would not, could not take that chance. So, they were held captive.... Quietly clinging to their netted -- versus gilded -- cage waiting, begging for their freedom.

Butterflies -- Day 2: Though it started out raining, the sun finally managed to break through right about the noon hour and we began discussing the release of her butterflies. Olivia explained that their classroom butterflies were held for several days, but I quickly convinced her that, just as people can't eat yodels for every meal, a butterfly cannot live healthily on sugar water either. And, with their small bodies and short lives -- Painted Ladies live only a few weeks -- I wanted her babies to have good nutritionally-sound butterfly food (live flowers and nectar) and to live as much of their lives as possible in freedom. Once I'd put it that way, Olivia wholeheartedly agreed. But, she worried, did we have enough flowers and enough variation in our own garden to support 5 growing Painted Ladies? After all, our butterfly bush was just a baby itself and had only a few blooms. So we began to discuss where her new children could be set free. Who had an abundant garden nearby so that we wouldn't have to transport them far and we could visit them or they could visit us, maybe? Together we named several worthy flower gardens in the area and Olivia quickly chose Grandma's friend, Helene's garden around the block because she knew that garden had been planted specifically with butterflies in mind. Delectable flowers meandered from the front yard, down the driveway and into the back yard where 2 huge butterfly bushes and a row of milkweed (a butterfly favorite Helene had picked from the neighborhood creek) grew tall and wild.

Helene is a friend of my mother's whose whole family has been in MY life since I was about 6 years old. Herb, Helene's husband who passed away many years ago, was the first person to take me camping (outside of my own backyard) and was instrumental in building my love for camping and increasing my knowledge of the great outdoors (not to mention instilling a sense that people with handicaps were capable of absolutely anything... being a double amputee himself. But that's a different story about another angel that graced my life). We knew that Helene sits on her porch every morning admiring her garden and watching a wide array of butterflies come and go. So, we called Helene and asked her permission to free Olivia's babies in her garden. She was thrilled with the idea noting that she had not seen any Painted Ladies in her garden yet. Olivia's would be her first!

The very moment they were carried outside still in their tree house, the butterflies took flight instinctively... quickly learning the confines of their netted world. Their first flight!!!

As a family, we walked over to Helene's house... Daddy, Mommy, Brian, Michael, Bubba and Molly (the dogs), and Olivia and her butterflies -- Pumpkin, Dino, Catrina Cat, Elizabeth Ann, and Tinker Bell. Upon arrival and deciding just where they'd be set free, Olivia carefully unzipped their temporary home and hand-delivered each of her babies to perch on the biggest bloom of the biggest butterfly bush. One by one, they tasted, then drank, then flew away to investigate their new world... testing their new freedom without confines. Up, up and away!

It was a wonderful thing to be able to raise them and then let them go. The whole experience gave me a brief glimpse into the future. My future. Into the inevitable growing up and physical letting go of my children someday. It was comforting to know the butterflies were now free to live their lives as they were meant to. Olivia and I were only here to briefly give her butterfly sailors a safe harbor to grow up in. Yes, I worry for their safety. Do they know how to survive out there? Can they protect themselves from predators? Will they find enough food/flowers to eat? Will they have shelter from the rain? I wonder, as I'm sure Olivia does, whether I'll ever see them again.

In the end, I have learned a deeper understanding of the adage, "if you love something... set it free!"


Note: All of the butterflies pictured are Olivia's Painted Ladies

Thursday, August 27, 2009

THANKFUL THURSDAY - Thankful For What I've Got!

It's easy to overlook all you've got when you look over the fence and see a neighbor's new mini-van or home construction going on down the block or even the kick-butt wardrobes and super-mod coifs on fellow townsfolk. Me? I tell myself the mini-van is leased and our old one is paid for. I acknowledge that we have our beautiful extension even if we didn't finish it yet. And, those clothes and that hairdo are nice but they so aren't my style or wouldn't look good on me. All true. Still, envy can creep in and lead to forgetfulness. That is, I forget to be thankful for what I've got! And, I've got a lot...

[1] I'm thankful for an honest, hard-working and loving husband. Like everyone else, we hit rough spots on occasion. But, he's my hubby and I wouldn't trade him for yours or anyone else's I've seen. No offense meant to any of your husbands. I'm just acknowledging that "the Sarg" is just my style and fits me perfectly! I'm so thankful to have him.

[2] My house is a home. Our beloved, 200-year-old historical, as-yet-unfinished Bayman's Cottage. It may be half done for the rest of my life but there is a certain, "come in, sit down, kick-off your shoes" kind of comfort here. Friends and loved ones have said they feel the warmth and welcome of our home. That's what I'm thankful for.

[3] I am not necessarily all that I would like it to be, physically. Actually, I'm more than I would like to be in many ways (LOL). That is, I wish I were thinner, more physically fit, younger (LOL). I wish I could better accept myself just the way I am. That's always been hard for me but I'm working not only on acceptance but on achieving a healthier me too. In the meantime, despite my wishes for a different physical me, I am so thankful for the health and vitality I have. Truly. I am strong. I am able. I don't ache (all that much once I get moving). I am healthy. For 46, I'm all right and I am so grateful for it!

[4] I couldn't ask for better pets! I've got kid-friendly, other-creature/pet-friendly, neighbor-friendly dogs, cats and even fish (morning greetings at the top of the tank). They're great watch dogs and watch cats (oddly) all four alerting us to everything and anything out of the ordinary that's going on outside our home or the homes of our neighbors. They're always loving and tolerant with the kids. And, Miss Molly Box has finally got the hang of toileting outside and chewing bones instead of household furniture and accessories. LOL! With my kids being who they are -- albeit gently, they are lovey dovey to all the animals, all the time -- I'm so thankful that I have no worries about scratches or bites. Of course, I watch... after all, they are animals. But nary an aggressive sound or move has been made by any of our pets to any person living in or invited into our home be it adult or child. Now if I could just keep Michael from letting Molly out the front door all the time. Or, maybe I should work on Molly not taking him up on his offer... or both (I guess).

[5] I believe I've got more in my 3 children than all the children in the world combined. Down syndrome and all! They are so awesome and so mine and I could not be more thankful. Honestly, this is one I NEVER forget to thank God for. Multiple times daily as one or more of my children look me in the eye and say, "Come Mama" with a kiss, a hug and a tug of my hand; as they play and [play]fight -- sword fights, school, catch me, crafts and raspberries; as the boys learn to swim in our backyard pool choosing their sister "Ala" (Olivia) as their destination; as they close their eyes and drift off to sleep each with their own style, I thank God for giving me Olivia and Brian and Michael. As I say in my Profile, I learn more from my children on a daily basis than I learned in all my years preceding motherhood. No offense to the teachers in my childhood who taught me academics -- all important -- or my mentors in Corporate America who gave me business saavy (if I may be so bold as to say I actually have any of that). It's just that my children are teaching me more about life, more about living, more about honesty and integrity and hope and faith every day than I ever imagined possible. More, even, than my adult brain can absorb... but I'm trying like heck! My parents gave me a good foundation in these all-important areas and my kids are finishing off the job with real-life examples of living graciously, thankfully, faithfully, mindfully. And, I'm enjoying my life lessons with these beautiful angels of mine!

Forget what's over the fence. The grass is greenest when you're comfortably barefoot in your own backyard! Be mindful, then thankful, for what you've got and never mind the rest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Down Syndrome Awareness -- When a House is a HOME!

I have 4-year-old identical twin boys. They don't always listen (LOL). Now there's a shock, huh? They also HAPPEN to have been blessed with an extra 21st chromosome -- also known as Down syndrome. Some would claim that they don't listen to instruction or follow direction because they do not fully understand the language. Sure, there's a language delay. But, no, I do not attribute their occasional unwillingness to listen or follow directions to their language delay or any cognitive deficiency (though I find there are others that do). Did you notice that I used the term "unwillingness" versus "inability". They're able! As a matter of fact, most of the time, they listen quite well. If they didn't, they'd likely be dead or severely injured... You see, they tune right in to the word "danger" and stop dead in their tracks when I use it! Even when it's a situation they've never encountered. They know that danger can be generalized to many different situations and it's something to avoid. Yeah, they're little smarties. They generalize at all the right times and specialize when appropriate too. I'm absolutely sure they UNDERSTAND the language just fine!


Nope, I NEVER underestimate my young, language-delayed children's ability to understand. Language development can be a tough thing to test with all the counterparts and complications including receptive and expressive language, oral motor functioning, muscle tone, articulation and phonological components and more. Different levels of ability and/or issues in any one or more of these areas as well as the tester/testee relationship significantly impacts the ability to accurately measure language development. My children are expressive language delayed. That is, they don't express themselves -- specifically via speech -- very well for children their age. Actually, they express themselves VERY well. They are full-body communicators -- using speech, sign language, pointing, props, acting out like charades and dragging me to whatever it is they want me to see or understand. Whatever it takes. But, given some of their issues include oral-motor planning (getting their mouths to do what their brain is thinking/wanting to say in a way that is recognizeable by the listener), low facial muscle tone (an "o" is harder to produce so they don't do it so often), and articulation (making it sound the way everybody else says it... understandable to the general public not just Mom). With all of these expressive language issues, receptive language becomes a bit tougher to test too. Often because the tester doesn't understand their response. But, let me tell you, as I said before, I have no doubt that my children with Down syndrome are absolutely able to comprehend our language... They even understand the subtle nuances of our language...



For instance, they know and understand way more than just the dictionary definition of a noun like "home".



We went camping last weekend. On day two of our trip and at a particularly fatiguing point in his day, Michael asked me longingly, "Home?" Said with just the right inflection to let me know that he was asking whether we were going home now so he could finally rest his weary camping bones. With a kiss and a hug, I responded, "Yes, we'll go back to the camper and rest". He leaned back down in the stroller for the walk and meekly mumbled, "nooo". I thought then, incorrectly, that he was fighting sleep. I meandered back to our campsite hoping he'd fall asleep en route... to no avail. Still wide awake, I took him inside the camper and plopped him down at the table offering him his favorite comfort-foods, apple juice and [Tostito] chips. Even with his beloved chips in hand, he more emphatically pleaded, "HOOOME?" Again, I acknowledged with a hug and explained that the camper was our home for the next few days... He hesitated -- briefly considering my answer and studying my face for better understanding (me of him, not vice verse). Then, with a determined squint of his eyes he said, "No.... HOUSE!"



He wanted to go home to his house not home to his camper. He understood the whole time we were there that the camper was our [temporary] home. I know because he used it like a home-base. Always wandering about (loosely supervised with a "Let's see what Squirt does flying solo" approach) and always coming back to OUR camper.... Home! But, when he said "home" in the pleading and different way that he said it, the camper is NOT what HE was trying to express! He knew what I meant -- we were headed for the camper -- and he knew I wasn't getting HIS meaning. So, he thought about it and finally expressed himself accordingly. In a way I could not possibly misunderstand!


They "so totally rock, dude!"

Special Exposure Wednesdays -- Twins!

Our Twin Cats (same litter, different eggs)!



Our Twin Boys (same litter, same egg)!



Our Twin Egg?


I have twin boys and twin cats then Liv happened upon this twin egg while camping. I'd never seen that before! Seems twins just happen to us!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

THANKFUL THURSDAY - Camping & Home-Coming

We just returned from a camping trip to Hammonassett Beach State Park with my extended paternal cousins in Connecticut. My family does this trip every year and we enjoy it immensely. There's nothing like camping with 33 of your closest friends and family. That said, my Thankful Thursday post reflects on this year's experience:


[1] I KNOW miracles happen! And, I am terribly grateful for the miracle of the '95 Viking Pop-Up that FELL INTO MY LAP on Friday afternoon at 3:00 PM!!!! When I gave up on Friday morning on the idea of buying a pop-up camper for our trip on Saturday, after 4 intense days of hunting, I had resigned myself -- and my hubby and 3 kids -- to another year of camping in the tent... Albeit a HUGE 3-room tent. But, a tent is still ON the ground with nowhere to sit and nowhere to stand upright, sagging air mattresses and indoor morning dew.... and no shelter from the inevitable rain that comes EVERY time I camp. As I shut down the computer lest it distract me from the night of packing I had ahead of me, Craigslist refreshed and this beautiful, if-not-old, pop-up camper literally popped-up on my screen. It was JUST what I'd been looking for and in my price range. The rest is [recent] history... We miraculously got a trailer hook-up installed on the mini-van by 10:30 Saturday morning, made the new neice's christening with time to kill, and officially got hitched to our new, old camper by 7:00pm Saturday night... Driving straight through to Connecticut and immediately putting it to good use, comfortably housing my family of 5 just 2 hours later and for the next 4 days. There is a God!


[2] AND, I'm ever so grateful that IT DIDN'T RAIN! For the first time in MY camping history I have a roof over my head and it didn't rain!!!! How's that for irony! We had beautiful, sunny camping and swimming weather the entire 4 days. Yeah!



[3] I'm thankful for every one's help in making this trip possible: For my brother's assistance in how to more effectively search Craigslist for pop-ups versus popups or trailers versus campers. For my mother's and my sister's care of my dog, Csiba, two cats, Tippy & Willow, and 6 fish (Julio, Gianni, Dotty, Madison, Cocoa and... and... ??? gotta ask the old soul). For the care of our veterinarian, Dr. Foy, and staff, at Terry Animal Hospital, of our other dog, Molly, whose eyes need special and constant care. For our friends, Tammy and Mike who supplied us with camper-gear (being new pop-up campers we were woefully under-equipped), fed us, watched our kids when they invaded their camp and trailer AND entertained us... as they always do. Thanks, too, to my cousin, Steve, who helped with the set-up (being a pop-up man himself) and who lent tools, utensils and beer throughout the trip and to cousin (in-law) John and cousin Sue who lovingly and gladly shared beer and food with us and our friends as well. I'm also genuinely thankful to Kelly, the camper man who waited patiently for us on Saturday to show up to buy his old pop-up at 11:00... no 4:30... no 5:30... oops, we're lost... 6:30, finally! -- all with a smile! And, for the fact that he kept his camper in such good shape for us. I'm thankful too that the mini-van that our friends Jan and Lori helped us buy 4 years ago (off EBay when my beloved Blazer couldn't fit 3 car-seats across the back for our new twins and old soul) had the power to pull the new camper easily! Yup, God is good to surround us with such good and helpful friends.




[4] I'm thankful that my children's and my pre-camping colds were held at bay and did not flourish into anything desperate while we were living at one with nature. Matter of fact, seems the little man and I actually recovered during the trip. Must have been somewhat relaxing then (versus stressful which never helps the recovery process). And, though the old soul and my big man are still fighting the tail-end of a good fight, they're not in particular discomfort as a result of our foray into the woods. It's just a cold, after all... and it stayed that way... just a cold. Thank God!


[5] I'm thankful to Tammy and Sammy for bringing along Sammy's old 2-wheeler bicycle for my old soul. I purposely didn't pack her training-wheeler just so she would give the 2-wheel thing a real and honest try. No, it wasn't a trick. She knew she was going to be trying a 2-wheeler... She just didn't know her training-wheeler wouldn't be available. Within half an hour of starting, she was riding all over the campgrounds, literally! Though it did take her a day to master the brakes, her shoes worked just fine until she mastered that skill too! AND, TODAY SHE IS A 2-WHEEL-BICICYLE-RIDING-CHICK! She did it without much help and without a single crash, fall or injury (that's her way). Hooray!!!!!!


video


As much fun as we had, I am SOOO thankful to be home. We all are. Truly, as comfortable as the new, old pop-up is... there is no place like home!

Special Exposure Wednesday - Out With the Old & In With the New

OUCH!!!! Doesn't that just "buzz your butt" (make you cringe)?
Literally, 5 minutes later!
Wonder how the boys are going to feel about loose teeth and losing teeth? Or me, for that matter? I mean, with Down syndrome, it's taken us quite some time to get them all in there... And so willy nilly, I might add. We're still missing a couple in the bottom front that have just started to make their presence known in Michael but not Brian, yet. Can't imagine losing any of them now that we've finally gotten them. I wonder, with Down syndrome, if the falling out process is delayed and willy nilly too? If so, maybe that'll buy us some time to get used to the idea.
I know it's Thursday but you can still see more Special Exposure Wednesday on 5 Minutes For Special Needs. My excuse? We were away camping. Better late than Never, I always say!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THANKFUL THURSDAY

Thank God for bedtime. I need sleep right now. Fighting a cold and the need to pack for camping this weekend. Which brings me to my Thankful Thursday list:

[1] THANK GOD TOMORROW IS THE BOYS' LAST DAY OF [ESY] SCHOOL!!!!!!! HOOO RAAY!

[2] I'm beyond grateful that there was no fight over splitting or keeping the boys together for their 4-year-old preschool year. It's been looming large for me since our CPSE meeting in March when the school reps first suggested it and I balked. I was gearing up with research and developing my written argument when their teacher told me they'd decided to keep them together again next year as it seemed best for the boys, me (the parent) and the team of professionals (teachers and therapists) who would be working with them. Yeah!!!

[3] Thank God for viral marketing so that I can post here and ask, Does anybody want to sell, rent or lend me a pop-up camper for THIS weekend in Connecticut so I don't have to sleep on the wet ground with my kids (who are all in the process of developing colds as I type)???

[4] I'm thankful that I was able to muster some understanding, patience and forgiveness today for the kid that laughed at my little guy for still wearing a diaper while we were at the pool party we went to today. Look for more on this topic as it's sure to turn into a full-blown Down Syndrome Awareness post... because it was a heart-wrenching look into the future [potentially] for me and my beautiful little boys. (Rotten kid!)

[5] I am amazed and grateful at the ENORMOUS amount of overtime my husband has been working. They're asking (mostly Yankees so it's a win-win) and he can't/won't/doesn't say no... And, though we're all missing him terribly, he's been bringing in the extra, much-needed bucks! Thanks Babe, Truly!

Since I'll be camping this weekend, don't look for me around the blogosphere. I definitely WON'T have access to the internet (and wouldn't use it even if I did). Gotta go live the life so I have something real to blog about... right? I'm sure I'll have lots of good photographs come next Wednesday when I get back... OR, maybe not if I'm living the life and NOT living to catch a good pic to share. Seriously, I find it harder and harder to drag the camera along. I just want to do... don't want to watch (through the lens) anymore. There's gotta be a happy medium. I think it's called the camera phone! Which is where most of my pics come from these days while the real digicam sits at home. LOL

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Special Exposure Wednesday - A Growth Spurt

The boys are getting TALL... aren't they?



Kids grow up so fast these days (LOL).
Adventureland Fun House

See more Special Exposures at 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Fun = More Happiness

I think I need to plan more fun stuff to do in between the things I HAVE to do in my life. Quoting my happiness Guru, Gretchen Rubin, over at The Happiness Project:

Writer Jean Stafford scoffed, “Happy people don’t need to have fun,” but in fact, studies show that the absence of feeling bad isn’t enough to make you feel good -- you must strive to find sources of feeling good. Regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life; people who have fun are twenty times more likely to feel happy.



The thing is, the planning of fun extracurricular activities is hard sometimes because the actual planning takes the fun out of the adventure before it even gets started. I've always been good at impromptu fun so I'm going to try fitting some more of that into my life. But, I'm also going to plan some fun stuff way in advance so that the aggravation of planning subsides before the fun begins.


I'm in the early stages of planning a fun RV/camping vacation (I think) with some great old friends and all our kids NEXT August... because the trip we planned for THIS August (this weekend) is losing it's fun factor with all the complications that come along with last minute alternate obligations and pet care. It's actually become worse than planning our wedding! I'm sure, like my wedding, once we get there it'll be fun for all. And, next year's trip sounds like it's going to be a blast!!!


So there's something fun to look forward to anyway!


When I was single, fun came naturally. Now, planning Fun-For-a-Family-of-5 is not so much fun. It's the planning that bogs me down. Anybody else feel this way? Still, based on the above quote and my own wedding planning experience... Planning for fun is a worthy endeavor!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

That's where my happy thoughts seem to have gone. Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Like Peter Pan, no happy thoughts = no flight. And, when the going gets tough, the happy thoughts are fleeting. By "tough" I mean that my to do list is long but my resentment list feels longer. THAT'S a problem for me. A BIG problem. When silly resentments cloud my brain I don't laugh as much. And I don't like NOT laughing. So, what's causing my resentment and keeping me uncomfortably bent over the rainbow?

Expectations! My unrealistic expectations! That's what!

OK, this post is going to be about motherhood and the thing that frustrates me about it... with a twist of humor if I can manage it (LOL). But, there's always a pot of gold at the end so hang, for just a few minutes, over the rainbow with me.

I've been working as a stay at home mom for 6 1/2 years now. Working 24/7/365. Yes, I said WORKING and 24 as in 24-hours-a-day! Sure I sleep... lightly and sporadically and mostly NOT. Never mind that since I gave birth to 3 children (with a 2fer1 in there) my bladder went somewhere over the rainbow too and I can't sleep through the night without making multiple trips to the potty which is downstairs in my house so it's a total wake up -- not a half-dead zomby walk to the throne and back -- lest I fall down the stairs. On the graveyard shift, I also wake up when any of my children stir, whatever the reason -- have to go potty, lost a diaper, giggle in their sleep, kick me in the guts, kick my husband in the guts (yes, we have a "family bed" for the extended re-construction of their bedrooms so I wake and move the kid to spare him the discomfort), got precariously stuck in the bedrail, or itch because one of 50+ summer mosquito bites are driving them out of their peaceful slumber land. With 3 kids AND my own potty trips, that's about... 3, 6, 9 -- hold on let me get my calculator 'cause I don't have enough fingers to count the wake ups. Never mind, you do the math and make sure you divide it into 8 hours of sleep and figure out that I sleep in 10-minute increments... IF I'm lucky. I hear you all laughing. Who gets 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep? I told you it was about unrealistic expectations!

Hubby used to Captain work boats, sometimes doing ship-to-shore stores replenishment and personnel transport on 24 hour shifts. During the night when he was anchored up -- "asleep" -- he was still listening with one ear, so to speak, for the squawk of the radio telling him he needed to move something or someone from ship to shore or vice versa. That's me. Mock-asleep. Waiting for the call which may or may not come. For me, it ALWAYS comes! And, I don't get paid, in the traditional sense, like he did. I am and have been on call every single night since my oldest child was born 7 1/2 years ago. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!

Oh wait, there was one night that I went to sleep and didn't wake up for 6 hours. One night! That was a miracle! Truly!... Anyway,

During the day shift, things get... easier (Did I type that out loud?). Well, at least the lights are on and I can see things more clearly despite my fatigue-induced brain fog. And, I can complain out loud without worrying about waking anyone up... except maybe Daddy who probably worked overtime for the Yankees until 2AM. I've learned to complain quietly on those days. Still, for me, the daily 60-mile round trip drive to and from school is nothing compared to the prep for said trip. Trying to get 3 tired kids -- tired because it's summer and we stay up later doing fun summer kids-stuff until it's actually DARK enough outside to sleep (note to self: buy blackout shades for the bedroom) -- up, fed, dressed, lunches packed and in the car in a 30-45-minute time-frame which actually requires coordination and patience I don't always have after working the graveyard shift. Once in the car, with the kids in lock down in their car seats, all I have to do is keep up the constant, CONSTANT chatter with music and applause to Laurie Berkner, Philadelphia Chickens and Gary the Singing Bus Driver sing-alongs -- diligently ensuring that their self esteem is growing as fast and as big as they are. This also cuts down on the complaining (did they learned that from me?). Once dropped off -- an occasionally stressful scene in itself since the boys' surgery when my little man learned about separation [from Mommy] anxiety while his brother was in hospital -- you'd think there'd be some peace. Like 4-6 hours of it... But, you'd be wrong because it's summer and Olivia chose to forego recreation to spend a fun summer with Mommy! Did I mention EXPECTATIONS were part of the problem here?

I'm the first one to jump at the chance for some fun... Truly! I try to make everything I do fun in some way. But I was hoping for, let's see, if I'm searching for a description, then I'd say a... PRODUCTIVE summer! God knows our house needs a ton of work (don't mean to bring up the unfinished children's bedrooms again but...) on the inside and outside... as do I (both side too, that's why I'm writing this post). My summer plans included daily strenuous exercise -- which you can't really do with a kid or 3 in tow -- AND removing the old shingles on the front of the house, restoring the original nearly-200-year-old clapboard, and painting so that our house would finally be all one color... That's work that could be toxic for a child so there's no way I can do it with Olivia's or the boys' help or presence. While we stay-at-home-Moms do take the housework seriously -- and there's much work to be done on the house [and me] -- suffice it to say that my first and most important 24/7/365 job duty is the care and happiness of my children. That said, if the Old Soul wants, expects and deserves more of my time and attention while she's home for the summer... So be it. I'm still getting some little stuff done around the house... but MOST of my transformation plans [for the house and me] ended up in the trash with the summer recreation sign-up forms.

Each weekday, before by the time we've barely broken out the craft supplies, it seems it's time to run the second half of our 60-mile daily trek to go get those boys. Once home, there's literally not 5 minutes I get to do anything for myself. Literally! I sit at the computer and the boys take turns walking me away and back to their activity. Read to me! Play with me! Sit and watch with me, Mommy! That's what they'd be saying if they could speak so eloquently... but I'm a good translator so I know what they want... ME! As it should be, I know! But, I'm just trying to prove a point here!

I don't get to punch out after 8 hours. I don't get an hour for lunch. No personal phone calls allowed -- they won't have it! No cigarette breaks. Heck, not even private potty breaks. D'ya think I made the 24 hours per day point yet?

On to the 7-days-a-week part! Hubby works a lot... I mean A LOT of overtime to make ends meet given we live here in Nassau County, deemed to have one of the highest costs of living in the United States. (Yes, I know it's our choice. But we were born and bred here. Kind of like those born in the arctic... they don't leave... It's what they know. So we work to live.... here!) Anyway, he often works nights. Those Yankees like their NYPD security details and so does Hubby. But, even he arranges for at least some evenings off. One day, maybe two and sometimes even three days off per week because he's tired.... OFF from work! I know my hubby comes home and does some stuff around the house. That's true! But, his 2nd job --working around the house -- is optional! It's a day job that includes frequent breaks-at-will, evenings and nights off and he gets to pick the task. Not so with motherhood. I don't get weekends or evenings or mornings or any time off. Ever! Motherhood is not optional.

Same goes for the 365-days-a-year part of my rant! Yeah, I once went to an all-day seminar about marketing on the internet. I arranged for the child care with tasks assigned to my mother, my father and my husband on his day OFF. Between the 3 of them, the children were cared for while I sat and learned how to set up and market stuff using an ecommerce web site... so I could WORK FROM HOME and help hubby makes ends meet. That's not OFF, my friends. I have not had a day, night, morning or evening off in 7 1/2 years. Sure, I had lunch with my mom twice, once with my sisters [together] for their birthdays which are both in May, and with 2 different girlfriends once each. That's it. 5 times, I went out for a leisurely salad for lunch. YES! IT IS MY CHOICE! I'm just explaining... complaining... whining... acknowledging to myself (and to you... sorry)!

I chose to have my children. I knew motherhood, and I in it, would be THIS WAY! OK, not quite THIS way but I've chosen this and I'm ok with it... As a matter of fact I DO LOVE this. These beautiful children are my responsibility and I take this role to heart. Some might say too seriously. But, I have only one shot at getting this done as right as I can do it. My pre-children past included lots of uninterrupted nights of sleep, lots of lunch salads with the girls and plenty of socializing... PLENTY... as well as countless hours at the gym and impromptu travel for pleasure all selfishly taken for granted... I realize now. I DO NOT take my 5 minutes at the computer (before the boys come and get me), or my sporadic lunch break to catch up with my Mom or a friend, or even the 4 hours per day during the school year I have "free" to do re-construction work on the house (because I like to do that) for granted anymore.

In the old days, most days at work were good days. As were the days I spent NOT working. Admittedly, I liked to work almost as much as I liked my time off. I used all of my time well, in my opinion. Filling every minute of every day with productive, usually enjoyable activity. But, you know what, the stuff I fill my days with now is also productive -- just not the same way. And not the way it used to be. I spend my time raising my children to love and respect others, each other, the earth and all living things. I hear that kids only listen to their parents for a short window of time. (I think I'm beginning to experience this already with my 7-year-old). So, ALL my time is spent in this way. ALL MY TIME. Before kids, I got to relax once in awhile, and I chose when. Relaxing is productive too when it's needed. And, maybe that's what I'm mourning lately. I don't have any time to relax... much needed but unavailable time to relax. Honestly, I love my life and the role I play in raising my kids and fixing up the house. Though I don't see much of Ben Franklin these days, the pay in affection from my children lasts a lot longer than that hard-to-come-by green stuff anyway. The hugs and kisses I get from my kids are more than plentiful and I don't ever have to ask for a raise. They raise the pay whenever they think I need it and even when I don't.

So I know exactly where the proverbial pot of gold is! It's somewhere over the rainbow where my children play. My wonderfully content, well-mannered and happy children. And, that's where all my funny, happy thoughts are too... When my head is clouded with resentment and I can't feel the joy, I know where I need to go... And that's where I'm going now. Over the rainbow... with my kids!

Epilogue: For the record, it is not my children that actually cause my resentment. It's missing the freedom of my old, pre-children/pre-married life that occasionally leads me to pine for just a moment to myself. Heck, the door staying shut while I spend 3 minutes in the restroom would be heaven... but only if I know that someone's got my kids covered while that happens... Otherwise, forget it! And there's the rub. When I worked during the first year of my daughter's life, I was positively miserable at work, not playing the full-time Mommy role. I waited a long time to have my children and I don't want someone else doing the job for me. So, NO, I don't want to go back there... get a job and pay a nanny. That won't work for me. I just want a moment to relax. I want a brief intermission -- the kind you get in the middle of a long Broadway play -- to go potty, grab a drink and touch-up your eye make-up before the curtain calls again. That's all! Just a break. A reprieve from all the responsibilities for just a brief moment. Then, I'll happily jump right back into my seat for the rest of the show. Because this is where I prefer to live and play -- over the rainbow with my children is where I am happiest!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

THANKFUL THURSDAY - School's Out For Summer!

[1] I'm thankful that 2nd chances are unlimited.

[2] I'm thankful that children forgive more readily than most adults I know.



[3] I'm thankful that the sun comes up every day on this beautiful earth... despite us humans doing our best to destroy it. And, I'm thankful I have my senses to see it for what it is, listen to the sounds of nature and feel the wind and rain (as the case may be) on my face.


[4] I'm thankful for my beautiful children. Have I said that before? I'm just amazed at the grace of God to gift me these three beautiful little people to care for and nurture and grow up. Man, he must trust me a lot! (More than I trust myself most days!)


[5] I'm thankful that the boys' extended summer school session is coming to an end. We love it there and I appreciate the structure and education they're getting but I just want them to have a little time to be regular "Mom, I'm bored" kind of kids... enjoying summer, eating ice-cream from the ice-cream man, swimming in the backyard pool and digging in the sand at the beach. With our crazy schedule commuting 60 miles/day to and from school, not a lot of that has happened for the boys this summer... YET! But, it will starting at 2:30PM on August 14th... cause that's when their school closes it's doors for all of THREE weeks. YEAH! Can you hear the song in your head that marked the last day of school EVERY year for 13 years of your childhood???? Alice Cooper hit the nail on the head -- "No more teachers. No more books. No more teacher's dirty looks [at me for getting them to school late every day].... Schoooool's out for Summer [drums]!!!" Woo hoo!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Special Exposure Wednesday - New Life at the Zoo

The Boys and my Old Soul discover a family of Mountain Gorillas
at the Bronx Zoo (excuse the butt). Note the Mama is expecting ;o)!



A Mom. A Dad. An older sibling. New baby on the way.
We living things are all so much the same despite our differences...

Arent' we?


Click here for more Special Exposure Wednesdays at 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Blogging for Bliss Blog Party

Today in celebration of the publication of Tara Frey's book, Blogging For Bliss, Artsty Mama is hosting a blog party. We are posting why we blog, how we came to blog, or why we dare to blog. So here's my take...

I've always loved to write. It helps me organize my thoughts and it's a way for me to be creative without breaking out the messy oil paints (dormant closet artist that I am). I aspire one day to write a book but I am a master procrastinator in some areas (like this one) so that dream hasn't solidified... yet. It was sort of the same for blogging. I wanted to try it. Dabbled in the blogosphere but fell short. I felt I needed a purpose to blog. A direction... I didn't have.

In October 2008, I read about and began blogging for the 31-for-21 challenge -- blog all about Down syndrome every day for the 31 days of October in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness month. I took the challenge because I have some experience living with Down syndrome -- I have 4-year-old identical twin boys who happen to have that extra 21st chromosome. And, I wanted to share my very positive experience and help others see the lighter side of life with Down syndrome. So, that's how I started... and I've been blogging since.

Oddly, though, even as I started typing my very first 31-for-21 post, I explained to no one in particular (not having any readers or even an intended audience) that my blogging would not always be about Down syndrome... Though I will always carry the DS awareness torch with pride and honor, I chose back then to blog about things in my life that bring me happiness. Yes, my children -- two of whom have Down syndrome bring me tons of happiness... and just as much love and laughter. I blog about my pursuit of happiness because I've come to realize that sometimes life is hard... and it's too easy to overlook all the good things I've got going on! After stumbling upon Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project, I realized I needed a happiness project of my own... to keep me walking on the happy side of life. My blog was born.

And, I'm happy to report that it's working for me. I blog because it makes me happy! And, hopefully, it's helped even just one person get through their day... whether that day is touched by an angel with Down syndrome or not! Every one benefits when you Take A Walk On The Happy Side of Life!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Down Syndrome Awareness -- My Prayers Are Answered!

First, I'm sorry once again for my absence. Sure, I've got some fun adventures to post about... but it IS summer and actually finding the time to sit down at the computer is not my highest priority-- versus finding more time to squeeze fun summer activities into our busy schedule. Besides, one of my favorite "Career Renegade" bloggers, Jonathan Fields at Awake @ the Wheel (http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog) says we bloggers have to get out there and live first... THEN write about it. Otherwise, our credibility will be in question. So, let nobody doubt my credibility. I am definitely OUT THERE living my life, if you get my meaning! LOL.

So, before I get into my escapades, it seems there's been a blip in the Down syndrome-related blogosphere. Looks like somebody created a new and potentially offensive website... Offensive, at least, to many folks in the Down syndrome community. I'm posting here because I have no desire to fan the fanatic fires over there. But, I'd like to express my sentiments in this regard without attracting the wrath of anyone involved. I'm going to get a little spiritual here. My spirituality suits me. I recognize it's not for everyone. My apologies if I offend or contradict any one's personal beliefs. These are just MINE.

Yes, I believe in God. And yes, I am a mother. Yes, of course I would choose to relieve my children from any potential suffering, physical or mental -- as inflicted by others in a society judging them as less valuable than any other living being. Any parent would choose to relieve such suffering as possible. Though I must also recognize that it is through suffering -- hopefully not too severe -- that we all learn and grow as humans and I want my children to learn and grow and become happy, responsible and contributing adult members of our society. AND, yes, I believe in prayer! And, I believe that God CAN work miracles and has the power to remove the extra 21st chromosomal material that Trig Palin and my sons were born with as well as to reverse or minimize the society-dictated "ill-effects" that little bit of extra stuff MAY cause as they grow and learn... IF HE DEEMED IT TO BE SO. Miracles do happen.

However, I would not venture to put my God to a TEST to show me or the world just how powerful He is. Man, there's a power trip scenario for you. Isn't that what the onlooker said to Jesus as he died on the cross? Paraphrasing, it went something like this, "Go ahead and save yourself. Prove to everyone that you really are the King of the Jews." Jesus didn't take the bait. He doesn't have to prove anything. True faith is believing without seeing. I have that. I don't need a public magic show. I already believe!

I pray multiple times daily. Throughout the day, actually, I talk to God and thank Him for gifting me my beautiful children... just as they are. And, I ask Him to help me raise them right. To do the right thing. I don't know what's going to happen to any of us but I'm walking the walk. And, I have never asked Him to take away their Down syndrome... Only that he show me the way to nurture and love them, to teach them and, yes, for their sakes given the society we live in, selfishly, I ask for him to help me do whatever I can to minimize the effects that MIGHT come of their Down syndrome so others will accept them more willingly. So that someday they can make their way as independent adults in this sometimes cruel world. I ask Him to help me to teach others about acceptance and tolerance for those that are perceived as "different" from society's version of "normal". To treat each child, each person as an individual with unique strengths and unique areas of need.

My children ARE just like yours and everyone else's! More than they are different! And, no matter how much the same or different we are, we all have a place in this world. We each have a role and an impact on the outcome. Some will be positive. Some, unfortunately, negative. Through free will, we each choose our own paths. Judging others... destroying them or changing them to fit into some warped idea of what is right and "normal" is the path some choose (Hitler comes to mind). Certainly, this is not my path. I will not pray for Trig to be "healed" of his extra chromosomal material, "cured" of Down syndrome. I will pray for Trig's health and happiness and for his family that they do the best job they can in raising that beautiful child. And, I will pray for those in our society who would like to change people like Trig to better "fit" into their mold. I will pray to help those people accept and tolerate differences in a more loving way than this questionable website professes to do. By all means, pray for Trig and his family. Pray for me and mine too... But, perhaps, leave out the specific demands.

I think I understand that part of the prayer request is to "heal" Trig Palin as a sign that God is still with us and in power. God knows our society is in need of a good shake up. But, there are signs every day if you choose to see them for what they are... Instead of asking -- through prayer -- for God to change the little children. Asking for your own version of a miracle to prove His existence is missing the everyday miracles that God provides. Trig's birth and life is proof enough to me that God exists... as is the birth and life of my children and every child and living thing on this earth. God is waiting for our society to SEE these everyday miracles and accept them for what they are. I, for one, have seen and I believe! I live with 3 of His miracles everyday. I do not need to, nor will I, test Him.

So, what happens on April 19th -- the day after the prayer marathon planned for Trig's birthday -- when he still has that extra 21st chromosome in every cell of his body? What if God chooses not to answer that prayer in the specified way? Will the Trig-Palin-prayer-brigade still believe that God exists even though their test failed? Will the onlookers waiting for this miracle to happen confirm their greatest fears by this ridiculous "test"? Will they all lose their faith in God? Will they still believe in the power of prayer? I hope He shows you that the miracle is Trig himself! In greater acceptance of who Trig is. Not in changing him to be as any one individual or society-at-large would like him to be to fit in.

Acceptance!

I pray for acceptance and guidance in my life and in the expression of my faith. I pray the same for the Trig-Palin-Prayer-Brigade. The bible says God's will be done-- not theirs!

Personally, I think my boys are just perfect with their 47 chromosomes -- perfectly imperfect -- just exactly the way they are. Me too, for that matter. God help all of us imperfect people. We're just out here, in good faith, blogging away about our own awesome children and having a grand ol' time...

We're not picking on anyone else's children... are we?