Thursday, August 27, 2015

Things I hope my Children Never Unlearn




As is often the case on lazy mornings the kids seem to eventually make their way to our bed for some morning snuggle time. Last week during an end of summer snuggle sesh Lamp says, Mom, I love our whole family so much. I even love myself! She giggled a bit at her bold declaration and then said, Is that OK?

Is that OK? Is that OK?  I did my best to explain that it was more than OK. It was really, really great and I'm so glad she that she loves herself.

And then I silently half-thought/half-prayed, Please bless that she will always love herself. Please don't let the world ever take that away from her. 

Which is a similar prayer I seem to utter in my heart quite a bit, Please don't let me screw up the amazing people my children already are too much. 

If my children are any representation of the population at large I feel that most people come into the world with so much goodness, love and wholeness in tact. Children naturally crave and freely give all the best and most important things in this world--love, comfort, peace, laughter and affection. But at some point being human requires that we feel pain and sorrow in a variety of different forms, from a variety of different sources. And then somehow we unlearn how to crave those most valuable things and we re-learn to crave their counterfeits--lust, money, popularity, power and comfort in the form of food, drink, shopping or some other pain-numbing addiction. Even sadder still is the fact that so many people mistake these counterfeits for the real thing.



Children, if somewhat well cared for, are little receptors of love. They have no ego, they simply cry for their needs--including love and security--and release that same goodness back out into the world as freely as air. When people talk about the commandment to become like a child I most often think of this purity and complete lack of ego as the most natural traits children possess. We're born pure and without ego, but ever so gradually we unlearn these things because mistakenly we think that survival in this world means a total lack of vulnerability. And for some people, sadly, it is purely about survival.

And so when Lamp declared that she indeed loved herself my first thought was how precocious and amazing this little girl is. And then I realized, oh wait... I think most of us knew how to love ourselves at age 5. But then I quickly returned to thinking she is precocious and amazing because Lamp is not most kids. Lamp is very aware of her differences. She has been on the receiving end of a social scrutiny from other children--her peers--all her life. Thankfully she has also been on the receiving end of love and acceptance all her life as well.

For fear of being misunderstood I'm going to break this down.
Here's what I'm not trying to say: Well if Lamp can love herself even though she has limb differences boy howdy, then you can too!

Here's what I am trying to say: Lamp is doing something every one on this planet has the right to do--she loves herself just the way she is. She does this despite living with the kind of scrutiny that makes people question their self worth. To me, this is both impressive and noteworthy.



So often we say things like, if we could just all love and accept each other the world would be a better place, but maybe it's got to start earlier than that. Maybe if we could all just love ourselves the world would be a better place. I don't mean being selfish, but really love ourselves. Accept, feel gratitude for, embrace and care for ourselves in the best way we know how.

Lamp, like all of us, is going to unlearn plenty of things in life. All my girls will go through their ups and downs, that's part of the process. I always bristle a little when people try to boil life down to one single answer or principle--so forgive me--but as of right now the one thing I hope Lamp and her sisters never unlearn is to love themselves. If they can do that one thing, I think they'll be alright.

What innate qualities do your children already possess that you hope they never unlearn? 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Peaches and Cream


I wanted to share one of my all time favorite summer treats with you today. School may have started but as long as I can still get peaches at the grocery store, summer's not quite over yet. This is one of those super simple treats that people either are totally in the know about or have never heard of it. Which I always find a little surprising because it seems like such a classic combo to me.

So here it is, my super easy, super delicious 2 ingredient summa' time treat.


Peaches + sweetened condensed milk.
Wash and cut fresh peaches, dip in sweetened condensed milk.

You're welcome.

Can we all agree that sweetened condensed milk is one of the most magical concoctions known to man? A sugary yet creamy gift from the heavens.


Are you a peach + sweetened condensed milk lover as well? If I don't have peaches, banana's are my next fav.

Are you as big of a SCM lover as I am? Do you like to dip anything in this glorious substance?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Miggy's Guide to Navigating a Special Needs Encounter




If you want to hear something bananas, here it is: next week Lamp starts kindergarten.

This is both exciting and terrifying, as any mother understands. That being said, I think the nerves get turned up a few notches for us special needs moms. Not only am I trying to prepare Lamp for a new school and the beginning of her academic career, I'm trying to help prepare her to deal with the extra challenges, both physically and socially, that she will face concerning her limb differences.  Additionally, I'm helping to prepare and educate the school and other students know how to talk about and interact with her.

One thing I have known for a while is that when Lamp started school I wanted to do some sort of presentation on the first or second day that would address differences and disabilities to all the kids at her school. I wasn't sure how or what this would look like and I also didn't know how open the school would be to having something like this happen, but I knew it would be important for both Lamp and her peers. With the help of Lamp's therapists and pre-k teachers we have a hospital representative coming to her new school to do a quick 10 minute presentation to each grade level telling them a little about Lamp--the correct terminology, her power chair, other tools she uses like special utensils and adaptive scissors as well as acceptable and unacceptable language/behavior. I can't tell you how happy I am that the school was so receptive, because apparently some schools are not receptive to this type of educational experience.


Additionally this past week I was invited to come to the school's staff meeting along with Lamp's therapists and give them a quick rundown on Lamp, on how they can best help her (or not help her!) and especially in helping navigating the other students and their reactions and questions concerning Lamp. Her teachers and therapists did most of the talk about how much or how little help she needs in class, what adaptions need to be made, etc while I spent most of my time going over how I hope they, as educators, help Lamp's classmates understand her disabilities as well as how to relate and talk to Lamp.

It has taken about 5 years for me to finally feel like I have a rough formula for talking to kids about Lamp. It's not an exact science--every kid thinks and reacts differently--but for the most part, it works really well. This is what I shared with the teachers at Lamp's new school and I thought I'd share this for those of you wondering what to do when your child comes across a child with special needs and you're not really sure how to handle it.  Long time readers will know that I ask every single parent I spotlight what they would like to tell the world about interacting with their child. I discuss this in Lamp's spotlight as well. This is not a new topic around here, but this is a much more simplistic breakdown. Please note that this is mostly meant to be used with young children approximately 8 and under.  Older children should hopefully start to know a little about boundaries and I would not consider having this type of discussion with an older child (or adult) in front of Lamp appropriate.




1) Questions are OK. 
The emotions that a child feels when seeing or meeting another child with special needs can range from curious to nervous or scared to just plain confused.  Let your child know that if they have a question it's OK. Try not to shush them and turn them away from the child they just encountered--this only reinforces an exclusionary mentality. If your child points at Lamp and says "What happened to her arm!" my suggestion would be to get down on their level and have the whole "some people are born differently" conversation right then and there. Reference friends or relatives who have a wheelchair, walker, glasses, etc. I know this is the hardest part because we think the kind thing is to shush our children and walk away. But walking away implies that there is something wrong with special needs kids and we don't interact with them. So please, do your best to stay. Remember, Lamp knows she has limb differences--it doesn't hurt her feelings to have it explained in front of her. What does hurt her feelings is having a rude interaction and then having that potential playmate taken away before things are set right so to speak.


2) Reinforce kindness
While it's important not to shame kids for their curiosity, it's also very important to let children know in no uncertain terms that certain things are NOT OK.  It's not OK to point, stare, laugh, call names or use mean words. Even if your child does this innocently--"she's weird!" "Yuck! Why does her arm look like that?"--please correct them.  For example, "That's not a nice word and that might hurt her feelings" or "that would really hurt your feelings if someone laughed at you."  It can be said kindly, it can be said firmly but it HAS to be said. Curiosity can quickly turn to cruelty in young children if left unchecked.


3) Find common ground
Once your child has some understanding that some people are just born differently now is a great time to find some common ground. "She may be a little different, but she's mostly the same as you.  I bet she likes a lot of the same toys/games/food that you like." You can then ask the child or the child's caregiver what they like to do. Establishing this sameness is KEY.  This is when the light goes on and children realize, oh... she's just another kid, like me.


4) Emphasize strengths
Now this one won't be as easy to do if you don't know the special needs child personally, but as Lamp's mom I try to emphasize that she is DIFFERENTLY-abled. Yes there are some things she can't do, like walking which is why she drives a power chair, but OMG, she can drive a chair!  Or I always say, you want to know something really cool?  Lamp can write with her feet!  This is when you see the jaws drop--literally. Again, it's super important for kids to understand from a young age that disabled really means differently-abled.



A couple notes: While I usually advocate for staying and building bridges, sometimes it is appropriate to walk away with your child.  For example, if your child is really struggling to accept the idea that "they were just born that way" and they keep pointing, staring and saying innocently rude things it's a good idea to apologize and walk away to have a more in depth conversation with your child out of ear shot. Also keep in mind that like most really important things in life this isn't a one time conversation! Which is the main reason I don't want children to feel shame for asking questions. If a child is shamed when they ask a question, they will soon learn not to ask questions. Which means they will loose out on really valuable lessons and conversations that need to take place.

So there it is! I know these can be hard situations to navigate, for most of us special needs moms just seeing you try and make an effort will mean a lot to us. And it will be meaningful for your children as well. Remember the end goal is to bring down the walls created by ignorance and social stigma and allow for real bonds to be formed.  In a word, it's about friendship. I really hope you take the time to read, share and implement this with your kids. I hope you share it with your friends and family too.

Small things = big change.
We can do this!

If any other special needs moms want to chime in I'd love to hear your thoughts too!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Miggy's Music Monday: Tanlines


If you have a soft spot in your heart for Erasure, OMD and other electro pop bands from the 80's you're going to love Tanlines. I first heard the song All of Me on a friends video and immediately connected with the song.  So I googled Tanlines and fell in love with the whole album Mixed Emotions (also their debut album, released in 2012). Songs like All of Me and Green Grass are these really full, dance-in-your-kitchen catchy pop songs that don't miss a single note.  While other songs like Yes Way and Real Life have a thinner, almost sparse feel to them but somehow still work. All together it's a great album from start to finish with the right mix of cohesion and variety. As I said, I googled this song when I first heart it... I have googled songs from commercials, TV shows, even looking up a track list on the radio to find out what song I just heard. Sometimes I find an entire album or new-to-me artist I love, other times I realize it's just a single song, but either way it's worth it. Anyone else ever go down the google rabbit hole in search of a song they just couldn't get out of their mind?

Check out Tanlines on Spotify here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Renegades


A friend sent me a link to this music video called Renegades by X Ambassadors featuring some really inspiring disabled athletes including former spotlightee Kyle Maynard. I love the quote from the young woman at the beginning who says, "Growing up blind I wasn't expected to do much, but I want to be expected to do what everyone else is expected to do." 




Amen. I love videos that teach all of us--myself included--that people with disabilities are DIFFERENTLYabled. There are a lot of things that disabled people can do that I can't as this video illustrates.  Shoot, my own daughter writes, grabs and plays with her feet. That is ABLE folks. 

Also, check out this amazing campaign from Changingthefaceofbeauty called I'm going back to school too featuring kids with visible differences in back to school campaigns because YES, they are going back to school too and should be included in the same media campaigns along side typical children. If you're not familiar with Changing the Face of Beauty you should be, they are doing really good work. People with disabilities represent the largest minority in the world, yet they're the least represented in our media.  Our hope is that we will change that.  --Kathry Driscol, founder of Changing the Face of Beauty.

Amen and hallelujah to all of that.

Happy Friday and see you next week.
XO
Migs

Monday, August 10, 2015

10 Years Gone, Rolling On

    
A little recap of our long weekend in NYC celebrating our 10 year anniversary.  

As the husband and I were sitting in our rented row boat in the middle of the lake, in the middle of Central Park (which happens to be in the middle of New York City) he said to me, We never argue when we're on vacation alone together. 

I know, I said.  Not even a little bit. 

With wide eyes he looked at me and said, It's the kids.  

It's the kids.  I agreed, shaking my head in faux disgust.

As I sat there I thought about how I've always felt that the main problem with The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise is that when you have two people dating under fairy-tale like circumstances--no jobs to wake up to, no kids around, no chores or responsibilities but plenty of helicopter rides, dream dates and expensive champagne flowing free and easy--of course you fall in love. The problem is you're falling in love with dreamy circumstances and the one dimensional side of someone's personality who you've known for oh, 3 whole weeks. This of course makes it very difficult to transition back into reality and still be 'in love' with the same person. It's way too shallow of an experience to fortify real bonds of love.

BUT for some reason this same fairy-tale, one dimensional escape in marriage is exactly what we need from time to time. Daily life is stressful and for the most part we work really well together as a team and we still manage to love and laugh even in trying circumstances. But its really great to see that if you strip away everything and it's just us, we really still like each other!

Good to know.


How can you tell we're on a flight without our kids?  We're smiling. I used to always complain about flying before I had kids, especially if there was a delay. But now if I get the chance to fly without my kids it's the best, no matter what. A delay? Fantastic, that's 2 more hours of alone time.

Dominique Ansel Bakery proved to be one of my husbands favorites--especially the DKA which some say is better than the cronut. We might have gone back 3 times. Cookie shots, DKA's and the frozen s'more as seen above.


We go to the city to get out in nature.  Really though, it was so nice to be staying a couple of blocks from Central Park.  

A photo of us up in Ft. Tryon park in our old 'hood.  Also, my husband calls this look bohemian linebacker. Fist bump...I'l take it.


We got all fancy for our big anniversary dinner. 14 delicious courses and we even got a kitchen tour because we're really important. OK, because we asked and they humored us. Definitely an experience we won't forget (or repeat, as my husband reminds me) anytime soon!

Some of the delicious food we demolished from Eleven Madison Park, Dominique Ansel and Babbo.  See how tiny that radish slice is???  I want to grow tiny vegetables. Someone please be my tiny vegetable growing coach. This has to be a thing.


The 9/11 memorial museum. This was really amazing and of course heart wrenching. We spent about 3 hours there and could have stayed longer. It's very emotional, but I highly recommend.

This was actually our first time doing the row boats in Central Park.  Look at that dreamy man of mine. (Looky, no touchy.)


We tried to go to the MoMA but didn't have time...luckily the Banksy piece was just down the block from us so I counted it as our artistic enlightenment.


I have no idea where we saw this--we were all over that city--but I like to think of it as a little air kiss from NYC to me. Cigarette butts and all.

While no one else is pictured here we also got to see a lot of friends while in the city. Always one of my favorite parts of visiting. This was the perfect amount of time with friends, time by ourselves, doing lots of stuff and chilling. As most of you know we moved here 2 weeks after our wedding and spent the first 4 years of our married life here.  I became a mom here. This city will always have a piece of my heart and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Until next time....

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Taking a Week Off


Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary and we have some big plans.  I'll be taking the week off, but I'm sure I'll be posting our adventures on Instagram so feel free to follow along there at thislittlemiggy.  Yesterday I posted about my grandma's dress on IG, and shortly after that post I decided to try my wedding dress on and surprise my girls. They loved it! So we took a few impromptu photos outside in the dress, and of course everyone got a chance to try on the veil.  I kept thinking about how 10 years ago I could have never imagined that dress and the decision I made while wearing it would have led us here with this family and this home. I have it really good. We have it really good.



10 years is a big deal and I would love to write a longer anniversary post talk about marriage, my man and the life we've grown into, but I just don't have the time. And I didn't get a picture of B and I in my dress yesterday, but here's a recent shot of us a few weeks ago at the Neil Young concert that I love!  (despite the boob photo bomb.)  :) Anyway, maybe another time... marriage really is a fantastic and fascinating topic.

I thought I'd leave you with a few special needs related links to check out.  Enjoy your week and I'll see you back here soon!  XO Migs

Check out this amazing story of a girl with down syndrome who saves her sister life.

Marriage equality for people with disabilities. You might be surprised, I was.

I really enjoyed reading about 8 year old Zion, the worlds youngest double hand transplant recipient.  The 13 minute video is worth the watch.