Sunday, November 16, 2014

Big Guy

At this time, on November 16, four years ago, we were snuggling in a hospital bed with this little guy.


It was a hard delivery, and a difficult start, and with an ambulance on the way to take him to an NICU, the doctor let us try to hold him, and nurse him, to see if he could calm a little, breath deeply, settle in--and that he did.  The best place for him was tucked in right beside us--a beginning that has been a theme for this little life.  This coziest of our boys.



How blessed we are for four years to be raising this sweet, sensitive, funny guy who nick named himself "Big Guy".


Daily Miles has us in stitches with his antics, his adorable world view that he freely and emphatically shares with us and his brothers.  We heartily recommend always having a preschooler with you on life's roads.  It is the best.


As Charlie said in his birthday message to you, Miles,

"We do love you so much.  And Happy Birfday."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Month for Feeling Thankful

I'm thankful for a cool, wet, foggy fall season.

We've needed this rain.

I've needed an excuse to draw my kids close to me, and play games on the rug.

I am so thankful for the early dark, for coming inside sooner, for making dinner together.

Rainy afternoons have brought us a couple impromptu movie dates on my bed, and I am so thankful to snuggle with these boys--even if it's only because our playtime was rained out.

I am thankful for the season Ray and I find ourselves in--a deepening of our relationship.  Drawing closer.  Enjoying and admiring each other even more.  Laughing so much.  It is such a relief to laugh, to find this person is still such a dear friend.  I'm thankful to enjoy the faithfulness and steadfastness of another, and to give that in return.

I am thankful to have become a new auntie for the second time in a year--my niece, Nora, born just a few days ago.  Her parents are special people.  She has no idea how blessed she is, sweet darling.  I'm thankful for their family and the chance they are having right now to take it easy and enjoy these moments, soon to be just memories, of becoming a parent for the first time.

We had Charlie's IEP last week--his triennial review.  On paper, he is very, very delayed.  In some categories, he did not score greater than the first percentile.  But I am so very proud of him, you guys.
The tests and measures and scales and labels are necessary to evaluate progress and approve funding.  But that's it.  Beyond that they should not--and I hope they do not--have any other value.  Certainly they do not describe the worth of this child, or what his quality of life is, or if he is valuable enough, or tolerable, or what have you.  Nothing can accurately measure just how proud Ray, Calvin, Miles, and I are of our Charlie.  He is gracious.  He is kind.  He is compassionate and empathetic.  He is a jokester.  He is a helper.  He is physically strong, and not afraid of hard work.  He is a loyal brother, friend, and defender.  We are so thankful for him.

I am thankful for Calvin.  He is a wonder to me.  Dynamic, brilliant, outgoing, and a kind of confidence that cannot be taught.  It's just there.  At the same time, Calvin is understanding and compassionate.  There is no lesson from having a brother with a disability that has been lost on Calvin.  He is one of Charlie's greatest teachers and mentors, and likewise, Charlie is forever shaping Calvin into who he is becoming.  I am so thankful for this confident, willing, curious middle child of mine.

Someone is turning 4 soon.  If I had had a chance to preview the work of having three children, we may have never met our dear little Miles.  Miles and miles before I sleep...  It's been a rough couple years with this guy.  He has had some minor health issues that, man, have been hard to iron out.  He does not have that confidence his brother Calvin has--he is a much more sensitive, intuitive soul.  If we intuitive people had much confidence in anything, then we wouldn't be who we are.  But I tell you what--he is a lovely person even in the midst of his struggles.  We enjoy this fella so much.  He is darling.  We want him to be small forever, yet marvel at the opportunity to watch him in his becoming.

I'm thankful for our house.  This little place we have been graciously provided to live.  When I was growing up, I could look out the back of our house and see mountains for miles.  For some reason being able to do that--to stand quietly and observe a view--is very important for me.  And here in this little place I have a pasture to look out across.  Or if I stand just right on the back the porch, I can see the hills to the east.  There is gardening space.  There is privacy.  It has been a really special house to live in.  I am so thankful to have been afforded this chance.

There is a lot I feel thankful for.  More than I will list.  The season change has brought a lot of peace for me that I didn't expect with the loss of daylight hours.  Maybe my vitamin D level is finally recovering.  I am looking forward to the holidays--to gathering with all of my most precious, dear people--with so much anticipation.  I am find myself actually wanting to decorate.  Wanting to gift give.  Wanting to eat and visit and send cards in the mail.  I think there is a great deal of health coming back to this house--but that is another story completely.  Nevertheless, we have a lot we are thankful for this month.


Friday, August 15, 2014

What I don't want to forget about us this summer.

My last post was sort of negative.  I never meant to leave it on that note for so long, because while negative things happen to us--and to every family--it is just a sliver of our life.  We deal with it as it comes.  We move on.  And a lot of the time, when it is Charlie-stuff, it is me who was the one so tied up in knots all along.  The kids have been playing with the neighbor boy all summer, and yesterday I was realizing how the four of them have knit together during their hours of play.  Charlie is just one of the gang.  

I am so busy, posting here is difficult to do.  But this is where so many of our family stories are logged.  I never want to forget, you know?  So, here's what I don't want to forget about Summer 2014:

This summer has been really fun.  Challenging as always with three boys who want to be BOYS 24/7. But also glorious, fun, special.




Calvin.  I will start with him.  Our middle child, sandwiched between two very compelling people. But this guy... he is not ever lost.  He is so much like his daddy, I think, in personality and purpose.  He is a leader, and every day learning what it means to be that (like his daddy).  I see him caring about his brothers well being, assessing the environment and their ability to be in it safely.  Really.  He is a wise little soul.  Hey, I mean, other times, not so much.  But he is 6!  He is filled with confidence.  He is kind and positive and exhausting all at once.  His mind never stops.  Calvin's ideas spill out of his mouth with no filter.  Oh Calvin.  I wish every day I could be 100% "on" for this guy.  Indulge his every curiosity.  I'm sure of the 3, I fail him the most.  He is so brilliant, and sometimes, I am tired and dim.  But we try, don't we buddy?  And he is growing so much.  Becoming so much.  This summer for Calvin has been about playing with neighborhood buddies and brothers, tempering his exuberance and focusing on improvisation in the lazy schedule of a foggy summer.  It has been about conquering fears and trying new things, and doing all the wild things a boy should be doing.  It's been about making new friends, and deepening his relationship with his brothers.  Calvin sees things through with integrity, however forced it is sometimes, he does the right thing.  I respect this guy a great deal.  And I love him and I am proud of him.


At my sister's wedding this June. 
Yep.  That is Miles at my feet.
Then there is Charlie.  I named this blog "Charlie's Up To" never knowing that the phrase would become one often said in family life: "Calvin, what's Charlie up to?" or "Mooooommmmm!  Charlie's up to stuff he's not supposed to dooooo!"  He is amazing, you guys.  I think one big advantage of having a child with a special need is actually the unknown.  Unknown is something I used to fear, until I started to realize, that's all we have with our kids.  Any of them.  We don't have all these expectations of Charlie just waiting to check them off the list.  It's not that we do not have high hopes for him--not at all.  We just give him our very best, and then watch what he does with it.  So every accomplishment, every change, is so exciting.  He is writing his own story.  He is teaching us that we need to let our other boys write their own story.  And for me, what a gift to see that play our right in front of us.

A big focus this summer has been
working toward putting faces
in the water during swimming lessons.

Charlie is always up to something.  I think in this way he takes after my Grandpa Paul, of whom everyone said loved to "tinker".  Charlie loves to tinker, too.  He loves to create.  He loves to be busy with a task.  If he doesn't have a task, he thinks one up.   He's the kind of guy who can look at a mess of items and see potential for a masterpiece.  Charlie is going places, and he is up to things.  And I love him and am so proud of him.




Oh Miles.  His middle name, Benjamin, in hebrew is the equivalent of "my boy".  And he is my boy.  He's kind of all our boy, and the big brothers tuck him under their wing the same as Ray and I do.    Age three has proven a challenging year.  Oh my.  I would not want to be three from the looks of it.  It seems hard.  He is in this weird place where he does not understand time, but he can anticipate, and so his world is this weird never-know-when-something-is-going-to-happen kind of place.  I think this is much more difficult in the free flowing non-schedule of summer.  At the same time, he is also growing up so much.  Miles is a bit shy, but has a brilliant presence.  He in known to enter a room with a Super Hero stance yelling, "I will save your day!"  A couple weeks back we were making introductions at church, and Miles jumps to strike a pose, fists in the air, and says, "I'm Miles!  Awesome Possum!"  Where did we get this guy?  I think of my three boys, Miles takes after me the most.  He is sensitive, imaginative, sometimes very unsure.  Where Calvin was always moving out and away in discovery, Miles tends to press in, to take a hand.  It is so wonderful to have a variety of personalities.  Charlie and Miles are very well matched play partners these days.  Both so willing to jump right in to each other's fantasies.  Miles is growing, and showing us who he is as a person this summer.  And I love him and am so proud of him.




What about the grown ups? You know, Ray and I have felt a little baseless for years, really.  I had just become pregnant with Charlie when I was graduating college, and in a way, it feels like we are still in the limbo of changed plans. Whatever they were.  Actually, Ray does not struggle with this as much as I do.  He is solid.  Dedicated.  And he seems to find meaning and purpose in whatever his hands are set to do.  But I'm sort of a case, you guys.  I never feel like I'm Home.  I think growing roots, in my mind, takes a certain medium that I haven't felt that we have had.  Last summer we took a trip to my home town.  Sitting on a dock by the lake, I was hoping so much to feel it.  To feel Home there.  But I was just different.  My town had grown up without me.  And I have grown up, too.  I started to realize, my roots are growing.  They are growing here, on the coast, in the fog, in the clay.  We have everything we need.  




So, in light of all of that, and our ongoing hope of finding and creating Home, Ray continues to work for his family's electrical business.  What lovely roots we have grown through our continued involvement in this family enterprise.  He has also recently accepted the opportunity to become more deeply involved with a beautiful congregation just down the road in town.  Roots.  His band, a second family-- Huckleberry Flint--just played again in Humboldt's Folk Life Festival to an adoring and enduring crowd of local fans.  Roots.  We have spent a lovely Summer with days up at Auntie Kassi's family ranch, splashing in the creek, riding quads, tire swinging from huge Bay trees.  Roots.  We have played long hours with friends and neighbors. Roots.  I have planted and harvested a garden, and am planting again for fall.  Roots.  We have invested our time and enjoyment in our lovingly provided rental home in Raymond's childhood neighborhood.  Roots.


I don't know if I will ever feel Home, because I think as a person I am bound to be a little baseless.  But I feel close to it.  Tentative.  But close.  And I am so thankful that my sweet Lord has had patience to bring me in to the middle of where I already was.  That I can rest where he places me.  Invest where he has me--even if I don't "own" it.  Even if I'm not confident.



So, that's it.  That's Summer 2014 with three boys all up to something, and a mom and a dad finding newness in the 'same old, same old'.  I think I'm pretty lucky to be along for the ride.  Sure, I keep the peace, tend to needs, and keep the house clean (ish), but that is all so small a price to pay for the best seat in the house.  To watch 3 brilliant lives unfold right in front of me.  To watch a family grow up, and grow deep.  It's been a nice Summer, I'd say.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The main reason

I write very little just lately.

One reason is I have little time to do it.  I'm a very busy mama.

But the main reason...  The main reason catches in my throat when I go to say it, so I've just kept to myself.  



I snapped this photo of Charlie this evening, sacked out on the porch swing with his pup.  This kid does me in every single day.  My goodness.

Thing is, this sweet moment wasn't really come by in a sweet, happy way.

A neighborhood buddy came to play.  That is how it started.  Charlie loves to play with kids, but kids don't always get why he is difficult to understand, why he looks different, moves and plays different than expected.  I'm so used to it, you know?  I just take it for granted that people should be okay with variants of personhood.  Sometimes Charlie will hang with the language barrier and do the extra work to foster a play partnership.  And sometimes I think he is just not up to the challenge of proving himself, of working so very hard to communicate, so he'll go find something to do on his own.

Today, I immediately noticed the boy began to avoid Charlie, and was encouraging Calvin to avoid Charlie also.  He had made up a game where Charlie was the bad guy and they were hiding from him.  I think Charlie was as suspect of that game as I was, and he just ignored them and went to play something else.  Unfortunately, a short time later I overheard the boy making fun of Charlie to Calvin.

And that is the long and the short it, really.  I talked to the boy.  I talked to Calvin.  And then I sat down on the swing with my sweet dog because I was feeling really sad and angry.  Charlie found us out there, and of course had to squeeze in between us for a group cuddle.  He said, "I do love Buster."  I said, "I do love you."

In a few minutes, this sweet darling was fast asleep beside his puppy.

In early childhood we just did not deal with... rejection.  If there were people rejecting Charlie because of who he is, I never saw it.  I never knew about it.  More often than not our experience was the total opposite.  He is loved.

Boyhood has been different.  The sting of rejection is there, and I have so much I want to say about that because it hurts and it sucks.  But those words don't come out so easy.  They are raw, and likely unthoughtful.

There's a lot I've just kept to myself.

I try to keep the perspective that kids are excellent at sticking their feet in their mouths when really they are just curious.  I try to keep the perspective that education is the best prevention of children tearing down peers who are different.  I've never yelled at or accused any child, only tried to be firm about what is acceptable behavior toward my son, and why.  I try to let them know it is normal to notice when someone is different and to wonder about that, and that they have the ability to be a good friend to Charlie.

But at the same time, it rips my heart right through.  If the world could see this boy through my eyes.  It's all just very hard to say.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy Birthday to my sweet Calvin.

(Late again.  Calvin's birthday is in March.  It's just the way of things right now.)

Dear Calvin,

I can't believe you are six years old!  I still want to hold you in my lap and cradle your head.  I think I want that more than I even have, but you are big, your legs and arms sprawling, and I am a small mama.  I hold you in my gaze now, as you go out into your world.  Calvin, I am so proud to be you mom.


Every thing about six-year-old-you is just right.  Your big brown eyes dance across your environment.  Your mind is busy.  It never rests.  Not for a moment.  You want us to feed you information.  You want to know facts about your world.  You want to get your hands on materials and build.  You want to direct your brothers in games.  Even as we tuck you in bed at night, you are still asking for more information.  We have a 2 question rule once lights are out.  When you finally slip into your dreams, your dad and I smile at each other about you and all your wondering.


Calvin, you are a challenge.  You make me better, sharper.  You and I are perfectly matched and mismatched at the same time, I'd say.  Your mind races like mine and you are caught up in daydreams, but we think about very different things.  You are mechanical, I am feeling, and really buddy, I think it's just right.  How would I have ever known the difference between a loader, backhoe, and bulldozer without you?  How would I have ever learned the truth about chameleons?  Really, buddy.  Your world is as fascinating for me as it is for you.


You are six now, and your world is as wide open as ever.  You have learned to ride a bike!  You have learned to read!  You have learned the classifications of animals, and the patterns of life and death.  You are set for adventure and a new year of going deeper in your love of discovery.  I am excited to be your guide.

Classic Calvin.  A million beautiful thoughts behind those big brown eyes.
 
Calvin... I love you so much.  I know I say it "a million times a day", but I can't help it.  When I see you--and the energy of you--I am blessed.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.

Mama

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Good Old Fashion Calvinisms

It's been months since I have posted the funny little things the kids say, and I have quite a collection to put up.  I thought I'd start with the boy who started it all, and keeps it going strong.  My Calvin.

I love this kid.  He has a light in those big brown eyes.

Recently, Calvin learned to ride a "big boy bike."  If you ask him about it he will tell you, "I learned to ride a two wheeler bike in 10 minutes!"  And it is truth, he did.  Balance bikes work, folks.  Well, they did for this kid.




So Calvin and I are having a discussion about Day of the Dead, and why family members who have died are still important to those who are living because of the legacy they leave us. And he asks, "Did Great Grandpa Chalmers ever go to jail?" "No, he never did," I answer. "Oh. Well, maybe I will not go to jail, too," he decides. "Um, ya, Buddie, great. I mean, you know, that's an important goal to have for yourself."


Yesterday I found myself explaining to Calvin, "Well, Captain Hook's disability is not the reason he's a bad guy. He's just a pirate who happens to have a prosthetic hand."


We have this children's book about the human body, which also happens to have a section on reproduction.  Calvin and I were reading the section on how only one sperm is able to fertilize the egg, and that is how we all receive the genetic material that will become a new person.  Based on his knowledge that sperm and egg contain half the chromosomes needed to begin a human life, and that Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome, Calvin reasoned, "So, if two sperm accidentally get to the egg at the exact same time, then that baby will have Down syndrome." 


On Halloween, I let Calvin be a ninja with the caveat that we would do research on ninja's together to learn about them.  This included learning how to write "Ninja" in Japanese characters.  We learned the first symbol was a combination of the symbols for "heart" and "sword", and the second symbol was the symbol for "person".  We used paint to then write the symbols on the front of his costume.  At the end of his school day, I asked Calvin if he shared what the symbols meant with any of his friends.  His response, "No way!  If I told that, I would reveal my secret identity!" 


Calvin:  "Mom?  What is the meaning of "Love, Calvin" if I want to write a letter to Annie, or, I mean, any-person-in-the-world?"


Getting ready to depart school, Calvin asked me if I could carry his back-pack.  I was carrying Miles and Charlie's pack, which had broken open.  I said, "Look buddy, I wish I could, but I'm carrying a toddler and a broken back-pack.  I'm just not Super Woman."  He understood... too well.  Later, we were all in a public restroom.  Again, Calvin wanted me to carry something for him, but I was trying to help Charlie and keep Miles from touching everything in the stall, so again I said, "Buddy sorry..."  Exasperated, Calvin (loudly) finished, "Mom!  I know!  Your not Super Woman!"  We just hid in the stall for a while after that one.


We were talking about New Year Resolutions, last night. I shared with the family one of my resolutions, and asked Calvin if he had any. He thought for a brief moment, then said, "I know, mom, how about loose the weight AND cut the fat." Turns out he was up early and helped himself to an infomercial. Doh.


We recently dedicated Miles in church (more on that later).  As we were being introduced by the pastors, one of the pastors asked Calvin his name.  He told her, and she asked, "Is that like Calvin and Hobbes?"  Perplexed, he responded, no, it's like Calvin David Robinson."



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Not Seven, but Eight!

I'm late with everything lately.

My life feels so very small and simple, yet I'm continually, embarrassingly behind.

I am assured it is "part of the age and stage" of having young children--a thing that, on one hand I feel as though I am bound to endure, and on the other I never want to leave.  But as long as I am here in the land of little ones needing my everything, and a life that needs all I have left, I hope you will be understanding when manners, important tasks, and accomplishment happens on a schedule not conducive with the pace of life.

Aw, the sweet victory of being the giver of your child's favorite birthday gift.  I scored!

That said, I would like to start off a new year of blogging by wishing my beautiful first born son, Charlie, a very happy 8th birthday.

Every year before Charlie's birthday, we start prepping him.  "Now you are six, but soon you will be seven!"  He really struggles with memory when a concept doesn't make a lot of sense to him.  It's not a big deal, but when you are a kid folks tend to ask your age, and it's nice to answer accurately.  When you're a grown up, you can answer any way you like.  This has worked better than others some years. He never was receptive to being six, and stayed five for two years, then magically became seven.  I thought he might be seven for another year as he was unreceptive to having a birthday at all this year.  He was insistent that he would not have a birthday.  Angry about it, even.  Finally we just stopped talking about it.

Well, on the big day I made sure to show up at school with a cookie. I said, "Here's a cookie!  Happy Birthday!"  That seemed to be the right approach. "It's my birthday?" he said. "Hooray!"

We came home and had a very small party with Grandparents and brothers and mom and dad and a bunch of presents that had arrived by mail.  He was comfortable, happy, and proud to be Eight.

Eight!


Charlie is doing so well.  He has become increasingly comfortable at school, and also is trying new experiences with less trepidation.  He just has a confidence now that was not there before.

Charlie is a caring, empathetic individual.  He loves to be helpful, and often comes to us to ask, "Can I help you?"  He has the ability to read a situation and behave appropriately, but also the ability to be mischievous and know it.

He is creative.  He plays in a way that reminds me of my sister and I growing up with lots of imagining, role playing, building, and creating.  It is the kind of child's play that gets me excited, and is wonderful to behold.  A privilege.


I know I say this all the time, but before Down syndrome, we had all these ideas of what our child would become.  It seemed as soon as we heard, "It's a boy!", we started unconsciously constructing what our boy's life could attain.  If someone would have pointed that out to us we would have instantly been ashamed, because it really was not our intention.  Well, someone did.  Charlie did.

Not so fast, he said. You don't have to know or plan my future.  Just do your best, mom and dad.  Trust God.  It will all be okay. 

Oh what I would have given back then to see what I do now.  (Well, maybe.  Some things may have scarred the socks off of me.)

Next month will be our "Down syn-aversery", the day we learned our baby boy had Down syndrome.  That was the day we stopped guessing or planning the future for our kids, and started letting them show us who they are created to be.  I wish I could say we accepted that shift with grace and decorum.  We didn't.  We were a bit of a mess for a while before we settled in.  Eight years later, the simple reality is everyday with this boy makes me feel like I was chosen for something I could never have attained to or deserved.

You are the boy who anchored the boat and sparked a family.  

Eight years of blessing represented in this picture (little brothers not to be excluded!).
Eight years we could never have forced or planned on our own.

Eight years old!
You are so big, Charlie!  
Happy Birthday!  

Love, Mama


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