“It’s real!”

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Molly, our wonderful speech therapist (I write about her in Chapter 12), sent me an email titled, “It’s real!” after seeing my book on a bookshelf in Waldenbooks.  (I still haven’t seen the book yet, which to me is both funny and perfect.  I mean, I already know how it all turns out, I suppose there’s no rush…)

One of the things Molly helped me with was the idea of Total Communication.  It took me many attempts before I understood what she meant.  I’d say,”Ummm, so could you tell me about why we’re doing sign language, again?” or, “We do this with the toothbrush, because, well, why?” 

So in the first draft of the book, I had Molly SPEAKING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.  If you know a speech therapist, you know why I did it this way.  Theirs is a very deliberate, very clear diction, and I’d never heard anything like it before.  But the all-caps made it seem as if Molly were yelling, and she never yells (not even at me for my 1,000 questions) so in the final version of the book, we changed it to italics.  When Molly does her speech therapy talk, she speaks in italics.  And she taught me, so I do it too.

In other matters, this week marks the beginning of the MotherTalk Blog Book Tour.  There are new links to a Reader’s Guide, and my Backstory feature, and there will be more links appearing a few times each day throughout the week.  I’ll be reading the reviews, and commenting on them, and posting additional thoughts here at Pinwheels, too.

And finally, what’s a party without prizes?  I’d considered giving away copies of my book, but so many of you already have purchased it (thank you!) and really, by the end of this tour you’ll all be sick of me.  So I have 5 gift certificates to Amazon.com ($20) to give away instead, as my way of saying thanks for sticking with me.  (Just leave your name in the comments, and I’ll choose one winner at the end of each day.)

 Today’s Reviews

Aka Monty at The Daily Bitch has spent time in the NICU, and my book brought her right back to those days, and the complicated feelings such circumstances create, including anger and even shame.  She writes with the heart and passion of a woman who has lived through a similar experience, and her review alternates between quotes from my book and sections of her own words, weaving our two stories together into something familiar, yet also completely new. 

Michelle at Big Blueberry Eyes related to many of the feelings in the book–the heavier ones regarding the diagnosis, and the lighter ones about evaluations and my questioning the value of a skill called “the poke.”  She writes, “This is an amazingly powerful story of love, hope, and motherhood. Anyone would enjoy this book -whether you’re dealing with a diagnosis (Down syndrome, or otherwise) or not. It’s a story that will touch you, and one you won’t soon forget.”  I’ve been a longtime reader of her blog and I couldn’t love Kayla more, so Michelle’s endorsement means the world to me.  And she has copies of the book to share!  4 winners will be selected Monday; go to her blog to enter.

Claudia of The Practical Vampire Slayer says I’m beautiful and compares my writing to John Steinbeck’s:  full disclosure, Claudia is the amazing friend who gives me prescient advice all throughout my book.  She’s biased!  But who isn’t?  I think she’s wonderful, too.

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Next week!

It’s almost here…my book’s release date.  Even as I write this, people are reading Road Map to Holland (Hi Kyra!  Hi Michelle!) in preparation for next week’s book blog tour, hosted by MotherTalk

I’ve never done a book blog tour, and aside from the few people who’ve contacted me on their own (Hi Nelba!), I don’t know who is reading my book, and who’ll be reviewing it.  It feels like a virtual surprise party, only without the streamers and the little bits of colored confetti and Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Celebration” playing in the background.

After all the waiting, and the worry, I’m ready.  Let the party begin!

Coconut Cream Pie

I won a pie recipe contest!  Which means I have an award-winning pie recipe!  (Forgive me!  All the exclamation points!  I never win anything!)  Thanks go to killashandra at Fulltime in NM for all the excitement, which now inspires me to bake, you guessed it, another pie.  This one is creamy and sweet and full of coconut flavor:

1  13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups milk (whole or 2%, your choice)
3 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup toasted flaked coconut
2 (9 inch) graham cracker crust pie shells
1 container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Toast 1/4 cup coconut by spreading on a cookie sheet and baking at 350 degrees until just golden, about 5 minutes.  (Don’t overcook or coconut turns bitter).

In a medium saucepan, combine milks, eggs, sugar, flour and salt.  Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup flaked (untoasted) coconut.

Pour into a pie shells (today I’m using a premade graham cracker crust, but you can use whatever you like) and chill 2 to 4 hours, until firm.

Before serving, spread each with whipped cream and sprinkle the toasted coconut across the tops.  Makes 2 pies; one to have and one to share.

A poem

Peeling Wallpaper

Here, the hot pink flowers,
shocking and obvious,
Look at us! Taking
your eyes from the solid
cast-iron tub, or the lilacs
just out the window.

Beneath,
geometric blobs
like plankton, or amoebae,
making me doubt myself,
only there’s no going back now.

Paint, too,
white then gray then a green
pale as the wings of may flies.

Deeper still,
nail holes and broken screws
scars filled with putty. 

I scrape and pull,
peel and strip,
shedding layers like old skins,
making way
for new ones.

A wonderful story about faith and hard work

I have a writer-friend who, over the course of a year (or thereabouts) regularly and consistently brought herself to the library, sat down with her laptop at a desk (and some treats, Twizzlers I think?) and wrote down the story of her twins’ births, a boy and a girl, and all that came after.  She worked and worked, revised with colored markers, wrote some more.  She had an agent who submitted the manuscript to a very tight market.  Think here of Goldilocks:  this publisher said it wasn’t right for one reason, another publisher said no for the opposite.  It all was very confusing.

Still, she persevered, sending her work to places the agent hadn’t tried.  And in the end, her efforts paid off:  her manuscript was awarded prestigious Bakeless Literary Prize in Creative Nonfiction (there’s one for fiction and for poetry, too) and her book will be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2009.  The book is This Lovely Life, and the writer is Vicki Forman.  Congratulations, Vicki! 

The moral of the story:  if you have a book in you, don’t give up! 

More news from the frontier

Leaning against the fence that surrounds the yard are two battered and worn pitch forks, and a rusty green wheelbarrow that squeaks when you push it.  I’ve been using the forks and the barrow to pick up the rounds of cow manure, sometimes poetically called “cow patties,” that dot the grass near the house. 

My plan isn’t fully developed, though, because I don’t know where to put my sqeaky wheelbarrow-fuls, since we haven’t actually made a compost pile yet.  For now, I’m building a pile in back of the garage, near the twin “T”s of the laundry line that I’ve restrung with metal wire (the grasshoppers will eat rope lines).

These are all signs of spring:  the cleaning up, the busy-ness, the spikey blades of bright green grass waiting patiently beneath each loosened cow patty, like a surprise.  But the best sign is this–the brilliant Bluebird I watched land on the birdfeeder as I sat in the kitchen alcove, drinking my morning coffee.

Amy Anderson and Sheri Reed

are the co-founders and editors of mamazine.com (in addition to being mamas and teachers and writers and bloggers too).  Back when I first began exploring online writing, theirs was one of the first sites I loved. 

I remember sending an email, asking if I could write a column for them called “Off the Beaten Path.” My life seemed to have taken a detour since the birth of the twins–preemies, the NICU, special needs.  And it felt as if we were navigating it alone, mostly.  I didn’t know many parents like us, and I’d just begun what seemed like an uphill climb.  For me, the best way to make sense of it was to write about it.

Amy and Sheri replied with a warm, friendly “Welcome!”  I’d been used to my freelance writing, where everything I submitted underwent a long, sometimes brutal process of revision as it made its way through the different editors.  At mamazine.com, this never happened.  After each submission, what I got was encouragement and support.

And finally, one more story:  after reading all the good writing, all the links and the thoughtful posts, the shared experiences and the supportive comments at mamazine.com, I knew I’d found a special place when I saw the photo of a lovely vintage wicker purse, crammed full of diapers and wipes and Thomas the Tank Engine and a sippy cup–these women have a sense of humor, too.

(I’m thinking about all this because Sheri recently read Road Map to Holland and we talked about it here.)

Kelly’s Upside Down Ball

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On March 21st, World Down Syndrome day, Robbin Lyons will be donating her hair to Locks of Love in honor of her daughter Kelly, a 5-year-old with Down syndrome who survived Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

You can help decide: Will Robbin shave it or save it?  

It’s $1 per vote (larger donations are accepted) and all proceeds will go to Kelly’s Upside Down Ball, to help the families in Indiana challenged by Down syndrome and cancer.  The vote will be revealed at the Ball and Robbin’s hair will be cut, or shaved, right on the spot.

To cast your vote, enter your name and email address; use the Donation Purpose dropdown menu and select “In Honor of”; in the box that says “Who is the donation in honor of” type your vote to “shave it” or “save it”; in the box that says “What event is being honored” type “Kelly’s Upside Down Ball (KUSDB)”.

From the Indiana Down Syndrome Foundation:

Help us grow this fund by sending this e-mail to all your friends and family. It’s only a dollar for a great cause! Her goal is to raise at least $1000.00 but we could do so much more with your help! She has taken a whole year to grow her hair. We always tell our kids that it’s no big deal to lose your hair, it grows right back. Robbin is out to prove it!

Thanks to Rebecca for the links.

Arugula pesto

Our little grocery store had organic baby arugula specially marked all the way down to 50 cents a package (such a good deal!):  I think because no one knew what to do with it.  But I know what to do!  Make pesto! 

Carter helped me and when we were done, he said, “How do you eat it?”

 “Well, you could put it on hot, salted pasta, or you could mix it with cream cheese and make a dip.  You could add it to mayonnaise and use it on a turkey and havarti sandwich, or you could spread it on dough and make pizza….”

“Yum!” said Carter, and I couldn’t agree more.  Here’s my recipe (and I used the chickpeas):

Arugula Pesto

6 oz. organic baby arugula
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 cup shredded Pecorino-Romano cheese
1/2 cup chickpeas or 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

In a food processor, add a handful of arugula and chop on the “pulse” setting.  Add the cheese and the chickpeas or nuts, pulse again.  Add the garlic, pulse.  Add another handful of arugula, then pulse.  Drizzle in a bit of the olive oil.  Add more arugula, alternating with the olive oil, until everything is well blended (but not mushy). Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days, or freeze. (The flavor is similar to Basil pesto, but with a spicier, more peppery flavor.)