Dog Hair and Spilled Ketchup Between the Seats


This morning I washed, vacuumed and Windexed my van. It’s an ’05, and has some wear and tear, but at the moment, it’s looking pretty good. I enjoy my car like this, but my kids don’t.

They know it means the dog will have to ride in the very back of the van. At least for a few days. Then, the efforts of removing his dog hair will have faded enough from my memory to give in to their pleas and I’ll allow him to ride on the bench seat with them.

The dog hair doesn’t add itself to the van gradually, it’s an all or nothing deal. Just one short car ride with the kids to school and back, and my car looks like the dog has lived in there all day, every day, for a year.  As if his immense shedding were not enough, his hair also intricately weaves itself into the kids’ clothing.  At school drop-off, while some moms are giving their kids a quick spit wash to rid them of their morning cereal milk mustaches, I’m giving my kids a quick once-over with the lint brush.

When my car is clean, I can almost guarantee no one will see it. However, when it’s at the peak of its dog hair-filled, food-spilled, toy-strewn glory, the cosmos will work its magic to invite people in.

Just last week, I met Juliette, a good friend from high school I hadn’t seen in years, out for dinner. My car happened to be at its peak messy state, and I didn’t have time to clean it before dinner. “It will be fine,” I thought, “I’m meeting her at the restaurant, she will never see my car.”

Sure enough, when Juliette and I left the restaurant it was dark and I happened to have parked in a lot that was closer to the restaurant, so guess who drove whom to their car.

That never would have happened if my car was clean, its like I’m invisible to the pranksters of the cosmos. But if they see a busy, frazzled mom whose kids just spilled their happy meals all over the dog-hair covered floor, its like I’m a bright, red blinking light on the radar.

I have a vague recollection of my van in its pre-dog, pre-fast food days. My twin girls were babies, and I drove out to visit my friend, Micha, who has three kids that are older than the twins (soon she’d add a fourth and I’d add a third to complete our families).

At the end of our visit, Micha walked out to the van with me to help put the twins in their car seats for the ride home. When she looked in the van, she smiled and said, “I see your kids don’t eat in the car yet.”

Over the years, spurts of ketchup that fly out of those little packets have found safe places between the back bench seat and wall of the van just out of reach, tiny bits of goldfish crackers constantly re-materialize, and when one of the kids spilled an entire Sprite as I rounded a sharp corner, my first thought was, “Score! Its clear.”

Fantasies of a clean car still give me a dreamy smile. But those busy nights driving home from the kids’ activities, grabbing a quick dinner, singing to the radio, and the dog hanging out on the back bench seat, all add up to some really good times. I guess that explains why I spend an entire morning cleaning my car, only to welcome back the dog hair and more spilled ketchup between the seats.

“Mothers of Disabled Children” by Erma Bombeck, May 11, 1980

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures, and a couple by habit. This year, nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen? Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

“Armstrong, Beth; son; patron saint, Matthew.

“Forrest, Marjorie; daughter; patron saint, Cecelia.

“Rudledge, Carrie; twins; patron saint…. give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”

Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.”

The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”

“Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”

“But has she patience?” asks the angel.

“I don’t want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she’ll handle it. I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independance. She’ll have to teach the child to live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”

“But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”

God smiles. “No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.”

The angel gasps, “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”

God nods. “If she can’t seperate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive. Yes, there is a woman I will bless with a child less then perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a ‘spoken word.’ She will never consider a ‘step’ ordinary. When her child says ‘Momma’ for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.

“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see — ignorance, cruelty, prejudice — and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”

“And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in midair.

God smiles. “A mirror will suffice.”

Keep a grateful soul…there is always something to be thankful for no matter how difficult the day is.



Hey Girlfriend, You Need A Body Image Readjustment!


We women are inundated with articles about our weight and body image. They go from encouraging some crazy cleanse diet to embracing our fullness.  As different as these articles may look, every single one is saying the same thing: “Girlfriend, you do not love who you are, and you need us to tell you how to do that, and its all in your body image.”

They tell us to embrace ourselves, as if we are not able to do that without their validation, or to starve ourselves and then we can be happy because we’ll be the “skinny girl” and we all know happiness is achieved by being skinny.

GAG me with your honey and green tea cleanse diet spoon!!

The only articles about our bodies I find useful focus on healthy eating, different types of exercise and general well-being with absolutely zero reference to weight or body image. Those articles are not as sexy as the body image articles and they don’t call us girlfriend, but, they do give us the tools to own our body image, and when we own it, we have no need to be defined or validated by someone else.

Take care of that body you have been given, no matter how big or small your boobs, thighs or tummy are. When you exercise, eat well, and allow yourself to fully enjoy “bad for you” treats on occasion, you will be proud of what you are doing for yourself and not need an article to tell you to “embrace yourself as you are” or consume nothing but honey and green tea for a week.

It’s not that you won’t wish certain parts of your body are different. Believe me, I would love to have long, skinny legs but I don’t. Yet, I treat myself well and I love to run so I am proud of my curvy, muscular thighs. I don’t need an article to tell me to embrace their curves or get them skinny with some crazy cleanse diet.

I own my body. When you own it, there are no comparisons, crazy diets, or validation needed. Got that, girlfriend?

Why I Was Chosen

Wil Calendar 2008 001

I was talking with another parent of a child with special needs yesterday, and he commented that, for one reason or another, we were chosen. I wonder sometimes, why? Why me?

Not in terms of regret, but in terms of what do I know that someone else wouldn’t? Why would I be chosen, I’m not equipped for this. I have no experience, why put this precious child with these challenges in my hands? But, after I took some time and thought about that, I think that is exactly why.

Parents like me are scared and are in unknown territory, so we forge ahead because we don’t know what else to do. We scrape in the dark, seeking options and supports, learning new medical terms and programs and what they really mean for our child, what ways our child learns best so they can thrive in a society not built around their abilities, and we ponder the big question of who will take care of our child when we leave this earth.

As we navigate, the answers are like sparks of light, and they are beautiful. We can’t help but appreciate every success to the fullest, no matter how big or small, and when we meet new parents, we know exactly how they feel, how full of questions that walk ahead can look, and we have a strong desire to put our arm around them, and walk with them through those dark times, telling them keep walking, keep going, there is a light, and it’s the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, and though you don’t know it right now, you will be thankful for this walk, thankful that it is you that was chosen.

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – Day #19

Beautiful Wil
Yes, there are challenges, but working with challenges has the power to bring out the best in people. I know, because this guy brings out the best in me. I’m the lucky one that he calls “Mommy”


Wil and me

Hi All!! Very excited today that “Why Down Syndrome Does Not Define My Son” was just published in the Huffington Post!

If you enjoy reading this article, please take a moment to post your comments below the article on the Huffington Post website. Thank you!


October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – Day #15


How can you promote acceptance and awareness?
Share your stories, the good times, the sad times, all of them. They matter. Without them, we are left alone with our misconceptions.


October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – Day #14


How can you promote acceptance and awareness?

Be patient with me….I can do the same things as you, I just need more time and may learn a little differently.

I’m a visual learner, so flash cards, books, and visual demonstrations give me a better understanding (My sister, Katherine, is great at giving me visual examples to help me with my homework!)


October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – Day #13


I’m a little brother….with two big sisters!


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