Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The main reason

I write very little just lately.

One reason is I have little time to do it.  I'm a very busy mama.

But the main reason...  The main reason catches in my throat when I go to say it, so I've just kept to myself.  

I snapped this photo of Charlie this evening, sacked out on the porch swing with his pup.  This kid does me in every single day.  My goodness.

Thing is, this sweet moment wasn't really come by in a sweet, happy way.

A neighborhood buddy came to play.  That is how it started.  Charlie loves to play with kids, but kids don't always get why he is difficult to understand, why he looks different, moves and plays different than expected.  I'm so used to it, you know?  I just take it for granted that people should be okay with variants of personhood.  Sometimes Charlie will hang with the language barrier and do the extra work to foster a play partnership.  And sometimes I think he is just not up to the challenge of proving himself, of working so very hard to communicate, so he'll go find something to do on his own.

Today, I immediately noticed the boy began to avoid Charlie, and was encouraging Calvin to avoid Charlie also.  He had made up a game where Charlie was the bad guy and they were hiding from him.  I think Charlie was as suspect of that game as I was, and he just ignored them and went to play something else.  Unfortunately, a short time later I overheard the boy making fun of Charlie to Calvin.

And that is the long and the short it, really.  I talked to the boy.  I talked to Calvin.  And then I sat down on the swing with my sweet dog because I was feeling really sad and angry.  Charlie found us out there, and of course had to squeeze in between us for a group cuddle.  He said, "I do love Buster."  I said, "I do love you."

In a few minutes, this sweet darling was fast asleep beside his puppy.

In early childhood we just did not deal with... rejection.  If there were people rejecting Charlie because of who he is, I never saw it.  I never knew about it.  More often than not our experience was the total opposite.  He is loved.

Boyhood has been different.  The sting of rejection is there, and I have so much I want to say about that because it hurts and it sucks.  But those words don't come out so easy.  They are raw, and likely unthoughtful.

There's a lot I've just kept to myself.

I try to keep the perspective that kids are excellent at sticking their feet in their mouths when really they are just curious.  I try to keep the perspective that education is the best prevention of children tearing down peers who are different.  I've never yelled at or accused any child, only tried to be firm about what is acceptable behavior toward my son, and why.  I try to let them know it is normal to notice when someone is different and to wonder about that, and that they have the ability to be a good friend to Charlie.

But at the same time, it rips my heart right through.  If the world could see this boy through my eyes.  It's all just very hard to say.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy Birthday to my sweet Calvin.

(Late again.  Calvin's birthday is in March.  It's just the way of things right now.)

Dear Calvin,

I can't believe you are six years old!  I still want to hold you in my lap and cradle your head.  I think I want that more than I even have, but you are big, your legs and arms sprawling, and I am a small mama.  I hold you in my gaze now, as you go out into your world.  Calvin, I am so proud to be you mom.

Every thing about six-year-old-you is just right.  Your big brown eyes dance across your environment.  Your mind is busy.  It never rests.  Not for a moment.  You want us to feed you information.  You want to know facts about your world.  You want to get your hands on materials and build.  You want to direct your brothers in games.  Even as we tuck you in bed at night, you are still asking for more information.  We have a 2 question rule once lights are out.  When you finally slip into your dreams, your dad and I smile at each other about you and all your wondering.

Calvin, you are a challenge.  You make me better, sharper.  You and I are perfectly matched and mismatched at the same time, I'd say.  Your mind races like mine and you are caught up in daydreams, but we think about very different things.  You are mechanical, I am feeling, and really buddy, I think it's just right.  How would I have ever known the difference between a loader, backhoe, and bulldozer without you?  How would I have ever learned the truth about chameleons?  Really, buddy.  Your world is as fascinating for me as it is for you.

You are six now, and your world is as wide open as ever.  You have learned to ride a bike!  You have learned to read!  You have learned the classifications of animals, and the patterns of life and death.  You are set for adventure and a new year of going deeper in your love of discovery.  I am excited to be your guide.

Classic Calvin.  A million beautiful thoughts behind those big brown eyes.
Calvin... I love you so much.  I know I say it "a million times a day", but I can't help it.  When I see you--and the energy of you--I am blessed.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Good Old Fashion Calvinisms

It's been months since I have posted the funny little things the kids say, and I have quite a collection to put up.  I thought I'd start with the boy who started it all, and keeps it going strong.  My Calvin.

I love this kid.  He has a light in those big brown eyes.

Recently, Calvin learned to ride a "big boy bike."  If you ask him about it he will tell you, "I learned to ride a two wheeler bike in 10 minutes!"  And it is truth, he did.  Balance bikes work, folks.  Well, they did for this kid.

So Calvin and I are having a discussion about Day of the Dead, and why family members who have died are still important to those who are living because of the legacy they leave us. And he asks, "Did Great Grandpa Chalmers ever go to jail?" "No, he never did," I answer. "Oh. Well, maybe I will not go to jail, too," he decides. "Um, ya, Buddie, great. I mean, you know, that's an important goal to have for yourself."

Yesterday I found myself explaining to Calvin, "Well, Captain Hook's disability is not the reason he's a bad guy. He's just a pirate who happens to have a prosthetic hand."

We have this children's book about the human body, which also happens to have a section on reproduction.  Calvin and I were reading the section on how only one sperm is able to fertilize the egg, and that is how we all receive the genetic material that will become a new person.  Based on his knowledge that sperm and egg contain half the chromosomes needed to begin a human life, and that Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome, Calvin reasoned, "So, if two sperm accidentally get to the egg at the exact same time, then that baby will have Down syndrome." 

On Halloween, I let Calvin be a ninja with the caveat that we would do research on ninja's together to learn about them.  This included learning how to write "Ninja" in Japanese characters.  We learned the first symbol was a combination of the symbols for "heart" and "sword", and the second symbol was the symbol for "person".  We used paint to then write the symbols on the front of his costume.  At the end of his school day, I asked Calvin if he shared what the symbols meant with any of his friends.  His response, "No way!  If I told that, I would reveal my secret identity!" 

Calvin:  "Mom?  What is the meaning of "Love, Calvin" if I want to write a letter to Annie, or, I mean, any-person-in-the-world?"

Getting ready to depart school, Calvin asked me if I could carry his back-pack.  I was carrying Miles and Charlie's pack, which had broken open.  I said, "Look buddy, I wish I could, but I'm carrying a toddler and a broken back-pack.  I'm just not Super Woman."  He understood... too well.  Later, we were all in a public restroom.  Again, Calvin wanted me to carry something for him, but I was trying to help Charlie and keep Miles from touching everything in the stall, so again I said, "Buddy sorry..."  Exasperated, Calvin (loudly) finished, "Mom!  I know!  Your not Super Woman!"  We just hid in the stall for a while after that one.

We were talking about New Year Resolutions, last night. I shared with the family one of my resolutions, and asked Calvin if he had any. He thought for a brief moment, then said, "I know, mom, how about loose the weight AND cut the fat." Turns out he was up early and helped himself to an infomercial. Doh.

We recently dedicated Miles in church (more on that later).  As we were being introduced by the pastors, one of the pastors asked Calvin his name.  He told her, and she asked, "Is that like Calvin and Hobbes?"  Perplexed, he responded, no, it's like Calvin David Robinson."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Not Seven, but Eight!

I'm late with everything lately.

My life feels so very small and simple, yet I'm continually, embarrassingly behind.

I am assured it is "part of the age and stage" of having young children--a thing that, on one hand I feel as though I am bound to endure, and on the other I never want to leave.  But as long as I am here in the land of little ones needing my everything, and a life that needs all I have left, I hope you will be understanding when manners, important tasks, and accomplishment happens on a schedule not conducive with the pace of life.

Aw, the sweet victory of being the giver of your child's favorite birthday gift.  I scored!

That said, I would like to start off a new year of blogging by wishing my beautiful first born son, Charlie, a very happy 8th birthday.

Every year before Charlie's birthday, we start prepping him.  "Now you are six, but soon you will be seven!"  He really struggles with memory when a concept doesn't make a lot of sense to him.  It's not a big deal, but when you are a kid folks tend to ask your age, and it's nice to answer accurately.  When you're a grown up, you can answer any way you like.  This has worked better than others some years. He never was receptive to being six, and stayed five for two years, then magically became seven.  I thought he might be seven for another year as he was unreceptive to having a birthday at all this year.  He was insistent that he would not have a birthday.  Angry about it, even.  Finally we just stopped talking about it.

Well, on the big day I made sure to show up at school with a cookie. I said, "Here's a cookie!  Happy Birthday!"  That seemed to be the right approach. "It's my birthday?" he said. "Hooray!"

We came home and had a very small party with Grandparents and brothers and mom and dad and a bunch of presents that had arrived by mail.  He was comfortable, happy, and proud to be Eight.


Charlie is doing so well.  He has become increasingly comfortable at school, and also is trying new experiences with less trepidation.  He just has a confidence now that was not there before.

Charlie is a caring, empathetic individual.  He loves to be helpful, and often comes to us to ask, "Can I help you?"  He has the ability to read a situation and behave appropriately, but also the ability to be mischievous and know it.

He is creative.  He plays in a way that reminds me of my sister and I growing up with lots of imagining, role playing, building, and creating.  It is the kind of child's play that gets me excited, and is wonderful to behold.  A privilege.

I know I say this all the time, but before Down syndrome, we had all these ideas of what our child would become.  It seemed as soon as we heard, "It's a boy!", we started unconsciously constructing what our boy's life could attain.  If someone would have pointed that out to us we would have instantly been ashamed, because it really was not our intention.  Well, someone did.  Charlie did.

Not so fast, he said. You don't have to know or plan my future.  Just do your best, mom and dad.  Trust God.  It will all be okay. 

Oh what I would have given back then to see what I do now.  (Well, maybe.  Some things may have scarred the socks off of me.)

Next month will be our "Down syn-aversery", the day we learned our baby boy had Down syndrome.  That was the day we stopped guessing or planning the future for our kids, and started letting them show us who they are created to be.  I wish I could say we accepted that shift with grace and decorum.  We didn't.  We were a bit of a mess for a while before we settled in.  Eight years later, the simple reality is everyday with this boy makes me feel like I was chosen for something I could never have attained to or deserved.

You are the boy who anchored the boat and sparked a family.  

Eight years of blessing represented in this picture (little brothers not to be excluded!).
Eight years we could never have forced or planned on our own.

Eight years old!
You are so big, Charlie!  
Happy Birthday!  

Love, Mama

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To Our Friends at Christmas

Dear Friends, Family, Guests,

I would have hated to get a Christmas blog up on time, lest you begin to think that I'm on it.

A Christmas letter is such a satisfying thing to write, but regular ol' family life has really kept me running all December long.  Let's see... There were two different incidents of stomach flu early in the month, then my parents came to town in time for Ray and I to get it.  We were practically in a coma for a whole day, I think, which may have had to do with the fact that we couldn't stomach coffee at the time.  Um.  So...

A Snowman!
Then Charlie came down with my least favorite childhood illness.  Oh, how I  abhor HSV-1.  HSV-1, oral herpes, is the virus that folks get that eventually causes cold sores.  Google assures me that 90% of the population carries the virus, while only 60% who get it actually go through the initial illness that involves high fever for a few days, then blisters appear.  And not just a cold sore here or there, but blisters on the tongue, the gums, the throat, the face.  It is terrible.  You may remember Calvin came down with this the week Miles was born.  (Shudder)

He fell asleep just like this, while playing with his animal friends.

Well, Charlie weathered it very well.  A high pain tolerance is a feature common in folks who have Down syndrome, and I'll tell you what, for better or worse it really works for him sometimes.  He had one really painful day, and after that was only expressing pain when he needed to eat.  Still, he found things that worked okay, and marched on.  He felt pretty lousy the whole time, though, pain or not.

Indiscriminate cartoon watching ensued.
Then Miles came down with it.  You guys, he did not take it so well.  It it going rough.  First, there were the fevers.  HSV-1 can cause high fevers.  Combine that with the fact that Miles little body has a history of letting fevers go very high meant that we made a few trips to the bathtub in the last weeks.  The highest we saw was 105.5 F, which was alarming and not all in the same breath.  This kid really knows how to party.  Then the blisters came, and he couldn't eat. Thank goodness for gatorade, his constant companion.  Now the blisters are healing, but his gums and lips keep swelling up and bleeding.  This poor guy cannot catch a break.

Calvin is one healthy boy. Here he is, beaming with pride at his Christmas school performance.
I appreciate his patience and concern for his brothers these last couple weeks.

You know, Christmas is a rough time for difficult things to happen, but I'll tell you what, of all the hard things people experience at Christmas time, I'll take normal childhood illness any time.  It's been a strenuous few weeks, and Christmas packages and letters did not get out on time, but we're okay.  We were still together as a family.  My parents came to visit, and willingly helped with household duties.  We had a wonderful time with our family that dropped in on Christmas.  Charlie, thankfully, had a pretty light case and is doing fabulous now.  And Miles, well, he is still in it, but I have had the privilege of cuddling that sweetie to sleep every night--all night long--which is totally exhausting, but very special for a mama to do.  We'll count our blessings.

I'm thinking, next Christmas, Miles will not fit so perfectly under the mantle.
I hope your Christmas was wonderful.  Miles and I have had a lot of chats about Jesus this winter break.  He is trying to wrap his mind around all of it, and mostly coming up blank.  He is very deeply mystified, but he understands Jesus' actions and purpose:  Love and redemption.  Indiscriminate love that would hold you through the night while you cried, even if he was tired, even if your breath stunk like oral herpes, if you were good or bad, easy or difficult, he loves unendingly.  He will love you right into his arms.  He loves you until you are well.  He walks with you your whole life long.  He's gotcha.  Our boys know that we celebrate the initiation of this love and redemtion on earth at Christmas time.  We celebrate that He came.

So, "Very Christmas" Friends!  (As Charlie has been saying.)  I hope, in whatever you've been up to these couple weeks, you have had a chance to experience Jesus love for you, just as you are, in whatever state you are in.

And Happy New Year!  May it be our best yet.


Kim, Ray, Charlie, Calvin, and Miles

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Charlie Does

Charlie is a busy guy.  When Calvin and Miles talk, it's like a little window that opens up and lets me into their world for a moment.  But for Charlie, it is what he does.  Charlie is, by far, our most imaginative, creative son.  He is constantly creating and pretending.  Each of my kids have qualities that remind me of myself when I was a child.  With Charlie it is this unending flow of ideas, and the impulse to bring them to life.

When Charlie was about 3 or 4 he started making "collections".  He would gather an assortment of items, and arrange them, or sometimes carry them in a bag.  We thought of it as a phase at first, but as the years pass, this collecting has evolved into an art.  It often has themes, or serves a purpose in a game he is playing, or simply exists to add a certain asthetic to Charlie's life for that moment.  He gets a lot of satisfaction from this activity.  He arranges, steps back to examine, moves back in and re-arranges until his eye sees perfection.  He is proud of his creations, and will come get us to show us his finished installation. 

Over the past year or so I have snapped photos of some of Charlie's creations.  All of these are Charlie's sole works, inspired, built, and completed all on his own, with no help or hindrance from mom or dad.  Charlie utilizes materials scavenged from his day to day life.  And yes, he really does name them.

This one is called "House", and was created with moving boxes.

This creation uses common household items, and is called "Lemonade Stand".

A sculpture made from the ordinary play things of childhood.  Aptly titled "Monster Trucks".

This is a wearable installation consisting of cowboy boots, two baseball mitts, and sound dampening ear muffs.  Untitled.

This one is a pile of squash and melons arranged beside the grandfather clock.  The original installation also included two beer bottles (promptly recycled before it could be photographed) and was titled "Breakfast".

Sometimes Charlie uses materials he finds in the natural environment.  Here he works on a wall made from stones from a creek bed in Truckee, California.

This is an arrangement of food representing a nutritious snack, aptly named "Snack Time".

This sculpture involved precision, balance, and variety.  It is called "Garbage Truck", and seems to represent the temporary nature of "things".

This is Charlie's most recent creation, which he whipped up while we were visiting family over Thanksgiving.  It is titled, "Christmas", and represents the importance of play-things in the life of a child.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miles and Miles...

This post is about a boy who had a birthday last month.

A birthday duly celebrated, and yet unrecognized on the family blog.

No longer, my dear, sweet 3rd born son.  We will recognize you today.  But then, there has not been a day in your 3 years that you have known me to be a Mommy who has it together.

Oh no, my sweet darling Miles, you are the one who pushed me straight over backwards.

And how wonderful it is, life with you and your brothers, always behind on things, always dropping the ball.  Laughing and laughing and feeling oh so irreverant about life.

You.  The boy we named for the journey we are on.

Happy Birthday, plus 17 days, my son.

Miles, you were just who we needed when you came into our lives.

You were a snuggler and a mama's boy from those first fretful moments you were placed into my arms.  In a cold hospital nursery I sang to and nursed a very frantic baby boy--a boy who couldn't seem to find his breath.  A boy with a broken bone from a rough passage.  It was 4am, and text messages were going out to family asking for prayer for you to be well.  I felt as if I rescued you right then as you miraculously settled.  You began to breath deeply, and find peace to keep going.  I felt redeemed--my body seemed to want to do us in during your birth, but was now giving you life and safety.  I think, right there in that strange place, we both decided we could be okay if we had each other near. 

Baby, I've been holding on to you ever since.

Miles, you are three now.  This has meant a few things this year.

You talk!  I thought you would take your time, hardly uttering a word before your second birthday.  But the words came in a flood, and people say things of you like, "Wow, he is really articulate" and "I can't believe how well he speaks."  But you know what I think of that, Miles?  I am simply grateful to know what is on your mind.  You have a lovely, silly view of the world.  I'm so glad you are able to spell this out for me so I can understand despite my grown-up ways.

You are so brave and spunky and wild.  Gone is Mellow Miles and the boy who used to hide behind my knee.  You meet your world with such confidence.  I love to watch you.  You know just when to crack a joke, stick up for yourself, or let something slide to promote peace.  You also know how to skillfully push my buttons, and how to throw a wild and effective tantrum just to help me grow in patience.  Really, boy, you are an instrument in God's hands, I'm convinced.  But I'm thankful, Miles.  I will take all of it and be glad for you.

To top it off, you love me in my language.  You love me with your tender, scratchy little words, "Mommy, I wuv you."  You tell me so often.  You pat my cheeks, and you hug my neck.  Buddy, you're the whole package: stereotypical toddler with all the emotional baggage that comes with a prefrontal cortex that is still, how should we say, "in process".  And at the same time you are darling.  Completely endearing and cute and funny and genius.  You are fun. 

We are so happy to witness your life, to guide it and shape it.  We are so blessed to have you as our son, Miles.  Miles Benjamin.

Happy Birthday, baby.  May your sweetest dreams come true for you this year.  And... may you finally begin to understand the space-time continuum so your life is a little less frustrating.

We love you, Miles.

Mom and Dad
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