Thursday, October 25, 2012

The R-word

Ann Coulter has been a hot topic in the Down syndrome community for the past few days. If you haven't heard about it, Ms. Coulter, in her typical confrontational and abrasive manner used the
r-word in reference to President Obama in a recent tweet. Outrageous!

The r-word, once used to describe the delays that intellectually disabled individuals experience, has become a derogatory term in contemporary American usage. As languages evolve, so do the meanings of words. Let me illustrate this point with another controversial English word: gay.

Once upon a time it meant happy. Then it's meaning changed, becoming a synonym for homosexual. The homosexual community's acceptance of the term helped to diminish any intended insults through its use. And then, somewhere in the 1990's it's meaning changed again. Teenagers aggressively adopted the word and used it to mean "stupid." I still hear it used by some of my students today, and expressly forbid its use in my classroom.

The r-word is also banned. I include the following statement in my expectations sheet that every student receives on the first day of class:

Be considerate and respectful of the rights and feelings of others.... Most importantly, this includes refraining from using language that is offensive to others. Language that is considered racially, culturally, intellectually, sexually, or socially inappropriate will not be tolerated.
I add to that the explanation that no one knows the life circumstances of the people around them. A simple, seemingly innocent statement could be very offensive to people nearby. Then I show them a picture of my son--it typically elicits several "aaaaaaaw's" from the girls in the room--and ask them, "Did you know my son has Down syndrome?" "He does?" they say. I continue, "He does, and imagine how I would feel if you used the r-word in class to call someone else 'stupid?'"

I rarely hear any derogatory words in my classroom. Most people, even teenagers, want to be respectful.

So why doesn't Ann Coulter want to be respectful?  I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt that somewhere, deep inside, she doesn't really mean to offend the thousands of us in this country who have, or have loved ones with Down syndrome. Has her television persona become so fused with her true self that she is no longer able to see those lines she ought not to cross?

Shame on you, Ms. Coulter. The character you play thinks nothing of the feelings of others. Could that, perhaps, be your true character after all? How can you hold any of the people you criticize to high standards when you yourself do not reach them, or appear to even attempt to do so? Perhaps your public persona will not permit you to apologize for your missteps, but I hope that you learn to understand that what you say can hurt others so much more than you will ever know. There are quite a few people out there who look up to you. You should be a good model for them.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

We're Moving

I wrote this last night with every intention of posting it until I realized I had no way to get the photos and movie off my Mac and onto my mother's iPad. Better late than never.

So for the last two weeks, give or take, we've been moving. Sean, bless his heart, is trying to save us money. So, since we are staying in the same town, rather than hire movers, or even rent a truck, Sean has been passing out beers to whichever friends take the bait in exchange for moving as many things as possible in about three hours a night. The only limitation is that everything must fit in our minivan.

During that first week I was so whipped after working all day, playing with and feeding Max, and helping with the move, that  let's just say there was nothing left to create a post even remotely worth reading. I didn't wanna torture y'all. Then this past week we've spent our nights at the new place since more of our stuff was here than at the old place. BUT, we still don't have any Internet connection. My lovely mother was kind enough to lend me her iPad tonight so I could make this quick post. (No, I haven't forgotten about the Buddy Walk, but it'll have to wait so I can do it a little more justice.)

So, on to the star of My Boy Max.

Moving is exciting when you are almost two! There are all kinds of fun things to get into. The best of them all is the mountains of packing paper that Grammy lets fall to the floor. Do you remember when the simplest thing brought the greatest joy?

I call this, " Fun with Paper."

BTW, that's Grammy in the background.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Mix of Stuff

Tonight's post is a bit funny (funny weird, not funny ha-ha). I don't really have a theme. Just a few things I'd like to tell you about.

On the Farm

First, somehow during the first few weeks of this new school year these photos didn't get posted. Shame on me! Quick background info: In September, my dad's financial company had a client appreciation day at a local "farm." I think it was probably a farm once upon a time, but now it's more like a fun-park. There's a petting zoo, driving range, batting cage, arcade, beach volleyball and bumper boats. It's pretty fun, especially if you're a kid.

That's my nephew, AJ. He's on the left, and very competently driving that magnificently purple bumper boat.
And here he is again, letting that volleyball know who's boss. It wasn't long before my dad joined the game.
Hey, look at that. Twins! Max didn't appreciate being left out, and soon made his way onto the court.

The binky helps to prevent Max from shoveling fistfuls of sand into his mouth. He's strangely obsessed. Needless to say, we don't spend much time in the sand box, especially in public parks. You never know how many cats have passed through in the last few days.
And finally, a snuggle with Papa.

Doggy Kisses

We don't have a pet right now. When Max was born, Mitchell, my fifteen-year-old cat was still with us.
Max was fascinated with him. Mitchell was fantastic with children, resigning himself to the smacks and tail pulls, never swatting or hissing even once. Last Halloween he wandered off and never came home.

Sean has a cat, Mo, but she's rarely here. She's quite a hunter, and fends for herself most of the time. We really only see her when it rains. Cats and water, you know. She's not quite as good with children as Mitchell, so I try to keep Max away from her when she's here.

My brother, Andy, is a dog guy. He keeps Jack Russells. Right now he only has one, Roxy. Like all Russells, she's got energy to spare.  Since Max doesn't get much exposure to animals at home, he spends our visits to Andy's house chasing Roxy down. She loves it!
Here's AJ, just a couple of weeks ago, helping Max to keep Roxy from smothering him with kisses, but...
...Roxy won.

World Record

Max is officially a Toddler. That is, he has finally made his complete transition from the Infant room to the Toddler room at his daycare. (We--mostly me--have been a bit slow to make the move.) When I picked him up on Thursday I discovered that Max had achieved a world record!
If you look closely you'll see that Max read two books to win the record: Ladybug Girl and Bug Squad. Way to go!

To the Max

Tomorrow is our Buddy Walk. We're really excited! To the Max is $95 short of our team fundraising goal of $1500. Not too shabby. It's a big improvement over last year, and next year we'll go even bigger! All week long, The Weather Channel app on my phone has forecasted rain, but right now it's predicting just clouds. Let's hope those weather people are right!

It's gonna be a great day no matter what the weather. Lauren Potter, from Glee, will be there. And just a few days ago they announced that James Massone, that likeable kid from Boston on last year's The Voice has agreed to make an appearance.

The celebrities are fun to see, and they bring a lot of publicity to the event. But tomorrow is about more than that. Tomorrow is a day for people with Down syndrome, their families and their friends to be seen and acknowledged. It is a day for the world to see our loved ones as competent, contributing members of society. It is a day for all of us to show the world just how important our children with Down syndrome are, not just to us, their families, but to the world at large. Their presence in our lives teaches us compassion and empathy. We learn to accept, feel comfortable with, and value what is different. We become better people. Isn't that what really matters?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

It's October 1, which means we have 30 more days to acknowledge and celebrate our friends and loved ones with Down syndrome. What an opportunity!

A Unique Magazine

To kick of the festivities, Unique Me Magazine, a brand new publication out of Miami, FL intended to "raise awareness of ALL types of 'unique' needs; and provide information and inspiration to 'unique' families" sent me their second ever issue.

On the cover is a beautiful picture of Kelle Hampton's girls. (The Hampton family is one of my favorite celebrity families blessed by Down syndrome.) What a sight! And the mag has devoted two whole articles to DS. Tonight, after Max has gone to bed and I've finished enough correcting of student papers to feel comfortably prepared for tomorrow, I'll curl up and read two articles: "What is Down Syndrome? It's Not as Limiting as People May Think," (I'll write about any interesting or inspiring nuggets in a future post) and "A Mother's Story: Down Syndrome Gives Family a Chance to Bloom," highlighting Kelle Hampton's memoir, Bloom, about her first year with her daughter.

To the Max!

It's thrilling that a group of inspired and resourceful people have put together Unique Me Magazine. How can it get any better? Well...

The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress Buddy Walk takes place this Sunday in Wakefield, MA. Hundreds of people will gather to take a leisurely three-mile walk around the lake, have a yummy picnic, and enjoy the show, which this year is an appearance from Lauren Potter who plays a recurring character on the hit show, Glee.

We did it for the first time last year and vowed to participate in all the years that follow. There is so much positive energy and a tremendous sense of community. You really need to get involved. But if you can't do the walk, please donate. The proceeds go to the Massachsuetts Down Syndrome Congress, self-described as the "Premiere resource for Down syndrome information, advocacy and networking in Massachusetts."

Thanks to all of you have already donated. I've personally raised $355 of my $500 goal, and our team, To the Max, has raised $1,160 of our $1500 goal. Just a little more and we'll be there!

Max and I can't wait to see you there!