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.




A week before Christmas, I feel compelled to write a brief bit about the ongoing nativity debate in my head. I’ll preface by saying that I was raised a Catholic, became an agnostic sometime during adolescence and firmed up that identity more as an adult. I celebrate Christmas but in a secular, gift-giving-and-getting sort of way. I find stories from all religions, including Christianity, to be symbolically fascinating and rich in meaning, but that’s about as far as I take it.
Anyway, my partner, James, identifies himself as a Muslim, though he does not practice much of Islam beyond generally believing in a creator and not eating pork. (I’m oversimplifying to a certain extent. My point is that he identifies with belief much more than practice, and Islam has always struck me as a very practice-based religion). James is my second partner and is also my second partner of a different faith. When I had a Jewish boy friend, I did not decorate at all for Christmas. I thought with all of the music and decorations everywhere from Halloween on, the least I could do was to respect the fact that he did not participate in the celebration except to attend family dinners with me. But I also felt a little
uncomfortable about expressing this tradition with him. When I dated James, I felt more comfortable trying to keep up the traditions I liked, so I decorated but swore that all of my decorations would be secular, and I kept that promise until this year. All of my tree ornaments were secular. I had a couple angels which were antiques from my childhood tucked away on a shelf, but I didn’t introduce any religion beyond the antiques into the Christmas decorating.
Then this year came, and my mother, who is not particularly religious, gave me a nativity Christmas ornament which promptly broke, because it was not well-made. But she also said, “You’re missing a nativity!”
Did I say right back to her, “Well, James is a Muslim, and I’m trying to keep religion out of the holiday.”? Of course not. I thought, “Damn, I really miss the nativity!”
I had a lot of random snippets of childhood memories connected with the nativity. I remembered the nativity we’ve had forever: all the characters already glued into place in their stable. I remember that I bought Mom a “children’s nativity,” characters that looked like kids dressed up as the different characters, mainly because I also wanted a nativity in which I could pick up each piece and examine it. I remembered being really jealous of my friend, Emily’s, family’s nativity, because it had so many animals, angels and people, all beautifully made of ceramic. I remember a couple of nativities Mom got for me when I went through my decorating the entire bedroom for Christmas phase.
So a day or two later, I told James I was going to buy one and put it up, and I did. My sheepish explanation to him was, “It’s pretty.” James took it well. Still I wonder how to incorporate Islam more into our lives when he doesn’t practice very much. I bought a nativity with separate pieces as I had liked as a child, but the pieces are wooden, so they won’t break. (I do remember some casualties from the Sieranskis’ set). And it’s sitting on the hall table for all two people who happen to visit. (Usually we go out rather than having people over. And there go my inclusion principles. I talked to a friend about this, a fellow Atheist/agnostic type person, and she said, “Oh I totally know what you mean! We used to sing all the carols–the more Jesusy, the better!” I agree about those songs! So what is it about the religious elements that hold sway over the secular? Some Jesus songs are even considered ok for playing on the radio and in stores. What is it that blurs separation between church and state?
For me, a clue might lie in my immediate fascination with religious songs about ten years ago when I was pretty vehemently antireligious. I loved the “Rose in Bloom” song. I choked up over “When a Child Is Born.” Somehow Jesus’s birth as a miracle seemed to translate into the potential miracle of each person’s existence. There was something broad about appreciation of life in the bleakest part of the year that I could take from these songs and from the nativity.
I never much cared for the “wise men.” They just seemed like rich men to me, even though they were supposedly wise enough to know that Jesus was important. I put them up, because they came with the set, but if they didn’t I would be just as happy. But the scene among the animals fascinates me. The family with the baby touches some pang of maternal instinct. So here I am: secular and liking the Jesus parts of this holiday. It’s very odd.