Monday, December 22, 2008

The 12 Days of Infertility

Have you ever tried to conceive? (That's TTC, for those not in the know.) If so, depending on your circustances, you're likely to find this absolutely hilarious or pretty painful.

XBox for Nappy Rash: Infertility Carol Singing

In the first month of TTC, my true love gave to me:
A good old shag, contraception free.

In the second month of TTC, my true love gave to me:
Two pairs of baggy boxers,
and a good old shag, contraception free.

In the third month of TTC, my true love gave to me . . .

There, but for Various Circumstances . . .

You know what's currently one of my least favorite sayings?

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

On the surface, the sentiment sounds OK. It encourages sympathy, right? How easily I could be in her shoes . . .

But really, doesn't it suggest that it's God's grace that's keeping me from an undesired fate? And indeed the converse, that God's grace is not being shown to the person whose fate I'm hoping to avoid?

Doesn't this come awfully close to the idea that we're somehow being punished by God when bad things happen to us? That maybe it's our fault for not praying hard enough? That God is petty and vengeful?

Eh. That's not my theology.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Crafts

Since Ellie started therapy an an infant, we've been preparing Christmas gifts for her various teachers and therapists each year.

The first year, we made hot chocolate candles. This one is probably my favorite of all of our Christmas crafts. The brown wax is chocolate scented, and the frothy white whipped cream is scented like vanilla and sugar:

The next year we made appletini candles, which looked and smelled good enough to devour.

We've also made cinnamon bun candles. These too were double scented and colored (also very time-consuming, since we only had one mold). For some reason, we didn't take pictures of these, and this cropped close-up of my mother-in-law's hands is the best I've got.

Last year, we went really simple and compiled little bags of homemade Paula Deen-style chocolate cheese fudge. This was easy and delicious, so I think I'll make a batch every Christmas until the end of time. (I made 2 batches tonight!)

This year, we made 12 (TWELVE!) Christmas trees out of homemade star-shaped sugar cookies. It took forever, but I love the way they turned out. And fortunately they made the trips to the girls' schools intact.

Tonight, we finished wrapping and most of the baking. Wahoo!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Our church has 2 sets of big glass doors, one facing north and one facing south, that are unlocked on weekdays. Between the two, in the bright, open intersection of two hallways, is a large, circular desk. We call it the Welcome Center and it's staffed daily by volunteer "Ambassadors" who greet people and help newcomers find their way. When there's no weekday volunteer, I occasionally fill in at the desk.

Yesterday, I was sitting there happily typing away when a woman from the church office (which is nestled upstairs and out of the flow of traffic) stopped by the desk. "You look so busy!" she said. "Are you studying for finals, dear?"

Bless her heart. I think I might wear this outfit everyday for a while. I'm wearing it again today because we didn't really get much chance to go to bed last night . . . pictures of this year's Christmas craft to come tomorrow for Friday Photoblogging.

Anyway: t-shirt over long-sleeved shirt. Casual khakis. Long, unstyled hair. no makeup. Glasses. Sleep deprivation. Yep! I can still pass for a college student!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not Today, Thanks

With all of the hustle and bustle of December and Advent, there's one big stressor I'm not experiencing this week, and that's testing.

Ellie's last evaluation was in August of 2006, shortly before her third birthday. It was good for 3 years, so she'd need another before starting Kindergarten. It makes sense to do it now, her teacher explained. That way we'd have all the most current information on hand when we start the IEP process early next year and talk about Ellie's needs and goals for Kindergarten.

Sure, that sounds reasonable. BUT, I know that the pre-Kindergarten evaluation is the one where a Real Diagnosis is assigned (until now she's been a "young child with a developmental delay") and I've been dreading this moment since before Ellie was even born. Most of us live up to expectations. Labels can be very helpful in accessing necessary services to promote development. They can also affect others' expectations and therefore limit potential. I see this all the time, in myself as well as in the people who work with Ellie.

Also, our last evaluation experience was awful. And the IQ score the evaluator came up with for Ellie was . . . ridiculous and not at all a measure of her current abilities, let alone her potential. I can't bear the thought of her future Kindergarten teacher seeing something like that in the file as her first introduction to my wonderful, amazing, smart, capable daughter.

I've been to some pre-kindergarten parent workshops about how to introduce your child to her new teacher in the best possible way. And Ellie and I still go to her monthly "practice reading class," which is a special pilot early education program for kids with Down syndrome, sponsored by the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. It's a fabulous academic program, but its greatest benefit from Ellie's perspective is getting to spend the afternoon with a bunch of other kids with Down syndrome. And the greatest benefit from my perspective is what I learn from the other moms and their experiences.

Last month I learned that I can refuse the IQ test without losing services. So I did, in a gently and nonconfrontational way. And Ellie's teacher was totally OK with it. And we're going ahead with the IEP and all that early next year with no expectation of problems or loss of services. And no new labels!

I didn't even have to use the suggested wording: "As many scholars argue, I.Q. tests measure only the output from the student at a particular moment in time and are not necessarily predictors of future ability (particularly when dealing with children with disabilities). Additionally, studies from England are beginning to show that standard I.Q. testing may not accurately predict the abilities of children with Down syndrome. Based on these points, we feel the I.Q. testing recommended in the proposed assessment is not appropriate and therefore, oppose it."

I just pointed out what my mom said to me, that Ellie's last test was unequivocally inaccurate (everyone agrees on this) and that IQ tests are notoriously unreliable at this age.

And it worked!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Final Word on Bras

The whole thread was interesting reading and I learned a lot! Here's the final vote tally:

48 people voted in the mini poll.
4 (8%) of you only wear a bra once before washing it.
18 (37%) of you wear it 2-3 times between washings.
7 (14%) go 4-5 wearings.
And the winner, checking in with 21 votes (43%) was "until it smells funky!"

So now you know. I wonder if our tendency to re-wear bras is a price thing. Good bras are definitely a lot more expensive than my cotton jockey underpants, which I never re-wear between washes. I also don't re-wear t-shirts or nursing tank tops. What puts bras in a different category than other undergarments?

Wait. You don't re-wear your underwear, do you?

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm Not to Bah Humbug Yet

The house is clean (including the basement and bathrooms!) and decorated. The Christmas cards seem to have arrived at their 96 various destinations. The open house has been scheduled for next Sunday.

I just need to plan and shop for the open house (ask friends to borrow their coffee carafe for mulled cider, purchase all ingredients, organize, bake). Did I say bake? YES. I SAID BAKE. I wonder if people would mind if they showed up at a Christmas open house and there was no food? Moving right along so as not to stress about that tonight.

Almost all of the Christmas shopping is done. For my mom: hubcaps or donation to charity? These are the big decisions. Much wrapping remains, but that's fun and not necessary to do very far in advance, as long as we have a few presents under the tree for atmosphere.

The last little item of stress (other than BAKING) is teacher presents. We need a dozen (that's 12!) of these for various teachers, therapists, and bus drivers, and we always do some sort of craft. This year I had the bright idea of making Christmas trees out of star shaped sugar cookies, but there are two problems. First, have I mentioned BAKING enough? Second, the specially sized cookie cutters I ordered have not yet arrived.

It's always a frantic mad dash, but it always gets done and I always love sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying it once the big prep goals are accomplished.

Paul and I had a funny argument this weekend. He was frustrated with how little I've been sleeping lately, and the negative side effects of that. (But surely I'm my usual pleasant, patient self?) "I think you've got your priorities all wrong! You're spending way too much time on this stuff!" he said as I paged through catalog after catalog, working through my shopping list.

(The next night, I was up even later preparing an Advent meditation and Sunday School lesson, so it's not all the "wrong" stuff I'm focusing on this season.)

"HAH!" I replied. "I told you that the open house was going to be a LOT of work, especially since November was shot with NaNoWriMo, but that I could get it done if you wanted to do it. And you said that you wanted to do it. So now I'm doing it. And you're criticizing how I'm getting it done?!"

I'm sure I sounded rather dangerously unbalanced during this little diatribe, because I got a quick apology and the conversation ended right there. Paul does so much around the house. But the whole organizing/hosting thing is really my gig, and he doesn't quite register all the little details it takes to pull something like this off.

Anyway, we went out on Saturday evening for a wonderful date night and all is well. He worked like a dog this weekend, plugging through a formidable to-do list. This year, like last year and the year before, it will all get done. And in the days before Christmas we will be so happy and proud of ourselves as we sit back, relax, and enjoy our prettily decorated house and delicious cookies, surrounded by friends and family.

Sure, there'd be a lot less stress if we eliminated some of the items from our to-do lists. But there'd be less reward, too.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ho Ho Ho!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The R Word

There is a big campaign out there about the r-word. I haven't been at the forefront of the movement, although I do support it. I have posted before about how Language is Powerful and about the movie Tropic Thunder.

There's nothing wrong with the actual word, all by itself. "Retard" means to cause to move more slowly or operate at a slower rate. It's very descriptive. But it definitely has become a pejorative term in our society.

If not addressed, underlying prejudices will color any subsequent descriptive terms of choice with an unpleasant, negative association as they too begin to be used as insults. (In much the same way that in my lifetime I've seen a progression of words used to describe groups of people from various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.) But that doesn't mean that it's OK to keep using outdated terms once they've become passé.

And the word "retarded" has clearly passed that point. The Association for Retarded Citizens has renamed itself The Arc, formally removing the word "retarded" from its description and acknowledging overwhelmingly negative connotations with the word. The American Association on Mental Retardation changed its name a couple of years ago to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. And as for the clinically diagnostic use of the term "mentally retarded," well, that does still exist in the DSM-IV, though that document itself is significantly outdated, and many practitioners, evaluators, educators, and others who deal with people with developmental disabilities are very careful about using the loaded term.

Recently, I was involved in an discussion board thread about "the r word." The problem was that the thread wasn't supposed to be about the term, but the mom writing about her son used it several times.

A shorter copy of the original story was also posted on a blog I read, here. In short, a woman is going through an incredibly frustrating time trying to get her (undiagnosed) son the help he needs. Of a conversation with an evaluator, who has commented that the boy will have a hard time qualifying for a particular service because his cognitive score is normal, the mom writes, I, being pissed off and disinclined to be PC about the whole thing, said “Truly? You only serve r****d children?” To which she replied, “No, no, most of the children we serve are not r*****d at all! It’s just that by the time we get to them, they’ve been so neglected that they’re TESTING as r*****.”

The original post on the discussion board was uncensored, and in response I brought up my discomfort with use of the term in this way. A very interesting discussion ensued. I don't want to keep bumping a thread about a difficult situation for this woman and her family, but I do want to respond to a couple of issues the conversation raises, so I will do so here.

First, I think that calling hurtful language merely "not PC" belittles the complaint.

Second, I don't think that being angry justifies using hurtful language. Most of us slip up and say unpleasant things sometimes, but that doesn't mean that we should get a free pass.

Third, I think an apology that includes a "but" isn't much of an apology. Similarly, saying "I'm sorry for offending you" or even, "I'm sorry that you were hurt by what I said," is different from saying "I'm sorry that I said something hurtful and offensive." Because, in a situation like this, I am not personally hurt. I am not looking for a personal apology. I'm just raising awareness that this sort of language is hurtful and offensive to many in the community of people it describes. And, as such, it is unacceptable.

Fourth is the idea that intent matters, that if the speaker doesn't see a word as negative, then it's not. There's something to that, in that it's possible to be ignorant of changing standards. That's why people who know better should speak up and explain. Once we know better, we can and should be more thoughtful. In this case, however, the "intent" excuse doesn't really fly, if the anecdote is shared to demonstrate the evaluator's inappropriate usage of the term. The mom either knows that it's an inappropriate thing to say, in which case she shouldn't have said it, or she doesn't know, in which case the evaluator's parroting back of the term doesn't raise any red flags.

In this discussion, I was accused of wanting to "ride [my] "r"-word hobbyhorse," and just showing up to "give [the mom] a spanking."

I hope (clear and insightful writer) Kay Olson doesn't mind if I quote her, because I loved her response so much:
Language usage issues always look like they have popped up out of nowhere, but they never really do pop up out of nowhere -- they are there in every conversation until someone does exactly what Sarahlynn did here and make them part of the discussion. Then, predictably, as here, the person gets blasted for going off-topic or missing the point or tone of the conversation. The invisibleness of problematic language until someone has to make a stink to bring awareness to the use of that language is the whole problem.

Language usage issues like this are not a simple matter of "etiquette" and "courtesy," unless, of course, you are completely tuned out to the historical and ongoing oppression and prejudice they contribute to. It's not just "rude" to use the N-word or the C-word, and it would be dismissive to excuse that language as just rudeness and use of something that has "fallen out of fashion."

All that said, I appreciate your apology, [J's Mom], and apologize in return for seeming insensitive to your family's struggles. I hope this clarifies where I am coming from.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Used To Be an Editorial Ass

Because I'm too busy Christmas shopping to post tonight, I'll highlight one of my favorite editor blogs, written by Moonrat: Editorial Ass: I work in publishing and I like to read things. Herewith: free association on books, nice things I ate, publishing, editing, and other nice things I ate.

And in particular, I'll point you to her recent post suggesting some great books to give as gifts this year - many of which are available in paperback!

In case you're wondering, the Editorial Ass is not a jerk. In fact, she's really very nice. She's also a former (now promoted) Editorial Assistant. Which can be a grueling, thankless, and very poorly paid position.


Edited to add a completely unrelated question. What does the term "natural causes" mean when you're talking about a college freshman? (I'm thinking "traditional" first year student, rather than an older student, because I can't imagine anyone else choosing to live in Ruby.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Catching Up

I've gotten a lot done this weekend. And this is really shaping up to be an exciting post, as you can see. Who doesn't want to hear all about someone else's Got-Done list? Perhaps you would (or wouldn't) if it was about something interesting, like "places I've had sex" or something like that. Which doesn't apply to my weekend at all. Consider yourself forewarned.

This weekend, I decided that it was December and I darn well better start acting like it. On Friday, I knocked my Google Reader down to under 150 unread messages. This was huge progress for me (check out the agent/editor/industry/writing blogs in the lower part of my sidebar; they're great!). I also tidied the main areas of the first floor.

Saturday morning I dusted everything and tidied both girls' rooms, too. I ordered favors for our Christmas Open House. We created a guest list and sent out an invitation to the open house. (My Punchbowl is a FABULOUS application, if you've not tried it. Evite is MUCH clunkier.) I also exercised, read, and napped. So that was fabulous, except possibly for the reading, since I'm working through Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, which is wonderful but also depressing. We also went out to get a Christmas tree for our sparkly-clean house, and made a big pot of chili. Before bed, I prepared a Sunday School lesson, and I stayed up way too late, as usual. (I was working on an Advent meditation, so that does help ameliorate some of my guilt at poor time management.)

On Sunday I did the whole shower/lead Sunday School/church/brunch with friend thing. Naptime failed - both girls and Paul have lousy colds - so we pumped some Christmas tunes, broke out the eggnog, and started decorating. The house is starting to look and smell pretty good, and only part of that is from the entire cup of eggnog Ellie spilled on the carpet!

On Sunday we also realized that we scheduled our big annual open house right on top of our church's big annual Christmas concert and dinner. Oops.

It's Sunday night, now. Both girls are bathed and sleeping, though congested. Paul and I are about to address all of our Christmas cards, which should go out tomorrow.

And then the only things from my impressively long weekend to-do list that we didn't complete are raking - we still have 3 HUGE old oak trees dropping leaves all over the place, the jerks - and putting up the lights on the outside of the house.

I'll take it! Next weekend: bathrooms, cleaning downstairs, and baking. And the week after that is the fourth week of Advent!

Just don't talk to me about Christmas shopping. I'm WAY behind.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Life Continues, Even When I'm Preoccupied

Ada caught a cold and last night she didn't sleep very well. No biggie; I'm not back in the habit of sleeping yet, myself. But NaNoWriMo is over! And I have a nice little sense of accomplishment to offset my despair about being woefully unprepared for December. My house is a mess, I haven't started decorating, I've barely started Christmas shopping, and I haven't even thought about baking. Moreover, I haven't thrown out the indoor "mini pumpkins" yet, and just tonight I took down the Halloween decoration from the front door. I haven't quite figured out how to balance writing and home life yet; I tend to do either/or, in spurts.

But this morning I took myself off to my favorite coffee shop, Kaldi's. First, I treated myself to a latte while reading the last 5 pages of the Ursula K. LeGuin novel I started a couple of days ago. Then I reread the last chapter of Seek Ye First to put myself back into that voice. And I started writing again! It felt like coming home to an old friend. I'm enjoying this story again, so much so that I think I'll be sad when I finish it. No worries, though, the end is still at least 30,000 words away, another few months at my current snail's pace.

Tonight, over dinner at Trattoria Branica (Kirkwood) a friend asked me, "So, what are you going to do with all these things you keep writing?"

Ah, that is the question. And also one of my major goals for 2009. Confession: I cower in the face of revision! (I once ditched a first draft and started over rather than revising it.) Note to writer's workshop coordinators: please offer workshops on self-editing, re-writing and revising. I will show up!

Define Clean

OK, ladies, let's talk about bras. I've put a poll over there in the sidebar if you'd rather not comment publicly but still want to participate.

How many do you have?

How many times to you wear them between washes?

What colors do you have, and what determines the color that you wear?

Do your tops match your bottoms?

On special occasions?

Where do you stand on the whole wire issue?

But mainly, what are your criteria for determining if a bra is "clean" or not?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pastor’s Advice for Better Marriage: More Sex

This is a New York Times article, so it wants registration to view. I used "laugh123" as both username and password to get in, but if that doesn't work for you, might I recommend

I don't necessarily think that there's anything wrong with suggesting to your congregation that they try having sex every day for a week. I've probably mentioned the marriage enrichment group I'm leading this year. It's going great and we have certainly assigned wink-wink-nudge-nudge intimacy homework. One big difference is that there was no guilt attached, it was not an ongoing daily requirement, and I was not speaking to a crowd of 20,000+. I was speaking to a small group of people whose issues I know, in a way that was much less . . . prescriptive and more personalized. There are so many things about this situation that just make my hair stand straight up on end.

1) I hate one-size-fits-all prescriptions like this daily sex thing.

2) This part in particular is utterly lacking in compassion: For others grappling with infidelities, addictions to pornography or other bitter hurts, “there’s been some pain; hopefully there’s been some forgiveness, too.”

The way to forgive a spouse for infidelity is required daily sex? Fabulous. If that works for you, great. But to suggest - as this pastor apparently has - that you SHOULD forgive a cheating spouse and have daily sex with him/her anyway - as this article suggests - is dangerous. There is no single right way to work through tough issues like this, and sex might very well not be the first step in the healing process. It might indeed make things quite a bit worse.

3) Keep it going? Daily sex indefinitely? This might work for some couples, but won't for others. So now they get guilt for what feels right for them, or obligatory sex that they don't really want. Yippee, that sounds healthy. "C'mon, honey, I know you're exhausted, but I really wanna and pastor said . . ."

4) "Mr. Young advised the couples to 'keep on doing what you’ve been doing this week. We should try to double up the amount of intimacy we have in marriage. And when I say intimacy, I don’t mean holding hands in the park or a back rub.'"

Fantastic. I hardly know where to start. So let's say one person in a relationship wants more sex. And let's say that the other wants more cuddling and non-sexual touch. Apparently, only one of them is "right" in the eyes of this pastor! Jerk. Both partners need to have their physical intimacy needs met, and there's certainly no one-size-fits-all prescription.

In the end, this whole thing confirms my sense that megachurches are not for me. I don't want a pastor giving marital advice like this to me as one of 20,000 congregants with no individuality. Bleh.

If I were to offer any one-size-fits-all relationship advice, it would be this: Talk to one another. Listen to one another. Care for one another. Respect one another. It's hard to go wrong with all that.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So, How Was Your Monday?

Here's a summary of mine:

I was up late writing on Sunday night into Monday morning, so Paul got up with the girls. He brought Ada in to nurse with me around 6:30 am, then fed the girls breakfast and got them dressed while I tried to doze. (This is rarely effective, but always so tempting - and appreciated.) In the end, my assistance was required to find Ellie a pair of long pants. I'd only had a couple hours of sleep, but my day had begun.

I got myself dressed, and we loaded the girls into the car. Ada and I took Ellie to school, then headed to the grocery store. After shopping, I played puzzles and board games with Ada, but mostly I just tried to stay awake. Too many nights of too little sleep wear me a little thin.

Ellie's bus arrived at 12:30, and we all headed inside to make lunch together. After lunch, I chatted briefly on the phone with my mom while the girls played together. Then it was nap time. After getting both girls down to sleep, I collapsed in my own bed for an hour. By 4:00, we were awake.

The girls had snacks and watched Dora the Explorer while I straightened the house and popped dinner into the oven. (Thank heavens for Time for Dinner!)

Paul came home from work shortly before 6:00 and we had a lovely family meal. Afterward, he gave the girls a bath while I set out snacks for my book club.

Together, Paul and I got the girls ready for bed. Then I nursed and snuggled with Ada until my girlfriends started arriving at 7:30 and Paul took over bedtime duties.

My book club discussed an entertaining and provocative play called The Women, then moved into the family room to watch the 1939 movie starring Joan Crawford. (If the 2008 remake stays at the cheap theater long enough, several of us hope to go see that as well.)

By a quarter after 11, book club was over (it ran unusually long because of the movie) and it was time for my evening to begin. I did 45 minutes of cardio, then sat down with Paul to watch an episode of Law & Order from the Tivo for another 45 minutes. He made lattes, and I moved to the kitchen table and pulled out my computer.

First I put up my nightly blog post, then I alt tabbed over to my NaNoWriMo novel to get in my nightly 2000 words. Paul stayed up with me for a while, rubbing my feet the dear man, before doing the sensible thing and going to bed.

Shortly after 4:00 am I headed back to the bedroom to start the process all over.

But now it's Thanksgiving vacation, and the end of NaNoWriMo is in sight! I don't love the novel I wrote this year - we'll see what I think of it in a couple of months when I've let it settle and then reread it - but I learned something valuable. Last November I learned that I could write a novel. This year I learned that it can take me a whole year to write a novel at a pace of 2000-4000 words per week. And this November I learned that I can write a whole novel - this year's novel should be complete at 50,000 words - in a month without stopping my life.

As long as I sacrifice sleep.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Down syndrome advocates praise new law

A friend asked me what I thought of Missouri state Sen. John Loudon, and I had to go look him up. Hmm, I thought, weird question. For one thing, I don't live in his district. And I don't agree with most of his policy positions. I wonder why she asked me about him. That's because I hadn't read this article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch: Down syndrome advocates praise new law.

"When Missouri Sen. John Loudon and his wife, Gina, decided to adopt their third child, they knew three things: They wanted a little boy, they would name him Samuel and he would have Down syndrome."

I've sat on this blog post for a little while, because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to say about it. I still don't; this issue is emotional and confusing for me.

I'll start with the easy part, the legislation. You might have heard of the the bipartisan Kennedy-Brownback Pre-natally and Post-natally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act. Last year, Sen. Loudon proposed similar legislation here in Missouri, which he called "Sammy's Law." "The law requires medical professionals to provide accurate information on the outcomes of people with Down syndrome and inform mothers with a Down diagnosis of adoption resources."

A lot of people are uncomfortable with this. When we go see our doctors, we want to be sure that we're getting their educated, scientific, medical advice, not something that's politically mandated. I share that concern, for example with regard to telling women certain non-medical things when they seek abortions, or forcing them to watch an ultrasound before undergoing the procedure. That's not medicine; that's politics, and I don't think it has any place in the exam room.

But are two big differences here.
  1. Doctors are failing at their jobs when it comes to telling a pregnant woman that her fetus has Down syndrome. They are spreading fear and outdated/misinformation about Trisomy 21, and sometimes allow their own biases or fear of being sued make it seem as though they are encouraging women to decide to terminate. Boo, hiss.
  2. The language of the bill simply requires doctors to provide "accurate information on the outcomes." No politically motivated specific language is required, and there's no script to read. It's simply requiring physicians to do what they should have been doing already; providing accurate information to patients rather than spreading fear and misinformation.
Speaking of spreading fear and misinformation, the Post-Dispatch article spreads a little bit of that themselves, with this bit: "Down syndrome is caused by an extra copy of Chromosome 21, causing varying levels of disabilities, including decreased intelligence, slackened muscle tone, gastrointestinal problems and heart defects."

That makes it sound like all people with T21 have the above list of disabilities, while that's far from the truth.

But back to Senator Loudon. I think it's great that there are people who want to adopt children with Down syndrome. Really, it's fabulous, and I appreciate that that option was one available to me when I learned that Ellie would have DS. It's not an option I seriously considered, but it felt good simply to have options, which made my decision to have and keep Ellie feel even more like something I intentionally chose to do.

I do, however, feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of choosing a child based on any specific characteristics. I don't think it's always a bad thing. But it's something I need to think about more, because if someone told me that she wanted to adopt a child but only a blond girl, I might wonder if she's really ready to be a parent. Because there are no guarantees when it comes to having children, and I'm uncomfortable for trying to control for too many variables. What if your blond's hair darkens? Would you love her any less?

I am uncomfortable with generalizations about people with Down syndrome, as though everyone with the diagnosis is so this or loves that. What if your child isn't this or doesn't love that?

But I am truly grateful that there are people who are willing to adopt the unwanted, especially those who are deemed "imperfect" in some way and have a harder time finding homes, because they're older (no longer infants) or have a challenging diagnosis.

In the end, I disagree with Senator Loudon on most political issues, but I have a great amount of respect for him too.

Thanks to Flatflo for bringing the article to my attention and solving the mystery about why people were mentioning this guy to me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Card

OK, so Paul won in a landslide (purple shirt photo). Here's a first draft of our Christmas card. We usually have a beautiful, posed picture accompanied by some sort of creative letter written by me.

This year we have three tiny candid shots accompanied by an even tinier bit of text about our year that - do you see it? would you if I hadn't told you first? - is basically ascii art.

It's a lazy, lazy year, but we might be sending out our cards early for once! And that's a wonder because I still haven't found a way to get our list under 100 names. Sheesh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Please Settle This Marital Dispute

First, I am a button click away from ordering our photo Christmas cards. But there's a snag; Paul doesn't like one of the pictures I've chosen of Ellie! Please vote in comments for which picture you like better (or feel free to suggest another you've seen). Your input is greatly appreciated!
A) B)

Second, the expansion will open in a few short weeks, but in the meantime we still can't stay away from The Magic House!

Third, I'm in love:

I love them for just being them. I love that Ellie is using complete sentences now to tell me things, like which therapies she had in school that day and where Ada just bit her. I sometimes wonder if it's normal that my 1-year-old knows (many of) her letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and phonics . . . and says things like, "Ellie, lie down on your own pillow with me!" But then I decide to stop wondering and just enjoy, because I love all that, too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November is Boring Blogging Month

First up is a progress report on my fitness goal, because I know that you care. But it's a happy day because I passed a significant (to me) "decade" mark. You know what I mean, right? There's something so psychologically important about that tens place ticking down one. And I'm also more than 1/6 of the way to my goal. So, woo hoo!

Second, before I go to bed tonight I should have written more than 30,000 words on my NaNoWriMo novel, which is fabulous. I find the 20,000's to be the hardest part. And given the email pep talks the NaNoWriMo folks send out, it's a pretty common problem. After that, it's sort of a long, fun coast to the end. There's something psychologically important about passing 30,000 words for me.

I think I'll leave it there, and save the substantive bit for tomorrow. I'm off to write!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blending of America

I've blogged about my grandfather and posted some of his writing before. Today, another of his meditations. This one cuts off rather abruptly and I wonder if it is finished as written. Perhaps he was distracted by a young grandchild tugging at his pants leg?

by Furman Lester

Man has forever been looking for new horizons, new goals to achieve, new objectives as a release for his frustrations in life, as a search for wealth, as an escape from oppression and discrimination and finally to satisfy in some way his curiosity and to look for the unexpected. Much courage and daring were involved. The ruggedness of the movement winnowed out the weak and lifted the strong in body and mind to explore the options fulfill at least part of the dreams.

For centuries, the restless migrants moved westward, always toward the setting sun, flooding the eastern coat of America and moving relentlessly across the mountains, the plains, and again the mountains. Eventually, the mighty Pacific was tamed in a limited way. But the search was not over. The creature became a searcher for the depths of the ocean and the bowels of the earth. He could not quench his thirst and began to explore the universe and to reveals secrets stored in nature for billions of years.

The exponent of these urges poured into the new land we call America. An over-populated Europe disgorged itself into a new land. Those searching for their own religious escape, traders, and explorers settled on the north east shores. The planters in the central Atlantic states and the search for gold, new land, and wealth in the south and southwest.

Lia Keyes


On the chance that you have a Google Alert on your name and you see this, I wanted to tell you that:
a) You have a really cool website, so
b) Now I'm even more excited to read your book, and
c) You are a hard person to contact.

I've been trying to find you over at NaNoWriMo but have failed. I hope the writing is going well!

--Sarahlynn (from this summer's Gotham Writer's Workshop)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Walt Disney World in Pictures

It was a long drive, but we enjoyed it:

Our room was awesome:

And our view was even better:

We could (and did) watch the fireworks over the castle from our balcony, and we could hear them just fine, too. Ada's favorite things were the fireworks (Boom! Boom! Boom!), castle, Dumbo ride, and Minnie and Mickey Mouse.

Ellie loved everything Pixar (Block Party Bash with Toy Story et al, Finding Nemo - The Musical), the characters (especially the Mice), Kali River Rapids ride, and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage.

Paul and I loved enjoying it all vicariously through the girls. It was all about them this year; we didn't even ride any of our old favorites solo. Unsurprisingly, we couldn't have enjoyed ourselves more. And, yes, we did wear matching family t-shirts every day. When at Disney . . .

(This is Ada's hat.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's Still Working Out

I was thinking about adding a ticker to my blog so that I could see a pretty little graphical representation of how well my exercise regimen is going. I decided against it - at least for tonight - because my quick search yielded lots of cute little pumpkins bumping along a slider of pies but no options that didn't show either the weight or the weight loss. I'm not interested in the numbers on a pound-by-pound basis, though I am interested in a particular ending BMI range and percentage completion toward that goal. I like the look of a little ticker cruising along, but I don't need the numbers underneath. Maybe I'll create my own ticker dealie at some point.

But not tonight, because I'm supposed to be writing.

A textual representation, instead, with fractions: I am over 1/10 of the way to my goal, closing in on 1/6th. I hope to hit 1/4 by Thanksgiving, though that might be overly ambitious.

Fractions are how I manage long workouts, too. I'm 1/4 done . . . 1/3 . . . 1/2 . . . 2/3 . . . 3/4 . . . only 10 more minutes now . . . pant-pant-pant.

Currently addressing my graphical progress desires is my Wii Fit graph, which is truly fabulous, though not particularly portable. Other than that visual guide, the way that my clothes fit has been the most obvious change due to my workouts. And not the way you might think.

My socks won't stay up anymore. I might be losing some weight, but the primary change so far is some intense bulking up of my calves and some serious definition in my arms. I'm OK with that, even if it's winter and nobody else sees my legs or triceps very often.

I am Sleepless Woman, hear me roar!

Fourth Grade

Being ten years old is a difficult experience. The age varies from kid to kid, of course, but ten is often a challenge. There's long division, for one thing, and growing up for another.

Sometime in this "tween" age range, many kids begin the struggle to figure out who they are and who they want to be. They start to realize that their parents do not know everything and that adults are not infallible. And, for many of us, it's around this time that we learn that we ourselves are not perfect. Alas!

The main character in my NaNoWriMo novel is ten, in 4th grade, and has recently moved across the country and changed schools in the middle of the year. She has fabulous parents, but life is still very hard. Case in point: she has a really annoying much younger brother.

If you have any tales to tell about your own experiences being a "tween," parenting a ten year old, or just knowing folks around this age, I'd love to hear 'em. Comment away!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Post-Abortion World

If abortion were outlawed tomorrow in all 50 states, it wouldn’t stop happening.

Desperate women would seek out illegal abortions from unlicensed practitioners.

Women with means would launch a medical travel industry for trips to Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere to get abortions.

Making abortion illegal won’t stop the debate, or drive it underground.

But if we put the debate aside for a moment, we can focus on the realities of the situation. We can identify common ground, and we can make a real difference, now. Instead of politically charged rhetoric that drives us further apart; we can save and improve lives, right here in America, right now.

We can fix our broken adoption and foster care systems.

We can make sure that no child in American goes hungry, and that every child in America has access to adequate healthcare. We can provide early intervention services and therapies for children who need them now in order to be fully participatory members of society later. We can guarantee prenatal care to all those who need it. We can remove many of the barriers that make women feel like they can’t have a baby now.

We can reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. We can educate all pubescent kids about sex and what it can lead to. We can make sure all teens know the facts about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. We can make sure they know about birth control, its benefits and its limitations, because some of them will make the decision to be sexually active before they’re ready to be parents themselves.

And parents and churches can jump into the breach, educating kids about values, about right and wrong, good and bad decisions, responsibility. Our kids are going to hear about sex: from TV, movies, magazines, the internet, and each other. We can make sure that the information they hear outside is shaped by the value system we have structured and built. And we can provide good role models for our kids to follow. We can walk the walk in addition to talking the talk.

If we want to, we can effect real change. We can work together to improve and save the lives of millions of Americans. Or we can keep vilifying each other, dividing ourselves into Red and Blue, seeing each other as evil and wrong, and keep using abortion as a spur to drive increasingly polarized voters to the polls to elect officials who are in turn less interested in solving the problems than in political grandstanding.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Goal

First of all, it's very very hard to keep up with all the home stuff (this is the time of year when we have what seems like weekly meetings preparing for Kindergarten, plus all of our usual activities and therapy stuff, plus I'm doing this officer training thing at church) while doing NaNoWriMo and exercising nearly an hour a night. Very very very hard. I'm a little behind on my word count.

But the exercise and all that is going very well. Yesterday I had a funny little set-back. I ate well all day, no snacking or binging, and had a great workout. But my weigh-in was flat. Very frustrating. Ditto today. Weird.

It turns out that there was a bit of a biological cause. But also - and, I believe, mainly - there was something I was consuming that had a few more calories than I expected.

You know I love love love my lattes, right? Well, if there's anything in the world that tastes better than a latte, it's a Starbucks Egg Nog Latte, available only from mid-November through the end of the year. Paul got me one as a special treat yesterday, and it was even better than I remembered from last year. Heavenly! Delightful!

"Do you have a sugar free version?" my wonderful husband asked the barista.

"No, but it shouldn't be a problem," she replied. "The egg nog lattes have no extra sugar."

Whew, was she ever wrong.

I figured it was just a syrup, like Starbucks' other flavored lattes.

I was wrong, too.

It's not a syrup, and it's not sugar free. It's espresso and egg nog, with a little bit of 2% milk. Gulp. No wonder it's so good!

Serving Size 16 fl. oz.

Amt Per Serving
Calories 470
Fat Calories 190
Total Fat (g) 21
Saturated Fat (g) 13
Trans Fat (g) 0
Cholesterol (mg) 140
Sodium (mg) 230
Total Carbohydrates (g) 53
Fiber (g) 0
Sugars (g) 48
Protein (g) 16
Vitamin A 10%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 50%
Iron 2%
Caffeine (mg) 150

Thursday, November 06, 2008

October Photo Round-Up

I mentioned the 100,000 person Obama rally under the arch a few weeks ago. That was nothing, of course, compared to the huge crowd at Grant Park on Tuesday night. Whew! But here's how Obama looked to us, in a picture taken from the perspective of a child sitting on a parent's shoulders, then the same shot magnified:

But trust me, it was still worth it to be there.

Also, a couple of weeks ago, Ada had her first hair cut, an experience that she loved:

And, finally, you know, Halloween!
We had a lamb and an ogre. Ellie was going to be a "Big Pumpkin" until she fell in love with the Shrek costume at the store. I'm all about encouraging her choices, so . . .

They both loved trick or treating this year:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


On November 1st, I wrote three things: a quickie blog post, a grocery list, and the first 2300 words of a new novel. Of these, I feel that the the novel comes in a distant third in terms of being interesting reading.

I am excited by my ideas. And I'm good at marketing; I can sell them to myself as stories I want to hear, want to write. But. When I'm writing, I'm sometimes bored. Which is weird and surprising to me. Writers are supposed to looooove the actual writing. I myself have always enjoyed writing. I'm energized by it and feel great when I've done it - like exercise - but I'm not always excited by the process itself lately.

This is especially strange because later, rereading, I'm sometimes very happy with what I've written. And the reactions I've gotten have been positive. So what's that all about?

Maybe it's just because a) I'm perpetually exhausted, and b) the stories take a little longer to type than they do to appear in my head, or even to read, so that they don't feel quite as "fresh" when I am typing them out. But I didn't really have this problem with the NaNo novel I wrote last year.

Another interesting difference between this year's NaNo and last, for me, is the pace. I remember sitting at the kitchen table typing and typing, checking my word count and finding 2000 still a huge distance away, getting more snacks and coffee, then plugging away some more. By now, however, I'm much more practiced at the craft, I guess, and 2000 word segments come naturally for me. Perhaps this has been part of my transition from being a short story writer (a form I continue to enjoy) and writing longer works of fiction.

I know that the conventional wisdom is that you should write what you read. That makes sense to me. But I'm not sure it works for me. I definitely read literary fiction. But some of the books I've been most passionate about have been from other genres, lots of other genres. I don't often read romance or westerns, but I read pretty much everything else. And sometimes, when I'm looking for fun and distraction, literary fiction is not my first grab.

But it's definitely where the writing feels most interesting, easy, and fun, for me.


I'm going to take tonight off: from blogging, from NaNoWriMo, from working out. And I'm going to stop drowsing on the couch and go to bed, knowing that my parents' votes for president counted for the first time in a long, long time. And that my own state has lost its status as the nation's bellwether.

My heart is full. And my children will grow up in a new world.

Both speeches tonight were beautiful. But I'll close with this bit from President-Elect Barack Obama's inspirational and historical Grant Park speech:

This is our moment. This is our time -- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth -- that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Today's the day! The sun is shining, the tank is clean and we are getting out of--[gasps]--the tank is clean. The tank is clean!

Happy election day.

(Why, yes, that is a Finding Nemo reference up there. For no good reason. But does one ever need a reason to quote from Finding Nemo? We had a whole month of Sunday School classes last summer on "The Gospel According to Disney/Pixar." It was a whole family experience and my girls enjoyed it greatly.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

National Novel Writing Month Is On

(See ticker in sidebar.)

November 1st:
The NaNoWriMo website is glacial today, unsurprisingly. Parts of the site are nonfunctional, while other parts are text-only, until the traffic dies down a bit. All of which means that I can't update my word count at the moment. But it's going.

And I'm doing something completely different this year. I'm writing in a combination of two genres, neither of which I've experimented with before. I'm writing a different age of character than I've ever tried before. And I'm writing not only without an outline but also without a detailed character sketch. So we'll see how this goes.

And we'll see if I'm able to keep up with Seek Ye First while spending my evenings with Wyoming the Witch. It's a month-long experiment for me! What could go wrong? Who knows, maybe I'll invent Flubber.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Castle View

After checking into our hotel on Sunday morning we headed directly over to Disney's Hollywood Studies to catch the Block Party Bash. As we waited in line to have our diaper bag checked by security, I overheard a middle-aged dude in the next queue talking to his wife.

"Why would you take your baby to Disney World? I just don't get it. I mean, they-" then I caught his eye and he turned away; I couldn't hear the rest.

If only he could have followed us around for a while, he would have seen this:

and this:

and this:

not to mention, this:

At dinner on the way home tonight, at a Mexican restaurant in rural Illinois, we were talking about the highlights of our trip. Ada was pontificating (in her one-year-old way) about the Dumbo ride and its similar cousin, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, a subject about which she is particularly emphatic.

"Dumbo was your favorite, wasn't it?" Paul asked her.

"No!" she replied, surprising both Paul and me. "The Castle!"

And it's true that she's talked a lot about Cinderella's Castle. Every morning, she'd run to our hotel room window and look outside, saying, "Castle! Castle!" She repeated the process every evening, making sure that we each appreciated the spectacular view.

"Ellie. Ellie. Ellie! ELLIE! Castle!"

Tonight, she looked out the darkening window of La Tequila in Marion, Illinois, across the tiny parking lot to the white-painted cinder block wall of a Sherwin Williams paint store, and said, a little morosely, "No see it."

It begs the question, given the means and inclination (two very big factors indeed) why wouldn't you take your baby to Walt Disney World?