Dear vodka… it’s not you it’s me

Dear vodka,

First off, I’d like to say how good it was to see you again. It’s been awhile. I’ve pretty much spent the last five years being pregnant or taking care of infants and  I think we both get that you being around all that is a terrible idea. Anyway, I love how we left off right where we started; how we didn’t miss a beat. It was just like old times. Thanks for those times by the way. Thank you for all the years of upping my confidence, lowering my inhibitions,  improving my dance moves and making certain people more tolerable.You really helped me out in my younger years. I owe a lot of fun to you.

All that being said,  I think we should probably stop seeing each other. It’s not you, it’s me. You are still you…The life of the party, the spiller of truths, the aphrodisiac of the night life. Me, however, I have morphed. I think I mentioned, I’m a mom now? and I’m not a new mom  who is still under the disillusionment that her life will remain the same. I am a mom of 3….a 42 year old mom of 3. A 42 year old mom of 3 who are all under the age of 5. Yup. Would we have ever believed this back in the good ol’ days? Our lives run parallel these days. You on the fast track to fun with all of your flash and fabulousness while I am  having a different kind of fun. I’m changing diapers, kissing boo-boos, and reading bedtime stories.I bet you can see how our lives do not intersect.  The path that I’m on bears great responsibility and also comes with something called “mom guilt.” So, along with the headache that accompanied your evening companionship , I was adorned with shame, regret and embarrassment. For what? I am not sure. It’s not that we were dancing on tables or bringing home boys???  Nonetheless , because I have babies, you made me feel sad and sorry. It just doesn’t feel right to hang with you in excess anymore.

Now listen, if sometime I happen to be kid-less, on an all inclusive vacation, in Jamaica or Cancun,  well, then,we can have a torrid affair. And maybe, just maybe ,when the kids are grown and have left the nest we can reconnect. Perhaps my husband and I will invite you to our home, out to dinner, to the movies??!  But I’ll call you, don’t call me…because you belong to the free and I belong to my family.

Sincerely and without regrets,

Beth

Happy Birthday Baby 

When I first met you, I was scared of you. I’m ashamed and pained by my admission but it is true. I didn’t know what having you would entail and selfishly, how it would affect my life…..but I fought for you anyway. Not because I’m some sort of extraordinary super mom, but because I’m  your mom. Period. That’s it. I couldn’t bear for others to cause you pain, I cringed to think some may not understand you,or that someone could dare to not want the very best for you. You were so helpless and little. Plus, you were mine… so, I started writing and advocating and taking giant leaps out of my comfort zone to protect you. It was fierce and It was instinct. Those days are long gone now…..

IMG_3474

Now I fight for you because I am absolutely mad, crazy, and wild about you! I wouldn’t take that extra chromosome from you if you were holding it in your open hand. I love you so damn much it hurts. It’s weird to think that I would never take Down syndrome from you, but I couldn’t. It is part of what makes you so delicious. You are a rare coin, a winning lottery ticket, a coveted piece of sea glass.Your face filling smile and the way you work so hard are obsessions of mine….as is your perfect ratio of naughty to nice. Our family smiles so many more smiles because you are in it. We literally swoon daily. A friend in the Down syndrome world told me hearing his son say a new word is “Christmas Morning” Yes. You are Christmas morning my darling boy. Days with you are so much sweeter.  You’re doing life so eloquently perfect.

img_5651

You’re quiet coo of “yeeeaahhh” every single morning that wakes me with a smile. The way you grin ear to ear when I come into your room and urge for me to get you. Your quick but quality hugs complete with obligatory back pats before you run off to do all the things waiting to be done. The way you despise any type of clothing change but will oblige as long as you are serenaded. How you love music, dance and song like your mama. As Timberlake suggests, you “can’t stop the feeling.” Your adorable peg leg circular dance moves complete with arm rolls and head bops. The way you throw the most perfect dramatic tantrum that attempts to invoke anger but in contrast enamors me. How far your speech has come in just the few short months since your ear surgery. We hang on every” eee–iii—eee-iii–ooo,” every “all done” and all of hundreds of times you attempt to sing “head shoulders knees and toes.” How you start to say mama but dissolve into giggles. How you push Calvin out of the way when you feel you’re lacking in attention and how the two of you play chase together like true brothers do. The way you unsuccessfully attempt to be gentle as you put a blanket on the baby and the way you sweetly kiss him being careful not to get too close. The way you don’t ever ever stop and how you keep us forever young and engaged. We cannot be complacent with you . We love how it’s not allowed.

img_5638

We have always believed in you  and at the very same time we  thought we had to prepare ourselves. For what I’m not sure? You do nothing but exude joy to every single person you meet.

So now I fight for you because a life without you in it seems unfathomable. It is all so very worth it… and it is not even despite the hard work but because of it. I honestly believe that the rest of the world is missing out and that we are winning at a better life because we have you in it….So, on your second birthday I still protect you with a ferocity I have never known . Only now it is not just because I’m your mom but because your worth exceeds my wildest dreams. I am so extraordinarily proud of what your life has done to this world and I love you with every piece of my soul.  Happy Birthday Baby.

 

An open letter to my sister 

 

I know you aren’t blood. We didn’t grow up with the same mom and dad. We didn’t share clothes or childhood secrets…but we do share my brother and for that I am forever thankful.

When the two of you started dating, I didn’t know I needed another friend, but I made a best one. Thank you for letting me be your much older, third wheel and for keeping me in a constant fit of giggles. As our number of road-trips and repertoire of inside jokes grew,  so did our love for each other. I admired you deeply.  It was almost like you were the older one, as I tried to follow in your constant, considerate footsteps. You,  who never misses a birthday or a beat. You perfectly planned my bachelorette party. You tenderly delivered your maid of honor speech and  you never wavered in your commitment to our friendship. It isn’t just me by the way,  I notice how you greet everyone you know with heart. You, my younger, darling sister-in-law, somehow have managed to weave maturity into simultaneous silliness. I  have always been so enamored by your grace and I’ve never taken for granted our fun. And just like that, one crazy night in Massachusetts,  with a waiter who was Susan Sarandon’s brother, we nicknamed ourselves Thelma and Louise.

As we grew, good times morphed. I went from third wheel, to getting married and eventually we had children. Our wild nights shape shifted to family events and  our laughter always remained.

.menlou

…until it didn’t. The laughter stopped. I answered your phone call just hours after Judah was born. You being you, stole  a second away from your demanding job to see how I was doing. ….and I told you “we think he has Down syndrome.” From that moment on, you did everything right.  Thank you for that.

Thank you for not holding it all together when I said “we think he has Down syndrome.” Thank you for just the right amount of tears.  Thank you for never saying “I’m sorry.” Thank you for acceptance without one million questions.  Thank you for not saying “it will all be fine” because you knew me and you knew I wasn’t.  Thank you for sharing those difficult moments with me, quietly, elegantly, and in solidarity with me. Your expert amount of sadness saved me you know? If you, my hero, could share in it, then perhaps my sorrow was justified.  I was allowed to be it and you held no judgement.

As we rolled home from the hospital, you continued to save me on a daily basis. Thank you for all the check-ins.  Thank you for calling Judah beautiful and for capturing the beauty you helped me see with your phone. Thank you for taking off work to help me wrap Christmas presents when the spirit would have otherwise escaped me.  Thank you for blow drying my hair for me when the pain was a thousand jellyfish stings. Thank you for the satchel full of little hair ties which actually led me to write this post. The other day I saw this brilliant little pouch tucked deeply in the back of my bathroom drawer. It was filled with my nieces  little pony holders and when I opened it, I opened the floodgates. Emotions and memories  became as fresh as cut daisies. Keeping my unkempt hair out of my eyes was such a small gesture but it kept me all together just the same. You were full of small gestures that kept me all together then: The way you raced to the rescue when Judah was sick and took Calvin as if he was your own son. The way you took him to urgent care because he didn’t seem right to you and how you gave him his nebulizer treatments when he was diagnosed with pneumonia. The way you put the mask on his beloved stuffed Rudolph to ease his apprehension and even the way you took initiative and cut his hair when it was getting in his goopy eyes. Then the way you took him to get his hair professionally fixed after you gave him the “Julie Andrews.” The way you came to see Judah in the hospital and again shed the appropriate amount of tears.  The ones I needed to see. The ones that told me this is hard and that I was allowed to have a moment. The ones that accompanied your hug as you  uttered “I can’t imagine.” Thank you for being my shoulder even when you couldn’t imagine Down syndrome and RSV and pain that was swirling around me.

Thank you for being there with me when I returned from the hospital to find out my dog was dying; A dog that you came to meet the second I brought him home 8 years earlier. Thank you for going right along with the crazy as I spent hundreds of dollars on herbs and supplements an thank you for helping me concoct the disgusting, smelling serum I thought just might just save my puppy.

Thank you for rescuing me over and over again. I don’t know that I ever really let you know just how much it mattered. And now two years later we are back.  We are all laughs and jokes and girlie giggles again…but we are so much more.  I will never forget what you did for me. We are in it for the long haul. We are here for inside jokes and we are here in times of anguish. We are friends, we are family, and we are sisters.  I love you!!!

meeeeeeeeenlou

Compare and Contrast

I’ve been doing a lot of comparing lately….not in destructive sort of way but in a way I imagine moms with three little ones do. Which birth was easiest, who was the fussiest, which little darling had the longest toes. 

Reality sliced a nerve as I realized that today Augie is 19 days old. The same age that Judah was when we were admitted to the hospital for 13 debilitating days. December 18th,  2014 is a day so ingrained and a part of me that I can smell the same crisp air as I rushed Judah to the doctor… leaving my helm at red lights to climb in back and make sure he was still breathing.  I can touch the trauma, I still shiver at the uncertainty and feel the crippling guilt of how Down syndrome still enormously overshadowed his illness.

Augie is 2 pounds bigger than Judah was when he got sick but he seems smaller and newer somehow. We had been through so much with Judah by this time. Each day was a year as we continued to grip our new normal. We were  told by his pediatrician “he had that thing we thought he had” Four ladies had just been in my house evaluating his every coo and move. There were some close to us who were unsure how to handle the diagnosis. Some overcompensating , some wanting to be the ones to tell the world, some acting like nothing was going on; most at a loss for how to help. We had a revolving door of visitors by this time; people trying to keep me grounded. Christmas was so close you could smell the pine and sugar cookies. And through it all we were still attempting not to disrupt the world of our little 2 year old. All of this swirled around the short days of falling in love with Judah and so today the comparison shakes me a little.

I think I will always cradle the post-traumatic-stress that surroundsJudah at 19 days old. I will always hold tight to the hospital and breathing tubes and RSV and dreams of Christmas shattered. I almost want to keep them close. I think it’s important. Adversity breeds strength and it breeds appreciation. 


As I sit here cradling my 19 day old, I wonder  how the hell I was strong enough to copilot another 19day old baby  in an ambulance and watch him fight for his life. I wonder and  I cry about it. Perhaps it is unhealthy to  relive Judah’s past and compare  what I have with Augie to what I went through back then?? Or perhaps, our pain should remain in some diluted form  to serve as a reminder of how we survived it, how we handled ourselves with grace and how human beings are incredibly capable of moving past what we thought might destroy us.

Thank you Friend 

I have to say goodbye to a friend today. I’m struggling as most people do with death. In this case we are talking about a  mother leaving her young son and loving husband behind ,so the sting seems slightly stronger. We are talking about a woman who fought tirelessly in the face of cancer. We are talking of a lady so open and honest in her journey that it was tough to read sometimes…and we are talking about a scenario where holding onto your faith is like keeping your umbrella upright in a windy rainstorm. I don’t understand but my guesses are plentiful. She was too good for this place? God needed her more than we did? She came to teach us something?

I met Jodie only once before she became sick. She showed up at a mutual friend’s harvest party with a sparkling newborn and a matching smile. You could tell that boasting about her beautiful bundle was exactly where she wanted to be. Pride floated around that party like bopping balloons and we were all in celebration mode. I recently had my first little boy too so the connection was there and our small talk centered around our babies.

The next time I met her was Christmas night  at the same mutual friend’s house. It was a casual affair and I immediately accepted the invitation because I heard karaoke would be involved. When I arrived I saw Jodie and also found out we would be singing tunes on her brand new karaoke Christmas present . She may have loved karaoke more than I did. She refreshed my memory about how we met and then launched in to how she had just found out  that she was sick. I was a bit awe struck of  how easily  she shared with me. We barely knew each other and yet at the same time I totally got it. There are two kinds of people out there. There are those who are very private, choosing only to bring in their very dearest into their world and to bring them in slowly. Then there are people like Jodie. People who approach you and boldly say, “I have cancer. It’s stage 4.” I remember my reaction when she said “stage 4 ” and I remember it not being a good one. I may have even possibly gasped. I didn’t know a ton about cancer but I knew stage 4 was not the stage to be in. I still regret that reaction… but you know what? I honestly think Jodie was okay with it. I am a sharer like her, hence this blog that bears into my soul. I do it because I want the gang to rally around me, because secrets eat me alive, because if I’m  inwardly freaking out I want you gasping right along with me. 

 Jodie and I sang our little hearts out that night and all the while I was impressively stunned about a girl who just shared “stage 4” and was still belting out show tunes.

After that night I decided  I had to follow her brave crusade. I read her posts on Facebook and eventually her late night soul stirring blog posts. Never in my life have I ever even considered donating blood until Jodie asked us all to do it. She said that it really could help people like her. Both Bobby and I went that week. Bobby still goes and we will probably donate blood in her honor for the rest of our lives. We got to really know her family. We went to the best summer Christmas party for Sammy; complete with snow and Santa. Our kids went to school together and just last year Jodie was dressed to the nines to surprise her son at the Halloween parade. Her spirit was palpable .  You could touch it. You wanted to be it. And I found myself asking a million times “how the hell is she doing all this?” It’s the one thing I wish I asked her. The why was evident. She wanted to make memories for her son and she wanted to be in them…but the how? How do you climb out of that dark to be such a force of light? What in the world did she know?

img_8001

The last few weeks weighed on those who rooted for her and saw her WINNING! There were setbacks. When her Facebook posts became sparse I worried. When her sister started posting for her I started praying…hard! I spoke a lot with God. We chatted about how I knew it was impossible to ask Him to take away cancer. I reasoned with Him. I said if everyone got their wish of no more cancer then our planet  may not survive. I told Him that I got it and and how I understood. I even mentioned that maybe He was unable to take cancer away and that was okay too. Justification. I said what I needed to say to make sense of a tragedy. I also added that if Jodie DID make a miracle recovery I could totally believe in that. For her,  a miracle actually seemed possible.Some people just leave an impression that is miracle worthy.

As I entered the hospital on Thursday after my water broke, I scrolled Facebook to pass the time. I saw the first profile picture changed to one of Jodie, then a second and then I knew. She was gone. It took me a bit to confirm what I knew …but she did indeed lose her war. Bobby and I sat there about to bring new life into this world and we grieved. We grieved for her husband and her young son and for the miracle we all wanted so badly. I started with my “why’s.”  Why did we get to be sitting here having a baby and she lost her life? It felt so unfair,  It felt so guilty. It seemed  way too much “circle of life ” for me in that moment. But I also felt thankful. I felt thankful I knew her, thankful she would be watching over me in that delivery room, thankful she was being glorified all over the place.  She made her life matter. Here I was at the pinnacle of an important moment in my life and she was there….just as she would be scattered throughout little Sammy’s memories and dispersed among stories from loved ones. And while God may not  always be  clear  about why tragedies happen, He is always clear in the lesson…we walk away more somber, more broken, but more grateful for what we have, more aware of greatness when we see it and with more  understanding of how life should be lived. Thank you for the example Jodie. You will be sorely missed.

How 3 Fixed Me ; An Augie Story

It is still all so deliriously raw. They walked in and repeated again what they had been asking since 2am “are you ready to push?” With heavy eyelids and longing to escape reality, I emphatically shook my head; no! Then The time came when pushing was my only option and so tears poured. As they streamed in sync with self awareness, I uttered ” I’m scared.” Now, this statement on its own is by no means a revelation. Birthing a baby, even if it happens to be your third, is a frightening time. My leeriness exceeded even my own expectations though.  I suddenly discovered that I was never going to be ready to welcome this wonder into the world. I knew too much. My forty plus years and almost two in the world of special needs had spooked me and they spooked me good. I had now been privy to moms not making it to the part where they whispered ” Happy birthday” to the pink person they created. I’d bared witness to too many littles who became angels with the teeniest of wings. I now knew of hundreds of disabilities that never even existed to me before Judah. I was no longer the naive 38 year old mom that I had been just four years earlier . 38. A number considered geriatric by an OB’s standards…but to me it was an age when I knew nothing except where babies came from and  how they were born. My biggest fear back then was just exactly how much my lifestyle might change. Now,  as contemplated pushing,  I envisioned everything  from me dying to a life completely altered by the overshadowing need that came  from special needs. For the last nine months I  said it was in God’s hands and I meant it. I prayed, oh how I prayed…. and I prepared. At least I thought I prepared. But in that moment,  where I was reacquainted with how life altering one moment could be, I did not want that one moment….not yet anyway.

August James Craver came into this world just like he came into our lives nine months earlier….with ease. I’ve said before that he willed himself into this world and that is still our truth. We would have never picked to have another baby. Risks and calculations and trauma all contributed to that certainty. Unbelievably , when I witnessed that little plus sign pop up  in our church bathroom stall, my heart raced and I shook like a leaf. What was I going to do?

Well, I was going to have a baby that’s what I was going to do. There were no options, no redo’s, no choices. So, slowly acceptance grew along with my little nugget. I had to handle this pregnancy with great care to emotionally withstand it.  Physically I was struggling, emotionally I was worse. I have written before about how we used resources to give our baby the best shot at life, then we held on to faith and let go…..I never truly let go.

Augie was a good little baby inside my growing belly. He gave me heartburn and  he gave others the permission to call me huge or ask if I was having twins. But he was perfection. He measured right on, moved the right amount of times, passed his diabetes tests, got active for non stress tests, smiled for sonograms. You could say he did it all on cue. He was  what to expect when you were expecting. Also, I’m in pretty good tune with my body so I felt deep down like he was healthy. I also felt that he was a boy, but I waivered. He seemed boy but I was so moody, unsocial, agitated. I was a pretty good shell-hiding hermit this go around and I just kind of wanted to be left alone. Many wished Augie was a girl for me and I thought that he just might be. I’d never cried so much. I never flip flopped between elation and emotional distress so often…and I never even thought that perhaps my subconscious was reeking havoc on my consciousness.

Keeping in time with what pregnancies  are supposed to do, my water broke on its own. That never happened with my other two.  It broke in school, in a meeting, 2 days before I was to be induced. Good little Augie. I also had a natural progressing labor. Another first. No Pitocin, just good old fashioned hurt like a bitch labor. It was pretty amazing and after 3 maybe 4 terrifying pushes I held my baby boy!!

Here’s what immediately followed. I cried so hard my stomach hurt. Relief washed over me tsunami style and I became me again. I was happy. I was joking and I was smiling. Reality set in that this was my baby. Different babies riddled with illness, disabilities and lifelessness drifted away and I sailed back to the me I knew so well.

img_5383

Not my prettiest moment…but one of my most defining.

Hours later, as I pranced proudly around the hospital with Augie in his clear crib and a permanent grin on my face, so many thoughts came tumbling in. Like how I’d pretty much avoided all social contact for the last nine months. Like how I was petrified of other trisomies, of Zika , of the uncertainty that couples pregnancy. Like how I tossed between lashing at my husband or crying on his shoulder. Like how little sleep I got, how I had no patience, how I gripped my little ones in the weeks before for dear life and how this hospital reminded me of an incredible sadness almost 2 years earlier.  I thought about how on this day I said good morning to all the nurses and chatted…how we were called “one of the nicest couples they had ever met.” Then I reminisced about just two years prior on the very same floor. I could barely open my eyes they were so stung from crying. I could think of nothing but Down syndrome and it ate me alive and spit me out. I hid my baby then. I never left my room. I never left the bed. I was devastated and I surely thought I may die from a broken heart. My delivery of Judah was more painful than words can even do justice to. My pregnancy with August, more stressful than I could ever realize until it was all over and we were safe. I cannot begin to explain how it feels to have nine months of inner turmoil between acceptance no matter what and a fear so grand it scares you to even whisper it into the universe. I can’t describe what it means to literally pull that fear right out of your body and  realize that everything is ok; that I woke up from a million nightmares I created to the face of an angel. I cannot convey the relief  to never have to be pregnant again and carry all of that worry in my womb.

Do not be sad I never got the elusive girl. I’m not even sure I ever wanted one? I wanted one for the people who wanted me to have one. I wanted one for Calvin who wanted a sister and for Bobby who has a soul built for both sons and daughters, but for me? It’s not what mattered. I still am crying daily tears of gratitude that fear has left the building, that I am actually allowed to be happy. I haven’t stopped smiling about how fun my life just got and  how this is exactly where I was meant to be. I am in awe still of how new life is absolutely amazing and  I am just soaking it all in from fingers to toes.

img_5220

With Calvin, I was too busy  trying to not let my new baby change anything and  with Judah I was too busy reveling in the wonderful way his birth had changed everything.

August  has his  namesake because we loved Augie . It is also in honor of August 15th…not because it’s my birthday.  It is the Immaculate Conception of Mary and it is the birthday of St. Anthony. These two religious figures played dramatic roles in my pregnancies and They have protected our family fiercely. The amazing way They have shown themselves can only be described as divinity and so it only felt right to pay homage. . Like Calvin and Judah, August has come to show us something too. He has taught me how memories that haunt me do not define me. He has shown me that I do not have to fear life just because it banged me up a bit. He taught me how I deserve to be happy; how I deserve a great life. He led me  to let go of what hurt me  and enjoy the good.

img_5372

I am crazy and madly in love with three little boys who have each transformed my world in a way that only they could do….and I wouldn’t trade that for all the pink bows in the world.

img_5259

Lesson Learned

Quick recap.  I have been posting a little nugget everyday in October about Down syndrome.  It is Ds awareness month and so I’m stepping into my advocating boots and splashing knowledge around just like other fellow mamas of these littls.   I’ve had to wake up quite early to face this feat and as I woke up one Friday I knew I wanted to speak of the way people with Down syndrome view themselves.  What I didn’t know, was that there was a knot in my belly  eating away at me.  I was desperately  embarrassed to share but good bad or ugly, I  realized that I have to be all in on this journey.  So, bleary eyed, sleepy and with a worry I was saying too much… I decided to reveal my deal.  I told of a kindergartner in my class who called my baby Judah ugly.  It was a gut punch and I was sad.  I was stunned and I was unequivocally angry.  I put that all out there on social media and the response was astonishing. The thoughtful words came down in a heavy pour and advice bolted brilliantly through.  I decided to pick bits of pieces of all the wisdom sent my way and what follows is how I handled my torment….


Friday morning, I had every intention of being angry at my pint sized name caller.  After all, she was careless with my feelings and embodied a  fear  I will be forced to face throughout my entire life.   I had no intent of trying to get into it and  instead, I prayed time would help the fury fade….but as I read countless comments on social media urging me to turn this into a lesson, I decided that even small children could benefit from the voice that I am on my blog.  I wasn’t sure quite how I would approach the messiness of  my feelings but I knew it had to be better than being bitter.

I’d like to start by saying that this little girl is a good kid.  She is a smart cookie and downright adorable to be honest.  She is helpful and loves to assist me.  She also turned fragile when someone told me what she said about  Judah. Frankly, I was stunned and  I said nothing in reply. I brushed away lightly what was weighing so heavily on me inside.

Friday morning I called my kiddos to the carpet for morning meeting as I always do. We greeted each other with a handshake.  I made sure we all used a right-handed,  firm handshake.  I ensured that everyone was greeted with eye contact, a smile and that we used each other’s names. This is always my expectation. I trust that the manner river  runs deep in my room; sometimes deeper than academics. The little girl in question was  called to leave. A teacher came to take her to give her some challenging one on one time because she literally is the smartest child in my class. I asked that she remain because I had a very important lesson to share. This is when I launched into my classroom rules;  specifically number 6…a caring heart. We had a discussion about what it meant to have a caring heart and the most popular response was that it entailed being nice or kind. I then asked the class what they would want in a friend; what kind of things they would  like their friend to be like. A little boy up front chose love! I wasn’t expecting that but my heart leapt the sound of it. Yes!!! I responded a bit to eagerly. You want your friend to love everything thing about you no matter what. I asked for another answer and saw my little darling raise her hand.  Natural curiosity led me to choose her. Her reply was gold. Innocent as could be she said “Cute. I want my friend to be cute.” It’s like opportunity strapped on its cape and flew right into the center of my morning circle.Instead of responding I turned the question to the class “does a person have to be cute to be a good friend?” A pretty resounding “no” returned from the crowd. . Most of them knew that cute did not need to be acquainted with friendship.   I quickly moved on as not to embarrass my little offender. But inwardly it hit me. Someone was telling this sweet girl with braided pigtails that being pretty ( being cute) is  what mattered. Judgement didn’t fly , embarrassment did .I recognized how many times I focused on cute in my early days.  I was drawn to the cute puppies, the pretty dress, the beautiful looking friends. Anger quickly dissolved in that circle and understanding washed over me.

img_4911

Next I took advice of an friend on Instagram and played the YouTube video of the book “Have You Filled A Bucket Today”” I’d read the story before and knew it’s message was one of humanity, but I had forgotten the delicious premise. As the story unfolded itself in front of me again, I knew this was where I wanted to head. I didn’t want to hone in on what not to do but rather what is good and true in this big bad world of ours. The premise of the story is that when you say nice things to people you fill up their imaginary bucket making them feel good inside.   However, if you say mean things then you are emptying their bucket making them feel bad. When you do this, you are also emptying your own bucket making you feel bad. I love the point that the author makes about how people think emptying others’  buckets will fill their own. Ahhh, what a way to bridge the  adult concept that people are sometimes mean to make themselves feel better.. On the contrary, the author states,  when you fill others buckets you actually fill your own. Brilliant!!! The story is an impressionable little anecdote for the wee ones and delivered the other part of my message across quite nicely.

Be kind, speak gently, live with tolerance and don’t judge others on how they look.

Now came the hard part.So far these were just character lessons that should be taught anyway. But now I had to bring up Judah and to put him in any other place than the pedestal I place him on, is a tough place for me to go.

I said, “now maybe some of you noticed that my baby Judah looks a little bit different and that is because he has Down syndrome. That is why he isn’t walking  or talking quite yet; but he will. He is the same as all of you but it just takes him a little longer to do things.  I don’t want you to miss out on Judah though because Judah is a great friend. He loves s no matter what and is always kind to people. Also, it makes him sad and me ,his mommy, sad when people take from his bucket; if they are uncaring with his heart. He feels it and so do I.”….. I was strong people. My voice didn’t quiver and my eyes didn’t brim. I was all so easy to say and I felt I was easy to talk to. The kids had questions and most inquired about when he would talk or walk, how old he was, what toys he liked….

I did my job. Did any little 5 year old walk away that day thinking “wow I should really be less judgmental and keep my thoughts to myself if they aren’t nice?” Probably not. But here’s what did go down. These kids got to know my son. Fear was replaced with curiosity, and a  face they may have never seen before was replaced with familiarity. Now days, my students STILL ask about him all the time. When they see a picture of him they say “there’s Judah” like he is a buddy. That’s all I can ask for. All I can ask  is that Judah is not  seen as a statistic or percentage or disability, but as a someone. The kids got that!

On a side note:  I later explained to another teacher in the room with me why I taught that whole little lesson. She did not hear what I heard the day before. She said to me, ” oh I didn’t hear that.  I did hear a kid say twice how beautiful Judah’s eyes were.” At that point, I suddenly remembered it too. This boy did not say that Judah’s eyes were almond shaped, had brush-field spots or that one turned in a little bit.   He said that they were beautiful blue eyes.  In that moment I learned a lesson too. I learned how I need to give equal weight to all the things I will hear about Judah . I cannot walk around life focusing on the fear that someone may not be instantly in love with him.  If I do that I’m doing myself a disservice.   I’m missing out on all the rule number #6’s, the caring hearts,  that swirl around Judah every single day.

img_4211