Growing food and kids

Last night, Carter pulled the first radishes from the garden (which is really just two raised beds). We had the radishes in a dinner salad and Carter said they were the most delicious radishes ever.

I remember when he was little, and we planted our first garden together. Potatoes, carrots, onions–seeds and sets hidden deep in the rich brown soil. We’d water and wait, water and wait. And finally, when it was time, we uncovered potato after potato; onions and carrots too. As we worked, Carter’s face was full of astonishment and joy.

And it is astonishing, only sometimes I forget. Until a child reminds me to appreciate these ordinary acts of renewal, and faith. We’ve had four seasons of gardens since then, and this year I have new delight: watching Carter in the garden with his brothers, teaching them all the things he knows.

Now, 4

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The twins had their birthday this month. I can say “this month” and mean it because it took me a month to get everything together (enough) for their little party.

This is what we didn’t have: a bouncy house, a trampoline, a pony. A clown, a magician, a musician. A theme. A massive invitation list.

This is what we did have: Balloons. Lemonade in orange and blue and lime green plastic glasses with straws. Bright blue paper plates. Grandma visiting us. Vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting and rainbow sprinkles. Candles, and the “Happy Birthday” song (sung twice, one for each boy). Presents, which included squirt guns and fire trucks and wooden puzzles and a pretend birthday cake and light-up bears and monkeys and bubbles and Buzz Lightyear.

My boys are now 4. Happy Birthday, little ones. I’m so glad you’re here!

Special needs fathers

This month at Special Needs Mama, Vicki Forman writes about her husband, Cliff, and the joy and purity of Cliff’s relationship with Evan.

And Rob Rummel-Hudson writes about special needs fathers at Schuyler’s Monster. His perspective includes a look at being a dad in what’s often a mom-filled special needs world.

Our family’s experience is both. In the beginning, when the twins were just home from the NICU, Tom was Avery’s mama. I say this with all due love and respect: Tom knew infant CPR, he knew how to manage the oxygen tanks and the canulas and the little black box that quietly measured each of Avery’s breaths, it’s green light a constant, continual reminder that we were not, yet, on steady ground.

Tom did other things, too: he figured out how to feed Avery so that Avery didn’t spit up; he had a method for calming Avery that involved whispering to him (I don’t know what he said, but it always worked) and in those early, hazy, messy months, Tom was the expert on all things Avery.

In time, Bennett had his surgery, Avery came off the monitor, life settled, and I was able to learn about my second son, because Tom taught me. And whether it was because it made the most sense, or because it fit each of our personalities, or maybe both, Tom began working more again, long hard hours, and I took over the care of the kids.

So now, Tom is Dad–the one who causes the children to light up simply by walking through the door. And I’m Mom, the one they turn to whenever someone needs a boo-boo kissed, or a fuss settled. I’m also the first to receive crayon drawings of circles and lines and letters, an “O” or an “I” or a “T”; the first to hear a new song; the first to get an unexpected hug.

I’m glad our kids have both mama-love and papa-love. They are different, but each is essential.

If I lived in Utah,

I know what I’d be doing Friday, June 29. I’d be here:
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But since that’s not an option, I’ll probably be home, eating Costco pizza (Friday night is pizza night) and in honor of Parker, I’ll play a little song with Avery on the piano.

To learn more about the benefit concert, and about Parker and his family, go here. We ordered the CD; we’ll be listening to it in Montana, thinking of Utah.

One word

Niksmom from Maternal Instincts…Flying by the Seat of my Pants tagged me, now I’m it. I need to answer the following questions with just one word:

1. Where is your cell phone? nope
2. Relationship? love
3. Your hair? long
4. Work? laundry
5. Your sister? smile
6. Your favorite thing? writing
7. Your dream last night? horses
8. Your favorite drink? water
9. Your dream car? mine
10. The room you’re in? kitchen
11. Your shoes? Dansko!
12. Your fears? loss
13. What do you want to be in 10 years? happy
14. Who did you hang out with this weekend? kids
15. What are you not good at? laundry
16. Muffin? banana
17. One of your wish list items? beach
18. Where you grew up? beach
19. Last thing you did? email
20. What are you wearing? dress
21. What aren’t you wearing? shoes
22. Your pet? Maddie
23. Your computer? laptop
24. Your life? happy
25. Your mood? hopeful
26. Missing? nothing
27. What are you thinking about right now? dinner
28. Your car? Expedition
29. Your kitchen? cluttered
30. Your summer? busy
31. Your favorite color? blue
32. Last time you laughed? today
33. Last time you cried? Sunday
34. School? home
35. Love? yes!

To tag, or not to tag, that is the question…

I tag Jaden’s Journal and Megan’s Got 47 and Apsotrophe Suz!

The reading was, well, what can I say…

This is what a person should do, and have, at a reading: bring a bottle of water, and maybe some aspirin, and a box of kleenex. Remember to introduce yourself, then speak clearly and loudly. Read slowly. Don’t cry. When people ask questions, repeat them, loudly, before you answer them. Have business cards ready, with the correct spelling of your name and your email address and maybe your website address, too. Start on time, and finish on time.

But I didn’t do any of those things.

I forgot the water, I had a headache. I didn’t have a kleenex. I forgot to introduce myself, and I spoke quietly. I have no business cards in my purse (though I have a matchbox fire truck and a bag of animal crackers.) The reading started a half-hour or so late; it ended much later.

This is what happened: Kelly, the store’s Community Relations Manager, supplied the glass of water. She also introduced me, and though we started late, no one seemed to mind. When I spoke too softly, someone gently asked me to be louder. In the middle part, when I write about love, a tear escaped from my eyelid, trailing down my nose, followed by another. A box of kleenex appeared.

During the question-and-answer period, when my mind was a blank, Mary remembered to ask me about the photos in Gifts, so I could speak about them. MaryAnn remembered to bring up the Buddy Walk in September, so then I could talk about community. And Cyndi asked about my book, so I remembered I was writing one, and I talked about that, too.

The essay I read from Gifts has a part about hands lifting me up, when I couldn’t find my own way. It felt the same, today. Hands lifted me up. The afternoon was a gift–but it isn’t clear who was giving, and who was receiving.

I think everyone was doing both.

I had Avery’s smiley-face figure with me, I was wearing Amy’s beautiful DS awareness bracelet, and I had a pocketful of good wishes from all of you. I felt them, and they were another gift of the day.

Thank you.

Today’s Salt Lake Tribune

has a feature story about prenatal testing; the article includes a sidebar interview with the editor of Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives, Kathryn Lynard Soper. Also, there’s a link to my essay in the book, “First Words,” which I will be reading today, at the Barnes & Noble in Missoula.

It’s a cold, wet, rainy day, and the event is scheduled for the middle of the twin’s naptime. So I think I’ll make the trip down by myself, and Tom will stay home with the kids.

I can’t decide which I’m more nervous about: the prospect of no one showing up; or the prospect of speaking in front of a crowd. The one thing that’s given me courage: Avery woke up this morning, crawled into our big bed and handed me a yellow plastic smiley-face figure.

Thought for the day

Tom sent me this, from an email newsletter that goes out to firefighters in Montana:

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Live simply,
Love generously,
Care deeply,
Speak kindly…….
Leave the rest to God
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass,
It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Mamasource, an online community for parents

(Or, I could have titled this post, “More Amazing Things from the Internet”)

Many years ago, when I was the assistant librarian in a tiny town in northwest Montana, it fell to me to teach library patrons about our new computerized card catalog, and also about a networking device called “The Internet.” Remembering this part of my job always makes me chuckle; I am the least-qualified person to teach anything about computers. But in those days, I knew how to turn the system on and off, and I knew how to reboot the program if the power went out, so in that small community, I was the expert.

The most frequently asked question was, “But what can you do with the Internet?” I didn’t have a ready answer. This was more than ten years ago, and back then, the biggest draw was email. But of course, the person you wanted to send an email to had to have an email address. “You mean, in addition to their regular address, and their regular phone number, they need a new address?” people would ask, shaking their heads sadly. Such a fuss!

Just a few weeks ago, Tom’s folks were visiting us. Tom’s Dad was thinking about getting a cordless weed trimmer; so while he was here, he went online and checked out the different models, comparing prices and scanning through the customer ratings. After this research, he could make a good purchase at a fair price.

I remarked what a wonderful thing it was to have all the information you need at your fingertips. In fact, I think I even said, “What did we all used to do before we had the Internet?” It reminded of my days as the assistant librarian, and the meetings in the library conference room. I wonder how many of those early skeptics are now singing the Internet’s praises with me?

But I digress. This post is a part of the MotherTalk blog tour of Mamasource.com, an online community for parents. My growing-up as a mother closely matches the growing-up of the Internet; shortly after my stint at the library, I had my first son Carter. Back then, there were few sites for new moms, and I remember stumbling around a lot, trying to find my way, mostly on my own. It was an exhillarating time, but a lonely one, too, until I found a group of moms of similar-aged children who shared my same passion for finding the exactly the right sippy cup, or for discussing which park had the best playground equipment.

Later still, when my second pregnancy ended, I found myself mostly on my own, again. None of my friends had twins; no one I knew had a baby with Down syndrome. So I turned to the Internet, where the online communities had grown and flourished, and I found support and virtual friendship as real as anything I’d experienced in my first mommy’s group. The only drawback was that because of my rural location, many of the events, or services other moms would write about weren’t available to me and my family.

This is where I get to the part about Mamasource.com. It’s an online community with a geographic component, so that you are put in touch with resources and families you might actually some day see in person. I typed in my zip code and was directed to a discussion about ants (we are having horrendous ant problems this year, too!) and a family-friendly restaurant just 45 miles away (for us, this is relatively close!).

I also typed in my main area of interest: Down syndrome. There was just one entry, and it was more than a year old. The responses were not from parents of children with Down syndrome, just people who knew someone who knew someone. But they were kind, and well-meaning. There were errors, like calling the baby a Down’s baby, or statements like “only special families get special children,” but the last comment was from a mom who knew her stuff, and took the time to add several helpful links.

It’s my sense that the site is onto something big, in the same way that the Internet was going to be something big; how it’s going to happen, well that depends on us. For a site like Mamasource.com to be really effective, it will need lots of members (in the same way that for email to work, we need lots of people to have email addresses.)

I’d encourage you to logon to Mamasource.com and see if you like it–particularly if you live in a larger city, or a suburb of a larger city. It’s another way to build community, one person at a time.

I’ll be reading at the Missoula B&N this Sunday, June 10

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As part of the book’s June kick-off, I’ll be at the Missoula Barnes & Noble Store, 2640 N. Reserve Street, reading from Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives. The event begins at 2pm.

I haven’t done a reading in more than three years. I’ve been to a lot of readings; mostly Tom’s, when I had the children in tow and would sneak out the back because someone needed a kleenex, or someone else had to use the potty, or because so-and-so poked so-and-so in a mean way. I hope it’s like riding a bicycle, in that once you know how to do it, you never really forget. Truthfully, I’m a little nervous.

In addition to reading my essay from the book, I’m planning to speak about community, and its value in our lives. The story of how Gifts came together is a great testament to the power of working together, and an example of what we can accomplish when we support each other. Alone, we are one; together, we are many.

If you can make it to the reading, be sure to find me and say hello!