Tag Archives: Kirstin

“One We Are the Girls”

Scan_20150316The mother-daughter relationship is a special kind of phenomenon that is difficult to explain. It is a relationship that changes over time but remains an important part of a woman’s life. The father-daughter relationship is also wonderful, but mothers and daughters can share a kind of intimacy that father’s can’t easily grasp.  With Kirstin and me, we have shared a special bond that I believe began with caring for Kirstin in the hospital when she had meningitis. It was strengthened further during the time we spent together when she was in preschool. There has never been a time when Kirstin and I haven’t been friends. I know that many mothers and daughters go through rough periods, when they struggle to define their respective roles. Kirstin and I struggled a little, but I consider it one of the trade-offs that her teen years were pleasant ones. This is especially  amazing when you consider that besides being her mother, I was her teacher during four years of high school.

Craig and Michael always seemed to be busy with work or scouting, doing guy things. So Kirstin and I spent a lot of time together. We played games and Barbies and read stories. We developed out own cheer. It was adapted from one of the cheers performed at the football games for the high school where I teach. It went, “One, we are the girls. Two, we do it right. Three, we are number one . . . We are the girls.”

Each summer, the local movie theater had a weekly children’s movie. This became our summer ritual, and every week Kirstin, Sherry Baby (her Cabbage Patch doll) and I would go to the movies. Kirstin and Sherry always wore matching outfits, and the workers at the theater would watch for us and say, “Here they come.” Due to Kirstin’s maturity level, she enjoyed the type of movies they were showing, so we continued with this routine much longer than most moms and daughters would. We called it our “girls’ day out.”

Kirstin’s side of the story:

I like spending time with both my parents. Sometimes we invite our guys, Dad and my fiancé David, to come along. We go to the movies and lunch on a double date. Sometimes we go hiking or bowling. I look forward to going on a girls’ day out with my mom. In fact, we had one today. We went shopping at the mall. I bought some cute clothes. Mom helped me pick them out. We went to lunch and then to Walmart to buy my groceries. I hope I never get too old for a girls’ day out.

From This Little Light of Mine, A woman with Down syndrome shines brightly in the world. This book is available on Amazon

 

The not too easy reader

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Friends have asked me how Kirstin learned to read. I tell them she learned in school like everyone else, but there really is more to the story. Some of the ladies at our church wanted to give the credit to Kirstin’s Sunday school teacher. All of a sudden it seemed that Kirstin was able to read the little Sunday school books. Kirstin’s teacher, Mrs. Mobley, was somewhat upset with this version of the story, and rightly so, as she had been working with Kirstin for two years. Of course, Mrs. Mobley deserves the credit. She had a wonderful reading program called Edmark and all the faith in the world that her students could learn to read.

Much of the credit goes to Kirstin herself. I like to tell people that Kirstin learned to read by shear force of will. As her skills improved, she read every word she saw. This meant that she read all the credits at the end of a movie or television program. If we ate in a restaurant, Kirstin had to read the entire menu. Once again we found ourselves being held hostage in restaurants. Kirstin read signs, billboards and posters.  She read and read until she could read almost anything.

Reading has been an important part of my life since I was a small child. Now that I had a daughter who loved reading, I wanted to share my favorites with her. I enjoyed Beezus and Ramona, and all the Judy Blume books. Doctor Doolittle was also one of my favorites. Kirstin wanted nothing to do with my suggestions. Instead, she discovered her favorites on her own. Her ultimate love was The Baby-Sitter’s Club. One after another, she read them as fast as they were being published. The characters in The Baby-Sitter’s Club became real people in our household. Kirstin told us about them in great detail. One day I noticed Kirstin doing something sneaky, so I thought I had better check it out. On one of the pages of The Baby-Sitter’s Club book there was an advertisement for babysitting services, complete with the phone numbers of the club members. Kirstin was on the phone trying to contact someone in the club.

In 1996, Ann Martin came to Prescott for a book signing. We took Kirstin and her friend Angela to the bookstore where it was being held. There was a very long line that encircled the building, and we waited for hours. Kirstin had difficulty find a new book to buy for Ms. Martin to sign, because she already had most of them. Finally, it was her turn. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed that Ms. Martin spent a little more time talking to Kirstin than she did with the others. It is one of Kirstin’s fondest memories.

Kirstin’s Side of the Story: I read every day. I like to read books that are exciting or funny. I like to read love stories because I’m in love with David. I do read history, romance, scary books, and mysteries. The characters in the stories make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. I learn from their mistakes too.

If I couldn’t read, my life would be boring. I would not have been able to read The Baby-Sitter’s Club or the Avonlea books. I have to do some reading at work and in church. If I couldn’t read, I wouldn’t be as independent, because someone would have to help me. I have been able to read Facebook and Livemail, so I know what my friends are doing. I sent my boss a music video on Facebook. I had to read to figure it out by myself. My mom said she doesn’t know how to do that, but I can because I can read.

If someone is having trouble learning to read, I would tell them not to give up. You can do it if you put your mind to it. Read as much as you can and you’ll get better at it. We all have problems. Yours is learning to read, but you can solve it. Find a good teacher who will help you and never give up on you.

From This Little Light of Mine, A woman with Down syndrome shines brightly in the world. This book is available on Amazon

Working Girl

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It’s five o’clock in the morning. I roll over in bed and remember that I am alone. Fifteen minutes later, Craig lies down next to me, fully clothed. He has just returned from the forty-five minute round-trip he makes each morning to take Kirstin to work. Her job in the bakery at Costco begins at 5 a.m. five days a week. Each morning Craig and Kirstin are up at 3:45, and by 4:30, they are on the road. This was our routine for the first six months that Kirstin worked at Costco. It was a miracle that she got that job in the first place. We weren’t about to mess it up.

After Kirstin had been working in the bakery for two months, Craig talked to the general manager to find out how she was doing. He said that she was not fast enough to meet the standard. They had decided to extend her probation period to 120 days, but he doubted that she would make it. He said that after that they would try her on some other jobs, such as folding clothes. If she couldn’t meet the standard there, they would have to let her go. It seemed that my worst nightmare was coming true.

I guess I forgot that this was Kirstin we were talking about. By the time she finished the first ninety days, she was meeting the standard and was off probation. She had made it over the first hurdle. At her first year anniversary, she was evaluated again. She had lots of room for improvement but was doing well enough to continue. She was given a raise to $10 an hour, but along with that came a new standard, sixteen boxes. This was a real challenge, but Kirstin was able to reach that one too.

Working in the bakery was hard work, but it was fun too. Kirstin’s coworkers accepted her as one of them from the start. They invited her to baby showers and going-away parties. They told her about their lives and their problems. Kirstin even went to a Country Thunder concert in Phoenix with Donna Rogers (her boss) and another coworker.

Even though Kirstin seemed to be doing well at work, in the back of my mind was still the thought that she might lose her job. Donna Rogers was transferred to Kansas City, and that meant Kirstin would have a new manager. This of course brought new fears. In fact she worked for several managers until there was a permanent one. Each manager had different ideas about how things needed to be done, and Kirstin constantly had to adjust. She had one manager who said, “There’s no crying in the bakery.”

Kirstin’s side of the story  I like to do my work every day, and I work hard at it. I like my boss, Kris. She helps me do a good job. I’ve had my job at Costco for a long time. That’s because I’m a good worker. I get a lot of compliments from the members. I care about all the people who come to my food court. I like to be helpful to people with disabilities.

There are some things I don’t like. I don’t like it when workers argue. I don’t like emptying the trash when it is heavy. But I do like getting paid every two weeks. I look at my pay stub on my computer to see how much money I make. I like getting benefits like health care and my 401k.

My advice to someone looking for a job is to be flexible and willing to help people when they need it. Don’t be afraid to learn new jobs. It makes you more valuable, and it’s job security.

From This Little Light of Mine: A woman with Down syndrome shines brightly in the world. Available on Amazon