Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback Friday: Thanksgiving

2005 - Dating and childless at the Grand Canyon

2006 - Married and newly pregnant. Too grouchy, tired, and hungry for photos.

2007 - Back in Arizona with a 5 month old Playette

2008 - Cruising along

2009 - Our little girly pirate who is now too fast and busy to be able to catch in focus a lot of the time. Check out that outfit though. Too cute! Thanks, M & K!

And then there was my attempt to get into the holiday spirit by dressing up like a present at the end of the night.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

When I think of what I am thankful for today, I cannot help but reflect on my life with Playette.

Someone recently told me, after learning of her diagnosis, that they were "sorry." I know that person meant well, but it's still difficult to hear. Because, really, we are so far from sorry. We are grateful. This little girl has done so much to teach us what's really important in life. She makes us smile and then double over in laughter. She has introduced us to so many other amazing families, bonded by what we all share in common.

I am so thankful that Playette was born exactly when she was, in 2007. I am grateful for people that paved the way so that parents like me would have fewer battles to fight. My heart is warmed by the friends and family that surround us, minds open and love abounding.

Things weren't always the way they are now for people born with Ds in the United States. The days when people were so overcome with fear or shame and placed loved ones in institutions, thinking that was the best place for them, are not that far behind us. The world we live in now, where so many more people (though far from all) are accepting of people with differing abilities, must have seemed like a world that would never exist back then.

So when I look at other countries that are not quite as progressive, seeing that people continue to abandon their children to institutions, I can't help but think, "That could have been us."

In a another time, in another place, that could have been us.

While I'm giving thanks, I include the Zoromski family on my list. I am grateful for their new daughter, Lily, and the fact that she'll be home with them soon.

Lily is 5 years old and she has Ds. Where she lives, in Eastern Europe, children who are abandoned like she was are placed into baby homes, better known to us as oprhanages. Typically, when the children reach the age of four, they are deemed not only unwanted but also unadoptable and are moved into mental institutions. From what I've learned, this is where anything more than the most basic of care stops. There is no love, no play. No hugs, no kisses, and little, if any, laughter. No one is reading to these children or attempting to teach them anything. As you can imagine, no child can thrive in this kind of environment. In fact, many die.

The fact that Lily is still in her baby home is amazing. Grateful for that fact, the Zoromskis have committed to adopting her.

You want to know the most amazing part of this story? The part that fills my eyes with tears every time?

When Brian and Michelle's daughter Ruby was born in May of 2007, so was her sister Lydia. The girls were identical twins, both very wanted, both diagnosed with Ds at birth. Unfortunately, and for reasons no one can be sure, Lydia was stillborn. Her family misses her very much and she is always in their thoughts.

Lily is also a twin, though fraternal. Her sibling that shared the womb with her did not have Ds as was taken home. Lily was left behind.

As my amazing friend Michelle has stated, "We are a family without a twin and Lily is a twin without a family."

If you are able to support this loving tribute to Lydia, I know that the Zoromski family would appreciate any amount you can spare to donate. The total cost will be approximately $22,000. The family is raising money and with their own sacrifices, combined with the support of friends, family, and perhaps even people they have never met, I am positive that they can reach their goal and Lily will be sitting at the table with Brian, Michelle, Karly, Braden, and Ruby next year, enjoying her first ever Thanksgiving meal.

If you are so inclined, donations can be made in several different ways. And, if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to ask.

To learn more about Reece's Rainbow, the organization that helps adoptions like this one take place, please take a look at the video below.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Busy, Part I

So, I'm always saying we've been busy, right? But busy doing what?

When I got back from my two-week trip to NY, I had one day to rest up before taking on another challenge that Sunday morning.

Remember when I told you that I completed a 10K? And how I didn't used to be able to run 40 yards without crying and/or hacking up a lung?

Well, it was all in preparation for the Big Sur Half Marathon. The girl that used to have anxiety over "running" a mile ran 13.1 of those jokers.

You can see the "stuffed otter" that sucked any remaining energy out of my body at mile 10 at about the 1:28 mark in the video. He was a cute energy-sucker though. Right in front of the aquarium. Loved that.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day and I actually enjoyed myself.

I mean, of course at mile 1 when I was searching for the marker, sure that we'd run at least 2 miles by then, I never thought I would finish. I was scared that I'd bitten off too much, too soon. But then, after about mile 3, it got better. My toes weren't as cold, the view was amazing, and I was inspired by seeing the stellar athletes already on their way back to the finish line. Shoot, I wasn't mad. Good for them!

And when I saw BD, Playette, and a friend waiting at the turnaround around mile 8 with encouraging signs that included "Playette's Momma is Awesome"? Yeah, I kinda had to keep going.

Since I'd never done anything like this before, my original goal was to simply (simply? ha!) finish. That's it and that's all. Oh, and I wasn't allowed to stop running. Or use an iPod. ( <-- FNPT's version of torture, though she did make it up to me with a commemorative charm for my bracelet. Yay!)

I did it though. I set my personal record.

I'll post some more pictures soon. Promise. Though not the official ones because they always seemed to catch me with my belly hanging out and flapping over my pants.

Not. Cute.

Oh, and I really should try to run again because I haven't since the 15th. I would hate to end up right back where I was 7 months ago.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Up, Down, and All Around

That could describe so many things these days.

We've been busy lately. It's true! Also, what else is new?

There are things I want to talk about, but I want to post photos that are either in my camera or those of other people. And then there are other things that I would love to share that I just can't quite get motivated enough to type out. Then still, there are photos that I have with no words that are getting to be so old that it almost feels too boring to post.

So, yeah. All of that.

But today? Today I am here. And I will talk about the exciting nuances of my toddler's teeth.

That's right. Break out the snacks and settle in for...teeth.

Yes, that's the best I can come up with.

But, really, it is rather interesting. I've posted about these suckers a lot. No, really. A lot.

More than one probably should.

But I won't let that stop me.

First, it was all "Where are they already?" and then it was "Oh, here's why she doesn't have them yet" followed by "No, seriously, where are they?!" and then some "Oh, here's one" and "Maybe you'd like a picture?"

Well, I stopped counting the teeth at 6. I know for a fact that there are 6 in there. Maybe more. But I'm not going in to investigate. Nope, not me. I'll take her to the dentist instead. Let the people who get paid the big bucks take the risks.

So here's the deal with the post title. Those teeth? They're coming in any old way they please. You know the picture you have in your head of a baby with two front teeth? You know, either on the top or the bottom? Ha! That is sooo not happening over here.

So there were the molars. Those were first. All four, top and bottom, matchy-matchy. Weird timing, but I was ok with that.

Then there was this little guy.

He's been hanging out for a while. Or maybe "hanging out" isn't quite right. More like "digging in." He's the tortoise in this tooth eruption race.

So while Lower Right Central Incisor (like I would have a clue what it was called without the chart) was chillin', Upper Left Central Incisor decided to make a sneak attack.

From the way Playette keeps her hands shoved in the back of her mouth, I'm guessing we're gonna end up with close to a mouthful of these teeth things eventually.

At least I hope.

And maybe even sooner than later.

But I've been wrong before.

Am I still talking about her teeth? Gah!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nothing Better

I got home from NY at about 11:30pm Friday. Playette was at home, long asleep and under the care of the babysitter when BD picked me up from the airport.

The first thing I did when I got upstairs was rush to catch a glimpse of my baby girl. In the light from the hallway, I was able to make out the shape of her body, on her belly, in the position that is so familiar to me.

I touched her hand and her fingers grazed my own. Careful not to wake her, I stepped lightly out of the room and softly shut the door.

In the morning, I heard her stir. I asked BD if he wouldn't mind going to get her. I wanted to see her walk into the room. I wanted to see if she would react at all to seeing me there.

She didn't let me down.

As she crossed the threshold, she looked up, checking to see if I was there, as I'm sure she did every morning for the previous two weeks.

This time, though, her face lit up. It brings tears to my eyes to think about it. It was like she was hoping that one day her view would be different and this time her wish came true.

She ran to my side of the bed as fast as her tiny feet would carry her. She smiled, she clapped, she reached her arms up to me.

I lifted her.

She put her head on my shoulder, looked at me, put her head on my chest, taking it all in and enjoying the moment.

She clapped some more, signed mama, danced. She framed my face in her little hands and stared.

There was no denying her happiness.

She stuck by my side as much as possible for the rest of the weekend. I tried to reassure her that I was back and wasn't going anywhere.

She missed me.

And I missed her right back.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flashback Friday: Halloween

Obviously, I'm much better at this blogging thing when I'm not traipsing around the country getting into all kinds of stuff. I'm on my way home in a few hours though so WOOT! Can't wait to see my little family again.

BD sent me these photos last night from Halloween. I enjoyed looking at them and I hope you will too.


Parents were invited to snack and the Parade o' Kids at daycare on the day before Halloween. Since it was my last day at work before leaving for two weeks, I rushed up there at 3pm, hoping to make it in time. My wig was hot and it was a really warm day, so I was schweaty. But I made it.

The kids were having their snack when I got there. Check out the spoon in one hand while the other hand grabs the food. She gets the concept, but she gets tired of the slower spoon-feeding pace after a while.

After that was done, I changed Playette into her Nemo costume (cutest costume ever, a hand-me-down courtesy of Jen and Boo). After the kids marched around the courtyard, we were done. I don't know what else I was expecting. A show, maybe? See, last year we missed out on all of this because we were in Kansas. But I guess there's not much else you can really do successfully with 15 2-3 year-olds at Halloween besides put them in costumes and march them around the courtyard. If that, as I noticed. Lesson learned.

Once that wrapped up, most people got their belongings and headed home. Not Playette. No, she wanted more snack. So she sidled up to the cart full of fruit and went to town. The teachers were ok with it since it everyone else was done with it and I was impressed that she was eating watermelon (ick), so I just sat back and waited until she was done. Maybe I should have stopped her instead of joining in with the blackberries.

Anyway, here are the pics.

Oh! And that scrunched up face she's making. That's her cheesy face. Tell her to say "cheese" and that's what you get in return.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


This blog isn't about me.

It's not even just about Playette.

It's about our interaction, what she teaches us, and how her mere presence influences our lives.

So when we're not together? I can understand why I feel like I have nothing much to say.

That's really what's going on now...I'm missing my baby, my inspiration.

BD is taking very good care of her though. They're having some great daddy-daughter time. I'm almost convinced that them sharing the couch together yesterday is the reason that Navy beat Notre Dame.

I will soldier on though, committing to posting more often this week than last.

I hope I don't bore you.

So what have I been up to over the past week?

Well, as I mentioned, I'm residing in NY temporarily. Yes, I was just here six months ago, but here's the deal: In the sect of the Navy Reserve of which I am a part, a license is required. That license has to be renewed every 5 years. If you don't work in the industry that requires use of that license (which I don't), it becomes a very expensive and cumbersome process, in part due to new regulations that require additional certifications.

Sounds fun, right?

So here was my choice: Take a class I needed and pay $2000 for it or turn it into another Active Duty two-week stink and get paid (twice even! I still get paid by my full-time job when I'm on ADT) to take it. Ick. Though it's far from being all about the money, I think most people would agree that it's really difficult to remove that from the equation completely.

Now, if I hadn't taken this course? I couldn't renew my license and, therefore, risk the possibility of losing my place in the USNR after 11 years of service. Of course, that could still happen. There's a very crucial test I need to take and I get itchy just thinking about it.

*breaking to scratch*

BD and I decided together that I should work towards renewing my license. So here I am.

What's kinda cool, though, is that last week consisted of some things that I just don't get to do everyday. Like firefighting (the instructors were awesome - this was my fourth time going through this type of training and it was my best experience). And Personal Survival Training (think: jumping off a 3 m diving board into a pool while wearing an immersion suit, donning a life vest and performing various exercises, and jumping directly into/righting a turned over liferaft, just to name a few). Those parts were more fun than I expected (well, minus the high dive, which made me realize that my fear of heights is real). Plus, I'm now re-certified in First Aid and CPR again, which is always good. These things are all intended to keep me safe onboard ship in case of an emergency.

After my Basic Safety Training was complete on Friday, I proceeded to sit on the highway for 736 about 5 hours (only due to some insane traffic) so that I could come visit some friends and family while I'm off for the weekend. I feel really fortunate to be able to do that. Really. My friend, J, remarked yesterday that she feels like she sees me more now than she did when I lived in DC.

So I've experienced the bitter (to me) cold and the wonder of the changing leaves. I've done some bargain hunting (yes, I'm packing that whole wheat spaghetti in my suitcase to take home - it was only 50 cents!), had good conversation and laughs. All in all, a very nice time.

I even kept up with my running, starting by the Art Museum, down Kelly Drive alongside the Schuylkill River, passing the boathouse. It reminded me of those (very few) days I was on the crew team in college.

In our 5,011 years of friendship, I think the only time J and I have run together may have been the one mile I hacked my way through in high school JROTC. It was nice to be able to have her to help me get through this particular run. I bet she believes me now that I talk almost the entire time (I promise that I tried to keep my mouth shut - FAIL). Hey, whatever works.

I'll head back north in a bit. But first, waffles.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting Better

Sunday morning, San Francisco Airport.

I saw a woman walking with her son.

Something about him looked familiar.

Does he? No. Yes. Maybe?

No, definitely yes.

Do I say something? I want to. But what?

We still don't have a secret handshake or a gang sign yet, do we? Dammit.

Someone really needs to put that on the agenda at the next convention.

Until then, I just can't walk away.

There's this pull. It's like a magnet.

I head towards my terminal, but something turns me around. They're still there. Walking slowly. Taunting me and my inability to leave well enough alone?

I step towards them, recognizing the familiar feeling of angst over whether this will make me look foolish.

I circle them like prey.

Does he? No. Yes. Maybe?

No, definitely yes.

The mother looks nice enough.

God, I hope I'm not wrong.

If I think about it any more, I'll punk out.

So I open my mouth.

"Good morning," I say with a smile.

The mother gives me the "You better not be trying to sell me something" look.

I have to keep going. Finish what I've started.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I always feel compelled to speak to others who are on a parenting journey similar to mine."

Hm. That came out smoother than I expected. Wordy, but definitely better than what I've said in the past.

She smiles.

She knows what I'm talking about.

She asks me about my child. I tell her.

She smiles some more.

She tells me that they're only walking so slow because her son hurt his foot.

He lives on his own, you know.

And he assists with their local college football team.

I notice his jeans that are frayed at the bottom, his t-shirt, and flip flops.

He looks like any other guy his age.

I smile some more.

I could talk to them for so much longer, but soon I wish them safe travels, not wanting to overstay my welcome.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hi. I'm Gonna Ramble Now.

After that marathon month of posting, I just kinda fell off, huh?

I guess a teeny break was warranted.

We had a busy weekend, leading up to my departure for more reserve duty. I swear, I'm usually not gone this much. It's just a fluke of a thing, really, that this happened - me being back in NY after just being here in May - and I'd much rather be home. Honestly.

The good thing is that I have great friends nearby and they're happy to keep me entertained after my training is done most days.

Sunday was pretty quiet. I was up super-early after two nights of Halloween parties (thank you, Daylight Savings Time) to catch my flight and was pretty tired by the time I landed, got my rental car, and was settled in my little dorm room.

Last night, I took the opportunity to get some groceries so that I could make halfway decent food choices while I'm away from home. I made a rule that while I'm on LI, I have to eat right. All bets are off when I'm in the city.

Hey, I'm human.

Tonight, I took the train into Manhattan and had dinner with friends. I love the feeling of a city. Especially this city. It's so different from where we live now.

Understatement, I know.

Granted, just as we are starting the countdown to moving on to the next duty station, I'm already starting to feel like I'm going to miss our little town so much. 11 months to go...

There are so many things that I meant to talk about during 31-for-21 that I just didn't get to. I will though. In time.

One thing I will share now is that I'm glad I did it. I'm glad that I've shared what I've shared with everyone that reads here. Every once in a while, someone tells me that something they've read has made a difference for them and that's the best thing I can ever hope for.

I'm not here to tell everyone that they should want to have a kid with Ds. That's surely not my point, though it wouldn't bother me at all if you did. I guess what I really want people to know is that, above all else, Playette is a kid. She's not special-special, she just is.

Wait. Do you know what I mean by "special-special"? This might be a futile effort, but I'll try to explain: Of course, Playette is special to us, her parents, and we love her. And plenty of other people love her too, which is amazing. She is special to all of us. But what I'm referring to here as special-special (and I can't take credit for creating this term) is what's kinda like when people say things like, "Oh, she's so special. (Bless her heart.)(Special children are given to special parents.)" You know what I mean? It's patronizing. Saying that someone you don't know is "special", especially when that person has a cognitive disability, comes across like you think that there's something that makes this person uber-special, or special-special, which isn't like thinking they're special to you at all. It's different. You, and I use the general "you" here because I can't think of another way to phrase it, think they're different and you're just trying to find something nice to say. Which...I don't blame people for. But please know that parents notice. Friends notice. I don't think of my daughter as special-special. That's what other people may think of her, but not me. The goal here is acceptance and inclusion, not special.

I don't even know if that all made sense.


Where was I?

I guess what I really want people to know is that, above all else, Playette is a kid. She's not special-special, she just is.

And if more people can begin to see that kids with Ds are more like those without Ds than they are different, then those people won't be as afraid. It's alleviating that fear of the unknown that I want. It's painting a true picture. Not doom-and-gloom, not all rainbows and kittens. Just showing you us. Living. Loving. Being. Fighting for what we believe in. Making mistakes. Not walking around with Down syndrome tattoos on our foreheads or even talking about Down syndrome every day. That's not how we live. We face challenges and celebrate accomplishments just like any other family.

I've been told by more than one person recently that getting to know Playette has led them to think about things in a different light. They've had conversations with their spouses that they might not have otherwise had. They're no longer afraid.

That right there keeps me coming back.