He’s More

I sat in my son’s IEP meeting waiting to discuss his kindergarten placement. I’ll be honest, I dreaded the meeting.

I felt like I might need to fight to place my son in gen ed.

I felt like I might need to persuade others that my son deserves the opportunity to go to school at his neighborhood school with his brother and peers.

I felt like my son was being viewed as a collection of test scores and data. You know, like a lab rat.

I wanted to shout:

My son is more than Down syndrome.

My son is more than cognitively impaired.

My son is more than “choose the right letter for three out five trials with 80% accuracy.”

My son loves to play hockey, basketball, baseball, and soccer.

My son loves to sing.

My son loves to look at books and to have someone read to him.

My son likes to pretend to fix his toy cars.

My son can stream music to a wireless speaker or Netflix to a TV. (And I’ve never shown him how.)

My son can follow directions.

My son knows his morning and evening routines and never forgets to brush his teeth.

My son loves to use the self check-out the library.

My son tried skiing in Colorado this spring.

My son will try to wrap you around his finger. (Don’t let him. I don’t.)

My son will make you laugh.

My son will give you a hug when you’re sad.

My son will be a blessing to those around him.

My son will start school in the least restrictive environment possible. If that doesn’t work, we’ll look at our options.

To the parent going through that the same situation; take heart, the meeting may just surprise you in the end.

It turns out, I didn’t need to shout. I didn’t need to be defensive. Our decision was respected, not fought.

And the staff at his new school were more than supportive. In a meeting where I felt like nothing but limitations were presented, his new team seemed to see the potential I did. I felt like they saw more than a collection of data. More than test scores. More than a kid with Down syndrome. They saw my son.

 

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Keeping Memories

It was only two days ago when I wiped your face and put on cream.

It was only two days ago when I held your hand.

It was only two days ago when I kissed your forehead.

It was only two days ago when I hugged you.

It was only two days ago when I you last looked into my eyes.

To be exact it was less than two days. Maybe thirty six hours.

I spoke to you this morning. I don’t know if you heard me.

Your breathing was fast and labored. I told you I’m sorry I wasn’t there, but you’re in my thoughts and mind constantly.

And now I wait for the phone to ring. To tell me the news that you’re really gone.

I don’t know what that means. For 43 years you’ve been a part of my life. I’ve been a part of your life since you were 50 years young.

When I was little I’d wait on our front porch, dressed in play clothes, waiting for your arrival.

When I moved closer, we’d see each other weekly. Almost always for Sunday dinner. You made the best pot roast ever. And you always knew to have plenty of mashed potatoes for me, and honey for the biscuits.

You’d come visit me when I didn’t feel well. And when it was all the rage you even managed to get me a Cabbage Patch Doll during a Kmart Blue Light Special!

We would take trips to Arkansas during the summer. And we’d both complain about the heat. And you’d pay me a dollar if I could stop talking for five minutes.

Later I moved even closer. I was in sixth grade now and would ride my bike over to visit with you after school and on weekends.

I went to college in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And you came to visit and watch me graduate.

Even in your 70s and 80s, you came to visit me. After my first child was born, you came and helped out. You made me the best dinner. Ever. Homeade fried chicken, biscuits, green beans cooked the southern way, and peach cobbler.

I like to think I was there for you too. I remember my brother and I driving you to Arkansas for the funeral of one your sisters. That trip stands out in my mind as I made it with you in my thirties. I was no longer a child. We drove around and you showed me where you hung out as a young woman. Where you and grandpa would go dancing. Seeing it in person with you meant so much to me.

The past few years you’d give us a scare and I’d drive across the state to see you.  But then again, I’d always drive to see you. Nothing could keep me from you.

I enjoyed learning to bake pies from you. Perhaps one of my fondest memories. We’d make snack size apple pies and full size pies. I still love to bake pies, and I attribute that to you.

And we both love to watch the birds. You’d call me and ask me about a bird you couldn’t identify. I’d send you a video of a magpie I spotted in the mountains. Less than a week ago, you sat in your chair looking out the window at the feeders outside your living room window.

I could go on and on, but as I listen to the birds sing outside my window, I think of you. Hoping you know the birds are singing outside your window too. And when your last breath is taken, and your time on this earth is through, I hope the birds bring you to heaven and sing their sweet heavenly song for you. And when I hear the sweet chirps outside, I’ll remember you.

For 43 years you’ve been a part of my life. After putting my thoughts to paper, I realize you’ll always be a part of my life. I have memories that could fill books. I have a love of outdoors, the south, birds, and pies, because of you.

My heart is breaking. But I’m so glad I had as much time as I’ve had. I’m so happy that we’ve always been close. Because I’d rather sit here to today with a breaking hurt than sit here today void of such wonderful memories and the love you gave to me.

I love you, Grandma.

Kindergarten Roundup

While I sit at my computer, my son sits in a kindergarten classroom a mile away for kindergarten roundup.

Like the other parents who dropped off their child, I’m wondering what he’s doing right now. I wonder if he’s making a friend. I wonder if he’s enjoying himself.

When I filled out standard forms regarding what my child can do, I had a lot more no’s than yes’s.

Can your child say his name: No.

Does your child know his birthday: No.

Does your child know the alphabet: No.

Is your child able to take care of all toilet needs by him/herself: No.

And so the list of questions went. I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy. I observed a gen ed kindergarten classroom yesterday. I fought back tears as I wondered how my son would navigate this environment. Was I wrong in thinking this is even a possibility? Am I just wasting everyone’s time?

I expected to be a blubbering mess this morning. But then my son and I entered the school.

Usually, when the principal says hi my son turns away. Today, he gave him a high five.

My son hates name tags. Today he put it on with no complaints.

My son isn’t always so sure about going over a to a group of kids to play. Today He sat down and played with blocks.

He smiled for his picture. OK. So he loves to get his picture taken. That wasn’t new.

Today I saw a boy excited to do what his big brother does. At his pace.

Today I saw a boy who could adjust to a new setting better than I expected.

Today I saw the blessing that Down syndrome has brought to my life.

Good luck my little buddy. May you bless others the way you bless me.

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Love. Peace. Comfort

 

 

A quiet and kind man sits in his office and ponders the difference a year can make: not only professionally but also personally. He reads and shakes his head at the news: a presidential contender wants to make a database of Muslims in the United States so they can be tracked. Singling out groups of people based on religion always leads to suffering. He reads how people are afraid that Syrian refugees could be terrorists. He thinks of his family in Syria who are living in a war-torn country and how there’s little he can do for them here in the United States. How they would give the shirt off their back to help someone in need, regardless of the other person’s religion. He has lost family and friends in this war.

He gets up from his chair and walks around the building to clear his mind. He walks past his former boss’s office. He stops to think of the man’s widow. He realizes the holidays can be a difficult time. And just knowing someone is thinking of you can make a difference.

On his way home he stops at a store to buy the widow a Christmas card. It’s a winter-white card with a red velvet cardinal perched on a silver tree. The card has a simple greeting of love, joy, and wonderment for the season.

He brings it to work and quietly asks a coworker to pass it around the department for everyone to offer their wishes. He smiles and heads back to his office.

 

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She stands in her kitchen baking Christmas cookies as she has every year. The kitchen smells of gingerbread. Her Christmas tree is lit and carefully decorated with family ornaments gathered throughout her married life: all 33, almost 34 years. A love-filled marriage and four children. Darlene Love’s “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” is on the radio. Sadly, this song stirs up bittersweet emotions of Christmases past and how Christmas will be different this year.

She puts the cookies in the oven and decides to get some fresh air on this unseasonably warm December day.

After a brisk walk with only the sound of rustling leaves on the ground, she heads to her mailbox. No decorating the mailbox this year. That was always his task, and she doesn’t have the heart to do it.

She collects the mail and flips through the colored envelopes. On this dreary day, a bright red envelope catches her eye. She opens it and reads the many warm wishes of thoughts and peace for her holiday season. She recognizes the names as the coworkers of her late husband. She appreciates their thoughts of her after months of his passing. She is comforted by this small gesture. She smiles and heads back to her kitchen.

 

One small gesture is all it takes.

One small gesture toward peace, love, and comfort.

 

 

 

50 Shades of Anything But Romantic

So I’ve had no desire to read 50 Shades of Grey. The story line doesn’t interest me as I’m not into romance novels. (And I’m by no means a literary snob. I enjoy frivolous novels.) But from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t even sound romantic. I think a man insisting a woman sign a contract to date (or be his sexual partner, slave…whatever) is far from romantic. Guess I have old-fashioned ideas about romance.

Anyway, due to the hype I decided to read a sample of the first 29 pages of the book. Contrary to popular opinion, I wasn’t even the least bit intrigued. Yes, it reminded me of Twilight. And yes, I read them all. I blame it on my hormones as I was seven months pregnant. Let’s face it,  Edward is a stalker. Stalkers are creepy.

But reading the sample pages gave me some idea if I was being too harsh in my criticism. As I read those pages, I noted that Anastasia kept referring to Christian’s long index finger. I think there must have between three and five references in 29 pages to his index finger. (I already deleted the sample from Nook and was unable to count the exact number.) A bit much for 29 pages. And I could see where Christian might start to covet Anastasia.

After the second reference to the index finger, one particular image popped into my head:

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Yup. Gollum.

Gollum had abnormally long fingers.

Gollum coveted the ring. {Insert “my precious” in that gravelly, tortured voice.}  Kind of like the way it appeared Christian was going to covet Anastasia.

So I hate to even the mention the work of Tolkien, who is an amazing writer and storyteller, in the same paragraph as E.L. James, but this was my first thought.

And I am by no means comparing the two authors. One is a phenomenal writer. The other, not so much.

So there’s my two cents on 50 Shades of Grey. Is it unfair to critique a book without reading it in its entirety? Absolutely. Do I care? No.

I’m not a book critic. Just a person with a blog.