It was amazingly beautiful today. I woke up all full of energy and wanting to get the hell out from under my mother (she’s great, but you know, i felt squashed, and not intentionally by her I just needed to get out) so I hopped on a bus to Seattle. I would be posting pictures right now but it had 374 photos on my camera and its taking a minute to download. So I thought I’d take a minute to tell you about my little angel, my niece Deanna. I should go backwards because there are so many things that crack me up about her.
Right now she’s in her room singing Hannah Montana’s “Best of Both Worlds” at the top of her lungs. We just put a poster up in her room of the Jonas Brothers, all three of whom she insists are her boyfriends and whom she wants to play in her bedroom. My response, “Those boys will not be visiting this bedroom for any reason at all.” I’m such an aunt with that one. She then promptly kicked me out of her bedroom.
We’ve had such a great time being together. We’ve watched maybe 50 movies together. Its with her that I view a majority of the tween movies like High School Musical, Herbie Love Bug, The Spyderwick Chronicles, etc. We’ve played at least 3 games of Disney Channel Monopoly, during which she proclaimed “Gimme my money” every time she passed Go-i swear my sister taught her that. We were sitting on the couch the other night trying to tickle each others feet. She has the best laugh. Her face kind of just folds into itself and she leans back in a fit of uncontrollable giggles. I wish that I could get a picture of it. Its beautiful. I can’t even describe it. Watching her laugh like that makes me laugh so hard.
She loves to watch musicals, like me. We saw Mamma Mia tonight, which honestly, I didn’t realize was for the “older set”. It was still pretty good. I’m an ABBA fan. Dee likes the bright lights and dancing, so really, it was a win-win situation for everyone.
She does this thing where she lays a mat on the floor and pretends to give birth. I KNOW! its CRAZY! she laid down my mother’s yoga mat, folded a towel behind her to create a pillow and laid down the green throw blanket, then sat down, propped herself up on her elbows and pretended to have a baby. A BABY. INSANITY. She comes up to me with her hands cradled together and tried to hand me an invisible baby. I yelled up to my mom, “MOM! she had a baby! she’s pretending to have a baby! What is going on?!”
Every time she sees an airplane she says, “Airplane! Its going to disneyland.” In 06 my parents came down for my graduation and took her to Disneyland, which she loved! She has the best response when she sees me after I’ve been away. We all met up at the mall when I came back from Seattle today. My niece saw me and just took off running towards me with her arms wide open and ran smack into me, giving me the biggest hug yet! I love surprising her when I come home. When I came home last Thursday I woke her up at midnight. She wears glasses when she’s awake because she has a lazy eye (like Princess Paris Hilton), so when she sees me, she always takes these three short breaths as its becoming clear who is sitting in front of her. Then she gives me a tight hug. A few weeks before I came down she told me to come over to her house, that I could sleep in her bedroom and she’d sleep in my mom’s room. So, when I woke her up she gave me a hug, then got out of bed and climbed into my parents bed. Cute and generous too!
I think the first winter after I moved to Los Angeles I came home to visit. One day I asked my niece, “How much do I love you?” and then i would hold my arms out wide and say “This big!” Then the next day I asked her the same question, and she just looked at me like I was crazy, and I held my arms out again. the third day I asked her that question, and she totally held her arms out really large. When I asked her last friday, “Dee, how much do you love me?” she held her arms out wide! Loving too!
My dad has mentioend to me a guilt that we both share: sometimes its difficult to understand what she’s saying. She has speech impediment and used to see a speech therapist before they discontinued the services available at the local Franciscan hospital. Now she gets a truncated version of speech therapy that I’m sure is not nearly as personalized as her one on one sessions. Her mother was pretty neglectful, and though we got her pretty early in her life, there were so many developmental delays that we were trying to identify and work with that realizing that her hearing was obstructed was the last to be recognized. She was at least 3 when my parents realized that her hearing was obstructed, which affected the way she processed language. So while she speaks to us, and its certainly come a long way, she speaks to making sounds that she believes are the correct ways to pronounce the words. Whats really nice about being home and spending so much time with her is that I am starting to be able to understand what she is saying to me. We don’t have these long, drawn out conversations, but when she talks, I’m starting to be able to understand. And that’s huge for me.
She’s my sweet heart, and I can’t help but worry about her future every day. She has Down’s syndrome, where in a chromosome is shattered (or something) and is designated mentally retarded. She receives special education services in the FW school district. My mother is a paraprofessional and works with students who have moderate to severe disabilities. My mother, Deanna and my school psychologist inadvertently help me to remember that what I do is about what is best for the student, which this year has been less present in the front of my mind as I worked with general education teachers. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve wished that I was back teaching SDP (Special Day Placement- where I taught students with a higher need of restriction- 2 general education classes instead of 5) instead of working with general education teachers/students. Working with adults has never been what I wanted to do. I do this because I think I can have a direct effect on students whether its immediate or not. I worry about what her future holds, how long my mother will be around to care for her, if she’ll be able to access the proper resources, and who my niece will be in 8 years when she’s 18…or in 5 years when she’s 15…or in 3 years when she’s 13. Sometimes, I worry that by living in Los Angeles I’m missing out on something. she’s a constant reminder that I need to keep living. I love my girl!