Saturday, June 28, 2008

The R Word

[Note: this post contains profanity. If you're not comfortable with that, please return another day for a non-blue post. JMO]

I’ve been struggling for the last couple weeks with an incident that happened when I commented in a blog. The author (BA=blog author) was giving a commenter a really lovely, scathing set-down. And I was digging it, until the BA called the commenter a fucktard. Now, I’m all about using the f-word and didn’t object to the profanity. I did however, comment that fucktard was offensive because of it’s obvious association with the word retard.

What followed was an exchange between the BA and an other commenter (OBC) which basically said I was over-reacting, it was okay because they would call someone who was mentally handicapped a retard to their face if they were being an asshole, that their kids sometimes acted retarded, and that they’ve already had this conversation with others who’ve objected to the use of fucktard or edutard.

I’m astonished.

Since the exchange, I’ve tried to craft various responses from a lengthy, pedantic treatise on the words and how they can be linked to retard, explanations about intellectually capacity vs. mental developmental delays, to an open letter to the BA and OBC responding point by point using much sarcasm. I’ve considered not engaging these people, because clearly, they don’t get it. And, of course, I’ll never read their blog again.

But, I think, this is what I want to say about it:

I believe that using retard is offensive. Using its derivatives (fucktard, edutard, etc.), even more so. If elements of communication are tone and context, there are no circumstances in which the use of the ‘tard derivatives are anything but a substitute for the pejorative use of retard.

I don’t think using retard (and let’s just assume I’m also saying ‘and the ‘tard derivatives’ from now on) is clever, or makes your argument against ignorance, or is anything but one of the most heinous hate words. Think about it, if you substituted a racial epitaph, ethnic slur, or derogative comment about sexual orientation, people would think you were the worst kind of bigot. Use retard and everyone accepts it as okay. It’s not.

Retarded should be accurately used to describe the mental and/or physical developmental delays that some children and adults face, either from genetic or medical conditions, or from accidents. Correctly used, it only means that these things are slowed; not necessarily lesser or diminished. It certainly doesn’t mean ignorant or stupid.

Unfortunately, retarded is now equated with the undesirable characteristics of stupidity and ignorance. It is used to demean those who are “normally” developing at the on-going expense of those who are not. Like all hate words, it is used to perpetuate wildly inaccurate stereotypes of a group of people who, even more than any other group, are already marginalized through fear and ignorance. And if you don’t think people fear mental handicaps, then explain why the abortion rate for the prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is over 90%.

Also unfortunate is that parents, caregivers, professionals, etc. of those with mental and physical delays are unable to use the word correctly without fear of the negative connotation touching their loved one. It denies basic human dignity to a group of people and insults their parents, families, caregivers, professionals who have invested their love, energy, and time to reach their potential, whatever it may be.

Amazingly, those of us given the gift of disability would not change it. The condition (in our case Down syndrome) is the least interesting thing about E. Unfortunately, it will be the most important for many and they will make so many incorrect assumptions about her based on the condition alone. And then many will then use these assumptions as the foundation by which they demean someone else. It’s wrong. It’s unacceptable, and I will continue to speak out against it.

In direct response to the BA and the OBC - Ree (from Confessions of a Pioneer Woman) accurately uses the word retarded. Her brother has some developmental delays due to a genetic condition. This, however, doesn’t give you license to use retard in a derogative way. I’ve never read Ree use retarded to imply that Mike is stupid or ignorant, or to demean him. Instead, she shows him for all his humanity - that he’s exasperating, loveable, flawed – as a sibling would, and usually at her own expense. And she writes about her other siblings and shows how they harass each other. It seems that in their family, harassment is just one (of what I would guess as many) expression of love. I’d also speculate that, given Ree and her siblings’ ages, she’s had to put up with a lot of ignorance and insult (intended or otherwise), which is why her use of retarded is not offensive to me.

Your post a couple weeks later about the Religion of Ethical Reciprocity post, your one commandment is to:

Treat others as you wish to be treated. Be unconditional in both love and forgiveness. Practice grace and kindness.

No one wishes to be treated to a label that denigrates a class of people and denies them basic human dignity. Everyone deserves a chance to unconditionally loved, even the mentally handicapped; and when we fail them by using inappropriate language, hopefully someone will come along to help us. Practicing grace and kindness might mean, in this instance, that when more than one person speaks up against the use of a word, that you take a moment to consider what they’re saying instead of going into a defensive mode. Try talking to your early intervention programs (all states have them) or finding out about the Special Olympics in your state. Read or watch the “Retard Speech” by 17 year old Soeren Palumbo, or visit his facebook page – Campaign to Ban "R" Word.

I haven’t decided whether to continue visiting the BA’s page or not. On the one hand, I’m making her response personal when in truth I don’t know her. Part of my astonishment was that given her topic (homeschooling) and some of her personal history, she should be one who intuitively understands this. However, it only shows that we all have, including myself, a ways to go at any given time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Last Week in Pictures

For the week of June 16 - 22:
1. Singing with Daddy (really needs sound with it, but this is a nightly event)

2. Tuesday, June 17 - Kindergarten screening (M passed with no problems). Now with the missing tooth, she looks even more ready for school.

3. Tuesday was also the day when M's tooth had to be pulled. We were referred to a pediatric dentist because of the previous trauma inflicted by our regular dentist. If you look in the picture closely, there's another gap in her teeth in the molars on her bottom left.

4. Wednesday was lunch at Oma & Opa's house with Great Grandma (also known as Triple G)

4. Thursday, E got a corner chair from Early Intervention. It helps her build upper body strength, especially in her shoulders and neck. She loves it and really sits up straight for her sister.

5. Also Thursday, E started solids! Big, big girl.

6. Friday, projects with Mommy. M likes to take pictures where the subject is making faces.

Monday, June 23, 2008

4 years, 9 months, 17 days

9/6/2003 - First tooth

6/10/2008 - Loose tooth

06/22/2008 - No tooth

Beautiful Toothy Smile

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Week in Pictures

The Girls Hugging

Safety Boy and Safety Girl

Getting Ready for M's Dance Recital

Pretty Clips in Sissy's Hair (M put them in and took the picture)

Meeting Great-Great Auntie Neat

Newsletter: April & May 2008 (E)

My Beautiful E,

April and May have been big months for our big, strong girl. In April, you turned 3 months old and we went to have our pictures taken at a local, big box store. After a long wait (despite appointment) and other assorted mishaps, we left with a minimal order which is still sitting on my desk, doomed to never see the light of day. The pictures were so disappointing of all of us, that we tried our local photographer. Her photos of you, your sister, and our family are so beautiful to me. I've uploaded them to Flickr (see sidebar) for everyone to see.

At three months old, you began sucking your thumb. You have a way of working it into your mouth using your whole hand. One day, I'll have to try and get pictures of it. I'm not sure if you'll be a thumb or finger(s) sucker, but I'm going to guess that you will as you (like your sister before you) developed a sucking blister on the center of your upper lip. This is due to your ability to do a great job nursing (Score: Mooma 1; Formula 0). It took us until late March for us to forgo the supplemental bottle and at your 4 month appointment, you were 12 lb 12 oz (85th percentile). M asked me a couple weeks ago why your knees had cracks in them. I had to explain that they weren't cracks, but dimples. You don't have quite the girth that M did, but you've since doubled your birth weight and are so beautifully healthy looking.

In April, you attended your first Ned E. Baker Lecture in Public Health with me. This is a lecture from the organization for which I used to work and it was lovely showing you off. I was particularly proud when some of the nurses looked at you and knew from your wonderfully muscled cheeks (it's not fat) that you were breastfed. It was hard work, but these last two months have been great for both of us in terms of the nursing. I'm so glad that we stuck with it.

Other funny things that I forgot about nursing (you may want to skip ahead if this is TMI) are that you like to try and wrestle with me to get to the boob. I have had to say to you (more than once) that I'm in charge of the boob and things would go much quicker if you'd let me do the job of getting it into your mouth. It would seem, however, that you have a pretty big dose of do-it-my-wayitis, so struggle we do. The other funny thing is when we're nursing while lying down (my favorite position right now), you'll throw your top arm up around my boob like you're a kid guarding the test you're taking. Either that our you'll grab my shirt and pull it down so that you're hidden. I remember M doing this as well and thinking about the odd need for stealth. The other thing that I have to try and remember to record you doing is the little maniacal laugh you do when you're really hungry and ready to eat. As I get ready and position us together, you do this little heh heh which is really funny (maybe only to me, but still....).

In May, you had two big milestones - rolling from your back to your tummy and laughing. You have (on occasion) rolled from your tummy to your back, but you usually go one way, then get stuck. The time on your tummy, though, helps you gain strength in your neck, shoulders and arms in the pursuit of sitting and moving. The other thing you'll do (back or front, it doesn't matter) is pivot yourself around and/or move yourself off the blanket. I fear that you will become frustrated at the effects of the low muscle tone, but also see you working so hard to still get to where/what you want to do.

Oh, I forgot wrestling with Chelsea and other larger toys. Oma and Opa gave you a little doll who we've named Chelsea (all people/animal toys are named in our house). Chelsea is a favorite of yours, we think because she is bright and colorful with crinkle noise in her dress. Her dress also has different textures, and a couple rattles. When we lay her next to you, you like to bring your legs up, flop them over so you get on your side, grab Chelsea and give her the what for. You will also use your legs to kick at toys and entertain yourself. You're quite the equal opportunity limb user in pursuit of your goals.

Rolling and laughing happened on the same day. Daddy had taken you in to get washed up and pjs on. As he was wiping under your chin, you giggled. It's not an all out belly laugh, but a little laugh that pops out at unpredictable times despite Daddy and I trying everything short of bringing in trained seals to perform for you. Of course, some may say that we are the trained seals, but that's for another day. In the meanwhile, we try all sorts of funny things to hear the little laugh again and I know that I feel like a hero when I hear it.

Finally, I have to say that I've come to love our Tuesdays and Thursdays together. Although I miss having M with us, I also like the uninterrupted time with you. We lie on the bed and play, play on the floor, have little adventures (fun way of saying grocery shopping), and just have time together. I only hope that you're having as much fun being my girl as I am being your mom.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008


  1. Check out the Flickr photostream box. I've finally uploaded some family photos we took when E was 3 mo. old
  2. This cracked me up -If you give a mom a minute
  3. So did this - Pie Chart

Monday, June 2, 2008

Newsletter: April & May 2008 (M)

My Beautiful M,

I realized a few weeks ago that I hadn't written the April Newsletter and we were already half-way through May, so I decided to wait and do a combined letter. I decided to do a combined one for M, then one for E.

M, in the last two months, you have become a whole new person it seems. I don't know how many times I've thought to myself, "when did you learn to do that? who taught you that?" You love jumping and hopping and are constantly making noise of some sort. I think you take it as a personal affront to have silence so you fill it with tapping, jumping, banging, etc. You've also taken to singing your thoughts to your sister. Most times, the gist of the song is about how much you love her, will always love her, and how you'll never leave her. Unfortunately, I don't have a constant microphone and recorder on you because the songs are so sweet.

April was the month where you stopped naps. Yes, a month shy of 5 is when you finally said No to naps. It's been pretty successful, especially since your bedtime was moved earlier. On warm days when we've been able to be outside or days you've been at school, you're a lot more tired and the 5:00 - 7:00 time period can be a little dicey. As I've mentioned previously,
I was warned that Five could be emotional and a couple times a week, you have a major meltdown. In fact, part of the reason I am able to get this Newsletter written is because you went to bed at 6:45 tonight. You become inconsolable about some issue - tonight it was "if I could just do the puzzle, I could stop crying - and no amount of reasoning or assurance makes it better.

In the last few months (I think since before April), you've ended playing the music that I think we've used since you were a few months old. Sometimes you substitute a CD of audio recordings of books that Nana read last year, but most times, it's just quiet now. I miss hearing the music and, sometimes when you're restless, will put the music on hoping that its familiarity will calm your sleep.

Did I mention that you also like to make funny faces? Especially when taking your picture? It's pretty standard now that for every lovely series, we have one or two that looks like this.

The last few months have been a bonanza of fun and gifts due to your birthday. Your gifts and how you play with them reminded me to tell you about how you seem incapable of putting things back into their original container. This isn't a bad thing necessarily as you take Polly Pockets and put them in makeup cases or stuff purses with all sorts of non-purse related items. A salt shaker because a receptacle for beads, pretend money now lives in a hair caddy, etc. I'll have to mark some examples down because they're quite funny sometimes. When I ask about why you don't return something to it's original (and in my mind, proper) container, you always have a good excuse.

Some recent conversations

M: Mom, how do bumblebees have babies?


M: How do the ants die? (this in response to the exterminator coming to remove the ants that were infesting our kitchen)

Me: Remember the stuff the guy sprayed? It has stuff that makes the ants die.

M: Yeah, then the ants take the stuff back and they cook it up like ants do, put it on a plate for their family and they eat it then they die.

Me: Yep


At the kindergartener's patriotic program, while standing during the National Anthem:

M: This is like when we saw the people (waving hands) who were singing the song about the king with the blue pee.

Me: Yep it is

[Note, the people we were watching was the high school choir and they sang the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. I told M the story about why people stand for the Hallelujah Cho rus and that King George II had blue pee due to porphyria. (Actually, it was George III who had porphyria).]

April and May have been hard for me. I've been struggling trying to find a balance with you girls and although you may not understand for many years, creating a new identify for myself as a stay-at-home mom. I also suspect some hormonal/adjusting to the realities of how our life will be now with Sissy. I know I've been short, impatient, easily frustrated, and forgetful. I realized the other night when I was giving you a bath and we had a squirters fight how much we haven't laughed together. It was such a good moment for us and I'm going to work harder to have more moments of laughing with you. This doesn't mean that I will stop with the mom stuff, but I think we can find a way to do it with a little more fun.

I hope too, that now and years from now, you know that most of Mommy's frustration has nothing to do with anything that you have ever done and that Mommy loves you beyond all measure. I love our family more than I can ever say, which is why I keep trying to be the best Mommy for you and E. You are my beautiful, funny, smart girl and I am so happy to be your Mommy.