Category Archives: motherhood

How to be a Kick-ass Mother of Actual Children

First, you have to acquire some children of your own. You may adopt, foster, or give birth to your babies. Make sure they are yours. Having one more child than you think you can comfortably handle will be the thing that absolutely demands the best you can give. At times, it will demand MORE than you can give, which in turn increases your abilities. Sometimes it takes awhile for the abilities to increase. Ask me how I know. ­čÖé

Believe in what you are doing. This includes discipline, nutrition, healthcare, social development, education, religion, exercise, and love. It’s really awesome when you can be consistent about these things, but there is also value in being open to learning new ideas and implementing them judiciously. I recommend that if you want to change the type of bread your children are eating, that you NOT angrily throw out all the Wonder bread and then present them with seriously firm whole wheat bread at dinner, homemade or not. ­čÖé

Do what you believe in. This requires you to make more effort than you want to, go places, put the mittens and coats and snow pants and boots on all the little hands and legs and feet, drive to places you haven’t been, notice what is around you and teach your children “in the way.” Every minute is an opportunity to teach your children, but you must be intentional about this. I remember once we went to a local greenhouse to draw a picture of a bird of paradise plant. Just for that reason.

When my 4 big kids were little, I didn’t even own a cellphone, let alone stare at it for minutes/hours at a time. I have one little kid left, and he knows all about mommy’s phone and how much she likes to use it.

Delight in your children. Celebrate their joys. See the world through their eyes, and share their excitement about the small things. One of my favorite memories is of shucking corn with one of my children on our back porch. Apparently, he was just putting some facts together in his mind, because as we pulled the shucks off, he said in a reverent yet excited voice, “Mommy, I wonder what is inside here!”

Keep some┬átangible┬árecords of your experiences.┬áMake memories together doing things, and take pictures of what you do. Make some of your records old-fashioned things like notebooks with handwritten memories in them, Again, no cell phones back in the day, so while it is very easy now to take photos of every single moment of our lives, it is important to be intentional about how we preserve memories for our children. I managed to attend a popular scrapbooking home party one time, but never managed more than a couple of scrapbook pages. I’m actually glad about that, as I have come to understand the value of having less “stuff.”

Apologize and ask for forgiveness. No parent ever does it all right. Think of the most perfect parent you know, and then realize that their children are still going to have issues to work through as they grow and develop. That is just the way life is. Asking for forgiveness is one of the most important relational skills I know about. Saying the words, “Will you forgive me?” is POWERFUL. Granting forgiveness to someone who is asking genuinely is POWERFUL.

Learn about natural consequences and let your children experience them. In my opinion, this is MUCH, much harder to do these days. We are all basically on record for everything we say and do. So, this one may need some thoughtful consideration of how to implement it in our digital world. But, trust me; when you fail to do this; when you fail to let your children fail in a safe way, you are not doing them any favors.

Have a good primary relationship, ideally with the father of the children. I know, I know, kids are growing up just “fine” coming from divorced homes. But there is something brilliant about modeling a relationship for children; a relationship that includes mistakes, forgiveness, joy, laughter, tears, anger, and figuring out how to deal with irreconcilable differences (because every single relationship has them). I realize that there are situations where divorce is necessary. I’m just saying that whatever the relationship status is of the parents, make it a good one.

Stay current with trends, language, media, and habits┬áof the generation of your children. It keeps you young, for one thing. For another thing, it can be easier to communicate with a child when you understand what a “meme” is, or when you know what kind of clothes most of the kids are wearing, or when you stay somewhat abreast of slang!

Believe that you are a kick-ass mother.┬áMy first baby was born in 1993, and from 1993 to about 2006, I felt I was doing a great job as a mother. From 2006 to about 2013, I felt more and more like a failure, partly because I had unrealistic expectations about what the word “teenager” means. See, I had only my own teenage experience which was alarmingly bereft of rebellion and acting out. Turns out, not many go that route.

What would you add to this list? 

Mom, You are a Hero (well, technically, a Heroine)

When your child really doesn’t want his fingernails … or toenails … trimmed, and you patiently work with him to get it done.

When your child does his best to declare he is all better so he doesn’t have to see the doctor, and you take him anyway.

When you help hold him down for Dr. Shott to look inside his ears with the microscope, although you’d rather be the one being held down.

When you try to console him afterward, telling him it’s all over now.

When he cheerfully says, “Sure!” after you’ve heard “No” a hundred times.

When he is so proud of himself for brushing his own teeth, and you go ahead and get the spots he missed.

When your child has you close your eyes so he can surprise you with his clean hands by letting you smell them.

When he is sleeping, and when he is awake.

When your child is in pain and doesn’t understand it, and you do your utmost to comfort him.

When he asks loudly for the window lock to be turned on, instead of just leaving the window up himself, and you cooperate.

When he is so delighted about giving or receiving an “appise” (surprise) and you recognize that he has caught your generosity.

When he notices that the picture on the book page matches the cover and shows you, and you marvel at his ability to notice such things.

When you manage the logistics for multiple children and one of them gets sick, and you have to quickly shuffle things around.

When you observe each and every single step he makes toward being more independent.

When your husband travels for work, and believes in your ability to manage your home, even when you feel like you’re too tired to move.

During the times you marvel at the blessing that your child is, and you recognize the gifts that come to us through no action on our own part.

During the times you wonder how things can be so hard, but you wouldn’t trade it.

During the exhausted times when he has been getting sick, or needy, and asking for Something Different than he just asked for, and you stay patient (or sometimes, not).

When his little body snuggles up against yours and you feel his gentle breathing, and you are reminded what a gift he is.

When he gets out the pictures of his big sisters and brothers and talks about them, clearly adoring them, and you are grateful for the gift of family.

When he mispronounces words and it’s too cute to try to correct, and you even pronounce some of his words the same way.

When he pretends to be Santa Claus by making a finger mustache over his mouth, and you act surprised.

I’ve read some blogs where mothers don’t want to be considered heroes. But when I consider the definition that a hero is someone who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice for some greater good of all humanity, (definition from DuckDuckGo), it seems to me that it fits.

Life move fast for me. Taking time to write slows me down and reminds me of all that I do, imperfect though it is.

Mom, You are a Hero!

Why I’m not going to the National Down Syndrome Conference

(Note: a truncated version of this message was distributed owing to Blogger behavior on certain iDevices. This is the complete post.)

I’ve been seeing Facebook posts from excited people talking about the upcoming convention in July. The early bird deadline is today. But I’ve decided not to go.

(This post would probably be a lot more popular if my reason was owing to disagreeing with the official position of someone who is speaking, or with the vision statement of the NDSC. However, I’m just not much about controversy. I tend to think that both sides are worth listening to in *most* cases. My reasons for writing have to do with my own experience, and my hope here is that my experience will resonate with someone else.)

My file cabinet, inbox, reading list, desktop and a box are full of materials on so many aspects of Down syndrome. How to teach reading, kindergarten readiness, inclusion best practices, oral motor tools, lists of apps, apps, physical considerations, speech and language development. I could probably throw my own convention!

I think the ongoing challenges (opportunities, in the positive thinking parlance) take up a tremendous amount of energy for me. I can see how extroverted moms and dads might really thrive in the convention atmosphere, but I think my brain might just pop if I try to put too much more info in there.

Maybe the biggest challenge (opportunity) for me is to actually use my resources with any consistency. I often say that if Kepler had been our first child, he’d be being raised differently. More lessons, more teams, more play dates, more therapy, more deliberate educational activities at home. But, well, with him being our fifth, and coming along when I was losing energy rather than gaining it, I can occasionally accept my more lackadaisical, laidback parenting and recognize that Kepler is a happy, well-loved, smart kid.

More often than not, though, especially in environments such as a convention, I become aware of how very lackadaisical and laidback I am and always wonder if his speech would be more intelligible if I were doing more; if he might be reading already if I’d followed through on all the reading resources I know of. So events like conventions just seem to drain my energy.

It finally occurred to me recently that it might be a great idea for me to hire a babysitter sometimes. I have had several built-in babysitters, but Kepler adores being the center of someone’s attention, which is what he gets from a hired babysitter. What a relief to discover that I don’t have to do every. last. thing. myself, that babysitters can even put Kepler to bed! That’s a step in the right direction to being able to be a little more free for events such as a convention. (Of COURSE Greg puts him to bed sometimes; he just travels a lot.)

The thing I would enjoy about something like the convention is the possibility of finding a new heart-to-heart friend who understands life with Ds from the inside. Between all the moving we’ve done, Greg’s traveling for work, and homeschooling, many friendships have faded away over time, and have been replaced with e-friends. These days, making new friends IRL seems like a challenge indeed.

But if parenting has taught me anything, it’s that I am resourceful and creative and persistent. Simple next step is to invite a mostly online friend to get together! It’s not like I have to plan a 200-person catered affair to get to know someone!

I’ve already got two people in mind.

Tl;dr: Writer is on information-overload, but social-underload.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now — Ten Things I’d Do Differently as a Homeschool Mom

This is not what homeschooling looked like here.

Saw a link on Facebook from a homeschool mom who shared what she would do differently now as a homeschool mom. I could relate to some of it. It was posted by a homeschool mom I rarely see, but care about very much. I often read the comments on blog posts, but decided this time to write about my own list first.

First of all, I didn’t know then what I know now. Part of the journey of homeschooling is the learning that the parent does. So, maybe this is all just a moot point. But, let’s see …

1. I would de-emphasize intelligence and strongly emphasize character. Thing is, I actually thought I was doing this. Truth is, my “students” were all above average. I was constantly amazed by their grasp of concepts, their precociousness, and the joy I felt at just watching them learn. I didn’t realize I was reinforcing intelligence as much as I did. There were multiple times when something they did or said just BLEW ME AWAY. Like Valerie just up and reading the back cover of the Billy Graham autobiography I was reading. What was she, three? Four, at the most. I hadn’t even tried to teach her to read. I didn’t know that kids could learn to read just be being read to.

2. I would understand that no one else was going to be as thrilled about my children as I, and instead of rueing that, I would be affirming and encouraging to every other mother I came into contact with, realizing that she was as excited about her kids as I was about mine. At the time, my hands (and mind!) were full. The kids were born in 93, 94, and 95, and then 98. Kepler came along years after the first four, but I wasn’t just homeschooling one — I had a class!

3. I would be so much kinder to myself. Nothing ever felt like it was enough, and I know MANY homeschool mothers who experience this. Probably just about everyone who homeschools feels this at some point.

4. I would recognize a kid “come-apart” as an opportunity, not a sign that I was failing at my job. This might be the biggest one for me. I had a misunderstanding about my own role and responsibility in the feelings of my children. I needed them to be happy, and that was probably the biggest disservice I did them in my zeal.

5. I would remember that every type of school situation is good for someone, and every type of situation is also less-than-ideal for someone. Now that I’m on this side of things, where the educational methods of our kids include(d) some homeschooling, a bit of public school, years of a two-day-a-week homeschool set-up, an exhausting early grades online school, a poorly-administered online high school online, and the learn-while-you-sleep method we practiced for a few weeks┬ámonths, I’ve discovered that there are PROS and CONS to every method.

(As an aside, big-time homeschooler mother, Mary Hood, wrote a book (June 1995) called “Onto the Yellow School Bus and Through the Gates of Hell.” Back when I started homeschooling, there were only a few voices writing about it. Although I never bought into Mary’s philosophy, the title comes to me often when I put my little Kepler on the school bus and send him to school where he is absolutely loved and cherished by his team. From the bus driver, to the school secretary, to the librarian, to the other students, I hear all the time how much joy he brings them. And they, as a group, give him things I simply cannot provide at home. )

6. I would find a balance between the heavy peer pressure of the school setting, and the freedom we had as homeschoolers. Without adequate preparation, going into public school can be (and was) traumatic. Happy-go-lucky kids who were unself-conscious became very self-conscious when they entered the public school system, not because they were deficient, not because the school system was evil, but because there are developmental phases that happen.

7. I would never, ever, ever compare my insides to anyone else’s outsides. Because, you know what? My insides ALWAYS came up lacking, when I looked at someone else and thought I knew ANYTHING about them based on what I saw.

8. I would find a balance between my very laid-back teaching style, and a more directive style. Both styles work in different situations, but some work better than others with young learners.

9. I would get up earlier and get us going and have a routine that we stuck to for more that a few days or weeks. Yes, back then, I was exhausted, dealt with depression, and had several “owies” on my heart. But that would have been a great example to my children, and one less thing to chastise myself about.

10. I would get professional photos taken every year. Well, I think I would. No, this one is that I would take a similarly posed photo in a similar place every year. I still have extra copies of the professional school photos I got of every child from every year. They’re so hard to let go of, even if we have enough for every person in our family! My photos would be all about the heart of the learning, the heart of the family, the heart of the giving, the heart of the love.

Things I am extremely glad I (we) did?
1. Read out loud, nearly every day and evening.
2. Do as much experiential learning as we could.
3. Practiced as best I could, a lifestyle of learning.
4. Enjoyed our children.
5. Made it through.