Not my best parenting moment

It was some time late at night, or early in the morning (who can tell which is which) when I heard the sound of Bennett near me, in the dark, sniffling back tears.

“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked, scooping him in my arms, pulling him into bed with me, trying to fully wake from my dream (Emily Perl Kingsley was on Oprah, I kid you not, these are the things I dream of).

“I’m so sad,” Bennett said.


“Really? Because some day, my brothers will die before me.”

“Oh, sweetie. You don’t know that! You might be the one who goes first.”

More tears, louder sobbing, of course I’ve made everything worse. Jolted completely awake, I try to fix it, backpeddling, when Tom rolls over from his own dreams and says, “No. No one’s going to die. Daddy says No. Go to sleep.”

And? We did.

Note to self: next time, sing a lullaby.


It’s like living inside a snow globe

The snow keeps falling and falling and the boys are full of wonder, and questions: Why are they called flakes? How long will it stay? Where does it come from?

I try to explain storm clouds gathering over the ocean, so far away, and even more impossible, moisture in the air, carried by the wind…it’s all beyond them, and me too really, but I keep trying until finally, I say, “Magic. It’s like magic, isn’t it?”

Because it is. It’s exactly what it feels like: the brightness shining in their eyes, their rosy cheeks, all 3 of them so perfectly full of life, and the snow, now glowing in the winter twilight. The yard is criss-crossed with sled tracks and little-boy boot prints, and the sound of their laughter is a path that leads me home.

Just, yum!

If you were to stop by my house today, you might think I’ve lost my mind. You’d wonder about this because of the state of my kitchen, which looks like it exploded.

It all started with my friend Phyllis and her giant chest freezer. In it, she had a big hunk of meat neatly wrapped in white butcher paper. All she knew about it was that it was beef, and that she’d grown tired of lifting it from one side of the freezer to the other, back and forth, as she reached for other, smaller items, like a chicken or a bag of tater tots. “It might be chuck,” she said with a shrug.

I got it home and unwrapped it to find a beautiful standing rib roast. Which I thawed, and cooked, and we all ate a big meal at the dining room table, as if it were already Christmas.

And now today, the real work began. I cubed the leftover meat and put it in the crockpot with ingredients for chili. Then, I roasted the bones and put them in a pot for soup. And, because I am completely, crazily adverse to wasting even the tiniest bit of food, when the soup was done I gave the bones to Bailey.

While all this was going on, I decided, Why not roast the huge squash, too? And its seeds? And while I’m at it, Why not begin a little holiday baking?

So I did. All of it. The only good thing about this craziness is that I can wrap and freeze the food I made today, and some distant night in the future, when I’m too tired to even think about what to make for supper, I can pull out a meal and by then, I will have (mostly) forgotten about the hard work, and it will almost feel as if dinner were made by magic little freezer elves.

The best success of the day was the holiday baking. I tried a recipe for raspberry chocolate bars that I adapted from Kraft Foods (mine has less sugar, more nuts and more chocolate). I used a jar of jam that Avery and I had made last summer and just like always, the memories made me smile (I think they’re what make the jam taste so good.)


Raspberry Chocolate Bars

1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup flake coconut
1 cup chopped almonds
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 jar (12 oz.) raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in butter, work until batter resembles coarse crumbs. Add oats, coconut, almonds and mix lightly.

Press half of the crumbs into a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkled with chocolate chips. Spread jam over chips. Top with remaining crumb mixture.

Bake 30 min. until lightly browned. Cool. Enjoy!

Think of it as a bookmark in my life

Disclaimer:  This is a very disorganized post about reading, learning to teach reading, Avery, potty training, excellent books, synchronicity, and some especially sweet moments I don’t want to forget.  Here we go!

Several months ago I received an email from a mom asking me about how we taught Avery to use the potty.  I told her what I knew, then, which resulted in what I feel now was a very poor answer.  I told her that we did all the things we’d done with his brothers:  watching for readiness, making a big deal out of it, rewarding him with lots of praise and love.  Too, we did some practical things, like getting him a little potty of his own that fit his tiny hiney (Target had one that we loved) and we made sure to ask him if he needed to use the potty, especially in new places or situations.  And by we I mean me, and Tom, and Bennett, and Carter.  Avery’s potty-learning was truly a family affair.

So those are the things I shared with the mom, whose son was 8 I think, and she was still trying to find the way to achieve this skill with him.  I could have, should have assumed that she’d already done all the things I mentioned, because really, who wouldn’t have tried those things first?

About a month ago, we had a major regression with Avery’s potty.  (I feel like I’m on very shaky ground here, revealing too much about Avery’s personal business, but I will forge ahead because I have a reason–I learned something I wished I’d known earlier, and maybe by sharing it, it will help one of you.)  We all became very cross with him, and disappointed, and I think we sort of believed that if we made it unpleasant enough for him, he would go back to using the potty.  Well, it didn’t work.  In fact, the opposite happened.  Avery became even less interested in using the potty and began avoiding the bathroom all together.

About this time I’d been reading Patricia Oelwein’s excellent book, Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome, which is not a book I say much about in Road Map simply because I didn’t know about it, yet.  The whole beginning of the book isn’t even about teaching reading:  it’s about how children with Down syndrome learn.  One of the things she mentioned was a learned helplessness, based on a fear of failure and a history of low expectations.  As soon as I read about it, I knew it was what had happened to Avery.  We’d made the potty experience so unpleasant for him that he simply decided not to try it any more.

Well.  Again, I was humbled, with regard to my most excellent parenting instincts.  Or not.  Gah.

So I explained to Tom that we needed to build Avery’s confidence in the potty department, and that no one was allowed to say anything negative, only positive, encouraging feelings were to be allowed in the bathroom.  And we went back to square one, with the tiny potty again, and the love and attention, and the new (again) underwear, this time Scooby-Doos. 

It worked.

I felt very grateful that our early potty learning had been a positive experience, that we’d stumbled across it really, and that we could go back to that and reset our course. 

And I realized that this is probably going to be the way forward with Avery:  that he will need to feel safe enough to take risks, and make mistakes, in order to continue to grow and learn.  Especially as the things he’s learning become increasingly complicated, and in many ways, foreign.  For him, he has to take a lot of this on faith–he has to believe he can do it, and sometimes, it will be my job to believe enough for both of us.

We’ve been doing the Dystar book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (both little boys) and the BOB books (both boys) and Avery also has supplemental work with signing, flashcards, and the Love and Learning program.  It works best if Bennett does his lessons first while Avery is in the room; Avery then expects to do everything Bennett does, and he copies him.  So I have two sets of books, one for each boy.  Avery is very aware if I “short” him or do anything different; he’s an excellent observer.  And I’ve found it to be true, what many of the studies are saying:  reading is actually helping Avery speak better, and more. 

When we do the flashcards, I read and say the words, then Avery says or signs them, whatever he likes best.  He still prefers to sign “baby” and “thirsty” and “bird” and “airplane,” also his first sign, “fish.”  When I read and say, “hurt,” he always says “ow,” and when I read and say “friend,” he always says, “Mom.”

May I never forget that friend, to him, is me.

Lots to share

Free books here.

More free books here.

An opportunity for kindness here.

And I have more to write!  But it will have to wait, because as Bennett has been saying of every house but ours, “Someone is in the holiday spirit!”  Time for me to get into the holiday spirit, too.

I’ll leave you with this, what I’ve been pondering lately:  white lights, or colored?