Thursday, May 21, 2015

Moments of Redemption

OK, I am going to be really honest here, friends. I hate the 4th grade. For real. I hated it when I was in it, and Lamb's 4th grade year really isn't changing my opinion of it at all. The awkwardness, the drama, the I'm-not-a-little-kid-but-I'm-not-a-teenager, the worries over grades that she isn't likely going to remember by this time next year... I could go on, but it's starting to give me heart palpitations, so I'm going to stop there. It's not my favorite year. Or Lamb's either, to be fair.

But just when I think I can't take another eye roll or one more twinge of heartache over seeing her awkwardly trying to become herself, we have a night like tonight. Because tonight, Lamb came to me and said, "Mommy, I would really like for you to give me more responsibility. Could I have more chores or something, please?"

Am I in some sort of alternate universe? Am I being "Punk'd"? Maybe I accidentally took some super-trippy drug. (And if so, what was it and where can I get more?)

Whatever. Tonight I am just going to soak in this little moment of redemption... and try not to make any sudden moves. I definitely do not want to rock this boat.

Friday, May 15, 2015

(Mini) Milestone Alert: Celebrate with me!

I know you have heard me say this before, but celebrating milestones is one of the best parts of this journey because there are just so darn many of them. Parents to typical kids don't realize how easily and quickly their kiddos can do things, and these milestones just pass you all by. But not us. We get downright giddy over

So today we are celebrating.

Today, I fed Roo his lunch. This in itself made me happy because he pulled out his chair and sat down by himself, then I placed a plate (an actual DISH--and he didn't throw it!!!!) in front of him. And on that plate was not just graham crackers and yogurt... but a BANANA. A banana, you guys. Actual, REAL fruit. And he ATE IT. Yesterday he ate TWO of them! What?

Anyway, that's not even why I have called you all here today. So he ate the yogurt and graham crackers and banana (BANANA! OK, sorry...). But here's where the really big thing happened... Without a word, he got up, threw his yogurt container in the trash, put his spoon in the sink, then picked up his plate and put it in the sink, then sat down and said, "Mama? May I be excused, please?"

OH.MY.GOSH!!!!!!!!! I can't even get over this, you guys! He loves to throw things in the trash, but I had no idea that he was that aware of how to clear his spot at the table. And asking to be excused? Full disclosure: I have been working with him on that sentence for weeks, but he has never initiated it or said the full thing by himself. Usually while he is trying to get out of his chair, I put my hand on his knee or shoulder and have him repeat after me, giving him 1-2 words at a time. The awareness of what needed to be done plus the skills to do it plus the words. The beautiful, lovely words all put together in a sentence. And used appropriately. And did I mention that he ate a banana???

So wherever you are and whatever you are doing, go ahead and have a little celebration for us, would you? I know I am getting ready to party it up with a big glass of wine a huge candy bar veggies and hummus. (Gotta love healthy eating... right?...) Three cheers for Roo! (But quiet ones because he's in bed and Mama needs some peace.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Failure to Communicate

Yesterday was Roo's first official field trip: the local zoo. Our family loves trips to the zoo, and we have had a membership there since Lamb was only a year old. It is not a new place for Roo--in fact, the two of us took a spontaneous trip there just last week! I was so excited when I got the paper that his class would be heading there. For Roo, the more familiar the surroundings, the better. Or so I thought.

Let's just say that the trip didn't go quite as planned. Roo was clingy and crying at first, and I finally decided that it wasn't worth the stress--I would just take him home. (We had driven separately and met his class there.) But about the time we got to the exit, I realized that he had been asking to ride the carousel (Apparently he calls it, "ding, ding, ding!" because they ring a bell at the beginning and ending of each ride. Don't ask me how I figured it out. I think an angel was whispering in my ear or something.), and that seemed to solve everything. After the ride, though, he still seemed agitated and became upset easily if I redirected him or walked to a different display than he had expected. It was frustrating and confusing and so very stressful, for both of us. (We ended up spending most of our time on our own and left early.)

Once I was able to get a little distance from the situation, it left just one thought looping in my head: What we have here is a failure to communicate. (It's from "Cool Hand Luke"... and a Guns 'n' Roses song, but I only know that because of Google.)

This. Communication. My goodness, it's complicated, isn't it? In friendships, in families, in marriages. Good communication is hard.

Communication is the source of some of my greatest joy with Roo. And some of my greatest frustration. When Roo learns a new word or says a whole sentence... It's a party at my house! Recently he has launched a mission to coin his own catchphrase: "Wow, pancakes!" He says it randomly and regularly. And it is starting to catch on. So.hilarious.

But when we can't communicate... I can't think of much that is more frustrating. I can't ask him about his day. He can't tell me what he learned in church. I constantly have to infer whether he is disobeying out of orneriness or lack of understanding. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, I don't know if he had a nightmare or if he's too cold or too hot or needs a drink or... what. I just know that we both would rather be asleep.

And when I know that he is trying to communicate something but I just can't figure it out, my heart breaks. At the zoo, I just couldn't make him happy--he didn't want to stay, he didn't want to leave, he didn't want to be put down--until I figured out that "ding, ding, ding!" meant "I want to ride the carousel, please, Mommy dear." It's a rush to figure it out, but the work that it takes to get there is

Mr. Fantastic and I have a regular exchange--call it an "inside joke", maybe, but it's not necessarily meant to be funny. I'll say, "What am I going to do with this boy?" Sometimes as a joke, other times out of frustration. But always, the answer is the same: My wonderful hubby says, "Just love him."

Just love him. When we have a breakthrough. When we're both getting teary out of frustration. When he says something that sounds like "banana", and I give him one, and he actually eats it! When we're up in the night again. (He'll sleep through the night eventually, right? He's only FIVE, after all...) When I ask him a question and he actually gives me an answer. When I ask him a question and he cries. When I can't tell defiance from misunderstanding. Just love him.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could apply this to all of our communication issues? When your spouse takes your words the wrong way. Just love him. When your daughter rolls her eyes because you dared to suggest that you might actually know something. Just love her. When your friend pulls away because of her own poor life choices. Just love her. When your coworker just.doesn' Just love him.

I've said it before and I will say it again: This Down syndrome journey isn't always easy, but it is so worth it. I am learning so very much... about him, about me, about life.

And also, it's a good thing he's so cute.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seeking Significance, part 2: Put down the measuring stick

Last week I started a new series on significance, a topic that I am finding really resonates with women right now. (You can find the first post here.) It amazes me how many of us are working ourselves to the point of exhaustion, yet going through life with such a small view of ourselves. I would love to take just a few minutes to encourage you, my reader, that you are so much more than you think you are.

My sweet Lamb is becoming more and more of an artist every day. A few nights ago, as I read to the kids before bedtime (something I still love to do, even though the older two are quite capable of reading by themselves), I glanced over to see her doodling. It was beautiful!

"Wow, Sweetie! That is really impressive! You are such a great artist."

"Well," she replied, "it's really not that good."

I'm used to her preteen negativity, so I decided to let that go and try again. "Well, I think it's beautiful."

Then she turned on her extra-whiny voice. "But everyone else I know can do so much better than meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" (Picture slouched shoulders, hanging head, pouty lips--the whole nine yards. The girl is nothing if not dramatic.)

Oh for the love. I may or may not have threatened to never pay her another compliment ever again.

But honestly... how often do we do the exact same thing? Whatever I do is not good enough, because somebody else can do better.

Comparison has long been an issue for the human race, but the internet and social media have taken it to a whole new level. We have quantifiable measurements of how well "liked" we are--and how well "liked" everyone else is as well. And that is a dangerous rabbit trail.

Here's what we need to know: Comparison at its root is a tool. By comparing similar objects or data, we can make determinations that are helpful to society at large. For example, because doctors have determined that most babies walk between 9 and 18 months of age, parents who have a non-walking 3-year-old know that there might be a bigger issue. You might seem like that seems obvious, but we only KNOW that it is unusual for a 3-year-old to be unable to walk because we have seen when other children start to walk--in other words, by comparison. It's a tool.

Then again, a ruler is a tool, too--and a useful one. But if I give Lamb and Monkey each a yard stick and send them out into the yard, what are they likely to do? Before you know it, they will be using those sticks to beat.each.other.down. They will take that tool and turn it into a weapon.

And that is exactly what we do with comparison. That tool that allows us to make useful observations becomes a weapon that we use against ourselves--and others, depending on who comes out ahead. We compare our clothes, our homes, our cooking, our kids' test scores, even our Facebook friend list and Instagram likes.

But here's what I know: If you measure your success by comparing, you will always fall short. Just when you think you've reached the highest level on your stick, you'll find someone who is doing it better or harder or with more recognition, and your pride will never let you be satisfied with "enough."

If you want to be significant, put the measuring stick down.

Because significance is not about what anyone else is doing. It's about you doing what you do. It's about running the race put before you.

One of my favorite Bible stories comes from the book of John. Jesus has endured the crucifixion and returned to his disciples, including Peter, who denied knowing Jesus three times while Jesus suffered and died. Jesus singles Peter out and gently restores their relationship, letting Peter know that he was aware of Peter's shortfall--but that he loves him and wants to use him. He even tells Peter that he will remain faithful to the point of death. And after this beautiful, tender moment between Lord and disciple, what does Peter do? Does he thank Jesus for the grace and forgiveness that he was shown? Does he walk away in contented peace, knowing that he can handle whatever comes his way, now that he has restored this all-important relationship? No, he glances behind him, sees John, and says, "What about him?"

And I love Jesus' answer, because I can almost feel his frustration: "Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'" (John 21:22, emphasis added) In other words, "What's your deal, Peter? It doesn't matter what John or anyone else does. You do what you do--and that should be to follow me."

"I'm trying to be a good wife and mom, but my house just isn't as clean as Mary's!" Good for Mary. You run your race, let her run hers.

"I want to be effective for Jesus, but I'm not Billy Graham!" Of course you're not. There are 7 BILLION people in the world, and only ONE of them is Billy Graham. (Also, I'd be willing to bet that many of those 7 billion have never heard of Billy Graham, either. Does that make him less significant?) He is running his race, you run yours.

And speaking of big successful people like Billy Graham, let me just say this... The world of social media and reality TV tells us that in order to be somebody, we have to be KNOWN. We have to be famous and have followers. But this is just such a horrible lie. Take a minute and write down the 10 most influential people in your life. Really. Go ahead--I'll wait.

Now tell me: How many of the people on your list are famous? I'm not saying that people aren't impacted by Billy Graham or Oprah or... I don't know, Bradley Cooper. (What? I am impacted by Bradley Cooper every time I see him!) But I would be willing to bet that AT LEAST 8 people on your list would not be considered "important" by the world's standards. They did not earn their place on your list by speaking to you through a television screen or from their insightful Facebook posts, but by regular and personal contact. Usually the most significant people in our lives are the ones who show up.

My friends, your significance cannot be found in comparison. That is a losing game for every single person who plays. Do you know why? Because there are 7 BILLION people in the world, and only ONE of them is YOU. So put down your measuring stick and be YOU. If you want to be significant, just show up--for the people in your life, for the things you do well, for the cause(s) that are dear to you. Show up. Be significant.