Okay, so now all the photos are on Facebook, so I think it's fair for me to share one of them here. I won't tell names, but I'll say that you're seeing one of the bloggers from Baxter Sez, the blogger from Trial Run, *Results Not Typical, Unringing the Bell, and Big Blueberry Eyes. Missing at this gathering was the blogger from Life Decanted, although we saw each other a lot at over the weekend.
So here we are, our last day at the National Down Syndrome Congress's Convention. Here are my updates from this experience:
- I've succeeded in achieving the experience that was my highest priority: I've gotten to meet in the flesh, and hang out with, my blog friends, friends I've known from afar for years, including the very first person from the Down syndrome community ever to comment on this blog--she commented back in the day when Biffle wrote a post about our decision not to get further prenatal testing. These women are amazing! I don't think I can post any of the pictures Biffle and I have taken of the group of us, because I didn't ask permission...but I'm tempted. Check back and you might get to see them.
- Last night we had the most riotous hotel room pizza party that I've ever been part of. At one point six kids were enthusiastically jumping on the king sized bed in the hotel room. And I discovered that I really like cheap margarita mix.
- I've become "the CofC woman," as one guy at the elevator yesterday referred to me, because I've been enthusiastically endorsing the REACH Program. The person in charge of Think College laughingly disputed my public claim that REACH is the best college program in the nation for people with intellectual disabilities, but she agreed that it's very, very good.
- I still contend that it's the best college program in the nation for people with intellectual disabilities, because it's rigorously and enthusiastically inclusive. Not "inclusive" meaning that people with disabilities get to eat lunch with everybody else. Inclusive meaning welcome to my intro to Women's and Gender Studies class: we're all in there together.
- Bummer of the trip: two of the things we were looking forward to were a walk through the zoo and swimming in the beautiful outdoor pool. Sadly, cool rainy weather has meant that neither of those were really good options, so we've spent much of the time inside. Maybelle as asked to swim every single day. "First potty, then swimming," she'll announce, and we'll have to say, "No, we'll see if we can swim later."
- Potty training doesn't necessarily work so well when you're traveling. We've had some good experiences, but we've also had a number of diaper changes. And Maybelle is really interested in independence these days. "Go away," she'll announce. Last night she told Biffle, "Go away" when she was in the bathroom, and then she shut the door. From inside the room he heard, "Yay! Sit on potty! Soooo proud," followed by flushing. When he finally entered he said there was about 10 feet of toilet paper on the floor.
- Best quote: when we were having our second lunch at the noodle shop down the street from the conference hotel, Starrlife said, "It's like we're on a different planet, a planet where there are tons of people with Down syndrome. It's great!"
I figured I'd use the blog space to make a general announcement that Maybelle, Biffle, and I are headed to DC soon for the National Down Syndrome Congress's Convention. If you read this blog, or if I read your blog, I'd love for us to have the chance to at least say hello in person.
And in case you're not sure what we look like, here are our mugshots, chosen to give you a realistic sense of what to expect:
As several of you know from emails you've received, we've learned on this trip that Maybelle is the world's best traveler. On our flight she read her own book for about 45 minutes, allowing Biffle and me do to quite a bit of reading of our own. Despite the fact that she's been running on far less sleep than she needs, she's been cheerful and by and large a very good sport: she was the normal amount of complainy when we were stuck in traffic for an hour and 45 minutes yesterday and therefore didn't get to go on the boat tour that my uncle had bought us all tickets for (that was really a bummer), and she has been able to overcome her wide-eyed overwhelmed-ness pretty quickly when surrounded by Piepmeiers, Browns, Dinwiddies, Woolstons, Pedersens, and others she doesn't know well. She also had the world's best time in the hotel swimming pool with her uncles and aunt.
But she's also decided, on day three, that she's ready to go home.
"Go home," she told Biffle last night.
"We're going back to our hotel," he told her.
"Airplane," she said. "Go home."
"Ah," he thought, "She's specifically asking for home." He explained to her that we'd go on an airplane soon and go home, but not tonight. This morning she's asking me again. We're happily hanging out in our hotel room with a sleeping Boppa, and she's said to me twice, "Go home."'
I'm diverting her with some online episodes of Dora the Explorer, and I know there are lots of good distractions coming her way. But she's really and truly longing for home. So she has Biffle's adventurous spirit, but she has my love for the routine, stable, and familiar.
About a year ago I emailed everybody on my dad's side of the family--aunts, uncles, cousins, partners, etc.--and said that we need to get together. We went through a long phase there where we only saw each other when people died, and while that ritual is of course incredibly important, that's not the only context in which we should meet. Summer of 2010 we got together at a wedding (great fun!), and then we did Thanksgiving 2011 in Cookeville. We needed a fun 2012 event, too.
The logistics were actually pretty simple. Planning a year in advance was necessary for this crowd, which includes web designers, attorneys, neurosurgeons, food chemists, development officers, nonprofit directors, students, etc (and go ahead and include the phrase "high powered" before each of those professions). But we were all committed to doing this, so we found a weekend that worked. Aunt Sally and Nick were awesome because they agreed to host the whole thing in Chicago, a convenient location because it's in the middle of the country, and this family stretches from coast to coast.
I'm not sure what to expect. Oddly, for a family this size and with this many people of reproductive age, we only have two kids--Maybelle and her cousin Benjamin. Sadly, Benjamin won't be there, so Maybelle will be the only child. This means, in part, that while a lot of the group will be heading out for big nighttime fun, at least one of us will be headed back to the hotel with Maybelle. And let me say, without any self-pity, that there's a very good chance that person will be me. I wake up with Maybelle every morning, which means I get tired a lot earlier than a lot of folks. 9:30 rolls around, and I'm yawning. A big night out in Chicago sounds very, very sleepy to me. Snuggling in the king sized bed with Maybelle doesn't sound all that bad. But it would be cool if there were a cousin or sibling having a similar experience.
I'm eager to find out random things from this extended family. I warned them that I'm assembling questions--things like, "When did you realize you'd fallen in love?" and "What was your first job?" and even "What's an average day like for you?"
We've prepared Maybelle for this trip by making her a book like her "Uncle Trey Book." This book is called "Our trip book."
Here's the long video. It's probably only going to be interesting to immediate family members, those whose names she gets to in her reading (this is Nonni, Poppi, Uncle Trey, Uncle Aaron, and Aunt Mary):
Maybelle reading "Our trip book," July 12, 2012 from Alison, Walter, and Maybelle on Vimeo.
And here's the short one, made for the general public. It's really, really short!
Very short "Good reading" video, July 12, 2012 from Alison, Walter, and Maybelle on Vimeo.
And wow, is it exciting!
Caffeine, as you all know, is a drug--and if you've been off it for a long time, it really feels like a drug when you go back on it. It's still new enough to my system that I'm feeling the effects pretty strongly. I get quite energetic--happy and chatty. For instance, this morning I asked Biffle how his gig last night was, then I immediately proceeded to tell him 117 random facts from my evening--things like,
"Maybelle ate two pancakes, three bowls of O's and milk, strawberry yogurt, and two bowls of hot cereal!"
And "Trey showed me the pilot of Breaking Bad--it was so disturbing but good enough that we should maybe start watching it!"
And "We went to the Pig and the produce manager said the nicest thing to Maybelle!"
Those exclamation points are intentional.
"Coffee," Biffle said.
I'm a little sad that this effect will wear off. Before long my body will adjust to the caffeine, and having a cup of coffee in the morning will give me just the tiny jolt I'll expect to get my day started.
Happy Fourth of July!
And what I'm actually writing about here is that I now have a monthly column in Charleston's City Paper, our local indie publication. The first one came out today: "Society Makes It Nearly Impossible for Women to Have It All."
Let me know what you think!
(Cross-posted at Girl w/Pen, another place where I do a lot of writing.)
Tim Kreider wrote an op-ed for this week's Sunday New York Times, and some of his quotes have stuck with me:
"If you live in America in the 21st century you've probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It's become the default response when you ask anyone how they're doing."
"They're busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they're addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence."
"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."
"The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration--it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."
I think of this as I exist in the summer faculty schedule. There is actually work to be done, but not as much as during the school year. I'm eager--eager!--to move forward with my book project, but I'm finding that slowing down--having the occasional second breakfast with Biffle, lunch with Trey, coffee with Claire or Cindi--is giving me some space that is going to help my thinking be clearer, brighter, more relevant.
We're going on a series of trips soon, and I hope that those, too, will be real vacation spaces, time when I can face the absence of busyness and see what happens.
I flew to Tennessee on Friday, we loaded up his truck and a mini-van, and Saturday evening Trey and I arrived in Charleston. He has shed most of his belongings, so he arrived with no furniture, no cds, no dvds, just quite a bit of computer gear and a significantly diminished number of boxes of comic books. He'll get to re-envision his life here and collect stuff that goes along with that new vision.
As of right now he's been living in Charleston for a little over 24 hours. Here we are, the Charleston Biffle-Piepmeiers. We're so excited!