Tag Archives: love

Summer Swims

16 Jul

Summer break means relaxing in the sun, floating in the pool, and sitting with my feet propped up with a book in my backyard while my kids play on the swingset and I sip Diet Coke. I have a perfect swimsuit tan, sunkissed hair and Tom Petty croons on my radio.

Then I snap my unmanicured fingers and respray myself with bug spray as I fan the mosquitos off my face, adjust my workout clothes and head off to the elementary school for the second time that day, run inside and settle one girl with a cup of orange juice and a bowl of festive potato chips while the youngest slips into one of her five Disney Princess swimsuits and we go straight to the aquatic center for swim lessons.

While I love that she is learning to be comfortable in the water, can submerge herself now and get some wobbly kicks in with support I can’t lie.  I hate sitting in a ninety degree room on bleachers with at least sixty other parents and kids while six sessions of swim lessons all go on in front of us.  The air is too thick for my lungs and I can’t follow conversations with other parents well as between the splashing and staff shouting orders and kids yelling my sensory overload kicks in and I game on my phone.

The minute these kids are done there is a mad dash off to the showers to change and head off to the next camp or pool outing or in our case, home briefly until I dress my other daughter in her handmade (certainly not by me) pool-approved reusable swim diaper and swimsuit to shuffle slowly to the Adapted Program.  

This program may be a bit smaller.  Fewer students and all a one-one ratio of teacher to student.  Fewer parents, but the heavy blanket of air suffocates you still and it is, in fact, warmer an hour later.  But here I can hear and actually have a conversation.  Somehow it’s still the same even though our kids have different needs and swim at a different level.  While it’s easier in some ways, this is still hard.

My youngest took a couple weeks to complete a Red Cross level.  From only wading pools to floating with assistance, not hesitating to hold her breath and go underwater.  My other girl has mastered moving away from the security of the ledge and will walk in the water in the same amount of time.  

The thing is: both of them are learning.  They both are gaining comfort in the water, they are working on their listening skills (even though I had to spend one day of swim sitting backwards in class two when my one girl continued to try to splash her teacher in the face for the laugh.  I reminded her twice it wasn’t ok, but quite frankly her giggle is contagious so I sat backwards so she couldn’t see me bite a smile back.)

This is vital.  They love it.  I love it most days.  Even when I rinse the chlorinated swimsuits and bathe my girls.  But we also like the simplicity of our bug infested back yard.  Excuse me, I’m about to go light some citronella candles and fill up our plastic pool.  Before another round of lessons.  Because I might get to finish that library book before book club meets and I have cold Diet  Pepsis in my fridge.


Thank You Red-Haired Girl

8 Jul

A year ago we met her. And, yes, I can still picture her freckled face and frizzy ginger hair.  To those wondering, no we never met again, but I’m guessing she is making friends with other children that need a smile.

We have yet to go to a new splash pad in the area, but every day when I bring my girls to summer school we are welcomed.  My girl has an entire third grade class (now fourth graders!) that have claimed her as a friend.

How do I know they are her friends?  And not just saying they are her friends?  I see pieces of that love daily.

 On the school’s track and field day she and I stayed late at lunch to finish the Popsicle she patiently devoured even though the bell had rang.  While her class was waiting for the first station we walked down the field and she was motivated by the sound of more than a dozen kids chanting her name and cheering as she giggled and joined her friends.  I half expected a red carpet to be rolled out for her with the star treatment she got.  

Her special helpers introduced themselves to me.  They automatically pair up with her without needing to be asked and just covered their eyes when she became overzealous with the spray bottle.  

And when curiousity struck in the bouncy house, but fear won I could hear gentle encouragement and giggles saying “you can do it!  You’re almost there!” When she didn’t want to leave the cheery yellow air filled room I heard her helpers shout for backup as there was a “Crisis situation” even though all I heard was thumping and laughter.  Another friend asked me if I had one of her favorite snacks as she might come out for that.  And I smiled as they really “get” my girl and upon the promise of mom’s leftover potato chips she came sliding right out.

A trip to Culver’s once meant she was tackle hugged by a friend of hers.  And while my girl is stingy with hugs and has an introvert personal bubble like her mom, that hug didn’t pop it.  She giggled and hugged back.  And his parents told me how much their boy talks about her and how funny she is.  While he took her straight to the soda machine to pick out her drink.

I’ve had a few occasions now where parents have said hello to us and told us their son/daughter has lunch with my girl sometimes. And that that’s their favorite day of the week.  To know her friends talk about her that often their parents reach out to me, just makes me smile.  

So while she might not tell me about her friends, I know they are there.  The little girl at the splash pad reminded me to look for the beauty and love in others.  It’s there.  We need to keep advocating for our kids and allowing them to be who they are.  The friends worth keeping see the beauty in differences.  

And for those of you lucky enough to hear giggles and hug this girl or high five with her when she says her words-enjoy.  She can give you a friendship that has no ulterior motives.  However, you need to know you’ll take second place to Lotso, you know which swing is hers so don’t claim that one, and you must enjoy music and laughter.  I suggest not drinking milk before she does something goofy as it might come out your nose.  I learned that the hard way.

To the Mother I Met at the Mall

2 Feb

I have a distant memory of you.  I know it was a cold winter day where the temperature was too frigid to bundle up my toddler and let him play in the yard, but he needed activity to keep from running laps down the small outlets of our hallway.  Neither my carpet nor my patience could handle the jumping off furniture.

I remember standing in the middle of the mall by the play area, holding my baby girl close to as she was still so fragile, tiny and ill pre-heart surgery days only a few months old.  I can picture her on my shoulder, petite frame and giant blue eyes watching the world as I watched my son run on the gym mats and climb on foam filled play equipment.  I already had a container of disinfecting wet wipes open by the stroller, already considering how to clean his hands and mine after his sister was strapped back in her stroller.  I remember the faint rainbow pattern of the stain glassed pattern through the ceiling windows of the mall, the sound of the elevator music over the speakers and the murmur of costumers walking and running their errands.

But I don’t remember your face.  I remember you coming to me with tear filled eyes, your eyes barely moving from my daughter’s soft and beautiful face to meet mine.  I’m sure I tucked her closer then, because I always did with her.  I was always anxious and fearful of an illness that could take away my daughter before we allowed her heart to grow big enough for the surgeons to repair the hole in it.  I’m sure that I was still contemplating whether the fun of the play area was worth the exposure to those germs.

You paused before you spoke.  As a mother I could feel the heartache when you shakily told me that this was the day you had lost your daughter.  You told me her name and that she had been beautiful and loving and kind.  And you were struggling today with the pain, the heartache, the loss.  I saw you had a small support system that was quietly waiting behind you.  And as my own eyes filled with tears you shared that our daughters both had an extra chromosome.  And that you knew seeing my dark haired, blue eyed girl was your daughter telling her that she was okay.  And you smiled, even though you hurt.  You said that seeing my girl was her daughter’s way of telling her that she was okay and still watching her.

I no longer remember what I replied.  Again, I no longer remember your face.  But I remember holding your heartache in my heart as I kissed the soft hair of my baby girl.  You left then and even though I know I had been terrified to bring my daughter to that play area that day I never regretted it that day.  Because we were meant to be there.

To you, dear Mom who lost your daughter with Down Syndrome, I have never forgotten you in the last nine years.  I have never forgotten how you admired my little girl as I always view her myself—seeing and loving those extra quirks of her flatter face and small nose, her beautiful blue eyes set far apart in a head that was then too large for her body.  I think of you nearly daily. I can only imagine what your girl looked like, but I know how much you love her.  And I’m thankful that you gave me that moment to remind this young, scared mother that sometimes you just need to stop and be grateful for the moments you have.  I can only wish that time eased your pain, but a mother should never lose someone that was literally a piece of themselves at one time.

To the Red Haired Girl at the Splash Pad

26 Jun

I saw you with your frizzy red pigtails, freckled face and your soaking wet yellow dress.  I saw you watching my daughter.  I saw you sitting near her, not too close, but close enough to watch her expression as she concentrated on watching the buckets fill with water and then pour down.  Most kids would be standing under that water.  Mine likes to watch from a distance.  I saw you smile at her.  And then I saw you look up at me.

You walked to me, shivering in the air, soaking wet.  And you smiled this beautiful, crooked smile with your front teeth missing.  I smiled back.  And you sat next to me and watched my daughter again.  Here is where I brace myself as a mom.

My daughter has Down Syndrome.  She’s non verbal and has some autistic tendencies.  She doesn’t know how to relate to other kids, sometimes doesn’t mind just watching others.  Some kids watch it and ignore it.  Some kids ask questions.

What is wrong with her?

Why doesn’t she talk?

Why is she mean? (If she pushes somebody too close to her out of the way)

Why is she yelling?

As her family we are used to it.  The kids she has gone to school with for the past few years know her quirks.  But “strange” children are rarely accepting of a child with special needs.  Especially when she’s nine and doesn’t speak.

So I braced myself when you looked up to me.  Because even though you look so sweet I get tired of explaining my daughter’s quirks. It hurts every time I have to explain that my child has special needs.  “Is that your daughter?” you asked.  I said yes.  “What is her name?”  And with that reply you got off the bench and went back to sit by her.

“Hi!” you said brightly, plopping yourself on the cement right next to her.  She looked at you, but instead of shrieking, she smiled back.  You wrapped your arm around her and laughed as the water bucket poured down.  She looked at your arm and I stood up, expecting her to shriek now and push you away.  See, she generally doesn’t like being touched.

But my daughter, like me sensed your beauty.  Instead of yelling “nooooo!” she did something amazing.  She leaned in and hugged you back.  And laughed as well.  And I sat down again.  You were too far away for me to hear your conversation.  But I saw you talking to my girl.  And not caring if she didn’t reply back.  I saw you both laugh.   I saw her touch your red hair and smile.

When your mom called you, you walked over to me wrapped up in a beautiful handmade quilt.  I smiled again, as I was still speechless.  Instead of me thanking you, you thanked me as your teeth chattered.  “Your daughter was so much fun to play with!  Have a great day!” you chimed as you started to run to your mom.

I’m sorry I couldn’t say thank you at that moment.  But, you see, I rarely see friends with my daughter.  You gave us the most beautiful gift that day.  You gave us a day where she was a typical child.  Making friends and laughing.  For that I will always be grateful.  And I hope I see your frizzy red pigtails again.  This time I will make sure to thank you.



22 Aug

Lately I’ve been thinking about my Montana.  He was the dog we rescued from my older brother.  Sweet old black lab.  He loved Nylabones, pulling us on his leash, and escaping us to go explore the woods.  He drove us crazy.  And we loved him.  He was thirteen when old age and illness made us bring him to Rainbow Bridge.  I sat there with his head on my lap crying and stroking his black fur.  I am still thankful that I was able to stay for his last few moments.  If I had a choice I’d have chosen to spend my last few moments like that.  Surrounded by love.

That was nearly two years ago.  Since then I’ve felt the ache for a new dog.  We have two cats.  Mine has been around since she was a kitten-she’s thirteen now.  And she comes when she’s called better than some dogs I’ve seen.  She loves attention, but only from us.  She’s got spunk.  But cats are not the same as dogs.

So this summer we finally decided it was time for us to find a new dog for the family.  We were searching for a golden.  When I worked in childcare we had a sweet golden retriever therapy dog that claimed our family.  He was lovely.  Even my middle child grew to like him and she is not a fan of dogs.  Goldens are family dogs.  And they’re beautiful and kind.  But we didn’t want a puppy.  Quite frankly, that’s selfish of us, but this house is crazy enough without a puppy to train.

So we signed up at a rescue shelter.  WAAGR was wonderful to work with.  Communication was great, they worked to match us with a gentle dog.  Rescue dogs are harder as so many of them are rescued from neglect and abuse.  It makes me so sad to see dogs that act that way.  I can’t imagine how hard their life must have been.

I visited our humane society with my youngest.  She adored seeing all the dogs and I found a black lab I liked.  As I was sending that information to my husband he sent me a link to a mixed breed.  A black lab and Norweigan Elk Hound mix that was great with cats and wonderful with children.  I messaged immediately.  And spent all afternoon messaging back and forth with the dog’s owners.  One look at the picture on his ad and it just felt right.  I loved talking to his mom.  It was a separation situation and neither of them could keep the dog.  After we messaged back and forth for hours she asked me when I could meet Murry.  I was so thrilled.  But it had to wait for a few days until I was in town for my nephew’s birthday party.

We met Murry in a Walmart parking lot.  His owner pulled up with him and a bag of his things.  Murry licked my hand and dutifully greeted us all.  His mom handed me the leash and said goodbye to him.  I could have cried for her.  Murry hopped in the back of our van like he knew exactly where he was going.  My husband and I made Doug jokes.  We love Doug from the movie “Up” and Murry fits that personality to a T.  He hopped in our van because he loves us.

He belongs here.  He knows it.  His first night was a bit anxious, but since then he sprawls on our bed, devours rawhide chews, chases our cats, gives us all endless kisses, and pulls me for walks.  It’s blissful to see him being used as a pillow by one of our children.  To see my middle child (who is afraid of dogs) toss him his bone or throw his tennis ball down the hallway.  He will bark only if someone walks in our house.  He’s such an amazing boy.  When I look in his brown eyes I see bits of Montana in them.  But Murry knows.  I have no doubt he adored his previous family–they did an amazing job with him.  I hope that it will help them heal knowing that he’s happy.

As I glance at Murry sprawled on the floor by my feet, he looks up at me and comes to lick my hand.  He sighs as he puts his head on my knee.  Yes, Murry, we love you too.  To his previous owners–thank you.  Thank you for choosing us.

Rejection is another word for opportunity

18 Apr

I received two more rejections from jobs I applied for yesterday.  I can’t tell you how many I’ve received.  Even more are the many applications that are in limbo out there.  It stinks.  I can’t say that they get easier to receive.  It feels like I’m in high school again.  Like I put a note in that really cute guy’s locker asking if he wants to go to a movie sometime.

You don’t know what he thinks of you.  He can see what you’ve done.  But that really cute guy doesn’t know yet that you like chocolate ice cream, puppies, walks in the woods, that you love to turn the pages of a book and immerse yourself into another world for a minute.  That you’re really great at multitasking, but have a lot of unfinished projects.  That you like to sit in the sun and feel the warmth of the rays, but not for long as you also burn within minutes.

Perhaps he’ll consider that note and ask you some of those questions.  Most likely he’ll ignore it.  He’ll probably think it won’t work and say no (hopefully in a polite manner).

But maybe he’ll be the one that is interested.

Maybe he’ll be the one that likes animals too.  Maybe he’ll want to see that movie with you.  And another.  Maybe dinner, some long walks in the woods.  Maybe he’ll ask you to marry him and you’ll have this beautiful family with him.  And maybe when you receive another job rejection he’ll be there saying “it’ll come for you.”

If you don’t try you’ll never know.

So I’m sure I’ll receive a few more job rejections.  And probably a few more employers won’t look past my experience.

But I’m going to keep applying.  As much as it stinks to hear the “no,” I know that there is a yes out there somewhere.  After all, I married that guy from high school.  We’ve been married almost 11 years now.  We have three kids, two cats, a house, many shared dreams and when I told him that I got yet another job rejection from a job I wanted he said “it’ll come.”

The right thing is out there somewhere.  We just haven’t found each other yet.