Tuesday, April 29, 2008

6 Random Things

Many thanks to TheMikeStand from Speak into the Mike for tagging me.

This is a familiar one that goes like this:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
6. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

6 Bits of Sarahlynn:
  1. I've never had a cold sore. For some strange reason, this is very important to me (probably because it seems very important to my mother) and I freak out a little whenever anyone with a cold sore holds/touches/gets too close to one of my children. I've been known to irrationally coat them with antibacterial goo afterwards (and, yes, I know that cold sores are caused by a virus, not a bacteria. Still, alcohol is somewhat effective at killing lots of things.)
  2. I used to chew my nails. A lot. I've stopped that (though I do chew at my cuticles sometimes) and replaced the habit with picking at my lip. My bottom lip on its right side. Which often makes me look like I have a cold sore.
  3. Thinking of sores, I've told you about how I once shaved my eye, haven't I? With a razor blade, while trying to shave my armpit. (I'm both a perfectionist and a touch near-sighted.) I had to wear an eye-patch to jr. high school for half a day, which was mortifying.
  4. My eyes are brown, but they were greeny-hazel until just before I turned 3. The books say that eye color settles in the first year, but that's just not so. Ada's eyes are very similar to mine.
  5. As far as colors go, I don't have a favorite one. I also don't have a favorite book, movie, song, or quote. Why limit myself? I can tell you what I'm enjoying now and what I enjoyed 10 years ago. But a single favorite? My mind spins uselessly.
  6. I gave up music because of Eminem (and Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock, etc.). At some point, I got so frustrated with hating the lyrics of the music I liked - I'd already given up most rap - that I just switched my radio permanently to NPR. And, later, toddler tunes. Despite being a (lapsed) musician, the lack of music in my life (except for lullabies and constant toddler tunes) hasn't bothered me.

As you see, I cheated a little. Each item links to the next; the list isn't completely random. That made the game more fun for me, so I encourage this modification to those who are interested.

Now I'm supposed to tage 6 of you. But, sadly, I haven't been reading blogs (other than the professional writing/editing/agenting blogs) in my reader closely enough to be sure that I'm not tagging someone who has already done it. If I've double-tagged you, please just ignore it!
  1. Jessica at Daughter of Opinion
  2. Scott at Chaotic Revelations
  3. Abby at Abby Monroe is Here!
  4. Oh, I hate tagging people. So, to everyone who is interested but hasn't done who hasn't done it yet: have at it! And let me know that you did.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I've Always Loved Playground Rhymes

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Can do
Won’t do
will do too.
I want
you want
to see this through.
I see--you and me
stuck here in this glue.
We’ll be
you and me
‘til this lie is true.

© 1997

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Unconventional Date Night

Summer 2000

Spring 2008

Therapy nights are great date nights. We have a sitter and she has food to feed the children. After work, Paul and I drive - usually together - to see our therapist, which provides time alone together in the car for adult conversation without interruptions! After a session, which feels productive on several different levels, we head slowly back home, often stopping for supper along the way. I don't think this is what people have in mind when they suggest that parents of young children "make time for yourselves as a couple," but it's not a bad way to do it, either.

I think that most relationships would benefit from a little therapy, at least occasionally. It's impossible for us each to have perfect perspective on what's going on so close to home, and an impartial and professional third party can be a great help in identifying relationship stressors (even those that we deny to ourselves by subconsciously pushing down uncomfortable thoughts) and developing strategies for coping with them more effectively.

But - and of course there is a but - therapy is pretty much useless unless all participants want to be there and are willing to really work at it. You've got to check your skepticism at the door and really be willing to believe in the likelihood of success.

I have always been a therapy skeptic, but over the past year and a half, my perspective has undergone a massive shift. Due to the phenomenal assistance of two fantastic marriage and family therapists (note the therapist locator links), Paul's work on his own with a therapist, and his willingness to join with me in working very hard at our marriage, we're in a healthier place than we have been in a long, long time. In some ways, we're healthier than we ever have been, since we've both learned to admit to ourselves and speak up to each other about the grains of sand that accumulate over time to foul up the machinery.

We don't see our therapist all the time, now, but when we start feeling like we're running a little rough, not communicating well, fighting more frequently, we call and set up an appointment. This last time, things got better as soon as I made the call. But when we sat down in session and the therapist said, "I'm glad you called. You did the right thing, coming in," I knew that she was right. And she helped us identify why things had been building up, and it really was the right thing, even though by the time we go there we hardly felt like we needed it. (We did need it. Just because the engine stops knocking when the mechanic is in the car doesn't mean that there's no problem!)

Several people I care about have talked to me about therapy: how it's working for us, how it might be beneficial to them. But, so frequently, I hear, "My husband/wife would never agree . . . " and that's a huge problem. In my experience, both parties really have to be willing to do the work together. I also hear a lot of "we don't have the time," or "we can't afford it." To the former, I suggest that we make the time for what's most important to us, and to the latter, I ask: Can you afford not to? How important is your partnership? How hard are you willing to work to keep it, to enrich it, to make it better?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tea for You and NOT for Me

I don't like tea. Most people don't know this about me, especially those who have been to my house. I have an entire shelf of tea above my cookbook collection. I have so many different bags of so many different types of tea that my inadvertent amassment has long overflowed its decorative basket and now comprises a bunch of stacked boxes next to the full basket.

People see this impressive stash, assume that I must like tea, and give me more. And I accept it. Why?

Well, partly it's because I think I should like tea. My mom likes tea. Mystery lovers and writers are supposed to love tea. And sometimes the packaging is just irresistible. I mean, Bigalow's Eggnogg'n? Who could resist?

I have always billed myself as a lover of chai. But it turns out even that's not true. Because I really hate Tazo chai, and that's all anyone wants to serve these days. What I LOVED was Borders chai, especially the special autumn Pumpkin Spice Chai, but really any Borders chai would do, and I can still taste it as I type, the phantom taste flooding my head with memories of delightful evenings at the bookstore burning my tongue on the too-delicious-to-wait chai while snooping through magazines, then peeling apart from my spouse to peruse the stacks in search of literary treasures.

Alas, for some time now, Borders has been serving Tazo chai. I wrote to complain, of course, and learned that I really am the only American who hates Tazo chai.

But if you know the distributor who created the chai for Borders and might be selling it under a different name, I'd love to hear it!

And, as a side note to Borders: Apparently you're experiencing some financial distress. I put it to you that perhaps the blame doesn't lie solely with the credit crunch. Perhaps, PERHAPS, there's bad chai karma involved.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How's This Looking?

Re: Blog Template

I'm not done yet! But please feel free to comment.

Re: Yesterday

Today was much better, largely because of my attitude (lowering expectations is the way to go, baby). And Ellie would like me to clarify that yesterday's 4 accidents were really much more like 2 "accidents." It's all a matter of perspective.

Re: Marriage

I think it's important for me to be honest about the difficulties of making a marriage work. I don't think it serves anyone to pretend that all is happiness and light when it isn't. But because there's so much to say, and I only post about 5 times a week, I find that I'm often posting about my marriage when it seems pressing - when we're having a rough patch.

Most of the time, it's not like that. Most of the time, it's a lot better than that. So I'll move those as-yet-unwritten posts up the queue and share some of the sunshine and light, too, instead of letting them get bumped by cute kid pics or political rants. Yes, we're working hard. But we're also having fun. Most of the time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

I'm going to be playing around with my template for the next couple of days - yes, Orange, I've heard you and I'm seriously considering getting rid of the white type on black. I like it; it doesn't bother my eyes, but why would I want to make it harder for anyone else to read my words? - so please bear with me if things get wonky and links disappear temporarily. I'm also finally planning to change some things about this 4-year-old template that have been bothering me for a long time.

Today was a difficult day. Ada was very clingy and needy. She has quite a shriek when she's angry, and it makes her very angry to hear the suggestion of any sort of limit. Like, Ada, sit down on your bottom. No running on the couch. That sort of thing.

When one child is especially needy, I know that I lack patience for the other one. And, unfortunately, just being aware of the problem doesn't fix it.

Ellie had 4 accidents today. Four. (She had one understandable accident yesterday, and none for a couple of weeks before that. And these weren't near misses. Her pillow, for instance, was one unlucky target.) She was also not at her most pleasant and agreeable. At one point near the end of the day, all three of us were running around the house screaming. I'm sure this was a real treat for our neighbors, since I had the windows open.

And the day started out so lovely, too . . . all were happy, all was well . . .

How do I function on so little sleep? I don't, really, not when things are already running rough. I get by when things are smooth. But I have fewer emotional reserves when I'm exhausted, and the kids recognize that, and know that they're getting less, so they demand more, which exacerbates the situation, and so forth and so on.

Paul came home a little after 7:00 tonight; he was donating at the Red Cross Blood Drive at our church today. He immediately gave the girls their baths and got them ready for bed. Ada would have none other, so I went in to nurse her down to sleep while Paul practiced reading with Ellie then took her to bed. She, probably still feeling off from our horrible day and looking for more reassurance, wouldn't sleep. At one point, I heard Ellie crying after Paul snapped at her.

Later, Paul and I both curled up in bed with Ellie, one of us on either side of her, holding her and telling her how much we love her, trying to figure out what went so wrong today, what made the day such a mess, why she was being so contrary and having so many accidents. Was she in pain somewhere? Did she have an infection of some kind?

"Ellie, are you OK?" I asked her, because she didn't look OK. This is a child who will tell me, "Ah'm O.K." through her tears as she has a dislocated elbow; she's very tough.

"Not OK," she said.


"Sad," she said.


No writing tonight; I'm off to bed.

Define "Busy"

"I don't know how you do it," my mom says. This is a woman who works ridiculous hours and is completely lousy at sitting down to relax. "I don't know how you keep up with your schedule."

I think the better question is, how could I not?

The ordinary weekend, in review:

  • morning: attend play group for young children with Down syndrome
  • home for lunch and brief nap
  • have friends over (ages 5 and 1) so that their parents can go out for their 10th anniversary. The older two help make pink, pig-shaped cookies together, which are adorable and we all enjoy.
  • I go to Bread Co. to write for a while after putting Ada to bed, then come home to hang out with Paul for a couple of hours before bed

  • Ellie and Paul makes scones, then a friend of Ellie's and her mom come over for a playdate
  • As soon as they leave, we head out for Ellie's gymnastics
  • We stop off for lunch on the way home
  • After failed naps, we spend a long, long, lazy afternoon at home. It's cool and windy and not very nice outside. After a quick dinner, both girls go to bed early, and have restless nights.
  • On the other hand, Paul and I have already finished watching Closer by 9:00! The girls have been asleep for 2 hours already!

  • We go to church and Sunday School (I teach from a lesson I'd prepared the night before, after we watched a movie)
  • We go out to brunch with friends
  • The girls take very short naps, while Paul mows the yard and I straighten up inside
  • We head out for the zoo
  • along with the rest of St. Louis. After sitting forever in traffic, we end up at Turtle Park, which the kids loved.
  • We go to Olive Garden on the way home.
  • Ada passes out in the car on the way home, and Paul and I fight Ellie down to sleep for an hour after her bath and bedtime routine (as usual).
  • Shortly after 9:00, Paul and I finally start our own evening routines: working on our laptops, dealing with the always replenishing stacks of paper, watching something on TV together, talking, etc.
  • We pass out by 2:00 am.
  • Ada gets up, as usual of late, at 5:00.

The only part of this that was really stressful and overwhelming and unpleasant? Saturday afternoon, the part that looks "relaxing" on paper.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why I Love Febreeze

When I write the memoir covering this part of my life, I think the title will be, And Everything Smells Vaguely of Urine. Or maybe not.

Several weeks ago, Ellie was having more accidents than usual, and I was getting really frustrated. Then it occurred to me: there are often set-backs right before big developmental leaps forward.

That was indeed this case here, as - celebration! - Ellie has taken control of her potty needs. She still needs assistance with dressing and undressing (though far less than she used to) and getting up onto the toilet, but I no longer have to remember: what time did she last go? should I insist that she go now or wait a little longer?

She tells us, every time. Alleluia!

On the other hand, Ada has developed an interesting quirk that's insuring that we go through diapers at a prodigious rate. While playing, she'll periodically run up to me - that child is in perpetual motion, often just spinning around in circles until she falls down when she has nothing else to occupy her - saying, "Potty!" Then she runs to the bathroom and waits at the door, saying, "Diaper!"

She wants to sit on the potty, with her diaper off. Then she jumps right back up again, without allowing time to accomplish anything useful, though there's probably no need - the diaper is already wet.

I am delighted that my 14-month-old seems to be comfortable with the idea of the potty and possibly is even alerting me when she's gone.

But seriously? Already? I was rather hoping for a break. At least it's getting warmer, which means that clothes are easier to remove.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I've mentioned my grandpa here quite a few times, most significantly: Gee, Haw!
My, What Good Genes You Have!
It's Over
There's No Good Time to Die

My grandfather was born in 1908 and died in 2006. Many years ago, quite possibly before I was even born, he wrote a sermon in his yellow legal pad. It's full of truth for our world situation today, which is both amazing and a little depressing:

by Furman Lester

I look out the door to my patio and on the rear lawn I see a squirrel, a rabbit, and a red bird, each pursuing its own interests without fear of or aggression towards each other. Why can't the so-called highly civilized human, liberated with his mental and physical superiority, be as liberated from his fears and jealousies? Here is the human developed by adoption and training to live the good life who must still carry his mistrust for his peers beyond that of the simple creatures in my back yard.

In his distrust of others and his fears of their actions he sees a communist behind every bush. Every minority group is regarded with suspicion. Even a different dress code or hair style is enough to close his mind to logical thought. Is there a cure for this type of person that will relieve his illusions with war, that is the murder of countless unknowns?

Sometime he gets confused with issues. On one hand he will march as a Right-to-Lifer for a one day old embryo in a woman's womb. The next day he will vote to cut down on food for innocent living children. Today he says the children must pray in school but tomorrow he doesn't teach them to pray at home. He says Congress prays but he doesn't pray on his job or in his business. Perhaps he doesn't attend worship or even send his children to the church or temple.

Perhaps man has over civilized himself. Sometimes he thinks of his country as great because it makes more autos, appliances, and in general more luxury items than ever before. He tends to leave in obscurity the fact that a man or a nation is great mainly due to his vision, moral integrity, and ability to motivate himself for goals and ideals that can build for all its citizens a safer and more humane environment where hunger is abated, illness is treated, and loneliness and misery are comforted.

Man has polluted the air above, the waters upon the earth, and the land beneath his feet. He has destroyed our national resources of timber, top soil, precious minerals, and has left depots of poison chemicals. He has surrounded himself with garbage and bad by-products of his journey in life.

Why do the little animals live in such harmony with each other (animals usually kill or fight only for food or in some phase of the process of reproduction) when the highest living creatures, mankind, makes such a discord in his existence?

Jesus, the great teacher and center of our faith, taught us love and lived it in example and word. When will man learn to accept this love and share it with all of God's children, his brothers and sisters? When will he rise to the noble part he needs to play in the pattern of life?

I envy the squirrel, the rabbit, and the cardinal.

Liberal. Christian. Kentucky Colonel. Yellow Dog Democrat. Small business owner/sheet metal worker, among other things. He would have turned 100 today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Working Writer

So, I've decided to take this gig seriously. I'm never going to be completely comfortable calling myself a writer, no matter how much I write, until, well . . . I don't know exactly when that will be. I've been published, so that's not the magic bullet. Perhaps there's some big milestone that will do it for me (publishing my second novel?) or perhaps it will be a gradual accumulation of things, little rocks piled up on top of each other to eventually create a mighty wall. I guess I'll know it when I see it.

Until then, I'll occasionally refer to myself as a writer in conversation or on some non-tax form, but I'll be doing it with the same level of aplomb that I exhibit when I lie. (I am a great liar, you know. Sometimes, I lie without even thinking, and then spend time later wondering to myself, "Why on earth did I tell that real estate agent that I was pregnant?")

But back to the writing, and the taking of it seriously. I have been writing or working on my writing every single day for weeks and weeks, and more often than not for months and months. And intermittently for year and years. What does it mean that I'm now doing it for real?

I have a nifty spreadsheet, where I'm tracking all my submissions. I have another nifty spreadsheet (thanks again, Paul!) where I'm tracking my expenses. I have a new file box with neatly organized project files, budget files, and mailing supplies. I have a sort of business plan, or at least a revenue goal and schedule in place to try to meet the goal.

Upon the advice of several inspirational professional writers, I am sticking to a schedule of working on stories, essays, and the submission of stories and essays one week a month, and concentrating on my novel-in-progress the remaining three weeks each month.

So far, it's all working very well and I'm feeling -- dare I say it? -- increasingly professional. Sometimes, saying something over and over really does make it true.

What's in a Name?

We've discussed The Last Name Thing here before, more than once, and the really interesting bits are in the comments.

In most such discussions, two main suggestions are made:
  1. It's purely a personal decision, which shouldn't ever be examined in a larger context, and
  2. It's all so over, anyway; people can just do whatever they want.
In response to both suggestions, I'd like to point out a "Campaign 2008" article from the March 31, 2008 issue of Newsweek (as usual, I'm reading a couple of weeks behind) called "Hillary: What's in a Name?"

Many of us have heard talking heads comparing the politics of "Hillary Rodham" vs. "Hillary Clinton" and "Hillary Rodham Clinton" as though they're separate people, and this is 2008, folks. It's so not over.

In 1980, Arkansas voters were unapologetic about the fact that Bill's wife keeping her own last name after their marriage was a problem for them and a legitimate reason not to re-elect the young governor.

Hillary became Mrs. Bill Clinton, and in 1982 Bill won a rematch.

In 1993, a significant majority of national voters opined that new First Lady Hillary should be known as "Hillary Clinton" rather than "Hillary Rodham Clinton." As if it should matter! But it did, it did matter.

It does matter, and Hillary is still getting grief from both the left (notably the NYT's virulently anti-Clinton Maureen Dowd) and the right for what's she's called herself, both recently and long ago. Are there no actual substantive issues we can discuss?

It's so not over.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Second Child

A couple of weeks ago, Ada and I went over to a sick friend's house to take her some Gatorade. I told Ada what we were doing, but she was absorbed in putting on her beloved rain coat ("Coke! Coke!") and then in her current car book, an interactive board book about John Deere tractors.

When I lifted her out of the van in my friend's driveway, she looked up, saw where we were, and said, "Hey, Elizabeth's house." It wasn't that clear, of course, but have I mentioned that she's 14 months old?

The other night, at bedtime, as she lay on the changing table and I was removing her clothes, she gave me a critical warning before I got to her diaper. "Poopy," she said. And, indeed, she was.

She's had some success on the potty lately, actually. I'm not planning on eliminating the Pampers line item from our budget any time soon, but I do sometimes sit Ada on the potty when Ellie's going, if she seems interested. At least she's unafraid of it and seems to have some awareness of the process, so we're in great shape there.

Parenting is a little like riding Space Mountain at Walt Disney World. It's a wild and unpredictable experience, undertaken completely in the dark so that there's no hint of what's coming up.

Ada and Ellie both love playing doctor. This game involves slinging a stethoscope around your neck - both can do this expertly - and running around the house busily, tending to doll, stuffed animal, and parent patients. "Make you feel better" involves draping ribbons across the patients, oddly enough. Ellie invented the game, but Ada's all into it.

She loves our music games, too. In one, we "make soup." And when it's Ada's turn to contribute an item to go into the soup, she always gets this sweet, hopeful little look on her face and says, "Paz Pocka?" That's pizza pocket, for those not up on their Ada-lingo. Sounds like a yummy soup to me.

Ada wants upease-upease-upease on my lap at my writing desk so that she can see outside to watch for any possible school buses that might be driving down our street. "Bus? Bus?"

She's so good with pictures, too. She recognizes herself and the rest of us, and by "the rest of us," I mean that she gets excited by pictures of Grandma "mah-mah," cousin Ahb-bee, and cousin Arr-ah (Arria) as well as her parents. Surprisingly, she doesn't say Ellie's name very often, though she's obviously enamoured with her big sister. Lately, the two of them have been playing nicely and independently together for short periods of time, a development that thrills me.

Ada only drinks water, but calls every drink "mulk." She loves pizza and pumpkin loaf and broccoli and mashed potatoes. Her new favorite game is to make the Jaws sound (bum-bum, bum-bum, BUM-BUM etc.) while moving her little pinchers in to "get" us, laughing hysterically all the while.

Her eyes are a beautiful, dark hazel, though I bet they'll turn brown in another year or so (like mine did at that age). She is currently obsessed with shoes, and is starting to reject her little leather Robeez in favor of hard-soles. She'd still love to wear underpants over her pants every single day, and I've never seen such a child for clutching onto security items, though fortunately she's not attached to one specific lovey.

This is amazing. I wouldn't change a thing. Well, except maybe if she'd sleep in more. And let me leave her from time to time, like in the nursery during church, for instance.

But really. She's perfect and this stage is a wonderful gift.

Bird Brain

It was 8:30 this morning, and Paul had left for work more than an hour before. Both girls were strapped into their car seats, ready to take Ellie to school. I stepped back into the house to gather up the necessary bags, and heard something at the back of the house.

This is odd, I thought. It's impossible that anyone is back there, so I'll ignore it and go about my day. But, as impossible as it was that there was anything in the house other than the sleeping dog on the chair in front of me, I was not imagining the noise so I went to investigate.

And I found a robin throwing itself against Ellie's bedroom window. I pulled down the shade (silly bird. but in his defense, Ellie's room is a lovely garden theme with blue skies, white clouds, and gently rolling green hills.) and headed out the door.

When Ada and I got home a couple of hours later, the robin was still flying into the window, despite the closed shade. "Thump. Thump. Thump." And so forth.

I opened the shade. I closed it again. I opened my window, which is about 10 feet to the north of Ellie's and suggested that the bird scram. To my surprise, it would fly away to cavort with other robins in the yard - we seem to be beset with them this year - and then come back to fling itself against the window some more.

After he'd put in a full 8 hour shift at this, I printed out a picture of a cat and taped it to the window. The silly bird kept flying into the window, again and again. In between assaults, he'd perch on the roof of the shed that's right outside Ellie's window happily crapping and planning his next fling. The window is really marked up, by the way. I hate to think about exactly what all those smudges are from.

Anyway, the bird finally gave up around dusk. I hope he doesn't come back tomorrow, but I bet he will. Another robin has recently built a nest on top of the flood lights that illuminate our patio, several feet away outside Ellie's other bedroom window. Perhaps it's this bird's mate, and he's just terribly concerned about becoming a parent?

We've always had a bit of a bird situation around here. This would probably be a good house for amateur bird watchers fascinated by really ordinary species. First, we had the mourning dove situation. Then we had the noisy nesters, which had me calling exterminators for the last two summers, sure that I had mice running around in my walls. We also have the snakes - which live underneathe the crazy robin's shed - and the possible developing colony of feral cats. Why won't one of these other critters take care of my bird problem?

Any suggestions for what I should do if he comes back for another day of it?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Down Syndrome and Delays

Most of us parents fall into the trap of bragging about how young our children accomplished certain skills. But the truth is that there's nothing inherently great about learning to walk at 6 months or learning to read at 14 months. In fact, there are some significant problems with both.

Sure, your reading toddler is probably a very bright child, but there's a lot of very good research that indicates that pushing reading too early can hinder other important kinds of development and cause problems down the line.

So when Ellie was invited to participate in a special pilot program for teaching young children with Down syndrome to read, I did some research into the program, then went to the information session with my skeptic hat on.

After reading about the program and listening to the presentation (all backed by solid research) I was sold. We enrolled in the pilot program, and it's going very, very well. Every day, Ellie reaches for her big, pink, plastic box and says, "I practice reading now?"

So cute.

Ellie is four years old, and she has another year of preschool before she's scheduled to start kindergarten in the fall of 2009. If I might dwell on the numbers for a moment, she reached for toys, rolled, and sat as an infant. She learned to walk and talk when she was one, was BM trained by two, and out of diapers before she was four (though she still sleeps in a pull-up). She has significant delays, but they're not holding her back too much; her stats look pretty good on paper. Due to her father's giant genes (heh heh) she's also 50th percentile for height and weight, which is large for a child with Down syndrome (she's 95th percentile on the T21 charts).

So what are the nature of the delays associated with Down syndrome?

In Ellie's case, the biggest physical issue is low muscle tone. Because of low muscle tone, it was harder for her to learn to talk, to walk, to develop a good pincher grasp. She tires more quickly and has to work a lot harder than most other kids at pretty much all physical tasks, from feeding herself to pulling up her own pants or running down the street. (Walking and self-undressing were the two hardest parts of potty training for us. She still needs some assistance getting onto the toilet.)

Cognition is where it gets really interesting.

Ellie's pediatrician's practice sees about 80 kids with Down syndrome, so her doc has a great idea of norms within that community and can compare Ellie against others with her diagnosis rather than just against typically chromosomed kids, which is wonderful. Years of professional experience plus her personal experience parenting a child with Down syndrome have led her to some interesting conclusions.

About half of the kids she sees with Down syndrome, she believes, have above average intelligence. The rest fall below that line. Kind of like the rest of us. Rather than being an issue of mental retardation, she believes that a lot of the cognitive issues associated with Down syndrome are really serious learning disabilities.

That matches a lot of what I've observed in my own child. By one and a half, Ellie was clear that the baby in the mirror was her - she'd wipe whipped cream off her own cheek rather than the mirror baby's cheek - and she could accurately identify pictures of herself without prompting. (These skills usually develop between 18 and 24 months.) She has also always been really really good with names and with knowing which children at church or school go with which parents, a skill I'm still developing. Her pediatrician thinks her IQ - though hard to measure accurately, especially at this age - is probably above average, say 110 or so. This is not what I expected of a child with Down syndrome. (And it's not how she tests, either, without accomodations.)

Recently, I was at a workshop where I was learning about the file system, or bucket approach to memory/question response, which explains why kids with DS might take a little longer to find the answers to questions they're asked.

If someone asks me what I was for Halloween last year, I might tick through my brain's file system: Holidays/October/Halloween/Costumes. I do this so quickly that I don't really realize it's happening, but all that information is nicely categorized for me.

For a kid with Down syndrome, it's sort of like their file drawer has gotten emptied onto the floor and their notes are everywhere. They're picking up random pieces of paper and trying, desperately trying to find the one with the answer on it.

And that's why the reading program Ellie's in teaches sight words in clusters associated by category: to help the children learn to build their own file systems.

How cool is that?!!

Patricia Logan Oelwein: Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Short on Sugar

Perhaps you've heard of Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs. The same editors are compiling a new anthology, Short on Sugar, High on Honey. Bittersweet Love Stories. These stories are longer, 7-13 words (no titles).

This is fun:

In the end, Cass kept the baby; it seemed so important to Mike.

I've changed it again. I might keep doing this; it's fun!

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Paul and I do not communicate well, and that, I believe, is the source of most of our marital conflict.

(He's right, sigh; I do need to call our therapist and set up another session. Our first therapist worked for a nonprofit so she only cost us $30 per session and she made house calls. What could be more convenient? Our current therapist is just as amazing, but she's sort of the guru. So we (read: I, usually) wrangle child care, then we drive a long and awkward commute to pay $90 for a session. Ouch. At least we were still seeing therapist #1 when we were in crisis mode and needing twice weekly visits.)

Some examples of our continued crappy communication:

First, there's the ultimate one that drove us to the brink of divorce. I created our relationship as I wanted it to be, and Paul agreed with me every step of the way, never pointing out when he really disagreed, and, over time, became so angry with me and so disengaged that our marriage almost ended.

More recently, there was yesterday's fight: Ever since becoming pregnant for the first time, I've made a point to significantly increase my water intake. One of my strategies is to keep a nice plastic cup - quite distinct from all of our glasses - full and sitting out to serve as a reminder and lower the barrier to drinking. Usually, the cup is on the kitchen counter these days, as that spot's in the main flow of household traffic and yet is high enough/water resistant enough that the risks of child tampering and disastrous accidental spillage are minimized. Paul knows about my cup/water strategy, of course, but repeatedly picks up my glass and stacks it with the dirty dishes by the sink or in the dishwasher. What an odd thing to have a huge screaming fight over, yes? Usually, I ignore it and get a fresh glass. Maybe I make a comment about how the cup didn't need to be washed yet and I'll put it with the dirty dishes when it does, but what's the use of fighting over it? Apparently, the cup on the counter is "clutter" to Paul. (Those who've been to our home know that a solitary cup on the counter is the least of our clutter problem. What about the neighboring stacks of paper?) Somehow, last night, this all blew up into a huge argument about the damn cup and all that it represents in our relationship. I still have no idea how that happened; I wasn't even angry when I made my usual comment about him moving it yet again, but I sure hit a nerve.

Today: Paul went to the St. Louis Cardinals game as a guest of some vendors this afternoon. This isn't sour grapes, but we've been dealing with trust, honesty, and secret-keeping issues, and I had no idea that he wasn't at the office all afternoon. It's not on his calendar, and he didn't mention it today or at any time all week long. Early last week, he mentioned that he'd been invited to a game sometime this week and that he was trying to decide if he should go or pass the ticket along to someone who reports to him, and that was the end of the conversation. With mobile phones, not to mention living in the same damn house, it seems like he could have mentioned where he'd be, since it was definitely out of the ordinary today. (Paul has an office/desk/meetings job. Vendor excursions are very uncommon for him. And he made sure I knew all about his morning off-site meeting but didn't mention his very off-site afternoon adventure.)

Tonight: There was some fracas over us needing milk, Paul taking Ellie to gymnastics after supper and me taking Ada to get the milk, and Paul stopping off to get himself a treat (read: Starbucks, natch) on the way home and not getting me anything because he assumed that I'd gotten myself something while I was out getting the milk. meanwhile, of course, being me, I'd picked up treats for both of us (though not Starbucks!) at the store and had also gotten him a new box of the snack bars he prefers to keep in his desk at work.

With the significant exception of the first one, these are such small, minor issues, not worth fighting over. Except that they add up to excruciatingly common misunderstandings, mistaken assumptions, and failed communications. Result: a lot of frustration and tension.

Paul says that we're both sleep deprived, which makes us impatient and decreases our attention spans. That's true. But what's probably also true is that I'm very good at communicating (surprise!) and I figure that it's the same for everyone. I say what I want/need/feel/expect and depend upon everyone around me to be the same. I figure, "Hey, if you want something to be different, you have to ask for it." Like at Burger King. (Isn't that one of their old ad campaigns?)

My refrain: we both need to step back in each conversation and try to identify the assumptions we're making, then be more explicit to avoid sitcom-worthy miscommunications. Paul hears: You suck donkey balls.

So. Back to the therapist. Sigh.


Alas, a meme. Courtesy of PeripateticPolarBear.

(You're supposed to bold those that are true for you.)
  • Father went to college.
  • Father finished college. (Plus a Masters and two Doctoral degrees)
  • Mother went to college.
  • Mother finished college. (Plus two Masters degrees)
  • Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (my cousin is a physician and my grandfather was a professor)
  • Were the same or higher social class than your high school teachers.
  • Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
  • Had more than 500 books in your childhood home. (I am told that all those boxes in the basement are full of books, but those are just the ones that won't fit on the shelves that are in every single room on the two upper floors.)
  • Were read children’s books by a parent.
  • Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.
  • Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 (clarinet, saxophone, dance, more dance, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, etc.)
  • The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
  • Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
  • Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs. (well, they paid for all of my room and board.)
  • Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.
  • Went to a private high school.
  • Went to summer camp. (one weekers only, e.g. band camp, etc.)
  • Had a private tutor before you turned 18.
  • Family vacations involved staying at hotels. (though our pop-up camper was the preferred venue)
  • Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
  • Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.
  • There was original art in your house when you were a child. (sure, my mom made some things for the walls)
  • You and your family lived in a single-family house.
  • Your parents owned their own house or apartment before you left home. (I assume that having a mortgage counts as "owning," but I could be wrong here)
  • You had your own room as a child. (except when I briefly and mistakenly chose to share with a sister)
  • You had a phone in your room before you turned 18. (I didn't, but my younger sister did.)
  • Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course. (MCAT - yes)
  • Had your own TV in your room in high school. (My parents would have sooner died. My sister, on the other hand . . . )
  • Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college. (I did have a CD)
  • Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.
  • Went on a cruise with your family. (does Paul count? No, I guess I was an adult at 26.)
  • Went on more than one cruise with your family.
  • Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up. (so very, very many)
  • You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. (I still have no idea how much my parents make or what their expenses are; they don't talk about money around us.)

Um, wow.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

StL Bloggers Carnival #9

The theme for the March blog carnival was spring break memories. And it seems like maybe Anna Quindlen is in the minority with her assumption that all college kids go away for wild and crazy beach vacations without their parents every spring. Or, at least, her kids' experiences would be the minority among those who responded to this edition of the StL Bloggers carnival!

First up, in Spring Break Memories, Nobody from Nobody's Puzzles tells us how Nobody didn't go wild in Florida as a college kid on spring break. Nobody does, however, offer us a little puzzle to solve. I'm pretty sure that the answer is that nobody could possibly have fun at Circus Circus. (Just kidding. That's not my real answer. Although I might still be right about Circus Circus.)

Next up, Kristi from Adventures in Motherhood sounds like she really needs a fun spring break adventure in My Top 10 Favorite Spring Break Vacations.

And, finally, Sarahlynn from Yeah, But Houdini Didn't Have These Hips warns about possible unintended consequences from spring break actions. Beware! And This Year, I Was Sick and It Rained.

I look forward to reading you all in April, when I will not be hosting!

The host of the next carnival is . . .
from Nobody's Puzzles
(who had a really great theme suggestion)


I'm playing with Feedburner. For those of you who read through a feed, is everything still working for you? (I guess, if you're here . . . ) Everyone else: still OK?