Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Good Night

Bedtime around here is a family affair. For a kid as fun-loving as Abby, settling down to go to sleep is not her favorite activity, so we try to make as fun as possible. Usually, Dada heads up first while I gather things like a cup of water and a book to read. Then, I herd her up the stairs to "find" where Dada went. Once we've  "discovered" he's in Abby's room we head to the bathroom to get all our bathroom business done. By this point I've turned on the night music and nightlight, and gotten the covers straightened. Everything is ready - so we all pile in. Now, before you start imagining us all crammed into a toddler bed, I will tell you that Abby sleeps in a double bed, so that fact that we are all in it at once isn't quite as comical as it might sound.

Here is where it varies from night to night. Sometimes we read stories on the iPad, sometimes we read stories out of actual books (gasp!), and sometimes Mama and Dada are the storytellers. Tonight though, we tried something a bit different before the stories, we played telephone. Abby has always liked secrets and she has a favorite secret she likes to share. If you ask Abby to tell you a secret she'll draw close, cup her hands around your ear and whisper, "Pst, pst, pst, open my presents!" For some reason she thinks every secret is about her opening presents, it's actually pretty funny. So tonight when Jason was trying to get her to lay down he told her he had a secret, and she wanted to share hers - about opening her presents. This gave me the idea to play telephone. Here's how it went:

Game #1
Mama whispers to Abby: I love you!
Abby whispers to Dada: Pst, pst, pst, open my presents!

Game #2
Mama whispers to Abby: Mama is great!
Abby whispers to Dada: Pst, pst, pst (Okay, we're getting better)

Game #2 (second try)
Mama whispers to Abby: Mama is great!
Abby whispers to Dada: Mama is so sweet (Gave her points on this one since she got the spirit of the message)

Game #3
Mama whispers to Abby: Mom's the best!
Abby whispers to Dada: blah, blah, woo, lu, woo, lu (or something similar)

By this point Abby had gotten us laughing, so she was in entertainment mode. She sat up and proceeded to do a shimmy dance that got us both laughing against our better judgement and that was that. Dad tried to help by suggesting it was story time. Abby once again snuggled in and ordered Dada to begin.

Jason began some story about Princess Abby wandering the grounds of the Pink Castle and finding an enchanted banana that turned her into a fish. Abby wasn't really down with that so she commanded him to stop and start a new story. This time, feeling that he'd already gone the route of originality, he decided to plagiarize. Abby was stranded on an island with only a volleyball named Wilson for a friend. Now, I knew what he was doing, this had now become a contest between the two of us to see who could hold their laughter in. Not to be outdone I took over the tale and had her rescued by her friends in a helicopter and flown above the tree line, away from the hunters. There though they encountered a crazy Scottish squirrel who threw nuts at them and beavers who made fun of the fact that Abby had a teddy bear backpack (Open Season for those of you without kids), this morphed into "Abby-locks and the Three Bears", and by this point Abby had caught on to our game and our giggles. It was time for Mom to reign it in, or we would be there all night.

So, Mom got stern, Abby got stubborn, and Dada became the referee. After a trip to the bathroom, a change of clothes (just because), and some other stalling measures, it was decided that Mom needed to go downstairs and Dad and Abby would hang out and watch a video on the iPad - a chance for all of us to decompress. In a few minutes I will head back up to "close the deal" as we call it, because when the sleepiness finally does take hold of Abby she wants Mama. Dada will tell Abby that he has to head into work (he doesn't, but for some reason it's the only excuse she'll accept for him to leave), and I will commence the singing of the Winnie the Pooh song. Abby will fall asleep and bedtime will be over - whew!

I have to admit there are many nights when I wish I could just tuck her in, give a kiss goodnight and close the door. It would be easier. It would be faster. It would be a lot less hassle. But, I've come to realize that this ritual has become important family time. Our life gets so crazy sometimes, I like the fact that we end our day together telling stories, being silly, and sharing cuddles. No matter what has gone on that day, the sight of her beautiful face, peaceful in sleep, is balm enough for any hurts or aggravations that have occurred. Is guaranteed to make any night a good night.
Abby actually let me change her bandage today.
The other one was almost off, and even though she cried
she didn't fight - that was huge!

Friday, March 30, 2012

If Abby Were In Charge of the World

One of my favorite writing activities that I do with my students is a copy-cat version of Judith Viorst's poem If I Were In Charge of the World. Over the years I've gotten a lot of wonderful examples of what our world would be like if it was run by preteens. On Monday morning, as I was thinking about what to write for my blog post, this poem came to mind and I began to wonder: What would it be like if Abby were in charge of the world? I thought that I would rewrite Viorst's poem from her perspective for that night's entry, but Abby had different ideas. Now that things have calmed down a bit here's a view of Abby's perfect world

If Abby Were in Charge of the World
If Abby were in charge of the world
She'd cancel bedtime,
Counting to three,
The word, "No", and also bad tasting medicine.

If Abby were in charge of the world
There'd be mirrors on every wall,
"Dancing Shoes" for every foot, and
Frilly pink tutus would be worn by everyone.

If Abby were in charge of the world
You wouldn't have sad.
You wouldn't have scary.
You wouldn't have rest time,
Or "Don't touch Mommy's yarn."
You wouldn't even have yarn.

If Abby were in charge of the world
Chicken nuggets and pizza would be health foods,
All movies would star Winnie the Pooh,
And a person who sometimes forgot to pick up her toys,
And sometimes forgot to finish her chores,
Would still be allowed to be
In charge of the world.

Now, what would your world look like?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Abby Gets Her Groove Back

Disclaimer: It seems that the better Abby feels, the worse I do. Thankfully, the cold that had been brewing for a few days waited until all the excitement was over to come out and dance a spritely jig on my head and chest, so I guess I should be thankful that I wasn't feeling this miserable while sitting in the ER. Having said that, I will ask that you excuse any spelling, punctuation, or communication issues in tonight's post.

Today I could tell that Abby was feeling better, because today was when her sass came back. Not to say she was bad, she just seemed to recall a bit more of her spunk. Here are some examples:

  • Going for the soft touch:
    • Abby: "Mommy, Popsicle please!"
    • Mom: "No more popsicles."
    • Abby: "Dada, Popsicle please!"
  • What happened when she didn't get her way:
    • Abby: "Dada, bath please!"
    • Dada: "No bath, you can't get your finger wet."
    • Abby: "Dada, poopy pants."
    • Dada checks to see nothing is there.
    • Abby sticks tongue out at Dada
  • Bedtime
    • Mom: "Abby is it time for you to go to bed?"
    • Abby: "No thanks! I can't do bedtime right now."
These are just some of the conversations from today, and like I said, she had her very sweet moments as well. Like when the toys Jason ordered yesterday came and she yelled, "Thank you Dada! It's Christmas!", or after each bout of my hacking cough she would ask me, "Okay, Mama?" Yes, her sweetness hasn't gone anywhere. 

Despite the fact that there were a few times when I had to get to "two" with her, I was happy to see her "spit and vinegar" return, because it told me she was on the mend. She also began using her right hand a bit more today, instead of keeping it close to her chest - another good sign of healing. In a day or so we'll be able to pull back the bandage and see what's there. For now we get another day home tomorrow for some much needed rest.
Two of the newest members of the household,
Snow White and Winnie the Pooh - both very
welcomed, indeed!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Bona Fide Birthday-Day

Around my house your birthday was something very special. You got to choose the dinner for the evening, you got to do whatever you wanted (within reason), and you got gifts. I let Jason know when we got married that this was one tradition we would continue, I even gave them a special name: "Birthday -Days". There was even one Christmas when I gifted Jason with a coupon book filled with enough coupons for him to have one a month. The real point of them is that the whole day is dedicated to you - and they are wonderful. Today Abby got an undeclared Birthday-Day - she deserved it after the day she had yesterday.

Today began with Jason running to the store to stock up on all kinds of Abby goodies. He got yogurt, pineapple, a Winnie the Pooh cup and a Princess Belle cup, peanut butter eggs, popsicles, and even a couple of new movies. Since Abby was still a bit groggy, she and I snuggled in bed a bit longer. While we laid there we got talking about yesterday. I asked if she remember the bubbles. See, the wonderful staff at Mott even could make going off to surgery fun. I got to put on a wonderfully stylish white jumpsuit with a lovely blue hair cap and a charming mask - and since there are no pictures I will tell you that it was all quite fetching on me. Abby was fascinated that Mom was playing dress-up and she wanted her own outfit. Luckily, they had a cute little "dress" for her, that even had clowns on it. She was a bit hesitant to climb up onto that rolling bed with me. She had learned earlier in the evening that scary and painful things happened on beds like that, but that's when we pulled out the bubbles. She was game then. We told her we were a bubble train, and they wheeled us into surgery with me blowing bubbles the whole way.

I was surprised to hear that Abby remembered all of this. Along with the bubbles, she remembered that while in the operating room one of the doctors put Dora on the monitor for her to watch and that she got the special mask - the one that wasn't like everyone else's. I remembered everything in sharp detail, like the look of panic she sent me as the anesthetic began to take effect, and the nurses transferring her limp little body from my arms to the operating table, and walking out of the room - leaving my little girl in the hands of a team of nurses and surgeons, but I didn't expect her to remember quite so much.

Flashes of memories from yesterday came to me throughout the day today, so when she asked for another popsicle (after she'd already had three) I gave it to her. Still fresh in my head was the picture of her beautiful eyes looking into mine as five adults struggled to hold her down so they could see her hand. I saw her clearly as she fought them with all of her might, and screamed so hard that she broke numerous blood-vessels in her face. I wanted to give her the whole box of popsicles.

I don't know if she sensed that extra love that oozed out of us today, but all day she was in a wonderful mood. The only time she got cranky was when her pain medication began to wear off. She even wanted to get dressed up, in her pretty red dress, for her special visitors today. Mrs. D from my school came by to drop off a gift for the patient (The Muppet Movie complete with movie munchies), and Abby's teacher who came by to give her the cards the class made for her, and a small gift from herself. That's when it took all I had to hold it together. Seeing the darling cards her class had worked so hard to make, and the long hug that her teacher gave her brought home the fact that Abby was missed, and there were many people that were concerned for her.

Popsicle #3
Despite the fact that it is past her bedtime, we are letting her finish watching her show (and finish the fifth popsicle of the day) before hauling her off to bed - but that's allowable on a Birthday-Day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Long Day

Tonight's post will be short and sweet. We have had a rather rough day - Abby most of all. For those of you who didn't know we began the day with a visit to the pediatrician and ended up at the University of Michigan's Mott's Children's Hospital where Abby underwent hand surgery.

It seems that things were a bit worse than the doctor's last night told us. See once the surgeons got in there they found that Abby had: an open fracture, two lacerations across her nail bed, and another one that cut deeply into her finger tip. Those things needed to be fixed before they could put her nail back on and tack it down with a couple of stitches. In other words, she needed a bit more than a good soak and a couple of band aids.

I will share more of my feelings and reflections on the day in tomorrow's post, I am far too tired and need the extra time to process things, but I will share with you some of the realizations that I came to today.

  1. I have the bravest, spunkiest, strongest, most wonderful, sweetest, and many other -ests, little girl in the world.
  2. I will forever be banishing my OSU flag to the dark recesses of my closet, never to see the light of day again. My allegiance now, and hence fourth, lies with the Maize and Blue.
  3. I will never doubt my "Mother's Gut" again. God gave it to me for a reason. I will trust it, and I will act upon it.
  4. I have wonderful friends who will offer their help and will storm the gates of Heaven with prayers for my little angel, despite the fact that some of them have never even met her.
  5. Abby is my hero.
Abby is now resting peacefully in her bed. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. We are all grateful.

Abby coloring while waiting for the first round of

They gave Abby a plush lamb to have.
She appropriately named him, "Little Lamb".

What's the best thing about coming out of the
anesthesia? They give you sherbet!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

As a teacher, whenever I call a parent during a school day, the first words out of my mouth after I've identified myself is always, "Don't worry, your child is okay." I am always aware that an unexpected call from your child's school can immediately quicken a mother's heart and send her into panic mode. So, when I heard my phone buzzing this afternoon and saw that it was Abby's school calling, I tried to calm that immediate fear response, after all she'd been fighting a cold, maybe she was just too sick and needed to come home - that wasn't the case.

I heard the hesitation in the secretary's voice as she identified herself. I think that's when I began packing up my stuff. As I stuffed my computer in my bag and grabbed my keys I heard her say that Abby had cut her finger - that it was bleeding badly- that I needed to come. I told her I was on my way as I grabbed my purse from my closet. I vaguely heard my class asking me questions like, "Are you leaving?" and "Who's watching us?" I think I told them I had to go and that the principal would be down in a minute, but they were all okay, none of them were bleeding - Abby was, and getting to her as quickly as I could was all I could think about. I passed the principal on my way down the hall and gave him a quick explanation of what was going on.

It took me 11 minutes to get to her. I won't soon forget the look on her face. She was surrounded by support staff in the school office and they were tenderly hold gauze to her hand. As soon as she saw me her little face crumpled and big tears began to flow. She had been so brave, but Mom was here. I knew it was bad when they worked to distract her so they could show me her finger. The first sight was horrifying. Her finger was coated in blood and I could clearly see that her fingernail was no longer where it should be, but I couldn't tell if her fingertip was. Apparently she'd been in the bathroom and put her finger down the floor drain. Their theory was that she must have tripped and pulled her finger out when she fell. We gauzed and taped it back up and I carried her out to the car. We were on our way to the hospital.

That's when she started calling for Jason. Mom was there for hugs and kisses, but now things were getting scary, and so she needed Dada. I was trying to get in touch with him as I made a mad dash for the hospital. I finally got the confirmation that he was on his way, and he'd meet us there. I think she made everyone's heart ache in the ER as she cried and called for her Dada. There was quite a line to check in, and thankfully the nice gentleman in front of me let us go first.

I won't go into the hospital experience, or how those that we were counting on to give us the most information and help didn't, but I will say there were some very sweet nurses who were trying to make Abby as happy as possible. They brought the ER dog around for her to keep an eye on, and even gave her a popsicle at one point. She waved to everyone and I could hear people walking down the hall saying, "She's so cute!" And she was - when everyone left her alone, but if they needed to look at her finger that's when the problems started. It's understandable, she was scared and she knew that she was hurt, she didn't want anyone getting anywhere near that hand. Unfortunately, they wanted x-rays, to make sure that nothing was broken or lodged in the finger. After much yelling, screaming, and fighting we were able to get some images.

The doctor (without getting a clean look at the finger - mind you) declared that it didn't need stitches, just some Band-Aids and then home. What!?! Her finger was still oozing blood! At this point though, after hours of sitting in a post-triage holding room, we'd given up.

After getting home she had some dinner and then we knew what we had to do - we had to get her to clean her finger and hand. We tried to make it fun, Jason and I even sat on the edge of the tub and sang songs while she slowly sank into the warm water. Finally, Jason just held her hand in the water and worked at getting it clean. It was then that we noticed there were cuts all down her finger, along with the nail nearly off. It became apparent that she had gotten her finger stuck, and that she'd worked to free it, cutting it as she did so.

We were finally able to bandage it, and she soon fell asleep - exhausted from the day. Tomorrow we head to her doctor to see what can be done about it and to make sure that it will heal well. For now, I'm off to cuddle with my little peanut - I think we both need that tonight.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Me Time

Today was one of those days when "Elizabeth the Person" was at odds with "Elizabeth the Mama". Some of you may completely understand what I mean by that. One of the most difficult adjustments for me to motherhood has been the fact that I am no longer in charge of what I do with the bulk of my time. That sounds very selfish, doesn't it? But, if I am being honest, there are days when I struggle with this. Today was one of them.

I think she only actually ate two bites
of that donut - there was just too much
fun to be had!
Of all the days though, this was probably one that I have the least to complain about in that regard. We got up early, with Abby looking forward to Sunday school, where she would see her friends, and sing and dance. We got ready in plenty of time and even left home in enough time to pick up a yummy donut for her and a extra large coffee for me. Abby had a blast playing hide-and-go-seek with some of her buddies, and painting a pot at Sunday school. From there, Abby continued playing in the nursery while I went to church and enjoyed a wonderful service. The sermon was beautifully presented - about finding peace of all things. Abby didn't even give me any trouble when it came time to leave, she happily said thank you and good-bye to Mrs. D in the nursery and bopped out to the car.

We hit a snag when we realized that the pizza place we were going to for lunch wasn't open yet, but I remembered we had everything at the house, so Abby and I came home to make our own pizza. Sure, she only wanted the pepperoni, but luckily we had extra, so there were no issues there. I think my rumblings started when I sat down to do some knitting. It seemed I would just get into the pattern and Abby would need something, more pepperoni, different clothes, something else on TV, no more TV, play with the iPad, draw a picture, more milk, and on and on it seemed to go. I'm not proud of the fact that my patience had run out. It didn't help that the last few days I've been fighting a cold, and a morning filled with a hacking cough just compounded the headache that was brewing. By the time poor Jason got in from mowing the lawn it just took one look at me for him to suggest I go take a nap - he didn't have to tell me twice.

After a good two hours, I was doing better, but then I heard "Elizabeth the Person" whisper, You know, there was a time when you didn't have to schedule a nap, and not feeling satisfied she pushed further, a time when you actually got to finish a hot meal, when you didn't have to get up once to get something for someone. There was a time when you were able to watch whatever you wanted - whenever you wanted, a time when you could do whatever you wanted, a time when your time was your own

I'm sorry to say that today I bought it, hook, line, and sinker. My poor attitude fed my irritation with the fact that Abby wanted a bath, when I needed to get some laundry done. It shortened my patience when I discovered that Abby thought the new roll of toilet paper I'd just gotten for her would be a great bath toy. I found that I was even irritated when I had to sit quietly and wait while she finished playing in the tub (sans t.p.).

Yummy tea!
Now, "Elizabeth the Mama" is one sharp cookie. She didn't lay on the guilt trip for all my crabbiness, no, she knew that Abby would steer me right, and sure enough, she did. It was after her bath, while she was wearing her Christmas dress from two years ago, that she began to so sweetly sing Winnie the Pooh songs - and I melted. Abby then invited me to a charming tea party, followed by the chance to help Pocoyo and her pirate puppet have a sword fight. Abby had so effortlessly charmed the selfishness right out of me.

I certainly think it is important for every mother to have time to themselves, time when they can be pampered and when the only one they need to take care of is them, but sometimes I fixate on the hard parts of being a mom. I forget how much emptier my life was before we had Abby. Yes, my house was cleaner - yes, I was more rested - yes, my time was my own, but I can't for the life of me remember what I did with that time - it wasn't memorable. 

True to form, as I sit writing, all I can remember is Abby's sweetness as she asked me to dance, or her soft warmth as she cuddled with me on the couch this morning, and although I'm looking forward to a quiet evening and I know my time to myself will be nice - it will never be as precious as those moments with Abby.

Abby was being Mulan here. Yes, that is a pair
of tights around her head, and she is
practicing her moves with a "staff". Pretty
fierce, huh?

She never lets the cups get empty - what a
good hostess!

We were working on getting that pinkie up -
like a proper little miss.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Not-So-Magic Word

One of the things I am the most proud of with Abby is her manners. Even before she was able to speak we made sure that we used courteous words with her. In fact, when teaching her sign language we very deliberately included "please" and "thank you" right from the start. It gives me a glow of motherly pride when a teacher or another parent will tell me things like, "Abby is so polite, she always remembers her manners," or "Out of all the kids I gave a snack to, Abby was the only one that said thank you." She has even expanded her mannerly vocabulary to include, "Bless you!" when someone sneezes (or coughs), and "excuse me" when she needs to sneak by someone, when she belches, or when she....well, we'll just leave it at: she knows when she needs to excuse herself.

Now, she isn't perfect, and she certainly needs prompting from time to time, but overall her manners have become pretty well ingrained in her. I thought of all this today as she was pleading with me to produce some pizza for her dinner. She wanted some cold pizza and she kept telling me, "Pleeeeaaaasssse, Mama!" over and over (and louder and louder). I continued to tell her that I didn't have any pizza, that I couldn't make it magically appear. I had to laugh when she let out another pitiful "please" because I realized then that it isn't quite the magical word that everyone claims it is.

Finally, in exasperation, I opened the fridge and told her to look and see if she could find any cold pizza there, if only to prove to her I wasn't keeping it from her. She stood there for several minutes, bent over and saying things like, "Mmmmm.....let's see here," while she tried desperately to find what she was looking for. Finally, she must have seen something that sparked the promise I'd made to her this morning, because she suddenly turned to me with another option - pancakes!

I happily obliged and we set about making some pancakes for dinner. She is now cheerfully working on cleaning her plate, and telling me how good they are, along with making sure to thank me for her yummy dinner.

I couldn't decide which picture I liked the best, so I added both.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Today was IEP day, or "Individual Education Plan" day for those of you who are not familiar with educational mumbo-jumbo. This is the day when we meet with all of Abby's teachers and the support staff that work with her, to discuss her progress thus far, and create goals and plans for next school year. Imagine a parent-teacher conference on steroids. These things always stress me out. Maybe if I set the scene you'll see why.

Cast of Characters:
Teacher Consultant
Occupational Therapist
Physical Therapist
Speech Therapist
Special Education Teacher
Classroom Teacher

The play takes place in a large conference room, with an imposing wooden table in the center, around which are several chairs. All the teachers are seated at various positions around the table with large stacks of papers in front of them. The TC (Teacher Consultant) is armed with a formidable computer, she is alternately typing and checking paperwork. Two chairs are left open across from all the others, for the parents. Those seated around the table are talking softly and riffling through paperwork, but stop abruptly when the parents are ushered in by the secretary.

Now, having been on the "teacher side" of the table, I know that there is no intention of putting parents on guard, or making them feel uncomfortable, in fact, it is just the opposite, but whenever this meeting approaches I can't help but get anxious about what they will tell me. See, early on, for the first few meetings we had with the specialists that worked with Abby, I came in feeling so very positive. I was excited to hear what they would tell me. In my opinion she was doing wonderfully. She was beautiful  and strong, and excelling beyond my expectations, but then they began comparing her to "typical" children. They gave her tests and evaluations that "typical" children would get and then told us where she fit in the scheme of things. They wrote down her "deficiencies" in black and white, using formal and clinical language to describe our miracle. Jason and I both left those meetings depressed and disheartened, and it was all I could do to save my tears for the car ride home. Despite the fact that the meetings have vastly improved, the old fears are not forgotten so easily.

Today, due to a meeting Jason was unable to attend Abby's IEP, I was determined that I would be just fine. Of course my anxieties got a hold of me, but this year I tried to move beyond them. I remembered that Abby has done so well, and we have been thrilled with all that she has learned. I couldn't imagine that everyone else wouldn't feel the same - still, I was on guard as I approached the school.

I'm happy to say that today's meeting was nothing like the others I've described. Sure, we sat around a big wooden table, but what made the difference was that for the first time those gathered made me feel like a part of the team. It was less of a formal meeting, and more of a chance to share the wonderful strides that Abby has made this year. We swapped funny Abby stories and charming Abby moments, at the same time talking about ways that we might help her both at school and at home, and the only time I got teary was while thanking them all for their hard work and all that they do for us.

I left feeling lighter and happier, with a incredibly positive feeling and a big smile on my face. What a great way to start the weekend.

Today was pajama day. Abby's teacher told
me that she wasn't getting too much done today
because she kept turning to people and telling
them how cute she looked in her jammies. Yep,
that sounds like our Abby.

Abby sporting some of her "jewels". Her O.T.
shared with me today that she can get Abby to work
better for her, if she lets Abby wear her jewelry.
That's my girl!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Mighty Ab-Bee

There's something that happens around here every night around 7:30 or 8:00 - Mom gets control of the T.V. It is once Abby is tucked away, sleeping soundly that I can finally watch the shows that I want to, and let me tell you, there isn't a cartoon, or a wacky personality in the bunch.

Since Abby has been able to recognize the moving pictures on the screen she's loved to watch T.V. Most of the time she is watching movies (and singing, and dancing, and acting, and...) and she will stick with one movie until it grows old, and then move on to another. I can probably quote word-for-word such movies as, Shrek, Monsters vs. Aliens, Toy Story (1, 2, & 3), Coraline, Tinker Bell, Kung Fu Panda, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and several others. In fact, since she's gotten past her Wiggles phase (something I am daily thankful for), she has primarily stuck to watching movies - that was until she found The Mighty B.

Chester - waiting patiently for Abby.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with The Mighty B, it is a cartoon about a young girl named Bessie Higginbottom (isn't that a great name?) who belongs to a Girl Scout-esque troop called The Honeybees. Bessie's goal in life is to earn all the Honeybee badges (which is over 4000), at which point she believes she will become a great super hero - The Mighty B. Pretty crazy, right? Right, but Abby loves this show. Abby will gleefully reenact the adventures of Bessie and her trusty dog, Happy, all the while letting out great belly laughs at Bessie's crazy antics. This show even inspired one of her Christmas gifts this year. In one of Abby's favorite episodes, Bessie turtle-sits for her friend Millie when she goes on a trip. We thought it would be great to get Abby her own "Chester Turtleton". So we did.

Now, you may wonder: Why is she going on and on about this crazy show? Well, I realized today that her love of this show is yet another way that I see her growing up, that her humor is maturing. I was listening to her today as she watched Mighty B and I heard her exclaim, "Eeewww, that's gross!" and then let out a laugh. I am surrounded by kids every day that find "gross" stuff hilarious, and Abby is well on her way to becoming one of them. It almost makes me long for the days when we'd sing about "Hot Potatoes" or doing the "Wiggle Groove".....almost.

Aren't they cute?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Much More Than Expected

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Unless you are connected to someone who has Down syndrome you probably weren't aware that today was World Down Syndrome Day, were you? Can you guess why today, of all days, was chosen? I won't leave you scratching your head for long. See the "technical" term for Down syndrome is "Trisomy 21" in reference to the fact that those with the most common type of Down syndrome have an extra 21st chromosome (3 instead of 2 - that's where the "tri" comes in). Therefore, March 21st (3-21) is a perfect day to celebrate (as one friend of mine so wonderfully puts it) those with designer genes!

Today had me thinking back to many of the misconceptions that have been associated with people who have that extra chromosome - some of them I held myself before we had Abby. I thought I would share with you some of them Abby has totally debunked.

  • After finding out that Abby had Down syndrome I was afraid that she wouldn't look like either Jason or me.
Abby at 4 months....

....and me at 4 months.

Okay, so that soon became a moot point.
  • This led to another thought: Would she share character traits with Jason or me?

Like my connection to music?

ummm....okay, well what about my love of pretend play and dressing up?

.....and stealing the spotlight?

It was becoming clear, even though we didn't get any confirmation as to which one of us gave Abby the extra chromosome, that the kid had a little extra of me in her. 

  • Once my fears about connecting to her were blown away, I began thinking about her future. 
Would she have friends and be accepted by her peers?

Yes, she does and yes she is. 
As one of her friends told her mom, "Mom, Abby is like family."

Would she be able to learn?

See for yourself:

These are just a few of my fears and misconceptions, but with her track record I have no doubt that she will surprise everyone (even me) with what she can do and what she'll accomplish. I have learned to expect great things from our little Abby. My prayer is that the next time you see someone who may seem a little different, or look a little unique, you'll remember that they are much more than you might ever expect.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Land of Abber-Dee-Doo

Far away off, in the land of Abber-Dee-Doo
There were certain things only a mother could do,
Like helping change play clothes, or moving the mirror just so, 
Or packing a backpack, so off to school kids could go.
It was the mother who got the snacks, and took the clean plates away, 
and moved the heavy furniture, so that all the kids could play.
It was mom who changed the channel, and played requested shows,
and found missing shoes, hiding in places only a mother knows.
It was moms who did the hair washing when bath-time came,
and laid out the clothes to make sure the socks were the same.
Moms read the stories, and cuddled close at night,
and sang tender songs when they’d turn out the light.
Now dads had their jobs that were very important, too
Way far off in this land called “Abber-Dee-Doo”
See dads were protectors and were always on call,
To guard scary windows every winter through fall.
The dads also spent precious time each morn
getting kiddos ready before the bus honked its horn.
Dads did other things while the kids were away
like pick up toys and surprises with which they could play.
The best gift though that those dads could do
was something that every mom could tell you is true.
For the dads were the ones with the very special gift
to get the kids to comply, especially when miffed.
Each mom and dad had their own special jobs,
from cutting the apples to comforting the sobs.
But none of them would have it any other way,
and were thankful in this land, each and every day.

How could a mom or a dad be blue,
with a kid like this in Abber-Dee-Doo?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where Are We Going?

I believe I've mentioned before that Abby loves to be outside, and that once she is there it usually takes a significant bribe to get her back inside. Yesterday, as Abby was tooling around on her bike and overseeing the grilling of the burgers, I needed something quick and effective to get her indoors. So, I told her that if she was good that we might be able to go for a walk after dinner. Eventually that got her moving, but she remained a bit obstinate while we were eating. I mentioned to Jason that taking a walk in her present mood might not be the best idea. He agreed.

Thinking that she would forget about it, we happily ate our burgers and began cleaning up. That's when I heard Abby ask, "Mom, time for walk now?" Oops! I tell you, the kid has the memory of an elephant. I was able to put her off by telling her that maybe we would go for a walk tomorrow after school. Now, she doesn't have such a good memory that she would remember yesterday's promise, but as we were sitting at the table after school today I was feeling guilty, so I brought it up, and as expected she was game.

Abby's ready!
Not planning to go far, incase she decided to quit on me half way through, we headed out. I'm happy to say that she did a great job - she didn't get off her bike once, and kept up a steady pedal the whole way. In the end it became a rather enlightening walk, for it was while we were out in the beautiful sunshine that I couldn't help making an obvious comparison. See, along with chatting about the very nice day, Abby kept asking me over and over again, "Mom, where are we going?" and my response was always the same, "We're going for a walk." After about the fifteenth time she asked me I finally said in exasperation, "Abby, we're not really going anywhere...well, we are, but this is one of those things that is more about the journey than about where we end up." That's when it hit me - how much Abby and I are alike.

There are so many times when I ask God that same question, over and over, especially when it comes to Abby. Where are we going to send her to high school? What about college? Will she be living on her own someday? What about a job for her? How are we going to make sure she can be independent? Good heavens - is she going to get married? How am I going to prepare her for all of this? They may sound different on the surface, but in essence they are all variations on the same question: God, where are we going? It was in that moment, while pushing her around a corner, that I felt a little tap on my shoulder, and I could envision God smiling and saying, "Elizabeth...this is one of those things that is more about the journey, than about where we end up."

From there my mind was making connections right and left. When we would hit bumps and Abby would say, "Whoa, it's bumpy!" I would agree and then warn her as we approached more bumps in the road. Even though God hasn't always warned me that there would be a rough road ahead, He has certainly made sure that I was prepared to deal with it when it came. Then the road steepened, and I had to work more and push her harder, all the while reminding her, "Keep pedaling Abby. Don't make me do all the work." Sure, I was doing the lion's share, but I wanted her to know that she was a part of it too. I gave her the encouragement she needed to keep on going when it got tough. I suspect that there have been (and will be) many hills that God is pushing me up and gently reminding me to keep pedaling. When we finally arrived back at home Abby pointed at our house and let out a happy yell, "There it is!" We'd arrived at the end of our journey - safe and sound. We were just where we were supposed to be. Can you see where I'm going with this one? Yes, God will direct our path, and make sure that we are just where we need to be - just when we need to be there.

Today's walk was certainly good exercise for my body - I expected that, but what I didn't expect was how good for my spirit it would be. I can't promise that I won't continue asking the question of where we're headed, but it is good to have a reminder that I have someone patiently pushing me along who will throw me a reminder that He is in charge of the destination, and for the most part there is far more joy in the journey.

We have sprouts! Abby and I were both excited that our garden is growing!

Enjoying her bubble gun after our walk.

These are my efforts to get a mother-daughter picture. It didn't really work.
Bubble Gun was feeling left out.


At least you can see some of both of us.

Abby's take-over

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Great Day

Today was one of those lovely days when not much really happened. After Abby broke down in sad tears after Sunday school, and continued in her teary state the whole ride from church to home, I realized we all might need some rest and quiet. Unfortunately, Abby doesn't do "rest and quiet" so well - or at least how I  envision it. Still, she needed some time at home to just hang out, and that's what we did. So, instead of boring you with how very little we accomplished, I will just give you the award worthy moments of the day.

In the category of "Funniest Comments and Conversations" the nominees are:

  • Morning Request
    • Abby: Mom, stay home today. Don't wanna go to kindergarten.
    • Mom: You don't want to go to school?
    • Abby: No. Stay home.
    • Mom: Okay Abby, you don't have to go to school today. I'll let you stay home, but just this once.
  • Safe and Sound
    • Upon pulling into the church parking lot Abby had this to say: "Look Mom, church! We're here. We're safe!"
  • That's Two!
    • While watching Pocoyo and observing the fight between Ellie the pink elephant and Pocoyo Abby said, "No Ellie! Stop that! Ellie, that's two!"
  • The Shirt Off His Back
    • While talking with a neighbor who was out working in his yard shirtless Abby said, "Hi! Where's your shirt?"
In the category of "What Must the Neighbors Think?" the nominees are:

  • No Top
    • In the midst of a quick change, Abby followed me when I took Bruiser outside. I turned to find her wearing only a pair of pants and no shirt.
  • No Bottom
    • In an effort to get outside quickly to help Jason with the grilling Abby put on her shoes but forgot her pants. She was running around with a shirt and undies on - but that's it.
In the category of "Best Picture of the Day" the nominees are:

  • Bubble Gun 1:

  • Bubble Gun 2:

    • It should be noted that the "Bubble Gun" series were the only pictures taken today.
In the category of "Sweetest Abby Moment" the nominees are:

  • Giggles
    • Abby and I took a moment to cuddle and trade "smoochie bugs", while laughing and deciding who loved the other one more.
  • Play With Me
    • When Abby got done with her snack she came to me and said, "Play with me, Mom. Pleeeeeease!" So we played a card game, which lead to a charming tea party, complete with pretend pancakes.
  • Great Day
    • While laying down to go to sleep Abby let out a sleepy yawn and declared it had been a "Great day!"
So, there you have it. I will let you decide the winner of each category - they were all great moments in a "great day".

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Riding in the Car With Abby

Taking car trips with Abby are always an adventure. It's tough for such a "live wire" to be contained for much more than an hour, and even that's pushing it some days. It usually helps, though if she is going to one of her favorite places. Luckily, today we were.

I have been in desperate need of a haircut for quite some time, but this usually takes some planning since the only person I really trust to take a scissors to my hair lives a good two hours away (she really does a great job).  We typically make a family outing of it by stopping off at my in-laws, which is about half way. So, this morning, before seven we all trotted out to the car and buckled up to head to Nana and Papa's.

Abby, who was still garbed in her p.j.'s, was is a super mood, happily chatting away about going to see Nana and Papa. It was just after we'd been in the car for about ten minutes that she announced she was hungry. We were still in town, and had planned to pick up some bagels to bring with us, so this wasn't a problem. What she asked for was though, she wanted french fries and a shake. I explained to her that those things aren't served at the crack of dawn, but she might be able to get a muffin instead. She wasn't really down with that so she made another suggestion: birthday cake. I figured that going into the fact that a muffin and cake weren't too far off wasn't worth it, so I told her that would work. I heard her make a clicking sound from the back seat and then she told me that she was ready - because she'd put on her birthday hat.

This was about the time she started commenting on Jason's driving. We would hit a bump and hear a loud, "Woah!" from the back. She had wanted her booster seat in the middle of the back seat, and this afforded her a wonderful view of the road ahead of us. It was after about the third, "Woah!" that she added, "Look out, cars!" We weren't sure if she was warning Jason, or the others on the road that we were coming. We thought that by getting her some breakfast it might cool off the comments from the back, but they just kept coming. It was around a big bite of chocolate chip muffinette that she warned Jason to be careful as he got on the highway because, "There's a big truck!"

Breakfast kept her occupied for a short while, but then she was ready for some serious jams. Now, Abby tends to take after her father when it comes to her choice of music, it is rather....eclectic. Let me share with you her song choices of this morning:

Abby jammin'
  • "Day-O (Banana Boat Song)" - Harry Belafonte
  • "Pharaoh's Story" from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • "Be True to Your School" - The Beach Boys (To which she insisted she needed her pom poms. Since we didn't bring them the pretend red and pink ones I handed her worked well. - Whew!)
  • "Poker Face" - Lady Gaga
  • "Waka Waka" - Shakira
  • "Calcutta" - Lawrence Welk Orchestra
  • "Dancing Queen" - ABBA
  • "The Monkey Dance" - The Wiggles
With each of the songs she broke out her best moves - entertaining us so much that at one point she stopped and said, "Mom. Dad. Settle down!" Thusly chastised, we contained our amusement for the rest of the trip.

I'm happy to say we arrived safely, and Nana and I went off to get our hair done as the boys watched out for Abby. By the texts I was getting I anticipated the tired bunch that I came home to, so we packed up quickly and headed back for the hour drive home. While Jason dozed beside me, exhausted from the games of baseball, chalk drawings, playing in the yard, errands, and two baths that Abby had required, Abby and I belted out some Disney Princess Christmas carols. I'll bet we were the only ones on I-94 that were singing about having a holly jolly Christmas in 78 degree weather.

We arrived home, all a bit tired from our adventures, looking for a bit of peace and quiet, and happy with the knowledge that there was no need to get back in the car today.

Abby doing the signature Wiggles hand move.

I hear she has a mean swing.

Nice form!

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's Friday!

I love Fridays. I love them, not because of the obvious reason that it is the last day of a long work week (although that is a lovely reason), but I love Fridays because that is the day I pick Abby up from school.

Abby's school pictures from this year. She
was very excited about her photo shoot.
This year is the first year since Abby was 3, that she is out of my sphere for the whole day. I was spoiled that the last few years I could pop down the hallway of the school where I teach and spy on her through the window of the preschool or child care doors. I also could see her strut up and down the halls as she went from her classroom to the playground, or to some other part of the building. Granted, I was always hiding in some doorway, lest she see me and want to come back to my classroom with me, but I did get to see her. I tell you, she walked around our little school like she owned the joint - waiving to her many fans and popping into various classrooms just to say, "Hi!" She was in a place that I was very familiar with, surrounded by people I knew, and I felt very, very comfortable - so did Abby, which was one of the reasons that when it came time for all day kindergarten we chose to send her somewhere else.

Now, the main reason that we looked elsewhere was that she could get more support for what she needed at the public school. As a small private school we are just not equipped for the extra attention that Abby needed. It was a tough decision, but as the year has progressed we've realized how right that decision was. She has grown and matured with the help of her teachers and the school community there. She also has gained a measure of independence that is very good for her. As hard as it was for me to let go (college is going to be impossible), I know it was for her good.

Due to the fact that she is in a place that is new to us, I wanted to make sure that I made the extra effort to make myself known to her teachers and classmates. One way I do this is to pick her up from school each Friday. Luckily, her school gets out a half hour later than mine, so this affords me just the right amount of time to zoom out and get her.

I look forward to this every Friday. The best part of the whole thing is watching her at the moment she realizes I am there. I tell you it immediately takes away any lingering tiredness from the week, it instantly makes me feel lighter and brighter. It usually begins with her staring intently at me, as if she is thinking, Wait, is that who I think it is? Then it hits her, and that is great. She yells out, "Mama!" and comes barreling toward me to hurl herself into my arms. In that instant, the joy on her face at the fact that I am at her school is priceless. It makes me feel so special.

After a happy hug, her little hand locks into mine. Usually, when we are out and about, and Abby and I are walking together, I am the one with the death-grip on her hand. I am never quite sure when she is going to see something that interests her and take off. This is not the case on Fridays. On Fridays Abby holds onto my hand as if she is afraid I will disappear. There isn't much better than that soft little hand tightly gripping mine.

Today was just the same, and it was wonderful. She must have been feeling secure that I wouldn't leave without her, because before we left she ran to give her teachers a hug good-bye and we headed to the door. Today though, I noticed something. As we turned to leave two older girls that were in the hall made it a point to say good-bye to Abby, and Abby being Abby said, "See ya!" with a wave. It made my day even brighter because I realized that not only did the other kids see her, but they liked her. I know she is wonderful and likable, but I also know how kids operate, and I know they cannot always be accepting of differences in others. Something so simple, said so much.

After leaving school we made one more stop before heading home - pizza! It now seems a given that once we leave school we stop at the pizza place for Abby's favorite meal. By the time we got home Dad was there to greet us. Bruiser made a mad dash to the car to give us a happy hello, and we all headed into the house. We quickly got settled for our pizza dinner, a celebration which marks the beginning of the weekend.

Yes, I love Fridays for many reasons, but chiefly because of Abby.

Ready for pizza!

After dinner Abby decided to do some coloring.
I did give her paper. I guess this is what I get
for trying to do some laundry while she is "busy".

After a bath and a good scrub she was looking
more like the Abby we know and love. Tonight,
it seems, was a two apple night.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Worthy Protector

Once upon a time there was a young couple who had a very special little girl. This young couple loved her with all of their hearts, and always wanted what was best for her. So, they read and studied about the ideal ways to help her grow into the wonderful, strong girl they knew she could be. Understanding that they did not always know what was best for her, they sought help from many experts, who gave them advice on how to play with her to make her strong and smart. So, the young couple listened to them, and continued to learn, all the while watching their beautiful little girl grow bigger and stronger.

Soon though, this young couple began thinking more and more about ways they could protect their little gift. They knew she was already getting the best care they were able to give, but they wanted some way to help shield her from those that might want to hurt her. They looked far and wide, and had many discussions about the qualities this "somebody" should have. They should be brave and loyal, they should be vigilant and on guard, and they needed to have the instinctive understanding that their little girl was special and in need of their particular care.

Before long the young couple heard of such a creature. For reasons beyond her control, Annie needed a new home, somewhere where she would be loved and cared for, but also where she could have a purpose, for Annie was an intelligent creature who liked to keep her mind and body sharp. The young couple brought Annie home and introduced her to their little angel. The two soon became fast friends, and the couple watched in delight as Annie did her duty with confidence and care. They had found their protector.

The little family grew older and had many adventures, and before they knew it several happy years had passed. It was then that the couple began to notice differences in Annie. She didn't seem as healthy and strong as she once had, and when the blood ran red from her nose they knew something was not right. The couple brought Annie to doctors near and far, hoping they would find some way to help their precious family member, but as the days progressed nothing changed. Annie was not getting better. It was with heavy hearts, and many tears, that the couple reached a difficult decision. They had to say good-bye.

The family never became comfortable with the quiet and emptiness that Annie left behind. They knew that they were missing an important piece in their lives, but the grief was too strong. They needed more time before looking for someone to fill that space.

A year passed before the couple began talking about how they might fill the gap Annie had left behind - for they still felt their precious little girl needed the protection that only a soul like Annie could provide. Once again they began searching far and wide. They found many that were willing to take the position. Some were old and some were young. Some were big and some were small. None though, was a good fit for the family.

It was when the couple had become discouraged and ready to give up that they heard of another, much like Annie, who for reasons beyond his control, needed a new family to love and care for him. After much discussion, the couple took their special little girl with them to meet Bruiser.

Feeling a bit intimidated by his size and powerful voice, the family was unsure at first, but after a few moments of play, and a look into his beautifully intelligent, honey-colored eyes it gave them hope that this could be the one they had been looking for. A few days later Bruiser came to live with the little family. They both got used to each other's differences and soon settled into a wonderful rhythm. The couple saw how patient Bruiser was with their not so little girl, and how joyously he greeted her each day. They smiled as their daughter cuddled with him and told him things like, "I love you, Bruiser," and, "Good boy, Bruiser. I'm so proud of you." Once again the family felt complete and right.

Every now and again the girl will talk about Annie, and all of them enjoy looking at pictures and remembering their time with her. The family will always miss Annie, but she would be so pleased that one worthy of watching her little girl has taken her post.

Annie and her little charge.

The girl always had Annie eating right out of her hands.