Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Dis" and "Dat" Ability

Today we are going to have a lesson.  Let me start with this:

What are you really good at?  Seriously, take a moment and think about it. Maybe you already know because you live out your gift passionately.  Maybe you are currently trying to figure it out.  Maybe you think you are hopeless, and you aren't good at anything.

But you are.  Keep looking.  Keep feeling.  Keep living.

What are you really good at?  What is your gift?  When did you figure this out?  Do you notice how good you feel when you get a chance to do it?  Do you notice how stifled and useless you feel when you don't get to do it?

I notice that with myself, and I notice it with Braeden.

We all can't do it all.  That's why we are all so different!  If we all did it all, we would all be really stressed out because that's a lot of pressure.  Instead, if we are able to harness the power of our talents and gifts, and use them daily, we are then able to thrive.  Not just live from day to day, but feel powerful and purposeful because we are doing what we love and do well.

Here is a little video to help illustrate this.

See?  We can't do it all, but we can do something.  Once we find out what our something is, we NEED to do it.  From our very core.  It is how we help others on this planet.  It makes us feel alive and worthy.

When I watch Braeden at school, it is apparent that he can't do all the things the other kids are doing.  He doesn't talk.  He can't eat his meatloaf with a fork all by himself.  He doesn't tell me when he needs to poop (or even admit that he just did it in his pants!).

However, I believe that he will be able to do all of these things some day.  These are merely milestones in a child's life.

There are other things that he can do that don't have to do with his age.  If he sees someone crying, he will either cry too, or give them a hug.  If you ask him to help you with something he is capable of, he will usually help happily.  When he smiles, your heart melts.  He is always very proud of himself for accomplishing something new or old.

Besides, he is a genius.

If you've been keeping up with this blog, you have read about many of the the things he can do.  Like, blow-your-mind kind of stuff for a three-year-old in general.

But genius and worldly knowledge aside, he is much more than that.  He brings a softness to this world.  He emanates a love that penetrates the darkest of hearts.  He shines a light so bright that it transformed my misguided thoughts instantly.

Brady P. dropping snow bombs on the porch

Just look at the light in those eyes.  He is pumped.  He drops that ice chunk over and over because I say "Katunk!" and he laughs.

Okay, so one more thing to tie this all together.

You have thought about what makes you awesome and special on this planet.  I have told you what makes Braeden awesome and special.

Now I want you to think about someone you know who you may have previously deemed "disabled."  Or less than a person.  Or perhaps not even worthy of life.  I bet you can think of someone.  Even saints have probably felt this way about someone.

Next think about why you thought that way about that person.   Is there something you don't understand about them?  How did they get in their current position?  What if you were in their shoes?

Okay, there's a little glimpse into finding compassion.

Now for the big question.  What do you think their gift could be?  Have you seen it yourself?  What potential do they have? Can you help bring it out in them?  Can somebody else?


Can you focus on that?  You can notice where they are now, yes, but know that they are here for something greater.

Just like Braeden.

Just like me.

Just like everybody.

Just like you.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


My little boy is becoming independent.

As a mother in general, this is exciting.  Some mothers find it bittersweet as their "baby" needs them less and less.  I am not your typical mom-type, so I just feel more liberated with each step he takes toward his independence.

As a mother whose child has a "disability," this is even more rewarding.

I remember the moment the doctor came in to tell me the news that the little boy in my arms had Down syndrome.  I was informed with a tone that inferred dejection.  I was told with words that instructed me to lower my expectations for the tiny human being that just exited my own being.  The doctor's eyes seemed to express that it was understandable if I didn't love him.

But that was never the case.

Neither were all the other things I heard at that moment.  Sure I wondered about the possibilities of my little Braeden doing this or doing that very well, but I never, EVER lowered my expectations for him.  I never EVER thought it was okay not to love him with every cell in my body and from every beat of my heart.

I stopped trusting that doctor a few hours before Braeden was born, for other reasons, but that brief, yet potent conversation also removed any respect for that doctor as a decent human being.  

That is not the way to talk to a new mother about her child.  Nor is it, in any acceptable manner, a mindset to carry around in daily life.

However, I am realizing now as I type, that the doctor unconsciously challenged me with those words.  I knew instantly that the misguided energy behind them would not be a part of our life.  No way.  No how.

In fact, I have made it my duty to make sure that Brady P. is able to fulfill his potential on this planet.  He is nothing short of a superhero to me.  Nothing short of that.  I know he came here to help save the world.

And he will.

He is an independent, loving, charming, strong, curious, intelligent, motivated individual.

Okay, well, I didn't plan on telling you all that just now. It just escaped through my fingertips, so it must have its own purpose.  

My original plan was to tell you the last thing Braeden did to make me realize how independent he is becoming.  It was a first for us, and I owe it to Grammy and Grampy Wais.

They were here last weekend for a visit.  Nana and Grampy, as we call them, had him throwing snowballs and making snowmen on the front porch.  He loved it!

Throughout their visit here, I noticed him picking up more and more snow.  While he was afraid to touch it earlier in the winter, the fear recently shifted to curiosity, and now he is taking a liking to it.  He's getting all up in that snow with his little mittened hands.

So on our way home from school on Monday, we got to the top of porch.  "Okay, let's go in!" I told him.

He shook his head and grunted "no," while scraping some snow off the pile on the bench.  Usually he can't wait to get in from the cold.  Not Monday.

He insisted on staying out and playing in the snow.  He was exerting his preference and independence.

"Okay," I said.  "You can stay out and play, but I am going inside."

He didn't even hear me.  He was so absorbed in the snow pile.  I smiled and shook my head.  That little man.  Doing his thing.  "Let me know when you want to come in!"

So I went in, set my computer on the table facing the window, and watched him with one eye while I got something done for myself.  

It was liberating.

For us both.

We were each doing what we wanted to do.  He was outside, I was inside.  He was having a blast, I was being productive.  It made the single mom life seem less daunting, and prompted me to figure out how to fence in the yard, so he can do that in the summer time too.  He certainly loves to be outside.

So when he was all done about fifteen minutes later, he simply turned around, walked toward the door and knocked.  I chuckled at his perpetual cuteness and grace.

"Come on in!" I shouted, opening the door.  He stepped up the entrance, and I kissed his rosy cheeks.  "You played outside by yourself!" I told him.  "Thanks, Braeden."

I don't know exactly what he was thinking by then, but I sure hope it was something like, "I can't wait to do that again!" because I am excited for it too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Learning to Draw

I was talking to a mom friend the other day.  That's often good camaraderie in itself, so I was grateful.  But our conversation brought up a point that most parents might struggle with at times without even realizing.

"I would love for my girls to learn to ice skate, but I'm not comfortable enough on skates to teach them," she admitted.

That was totally understandable.  Kids (or people in general) learn best from someone who is passionate and skilled in the subject at hand.

I am pretty comfortable teaching Braeden most things that he has wanted to learn so far, but there is one toy that makes me seize up whenever he brings it over to me.

The Magna Doodle.

The toy itself is innocent enough.  I mean, kids can draw on a clean surface with a magnet pen that remains fixed to the board.  No finding crayons.  No cleaning up marker from faces.  No pages and pages of scribbled artwork to feel guilty about throwing away.  Just swipe the lever at the bottom, and the picture is gone forever.

There is just one problem I have with this Magna Doodle.

It requires drawing.

When Braeden comes to me with the Magna Doodle and hands me the pen, I know that I am going to have to draw something.  Sometimes he points to what he wants me to draw, and sometimes I have to figure out what to draw that will appease him.

If you haven't noticed, I am a writer.  Drawing scares me.  I am not confident.  Nothing I draw looks right.  Especially animals, which he loves.

I have taken a liking to drawing shapes.  Especially hearts and stars.  Cubes and triangles.  Circles and squares.  And those are good for him to learn anyway.  But he gets bored with them pretty quick.

Amanda's artwork

Before I know it, I have to draw a horse.  Or a self-portrait.  Or a dump truck.  Do any of those things look right?  No.  But Braeden is usually happy with it, so I guess that's all that really matters.

He is teaching me how to go out of my comfort zone with a pen.  How to use my imagination on a blank screen for more than just words.  How to be okay with the fact that my lion looks like a daffodil with legs.

And I am teaching him how to make circles.  And lines.  I suppose we should start letters soon, too.  I am good at those!  And if it doesn't look quite right, we can just swipe the slate clean, and try it again.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rock Sliders

Since I switched from writing A Little Slice of da Harbor to writing this blog, I shifted the focus away from adventure, seasonal attributes, events, and other aspects of life in da Harbor.  But one aspect -- perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect -- of da Harbor has gotten a little too lost.

Especially this time of year, she seems a little lost to me.  I can't always hear her.  I can't always watch her undulations.  I can't always lose myself in her tumbling waves.

She has been frozen.

Quite literally.

Brady P. has been thoroughly confused as to why he can't throw rocks into Her Majesty Lake Superior.  He looks at me in charming disbelief as we sit on our usual shores and he can't even see her.  She is gone.

"Where is Lake Superior?" I ask him?

He swings his arm from side to side to motion to what he remembers as Lake Superior, but he doesn't seem convinced.

"We can't see the water right now."  I try to rationalize.  "It is under all the ice and snow!"  We dig into the snow as I describe it as white, soft and poofy.  Then we touch the ice as I describe it as smooth, hard and shiny.  

Yup.  The lake was under there for a couple weeks, if my memory serves me right.  Since the temps were in the single digits, and the lake was frozen over, we did not venture down to our shore spots.  No way.  As much as Braeden hated that bitter cold, the shore was not the place to be.

Besides, Her Majesty was hidden.

But guess what.  She came back!

A couple nights ago the pack ice blew out of the Harbor.  When I came home on Monday and saw her glimmering waves, I was elated.  It's as if her life was renewed within me.  It's as energizing as seeing the sun for the first time in days... or weeks.  If you know this feeling, you are a fortunate soul.  Appreciate that about yourself.

Since the temps promised to rise into the 20's, I vowed to take Brady P. down to the shore on Tuesday.  

To throw rocks!

We haven't done that properly for a couple months, but he still asks me nearly every day to throw rocks.

Fortunately, our sweet friend Bryce planned ahead and scooped up a bagful of rocks for a day just like Tuesday.  So I put some rocks in a bucket and pulled Braeden in the sled down to the Harbor Haus shore.

However, when we got there, I saw that my eyes deceived me from three blocks away.  Sure, the pack ice blew out, and I could see the water, but it was covered by 1/2" to 1" of ice.  We wouldn't have splooshes, but we would have a whole new experience.

I chucked the first rock firmly, hoping to chip through the ice.  No dice.  Instead, that rock smacked hard, bounced and sliiiiiiiiiiiiiid over the glossy surface.  It made a really cool sound.

Lucky for you, I took a video this time.

Sliding the rocks!

Brady P. was just as happy to chuck those rocks sailing across the ice.  It actually lengthened the lifespan of each toss because we got to watch it slide so far.  

The sound was so unique.  It was unlike anything I have heard before, and it wasn't my first time sliding rocks on Lake Superior!

Well, I'm glad you got to be a part of that with us.  Here's hoping that magical aspect of Copper Harbor can stay a bigger part of our daily lives besides sending us all those snowflakes!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Getting Schooled

Just yesterday Braeden resumed preschool after an overly-extended holiday vacation.

He attends preschool at the Copper Harbor one room schoolhouse twice a week for two hours a day.  I don't yet have the luxury of dropping him off, leaving and going about my day, but that time is coming.  Instead, I stay with him.

Most days I leave the room while he learns with the other kids and teacher, but yesterday I accompanied him.

I'm glad I did.

The things I saw him accomplish as an individual and saw him teach the other kids filled my heart with pride, hope and love.

The first thing that made me beam was during story time.  The teacher read Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Suess.  Even if you don't know the story of Yertle (which I highly recommend), you probably know the rhythmic cadence and flow of Dr. Suess' words.  

Once Braeden heard the teacher start to read, he got out of his chair and looked closely at the picture, obstructing the view from the other kids.

"Braeden, come sit in your chair," I told him.

"He's fine," the teacher assured.

Then he turned around, faced the students, and, while she swayed Dr. Suess' words, he began to orate with his arms.  If you haven't seen him do this, I highly recommend it.  You can click HERE to watch him in action.  

So there I sat, watching my three year old son with "special needs" standing in front of the students and gesturing with his arms along to the teacher's words as if he was acting out the story.

I should have taken a video.

I know.  I say that a lot.  But sometimes enjoying the moment is more important than trying to capture it for the rest of the world.  

The second thing to nearly make me pee my pants (not supposed to do that in school) was when we were sitting together on the rainbow mat looking at letter flashcards.  He loves those things.  Each letter has a picture of an animal or object that starts with that letter right behind it.

Since we have been working on saying the sounds of letters, I had him make the sounds of the letters on the cards.  But instead of asking, "Can you say 'g'?" or "Can you say 'b'?" I asked him, "Can you tell me this sound?"

And do you know what he did?

He read the letter and told me the sound.  Do you realize what that means???  That means that he can look at a letter, understand which letter it is, and verbalize the sound it makes.  That is how reading starts.  My little boy is starting to read out loud, and he doesn't even talk yet.

Now, he doesn't do all the sounds.  He can read B, H, G, P, M and A correctly.  At least he did that day at school!  Oh, man.  I was and still am so proud of him.  He's making strides, that little boy!

And the third thing to make my heart smile was when the teacher asked him to show the kids how to sign "thank you."  The sign for thank you looks similar to blowing a kiss, with your finger tips touching your chin and arching downward.

He showed the students, and I confirmed it with a little more precision.  Then it hit me.  My son is helping to teach them another language.

There was little Brady P., the youngest kid in the school, and he was teaching the students his first language.  They know "more," "yes," "thank you," "please," "eat," and probably a couple other so far.  The first few of many, I hope.

The second language being informally taught at the Copper Harbor schoolhouse has stemmed from my son's extra chromosome and my desire to help him communicate.  Kind of a little thing, but kind of a big thing too.

See?  We are already promoting acceptance and expanding learning.  Yes.  This is just the beginning.