Math

“Sorry Mommy”

And just like that her tone shifts. Her body language softens and she reaches out to touch my chin with the hand that was methodically rubbing the homework sheet the second before. I pick up the pencil she slammed down and offer it back to her as we make eye contact and I smile and hug her as she pulls her bottom back in from its signature bird perch pout. After a deep breath and a good hug, I ask her if she’s ready to keep working. She nods and fidgets a bit in her chair and with the paper, and then looks back at me.

“Kefir?”

“Yes. I’ll get you a drink after we finish this problem. First math. Then drink. Ok?”

Nodding, she positions her pencil. “Math. Kefir. Ipad.”

Um…..

“Help”

As she pushes the paper toward me, I reread the question and pull out the counter animals to show her the math problem and use my finger to point to the illustration on the page. She touches each animal in turn and starts counting from one.

“Mmmm. Look again. Which number is bigger?”

“7”

“Good. Count on from 7. Eig….”

As I pause mid-word, she picks up the pace and slides three bears over to the seven dinosaurs and smiles proudly as she writes the 10 in the blank space. She can do this.

It’s not easy.

Some nights it’s not fun.

But she can do this.

And we can to.

And so we do.

#‎DSAwareness‬ ‪#‎31for21‬ ‪#‎DSAM16 ‪#‎downsyndrome‬ #ordinaryafters #downsyndromeawarenessmonthabby-mathM

This is seven.

Seven is twirling and running and besties with pinky promises and BFFs and side pony-tails and Justice shirts with skorts. It’s second grade and hip-hop dance class. It’s learning to read and write while staying in the lines. It’s new reading glasses and soccer games and watching other people open presents on Youtube. It’s Magic-clip dolls lined up and Winx Club fairies driving cars. It’s Brownies and gap-tooth smiles. It’s playing cars with the little sister and stealing the big sister’s fairy books. It’s hogging the IPad and writing the grade of WOW on the homework before turning it in. It’s sitting with pals rather than parents at the volleyball game and getting up and trying to make toast and pour kefir in the morning before the parents wake. It’s playing Taylor Swift in the car and singing along to Taylor the Latte Boy. It’s pancakes with smiley faced whip cream and sprinkles and living room sleepovers with sisters. It’s knowing the words in your head but not being able to quite articulate the answer in time with the others and standing back to watch until you can get it right without faltering. It’s being independent in the pool with the help of a floatie and scheduling a first orthodontist appointment. It’s running off with the big girls at family camp and dancing when you feel like it. It’s holding the babies at playdates and your sister’s soccer games. It’s finally speaking in full sentences and tween jargon. It’s a twinkle in your eye and sass on your lips. It’s only wanting your uncle and your dance teacher’s husband at your birthday party. It’s a bedtime lovey named Tigey that you call a bear. It’s after school tutors and speech and occupational and physical therapy appointments each week. It’s more speech and occupational therapy and resource classes in school. It’s a memorized lunch pin and getting yourself out of the car without too much complaint in the drop off line. It’s a summer of day camp and a hospitalization and too many homedays for pneumonia. It’s visits with grandparents and aunts and uncles when the rest of your family gets sick too. It’s cheering your spelling words and then sword fighting them. It’s asking for babysitters and movie dates and manicures. It’s outgrowing the need for your pediatric cardiologist and the ongoing quest for the perfect ADD medication. It’s society seeing you as disabled and your friends and sisters seeing you as not having a disability. It’s drinking through a straw but being cool enough to carry a water bottle to class. It’s digging for hours in the sand and eating all the croissants your tiny hands can hold. It’s pulling your own suitcase in the airport just as long as it has your Barney pillow tucked in to the pocket. It’s refusing to let your mom cover you at bedtime and insisting it be your dad. It’s you.

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‪#‎DSAwareness‬ ‪#‎31for21‬ ‪#‎DSAM16 ‪#‎downsyndrome‬ #ordinaryafters #downsyndromeawarenessmonth

 

 

I know I can….I know I can….

10154353_10203677323792582_4540840338547505571_n“No Momma. I put on the diaper by my own self. Not you.”

Pulling the tab across her own belly on her own diaper, Sugarplum giggles with the pleasure of the tab staying in place. Grinning up at me, she reaches her pudgy fingers out to pull my head down to that sweet belly and I inhale the freshly-diapered, powdery smell from the Pampers she still sleeps in. I smile wide in spite of her monkey antics and indignant insistences of independence and tickle her belly lightly as the giggle morphs into a chortle and finally an all-out hoot as she bows her small wiggly body around me. It won’t be long now and there won’t be any diapers on our market lists. A check-off I’m both finally ready for and hesitantly dreading. I clean up the box of wipes and unused crèam tripping over her little matchbox car as she grabs her blankie and flies out of the room yelling at her sisters that it’s time for bed.

 

1441222_10202498882732292_47446696_n“No momma. I do it myself. Not. You. Momma.”

Pulling the math sheet over and away from me, the Quail lays her body across the bottom half as her arm encircles the top so that I can no longer continue to read the instructions to her. At first, it frustrates me. All summer we have set aside a few daily minutes to work on math because it was noticeably hard for her in Kindergarten. And every day this summer it remained hard for her. She speeds through the numbers ignoring the sevens and twelves and thirteens that just last month she recited precisely with carefully articulated consonants and vowels. We would pull out a set of wooden blocks and instead of touch-counting them, she smoothed the chipped paint and textured images of each side as she lined them up oh so precisely that the mere movement of one pushed them all out of line, upsetting her, me and the applecart. But we did it. We didn’t always like it. Sometimes I poured a glass of wine while we worked on it. We counted and pushed the blocks across the table and wrote and erased and smoothed the rubber filings off the page and onto the carpet. Night after night. And now I expect to need to help. In spite of increased ADD medication and classroom support, I assume that her needs remain. And I act accordingly. And then, she stops me with a full sentence. A sentence that a year ago she would have been hard-pressed to articulate. And I grin back and sip my wine and wait. I lean in a couple more times. Old habits die hard for most of us. She eyes me, utters no and starts to shove her hand into mine as a not so friendly reminder of her instructions. And I pull back my hand again and tell her to please tell me if she needs help. And I wait. And she gets the answer right and the next one wrong and I chew my bottom lip debating the merits of my not correcting her and my desire to prepare her to demonstrate more than what people expect of her. To demonstrate what I know she’s capable of. Except, I get it wrong too. As well as I know her, I underestimate her time and time again. Glass houses and all.

Finally she hesitates and turns the eraser to the seven as she notices she wrote the sum rather than the part. We both smile as she erases with enthusiasm and shoves her chair back from the table ready to run to the kitchen. “Show your Dad!” I holler after her as she drops the page on the pantry floor and streaks down the hall after her sword-and-baby-doll-wielding little sister. Picking it up I show Lovey and then carefully tuck it in to her homework folder. That night I wasn’t needed there either.

 

DSC_9993“No. I won’t do it. You don’t know what the teacher said. I know what I’m supposed to do.”

Zuzu’s voice hits a pitch that causes my eyes to swing shut and my lips to form a hard line. I started out calm in what I considered to be a helpful voice pointing out that if she doesn’t do one more math problem tonight she won’t finish them at the pace she set for herself since she has dance on Monday nights starting tomorrow.That’s how it started out. That quickly turned ugly as she heard my implied criticism of her burgeoning time management skills. So I try again with different words in a frank tone to point out that she has only three nights available to do the five problems left, so one a night won’t get them done by Thursday morning. She covers her ears, stomps her feet and storms out of the living room and I open my eyes to the three-year old now standing in front of me interpreting the situation quite simply, “She mad Momma.”

Indeed. As she rushes back in the room to grab up her binder and pencils I tell her she’s right. She doesn’t have to listen to me about this. She can do it her way and see if that works out. Hunching her shoulders against the sudden stillness of my helicopter blades, she turns with her things to the living room and starts over again explaining the rules as she understands them to her father. He, calmer than me at this point, doesn’t elicit much better of a reaction. Sighing, I pick up Sugarplum and carry her in to the kitchen to keep me company while I clear off the table to wash away the scene and the dishes. We frequently clash over homework, Zuzu and I. It used to bother me. I explain what I understand thinking I’m helping her and she starts to cry or yell. Now though, entering third grade I’ve seen this enough to see it for what it really is. Not disrespect or general orneriness or rebellion. It’s anxiety that she might not know something in front of the person she loves so very much and tries to be like at every turn of the day. I wish I could help her. That she would take my suggestions and explanations for what I know to be true about our lives. But she is my daughter. She is strong, confident and sets a high standard for herself. Last year her teacher gave me permission to back off of the homework argument. “She’s not going to let herself fail. It’s not worth your relationship.”

Two nights later we unload our Happy Meal boxes and as I move her pink striped and owl covered messenger bag from her chair to the pantry I ask if she would mind if I peeked in on her math homework for the week. She eyed me over her cheeseburger and said she knew it was done and not to worry. As I stood their holding the bag silently she acquiesced and said it was fine. Opening the binder I pull out the sheet and notice that she did the extra problem. Not when I asked her to. But on her own terms, in her own time. She wasn’t going to let herself get in trouble for not getting it done. Smiling I closed up the bag as she mutters that she told me she knew what to do.

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It’s clearly visible now, each of their desires to do things all by their own selves and be recognized for the competent little humans they already are. Bittersweet is what it is. This growing, growing they insist on doing while I’m sleeping and working and catching and dropping the balls of our daily circus. I watch for it. I lean in and ask questions and take pictures and listen closely in order to watch for the changes that continuously emerge somehow unseen in their walk, their routines, their words and stories and play and work. Their stories that now have details between their giggles and tears and tantrums like-

“I choose the Frozen shirt not the butterfly shirt Momma!” and

 

“My birthday. Miley. Blair. Laurel. Dance bag like Zuzu. Dark blue. Sleep over. Popcorn.” and

“I am doing competition dance and jump rope team and Quest and Scouts!!! I can do it. It’s not too much”

Stories that really mean

“I know what I want.” and

“I have my own dreams too.” and

“See how I’ve changed? Do you see me?”

Beautiful, if still halting  and hurled phrases whispered and shouted and sang and played out with the Magic-clip dolls and My Little Ponies and rituals and schoolwork by all three of those girls now.

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corner view: home

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- they have that magical ability to be fully here and simultaneously somewhere else all in the same moment!

There are so many things I can say about home- how it isn’t the four walls, or the location or how many earthly delights you acquire with your good fortune. How home is where your heart and soul are, where the people that fill you with the moments that make up your day. How home is full of the ordinary afters that you eventually notice have woven the crazy quilt of your life around you. But I think my friend Molly has lovingly illustrated our particular home the best.

My gift to myself upon the occasion of my 40th birthday this year, with my love of photography and desire to not just have been behind the camera  years from now when my children look back to their childhood, was a photo shoot with my favorite local photographer. Three years ago I met Molly Flanagan and was so incredibly moved by the deep soul and measure that she walks through her life with. Her stills and prose often inspire my own. When we had made it out of the scary winter of our Quail’s first year we wanted to document the light and shadow of our family and Miss Molly came to visit one Saturday morning. She stilled the motion, spirit and energy of these girls, albeit briefly. Over the next few years I kept wanting to bring her back and see our lives through her lens one more time. The arrival of our Sugarplum seemed to be what called us to finally make the arrangements. Molly’s style has definitely found it’s niche with the art of visual storytelling. She introduced our session to us with these words and this image:

“i dreamed of traveling to far off lands to tell stories of exotic tribes and wild beasts. yet life’s plans have kept me close to home. to my surprise, i found that tribes and beasts are found around every corner. exotic beauty and wild love are hidden in every home.”

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

Lovey and I were instantly grinning. Please go see the collection she put together of our Ordinary afters…as she named it- the “smoke & spice” of our story. To tempt you into an introduction to Miss Molly here are just a few of our home via her heart, her vision, her storytelling… as I told her- “I keep coming back to these and soaking them in Miss Molly. As I said on IG- seeing ourselves/our lives through your heart- is pure magic. I see so much in each shot- in the collection and then I marvel in the simplicity and the small details. I could write an essay- a story with each snap- your pictures of our lives- more than a thousand words- but I will give you a thousand thanks and pearls of gratitude. You know from my blog how important the ordinary afters of our life are to me- those fractions of time- those are the treasures. It’s so funny to have been watching you shoot and trying to see what you might be seeing- so the stills are so very familiar in some- and then in others it is like peering in to another lifetime. What a gift these are- you are. love you- xoox”

Enjoy your summer break friends and I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to while away come September!

sunday still life

 

Sunday Still Life is an evolving photo project started by Erin. It’s an invitation to explore the beauty and depth of life through traditional still life composition and / or photos and words to evoke inner stillness and reflection. If you feel so inspired, join in!

Lately, all I see in my Zuzu is her fast-paced growth. She’s racing towards grown-upland and taking us all along with her. I’m oh-so-grateful for these moments that are fewer and father between where she just wants to be my little girl still holding on.