Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's a Holiday!

And what holiday is it, you might ask?

Why, it's National Candy Corn Day! The only holiday dedicated to one of my favorite fall foods.

You may remember a few weeks ago, when I got challenged by one of Foreign Quang's readers, to put candy corn in my mouth to make it look like teeth on National Candy Corn Day. I accepted the challenge and received one other photo.

PLEASE DO NOT LET THESE PHOTOS RUIN YOUR APPRECIATION FOR ALL THINGS CANDY CORN






Anonymous Quangster~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Queen of Quang as a Cullen



And people say there's no fun left in the world.









Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

Remember two short Sundays ago, when in a fit of delusion, I couldn't remember why I dreaded the fall season?



Today I remember!








Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Serenity 10-25-09


Mormon Temple

Although I am not a Mormon, the beauty of this building, set high on a hill and viewable for miles around, never fails to inspire...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts of a Twitterless Thinker 10-23-09

Most adult women know the sensation of being groomed by other women.

Not grooming in the sense of having another woman pick lice out of your hair and then crush the lice between her teeth in the manner of a female monkey. No, grooming in the sense of having another woman walk up behind you and kindly push the care tag back inside the neck of your shirt.

Or having a woman pick a stray thread off your wool coat or release the strand of hair that got tangled up in your hoop earring. Or even silently mouthing, “You have lipstick on your teeth.”

Yeah, women groom each other like that.

So last Sunday in church when I felt someone fussing with my hair from behind, I assumed I probably had a curl that had gone awry and was boinging out ridiculously from my head. I ignored it until I felt the gentle tugging again.

I turned around to see which woman was courteously grooming me.

It was a man! What in the world?

“Sorry, I’m just trying to catch that spider that’s in your hair.”

AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!

Can I say that again?

AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!

I was totally amazed at my self control, sitting frozen while every cell in my body wanted to leap out of that chair and yell to all present, “There’s a spider in my hair! AAAAGGGGHHH!”

After a few agonizing seconds I heard one of the most joyous phrases in human language:

“Got it.”

I wonder if he does lice checks too?

Kids tell it like it is.

Earlier this week, the 6th grade science teacher asked if I would watch her three-year-old daughter, Ella, while she taught class for an hour. As it was my lunch break, I agreed.

I had never spent any time alone with Ella, and I found her delightful. I read several books to her, and found a child’s picture dictionary to be especially entertaining. She enjoyed naming each picture as I pointed to it.

When we reached the “H” section, I pointed to a picture of the heads of three children and tried to get her to say “hair.” Repeated attempts failed and I got the bright idea of pointing to my own hair instead. I grasped a hank of my hair, and asked, “Ella, what is this?”

“Tangles?”

Indeed. Maybe that’s why SPIDERS like to live there.

One of my students brought his Buzz Word game to school last week, asking if we could play it in class. Since I teach literature and the game contains a lot of well-known phrases the kids should know, I agreed. Later, another class wanted to play also.

We had such a good experience with the first class, I told the next class they could play too. I had to explain the rules though.

“You pick a card. Each card has a word at the top, say for example, the word UP.
You tell your teammates the word is UP, and then they have to provide answers based on clues that you give them, but each answer must have the work UP in it. For example if the clue says sometimes you’re in a good mood and sometimes you’re in a bad mood, we would say you HAVE YOUR UPS AND DOWNS. Get it?”

They all said they got it. It was time to pick the first card. I reached into the card box, which contained four hundred possible words, and guess which word I picked out?
You guessed it---UP! I kid you not. What are the odds of that? Something like 1 in 400 I’ll bet.

One of my newest simple pleasures: Opening up Facebook to see a notification that says I have one new friend request. There’s always that moment of anticipation while I click and wonder who waits behind the door. (Kind of like when you never knew who was going to walk through Dean Martin’s door on his TV show.)


You all know how much I love surprises, right? My son brought in the mail the other day, and along with the ads was a big brown envelope addressed to me. I opened it, and inside were two amazing card making magazines! The especially keen thing was that they came with pretty papers, templates, stickers, adhesives and embellishments. And even better? They were from the UK, so I had never seen these two magazines before. The gifts were a surprise from one of Foreign Quang’s UK readers. Since I haven’t asked her permission yet, I will acknowledge her anonymously. Thank you so much, my dear friend! My week went so much better because of you. You helped me ignore the first nasty message that I got from a commenter this week.

Dear Son is off on a mountain biking trip this weekend without the old folks. Well, without his own old folks, that is. Scout leaders will be there. I’ve been really grateful to the Scouting program because Weston is learning to be a Mountain Man. He does manly things like dig his own potty hole, pitch his own tent, learn how to use knives with more than one function, and raccoon-proof his food. He loves it. I would teach him how to do those types of things but I DON’T CAMP.

Computer Geek camps and has tried to get me to camp too. I’ve never really seen the purpose in camping. Camping means that I must be willing to make my life extremely miserable for at least one night. Really, why would any sane person say, “I will sleep on the ground guaranteeing sore muscles and a headache the next day; I will wrap my arms around a skinny tree so that I can go to the bathroom without soiling my clothes; I will agree to cook around a campfire then try to clean the pans without running water; I will look forward to washing the smoke smell out of all clothing I took with me---even clothes that I did not wear; and furthermore, I will agree to pretend like purposely making my life harder for the duration of the trip is actually fun. And trying to put contacts in without a mirror, curling my hair, putting makeup on, and actually BATHING? I won’t even go there. So, have a good time, Son!

Confession time: I fell in love with a Miley Cyrus song this week. I’ve been singing it in my mind ever since I saw it on my cousin’s Facebook page the other day. My nomination for cool video of the week is a way cool kid doing sign language to the song. It just makes me so darn HAPPY. And now I want to learn sign language so I can rock like that!

So I’m watching Super Nanny tonight and it’s way interesting because the father refuses to acknowledge his daughter when he gets home from work. Doesn’t speak, doesn’t hug her, doesn’t even seem to see her. Super Nanny takes father and daughter for a ride in a cable car and stops the car in mid-air until they work out their issues. They end up hugging in a touching moment. Then it’s dad’s turn to work on his relationship with mom. Things seem very strained and he seems unwilling to change. I’m on the edge of my seat.

What happened next? I will never know because the next thing I knew I was awakened by some man in a yellow suit jacket on Ugly Betty.

Edge of my seat------ZONK. Edge of my seat-----ZONK. How do these things happen?

It’s called OLD AGE, people. It’s called I TURN FIFTY IN TWO MONTHS.

Anybody know how Super Nanny ended?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sunday Serenity 10-18-09

Oh Autumn,
Why do I dread your arrival,
When you greet me like this?








Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How the Other Half Lives

My daughter Em and my hubby Computer Geek went to their employer's house for a party last Saturday. As CG promised me, he took photos of his employer's amazing new house.

The house is complete with 4-story tree house, an indoor slide that goes from the third floor to the basement--ending in a room full of plastic balls, a fireman's pole that covers two stories, a theater room with massaging recliners and full service concession stand, a trampoline room with Velcro on the walls so you can jump and stick, three kitchens, a beach in the backyard that leads to a pond with paddleboats, and get this--secret passages in some of the rooms!

I don't begrudge L.L. Cool Guy his house because he shares everything he has and is extremely generous. He allowed employees, some of them unknown to him, to wander freely through the house, exploring the rooms and passages.

Here's a fun peek at how the other half lives!


The shallow end



The deep end


Grandson, Avatar



Two of my nameless, faceless 9th grade students



The treehouse


The backyard!


Another backyard view


The pool house



Daughter Em, Grandson Chunk, and Computer Geek

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thoughts of a Twitterless Thinker 10-10-09

Greetings Quangsters! For those of you who are new to the Quang, this is where I --oh, once a week or two--spill out those thoughts that normally would be assigned to Twitter if I twittered, or if I could ever limit a thought to 140 characters. Yeah, right. It's also where I get to use my two favorite font colors--purple and green! So grab a snack and hang on while I set out to prove just how pointless most of my thoughts really are!

This week we found out that Computer Geek’s employer is having a barbecue for all employees. The party will be held at L.L. Cool Guy’s house this weekend. Computer Geek walked into my daughter’s office (she’s his boss.) Daughter Em saw him and said, “The party is from noon to 4 p.m. at his house, you don’t have to bring anything except swimsuits, there will be parking available and if Mom has any other questions, tell her all further details will be forthcoming in an email.” He laughed and said that wasn’t why he was there. Em later told me of this little transaction, at which point I accused her and my husband of laughing at me and mocking me. Of course we were. What good is it to be related to an anal person if you can’t make fun of her?”

On the downside, Computer Geek decided to go to the barbecue with some co-workers and there was not enough room for me (Waaah!) so I didn’t get to go. He promised to take pictures of L.L.’s awesome new house for me though!


Congratulations to Foreign Quang readers Ken Devine and Pen Ort who were blessed with new grandchildren this week. Welcome to Ken’s granddaughter, Edith, and Pen’s grandson, Harry. We love new babies!

These fall days have been absolutely KA-RA-ZY! Between teaching all day, then helping my son with his homework, then doing MY homework (“Yes children, teachers have homework, and it takes a lot longer than YOUR homework so quit your whining,” she said with a clenched teeth grin,) making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, getting small boy to Scouts or Kyuki-Do depending on the night, getting laundry done, and getting small boy to bed, my weekdays are full. On Saturdays I try to do the housework that I pretended didn’t exist all week, plus prepare for my Sunday School classes. On Sundays I am involved with Sunday School, church, and church related meetings from 9:00 a.m. until between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. depending on the Sunday. Then I come home and prepare school lessons for the week. Why am I telling you all this? So I will feel less guilty when I plop my grandmotherly behind into bed at night and look at my cell phone screen that says, “You have 8 missed calls.” Not to mention about 5 unresponded-to text messages. So for those of you who call, or email, or text me, and I don’t respond right away—I STILL LOVE YOU! I am trying to be more organized---really I am!

Speaking of being organized, one of my BFF’s said to me yesterday, “I really am a very organized person; it’s just the upkeep that I suck at!” Boy, did I identify with that one. I have file folders for every topic imaginable, but no time to put all my papers into those neatly organized folders. I have a place for everything, including a huge pile of stuff that’s waiting to be organized into those specific places! My goal this week is to put away/throw away five papers per day. (Janice, you are such an inspiration!)

Do you want to know a super duper simple yet really yummy nummy fall snack? Go buy a large jar of Planters Dry Roasted peanuts. Then buy a huge bag of candy corn. Mix together in a bowl. Leave out so snackers can grab a handful. Tastes like salted nut rolls. MMMM!!! Plus, it looks cute and autumn-y, especially if you have a pumpkin shaped little bowl or some red leaf accents to nestle the bowl into.

I have a picture of my son on my sidebar, in the feature I call Ten Zen: Question of the Day from a Child Who Hates School. (Loves learning except when it takes place at a rectangular desk in a square room.) My son’s friend, who we call The Huntsman, said to Jere yesterday, “I love the way your mom can take a picture and make it look like you are in the air, or by the ocean. That’s cool how she can do that to pictures.” What? Is he accusing me of Photoshopping? I believe he was! I will have him know, that I do not own, nor do I know how to use, Photoshop. The picture of Air Jere was taken while he was jumping on the trampoline. I told him I was going to take a picture, so being the clown that he is, he went into a semi-yogaish position. I snapped it at the right time and there you have it. This picture of him by the ocean is taken using an actual boy and an actual ocean. The boy, once again, is Jere. The ocean is called the Pacific and the beach was somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, on the way to Forks (Yes! The home of Edward, Bella and Jacob!) He’s happy because it’s his first view of an ocean. Photoshop. Hmph.Seriously, if I knew how to use Photoshop I would get rid of that annoying smudge that is on the right side of every picture I take.

In honor of October being Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I would like to make a proposal. Let’s quit using the “R” word as a slam. I joined a Facebook group called “Getting Rid of ‘Retarded’ in Everyone’s Vocabulary.” Long before I joined that group though, I started becoming sensitive to the use of that word.

Last year in my class, one of my students said, “That is so retarded!” I had to stop teaching for a moment and address the issue.
I said, “I have had the privilege of teaching, or being around, children who you would call ‘retarded.’ It simply means that their bodies grow faster than their brains can keep up. Every one of those children that I knew, was totally incapable of hurting someone on purpose. Can you say the same? Every one of those children has no idea what it means to sin. Can you say the same? I know right now that if God had to choose between sending me to Heaven or sending a “retarded” child to Heaven, who would he pick?” The room was really quiet because they all knew I would be the one left behind.

My friend, Gut Laugh Girl, had a daughter who had cerebral palsy and was at a mental disadvantage. Yet, she was so happy with her beautiful, always smiling, daughter in a wheelchair. She said to me once, “Yes, she’s a teenager and I have to still lift her into the shower and help her get her clothes on. Hauling the wheelchair everywhere we go is a drag. No, she can’t discuss things with me on my level. But she will never break my heart. I will never have to watch her get involved with smoking, drinking and drugs. I will never have to cringe at her choice of boyfriends. I will never have to worry about her feeling left out because everywhere we go, people come up to her and smile, or hold her hand. She thinks she is the most loved girl on this planet. And I have a daughter who will never sin. How can I ever be upset with that?”

So how about it? The next time you hear a child say, “Oops, that was so retarded of me!” or “Hey, retard!” let’s put a stop to it. Are you game?

Sometimes life can be made easier by something so simple. My cursor for a long time has been a pointing hand. It always drove me nuts because it seemed I always had to click an option more than once to get my computer to respond. Finally the other day I said, Duh! Why don’t you just change your cursor? I changed it to a pointer and dang, life has been good. It just “feels” more accurate and precise. And if I'm not mistaken, it just "feels" like chocolate.

Here’s my nomination for funny video of the week.


Have a fantastic weekend!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Jes' Hangin' out til the Cows Come Home



We’s a little slow here in these parts.

Fer example, we’s bin drivin’ cattle through town fer a hunerd and fifty years. In the summer, we takes them cattle up the mountain fer some free grass. Free food for the cows and our cows help clear away dead brush. That’s real helpful cuz we shore hate forest fires round here. In the fall, we drive them cattle back down that mountain and right through town agin. Everbuddy’s happy.

Well, ‘cept them townsfolk. They get right uppity when those cows go trouncin’ through their yards, tramplin’ their purdy flowers, kickin’ up divots, and splatterin’ cow pies all over their driveways. We kinda make people mad too when they’s tryin’ ta get ta work and the cows got a convoy goin’ on. Shore, the highway’s got four lanes now, but since when cattle bin little bitty critters? Not since I kin recall. But I swear---there ain’t no other way t’get them cows from the mountain to the farms without a cuttin’ through. There’s lotsa us ranchers round here and in a hunerd and fifty years we ain’t found no better solution.

Lucky for us, there’s a right purdy cowgirl named Shannon in town. Shannon, she’s a thinkin’ ta herself, “Hmm. What if we had a party when them cows come home? Instead of folks bein’ all mad and everything, we’ll get them to gather round at daybreak for a party. We’ll feed ‘em, play ‘em a little country music, let the young whippersnappers ride some horses, and then cheer when the cows come bouncin’ through. People’ll be right happy now, stead a bein’ so dang cranky.”

A lotta folk liked that idea. They headed to a nice grassy area behind a fence, to wait for them cows. Got there at 6:30 a.m. It was real dark and real cold, but I’ll be danged if two of the local restaurants didn’t have some grub for us to eat. Nice hot cocoa, and a rice, burger and egg platter, smothered in brown gravy. Burgers for breakfast? Hey, we’s cattle people. We don’t eat no pig.

Instead a gripin’ at the ranchers, they had a right nice little program, honoring all their hard work. Even gave 'em a gilded cow pie "award." What with the awards and all that live country music playin’ in the background, people were actually smiling.’ Men with radios kept track of the cows’ progress down that mountain, and soon somebuddy yelled, “They’s a comin’! The cows are comin’!”

The crowd ran up to the fence. We was told ta be kinda quiet cuz them cows get spooked purdy easy. And instead a bein’ all grumpy and ever thing, the folks was excited to see them cows prancin’ right through town.

And it only took a hunerd and fifty years.


video

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month---Part II

Why We Write

By Madonna Dries Christensen


English author Samuel Johnson said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” Quite likely many writers would disagree with that statement from the 1700s. We commit words to paper for a myriad of reasons, and the fact is, for the majority of writers, there is little monetary gain. Suffice to say, we write because we are compelled; because we must. We might go into remission, but it’s an incurable addiction. For some, the itch to write begins in childhood; others come late to the publishing party.


The subject of this profile, Kathryn Lynard Soper, says, “Although writing has been an interest of mine since I was a child, I did not pursue personal writing until 2003, when I was trying to digest a series of life-changing experiences. The writing process itself was so transformative that I decided part of my life work would be crafting personal writings and helping others do the same.”


This decision led her and two other mothers (Kylie Turley and Justine Dorton) into establishing The Segullah Group, a non-profit organization that publishes Segullah, Writings By Latter-Day Saint Women. Soper is editor-in-chief of the magazine, which features essays, poetry, historical and theological writings, artwork, and photography.


On her web site Soper describes herself as “Wife of one, mother of seven, memoirist, essayist, editor, nonprofit CEO, practicing Mormon, depression survivor, Down syndrome advocate, wanna-be guitarist, Greek-blooded Utah transplant, WordTwist addict and Coldplay groupie. (Not necessarily in that order.)” http://kathrynlynardsoper.com


I became acquainted with Soper (via e-mail) after an essay of mine was accepted for an anthology she edited.


MDC: First, what was the life-changing experience that led to your writing career?


KLS: In 2002 my fifth child, Matt, badly fractured his femur in a freak accident—he was only eighteen-months-old. A few months later, my sixth child, Sam, was born with premature lungs and had to spend three weeks in the NICU. His condition deteriorated at first, before he rallied and recovered. These were the first times children of mine had been seriously injured or critically ill, and the occasions shook me hard. I realized how little control I have as a mother over what happens to my children, and by association, to myself. I also realized that these painful and frightening experiences changed me for the better. They made me more open and compassionate, more tender-hearted. I explored those two themes—vulnerability and compassion—in my first essay, titled “Shaulee’s Door” (which can be read on my website).


MDC: I read it. The prose is heartbreakingly honest––and detailed. Am I correct to assume that you kept a journal during this time in order to write about it later?


KLS: No, I didn’t keep a journal at the time. I wrote the essay because the memories were so strong and vivid, they wouldn’t let me rest until they were expressed.


MDC: Tell me about The Segullah Group and its mission.


KLS: The purpose of the organization is to produce personal writings which include, inform, and inspire. In short, we want to create literary works which strengthen and support individuals, families, and communities. I founded the organization with two friends in 2005, when we were creating a new literary magazine by and for Mormon women. Since then the group has produced three anthologies, with one more currently being compiled.


MDC: What was the group’s first major project?


KLS: Our first book-length project was the anthology titled Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives. As the title suggests, this is a collection of essays written by mothers of children with Down syndrome. The book explores the gifts of respect, strength, delight, perspective, and love that children with Down syndrome bring to their families.


MDC: And the idea for Gifts emerged after you gave birth to a son with Down syndrome?


KLS: Yes; I had spent time at an online forum for parents of kids with Down syndrome. Reading their experiences made me realize that lots of people had feelings similar to mine––that is, many parents are scared at first, but outgrow their fear as they bond in love with their child. I felt these voices needed to be heard, and my intent was to create the book I wished I’d had during the dark winter following Thomas’s birth.


MDC: Did Segullah publish the book or did you find a traditional publisher?


KLS: We published the book at first, because landing a contract can take a great deal of time, and we felt a sense of urgency in releasing Gifts to the public. But we were fortunate––shortly after our version hit the market we signed a contract with Woodbine House, a respected publisher of materials regarding people with disabilities.


MDC: Now you’re publishing Gifts II. How does it differ from Gifts?


KLS: Gifts was written entirely by mothers, and the majority of the stories focused on experiences with young children. Gifts II includes stories written by a wide variety of people whose lives have been touched by Down syndrome—from siblings and grandparents to teachers and coaches. Also, there are many stories about school-age children, teenagers, and adults with Down syndrome.


MDC: How do you mix raising a large family with a writing and editing career? Do you have a specific time slot for writing?


KLS: It’s a constant challenge to balance my domestic and non-domestic pursuits. I write during my preschooler’s naptime, and when I’m under deadline I usually work for a couple of hours each morning while my children at home play. When I was writing the final draft of my memoir, it was summertime and I had my older children babysit the younger ones.


MDC: Do you ever use your children’s behavior and activities as writing material? Do they mind?


KLS: I’ve written quite a bit about my children on my blog, some of which is available for reading in the notebook section of my website. I’ve never had them object, but I try to be sensitive in what I say in public places, especially about my older children. They’re excited and proud to be prominently featured in my recently completed memoir. In fact, my oldest son keeps telling me he deserves a cut of the royalties because I write about him as part of the story.


MDC: You have a young entrepreneur on your hands. Now, about your memoir, The Year My Son and I Were Born (Globe Pequot Press)––what does the title mean?


KLS: The memoir is about my first year as a mother of a child with Down syndrome, my son Thomas. “Born” refers to the transformation I experienced that year. When Thomas arrived I was deeply upset by his diagnosis. I had always been uncomfortable around people with disabilities, and I feared I wouldn’t be a good mother for Thomas. I thought I wouldn’t be able to accept him for who he was, and truly delight in his company. I was ashamed of my fears and doubts, and thought they were a sign of unacceptable weakness. But in time, I came to fully embrace Thomas as my son, and I also came to terms with myself as a mother and a human being.


MDC: So, despite what you thought you’d learned from the experiences with your two younger sons, you were daunted by a child with Down syndrome?


KLS: Yes, I felt overwhelmed by all the implications. The injury and illness my other sons suffered were short-term, but Thomas’s disability would last as long as he lived. People told me that special children come to special parents, but I didn’t feel at all special. There was a wide gap between the mother I was and the mother I thought I needed to be, and at first I had a deep sense of inadequacy and even failure. But Thomas led me out of that dark place within myself and into the light of acceptance.


MDC: He found his purpose in life at an early age. How old is Thomas now?


KLS: He turned three in October. He’s quite the active preschooler these days.


MDC: Lastly, because I started with the premise “Why We Write,” why did you write the memoir?


KLS: I wrote it first of all for myself—writing is the way I make sense of things, the way I process experiences and integrate them into my life. So much happened during my first year with Thomas, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around it without writing. Secondly, I wrote for the benefit of others. I know there are mothers having similar experiences, and I want them to feel validated and understood. Just as importantly, I feel that the awakening I describe in the book is relevant to any reader, and I hope that my experiences will be of benefit to a wide spectrum of people.


MDC: I look forward to reading it. Your experience should be helpful to families who need encouragement and guidance in accepting a child with special needs. I hope they come to know that these children really are gifts (as all children are). I wish you continued success with your family and with your writing.


KLS: Thank you for this opportunity, Madonna.


[This interview first appeared in The Perspiring Writer, Spring 2009: www.theperspiringwriter.com. Look for The Year My Son And I Were Born, and Gifts 2: How People With Down Syndrome Enrich The World on Amazon.com or any major bookstore.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sunday Serenity 10-04-09

"I brought children into this dark world
because it needed the light that only a child can bring."

Liz Armbruster


Two ladies who have been on my mind a lot this week-
My love to Sarah and Liz


Photo credit: Sarah's Mom

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

A Child Shall Lead Me
By Madonna Dries Christensen


In 2004, my daughter and her husband were living in South Africa when their second child was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. When they informed family and friends, they added, “This baby is still a gift, just in different wrapping.” We all eagerly awaited this addition to our family.

With an immense geographical distance between us I could not gauge the extent of the couple’s feelings, but surely their minds eddied through a storm of emotions, fears, and questions. Still, I felt confident they could handle whatever came their way. This baby, who would require open heart surgery, was in the best parental and professional hands.

My daughter went into pre-term labor at 36 weeks. With medication, they were able to control contractions for a week before she returned to the hospital, where Sarah was delivered by C-section. Due to difficulty breathing and eating, she remained in NICU for three weeks.

At home, lacking the strength to breast or bottle feed, Sarah took formula and medication through a tube and was attached to an oxygen monitor. If her oxygen level dropped too low, a buzzer sounded. She did well on her own and needed assistance only a couple of times. Pride and admiration spilled over when I watched my daughter change the tube with speed and precision, causing Sarah the least amount of trauma. Soon we all relaxed a bit and began treating her like any newborn.

At three months, the cardiologist determined that it was time to repair Sarah’s heart. Family and friends formed a prayer circle that wrapped itself around the world via the Internet. The surgery went well, and Sarah’s walnut-sized heart began functioning properly. But a day later one of her lungs collapsed and doctors began a treatment they warned might not be successful. Again, we collectively held our breath and prayed. She rallied, but we later learned that she almost didn’t survive. After three weeks in NICU, she went home.

Back in the United States at five months, Sarah plunged into life full speed ahead. She wiggled across the floor when laid on her tummy. One could hardly hold onto her when changing her diaper. Enrolled in early intervention programs, she crawled at eleven months, spoke her first word at fourteen months, and walked at eighteen months. At twenty-eight months, she shouldered a pink backpack and eagerly climbed aboard a bus to the public school’s special needs class. Her first communication was signing, but she’s now verbal. She attends a regular Kindergarten, with supplemental Special Ed. Stepping off the “big girl” bus on her first day, Sarah clasped her sister’s hand and yelled, “I did it, Gracie.”

Sarah’s upbeat personality brightens a room. Children gravitate toward her (her mother silently calls her Queen Sarah). Boy classmates vie for her attention, but since the day she and a boy named Conner met in pre-school, they’ve been best friends. Sarah captivates adults with her disarming smile, her blue eyes, her corn silk blonde hair, and her sunny disposition. Well, sunny most of the time. Belying the myth that people with Down syndrome are always cheerful, Sarah exerts independence, spunk, and stubbornness.

Her energy propels me to keep physically and mentally active. Babysitting her and her siblings is a lesson in staying fit. When my grandchildren ask me to play, I’m ready. We enjoy endless games of Hide and Seek; walk to the playground, or to the creek to feed the ducks. We all love books. Having them snuggle on my lap while I read aloud is as luxurious as life gets.

Through Sarah, I’ve also earned to slow down. I’m more patient when waiting in line, or when an automated telephone voice puts me on hold. If the interim music is too loud and not to my taste, I remember that all birds sing, not just those with pleasant voices. I realize that different voices can be uplifting.

Before Sarah, I paid little attention to people with Down syndrome. Now I recognize beauty in their distinctive features, the mischief in their eyes; the honesty of their smiles and laughter. I chat with the young man who pushes my grocery cart to the car. I talk about reading with the teenaged girl who shelves books at the library. I understand that people with Down syndrome want to be, and can be, productive members of society. My husband and I attend Special Olympics and cheer each athlete’s performance. Confident of Sarah’s capabilities, we contribute to her college fund.

Sarah, with actor Chris Burke

An old adage claims that children with special needs are given to special people. I don’t believe that babies are distributed in that manner, but I believe parents who love and cherish these children become more understanding and nurturing because of them. I admire my daughter and son-in-law’s knowledge as they make decisions regarding Sarah’s future. Through their example and by watching her steady progress, I’ve learned to value the lives of people of all ages, with and without visible problems. At seventy-plus, I’m blessed with being led by a child who knows how to live each day to the fullest.

[This essay appears in the recently published anthology, Gifts 2: How People With Down Syndrome Enrich The World.]

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