A different kind of graduation

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I’ve written about Avery’s walking here, and again here, so it’s not a new subject. Even so, I wasn’t ready for what happened last week. I write about it today, in “A Little More” at ParentDish.

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Extreme Monsters: A report by Carter

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I recently came across Brighter Minds Media, an educational publisher of children’s books, games and software. I handed Carter one of the books in the Extreme Monster series nonchalantly; just sort of laid it by his desk. I’m always looking for books for him, but I was very doubtful about this one. (The cast of characters includes a skateboarding vampire, a street luging witch, an in-line skating werewolf, a BMX biking monster, and a speed climbing mummy). I will let him tell you, in his own words, what he thinks:

I liked the big foot, that’s his name. I also liked the traps. I liked the entire book, it was a good story. It kept me interested for a half a day. There were puzzles and a website and I have to wait for the next book to come out. I would recommend this book to other kids, that’s pretty much enough, don’t you think?

A family bicycles together to raise awareness

The Northwest Florida Daily News has a feature story about a family of 10 that is bicycling 1100 miles to raise Down syndrome awareness. Of the inspiring event, mom Kathy Thompson says, “We want families with a Down syndrome child to look at John and say, ‘In a few years my kid’s going to be the one riding the bike.’ That’s our big thing.”

To read the full article, go here. To see the family’s website, go here.

Editing

Last week, I got the editorial letter for my book, Roadmap to Holland. In it, my editor made suggestions like, “There seems to be a line of dialog missing here” (yes) or “Why are you spending three pages discussing nutritional therapy? Is this an issue that deserves an in-depth look?” (yes). She also asked larger questions of me, things like, Did I feel the ending was rushed (yes), and was there more to tell about a particular incident? (Again, yes).

About the same time that I got my edits back, I received an email from a fellow mama-writer, asking me to look at an essay of hers. I loved what she’d done; in fact, I worked on her essay even before I began tackling my own revisions. And as I worked, I was keenly aware of one thing: how hard it is to write, and how much we open ourselves up when we do. Any word, even a kind one, can seem overwhelming, when the writing is still new and close to your heart. But if we want to make the stories as strong as they can be, if we want to make the writing as clear as glass, then we revise.

So back to the words I go, as I encouraged the other mama-writer to do, too. I think that’s the mark of a professional writer: more than publication credits, more than the number of bylines, more than any amount of fame, it’s the willingness to push up your sleeves and go to work.

Good news!

A while back, I wrote about a story of inclusion at the Chickahominy VFD Station 10 and their entry in the firedog Across America Heroes contest. And here’s the results, from an email forwarded by Sheila Hebein of the NADS:

I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone that voted and helped us win the Firedog essay contest. From your votes and support, the Chickahominy Fire Department, Station 10, received a check yesterday in the amount of $141,402.00.

Again thanks for your help!!!

Please forward this on to anyone that may have participated in helping us win.

John Greene, Firefighter,
Hanover Fire and EMS Station 10

And Kathryn Lynard Soper’s book, Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives has already gone into it’s second printing, having sold through the first print run of 7,000. It’s a terrific achievement, and you can read more about it here.

A story of brotherly love

Benjamin Strong, who is the father of a 4-year-old son with Down syndrome, and who was a firefighter/paramedic in the Baltimore area, sent this link to the Baltimore Sun. It’s the story of a 13-year-old boy who rushed back into a blazing house fire to save his brother, a 16-year-old who uses a wheelchair. The article describes their relationship of mutual love and friendship. (Warning: the fire does not have a happy outcome.)

I’m always heartened to read stories that show families working together, pulling for each other, loving each other. Especially families of children with special needs. I remember being a new mom to Avery, and feeling overwhelmed with information and statistics. One of the numbers that stuck in my mind was that my marriage was statistically likely to suffer; another worry I had was that my other children would suffer somehow, too. I’ve learned otherwise, of course.

(Thank you for the link! And Benjamin Strong, father of a 4-year-old son, meet B Strong of Down Syndrome Life, father of a 3-year-old daughter…)

It’s a happy day here

at Pinwheels when I remember that it’s time for a new Special Needs Mama column at Literary Mama. This month, Vicki Forman writes about “The Center of the World.”

Her post reminds me of this: Like Evan, Avery has a one-of-a-kind belly button. There are “innies” and there are “outies.” Avery has a “way-outie.” A physician once asked me if we would like to schedule a surgery to repair it; at that time, we’d just gotten out of the NICU, Bennett had an upcoming surgery, and I was working on about two hours of sleep a night. The idea of undergoing a cosmetic surgery for a belly button seemed so silly to me that I snorted, startling the good doc. He took it as the “no” I meant to say, and didn’t ask me about it again.

More to think about

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Kristen, who writes From Here to There and Back, nomintated me for a Thinking Blogger Award. In her post, she says Pinwheels helped “redefine the words special needs” for her. I think that’s about the nicest compliment anyone could give me. Thank you, Kristen.

I wrote a bit about the Thinking Blogger here, and so this time I’m going to do something different. Like others, I find it very hard to choose just a few (five, if you go by the suggestions) bloggers who make me think; every site on my blogroll has some unique, terrific aspect that I love and admire. Instead, I’m going to link to the five bloggers who inspired me to write Pinwheels:

1) Postcards from Holland; I began posting a bit at this group blog with the help of the site’s creator, Moreena. Despite her busy life, she answered all my hopeless, helpless questions, welcoming me into the blogosphere.

2) The Wait and the Wonder; Moreena’s current site. When I was just starting out, she wrote falling down is also a gift, both sites are full of love and beautiful writing.

3) Just a little bit of something extra; Rebecca’s new site filled with gorgeous photos of Miss E. When I began, Rebecca was writing Always Chaos Around Here, and she had an encouraging word for every silly question I sent her.

4) Queen Serene; the lovely Queen K writes about her family and her life with truth and strength. When I was thinking about writing a blog of my own, and wondering if I could do it, her enthusiasm helped me begin.

5) This Woman’s Work; Dawn Friedman’s blog about writing, mothering, and writing about mothering. Dawn’s a longtime blogger, and her posts are funny, insightful, helpful and inspiring. She’s also part of my welcoming committee, and never once made me feel like the newbie that I am.

So often, the way we begin an endeavor has a great impact on how we feel about it long after that initial start. Thanks to these five women for helping me begin blogging with open hearts and kind words; thanks too to Kristen, for helping me remember it.

Dangerous Boy Friday!

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I first read about The Dangerous Book for Boys by brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden in a post by Susan Wagner at ParentDish, here. It caused quite a stir, and from reader comments, I knew it was something I wanted to check out for myself. Why? Because I’m mom to three boys, all wild, brave and fearless.

Here’s a snapshot from last Sunday: Mother’s Day. As is our family tradition, we drove two hours north to Glacier National Park for a hike. Tom carried Avery in the Kelty pack, Carter was in the lead, and Bennett and I brought up the rear, all of us walking along the park’s scenic highway, Going-to-the-Sun Road. Locals use this time, before the final snow removal, to bike or walk as close to the summit as the weather allows.

It was a warm, sunny afternoon. The air was crisp and clear and smelled like pine and cedar. Bennett walked beside me. He wore an elk horn whistle on a leather strap around his neck and in his left hand, he held three plastic straws with suction-cup tips, arrows. Slung across his chest was a yellow plastic archery bow. His right hand held mine. We walked together up the road, and he told me, “If I see a snakey, Mommy, I’ll blow my whistle. Then I’ll shoot an arrow. I’ll get him, Mommy. Don’t be afraid.”

I repeated, with seriousness, “Yes. Whistle first, then arrow. You’re very brave.”

A man on a bicycle rode past slowly, and nodded with appreciation at the bow, the arrows. “You’ve got good protection,” he said to Bennett. Bennett grinned at the man as he rode on. Then another, younger man came by, “Nice whistle, buddy!” he said. Another, older man: “What a brave boy!” Bennett basked in the attention, as these men remembered their own boyhoods with fondness that extended to him.

And he is brave; all three of my sons are. I want them to carry this bravery into adulthood; honoring what they know in their hearts, always able to find their own true north. It begins with imagination–kids-only tree forts protected with booby traps made of branches and leaves, battles with water balloons fought and won, confidence built from the ground up, one dangerous adventure at a time.

Other moms are writing about this book today, for a MotherTalk Blog Bonanza. Go here for a list of places to visit.

Call for submissions

There’s been a change of line-up over at Literary Mama, and Dawn Friedman, formerly the editor of the OpEd columns, will now be taking over the Faces of Motherhood section.

She writes:

The column is for under-represented voices of motherhood. It’s for women who have been left out of the conversation — who are not June Cleaver, who may not have access to their children, whose ability to mother has been questioned or outright challenged. Think teen moms, first moms, moms without custody, moms who are poor, moms whose children have died, etc. etc. It’s to show that motherhood is diverse and highlight the inadequacies of our mothering stereotypes.

For submission guidelines, go here.

Me, me, me

I’ve been tagged by Jen to share “7 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Me” so here goes:

1. I’m a blackbelt in karate.
2. I can speak or read seven languages (French, German, Italian, Spanish, English, Latin, Sanskrit).
3. I love to stand on my head, and do this often in order to relax.
4. My first word, as a child, was bologna.
5. I once competed in a bodybuilding contest.
6. My favorite color is brown.
7. None of this stuff is true! I made it all up, because after spending the last year working on my book, I am very, very sick of myself. I guess you could call this my first attempt at fiction, and boy does it feel good! (With all due apologies to everyone who expected me to tell the truth; did the Sanskrit give it away, even a little bit?)

I tag Suz, Vicki, Jessica, Michelle, Dream Mom, Kathy and Amy.

A Mother’s Day wish

Feeling the Love across Cyberspace

The lovely and amazing Emily Elizabeth is mom to Gabe, who has heart surgery scheduled for May 15. If Mother’s Day is like birthdays, and you get one wish, mine is that Gabe’s surgery is a success.

Emily is asking for thoughts and prayers on the day of the operation, here.

UPDATE: From Emily, “Gabers is out of surgery and in recovery. The surgery was a complete success and it looks hopeful that any future interventions would be performed in the cath lab and not the OR.” To read the full post, go here.