Only a Week Left to Like and/or Share My Video

Hi, everyone,

I’m laughing as I send this out, because I’m only competing against 196 other people to become a finalist. However, … you can still help me to become a finalist for a $25000 award to further my writing career and stories within and outside of the disability space by doing the following:

1. Like my pitch on Youtube and on the Holman Prize blog I’ve been told liking in both places is fine.
2. Share it with friends, family, enemies and strangers. 🙂 When you share, encourage people to like and share as well.
3. Like and share anyone else whom you think is worthy. Seriously, there are some amazing ideas out there!

Thank you all in advance for your liking and sharing generosity! This will be my last email on this topic, I think, though I don’t promise to leave you alone on Facebook and Twitter. 🙂

Love, Kristen


I want to give Langston full explanations for his infractions. But that short, sharp bit of invective, the code word I’m sure my mother used with my brothers and me when we were toddlers and pre-schoolers, is the word I’ve chosen—or rather the utterance which bursts out of me–when Langston commits an act I can no longer dismiss as babyish cuteness or curiosity. He’s my baby, but at almost two, he’s not a baby anymore.
“You may not climb on the coffee table. That’s bad!”
“Stop throwing toys. It’s bad!”
Or sometimes, I forget to articulate what he has done wrong and just yell, “Bad!”
Then I give him my version of a timeout. I hold him on my lap for a few seconds. I don’t let him grab a toy or make me laugh, though the latter can sometimes be difficult! When we both can no longer stand each other, I ask Langston if he is ready to be nice, whatever that means.
“Yeah,” he says amiably.
As he wriggles away, I chide myself for my lack of specificity. But after a brief timeout, Langston usually returns to a state of relative equanimity.
I tell myself it could be worse. I could be cursing, abusing him or holding grudges. But how did all of my verbosity degenerate into a monosyllable? I feel illiterate. I feel like the mom of a toddler. The word, bad, has highlighted the differences in opinion my husband and I have about what is considered to be a real problem. James gets upset if Langston tries to turn on the stereo. I think Langston should learn how to access music, and furthermore, I would rather have him mess with James’s stereo than with my computer. My husband might think I’m a bad parent for letting him play with the stereo, but Langston knows the difference between on and off. But I guess the real problem with “bad” occurs when my son decides to try out the label. “Bad!” he said to me one day when I burped before I could get out my apology. It was an accusation I’d absolutely never given him when he burped, even when he forgot to say his version of “excuse me,” which sounds more like “thank you” to me. “That’s not bad,” I told him. “Burping isn’t bad.” Why, then, do I remind him to say “excuse me?”
A few days ago, I returned from a particularly frustrating day at my new job. It was hard to switch immediately from Teacher into Mom, and I felt the overwhelming adult need to eat, to check e-mail, to listen to the news, to think. Langston immediately intuits when I’m mentally not with him, and he figures out ways to get my attention. This time, he began throwing all of his board books onto the floor with a hollow, thumping sound. “That’s bad,” I told him tiredly, once I’d figured out that he wasn’t just trying to pick out a book for us to read together.
Still he kept throwing the books. I helped him to pick them up, and then he threw them to the floor again.
Finally, I turned him to face me. “Langston, books aren’t toys!” I said, “You don’t just throw them around and make noise with them. You pick one, and we read it.”
Langston seemed to mull this over for a moment. “Mess,” he said. “Mess mess mess.”
I had been trying to explain his potential mistreatment of the written word. But “mess” was as good of an explanation as any. And besides, wasn’t part of my frustration really annoyance about my having to make things neat again? “That’s right,” I told him. “you made a mess. Clean it up.”
“Na-nup!” he responded cheerfully, remembering the song he learned in daycare.
Together we returned the books to the coffee table, and I felt a partial sense of relief that I left bad behind, and Langston understood. Respecting words could wait for another evening.

Temporary Housing

We’re in an apartment supplied by the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind while we look for more “permanent”
arrangements. In the past month, I’ve accepted a job in West Virginia and have moved our tiny family to the non-diverse, non-public transit otherworld. I can’t believe this has happened. You’ve adjusted very well, though, and I remind myself that lack of diversity doesn’t really affect you yet while you’re home with Daddy all day. Of course, then I think about your sudden and complete lack of exposure to other kids your age. But then I think you’ll get fewer diseases this year. The pros and cons endlessly loop in my brain, despite the fact—or because of the fact—that I’ve already made this choice for us. And you love our new apartment. Your favorite part of it is the sink, which feels like it’s made of stone, though it probably isn’t. It’s toddler height. You haven’t figured out how to turn on the water, so you ask me to turn it on, “Mama, wawai? Mama, wawai?” Then you stand entranced with your hands in the cold stream. Sometimes, you grab my hand and put it into the cool gush, too. No matter how hard I try not to, I can’t help thinking of Helen Keller during that moment, and I catch my breath at your sense of wonder about the water.


     This morning, your fever broke temporarily, and you pranced around the room with an orange ball with spikes on it.  You trotted to the open window, and together we heard the sound of the water dripping from the neighbor’s window air conditioner.  “Wain,” you said.

     “No, it’s not raining,” I said.  “that’s the air conditioner.”

     “No more rain,” you said, though it sounds like “no ma wain.”

     “No rain right now.”

     “Bye bye wain,” you said and skipped away.

     Daddy said you heard the wind when you were drifting off to nap, and you asked for rain again.  Later I was hoping you’d sleep by osmosis, since my other sleep techniques are kind of hit or miss—mostly miss—and you said, “Wain” as you heard Tad’s nails clicking on the pavement as Daddy took him outside.

     All of the sounds which prompted your rain prayer/declaration were similar to rain but weren’t really rain, just as your word, wain, is approximate.  Then again, my goal is that someday you’ll understand that rain is the phenomena in which drops of water fall from the sky, and though I know slightly more about clouds and the process than that, I’ve forgotten most of it.  My understanding, too, is approximate.



Dreamland Calls Me

The first time you decided not to fall asleep during our bedtime routine was, in a way, not the first time. For the first few months of your life, I struggled mightily to coax you into indulging in more than a cat nap. But I knew that those earliest months, you were learning the rhythms, you were hungry or cold or startled, and you were getting used to the world outside the cocoon of my body. But your father could, so it seemed to me, always entice you to slumber. You remained a catnapper during the days, but once you grew a little, you succumbed to my bedtime rituals—reading a story, playing with the book, and lying against me on the bed to listen to a song–as if I were a hypnotist. I would sing “The Water Is Wide,” “Kumbaya,” or “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and the tide of your breathing would become deep and steady by the time I sang about possible unrequited love. Then I’d pick you up and carry you to your crib.
Oh yes, and I did hear Samuel Jackson’s magical voice reading Adam Mansbach’s book, Go the Fuck to Sleep, after I read about the hyp which surrounded its release, and while I found the book to be humorous, I felt the fortune of, somehow, having escaped from the kid who decides not to go to sleep.
Until the day you decided.
I don’t remember the date of your first decision to stay awake, but it was shortly before your ten-month birthday and right around the time your daycare director began, with our blessing, your transition to the toddler room. You’re still half in the infant room and half in the toddler room. In the infant room, you nap and hang out with seven girls. In the toddler room, you visit Circle Time and playtime and occasionally hang out on a mat during naptime.
And now at home, ever since that day, you refuse to buy into my bedtime routine. I read you books, and you listen, you play with them happily, but when we lie down together, you no longer want to hear about love in all its musical forms. Instead you roll onto your stomach, pop your head up as if from a jack-in-the-box, then sit up and start singing to me, “Baba dada” and blowing raspberries as you crawl obliviously toward the edge of the bed before you wail that I’ve interrupted your exploration.
“He won’t go to sleep, and it’s bedtime,” I yell to your father over your chatter and protests.
“Oh he never settles right down. He kicks his feet and moves around a little bit. You just have to keep him lying down.” “What if he rolls over and sits up?”
“Well,” your dad pauses. “I don’t know. But if he’s not tired, let him play.”
Your father, unencumbered by parental research, indulges you in routinelessness. However, I’ve read the same advice in all the parenting books and on all the websites: stick to a good bedtime routine, keep it short and simple, make sure you slow down the activity, if you stick to a routine, you will send the signal that it’s time for bed. But you, Langston—or maybe the experts–are sending me the signal that you can break that routine, and I’ve therefore failed as a parent. Already.
So I pull out the last stop, the one thing your father can’t offer, the breast, and you settle down to suck, and then you either drift away or give a cry or two when the milk is gone before you heed the call of dreamland.
Maybe this is just the new routine. As you gain the mobility to widen your world, the nourishment from my body comforts you and reconnects us, preparing you for slumber.

Oh the places you’ll go!

When all else fails, quote Dr. Seuss.
This is going to be a too-brief post, but I have to say that going places is my theme this week. Langston is transitioning to the toddler room at his daycare, Yellow Brick Road Infant and Toddler Center in Highland Park. The people are really being very understanding with this transition. Sometimes he plays with the toddlers and sometimes with the babies. Sometimes, he naps with the babies, and twice this week, he napped on a mat with the toddlers. This way, he gets to meet everybody, plus his own needs. I love that! But after some initial misgivings (and parental sadness about a stage beginning to draw to a close), I realized that this transition to the toddler room couldn’t come at a more perfect time, because Langston now crawls with a destination in mind. (I just had to stop writing, because he fell on his bottom, which normally doesn’t phase him except when he’s tired, and this time he was tired, so I nursed him into what I hope is more than a cat nap). Anyway, Langston now has places to go: the dining room table, the recliner, the piano. I’ve tried to turn him around to head back toward the couch which is his safe zone, and he turns around again! The nerve! 🙂 So when he gets too close to something I don’t want him to interact with/knock on top of himself, I take him back to the couch, so he can crawl over again. It’s tiring, and this is only day 2! I can see why mothers who never get babysitters for their babies might want to once in a while for their toddlers! But this stage is exciting, too. I’m thrilled that Langston stands holding onto things and makes more sounds. I’m excited about when he really starts walking and talking, even though those milestones present their own challenges.
Going places applies to my life this week, too, because this is the first time total strangers have commented on my blog. (I’m pretty sure they’re not just really clever spammers). I feel the urge, not only to thank them, but to follow up with a post which is extra well-written/poetic, which I’m just too tired to create right now. So I’ve decided that it’s better to write matter-of-factly than not to write at all. Not writing at all can lead me very quickly and easily into writing paralysis, which is a state when my critic runs amuck in my brain and keeps me from putting words down at all.
And on that note, due to the confidence boost I got from this blog, I’m going to do something which has been scaring me for weeks now, which I should have done a couple weeks ago and didn’t. That’s all I can say publicly, and please don’t ask me privately what I’m talking about. Just wish me luck. 🙂

Just Like a Big Boy

As you practice crawling and walking, all in the spirit of play,
oblivious that I track your development through each interaction, I
often say, “Oh you sat up (as opposed to just sitting) just like a big
boy!” “You’re standing up just like a big boy!” Earlier, it was,
“You’re holding your head up just like a big boy!” “You’re sitting
(not sitting up yet) just like a big boy!” It’s an expression I have
used without a lot of forethought, which possibly means that I adopted
it from my mother. Now that I’m a mother myself, though still a new
one, I’ve often heard my mother’s expressions come out of my mouth
without effort.
So here’s the big question. When do you stop being “just like” a
big boy and actually become one?
Of course, the answer changes. While time can’t go fast enough
for you, it disappears all too quickly for your parents. And the
answer moves ever further into the future, as we cling to the little
you, hoping you won’t grow up just yet. When Sandi told me your
transition to the toddler room was beginning and I relayed the message
to your father, he said, “What? Did he do something wrong? Was he
too loud?” You happened to be screaming at the time. “No,” I said,
“I think there are other babies who are just as loud as he is.” The
big boy definition will change from your sleeping on a toddler mat to
your first independent steps to your first words to when you ride a
bike to when you walk to school alone to when your voice changes to
when you graduate from high school … It will also include the
negatives like your first tantrum or the day(s)? you cause trouble of
some kind. And of course, now “just like a big boy” means a little
boy instead of a baby, but later it will mean an adolescent, then a
young man. It’s all very exciting and strange, but I still cling to
this elusive baby, even as I am finding new ways to continue to mother
the ever-evolving you.

On Blindness and Marriage

A woman called the Member Services line yesterday asking for books on marriage. Specifically she was concerned about her marriage. She explained that her husband found her to be jealous and insecure, but really, she said, it was because of her blindness, and he should be more understanding. I tried to suggest books on gender differences hindering understanding in marriage, and she said, no, she wanted a book on blindness and marriage. Good luck, lady. She’ll need to write this book. But I felt bad for her, too, as she told me, “I know it’s true! It’s because I’m blind! I was never like this before I became blind! My blind friends say the same thing.”
If only she could understand that blindness is not as much a hallmark of insecurity as the dynamic between the two married parties. If only she could understand that blindness is a physical characteristic, not a mental or emotional state upon which to base excuses. If only making her understand were part of both my job description and my expertise! If only I didn’t feel so personally invested anyway! Sigh