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11 Observations About Being Fabulously Female

This summer I’ll be celebrating 44 revolutions of around the sun, and as such, I hope I have learned a thing or two about existing in the female form.  We’re a pretty remarkable bunch, I must say,  I am continually amazed by the women around me and my own self.

  1. It’s fabulous to be female…except when you have to pee outside.
  2. You can bleed for a week straight (or longer if you’re going through menopause) and not die.
  3. We have a reputation for being catty, but when it comes down to it, we have each other’s backs.
  4. No matter how thin you are, your body will have dimples and rolls.
  5. Fussing about the dimples and rolls won’t help.  (So just get over yourself.)
  6. Women are more likely to cuss than men.  (Perhaps there’s a reason for this, no?)
  7. Boobs are a blessing and a curse, and often both at once.
  8. Speaking of boobs, they’re lopsided, pretty much universally.  (Or is it just me?  Please tell me it isn’t just me!)
  9. We have less physical strength and speed than men, but more flexibility and better senses.  (I personally think there’s some huge advantages here).
  10. Our bodies change enormously throughout the normal lifespan, with more girls having more obvious changes than boys from puberty through old age.  (Fighting it doesn’t help).
  11. Multitasking, we rock at it!  (Speaking of which, I have been interrupted about 58 times during the writing of this post.)

You might notice, these have nothing to do with pregnancy or childbirth.  The capacity to produce children is remarkable, but women are so much more than our capacity to bear children.  I’m sure I haven’t covered them all, what is your favorite or least favorite thing (or anything in between) about being a woman?

parenting · special needs parenting · Uncategorized

“Should Have Aborted” (said the troll)

While I don’t want to give any undue attention to a troll, a rotten comment on one of my posts seems like an opportunity to examine the notion that we “should have aborted”. 

Abortion was never an option for me. I don’t suppose that surprises any readers. From the moment I knew I was pregnant I delighted in my children, and spent days fascinated by the magic occurring within me and the outside changes to my body. 

I didn’t suspect that my children would be born with a disability, and naively I just decided that I would love them no matter what, and declined any and all testing. 

When Alex was born and we were told he likely had Down syndrome (the testing takes several days to return, but we had accepted the diagnosis before it was confirmed), we were taken aback. I wondered if my husband would still want to bestow his grandfather’s name upon our son (he did), I wondered if our marriage would survive (it did, and I have since learned that parents who have kids with Down syndrome have a lower rate of divorce than average). There were many more questions and doubts both immediately and over the following years. 

Even though sometimes it’s tricky and tiring, I have never, even for the briefest moment, wondered if we should have aborted. 

If we had aborted we would have missed out on the sweetest boofy baby hair and the best smiles ever. 

If we had aborted, we would have missed out on so much joy, laughter, and fun. 

If we had aborted we might have missed out on a more unconditional love than we have ever witnessed elsewhere. 

If we had aborted we would have missed the best hugs ever. 

If we had aborted we would have missed many milestones which were only sweetened by their late arrival. 

If we had aborted we never would have known that Down syndrome would change us so much that we would want another child who has it. 

In the end, I feel compassion for the person who would troll a parent of a child with a disability by saying they should have aborted. I’m thankful we were able to see Alex as a child, a treasured human being who has so much to offer in this world. 

Last, it’s hard to be offended when your heart is full, so you picked on the wrong mama, you troll, but I did report it because I don’t know who you might troll next, and if it’s someone in a rough patch, I hope to spare them the stress. 

Best wishes troll-man, I hope that some day your grinch heart manages to grow. 

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9 Random Observations About Moving 

After a relocation process of over three months, our family is now settling in at our new house…our dream home. 


It’s been a happy process for us, set in motion by a promotion for my husband.  We anticipated many of the changes, though a few managed to blindside us.  But it’s the day to day details that stymie and delight us most. Such as:

  1. It is actually fun to clean a new (to me) house. I’m certain it won’t last, though. 
  2. Shopping at a new grocery store is terribly disorienting, especially when you’re hangry. 
  3. No matter how much you love your new home and yard, you will be compelled to change things to make it your own. 
  4. Having all new places to run will both thrill and discombobulate you, especially when you know exactly how far every possible run in every possible direction from your house is. 
  5. Cleaning and showering with different water changes everything. (Hair!)
  6. All family members (dogs included) will have emotions to process in their own time frame.  
  7. There will be many wrong turns because you have no idea where you’re going. (I just call it exploring and roll with it.)
  8. Figuring out new light switches. 
  9. We walk about an extra mile a day around the house trying to remember where we  stowed things.

It’s been over 15 years since I’ve moved, so this is a whole different ballgame for me. We’re still in the state where we’ve always lived, but an area we haven’t previously explored.  Change is exciting…and disorienting, but for me, mostly a whole new adventure! 

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Welcome to Holland? Or Welcome To The Amazon…

 

There’s a popular poem about the experience of parenting a child with a disability called “Welcome to Holland“.  It was an apt description of how I felt when we found out and processed the fact that Alex has Down syndrome.  However, I find it lacking for the more significant disability Ben has, so here is my own analogy:

When you walk through the woods near your home, you’re exploring. It’s fun, interesting, and exciting. While doing such things I have come across snakes (the Eastern Hognose variety), raccoons, unknown dogs (one who attacked my dog and me) and occasionally people I don’t know. Doing that exposes me to more variety and slightly elevates my danger from that of staying at home.  It’s a good, wholesome, fun, enjoyable, and completely normal thing to do.

That’s what having a typical child has been like for me.

When I visited Arizona I went for a run on a public property near the home of my in laws. There were cacti all over the place, and I made mental notes that snakes that I might encounter would be of a venomous type, and that even such things as ants, which in Michigan are fairly benign, could cause me real grief.  It was a bit more nerve wracking, a bit more exciting, and overall a great experience.  I recognized that I was outside of my comfort zone, but it was within a reasonable proximity of normal, and it was more of a mindset change than anything else.

That has been my experience parenting a child with Down syndrome. We took normal and kicked it up a notch.

The territory we unknowingly entered with Ben is more akin to an equatorial jungle. The vegetation is so dense that making headway is arduous and slow, but doable. The variety of the flora and fauna is stunning.  And terrifying.  It’s crucial to remain focused and attentive every second, even sleep is a luxury during which a certain vigilance must be maintained.  Specialized equipment is necessary to survive. Dangers lurk on every branch, flying, crawling, swimming.  A brief break from watchfulness could land you in a life or death situation.  It’s incredible it’s not for the faint of heart; only small populations live there, and tourists are few and far between.

This is life parenting a child with complex medical, developmental and mental health needs. It’s life on the edge.

We’re a highly specialized bunch, it’s adapt or die here, and adapt we do.  We develop skills and equipment to manage our extreme environment, always looking for the next breakthrough. We’re capable and savvy, though a bit more fierce than most civilized populations.

In the welcome to Holland poem, the comparison is Italy to Holland, but if you were planning a trip to Italy, imagine how woefully unprepared you would be in the jungle.  Even for us, planning another trip to Arizona, would be completely lacking in equipment and skills for the actual journey we’re on.

That’s where this analogy differs from the Holland analogy.  This isn’t a trip that we’re fairly well prepared for, this is being dropped into a place where we don’t have the knowledge, skillset or equipment to survive, we have to ad lib the whole thing; our only skillset is improvisation and the will to survive.

The most implausible part of it all is that we actually succeed at it; by sheer determination, fueled by passion and love.

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A Long Series of Lasts

As we flipped the calendar to May it marked our last month of living in this comfortable ranch we have called home for over 15 years.  I don’t count myself as nostalgic for the most part, but I do take note of the things we won’t ever do here again, or a long series of lasts.  For example, in April, we made our last payment on this house, which marked the first last that I noted.  But before that we had our last Christmas and Thanksgiving here, which were unbeknownst to us at the time.  Shortly after our last house payment, we had our last Easter, and now, in this last month, there will be innumerable lasts.  Small things like the last time we bring the trash to the curb, will actually feel monumental.

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When I ran in the woods last week, I noticed the trilliums in bloom, and realized that I won’t enjoy them here again next year.  As I always do, I stopped to enjoy them, but this time with a touch of melancholy, knowing that this annual gift that I delight in will go on next year without me here to partake in their beauty.

In my eagerness to leave, to move on to our dream house, I am loath to leave this home without recognizing the provisions we have enjoyed here for so long.  I hope to say a long goodbye, recognizing a series of lasts in which I give gratitude for all that we have enjoyed here.

Even as I type that, I am reluctant.  I have a root of bitterness because these past 15 years have been a protracted series of hardships which inundated us.  When I think of this place I think of years of chaos, and frankly, I yearn to leave the chaos here when we go.  I leave this place in hopes that we leave behind things like back and neck surgeries, GBS, family deaths, and all the many, many ailments Ben has encountered.  We have cried too many tears here, and I covet a change, not only in setting, but in the depth and breadth of hardships we will face.

I have given myself permission to hope again, after long since relinquishing all optimism and resigning myself to simply enduring.

Yet this home has been a safe place to land, a place where we have lived and loved and grown together, a shelter from the world.  In the comfort of this place we have become unified, strong, and resilient.  May this home provide the next family who lives here such warmth and shelter.

 

 

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What Happens When a Frugal Dutch Girl Starts Tossing Junk

At the very start of the relocation process we proclaimed that we would not move anything that, upon unpacking, we’d scratch our heads, wondering why we actually put it in a box and onto a moving truck.  Well, my husband proclaimed, I reluctantly agreed. As such began the purge. 

A little back story, I’m Dutch. The Dutch are notoriously frugal. 

Frugal:  sparing or economical with regard to money or food.

The trendy term is minimalist, but I was minimalist before it was cool, pretty much from the womb, in fact. I don’t buy much, but once I own it, I keep it, determined to put it to as much use as humanly possible. I’m pretty sure that in the Dutch language waste is a four letter word. Not only do we not buy much, we keep what we buy. 

Thus, this whole purging thing felt pretty much like blasphemy to me. 

Reluctance is the name of my game. Every item picked up gets careful consideration and a second opinion from my husband, whose universal answer is “toss it” (Shoot). I’ve always been good at the donations.  Armed with a pen and notebook I take careful inventory for tax deductions then take pleasure in dropping off the items at our local nonprofit which sells our items to provide support local families. Having volunteered for the organization I’m fully bought in and have zero qualms about sending them anything useful. 

It’s the throw away pile that kills me. 

Like the name meaning photo that was all the rage in the 90’s when we got married.  It’s been quietly hanging above our beds declaring our gifts to the world for almost 16 years in this house and 22 years total. I’ve never actually liked it. But tossing it?  Certainly there’s some value left in the warped page…

And our Christmas tree. Purchased from Target for $69.99 eleven years ago, just to get us through a couple of seasons. It started out pathetic and grew to be just hideous. I’ve taken pride in leaving it as wonky as possible and considering it my “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree”. But in our new house, a log house with cathedral ceilings and a stone fireplace, it simply won’t do. A majestic real tree will take it’s place this year, but not without a moment of silence for our beloved junker that will probably be found in an archeological excavation in the year 5872 by foljs wondering what the heck we did with such things. 

Once I got going this throwing away thing has it’s perks. It feels like freedom!  Like shedding skin! It is spring after all and suddenly the momentum is building and I’m hauling garbage bags from one room to the next, cackling as I go and skipping as I drag the overflowing dumpster to the curb, weighted down with 16 years worth of accumulated crap. 


Not that I’m getting carried away or anything. 

My husband who started the whole purging process in the first place can now be seen rushing to pack boxes as quickly as possible, attempting to save the last vestiges of our 22 years worth of accumulated household belongings.  It’s a hysterical race to see who gets the most stuff in their pile. He’s winning, but I still stand a chance. 

Nope, I’m not getting carried away at all. 

silliness · Uncategorized

9 Reasons You Won’t See Me Drinking a Unicorn Frappuccino

Out of the blue I’m seeing this Starbucks Frappucinno that looks like cotton candy swirled with sin. From the first moment I saw it I swore I’d never taste a sip, and for good reasons:

  1. I might default on my mortgage to pay for it. 
  2. I happen to be awfully fond of my pancreas. 
  3. My imagination is a touch too active and I get the heebeegeebees over the idea of partaking of a unicorn. 
  4. I’m afraid I’ll hate it and be salty for a week over spending all that money on a lousy drink
  5. I’m afraid I’ll love it and crave more. 
  6. My mama taught me I don’t have to do what all the other kids are doing. 
  7. If I’m dropping my hard earned cash at a Starbucks there had darn well better be caffeine involved!
  8. A fairy dies every time a barista mixes one. 
  9. But mostly because I’m stubborn and ornery. 

I’m passing on this craze, after all I’m pretty partial to my preexisting cravings, but if you do claim to partake, it didn’t happen unless there’s a selfie involved; bonus points for a Snapchat filter!