corner view: close by

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!

Sadly, our family is not. But this past week, Lovey’s parents flew in and paid us a visit and it was so very sweet to watch our girls spend time with their Nana & Bapa…there was cookie baking, swinging, painting, park time, day trips, meals out and in the hotel and in the home, storytime, picnicing, rascalling, laughing and much love.

 

 

31 for 21: Day 9: corner view: before & after

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!

View More: http://mollyflanaganphotography.pass.us/starkey-family-2013

Go:

“Which book do you want to read?” I ask thumbing through the shelf of colorful children’s books in the girl’s room. The two older girls, used to the routine shout out approximations of titles as they push past me to grab the latest Junie B. Jones and seasonal antics of Clifford and George. The baby teeters on the edge of the bed railing, surely tempting fate as she grins at our far-from-soothing bedtime routine. Lovey comes in and we settle ourselves into the bed for a few minutes of minding our storytime manners. I hear of families that read for an hour or more to lull their loves into slumber and that is not us. Not our lot in life. As difficult as that may be to bear for a bookaholic and aging philosopher. These children barely sit still long enough to turn the page in a chapter book. To make it to the Good Nighting of the moon is the equivalent of a Kilimanjaro climb most nights.

When Zuzu was a wee nursling in my arms I tried to do what the “good parent” books prescribed. I would find a sleepy Sandra Boynton rhyme to read to her as she settled into my arms. Her tiny fists grabbed those board books and whipped them away from us before Little Pookie could tell us what was wrong. Later as I would settle her at a safe arms distance in front of me I’d let the swing rock her to the sound of my voice. As soon as she was old enough to make her protests understood she would take the book back from me and insist on “reading” it herself. Storytime at the library, one of my most treasured childhood memories was a flaming disaster. As other children were rapt with the Librarian’s multitude of voices, I chased Zuzu, angling my body so she could see the stern look on my face as I retaped the decorations back to the wall, alternating that sternness with apologetic glances to the other mothers. Eventually I gave in. It was too much and frankly wrecking my nerves right along with my happy childhood memories. So instead we went to the park, to gymnastics, to the bouncehouses and we let Zuzu be the one to “read” to her babydolls instead.

When the Quail came along though, it was a different story. Oh how she loved to be read to! Her small voice would answer with a tiny moo to Ms. Boynton’s question of what a cow says. Once the words on the page formed a pattern for Zuzu, she would take it upon herself to slowly work her way through pieces of our treasury letting the Quail fill in when she could.

Along came Sugarplum. Once you sat down on the floor, she would back herself into your lap and reach to turn the pages along with you. As long as you were reading only to her. Her protests of little No’s rising up over our rhyming as her sisters would now come running to the parent parked at eye level. Come bedtime,  she’s the first to dogpile her sisters as they line up their loveys and blankies for the night’s rest. “Storytime Manners” is the code word reminding everyone to pause. To listen. As one by one we share our part of the story. The read to becomes the reader. The baby becomes the school-age child. The childhood dream reshapes itself into the present day.

We try a little harder to pause a bit longer as the newly-minted seven-year old stumbles through a page of Junie B, holding out the picture to her sister  who in turn, press her hand to her own chest. “My turn.” Insists the Quail as her parents yawn and suggest only 2 more pages. The Quail practices her site words as they float up from the Boynton books. “Red hat. Green hat. Blue hat. Oops.” Her ‘s’ sound magnified in her effort to enunciate each sound she sees. The baby claps along with us in praise of her sister’s accomplishment before lunging over the side of the bed railing yet again, caught up by her ankle at the last possible second before we insist it is time to rest one last time.

Stop.

31 for 21: Day 1: It’s Down syndrome Awareness Month!

View More: http://mollyflanaganphotography.pass.us/starkey-family-2013

It’s Down syndrome Awareness Month! It’s a month where those of us in the community raise awareness and celebrate our loves that happened to be born with a little bit extra. One way I like to do this is to participate in our cyber-buddy Tricia, over at Unringing the Bell‘s creation 31 for 21. Currently this is hosted by Michelle with Big Blueberry Eyes.

Here’s the skinny- and hop over there to sign up if you would like to play along: You post every day, at least once day, for 31 days (each of them in the month of October, which is Down syndrome Awareness Month) on any topic, to raise awareness about Trisomy 21. 31 for 21! (Topics about Down syndrome are not necessary, though it’s encouraged that you mention why you are taking part in the challenge at some point during the 31 days.)

I’m taking part again for my fifth year because Disability Awareness and Acceptance has always been a part of my make-up. But in February 2009, it hit closer to my home and heart. When the Quail came to us in all her glory we learned after her birth about that little bit extra residing on her chromosomal pattern in every cell of her being. And we believe that about her with all of our hearts- she isn’t lacking a thing. She’s all there. And a little bit extra.

Just like her sisters, who very few, other than the geneticists in our lives; would describe as “typical.” She’s a wonder. We’re blessed to witness the growth of these sisters on a daily basis. That said, I don’t think I’m going to go on rants about stereotypes, or resource listings or basic Down syndrome information this year. That’s already out there. Check back in my archives to the month of October in 2009, 2010, 2011 for my versions of that. I would reckon they still hold water. Or for more up to date information go visit our cyber-pals who are also participating in 31 for 21 and get schooled by them with a personal touch. I know I plan to and Michelle will keep a list of where to find them!

Last year I did something more simple. I shared 31 ordinary things about my extraordinary girl. I had spent almost 4 years going on about what a wonder she is and decided that my contribution to Down syndrome Awareness efforts would be to show the beauty of how ordinary life continues when you have someone with a little something extra in your life. In January 2013 I changed my blog from The Tao of Tulips to Ordinary Afters. This change was significant, primarily to me. It represents a systemic shift in my heart, my mind, my focus. A shift to focus my documentation of our family life as a whole so that the other girls don’t feel diminished or unseen in my eyes or heart. Of course I’ll still note and advocate for those with disabilities and specifically Down syndrome and still talk about how it affects the Quail. Because it would be naïve to say it doesn’t. It does. What matters most to me though, is my continual search for our family’s ordinary afters. A way to show our children one day how beautiful their lives are because they are their lives. To train myself to look with gratitude on what I am blessed with rather than dwell on what others might see in our family as lacking or burdensome.

Life is what you make of it. Those happy, joy filled moments- they are just as real and authentic as the pain-riddled sad and chaotic-3-ring circus angry ones. Both pass in the blink of an eye. Some days there are more of one than of the other. Some days what we are grateful for is the fact that we get to wake up and try again.

Over the last year what I mostly want to write about is inspired by the images my camera shows me along with my addled thoughts that I nurse to in the middle of the night about the domestic scenes from earlier in the days and weeks. Most weeks on Fridays I have taken part in Lisa-Jo Baker’s five-minute Friday writing prompts. I fall in love with these writings as I often come back to them and see them as the momma diary of my heart.

These bits of prose coupled with our favorite family storytelling photographer- Ms. Molly–  coming to visit us this past year where she showed us what she sees in our life is what I want to share this month.

When I got my first glimpse of the session, I quickly wrote to Molly to tell her how with each photo, I could have written a narrative. The whole of them pulled together by Molly’s delicate eye and heart delighted me as much this time as the time she spent Saturday Morning with us a couple of years ago. Seeing these images that represent both a few moments as well as the whole of our family with all of its life and light and shadow and work and play- it makes me proud that I get to spend my days with this dear collection of people. Yesterday morning as I was uploading some pictures to the blog of the Quail from the last year I knew which one I wanted to start with. Molly took so many pictures- but one in particular, this one in particular, of the Quail shone through with the light of her spirit. As I was scrolling to it though, I kept stopping at other ones of her that I still felt that desire to tell a story about. And then it hit me. These images, the way they make me feel, this life that we have created; this is what I want to share this year for 31 for 21. So I’m going to use Lisa-Jo’s format to write for five minutes on one word that comes to mind on these individual images that dear Molly Flanagan* took.

Because this family and life- the ability to have it, to live it the way we choose- this is the gift of the advocates and families that have come before us. Because without them- if the Quail were born to another time and place- I might not have had the gift of her in my life. I might not have the privilege to both raise and be raised by her. I might not have the support and knowledge and confidence that those who have paved the way before me have gifted. I might have been forced into believing that giving her up at some stage along the way was the best thing for her, for myself, my family, my home, my community. I get to keep her though. I get to raise her where she belongs because of the hard work of those that came before her. And that, I can’t say it enough- that is an endless privilege and not one I take lightly- the gift of our family’s Ordinary Afters.

*All images categorized with 31 for 21 this month are courtesy of the talented eye of Molly Flanagan.

five minute friday: red

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.

Go:

“That’s 3! Zuzu we haven’t even left the driveway yet and you’ve already earned a timeout once we get up to the mountains!”

The shocked look on her face passed over into the pit of my stomach and Lovey said he would be the one to take her to do her timeout and I could take the other girls on in to the bakery.

It was my idea to go apple picking this morning. We didn’t have to go. The baby had been sick all week. The Quail was exhausted from her first week of school and Zuzu’s attitude had been flaring all morning. But it was the beginning of September. The thought of the crisp air in the mountains, a coffee and danish from the bakery, pictures of the girls gallivanting through the orchard and a bag of apples to bake into pies all wreaked of seasonal holiday fun after a week home with a sick toddler.

Only it was barely 8 am and no one was having any fun.

As we drove on up into the foothills the expected requests for breakfast, a drink, how much farther do we have to go were easily enough assuaged and Zuzu decided to read her homework book, hand another book to the Quail and then pick up after the baby’s half thrown, half chewed Cheerio trail without even being asked.

“That’s two.”

Zuzu looked at me and grinned, “You mean I’m not at three anymore and if I keep it up I can take it back down to one and maybe not have a timeout?”

“Yes.”

“Ok!”

And in that moment as I drank the cup of coffee that would keep me going till I got my next cup, I stopped seeing red.

For a brief moment in time, as Zuzu chattered on about her week, the apples she would pick, the cider they would drink, the playground she wanted to run through and her birthday plans that were still over a month off, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought…this is it.

This is how families are. It’s not all good and it’s not all bad. Even in the same day. Even in the same hour. It’s so fluid- it/we vacillate between happy and sad, content and irritated, energetic and bone tired.

And that’s ok.

And what I take away from the day can either be how awful we all behaved for that portion of the day, or the happy ordinary after that eventually comes when the storm blows over.

That’s the stuff.

Now if I could stop the story there and end with pictures of us all frolicking amongst the other orchard-goers life would still seem pretty picture-perfect and rainbow sprinkled.

Unfortunately the reality is the red in the day bled from the Honey Crisps we plucked from the bin into the dotted rash that started to spread over the baby’s soft skin once she woke from her nap to her cheeks that filled with rage as she fussed and fussed until we finally gave up, packed it in and headed back down the mountain towards home to spend the afternoon in the urgent care making sure there wasn’t something else that could be done for this fussy baby.

She’s fine now though. And we do have apples for a pie. And we did actually make it out in spite of ourselves. And I did get that pastry and a cup of coffee. And we made it home when we needed to.

Because we’re a family.

And that’s what families do.

Stop.

corner view: away

 

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!

From the crazy amount of photo sharing I’ve been doing on Facebook this summer, I’ve given a mistaken impression that’s we’ve been “away” much more than we actually have. We had one main trip this summer for a week to California to visit with family and friends. Outside of that we were mostly here hanging by ourselves with the exception of a lovely visit from my parents. We  managed some time at the park, swimming, berry picking, water fountain splashing and a trip  or two up the road into the mountains to escape the humid weather. It’s just that I took *alot* of pictures while we were out west and it took me the better part of the summer to edit them- so I think to others it probably looked like more playtime than it actually was. That said- here was my favorites from our time away. it was a lovely visit with lots of donuts, family, fresh flowers, friends, sand dollars, beach walks & play time, The Huntington Garden in LA, cousin bonding and a reunion of three very special sisters:

back to school week

…is officially behind us and it’s been a busy one for the Sistred. They each have big changes coming this fall and being the happy little nerds that we are- we’re excited!

Zuzu has finished up her first summer of daycamp. She attended the same facility that she always has but for her age group the summer includes additional outings and activities during the week. Last spring, shortly after we told Zuzu that she was officially signed up for her “camp”. She started fretting over where she had stored her sleeping bag. When I asked why she responded with a, “For camp of course!” We tried to explain that she was not now going to be sleeping over there and in fact she was really just going to be doing more activities with the same teachers and kids without quelching her excitement. Always a balance with her. She had fun though- her first time rollar skating, blackberry picking, she saw a couple movies in theaters (a rare treat in our house due to their ages even though I’m generally happy to see whatever as long as I have a kiddy-cup-combo for myself!), a few rounds of bowling and twice a week water days.  She even got invited to the birthday party of a fellow camper who was turning 12. Once we squeezed in a second week of swim lessons,  let’s just say the girl’s summer was made.

So on to first grade. She admitted she was a bit nervous and checked a couple of times to be sure that we were not going to follow her kindergarten teacher’s explicit end of the year instructions to purchase walkie-talkies so that she could be kept in the loop and at the ready for whatever that teacher needed since rumor had it that her new students were much younger and wouldn’t know half as much as Zuzu’s class. There are some days that Zuzu’s literalness gets the best of her. She was most definitely willing to lend a helping directive or two to the new class. The fact that the teacher that puts the kind in kindergarten sent her a “wish you were here” postcard over the summer probably just cemented the seriousness of those instructions to her.

The other major concern for our rising first grader was  the subject of binders. She had *heard* that certain first grade teachers provided binders and that first graders were to keep track of these. She wondered often and at great length about whether or not she would need to purchase a binder, would it be provided or was the binder a teacher specific issue. When we attended Meet the Teacher a couple of weeks ago, she was absolutely thrilled to see a binder all shiny and filled on the class tables- one for each and every student. The binders contain the homework for the year. It’s an interesting system, pretty different from last year. So for Miss J’s class the year’s focus is to get a good foundation in reading and writing, so Zuzu is to read for 15 minutes each day. Then in said binder is a section for “reader reaction”, spelling games and math games. They are to complete one activity of their choosing from each category each week. There are also some baggy books that come home once a week to practice reading. Being the happy little nerds that we are, Zuzu in all her binder-exuberance dove right in and completed two homework assigments even before the first day of class. I have to say I had to squelch my spoil-sport-I’m-tired-I’m-overwhelmed-I-probably-should-have-weaned-the-baby-before-now-so-I-don’t-have-another-human-being-attached-to-me-on-school-nights- I-have-too-much-to-do-just-now-reaction.

And I did.

I know a lot of people have differing opinions on the value of homework, but right now I have a kid who is excited about it- so I’m going with that.

It’s this funny balance of practical magic that blends its way into Zuzu’s personality that amost always surprises me in the moment and then after the fact I find myself nodding along and thinking, “That’s about right.” The binder joy was not unlike the way she organizes her “facts, rules and routines” along the lines of “writing, not a wishlist/letter to Santa in, but rather placing a rather detailed, terribly specific order; that TJ the Elf must have a very good reason for not having landed in a new spot the next day from where she last saw him the night before; that the Tooth Fairy has made a big mess with glitter like they use at school all over her bed-it’s not fairy dust Mom and that the rascally leprechaun that left green footprints on our kitchen table leading up to the “That’s not gold, it’s chocolate coinsin foil wrappers Mom” in March had gotten into the paint left out on the front porch after her and her sister’s were done painting the day before, rather than being willing to believe he is just green and was barefoot when he left a pile of loot straight out of that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. She was more excited over the homework binder than the magic spell packet the teacher had made for each child that indicated once they squeezed the playdough and repeated the rhyme if it turned another color, they were certain to have good luck for the year. Mind you, she believed enough to locate a packet that was in her signature color of pink and to work the dough thoroughly enough until she was certain it showed enough of the good luck magic and then excited enough about it to pack it in her backpack to show Miss J her good fortune, but she did all of this while still chattering on about the best spot at home to keep her binder in so that the littles wouldn’t get into the ever-important First Grade Work. I love that kid. We all do.

At daycare they have a homework time and last year I forwarded the class newsletter on to school and homework was completed there. This year I’m not entirely sure what I want to do. I want the binder kept at home so I think we’ll send books to school and have her just focus on reading while she is there and the actual activities we’ll save for home.

The Quail is set for public and private 4k now as well. She started private last week and public starts today. Private feels easy-peasy- we love Miss J and she and the afternoon teacher Miss A are fairly familar with the Quail already. There is also another little friend in her afternoon class who will be attending k4 in the afternoon so it is good she’ll have a buddy when the big school bus comes to pick them up there for afternoon school.

This year’s Meet the Teacher night was cathartic for me. I think a bit for the Quail too since we caught her literally twirling through the halls. Last year I was completely overwhelmed by all that had to be done going to one of them. Aside from meeting the teacher, it was a new building, paying the cafeteria for lunches, a car rider line to get tags, a bus line to find out that our bus wasn’t what they meant, a school packet line, a PTA line, a Girl Scout sign-up line, volunteer training and all during the witching hours with 3 hungry, tired and over-stimulated kids.

Times two.

 Because the Quail was attending the school that had the self-contained classroom, in a town 10 miles away. 

Needless to say we didn’t get everything done and on the way home when Zuzu innocently questioned why we weren’t able to spend as much time at the Quail’s school as her own and why couldn’t the Quail just go to her school to make it easier, I found myself turning up the radio and adjusting the rearview mirror so they wouldn’t have to directly witness how very much I agreed with them.

This year, I intended to be prepared.

One school.

Two kids.

No standing in unnecessary lines.

And possibly Girl Scouts, if a local troop can get together.

We planned to pull in at 2:45, 15 minutes early, childless to get all the lines  and training done efficiently, then run out to pick up the kiddos and bring them back for the fun- actual meeting of the teachers portion of “Meet the teachers”. We pulled up, maybe 5 minutes later than intended- to what can only rival a Who concert.

Lines.Out.The.Door. Wow.

And we forgot to bring the school supplies to drop off. Other than that, it was old hat. Not overwhelming. And frankly good to get to spy so many of our friends and neighbors- exactly the reason why you want your children to go to their homeschool.

So we finished up. It was nice to see the girl’s rooms, both were excited over the little house/kitchen centers that would be part of their day and of course we went down the hall to say a quick hello to our kind kindergarten teachers while we were there than ran off for a celebratory burrito! When she started to joke with Zuzu over helping to teach these new kiddos what all goes on I cut her off with a funny little story of repeated requests to purchase walkie-talkies.

In the weeks leading up to school we managed to fit in a couple of parent-single child lunches with the girls and a trip to our favorite “Big Sale” as Zuzu calls it for back-to-school clothes. And once again I felt oh-so-in-the-know. Growing up, picking out sweaters and jeans and tennies for back to school and then stopping off for a shared cup of cheese fries is one of my happiest memories with my Mom. Last year when I started early trying to create this tradition we were faced with left over, neon, stringy, clearanced summer duds at our usual shopping haunts. This year we skipped the lure of no taxes and held out till the next large-scale consignment sale with the promise of a Panera Breakfast treat and a run through the Halloween Costume rack to see what the options might be AFTER finding our favorite winter jackets, fall vests and a suitable amount of legging/tunic top/dress and tiger wear to carry us into the spring.

Last year the night before classes started we read, The Night Before Kindergarten, The Night Before Preschool & The Kissing Hand, luckily even with our distinct lack of household organization we were able to locate them this year too. Zuzu was a little sad to realize we hadn’t purchased The Night Before First Grade, and I have to admit I was too. I have a feeling I did and lost it over the summer, clutter purging  time will tell.

And the littlest Sistred, well she started her preschool lessons. She moved into the Toddler room and is making herself at home with circle time, playground time, lunch-at-big-kid-tables time and now-I-nap-on-a-mat-like-a-big-kid time. She’s happy to go and happy to be picked up, if not a tad grouchier tired from her busy days. When she and the Quail received their welcome to the next class postcards from their upcoming teachers they were equally tickled.

The Quail also had a home visit from our public school k4 teacher and assistant. I had big plans for this visit- we had blackberries from a recent berry-picking expedition and I thought we might make a cobbler to welcome them and make the house smell homey the night before. Neat in theory, impractical for middle of the week. As it was we managed to take the trash out, put the dishes away and hide the week’s wash from public view. All in all, a good visit.  And we’re excited to start the new year.

I had a dress with apples for Zuzu’s first day, but being the Fashionista that she is, it got the thumbs down and a combination of twinkle-toes, stripes and more stripes won out. The Quail chose Zuzu’s graduation dress to wear to school for her first day today. She smiled her brave smile and carried her Dora Backpack to the car leading the way for her little sister. I’ve purposely not called to see how it went. Her getting off to school on the bus, today that is.

I’m cool.

It’s cool.

But Lovey just called as I was typing this and asked if I had heard anything and said he was thinking he might call the daycare and check in to see how her getting on the bus went anyway.

And that’s cool.

Oh, and it went smooth.

13 years…..

 Oh goodness me. Lovey & I were married 13 years ago. It seems like forever ago and yet just the other day. It was a wonderful wedding. Lovely with friends and family and food and fun. I still grin ear to ear when I reminisce over the pictures of our sweet day. It. was. perfect.

And now, 13 years, a sweet if slightly off-kilter two-gabled house in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 3 dear girls and many, many happy memories to feather our nest later we had a lovely celebration thanks to our Zuzu who asked a few weeks ago if they could have a babysitter sometime soon, maybe for our Anniversary. Well- what a brilliant idea! We made reservations for the weekend before the actual date at this restaurant and the meal was just as lovely as we had pictured after drooling over the menu.

We are so blessed.