Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ball. Ball. Ball.

When Payton was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome, I cried and cried thinking about what the future would hold for her. Mostly, the tears fell when I wondered whether or not she would have friends, whether or not she would be made fun of for being different, whether or not she would play sports like her brother ... whether or not she would be accepted for who she is.

As she approached four years old, my anxiety grew over enrolling her in dance programs or sporting events. I knew ... had she been born without that extra chromosome ... that I would have enrolled her in all of those extra-curricular activities without a second thought.

But I stalled with Payton. 

Because I didn't want her to be an outcast. I didn't want her to be "that girl with Down syndrome". I didn't want her to be subject to stares.

I just wanted her to be accepted and I feared it would not happen like I had hoped.

And then someone smacked me upside the head. And I saw how excited Payton was when she played "ball". How could I withhold that from her in light of my own insecurities?

So I told my husband I'd enroll her in blastball ... the level before tball ... if he coached. Ha. Nobody messes with the coach's daughter, right? Ha.

She winds up, she swings and she hits the ball! 

Practice makes perfect!


Run, Chicky, run!

And the base squeaks -- err, blasts -- when the kids step on it ... hence the blast in blastball.


She fields the ball ... and she throws!


Enough with practice ... it is game time!


Payton has done awesome playing blastball. She might not understand the game at the same level as the other kids, but sitting there watching her do what she is supposed to do ---> PRIDE.

Pure pride beyond words to even explain. I have always been so proud of Mason and all that he has done in tball, but Payton ... it is so different. So, so different.


This chick has my heart. Sassy as she is.

Uhh Chicky ... aren't you supposed to be out there playing ball?


Mason has deemed himself Assistant Coach of Payton's blastball team. And man ... he is so proud of himself ... and his sister. He was quite miffed to learn that he didn't get a team shirt though ... after all, shouldn't the Assistant Coach get a shirt?

Lucky he has one of his own ... for his own tball team.


We have always thought Mason was really good for his age. Parental bias, I suppose. Until the other day we received an email from his coach asking if we would mind if they moved Mason up to the next level ... the Rookies. We told them we would be honored ... we will see what happens.

Mason is a big kid. A big kid. My husband has always made fun of the way I run ... apparently I "don't know how to run". Whatever. 

Sadly, I think Mason has the same problem. Poor kid. I don't think he quite knows how to handle his cute-little-large-self when he needs to move faster.


Is it true that with every baseball player comes a broken window? I totally just made that up.

Because we got ours.


Mason and his father were hitting balls in the backyard yesterday. SMASH. Uh ... they were in so much trouble! Mason hit the ball and knocked out the window in the far corner of the house ... he definitely has a good swing, I guess?

Little stinker. Do I make him or his father pay? Ha.

And for now, Nika is happy keeping the bench warm in the dug out. Looking cute, watching her brother and sister play "ball".


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rants and raves. Well, mostly rants.

I'm tired. The pollen is kicking my butt. I'm behind on everything. I've had so many things to do. I've had so many things to say. But I feel like I have no time to do anything that does not involve my children. Join the club, right?

Therapy. The all encompassing therapy. Tball. My business. Soccer. Photography. Blastball. Young athletes. My own volunteer work. All that and more on top of trying to retain order within my home and just be a family.

I sound like a broken record.

All this stuff ain't happening. Well, it is happening but it needs to get easier. So I rehired my house cleaners. And oh how happy that makes my soul. They came yesterday and some of that stress has been lifted.

I feel like I have sort of been slapped in the face lately with a few things that have put me in a funk. I try really hard not to let things get to me, but seriously ... one human soul can only handle so much.


Payton has childhood apraxia of speech. In other words, we are trying to get our 4 year old to be able to say things like me instead of pee. Or bye bye instead of dye dye. It is an ongoing struggle. Watching her speech be broken down to such a level has been really eye opening for me. To see the stages of development from this perspective is something I wish everyone could see. It is breaking my heart that speech is so incredibly, frustratingly hard for her.

She is tired. I'm tired.



And then ... to increasingly observe other kids staring at her and asking why she can't talk. Although she has no idea any of this is going on, I do. I have always been fine with explaining her speech delay to other kids, but the older she gets ... the more I worry about them judging her.

Like four older neighborhood boys did this past weekend.

She said, "Hi."

They said, "You're stupid."

I presume they called her stupid because she looks like she is big enough to be able to talk, but they have picked up on the fact that she sounds like a young toddler. So now she is being called stupid because she can't talk. Fan-freaking-tastic. Not only that, but Mason was standing right there to hear it all ... coming from his peers. Fan-freaking-tastic.



Nika is in the third percentile of children her age for fine motor capability. Or so the evaluation says. I ... I don't even know where to start with that one. I feel like she is doing better than that, but I also think that I classify her as younger than she is ... I guess given the fact that she spent two years in an orphanage where she was cared for, but not really taught skills that a child with Down syndrome would need to be taught. I guess that is why? I am also concerned that she has childhood apraxia of speech and we have a detailed evaluation in a few weeks.


Mason is still struggling a bit with reading and it frustrates me to no end. I feel like no matter how much we work with him on certain things, he has such a hard time wrapping his little mind around it. Yet when it comes to math or science ... he is golden. Clearly he is my kid. So we roll on ... hoping he somehow is not being left behind in light of all that his sisters require.


Meanwhile the fact that he is growing up so fast has become so evident. The things he says He has a new found obsession with Justin Bieber. He asked me to upload the song Baby to my iPhone, so now that is what we listen to as we stroll the aisles of the grocery store or as we drive down the road or as we eat dinner or as we try to sleep. Ha.

Then, Mason came to find out that Justin Bieber is on the cover of Teen Bop and other such magazines. "Mom, can you buy this for me?" 

Really? Really. I am having to buy teeny bopper magazines for my six year old? Wow, that makes me feel really old. As did spending our last shopping trip in abercrombie shopping for clothes for him. It really was a weird moment for me to have graduated from Baby Gap ... I mean abercrombie, this is big time, big boy shopping. So crazy.


I sort of have been really bothered lately by things I have read on an adoption listserve that I subscribe to. This attitude of I-will-adopt-only-the-perfect-child-or-none-at-all ... it seriously drives me insane and it is really hard for me to bite my lip. I try to remind myself different-strokes-for-different-folks ... but honestly, I'm not really sure how one can go into an international adoption and expect that their child will not have developmental delays, cognitive problems or even health problems.

This is par for the course people. No, a child will not always have those issues, but they could. And no, it doesn't necessarily taint the child for life. Or, what if it does? Does that make that child any less deserving of a family that loves him or her?



Sometimes I just want to hold Nika high in the air and yell, "Look at her! She is beautiful! She is healthy! She deserves to live her life! Down syndrome, developmental delays, cognitive problems and all!"

And then I go on to read about this Tennessee family that adopted an eight year old child from Russia six months ago. Because they could not deal with ... nor find the right means to go about a disruption ... whatever issues he brought with him, they thought it would be a fantastic idea to put him on a one-way flight back to Russia. After arriving in Moscow alone, he gave officials a note from his adoptive mother that explained that she was returning him due to severe psychological problems.

I mean seriously. Seriously?

And now Russia is threatening to stop Americans from adopting from Russia at all. I'm praying and hoping this will not happen, but it is a very real possibility. I pray that one bad egg doesn't ruin the bunch.

Please click here to see how you can help.


And as if that wasn't enough, I read about a doctor in Florida who is alleged to have "aborted the wrong fetus". Shocker that the fetus that was to be aborted had Down syndrome. After the parents found out that the wrong fetus had been aborted or "killed", they proceeded to abort the fetus with Down syndrome.

So let me get this right. The fetus that did not have Down syndrome was "killed", but the fetus with Down syndrome was "aborted"? Is the method of death not the same? Is a fetus with Down syndrome not worthy of life, so it is not classified as being killed? Is this what we have come to as a society?

And ... the fetus with Down syndrome was described as "deformed". Okay, having an extra chromosome does not make you "deformed"!

*stepping off soap box*

And had I finished this post last night like I intended to do ... I would have said ...



Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A blossom. And a root beer float.

Every spring brings the blooming of the cherry blossom trees in Washington, DC. It sort of has become a running joke in our family that my husband gets to spend his birthday traveling into the city to marvel at the gorgeous blossoms.



Sounds exactly how any guy would want to spend his birthday, yes?



This year he got to spend his birthday celebrating Easter and running from camels, so he was able to forego the cherry blossoms. The kids and I ... however ... took my grandmother to see bountiful blooms earlier in the week.

She and I ... we are one in the same. Love that lady.



While we did see the cherry blossoms, we mostly sat in traffic. A lot of traffic. I'm pretty sure everybody and their brother ... and their brother's brother ... was there to see the cherry blossoms when we were. And the roads along the tidal basin cannot support all that traffic.



So you sit. And sit some more. And have photo ops that you would not have otherwise had.



We did eventually find a parking spot. Thank the Lord because I'm not sure I could take any more, "Mom ... when are we getting out of the car?!"

The kids did very well, actually ... I'm pretty sure they thoroughly enjoy sitting in a car for about two hours while inching down a road. I know I don't do. After all, I got to listen to Mason and Gigi -- as the kids call my grandmother -- bicker about Lord knows what.

"Mason! Do you like to argue? Because I certainly do!" 

Ha ... I love my grandmother.



After sitting in traffic for so long, we only spent about 20 minutes down at the tidal basin oohing and aahing over the blossoms. We had a lunch date with my husband -- one of Gigi's favorite people.

As we scurried back to the car, I watched the little momma as she put her arm around her sister. She is so damn cute, I can hardly stand it.




We took Gigi to lunch at Johnny Rockets. She had never been before, but she was happy that she could get herself a big, juicy cheeseburger.

And a root beer float. She sipped on that thing like a school girl on her first date.

I asked her how long it had been since she had a root beer float ... and she said the last time was before my grandfather passed away. It actually has been nine years today ... a piece of my soul is buried five feet under.

I miss that man. Oh, how I miss him.

My second father. My hero.


Rest assured Gramp ... I'll get Gram another root beer float. Sometime real soon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Frolicking in the hills.

In the middle of the rolling hills of Southwestern Virginia, there lies a safari park. Camels, llamas, zebras, emus, deer, bull elk, bison ... they roam the land. 


Within the hills is a three-mile gravel road on which cars may travel. Buckets of feed are an optional must-have, as these animals are nuts. Nuts I tell ya!


We went to the safari park today with Kyle's sister, her husband and our nephew. They drove ahead of us and just as we entered the gate, we were rolling in leg-crossing laughter.


The animals flock to your car, as if it were a big piece of meat floating down the gravel road. We barely got five feet in the gate and we could not move. The animals block the road and stare at you, as if saying, "Was there somewhere you wanted to go? Feed me and you shall proceed."


Emus ---> among the nuts. I refused to feed them because of their forceful pecking motion. Refused. I was sure I'd lose a finger.

It was a shame too, since there were so many emus begging to be fed. I finally gave in. And the damn thing bit my finger. Needless to say he also got the entire bucket of food after that.




There were lots of these deer with fuzzy horns. I thought they might be reindeer. My sister-in-law shot down that idea and told me what they really were. I don't remember the name. They were so cute!


After being horded by the taller animals at my window, I retreated to the sunroof. It made for easier photo ops and then I didn't have to worry about them sticking their snouts in my face.


The one animal we were not supposed to feed was the zebras. My brother-in-law missed that rule. Oops. We were later told that the reason is because zebras really are not nice, even when you think they are being nice. When they are nice, they are mean. When they are mean, they are mean. In other words, they are always mean.


Despite that, they seemed to be the most friendly. Sorry guys.




We actually drove through the park twice ... the first time Payton was in the other car, the second time she came with us. I'm told she hated it the first time, but she was intrigued the second time.



The camels.


Oh ... the camels.


Now they were nuts. Every time I fed them, they clenched their teeth down on the bucket and took it right from my hands. Bastards.


But they were the animals I found most intriguing. And I was glad to be sitting up through the sun roof when we encountered them. Because they were huge.


This guy stole my bucket too. See it there in his mouth? Bastard.



Another road block.


Payton was disgusted. "Move!"


Not really. She really didn't say that, but she insinuated it with her sassy little self.

Ohh yeah, feels good.






The camels. Again. The car you see in this picture was nuts too. They were parked there next to these two guys and the camels kept sticking their heads down in the sun roof. And through the windows ... like, four feet into the car. 

And the driver? He was bald. And he had his back turned to his open window as he tried to take pictures of the camels. And then an emu approached him and I could have swore he was going to get pecked in the head.

He didn't. But it sure would have been funny.


See? I told you the zebras were nice!



Why hello long horn.

*shuts car windows*


Pot bellied pig and her babies. They hung around the gate the whole time we were there. Because they are pot bellied pigs and their legs don't take them far.


Meet Harry Hairy. He is a horse or a cow or perhaps both. He blocked the exit. He enjoyed having us and didn't want us to leave. We didn't feed him either.


After driving through the hills, we walked around to see the caged animals. Turtles, monkeys, birds, giraffe, tigers ... oh, I lurve the tigers.





This white tiger was so beautiful. She had the brightest blue eyes. But they were crossed. And the trainer told us she is so incredibly inbred. That made me so sad. Apparently white tigers have been bred so much in not-so-great-ways in order to increase their population. Inbred or not.

That is so stupid.


Chicky really was not a huge fan of the animals. Intrigued, yes. Fan, no. I'm not sure if she thought this goat might be fake or what. But she was going to find out.

And then he moved. And she got scared ... and screamed and ran.


I lurve giraffes too. They intrigue me.


There was an elevated deck area so we could be eye-to-eye with the giraffes. So awesome. We talked Mason into feeding them, although he was a bit nervous.


He did it. And the giraffe's tongue seriously was about eight inches long. Perhaps more.





We had such an amazing time frolicking in the hills with all the animals. We haven't laughed that hard in a long time. Good times.

The kids were exhausted by the time we left. And we even talked the animal trainers into letting us take a lion home. Ha.