Analog Trail

Last Saturday, Jon and I had one of the nicest date nights in recent memory. (Admittedly, it has less competition than we might wish.)

Jon was connected a while back with a local artist who needed technology expertise to help with lighting for one of his pieces. Jon spent quite a bit of time planning, helping to install and then programming a series of LEDs. The piece is called Analog Trail. I think it’s fantastic, and I want to give a shoutout to Phil Foster, who does remarkable work.

Last Saturday night, the piece debuted at the 3 x 3 Art Show. Three galleries in Leiper’s Fork, a little historic village just south of here, opened their doors to the public to feature works by local artists. We admired Analog Trail on the wall and enjoyed the other works with a lot of people who were undoubtedly more familiar with the local art scene than we were. We sat outside in the slightly-crisp air under strings of white lights and a full moon and listened to live music. We wandered out behind the art galleries to watch fireflies flashing their secret messages across the fields. It was one of those perfectly lovely evenings you wish didn’t have to end.

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The photo doesn’t do the piece justice, and it can’t show the twinkling stars, randomized lightning, flashing phone screen, and flickering campfire. 

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Guys and dolls

Buckle up, dear readers. We’re going to talk about gender. Wait, don’t close the browser window yet! Hang with me, and I think we can get through this without losing our minds.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend whose little girl is a bit of a tomboy. She has more than once expressed a wish to be a boy, which in some families might induce panic and in others send a parent out to buy a new wardrobe. My friend is a wise and experienced mother, however, and has calmly given her daughter room to explore the things she enjoys, free of any gender-related pressure. You don’t have to like frills, she assures her daughter.

Our society has made a mess of gender. Some strange collusion of marketing, parenting and sex and gender politics has narrowed the gender world for our children to what can only be described as a pigeonhole. In that context, significant numbers of boys and girls inevitably are going to be left wondering where they fit in. All it takes is a trip down a few toy aisles to see what I mean. What message is a little girl getting if she really wants the latest monster trucks or construction toys? How long does it take for a boy to understand he’s not supposed to like dolls or sometimes putting on the princess dress? My son’s favorite colors have changed every few weeks for years, but at four, he came home from preschool with the understanding that pink was a girl color. I assured him that he can like any color he wants, but imagine how those messages accumulate from the time our kids are too young to know what it means.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not trying to explain gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual identity or any related complexities. I am not even remotely qualified to address those issues with any authority. What I can address is the world in which I am raising my children, and the issues I face as a parent. This includes pervasive societal pressure to accept a ridiculously narrow definition of gender and worry or label if our kids stray outside those boundaries.

People, can’t we all agree to ditch these artificial definitions? Some girls love frills and pink and naturally gravitate to dolls and dress-up and tea parties. There is nothing wrong with that. But let’s not discourage them from also loving cars and trucks, dirt, sports or roughhousing, or make those who do feel as if they don’t belong. Some boys naturally thrive on wildly physical shenanigans, loud and aggressive games and the world of bash-’em-up Matchbox cars and superhero escapades. But what of the ones who love putting on mom’s high heels, enjoy a good tea party, tenderly rock babies and stuffed animals to sleep or pretend to whip up a good omelette? Are they any less boys? There is an endless combination of all these things and many more, so beautifully varied and individual, a kaleidoscope of personality and experience in every child. Yes, there are basic differences between the genders, and I don’t mean to imply otherwise. However, we live in a time of false dichotomy, where everything is arranged in opposition to something else. Life doesn’t often work that way. Kids naturally try things on, testing what fits, imitating the many adults in their lives. The best way to make an issue where there isn’t one is to overreact to that natural process and impose our own fears or assumptions on children who are – and should be – endlessly testing and becoming.

Earlier this week, my son wore a pair of princess dress-up heels and superhero underwear in an imaginary game I did not attempt to understand. He likes pretty things and has a baby doll he occasionally plays with. He wishes to have his nails painted when I paint mine. He sometimes plays family with his friends on the playground, and other times he plays soccer. He spends hours with his cars, planes and trains in games that regularly turn raucous, and his imaginary worlds often involve good guys and bad guys and what he gleefully labels “violence.” Lina has a dollhouse and lots of babies she adores, but she also loves block towers and the occasional toy car demolition derby. She is often rambunctious in her play. She likes books about farm equipment and trucks that get stuck. These are their idiosyncrasies, the wild cocktails that comprise my children. The world has plenty to say about expectations and normalcy (whatever that is). But for now, I still have some ability to hold those messages at bay and let my children discover for themselves what brings them joy and who God designed them to be.

And kindergarten – check!

Corin’s end-of-school party was today, and in a few hours, he’ll be headed out on his final bus ride as a kindergartner. We weathered all that anxiety last summer, and now he finished the year thriving and confident, a kid in his element with his friends and a teacher he has loved. I’m going to miss kindergarten. Even with the modern change to more academics, it definitely still has that introductory feel. First grade suddenly sounds like real school. Corin is excited about it, but, as usual, I am wishing we could slow things down, just a little.

And so our summer begins, on a cloudy, 67-degree day. We have plenty planned – a week of day camp for Corin in June, swim lessons for both kids, a week of family camp for all of us in July – but there will be some down time, too. I’ve penciled in the building of blanket forts, catching of fireflies, reading of books, watching of movies and roasting of marshmallows over bonfires. I’ll keep you posted.

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The kids played some fun relay games out on the blacktop, but we’ll limit the pictures to this one, since I don’t have permission to share the other kids’ photos. I did meet the much-discussed little girl Corin has identified as his future wife. 

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When Jon asked Corin last night what he would miss most about kindergarten, the answer was immediate: “Miss Davis.”

 

Year one of preschool – check!

Today was Lina’s last day of preschool for the summer. I have been surprisingly emotional about this. She has come such a long way since she started in September, and I have so much love and gratitude for her teacher, aides and therapists who have helped that happen. It’s also one more of the endless reminders of how quickly time is passing.

We had Lina’s IEP meeting last week to set goals for next year, and I came away so encouraged. The people who gathered in that room love Lina dearly, and the IEP goals they drafted tell us they have the same high expectations for her that we do. When I said it was my personal goal to have Lina reading before she starts kindergarten, heads nodded all around the table. I know she can do it, and even better, so do they. Lina has a team of six consummate professionals – her teacher, two aides, and speech, occupational and physical therapists – all working together to make sure she is able to reach her full potential. Her school is in a county that believes and invests in high-quality, inclusive education for all students. No school system is perfect, and I know IEP meetings will get harder as Lina enters the more challenging general education setting in elementary school. They’ll probably get harder again with each new stage of her education. But I am so thankful that she is getting this start, with these people at her side.

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Party snacks!

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Her beloved speech therapist, Ms. Jody

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Our favorite preschool teacher, the fabulous Ms. Meri

 

 

Spring Picnic at the Zoo

Today was one of our favorite Down Syndrome Association events: the Spring Picnic at the Zoo. It’s an event for member families, and it’s done up right. There’s a meal, time for mingling with families from all over the region, plus full access to the zoo. This year, there was face painting and a photo booth. The weather was perfect, and the kids are both old enough now to really enjoy the zoo. It was a fantastic day, and we are, as always, so grateful for the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee.

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Jumping like a kangaroo

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Greeting a friend

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Making a monkey

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Mother’s Day

This is perhaps the lushest spring I have experienced in Tennessee. I suppose it’s extra rainfall that has brought us this verdant wonderland. It’s been a steady succession of blossoming, from the daffodils in March to pears, dogwoods and cherries, irises and peonies and now the sweet smell of honeysuckle and blossoms I haven’t been able to identify.

Somehow, the spring profusion seems like a fitting lead-up to Mother’s Day, with its celebration of the women who give life, the nurturing they provide and the growth they support. I love Mother’s Day, in all its cheesy Hallmark glory. You’d think the experience of infertility would have soured the holiday. Instead, I fully appreciate the privilege of being honored with funny and thoughtful cards, preschool crafts, little gifts payed for with saved allowance, and delicious meals lovingly prepared by a kind and capable husband.

This year, I thought a lot about children whose mothers are missing. A recent experience with a little boy my son’s age has reminded me that not every kid gets wrapped in the arms of a mom who cares and is there in the ways she should be. I’ve thought, too of friends and family members whose moms are gone, leaving what must be an unfillable hole.

I am so grateful for the time I get to spend with my mom, and for the hugs I get from my precious kids. Corin loves holidays, and his excited Mother’s Day wishes continued all day. I did laundry and housework and got annoyed by the dog, but the time with family was the highlight, as it always is.

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No water guns in the house!

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The boys’ table, a.k.a. Trouble Corner

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My sweet mama

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I still have scars from where he stabbed me with a pencil – twice – but I do love that brother of mine.

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What better metaphor for motherhood than choosing the photo where everyone else looks normal?

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Who armed the hooligans?

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