Beginnings and Endings

“Momma. Seriously. Flip-flops. Johnson said Quail Friday Flip-flops. Pleaaaasssseeee.”

“Momma, why are you crying? That was a nice letter.”

Wiping the tears off that are quickly running down my cheeks, I tuck away the letter that the Quail’s kindergarten teacher sent home to each of her children. A time capsule memento to be savored by us parents today and our babies when they aren’t so very little one day in the future. The girls look at me like maybe they should be worried. And then the moment passes. Sugarplum falls off her chair with an almost comedic, “Wooaahhh…weehaw!” as she scrambles up and out of the room before she can be scolded for not sitting still. The Quail shoves her pink sparkle flip-flops up to my nose for emphasis and Zuzu puzzles over why I would cry over what sounded to her like a pretty typical summary of what kindergarten is.

And it was. A summary of what a typical kindergarten experience is. What it was for our girl this past year. What it had been for Zuzu two years earlier and what it would most likely be for Sugarplum two years from now. Our girl, who a few years ago though, didn’t have a certain assurance of a spot in her community school. When our EI would sit crosslegged next to me on our living room rug at the end of each annual IFSP  planning meeting and ask what our goals were for the Quail, I would include how I wanted her to go to the same school her sisters would attend. How I wanted her to be in a regular class until she showed us it was too much for her. She would nod and write it down. And then tell me what would happen “typically” for someone like our daughter. And that was ok. We needed to be prepared. If the Quail needed a higher level of self-contained support to receive an education than I wasn’t going to keep that from her. On the other hand, if she could be a part of the same classes that all the little children she has grown up with attended, well that was the goal.

“It is a very nice letter Zuzu. I like it very much. I’m not crying because I’m sad. I’m crying happy tears, because we all worked really hard for the Quail to get to do those things because we thought she could do them and she would love them. Does the Quail like school do you think?”

“Um, yeah. Every night and every morning she asks if it’s a school day and if it is she cheers, Yay!!!!!”

“That’s right. She loves school and she gets to go. Do you remember my sister Aunt Shel? When she was growing up, children like her didn’t live in their homes or go to the same school as their brothers and sisters.”

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go read, “The night before Summer Vacation” to the girls. It was a present from the Quail’s Kindergarten teacher and she’s itching to hear the story and show me which popcorn words are in it.

And, But, Or….

It’s been a while. 4 months to be exact. I want to write. I want to document. I want the pictures on my camera to live here not there. I want to put what’s in my head down for later so that I won’t forget how grateful and grumpy and lucky and angry and  blessed and happy and tired and content I feel.

But….I have three kids.

Full days and weeks and months and holidays and school days and home days and work days. And unfortunately quite a few full nights during this past cold and flu season.

And the more out of practice I get of documenting the small things, the more each small thing seems monumental, and a moment fettered out into the wind. And I hope I remember what I want to say but the fact of the matter is my brain is a bit swiss cheese-like of late as the children consume large chunks of it for their own growth. Where to begin…where I left off? And if so, do I consider leaving off as after the last time I posted routinely for Down Syndrome Awareness month, or the time that I had a good streak before that? Do I just start with now and how shocked I am that even though I’ve been home for over a week with a flu-ridden middle child I still haven’t had time to update or focus on the fact that she turned 6. And that’s huge. And she had the best party. And so many people came. And she had it in her new dance studio which makes her heart sing and her feet fly. And if I’m going to start with her birthday I should go back to her sister’s birthdays because they weren’t properly documented either.

Or do I just stick with the ordinary afters that are the real beauty of the fortunate days and nights we have together, where we climbed the tall, tall cedar in our yard and we baked apple cobblers and learned to write our name and pee in a potty and played soccer and took up dancing and wrote out our valentines and learned to speak in little sentences and made pictures for our BFFs who made loving drawings for us? Do I start with the trips to the Mountains and Atlanta and South Dakota and California and Kentucky and the circus and family camp?

Maybe I begin with me and the fact that since starting running in October 2013 I’ve logged more than 500 miles which for someone who thinks of herself as “not an athlete” is a pretty big deal. Or the fact that I now color my hair and wax areas I shouldn’t bring to your attention, wear pants that could be accurately described as maternity pants for non-pregnant people or yoga pants for work, drink a good bit of caffeine daily and again, signed up for my first ever yoga retreat, became a Girl Scout Troop Leader, fell in and out of love with Benedict Cumberbatch, started reading fan fiction and listening to mindless trash and podcasts, had some manicures and pedicures and decided never to get gel nails ever again. Cut my hair short and in a style that is inspired by the haircuts I gave my own kids. Started wearing some eye make-up. Hoarded information and ideas on Pinterest. Started eating brussel sprouts and cooked spinach. Said good-bye to friends that have moved and welcomed new friends into the village as well as got my own BFF back in my daily life. Admitted I love Frozen as much as my children. Lied that I don’t know where the Frozen soundtrack is. Enacted the candy tax.  Bought my third pair of running shoes. Visited the bakery that I thought had shut down years ago but found it open again in a new location and still making the custard brioche with the sugar crystals on top. Rana race. Received a Humanitarian award from my work. Lamented that our local bakery was sold to a new owner and the french bread doesn’t taste quite the same. Started getting up at 4:45 a. m. to go running two mornings a week with friends and slept a couple hours later on the weekend and then ran over 5 miles at a stretch. Had the flu and an ear infection and went to the circus and dressed up for Halloween and became a Girl Scout and went to sleep-away camp and ice skated for the first time in at least  20 years myself. Volunteered at my children’s school and stood by Lovey as he was recognized for his hard work and dedication on a football field on national television.

Do I tell you about the wiggley teeth, the closed fontanels, the genetically missing teeth, the future braces, the removal of an apraxia diagnosis, the unthickened liquids and articulated consonants and the swimming and boat rides, the graduations and performances and the ice cream and cakes and Popsicles? The sessions of cook, playing mommy and doctor and teacher and painting, drawing, stickering, glueing, cutting and markering on the porch? The IEP and meetings leading up to it? The date night meals coffees and drinks and movies and concerts that Lovey and I got to have and GNO activities and old friends that traveled to us and we traveled to visit? The report cards and progress reports and worries and problems? The nursings we gave up and continue to do but no longer talk about publicly? The fireflies we caught and the flowers we drew and photographed? The birthday and Christmas, and weekend and Girl Scout and back to school and end of school and pool and potluck and meat parties we attended and threw?

How we faced so many of our fears by ziplining and hugging a tiger and sleeping at a friend’s house and raising money, and going out with new friends and offering a hug and telling friends that while we like playing with them we want to sleep at our own house and running farther and earlier than we thought we could and driving through a canyon and getting shots and echocardiograms and taking yucky medication and trusting new friends and teachers and helpers and asking for what we needed and staying calm in hard conversations and fighting the people and recurring scenes in our nightmares and flying away from our family and visiting long-lost relatives and mourning the loss of family members and friends and saying yes and no and sorry and being ok with the maybes?

Life has been marvelous and tiring and entertaining and connected and chaotic and over-booked and full of laughs, smiles, tears, colds, hugs, planning, wonderings and naps.

And then I yawn. I finish my coffee. One napper stirs and another one cries out. And it occurs to me if I’m going to nap I really need to lay down now. And I’d like to read and I’d like to see what everyone else is up to on IG and FB and I’d like to watch some Netflix and order Just Dance 2015 and I should fold the laundry, start the next load, empty the dishwasher, read with Zuzu, break-down the boxes the Christmas presents arrived in, sort the Girl Scout cookies, play a game of Go Fish with the Quail. Talk to Sugarplum. Go for a run. Edit some pictures. Get the duplicate pictures out of my blog’s media file. Read my camera manual. Read a parenting manual. Read a Down syndrome therapy manual. Read a momma memoir. Read my friend’s blog. Organize the next Girl Scout lesson. Send an email to a friend. Brush my teeth. Eat some cookies while no one is watching. Eat some cookies with my girls who are no longer asleep. Roast some brussel sprouts so I won’t eat the cookies. Take a shower. Pack my running and yoga clothes for the next week. Declutter the pantry. Take my antibiotic and anti-viral. Cook something in the freezer. Get the fall leaf pile off the lawn and the grass it most certainly has killed. Do nothing. Roast a chicken. Do everything. Organize my brain. Take a nap. Order a duvet cover. Sort the socks. Watch the DVRed recordings of Late Night with Seth Myers, The Big Bang Theory and SNL.

Hit publish.

But before all that, let me share the pictures from this Christmas where we found out that the Quail; who puts up a fuss at the practically weekly December visits to Santa as he shows up at our Down Syndrome Family Alliance Holiday gathering, our Tacky Sweater Christmas party and our brunch with Santa one week after the other and insisted on telling each one that she wants underwear for Christmas as she stood off to the side, barely in the camera frame, managed to hide from her family the fact that in spite of the dramatic interpretation she provides of a child scared of Santa she actually sat willingly and dare I say happily on his lap when he came to her kindergarten classroom. Let me show you the pictures of this Christmas where we had three little cookie bakers and decorators and a tree that had lots of low-hanging ornaments and twinkle lights but no actual topper as we never got that far once the two year old succumbed to a bout of sickness. Let me share how this year each girl helped wrap and label her sister’s presents and searched most mornings for TJ the Elf who for some reason or another seemed to keep finding a spot he would like and reappear in for days on end before he managed to move to a new one. And how Zuzu decided it was the most important thing ever that she finally get an American Girl Doll and that she was absolutely certain that Santa knew exactly which one she wanted because she wrote the item code on her Christmas list and Momma really shouldn’t worry about how she should act if by some unforeseen reason he brought a doll that was similar but not the exact one because there is no reason for him to get it wrong and that when she opened the present containing said doll her first question was, “Where is the item number?” And how the tiniest of the Sistred decided she would tell Santa she wanted a butterfly for Christmas and this Momma took to the sage that is FB to help her identify options that wouldn’t die in the winter and could withstand the loving of her tiny busy hands. And how all of this was after there had been multiple pleas for all things Frozen from underwear to shirts to dolls to blankets and more dolls. Dolls that were tiny with little clip dresses and dolls that were Barbie sized to soft plush snuggley Anna and Elsa and Olafs to dolls that were toddler versions with big blue eyes and satin dresses. How our sweet two year old took to present opening with such gusto that she was air-borne in more than one of the pictures from Christmas morning. How the girls in spite of their diatribes about what they wanted thought a lot about their sisters and played with and snuggled and included them in ways that would melt your heart. Let me start there….

Let me stop there and hit publish so that I can go take that nap. Or fold those clothes. Or watch a show…   Oh wait- let me add in this year’s annual trek to the North Carolina Mountains where we go each year in the second weekend of December, not too early and not too late, to cut down a Frazier fir tree for our Christmas. One that will last through the twelfth night when we plan to take it down and the following weekend when it actually will come down.  One that we see as we say hello to the sweet family that grows them and then bound off to the bakery for some coffee and hot chocolate and apricot brioche.

31 for 21: Day 29: corner view: traditions

Corner view is a weekly Wednesday gathering, originally hosted by Jane, now by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it photographic or writerly in form, from around the world. Come see the world’s corner view via the links on the sidebar.

Traditions this time of year lead us galloping from one month to the next. When school starts up we are thrown into a pattern of apples and pumpkins and gatherings and celebrations that leave us wondering how another year can pass in the blink of an eye. We have school activities and parties, camping and apple picking. Birthdays and Buddy Walks. Pumpkin patches and Festivals. Visits to the mountains and beaches. Unfortunately that leaves little time for writing and reminiscing as I’ve noticed that my ability to organize the multitude of stills and phrases in my head drops off significantly as our activity level builds. The joy of having school age children is there is much celebrating to be done before the actual holiday even starts. With that said- here was last year’s Halloween festivities. We’re never quite sure at what stage the children will start understanding what we are doing and why. Last year we thought our little Bunny would still be in a watchful mode. But she strode around our town’s festivities with her candy bucket going from person to person just like she knew what to do, only stopping when it was time to unwrap another sucker. When the girls went to the face-painting booth, I naively assumed that it would just be for the two elders. But that little bunny of ours stood her ground, tipping her cheek for the paint and carefully selecting a large, veiny eyeball to decorate her sweet costume, while her two rock star sister’s went with slightly sweeter adornments. The first year that the Quail was able to walk through the festivities she looked down at the first piece of candy in her bucket, plucked it out and deposited it in the next candy giver’s stash. She made her way through the parking lot that way, giving as much as she got.

31 for 21: Day 16

Each fall, we pick apples. It doesn’t always go well. To be honest, it goes more wrong than right. It’s usually too hot, too cold, too windy and we’re too tired, too hungry, too sick and our buckets tip over, our wagons careen down mountainsides, someone else grabs our bag of apples we picked, the apple-cider donut line too long, no one wants to walk, carry the bucket, pick the apples, step over the rotten mush on the ground, take a picture, stand in line. Yet. Still we go. And still I take pictures. And mostly, mostly we come home with apples and bake them in pies and cobblers and crisps and sauces. And think about going earlier in the season next year. Or maybe two times. Or maybe not at all.



Happy Birthday dear Zuzu! Today is your 8th birthday.

Oh dear Zuzu, where have the years gone?! As you like to tell it, you’re practically 10! I have a feeling you are going to love being 8 though. The older you get, the more you come into your own. The stronger you feel the urge to lead, to organize, to understand your world around you. You remain a kind, sensitive, strong, smart and loyal girl. One who watches out for what is expected of her and her peers and tries to help things happen that way. You watch out for your sisters as much as you mother and play with them. They learn so very much from you. You’re enthusiasm for the everyday fills your lungs, your legs, your heart and your brain. You are in second grade now. You are acing this thing called school. You welcomed your little sister in to your community, your school this year and take on such a big responsibility of ensuring that she is ok. You not only asked for this responsibility, but were sad when it was suggested you didn’t have to do that. You take pride in your school, your community and your Girl Scout troop. We love you so baby girl!

Zuzu’s Favorite Things:

Favorite TV Show: My Little Pony

Favorite Movie: Equestria Girls

Favorite Breakfast: pancakes & waffles, or a breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s

Favorite Lunch: corn dog, cheese ravioli or cheeseburgers

Favorite Dinner: Ravioli

Favorite Fruit: strawberries

Favorite Veggie: full size crunchy carrots

Favorite Dessert: any kind of sugar

Favorite Drink: juice, milk & Sprite

Favorite Color: orange & purple & white

Favorite Restaurant: Papa’s & Ring Restaurant (El Jimador)

Favorite Sport: jump-rope team

Favorite Toy: Barbie Dolls & My Little Pony Dolls

Favorite Song: Let it go! Any Katy Perry Songs, But I’m only Human

Favorite Book: Junie B. Jones and Rainbow Magic Books

Best Friends: Sophie, Annie, Micayla, Lucy, Gracie, Averi S (from Kindy), EriKa, Averi S (from first grade) Abby & Emma

Favorite Day of the week: Weekends- I love playing!

Favorite Time of the day: Bedtime- I can snuggle my family

Favorite Season: Fall and Winter- because Fall is when my birthday is and Winter has snow and I love to eat snow and go sledding!

Favorite Outfit: Elsa Dress!

Favorite Family Vacation: Del Mar- whenever I get to see my Birthday Twinnie!

Favorite Family Outing: going swimming

Favorite thing ever:Snuggling my mommy, playing “Where’s Maddie” with my Daddy, painting nails with my sisters, playing with my toys, getting to open birthday presents, watching TV

Favorite day of the year: My birthday!

Favorite place to go: to parties and to my friend’s houses

Favorite Holiday: Halloween & Christmas because you get candy and presents

What’s the thing you are most looking forward to about being 8: Being an even number and getting that much closer to being taller than my mommy

The worst thing ever at this age is: doing chores…..

corner view: gift

Corner view is a weekly Wednesday gathering, originally hosted by Jane, now by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it photographic or writerly in form, from around the world. Come see the world’s corner view via the links on the sidebar!

Frankly, I was embarrassed and disappointed at my lack of control in how last year’s Mothers Day went. Why is it that when upsets happen on a holiday it makes them all the more poignant and easy to over-articulate meaning in to them that maybe, really wasn’t. This practice I have- of trying to ruffle the small bits of gratitude for individual moments- it is just that- a practice. Sometimes it is so very hard to just sit and let something be, to not read anymore into it and give it power that wasn’t inherently there. Over time, the good, the bad, the ugly- it all dissipates- so why not hold on to the sweet, good and kind and let the rest go it’s natural way. This year, I was very conscious of my part in the day- conscious to not place overarching expectation- to just sit with and receive where we were as it came. My seven-year old- she is so very expressive. She made six separate cards for me- but the one that is probably the most raw in the expression of her feelings for me is below- honest, unconditional love. Little ones- they say what they think- they have no problem staying in the moment. We paced our sweet day much better this year- and the gifts- they were lovely and heartfelt and those of you who helped to make them- you have a place in my momma heart as well.


corner view: something to celebrate!

Corner view is a weekly Wednesday gathering, originally hosted by Jane, now by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it photographic or writerly in form, from around the world. Come see the world’s corner view via the links on the sidebar!


I’ve put a lot of effort into reclaiming myself this past year. After almost 8 years of mothering I’ve been feeling more than a bit, well, not myself. My energy level has waned, my weight has bloomed, I’m irritable, scattered and tired. So 6 months ago I started the Couch to 5K program during my lunch hour. I figured that since I had spent over 3 years of lunch hours pumping milk for the babies I could  spend that time exercising for me- and also for them- happy mom = happy kiddos and all that. After 4 months of regular running and upping my walking time outside of that though, I lost 6 inches around my waist but no real change with my weight. So in February I restarted Weight Watchers- fast forward 7 weeks and I’m down 12 pounds- I’m on my way! In February members of my on-line fitness group that I had started last fall when I began running decided we needed to create a team for the upcoming Color Run which was scheduled for April in our town for the first time. In total there were 40 of us Tired Tiger Moms and our little runners. And the day was great! If you’ve never done a Color Run or any kind of race- take this from a tired momma who has yet to feel a runner’s high- sign up for a Color Run! This world-wide phenomenon of a 5k raises money for your local charities and offers a light-hearted emphasis on fun and fitness. When my friends first mentioned it I was fairly certain I was not going to join in. After completing the C25K program I found I really didn’t enjoy running for 20-30 minutes straight and I was constantly looking for excuses to not go out and run. So I switched over to a more Jeff Galloway- type approach and settled in with doing a 5 minute warm-up and cool down with 10 intervals of 2 minutes run/1 minute walking in between three times a week. While I’ve managed to keep it up, I’ve yet to say I truly enjoy it while I’m doing it. I’ve tried audio books, Netflix and Pandora to keep my interest up. There has been a noticeable benefit in trying to keep up with the kiddos and not feeling winded, cranky and exhausted playing with them. Then the thermometer rose to 76 degrees and the end of my outdoor running stretch was clearly in sight. I’m already up at 6 am and I barely have time to use the loo on my own in the evenings- so switching to a cooler time of day is not likely. I had a little on-line temper tantrum “announcing” that I was done running until the autumn, and then, what do you know- the thermometer and I kept at it.

This past weekend came The Color Run. Zuzu and I had agreed to join in but we both had our own set of worries. For Zuzu- she was convinced a bear would appear on the race course and spent the morning of the race plotting how she would finagle getting up on the bear to ride him the remainder of the course. For me the thought of being up early on one of the two mornings I get to sleep my exhausted self in so that I could run in the cool morning air and have paint thrown at me was just not appealing. Zuzu also had created an image of buckets of liquid paint being thrown at us as we tried to run away. Yet, bless her devoted little heart- in spite of bear and paint attacks she applied her HAPPY arm tattoo, donned her Color Run glasses and anxiously followed her beloved mother out to the car. When we arrived at the scene of what can only be described as a rock concert- both of our eyes widened- mine in excitement, hers in alarm as I tried to herd over to the run’s mascot- the Runicorn. Shaking and clinging like a baby monkey to me she absolutely refused to go anywhere near her favorite animal in the world. Let’s just say she was insistent enough that I am clear it would be folly to pay for a trip to Disney for this child. We tried to join in the warm-up work-out but in spite of the pop music and enthusiasm around us she remained stricken at the thought of the paint and bears. Once we were on the course her typical anxiety acts started in, she alternated telling me her heart and tummy hurt and that she didn’t want to wear the fluorescent tutu I had gotten her with pointing out how ridiculous men looked in tutus. She was so-not-happy. And then we got to the first color area. As we ran through the fine mist of powder and wiped it off of our glasses she looked down trying to spy the streaks of yellow. About a half-mile out from there when we spotted the pink station her pace picked up and her complaints faded as she ran up to the people cheering to be sprayed. From that point on she was sold. This was fun! We alternated walking and running per her requests and six months of prep-work let me keep up with her. After we got our water and kind bars and the paint throws in the finish galley started she perked up and asked to get up on my shoulders to cheer and eventually got herself over the fencing and up on stage to join the little runners in their celebration. Full throttle this girl of mine- all or nothing. Win big or stay home. Next year- we’re bringing the whole family. Fitness seems to be the new us. My first race at age 41, Zuzu’s first race at 7. Now that’s something to celebrate!


Ps- Oh and I also gave up caffeine last week. While I’m not quite ready to celebrate this experiment, I am pretty impressed with how good I feel without it- I see a new more focused, calm, happy energized family life coming my way in this next year.

Next week- Back to a regular yoga practice. Yay!


Sugarplum is Two!

Happy Second Birthday Sugarplum!

Last June is really when the baby to tiny person transformation began for you. Literally over the course of one extended weekend, when your Daddy was away at work and your Grandma & Grandpa were here to visit, you became a little kid: climbing, hollering, running, rascaling and quietly contemplating your world around in between. It was startlingly noticeable. Prior to that we had the sweetest, gentlest first year with you- your calm was what people- strangers, friends and family alike were most likely to remark on. You eased us into your strong, confident, proud, thoughtful and enigmatic little personality. You moved from sweet little baby mews to slightly French sounding lyrical babbles to tiny sentences where I can make out about ¾ of your words, but 100% of your intent. Your intent. You might be the youngest intentional person I know. You are calm when included and respected. Often standing with your hands resting behind your back as you observe before barreling in. And yes, when you are ready- you do barrel in. Your confident little twist of the hips and pump of your chubby fists as you join your sisters in their mischief still makes me chuckle. When told no though, even in the softest and gentlest of tones, your face crumples, your lip bird-perches and your wails are nearly inconsolable. Inconsolable indeed. Your routines are important and known to you. Each night after you blow your sister’s kisses and reach up or over to me you let me know- “Nawneh. Side.” You scour the room for your favorite dozen lovies and blankets before settling in. The funny thing is, that dozen shifts almost every night- but be rest assured you know which ones you want to cuddle. When Daddy lies down with us you reach your sweet hand over to pat-pat him. Audibly sighing as you nurse on.

You started sleeping through the night just after this past Christmas. You were ready. You were sad. But you didn’t cry, we talked about it before going to bed. You woke, you said, “Mommy help”  (note you’ve claimed me as your Mommy- while your sisters insist I am Momma) and I would wake and hold you close to me until your soft body settled back in to slumber. Now nearly four months later it’s a rare night that you wake- and you know to let us know you need to be held for a minute and then back to sleep you go.

In the morning when you get your diaper changed you start calling out your clothes- shirt, fweater, socks, pants, shoes! You know what you want to wear. Sweet baby girl- your quirks and preferences are all your own- and we’re so very blessed that you in all your you-ness are all ours. Love you sweet girl.


Some favorites that have surfaced over the last year:

Favorite TV Show: Elmo

Favorite Games: whatever her sisters are playing be it a board game, card game, painting, drawing or reading- she expects them to make a place for her.

Favorite Toys: cars, swings, books, blankies (babies you call them) and snuggly lovies

Favorite Breakfast: dry cheerios, raisins (ray-ray you say) and a cup of kefir

Favorite Lunch or Dinner: meatballs (eye-balls you call them) or cheese pizza on Friday night in movie and living room picnic style.

Favorite Fruit: bananas

Favorite Dessert: not much of a sweet tooth here- she will eat cake and ice cream for a celebration, but more than a few times I’ve found a half cookie left on her tray at the end of a meal

Favorite Drink: nawneh, kefir and a bottle of milk with Daddy


3/21: A day in the life

This post is part of the series “A Day in the Life” that is a celebration of World Down syndrome Day – 3/21. For lots of other posts on “A Day in the Life” – or to contribute your own post, please visit Down syndrome Blogs.



Shortly after I hear one door close another one opens. I turn away from the machine, my coffee steaming as I take a sip and spy her small hand reach around the doorframe. Sleepily she creaks the door further and pads over to where I’m standing. I lean down to kiss her tousled strawberry mop, sinking onto the floor in front of the kitchen sink. As I make a lap she folds herself onto it, hiding her face from the fluorescent light she wasn’t quite ready for.  

“Morning Baby.” I lean in smelling her night’s sleep and carefully place the overflowing coffee away from us as she pushes her hair out of her eyes.

“Momma. Zuzu sleep. 6. 1. 5. me. Shannon. Me sleep done. No potty. Eat cereal.”

It’s Wednesday morning and it is early. 6:16 AM to be precise. Each day I intend to wake early enough to have a quiet cup of coffee by myself and do a little writing. Each actual day I wake a minute before the alarm sounds, turn it off, and roll on my side to listen to the soft snores of the baby before lightly stepping past her into the bathroom. Strangely, now that Sugarplum sleeps through the night, I find myself needing more and more sleep rather than less. I’m not sure if it’s the creak of my slippers down the hall, the flick of the light in the kitchen or the press of the Keurig as I snap my k-cup into place and add the cup of water, but the sounds of my morning starting have been consistently triggering the Quail’s weekday morning starts for a good while now. She seeks out a quiet moment to soak me in before her day starts and really, I don’t mind. I can write later.

“You woke up at 6:15 Quail?”

“Yes.6-1-5 me. Zuzu sleep.”

“Zuzu is still asleep?”

“Yes.” She makes the sign for sleep and grins up at me, the precision of her yes pronunciation drawing out steady and confident. She shares a bed with her sister and while the cry of “She’s on my side of the bed again!!!” and “MOOOOVVVVEEEE!!!!” sound frequently from both of them, it’s what they know. What they expect.

“What day is it?”

“Wednesday! Shannon! Jan. Bobson. Lee. Oriana. Nekaelah”

While a stranger might not know what she is saying, contextually I understand her still garbled day of the week and that she is telling me that she knows she has speech therapy with Shannon before heading in to begin her school day with first Ms. Jan, then on to Ms. Dobson and Ms. Lee. She knows that when the school day is done she will look forward to heading back to her private school for after-school care and playtime with her favorite kiddos, her friends Oriana and Nekaelah. She knows her routine and what to expect.

“Who will you play with at school today?”

“Or-ee-annn-a. Ni-KAY-la.” She carefully sounds out their names again. Names that she has taken great care to learn to pronounce so that no one can be unclear these are her friends. Who she looks forward to seeing and playing with each day. These are friends she has made on her own. Not friends of our family’s, not anyone we know outside of her introduction to them.

Shifting my weight a little she stands up and asks again. “Eat?” her sly smile telling me she already knows the answer. A year ago I would have just told her no, not yet; not expecting any further conversation on the matter, only fury at my denial of her request. Now though, it’s a good chance to engage, to talk, to practice pronouncing our every day vocabulary and thankfully, avoid a tantrum.

“You want to eat? What do you want to eat?”

“Um….” Her little finger goes up to her lips as she raises her eyes in contemplation then starts touching one finger to another as she labels out each item in turn, “cereal, rai-sin, keeee-fir, go-go squeeze! Cake?”

“We’re out of go-go squeezes and cake. We can buy more of the squeezes this weekend though. What do you do before we eat?”

“Potty. Bite-bite. Clothes. No potty. No.”

Still avoiding the fight, I ask, “Do you want me to pick out your clothes while you go potty or do you want to?”

“Me!!!! Purple. New shoes.” At this she turns and runs down the hall, stepping quickly around the tiny shopping cart overflowing with toys. She pauses briefly at the living room door, looking longingly at a neat stack of books on the side-table just waiting to be read and played with before checking back to see if I was coming with her or not before continuing into the bathroom.

“Momma! Sit!”

I lower myself on to the side of the tub finishing my coffee as she tries to undo the snap on her fuzzy, feeted pajamas before letting out a scream of frustration a few inches from my ear.

“No, ma’am. No screaming. Ask for help if you can’t get it undone.” She quickly signs help and then pulls back away to work on the zipper once the snap has been opened. Patting the side of the tub, she signs for me to move closer and leans her head on my knees while she finishes up.

I turn on the light to their room and sing out to Zuzu that it is time to get up and get ready for school as the Quail yanks on her dresser drawers pulling out a half dozen pants looking for a pair with purple on them.

Zuzu used to be our early riser. So early that a rule of not leaving your room before 6 AM on a weekday had to be enforced the previous year solely because of her. Now, she needs to be woken each school day and urged to do the half dozen tasks it takes to get herself ready before we leave by 7:10 to get her to school and me to work on time.

The Quail slams her shirt drawer shut and dives into her sister who has crawled up on my lap. As Zuzu protests at the slight dislodging this causes, the Quail’s voice trails up with hers and I shush them both with a reminder that we want to let Sugarplum sleep.

Lovey comes in fresh from the shower and takes the reins as I sigh at the clock’s having moved too far forward for me to do any writing or manage a second cup of coffee before we need to leave in our manic out-the-door-right-this-very-second-what-did-we-forget-this-time-hurry-up-we’re-going-to-be-late-if-you-don’t-put-your shoes-on-right-now-privileges-will-be-taken-away-I-mean-it-we-have-to-go-hug-your-sister-yes-you-have-to-wear-a-coat-where-is-the-sunscreen-who-took-my-shoes-shit-we’re-late-again daily rush.

I kiss the Quail’s head as she sets down the Ipad and tries to scramble away from Lovey who has gotten out her oral-motor exercises. “HUG!!!” She bellows as I lean in to acquiesce. “Bye-bye. Momma. Work.” Turning away from her I breathe in the fading scent of her sleep and hustle to the door.

That evening I’ll pick her up from after-school care, covered in sand, sunscreen and smiles and she’ll test my tired-out-patience as she darts in and out of the little school’s rooms giggling at the freedom now that the teachers have gone home for the day. “Donald’s?” she’ll ask. I’ll tell her no, reminding her we ate McDonald’s the night before and ask how her day was. She won’t answer- she’ll be too busy chasing Sugarplum and Zuzu.

As we pull out of the parking lot, carseat buckles secured, I’ll ask if they want their windows down or the radio up. “YEAH!!!! Drive fast Momma! Turn on a girl song. Make the windows lower!”

“Yeah!!!!” the Quail will chime in mirroring Zuzu’s enthusiasm for the car ride. As the latest pop song chimes through the windows I find myself surprised to hear not just one, but two voices bubbling along now from the backseat. By the time we’re home though, she will have rested her chin on her chest and be fast asleep. Between her insistently early start to the day, a therapy session, private 4k, public 4k, after-school care and the students we bring in daily to help her practice the activities she learns in therapy, her little self is usually beat.

Getting out of the car at home, I come around to carry her into the house as she snuggles up to me whispering. “Peg. Cat. Eat. Drink” in my ear. I answer with the need for her to empty the sand out of her shoes on the porch and then go potty first and her head jerks up off my shoulder in protest. As we settle into the bathroom for the millionth time of the day I not-so-patiently contemplate how much it would cost to switch our bathroom with our living room so that we could have more space in the room we actually seem to live in.

After tubbies are done, I reach for Sugarplum for a quick nurse before heading into the kitchen to see what Lovey is getting out for dinner. All seems quiet until the Quail peels herself away from PBS to look for us. I hear her questions before I see her, “Eat? Drink?” As she pulls her grinning self up on to the bed next to us she peppers us with questions, “Bread? Kee-fir? Ba-na-na? Pizza? Cake?” as she proceeds to pounce on top of the previously quietly nursing baby. Giggling Sugarplum lets go and engages in the rascaling as I sigh, cover myself up and head back to the kitchen.

Finishing up her dinner with slight disappointment over the lack of cake and pizza. The Quail asks for more to drink and then stomps her anger out of the room as Lovey lets her know she can have another cup of kefir after we do her bite-bites. Finishing up my own dinner I let the baby out of the high-chair and holler for Zuzu to come back and practice for her math quiz while Lovey loads up the dishwasher.

Once we finish up our oral-motor exercises, the Quail climbs back down off the couch. “Drink. Kefir. More. Backpack. 3-1.” I trail after her back into the kitchen to refill her strawcup as she unzips her backpack pulling out her book that came home from public school for us to read together. Gently she turns it over pointing out the number 31 on the back cover. She may not be able to pronounce, “The Elves and the Shoemaker”; but she knows it’s her favorite story from the collection at school and she knows its number 31. And now we do as well. Sitting back at the kitchen table we finish the story and she packs it back away as I rinse out her cup. 

“Up” her little hands reach up to me as she asks me to carry her back to her room. 7:45 pm. A little before bedtime. Lifting her up into my arms with all my good intentions to finish up the evenings chores after the girls have gone down to bed, we head back into the living room to kiss the other’s goodnight and Lovey joins us while we tuck her in alongside her duck lovies, yellow doggy blanket, cabbage-patch kid named Niles and Abby doll. Just as I start to tell her how very much I love her, my words are met with soft snores.

The day is done.

Lovey turns on her dreamlight, I set the sound machine to soft birdcalls and we back out of the room and close the door behind us.