Monday, August 15, 2016

First Day

This picture just about sums it all up.
Kenson is too cool.
Conleigh is posing.
Zeke has an excited smile.
And Kai...well he's being a complete ham and stealing the big kids' thunder.

As for the actual first day, Zeke had an amazing first day.  He had so much to tell me.  He saw a garter snake on the field and played soccer and basketball with Cole and Camden and some other people whose names he didn't know.  He grabbed my hand as we walked to the van and told me how he should have brought his lunch from home because they had cooked carrots for lunch.  (He hates cooked carrots.)  Then he was on to telling me that he already knew what he wanted for lunch tomorrow and that we needed to run to Walmart to get it.  When I pressed him more on this, telling him that I had things for lunch, he was quite insistent that we go to Walmart.  He couldn't tell me the name of what he wanted so I made my best guess.  "Lunchables?  Did you see lots of people eating Luncheables?"  Yep, that was it.  (I don't think I have every bought my children Luncheables but my kids constantly beg for them.  I ought to break down and buy them that as a treat when I head to the store on Thursday.)   He then proceeded to tell me how the only thing bad about the day was that it was a short day and that he wished it had been a full day instead of early dismissal.  He used his scissors and his glue and his teacher read like 10 books but he didn't remember any of them.  He was such a chatterbox.

As for his hands, that was the second thing on his list.  Lots of people asked and he chose to ignore them.  I asked him how he thought that would work since they might ask tomorrow but he changed the subject.  "Well except for this one boy.  I told him that a shark bit off my hands and he said 'really?'"

As to the big kids, they were a lot less chatty.  Surprise, surprise.  I did manage to find out what they did at recess and what they ate for lunch.

Picture option number 44

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Baskets in the Water

Zeke has no true fingers.  He has a thumb, a half a pointer, and a toe.  I know this.  Yet, I never see him as a special needs kid.  He's so fiercely independent, so tenacious, so quick to learn new things.  His hands are just a non-issue.

I also generally don't helicopter parent.  I'm not overly sentimental when it comes to my kids nor am I much of a worry wart.  I love watching parents of graduating seniors who are so confident in their child and who are so sure of their role in giving their child wings and launching them out into adulthood.  Those parents, who truly are excited to see who their children are about to become, are the ones who give me a glimpse of who I hope to be in the next ten-ish years.

So as Zeke starts kindergarten tomorrow, I found myself in an unusual place.  As I was talking with his homeroom teacher about his hands earlier this week, I found myself quite teary.  Not because he is starting kindergarten.  Instead, I found myself thinking about recess, when my non special needs guy heads out onto the playground with over a hundred other kindergarteners, when his non special needs hands will draw attention, where this mom is apparently a little worried for the needs of his heart.  

I've been on the playground in a smaller scale, where he interacts with other kids for the first time and generally, I don't think he's really been met with cruelness.  However, there are lots of questions and lots of comments and there is always the opportunity for someone to be just plain mean.  All of that makes him feel so different and no one wants to feel different.  As a teacher, I know his teachers will move heaven and earth to protect his heart just like they would for any kiddo.  But I also know that they are limited by their humanness, that they can't hear and see everything and that the playground is a hard space to monitor.  It's one of those moments where I wish I were there to fix it, to make whatever that may happen okay.

But I'm not there and even if I were, the reality is I do not possess a magic wand that sprinkles down fairy dust and transforms my children's negative experiences.  I cannot place my trust in my abilities as a mom or in the idea that my kids will have pain free, perfect childhoods.  Instead, I am going to have to trust that my sweet six year old is and has always been God's, that God created him, saw him in all moments of his life, and will continue to be present in his life, even on the kindergarten playground.  To borrow a bit from Ashlei Woods, it's a bit like Moses' mother putting her babe into the basket, casting him off into the water, believing that somehow her God would make a way.  

"There comes a time – many times, actually – in the lives of our children where we have to put the basket in the water.  We have to let go and trust the plan of the Father.  The world is a scary place – a place where we fear our children could drown.  But we must remember that we have to let go so that God can draw them from the waters for His great purpose.  He has called us to be their parents, but they were His first. "

So off Zeke goes, into the basket, out on the water.  The prayers have been said and God's already working on the details.  May the scary playground of tomorrow be the place of God's continual presence.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Back To School Hair

I finally got Conleigh's locs retightened.  Holy buckets!  It seemed like it drug on this time for a month, as we did lots of short periods of working on it rather than a few longer sessions.  Anyway, she requested a side pony tail so we did flat twists back to a side pony and then used pipe cleaners to curl the ponytail.  Her curls in her ponytail didn't get quite long enough to dry so they fell a bit flat after a day but it was still cute.

Birthday Boys

Kenson and Zeke celebrated birthdays within a pretty short time span.  We actually have three birthdays and an anniversary within two weeks at the end of July/beginning of August.  If you add in D's birthday and Kai's birthday, we have five birthdays and an anniversary all within a month of each other.  Let's just say there's a lot of cake in our house come August.

Zeke turned six.  I'm not quite sure why but it seems like in the last few months, he has gotten much more cuddly than ever.  He's never been a super cuddly guy.  Actually when he first came home, hie was pretty darn prickly.  But gradually he has let his guard down and it just seems like he's done a lot more melting into me and seeking out affection.  He's still a stinking smart little cookie who just absorbs everything.  He can read a bit on his own and I'm pretty sure that he knows all of his addition and subtraction facts.  He still loves sharks and ocean things but has also branched out into poisonous things like tarantulas, cobras, and scorpions.  

Here are his three wishes:

Soccer cards-kind of a weird one but Kenson has started collecting baseball cards so Zeke had to follow suit.

An ocean Lego cake-He put his scuba diver on it and was just happy as a clam.

Take a friend to a local indoor play space.
Kenson also picked this so I took my four kids and two extras all by myself.
The four big boys had a great time together.

Kenson is ten.  That seems nearly impossible.  He is fast turning into a pre-teen boy.  He giggles at all sorts of pre-teen boy things and is testing out his own unique sense of humor.  He loves anything sports related from basketball to soccer to football to baseball.  His spent most of his summer playing baseball in the yard with Zeke and the neighbor boy.

For his birthday, he shared one wish with Zeke, being able to take a friend to an indoor place space.  One of his other wishes was to be able to watch tv all day long.  (See!  I told you!  Pre teen boy!)  I had to attend a training for a job I will be starting so that meant D was home all day with the kids on Kenson's birthday.  Seems like a day of tv watching was a great way for Dad to entertain at least one of the kids.  For his last wish, he wanted Legos.  (That's also been a theme of the summer.  The kids have spent hours playing Legos.)  He wanted something related to a police set he already had so this new set is kind of a swamp chase set, with a hoverboat, a tree house hide out, and another police vehicle.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

NubAbility Camp 2016

So there's this sports camp called NubAbility Camp in Illinois.  And we just took our 5 year old there.  Which sounds like a completely crazy thing.  That someone would drive 9 hours to take their 5 year old to a sports camp.  I promise you were are not crazy.

I actually had heard of the camp, tucked it away for future reference, and then thought twice after my friend, Sheri, who had attended multiple times said, "Nope.  Don't wait.  Go now."  

Here's the basic premise behind it:  what if limb difference kids could go to a camp, centered around sports, and be coached and mentored by limb difference coaches?  What if limb difference kids could see others with limb differences being successful?  What if limb difference kids could forge relationships with people who look like them, who have stories that mirror theirs?  And so, we went.

Zeke had a blast.  He was about ten paces ahead of us every single moment of every single day, racing to get to the next thing.  The second day, he ate half of his breakfast, looked up and said, "I ate half.  Can we go now?"  I think he just basked in seeing so many people who had limb differences.  (I think there were like 140 campers plus 60 coaches.  Not all the coaches had limb differences but I'd say at least 75% of them did.)  As a mom, my heart was blessed by the normalcy of it.  Any new situation means that Zeke is almost instantly greeted by the question, "What happened to your hands?"  Not this time.  Not once did someone ask him that.  Not once.

Thursday was a kick off day, with swimming, golf, archery, and fishing for those who wanted to do those things.  I swear Zeke could have fished all day.  He also won a fishing pole in the ice breaker game.  Best of all, Zeke jumped off the diving board during the swimming session, for the first time ever, and swam to the side of the pool all by himself.

Friday morning started with an opening ceremony featuring a parade of all the campers and coaches.  I loved seeing the campers and coaches grouped by location, to see the variety of regions, personalities, and limb differences represented.  Here's our video footage of it.  It's kind of long but I think it's worth watching.

For Friday and Saturday, the kids were asked to pick a focus sport, one that they would get to do repeatedly.  He picked wrestling.  They also had four open sports sessions, where they could sign up for another sport and learn more about it.  For his open sports sessions, he picked football, basketball, swimming, and soccer.  Zeke played all day long for two days straight.  I'd share the photo of him passed out at the hotel but he'd be quite grumpy at me for sharing a pic of his undies.

Some of the other highlights for me as a mom were hearing repeatedly that our kids were created perfectly.  Not because I don't believe that but because I think Zeke has his moments of doubt in regards to that.  I also really appreciated what one of the wrestling coaches said.  Harry is from England.  He shared a bit about how there isn't anything like this in England, that disabilities are viewed so differently there.   He shared how up until last year, his first year at camp, as a 20 something adult, he was unable to tie his shoe.  But another coach at camp helped him learn how, at camp.  Hearing him admit that as an adult, he was still learning was such a good thing.  He also shared how he had never in his life met another person who had a hand like his until this camp when he met two kids who matched his hand.  Again, I think that's a valuable thing to hear, that we all long to "fit in" to a group like that.

Enjoy the pics!

Before the opening ceremonies, sitting with the Nebraska delegation.
The boy in the yellow was actually a Montana kid and we're missing one kid but I thought this photo was perfect.
Three big boys messing around and Zeke messing with the flag.
It also really captures the way that the campers relate to each other.
So many do know each other from years of attending but others are meeting for the first time.
I loved seeing the big kids interact with the little ones.

Wrestling practice begins
The coach in the middle is actually a former camper who is now a high school wrestler.
I think that model of kids becoming coaches is amazing.

Wrestling with Ninja Warrior and WWE wrestler Zack Gowen

Mid day on Saturday was the shoe tying session
Every camper was to find a coach who looked most like them.
If they didn't know how to tie shoes, then they were to practice.
If they already knew how, then they were to be a coach.
Lower limb difference campers went to a session on prosthetics.
Zeke's working with Zach Hodskins, current Florida Gator basketball player.

Waiting in line for a soccer drill

Wish I had taped this so you could hear the noise.
Zeke spent most of his time in wrestling like this.
Or on his back being pinned.
But either way, he was giggling pretty much the whole time.

For basketball, they separated them by ages.
Zeke got stuck in a group of 5 year old girls.
He was not amused.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Fourth Fun

July has seemed to be the time when D's brother and his wife trek this way from Idaho.  So what better way to spend the 4th than with D's family?

We decided we would camp in Grandpa's yard the night we stayed there.
So we had to do a dry run in our own backyard prior to travel.
The three big kids all stayed outside, all night by themselves.

Kai, around 11, on the night of the big fireworks show.
He was not terrified, although this photo does kind of look that way.
Mostly just tired with the occasional hands over his ears.

McDonald's picnic post fireworks in the tent in Grandpa's yard

We headed over to D's uncle's house the next day.
"Get your game face on" because ladderball is serious business.

I think this is Larry's game face...

Terrible photo but not sure of who many we have of them together so it's worth sharing.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Day I Became Colored

I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother's side was not an Indian chief. 

I remember the very day that I became colored. Up to my thirteenth year I lived in the little Negro town of Eatonville, Florida. It is exclusively a colored town. The only white people I knew passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando. The native whites rode dusty horses, the Northern tourists chugged down the sandy village road in automobiles. The town knew the Southerners and never stopped cane chewing when they passed. But the Northerners were something else again. They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch to watch them go past and got just as much pleasure out of the tourists as the tourists got out of the village. 

The front porch might seem a daring place for the rest of the town, but it was a gallery seat for me. My favorite place was atop the gatepost. Proscenium box for a born first-nighter. Not only did I enjoy the show, but I didn't mind the actors knowing that I liked it. I usually spoke to them in passing. I'd wave at them and when they returned my salute, I would say something like this: "Howdy-do-well-I-thank-you-where-you-goin'?" Usually automobile or the horse paused at this, and after a queer exchange of compliments, I would probably "go a piece of the way" with them, as we say in farthest Florida. If one of my family happened to come to the front in time to see me, of course negotiations would be rudely broken off. But even so, it is clear that I was the first "welcome-to-our-state" Floridian, and I hope the Miami Chamber of Commerce will please take notice. 

During this period, white people differed from colored to me only in that they rode through town and never lived there. They liked to hear me "speak pieces" and sing and wanted to see me dance the parse-me-la, and gave me generously of their small silver for doing these things, which seemed strange to me for I wanted to do them so much that I needed bribing to stop, only they didn't know it. The colored people gave no dimes. They deplored any joyful tendencies in me, but I was their Zora nevertheless. I belonged to them, to the nearby hotels, to the county--everybody's Zora. 

But changes came in the family when I was thirteen, and I was sent to school in Jacksonville. I left Eatonville, the town of the oleanders, a Zora. When I disembarked from the river-boat at Jacksonville, she was no more. It seemed that I had suffered a sea change. I was not Zora of Orange County any more, I was now a little colored girl. I found it out in certain ways. In my heart as well as in the mirror, I became a fast brown--warranted not to rub nor run. 

But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all but about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more of less. No, I do not weep at the world--I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. 

Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. The terrible struggle that made me an American out of a potential slave said "On the line!" The Reconstruction said "Get set!" and the generation before said "Go!" I am off to a flying start and I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep. Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. It is a bully adventure and worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it. No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost. It is thrilling to think--to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame. It is quite exciting to hold the center of the national stage, with the spectators not knowing whether to laugh or to weep. 

The position of my white neighbor is much more difficult. No brown specter pulls up a chair beside me when I sit down to eat. No dark ghost thrusts its leg against mine in bed. The game of keeping what one has is never so exciting as the game of getting. 

I do not always feel colored. Even now I often achieve the unconscious Zora of Eatonville before the Hegira. I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background. 

 For instance at Barnard. "Beside the waters of the Hudson" I feel my race. Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself. When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again. 

Sometimes it is the other way around. A white person is set down in our midst, but the contrast is just as sharp for me. For instance, when I sit in the drafty basement that is The New World Cabaret with a white person, my color comes. We enter chatting about any little nothing that we have in common and are seated by the jazz waiters. In the abrupt way that jazz orchestras have, this one plunges into a number. It loses no time in circumlocutions, but gets right down to business. It constricts the thorax and splits the heart with its tempo and narcotic harmonies. This orchestra grows rambunctious, rears on its hind legs and attacks the tonal veil with primitive fury, rending it, clawing it until it breaks through to the jungle beyond. I follow those heathen--follow them exultingly. I dance wildly inside myself; I yell within, I whoop; I shake my assegai above my head, I hurl it true to the mark yeeeeooww! I am in the jungle and living in the jungle way. My face is painted red and yellow and my body is painted blue. My pulse is throbbing like a war drum. I want to slaughter something--give pain, give death to what, I do not know. But the piece ends. The men of the orchestra wipe their lips and rest their fingers. I creep back slowly to the veneer we call civilization with the last tone and find the white friend sitting motionless in his seat, smoking calmly. 

"Good music they have here," he remarks, drumming the table with his fingertips. 

 Music. The great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched him. He has only heard what I felt. He is far away and I see him but dimly across the ocean and the continent that have fallen between us. He is so pale with his whiteness then and I am so colored. 

At certain times I have no race, I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance. So far as my feelings are concerned, Peggy Hopkins Joyce on the Boule Mich with her gorgeous raiment, stately carriage, knees knocking together in a most aristocratic manner, has nothing on me. The cosmic Zora emerges. I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads. 

I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. I am merely a fragment of the Great Soul that surges within the boundaries. My country, right or wrong. 

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me. 

But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held--so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place--who knows?  (How It Feels to Be Colored by Zora Neale Huston)

The day I became colored...that phrase just gets me.  Ask me what I worry about for my kids of color and that phrase is it.   I dread the day they feel colored.

Not that they don't already know they are brown.  Or called black even though black is such a misnomer.  They know that they are brown.  They know we don't match.  They know that they are often dots of brown in a snowy white landscape.  Yes, that they know.

But what they don't know is that they are colored.  They don't know yet that the world is a pretty ugly place sometimes and that there will be times they will be on the receiving end of such ugliness through no fault of their own.

I mean, that happens to us all.  But there is something so stinging and sharp about ugliness that stems from who you are as a person.  One can argue that my children should not be defined by their blackness.  I agree. They are so much more.  And yet, their blackness is a part of them. I cannot ignore that there heritage truly is African, that they are the grandchildren of former slaves, that their history is that of the world's first successful slave rebellion, that most won't know their heritage but will presume them to be black Americans, that they will be often described as a black man and a black woman, with whatever connotations are attached to the speaker's thoughts.

Right now, they are safe and sheltered.  In our little town, they belong to us.  Our school, our neighbors, our friends, our family-they have claimed my kids as their own.  At some point, that will change.  They will not be Kenson of Crete or Conleigh of Crete but they will instead be just another colored boy or just another colored girl in a sea of people.  And what then?

I want to believe that the greater community, that vast group of people who were all created in the image of God, will still claim them as their own.  But my guess is there will come a day when my kids realize they are colored.  Because of the words someone said.  Because of the way someone acted.  Because of the news story they just saw.   My kids will not be exempt because they are good kids from a good family from a nice little town.

I don't say these words lightly nor do I believe the bogeyman lurks around every corner.  I say these words because at some moment every black person becomes colored.  Every black person has to take a moment or two or four and reconcile who he is with what he has been made to feel.

I pray for my kids that the world will be better or different somehow, that somehow fear and suspicion and skepticism and anger will not be the biggest emotions defining racial relations.  I pray they will be a Zora, who wonders why anyone would want to deprive himself the presence of my children.  I pray they will have their oyster knife ready in their hands, because the world is their oyster, because while they may be colored, they are not tragically black.