To All The Moms NOT on Vacation Christmas Week

Christmas Spread So, my dear hubby scored the much-coveted Christmas week for vacation this year… which is nice for him because he works nights and, with the kids home for Christmas break, God and I know he would NOT get any sleep around here this week. It’s nice having him home to spend some time with us!

On the first evening of his vacation, Daddy put on his coat to make an apple juice run. My Big Little Man — now ten pounds smaller than his genetically- but no longer so physically-identical brother — asked with trepidation, “Daddy, you go to work?” Daddy replied happily, “No! I’m on va-ca-tion this week. That means I don’t have to go to work! AND, you are also on va-ca-tion! That means you don’t have to go to school this week!”

IMGP0356The Big Little Man responded, “Me? No school?”

“That’s right. You’re on va-ca-tion!” Daddy repeated.

“Oh, va-ca-tion? Lala too? (his sister)

“Yep, Lala’s on va-ca-tion too!” smiled Daddy.

“My brother?”

Daddy responded, “Yep, on va-ca-tion!”

“Mommy?”

“Um…

Ah…

No! Mommy is NOT on vacation!”

(SOOOO NOT right!)

Read a bit about our Christmas here.

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Unexpected Angels — The Carney Man

I’ve come to realize that encountering angels is really about me being open to their aura as opposed to the angels not shining their golden light on me and mine. The more stress and/or less grateful I’m feeling, the more I fail to recognize the angels among us. That is NOT to say that they are not out there doing their good work on my behalf but to acknowledge that there are times in my life when I’m not attending to those very special people who confirm for me that there is good in all humankind.

These days living in my corner of the world has been challenging. If you watch the news, you might’ve seen my little town of Oceanside highlighted as one of the hardest hit on Long Island. Yes, we are in the thick of recovering from Superstorm Sandy’s destructive forces here on Nassau County’s south shore of Long Island. And, like my experience on 9/11, I fully intend to write a blow-by-blow just the way I experienced it from my front stoop… but that’s a different story. This one here is about an angel that I encountered in a most unexpected place but failed to acknowledge sooner.

So, with a touch of survivor’s guilt and no further ado, in my usual better-late-than-never manner I’d like to tip my halo (yeah… as if I have one) to the Carnival Man at the Clown Head Water Balloon Shoot trailer at the Freeport  Nautical Mile Fall Festival held in October. A GREAT BIG THANKS to this kind little Carney Man who made my Little Man’s day!

This story actually begins at Hershey Park when, in one of many failed attempts to catch up with old friends who were serpentining from ride to ride, we found ourselves in a far corner of the park where hubby and the Old Soul decided to hit the Twin Racers roller coaster.  To pass the waiting time, the Big Little Men and I sidled up to the Clown Head Water Balloon Shoot game. You know the one where you shoot the water gun into the clown’s mouth and it blows up a balloon. And, the first shooter to pop his/her balloon wins a prize. As it was near the end of the day and in a remote corner of the park my two Little Men were the only players which, as luck would have it, guaranteed us a winner… and a prize. I laid down my four bucks and the starting bell sounded. Both boys took reasonable aim then pulled and held their triggers and the balloons began to fill. As they say in the old west, the luck of the draw went to the Big Little Man who filled and popped his balloon before the little Little Man (who, as I may have mentioned before is now quite a few pounds heavier than his identical twin brother). As the victor, the Big Little man selected a small black-and-white stuffed penguin which he promptly named “Banner” after Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk’s kinder, gentler alter ego.

Just a tad jealous, the Little Man wanted to play again, but as the ride across the way had just let out, there were now four other players and our chances of winning significantly decreased to odds I was not willing to throw money against. So we meandered away with promises that the Little Man would have his chance to win a prize while I discreetly high-fived the Big Little Man on his win.

A few weeks later the opportunity to even the score arose. Perusing the ride options at Freeport Nautical Mile’s Fall Festival with Grandma and the kids I spied the Clown Head Water Balloon Shoot game and a sign ensuring there was “A Winner Every Time!” With the trailer presently devoid of patrons, I quickly laid my money down and confided in the hagard-looking traveling Carney Man that My Little Man needed to win because the Big Little Man won last week. He nodded with a conspiratorial grin and assigned The Boys water guns on either end of the trailer. But just as he gave me my change and prepared to start the competition another two children and their mama wandered over to the trailer. SHOOT! I mean… we needed to start SHOOTING before they laid down their money. I was betting on a two-man shoot-out without interference from outsiders who could beat us to the prize. But before the Carney Man sounded the starting bell, the other mom laid her money down and manned the mounted gun right next to my Little Man. UGH!

Carney Man must have seen the desperation in my eyes and gave me a secret wink and nod saying quietly, “It’s alright. I’ve got him!” The bell sounded promptly and the other Mom — apparently hellbent on teaching her own boys a different lesson than the one I was hoping to instill in mine — filled and popped her balloon well before any of the young shooters ever had a chance.

Truth be told, I was a little ticked off at her adult competitiveness and utter lack of empathy for My Little Men… if not for her own. I mean, how competitive mom missed or ignored the fact that she was interfering in something critical when she stepped up to the counter where two identical Little Men with Down syndrome were squaring off for a gun fight against each other, I’ll never know!!! But it reminded me of Seinfeld’s friend Kramer playing “kah-rah-tay” against little children, or the iCarly episode when Chef Ricky Flame wrestles little children to soothe his battered ego. Grow up… right?

Well, if I was devastated by the outcome I could only imagine my Little man’s thoughts… but we weren’t disappointed for long! Holding his palm up in the universal “hold your horses” sign to the winning mom, Carney Man announced loudly, “We have a winner” and promptly told My Little Man to choose his prize. He excitedly picked the banana with long dreadlocks hanging from a colorful knit hat and, hugging his new banana, thanked Carney Man profusely and marched off the proud winner. With the utmost gratitude, I thanked Carney Man myself, quietly and behind the Little Man’s back. And as we cruised happily away, I spied Carney Man giving competitive mom her prize while her boys stood idly by.

God knows Carney Man did not have to accommodate us but, based on his actions, I also know that he totally understood just how important it was to my Little Man — and to me — that he got his turn to win a prize… just like his brother. What Carney Man did was extraordinary and I owe him a debt of gratitude. I hope he knows just how much his actions meant to us and how grateful I am to him for making My Little Man a very happy gun fighter that day. His “RastaNana” now has a prominent spot in his room… right next to “Banner” the penguin.

Posted in Angels, children, compassion, doing the right thing, good deeds, identical twins, random acts of kindness, thankfulness | 2 Comments

Scaring My Boys: The Ride That Makes Me Laugh Till I Cry

In honor of Halloween, over the weekend some of our friends brought their kids to SpookFest at Tanglewood Preserve and scared the daylights out of them on a super-haunted walk through the woods. My Guys would never go for that. But offer them a ride on the giant slide at the carnival and they can barely contain themselves! Scared out of their wits with each drop, their faces reflect their obvious fear. Folks around me watch as I break up in gut-wrenching laughter as The Boys’ terror grips then releases them alternately with each bump in the slide.

True! I ALWAYS say “yes” to the slide!

I once let them ride a giant slide at the St. Anthony’s Feast three times in a row… just because I got such a kick out of seeing the terror on their faces. As I told my friends to watch for the terror phenomenon, an eavesdropping bystander appeared appalled by my amusement in my children’s fear.  Appalled, that is, until he witnessed their big-slide, over-the-bump fear-faces himself. By the time My Boys hit the bottom of the slide, he was doubled over laughing with the rest of us. And, just so he didn’t think I was totally cruel, I told him to watch what happens at the end of the ride… When My Boys jumped up and yelled, “AGAIN! AGAIN!”

“Absolutely!” Who am I to spoil their — any my own — good time?

So on Sunday at the Freeport Nautical Mile Street Festival, once again, I did not deny My Beautiful Little Men their fun… and terror…. Twice! Yes, twice they climbed the big long rickety metal staircase up several flights to get to the top of the slide (honestly, that’s the part that scares me). And, yes, they were TERRIFIED on the way down. And yes, they absolutely leaped with joy at the bottom, smiling and screaming, “AGAIN MOMMY! AGAIN!”

What made this ride different from every other giant slide ride that came before? My big new digital-SLR camera (remember my 50th birthday present?) caught the action — and terror — with amazing and hysterical accuracy… and now, I get to share it with YOU!!!

Note: This is a great science lesson as well: one of My Big Little Men is being brave with his arms open wide like he’s on the roller coaster… either that or he’s trying to slow himself down by creating more body surface to increase wind resistance. LOL. The Other Guy is dragging one hand on the slide and the grabbing the wall with the other, in a futile attempt to slow himself down by creating friction. Gosh I LOVE My smart Little Men!

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Splitting Twins In School

My Boys are pretty much on par developmentally and academically with each other such that one does not overshadow the other… Ever! That’s always been the thought process. So, splitting them up because one would talk for the other was never a consideration. In fact, we even have award-winning research that indicated that our Big Little Men have 60% more utterances — they are expressive speech delayed — when they received speech sessions together than individually. That is, they talk more when they receive instruction together!
Why? They’re a little bit jealous of each other! That is, they are both vying for the teacher’s attention. And, they’re all about championing their brother so if the Big Little Man gets the correct answer or performs a task successfully, the Little Man cheers him on!  Further, they’re also a bit competitive. Being nearly on par, this works very much to their advantage. I believe the thought process behind every successful response is, “If HE could do it, I can do it!” And so they push each other forward at every turn and in every positive way.
Further, last year’s teacher reported that, except that they look exactly alike, you wouldn’t even know they were brothers. That is, My Boys go their separate ways the minute they get into the classroom. Different interests, different friends — one’s a ladies man and one’s a guy’s guy — different tastes — one’s a burger guy, the other’s a pizza guy. Yes, they do check in with each other sporadically throughout the day, but that’s as far as their “overshadowing” goes. So, if they’re able to keep themselves separate without us physically separating them, why should we put asunder what God has joined together?
So at the end of last school year, as they do every year, our Committee on Special Education (CSE) suggested once again that we separate The Boys into two different classes. And, as we insist every year, we will not split The Boys up. Last year, the Chairperson added that she understood our point of view and would complete the paperwork assuming The Boys would stay together. However, because we were changing schools from the Kindergarten Center to our local elementary school, she let me know to expect a phone call from the Principals of both institutions in their attempt to sway us to splitting up our matched set.
For the record, given what I know about My Boys, there is absolutely NO swaying me on this topic! So I waited for those phone calls. And I waited. And waited. But, the phone did not ring. Finally, in a conversation with the school psychologist about another issue (related to the Old Soul ), she mentioned that our elementary school principal had received the CSE recommendations for The Boys and that paperwork said the CSE recommended splitting My Boys (“The Lies Our CSE Tells Us” is another post rolling about in my brain) but the parents (us!) wanted them kept together. In a brilliant, open-minded gesture he asked the psychologist, “Do we have any evidence that splitting versus keeping twins together is more or less effective? Enough to recommend against the parents’ wishes?” The psychologist responded, “Mr. C, we have kept twins together and they did fine. We have split twins up and they did fine. But we have never EVER had twins with Down syndrome so we have no basis whatsoever to recommend anything, either way!” Our dear principal said, “Excellent! Then we’ll keep them together and honor the parents’ wishes!”
And that was that! No phone calls!
The moral of my story? Do your homework. I know my children and understand the ramifications of my options. Besides understanding the social and academic level of My Boys as well as the motivational impact of keeping My Boys together, I also understood the challenges of splitting them. Each year, I struggle for the first several months of the school year to educate My Boys’ teaching team in just exactly how best to educate them. In addition, any issues that arise with either of My Boys during the year are handled with the entire teaching team and that knowledge can be automatically applied to the Other Boy. See, generally what shows up in one eventually shows up in the other. With two teaching teams, that information is not necessarily shared let alone understood. And, together their homework assignments and birthday invitations come through one teaching team and  one class. Both Boys have the same homework and are invited to the same parties. SO MUCH EASIER FOR ME! Having to deal with all of these issues with two different teaching teams is a nightmare (as communicated by twin mammas who’ve gone before me). Furthermore, the Down syndrome community often suggests pairing your child with DS with another individual who has DS as together, they often achieve greater independence — perhaps interdependence — playing off of and maximizing each other’s different skills and strengths while minimizing challenges. God was kind enough to give me a pair who share the [mostly] unconditional love of brothers. This depth of devotion doesn’t always develop, or stay, with the challenges of friendship. Why would I break up my matched pair only to have to go out and try to find two more suitable companions for each of My Boys… No, I don’t think so.
My Boys will always have each other to cheer on, to compete with and to share their challenges, their triumphs and their lives… and, until such time as I feel it’s not in the best interest of My Boys, they’ll share their teachers as well!
Posted in Advocacy, Down syndrome, Education, identical twins, school, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A-Political Again

Oy, not ANOTHER political phone call! In the end, I was briskly thanked for my time and effectively hung-up on by a conservative, Romney/Ryan campaign support organization. It seems they’ve made yet another anti-Obama movie and are looking for ME to send them money to… what? Support the distribution, get the word out, make another movie? I don’t quite know. I explained that I don’t support candidate bashing no matter which side it’s coming from. And, if they wanted my support they should make a viable movie about what valuable skillsets, experience and ideas Romney/Ryan bring to the table… instead of focusing on the lies Obama has told us.

The original caller was concerned about my distaste and made it clear that Romney didn’t personally drive or support their efforts on his behalf and I should not “blame” him for the call or tact… but could I please just listen to the pre-recorded message about the movie. I did… But only because she asked nicely. The man who took over after the pitch, however, was not so eloquent. After I shared my anti-candidate-bashing opinion, between gritted teeth he barely squeezed out a thank you and then hung up before I even had time to say, “Goodbye!”

For the record, I am not an Obama supporter. Nor am I a big fan of Romney. What I support even less than either of these [in-my-humble-opinion] lacking candidates is the political bashing of the other guy… on both sides! My phone is ringing off the hook DAILY with phone calls from political supporters on one side or the other trying to convince me what a schmoe the opponent is. Quite frankly, I am sick to death of each side’s slam-campaign tactics. How many commercials and/or movies can we make about who’s lying about what and how many facts can each side withhold or twist to support their version of the story? How much money can we WASTE doing it? UGH!!!!

I am once again openly declaring myself officially APOLITICAL for the purposes of political marketing, propaganda and bashing. Leave me alone!

I am naturally and pathetically open-minded. I seek alternative opinions to pretty much EVERYTHING… Let me clarify that statement: I seek INFORMED and HONEST opinions! NOT just more “you’re wrong and I’m right” hooey from someone who NEEDS me to believe what THEY believe just to get what they want. The world is FULL of those types. Even my FRIENDS are vying to sway the vote and tip the scales in favor of THEIR choice and opinion. Never have I seen such extraordinary polarization! Salesmen All and I’m not buying any of it! I am sick to death and done with it all! I’ve now officially STOPPED answering the phone for ANY numbers I don’t automatically recognize as friends (and even some of those calls I might not take!). I’m DONE reading friends’ political rants on Facebook and listening to slanted news reporting. I can see through these messages to the hidden, or not-so-hidden agendas of the deliverers! “Vote my way!”

I KNOW all too well that there’s a lot riding on the election for me personally, and for all of us collectively. But I’m a pretty smart and educated woman so, from here on in, I’ll do my own research. I’ll choose my own educators and seek my own truth, as possible, wading through all the lies and propaganda. I will cast my vote for those candidates I believe not only have my and my country’s best interest in mind but also who have the greatest chance of actually achieving the vision of their constituents (not their own political careers). My vote will go to the candidates I think will do the best job helping to lead our country at home and abroad to more prosperous and peaceful times. And, I’ll cast that vote quietly, behind the privacy curtain of the voting booth (yeah, I know… obsolete). Then, I’ll hide behind the now repealed and also obsolete, “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and keep my choice to myself so that people who feel or think or voted differently will have no grounds to harass me any longer!

You cast your vote and I’ll cast mine. As of this writing, I am now officially publicly A-Political, thank you!

Posted in happiness, peace of mind, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Look Who’s Juicing Now!

I’m on a roll…. Inspired by my 50th birthday, after a 10-year sabbatical to have and raise my kids I’ve decided it’s high time I started taking care of myself again… just a little bit. Now that I’m not working (thanks “Lou”) and the kids are in school I’m getting back to doing things that I love like walking Mill River and bike riding the boardwalk. (Watch out… I’ll be back to running, kayaking, SCUBA diving and mountain biking soon.) I’m buying and eating more fruits and vegetables — and less cookies, a trigger food for me — and cutting down on sugar and fast food. (Note: I said cutting down not cutting out!)

My dear friend and pro-bono wellness coach, Wendy Danca, has been my motivator and inspire-er… accompanying me on rides, walks and trips to the farmer’s market as she regales me with good health and wellness tips… talking and laughing along the way.  (I think she might be using me as a test case LOL.) As part of the process I purchased a kitchen scale to weigh my food — because my internal estimator was never very accurate — and I purchased a juicer… which I’ve always wanted but wasn’t sure I’d actually use enough to justify the cost. (We’ll see about that.)

So, I’ve started experimenting with my juicer on my own (don’t juice bananas… those should be blended), copying the guys at Jandi’s juice bar (who, BTW, recommend not mixing citrus in with veggies because the juices separate) and taking juicing advice from Wendy (who’s been juicing for years). I’ve even started juicing with the kids so they get more fruit juice and less sugar too! I blend their freshly juiced fruits (and a veggie or two snuck in) some ice cubes and a little greek yogurt to make it a smoothie…  This morning it was 4 apples, a carrot and half of a skinned canteloupe with 1 small container of Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt — enough to feed me and them… and they are loving it!

So look who’s juicing now! “Hey Mikey, he likes it!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a whole new world!!! Have any good juicing (or pulp) recipes to share?

Posted in good health, Uncategorized, weight loss | 3 Comments

Thank God it’s Friday!

Boy, I’m not keeping up at all in the blogosphere. This whole back-to-school/co-chair of the 6th Grade Fundraising committee thing is REALLY time consuming. I’d like to say, “bummer for me!” but I’m feeling grateful that I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn (oh wait, I do, to get the kids up and out), but I don’t have to go to school and do a mountain of homework every single afternoon, day in and day out for the next 10-to-16 years… like my kids in 6th and 1st grades. Thankful for that, I’ll go ahead and embrace all the little changes coming my way…

1. I’m thankful that I have the luxury of NOT working at this point in our lives. Since I officially left the corporate workforce 10 years ago, I’ve consistently kept my pump-clad foot in the proverbial corporate door and my suits pressed in the closet (just in case) dabbling in part-time, staff and/or contract work, on- and off-site positions. But, I finally resigned my contract as a business writer/editor last May to be home with the kids for the Summer. Fortunately, Hubby’s recent and well-deserved promotion puts us in the position of staying this course so I can attend to the kids’ special needs which requires special attention that I just didn’t have much time for when I was working for “the man.” Though the phone keeps ringing with new opportunities, my high heels and suits are stowed in the closet and, I  think, I am finally moving on from my past career toward Phase II… special needs parenting and maybe special education lawyering! It took me 50 years and three kids to get here and figure out what I think I want to be when I grow up!

2. Speaking of 50 years, I recently tore that birth date from the daily calendar and irreverently tossed it in the trash. I heard that turning 50 is liberating now that I’m officially over the hump and on the downhill side of life, according to my dear friend Lori Z. As such, I’m apparently at liberty to say what I want AND to say “no” when I don’t want. Per the theory, when that second-hand clicked over on my 50th year, I was suddenly smacked upside the head with the realization that life is short — now that I’m halfway to the finish line, optimistically — and I should no longer waste time doing anything I don’t want to do. Whether I buy it or not, I like the concept  of learning to say “no” and plan to exercise my new-found 50-year-old right to do so. In the two days since I turned that page, nobody’s asked me to do anything I don’t want to do but would previously have felt compelled to say yes to… But, watch out! I’m running down opportunities to flex my 50-year-old muscles in this regard!

SIDE BAR: My good friend, Nicole, gave me a beautiful heart pendant on leather chain that reads, “If you want to love yourself, do something you love to do!” Relevant advice for this old gal! That’s exactly what I’m going to do with all the free time I find after saying “no” to everything else!

3. And, while we’re on the subject of “NO,” I don’t feel any older than I did the day before my special day earlier this week! In fact, several months ago, I did some superficial self-reflection, assisted by O Magazine, and realized that it’s not the number on my birth certificate that bugs me, it’s the number on my scale. So, if I actually exercise my 50-year-old right to say “no” (see above) to all the things that pull me away from exercising, eating right and taking care of Mama, I think my post-50 weight could start tipping the scales back in my favor! This 50-year-old girl has hope!

Image4. I’m grateful for over-the-counter medicine and for the upbeat attitude of my sick Little Men! My Big Little Man is pretty sick… yet still smiling. True to his typical good nature, he informed that me he wasn’t feeling well — as if I could miss the blood-tinged schmutz coming out of his nose and his sexy new Brenda Vacarro voice that sounds like he’s swallowing marbles when he talks… the result of three nights of coughing! With a hug and a smile, he left it  in my hands to do what I could to help him. A dropper-full of cough suppressant later and he’s sleeping peacefully on the couch beside me.

The other Little Man is on the downward spiral — following, two days later, in his brother’s footsteps. After minimal sneezing and coughing the past two days, he let me know this morning that his throat is really bothering him. A half-dose of ibuprofen eased his discomfort and he’s been pleasant enough,  lounging on the couch watching Victorious and iCarly. (Update: ssh, it appears he’s fallen asleep!)

And, sadly, I’ve got it too… the sore throat that marks the onset and a low-grade fever have been plaguing me all day… until I took an ibuprofen. Recognizing I’m on the downward spiral with my Little Men, I do feel significant relief. So, for today, a big thanks to the over-the-counter pharmaceutical industry that produces all the over-the-counter meds that help me and mine muddle through! (Pics: the Old Soul’s twin cats keep watch over my sleeping twin boys)

5. Honorable mention and special appreciation goes to my hubby. Not because he threw me a wonderful surprise 50th — he didn’t actually pull that off (yet) — but because he thought to buy me an orange ice cream cake (my favorite color and flavor… ice-cream, that is) and gave me the most awesome card — a true Hallmark moment — that said exactly how he feels about me, about us, and about our life… with a few of his own heartfelt words mixed in there. Being the quintessential non-communicator, that’s information I’m not often privy to and I really appreciate it as I climb huffing and puffing over the hump of 50… Nearly as good, the cake and card came with THE most awesome gift… a REAL, grown-up (ya know, now that I’m 50) digital camera! Something I’ve coveted for a long time but would never be so extravagant to purchase for myself. It feels wonderful to realize that he thinks I’m worth it.

So, look for an improvement in the images I include in my posts… that is, once I learn how to actually use the darn thing!

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