Friday, April 17, 2015

In the News

A couple of months ago, I got an email from Katy Magazine, asking if they could do a story on Lily and I for their spring issue.

Now, for Lily, being a media figure is becoming quite common. When we lived in Austin, not only was her school featured in Austin Family magazine, Lily was the cover girl. Right after we moved to Katy, Texas Children's Hospital asked if they could photograph Lily and her neurologist for their website. And now, a story in Katy Magazine.

Just another day at the office for Bird.

And I'm just riding on her coattails.

I'm not going to try and act like I wasn't a little nervous about doing the interview.

But because God tends to take care of me in even the smallest ways, it turns out the writer assigned to our story is a member of Kingsland Baptist Church. Oh, you know. The same church we attend. The one where Ryan is the pastor.

And that's how I met Kelly Boldt.

Sweet Kelly, who asked a few questions and basically let me tell our story with all the words. And then she had to take all the words and condense them into less words. Much less words. I did not make her job easy.

The end result is a truly lovely article that is a beautiful reminder of the miracle that is Lily Bird.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Track Meet

This past weekend was another first in the Rush house.

Lily is participating in Special Olympics track and Saturday was our very first official track meet.

Opening Ceremonies Parade

Before I tell you how Lily did, I have to say how impressed I was with the whole event. It was eye-opening and awe-inspiring and lump-in-the-throat inducing. There is something incredibly stirring about seeing a young adult step out of a wheelchair, tightly grip a walker, and at the crack of the start gun, take off in a manner that looks almost physically impossible and cross a finish line 50 meters away. Forget pity and sadness. Try motivating and uplifting. These people are doing hard things every single day. And I won't forget it.

It was also fun! Clapping and cheering. High fives. And don't even get me started on the dancing. So. Much. Dancing. But really - who can help themselves when Michael Jackson's Greatest Hits are being played over the loudspeakers? No one. That's who.

Lily was in two events: the 50 meter run and the softball toss.


So.

Lily likes to do things her own way. She always has and I suspect she always will. She is not motivated to do something just because everyone around her thinks she should. She tends to get around to doing things in her own time.

Running the 50 meter is no different. She has run it several times in practice. She has also walked it a few times. She has hopped it and skipped it and jumped it. She has stayed in her lane. She has run across all the lanes.

So, it's basically a free-for-all, who-knows-how-it's-going-to-go kind of event for Birdie.

Does it matter to her that it's a race? No.

Does it matter to her that there will be a first place winner? No.

Does it matter to her that it is a running competition? No.

So for Bird, there were no butterflies in her stomach before the big race. There was no standing at the starting line, visualizing the run. No rush of adrenaline when the gun sounded.

Instead, last Saturday, this is how Lily decided to do her 50 meters:




I know. I know.

The thrill of competition made it difficult to take your eyes off the screen, right? I mean, it was this close. I was kind of surprised no one asked to see a video replay to determine the winner.

I thought about demanding a re-race because that floppy bow was in her eyes and might have blocked her view of the lane.

But that smile on her face at the end?  Lily was perfectly happy with her "run".  I think it went just like she planned.

On to the softball toss, which Lily has only practiced one time. But today, in the spirit of competition, she threw that ball harder than she ever has. And then started jumping up and down:




Maybe she was starting to catch the Olympic spirit.

Or maybe she just knew she was done and it was time for a cheeseburger.

Sidenote - that woman saying "good job" at the end of the video? Surely that's not me. She sounds a tad bit redneck and I'm much more sophisticated than that. 

So the first ever Special Olympics track meet?

In the words of Frank Sinatra, Lily did it her way.

And that is a-ok with us.

Receiving her first medal

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Adventures in Easter

*This was originally published in April 2011 when I taught Lily how to hunt for Easter eggs. It has been edited somewhat for today's post*


In the back of my mind, I've been trying to decide how many Easter festivities the Rush family is going to attempt.  And by that, I mean all the Easter Bunny-type activities.

Dying eggs, Easter baskets, hunting for eggs.... all these things Lily could care less about.

So part of me is thinking why bother with all of it.  But then the other part of me is thinking that she may never get it if I don't at least try.

So try we will.

Like many things in our lives, this requires some outside the box thinking, along with some plain and simple common sense.

Lily is not going to hunt eggs for 15 minutes or compete with her cousin to see who can find the most.

In fact, she may not hunt for a single egg unless I can find some way to show her that while she may not care about the egg itself, she will love what's inside the egg.

Based on some tips from Lily's therapists who hosted an all-out Easter party at school yesterday, I have formulated a plan.

It goes a little something like this:

Dying real eggs?  Forget about it.  All the kids wanted to do at school was eat the eggs.  They saw absolutely no point in taking the time to color an egg when you could simply consume it.  So we will not take the time to dye eggs this year.

Hiding large plastic eggs?  This we will attempt.  But there are some guidelines that might make this a little more successful for us.  I'll fill the eggs with edible treats only - no stickers, little erasers, or cutesy toys for us.  Lily is motivated by Skittles and M&M's - candies she doesn't normally eat because of the dyes. So while we won't go totally nuts with the amount that we let her eat, (or else we'll have a child going nuts on our hands!) I'll put a couple of these candies in each egg.  Hopefully, this will encourage her to roam the backyard a little looking for eggs so she can have what's inside.  And if I can get her to look for 2 or 3 eggs, I'll consider the hunt a huge success.

We'll be having a practice egg hunting session this afternoon so that maybe by Sunday, Lily will know just what to do with all those eggs that the adults have scattered around.

Don't you just wonder sometimes what the kids are thinking, though?  I imagine Lily is wondering why we have to go to all this trouble when we could just as well snuggle on the couch together and eat a bag of Skittles.

Speaking of Easter treats, have you seen some of the recipes floating around the web?  Some of them look almost too pretty to eat... almost.

Whimsical Spring Bark - this looks too sweet, even for me.  But I love the colors!

Fun, whimsical and incredibly easy chocolate candy bark.  Inspired by the talented Katherine Sabbath!  Great on it's own, or on top of cupcakes and cakes. So pretty for spring and Easter.
lovefromtheoven.com

Bunny Bait - such a cute name and looks even cuter!


Muddy Buddies - Easter Style - we call this Monkey Munch at the Rush house.

Easter Muddy Buddies -- a super simple recipe to celebrate Easter and spring!
countrychiccottage.net

These cute little pancakes are more my speed - quick, simple, and no recipe needed. 

Adorable for Easter! Bunny Pancakes from Taste of Home's Simple & Delicious magazine.
tasteofhome.com

I would love to try some of them but I have decide it they're worth making yet another trip to HEB.

Kind of like trying to decide if hunting eggs is worth a few Skittles.

P.S. - Need a few new Easter egg filler ideas? Well, here's 37 of them.



Monday, March 30, 2015

Lily Bird - Track Star

Trying new things makes me nervous.

You would think with all the new things our family has undertaken since The Bird came along eight years ago, I would be over it by now. 

But I'm just not.

I think part of the reason is that as a special needs parent, you work so dadgum hard to get your kid in some sort of routine that when you finally manage to get one in place, you're petrified that something is going to come along and mess things up and you'll have to start all over again. 

And if you've been a special needs parents for longer than, say, a minute, you know this is going to happen. And happen again. And again. And again....

I also think that with these kiddos, so many changes are out of our control that a desire to maintain the status quo is simply a survival mechanism.

But something new always comes along. 

There are therapies to try. Diet changes to make. School programs to tweak. Teachers and aides that come and go. Goals to fine-tune. Visual schedules to adjust. Discipline techniques to modify. Doctors to visit. Medications to consider. Educational approaches to research. Meetings to attend. Respite opportunities. Camps. Playgroups.

The list is endless. 

And exhausting.

Even when a great opportunity for Lily presents itself, I often find myself dragging my feet because I know it means changing our routine yet again. 

So when Lily turned 8 and we discovered that she could participate in Special Olympics, I didn't really give it a thought at all. 

One, because it would be yet another thing to add to our routine. 

But mostly and more honestly, because it felt like yet another step towards admitting that Lily belongs in the special needs community. That we are moving even further towards acceptance, a positive thing to be sure. But that same acceptance still comes at a high price for us - another little piece of our hopes and dreams being chipped away. 

First time on the track.

But with the sweet and patient encouragement of some friends, we decided to give Special Olympics Track a try.

Warming up.

Well. Sort of warming up.

So Birdie is officially a runner. A 50 meter runner, to be more specific. 

Well, a 50 meter runner/walker/hopper/skipper/giggler, to be even more specific. 

First 50 Meter.

And with an entourage, no less.

Typically, I run alongside Lily to keep her going and Ryan is waiting at the finish line to keep her focused on where she's headed. Of course, this is not including all the parents, coaches, and fellow athletes lining the track, cheering, clapping and shouting encouragement.

If Ryan is crouched down at the finish line, Lily often ends her race by turning backwards and plopping her booty onto his bent knee. 

Just like all the Olympic greats, amirite?

Trying the softball toss. Not interested. At. All.

So I wouldn't say that Lily loves running. 

And I wouldn't say that Ryan and I have fully adjusted to the fact that we are there, that we are in Special Olympics. 

And of course, it's still new which means I'm still nervous. 

But pretty soon, it'll just be another part of our routine. 

That ever-changing, fluctuating, shifting, fickle "routine".


The reward at the end of the race.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mamaw's Teacakes

When I was growing up, I had two kinds of Mamaws. 

One was my "school Mamaw". She was an English teacher for lots of years. So I could always talk to her about the day when I would be a teacher myself. How I would decorate my classroom. How I would eat the "for teachers only" baked potatoes at lunch. And how I would teach my students to fall in love with books. This Mamaw is still with me today. And even though neither of us teaches school anymore, we both still love a good baked potato. 

My other Mamaw was my "kitchen Mamaw". And while she went to be with Jesus way back in 2005, she still comes to my mind almost every time I'm cooking. She taught me how to roll out biscuits and make a mean Lemon Icebox Pie. That a pear half with a little dollop of mayonnaise and some grated cheese sitting on a lettuce leaf was considered "salad". That fried shrimp didn't have to come from a restaurant. And even though she told me all the time how much she loved me, her favorite way to show love was through food. 

Those three little fingerprints in the dough? Lily Bird.

While there was always a variety of homemade treats in Mamaw's kitchen, one cookie was a staple. A simple, unassuming, and humble cookie in the midst of more fancy, fussy sweets. 

The teacake.


Not too sweet. Not too crispy. A little bit pillowy and soft. But not at all gummy. 

This is the kind of cookie I imagine the British calling a "biscuit". Maybe these teacakes could be considered the Texas version of a British biscuit. But then, I guess the British call every cookie a biscuit. Like even Oreos. Weird. So maybe we just stick with cookie. 

Before you ask, there is not one teeny gluten free or paleo thing about these cookies. Because sometimes, you just need your Mamaw's cookies exactly the way you remember them. So yes, these could probably be tweaked to fit a special diet but you won't find me messing with my Mamaw's recipe. This is the cookie Mamaw made for her grandkids. And now her grandkids make them for her great-grandkids. And I'm not messing with tradition, even if it means some white flour and Crisco. 

Mamaw's Teacakes

2 cups sugar
1 cup Crisco
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 tbsp lemon extract

Mix well. Then add:

5 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder

Mix until no longer powdery. 

Roll out. Cut with biscuit cutter. Bake at 400 degrees for about 8-9 minutes or until lightly golden around bottom edges of cookies and no longer damp on top. 


Do you have a family recipe that brings back memories? A recipe that's been passed through the generations? I'd love to hear the story. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

For Your Listening Pleasure

Down here in Katy, Texas, it's Spring Break.

And for lots of us, Spring Break means doing a little traveling.

Back in my day, traveling meant loading up the green Oldsmobile, listening to whatever country music was on the radio, reading Nancy Drew nonstop and constantly reminding my little brother to stay on his side of the imaginary line in the backseat.

Today's kids have got it good - bucket seats, built-in DVD players, iPods, iPads, Spotify, Netflix....

But what about the parents riding along up there in the front seat, being forced to listen to "Let it Go" until they're ready to actually let it go - right over a bridge.

Have I got the solution for you:

NPR's This American Life podcasts.



This American Life is a weekly public radio show. Each episode has a theme and a few stories on that theme. Most of the stories are true and about ordinary, everyday people. Sound boring? Well, it's not.  If you love words and stories like I do, you're going to love it.

So put the headphones on those kiddos because here's a few of my favorites to get you started:

Switched at Birth

Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde

The Seven Things You're Not Supposed to Talk About

Batman

House on Loon Lake

Notes on Camp

And I can't leave out The Alibi , the episode that launched This American Life's first spin-off show called Serial. According to the website, "Serial tells one story - a true story - over the course of an entire season. Each season, we'll follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. And we won't know what happens until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it's important to listen to the episodes in order, starting with Episode 1."

And I hate to sound bossy (except not really), but if we are friends at all, you will listen to Serial. All 12 episodes. And you will get sucked in. You will be able to think of almost nothing else. You will discuss it with your friends. You will take sides. And you will come back here and tell me what side you're on. And you will thank me. So, I'll just go ahead and say it....

You're welcome.


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