Sunday, May 30, 2010

Farewell, Charlottesville

We have 3 weeks left until we leave Charlottesville for good. Having moved & switched schools frequently as a child, I'm used to goodbyes. And we said this same goodbye (albiet temporarily) two years ago. And then last year we said goodbye to New Zealand.

The packing up of all our worldly possessions is hard. And saying goodbye to all the people we see on a daily basis is hard. And knowing we'll no longer eat at that restaurant or swim at that pool or drive on that road is hard. But we're prepared for all that. We've done that before.

The harder part, for me, is thinking about saying goodbye to our memories here. Seven years ago, Jon was 26, and he moved here to start his residency & neurosurgery career. A couple months earlier, we stopped here for the first time and picked out his apartment at Lakeside, and bought furniture - a cheap dining room set that I'm sitting at right now, a tv, and a futon - all from K-Mart. We were engaged, but I was finishing my first year of law school at Mercer.

Luckily, I was able to transfer to Washington & Lee, an hour from Charlottesville, at the end of the summer. I was 22 years old, a second year law student, and Jon was an intern working crazy hours. We were so young then. We were planning our wedding for the end of that year, May 15, 2004, and it was such a beautiful day. Around the same time, we moved into our first house, which we will leave in just weeks. We had nothing when we bought it: just Jon's furniture from K-Mart. The day we closed on the house, we went to Grand's furniture and bought our living room and bedroom set. And my parents bought our dining room furniture. My mom and aunt Janie came up and decorated our house; Jon said when he came home from work that night that it now really felt like a home.

A year after our wedding, we celebrated my law school graduation. So many friends and family members came in town for that. I studied for the bar at home every day that summer of 2005, and took the bar July 26 and 27, 2005. A few days later, I started my first real job, where I still work 5 years later.

Our life was in motion. Jon was in his third year of residency, I was finally out of school and working, and something was missing... And then we got pregnant that fall and were thrilled. And then over the next 9 months we went through every emotion in the book. We were worried about the health of our baby, I was worried that I gained 60 pounds with pregnancy, we were so excited to have our little girl join us soon, and Jon and I became closer than ever going through this experience together. I went into labor almost 4 years ago while sitting on the couch reviewing Utah proof on a Sunday. It was Father's Day, and Jon still insisted on going to Aberdeen Barn as the labor was taking awhile. I sat at the dinner table with each contraction, not being able to eat, while Jon easily ate his steak. I spent the entire night in pain before the contractions became 5 minutes apart and we were able to check into the hospital.

Miss Lillian Grace Sherman was born on June 20, 2006, and we brought her home on July 3. We lived in the hospital with her while she had to stay in for medical reasons, so when we brought her home finally, we were all coming home as a family to introduce Lilly to her house. She came home with oxygen tanks and medical equipment, and I remember so clearly everything being set up. And then holding my daughter in my own house, without nurses bothering me finally, and beginning our life as a family of three.

Lilly changed our world; a year before when it was just me and Jon, going to work, coming home, living our lives, it seemed so quiet, so boring, so dull. And then this beautiful little girl came into our world and things were bright, colorful, vivid. She was our little missing piece that made our family complete. We watched her grow and develop in this house, we met so many new people in town because of Lilly.

And then we left for a year, and when we got back last summer, picked up right where we left off. Our same house, same jobs, same daycare. Same friends, same restaurants, same life. Except for the incredible revelation that the little toddler we had lived here with before New Zealand had become a determined young lady. We celebrated her third birthday right after we got back, and saw all the ways she had grown up. She was walking and running; before NZ she could only walk holding hands. And this entire year she's grown up even more, and each day we fall in love with her just a little more.

In Charlottesville in the past seven years, I became a wife, a proud mother, a lawyer, and an expert on Down syndrome. Jon became a husband, a great father, and a neurosurgeon. And Lilly was born and has become such an adorable little princess, actress, and dancer. And let's not forget about the karaoke skills that she's developed here.

And in 24 days, we leave it all. We pack up the house on June 21, and our closing date is June 24. We will pack up all our memories along with it. I hardly recognize who Jon and I were when we moved to Charlottesville. It was our first time living far away from our family and friends, and we grew as a couple. Then came Miss Lilly, who completely changed our world. As she grew and developed, so did we. Memories of holding her as a tiny infant, the first time she smiled, the first time she signed and said words, the first time she crawled. We watched her touch so many hearts in Charlottesville, and we turned her over to a great surgeon who would miraculously fix her heart. We survived first colds, asthma, and having her tonsils & adenodis taken out. And we've survived the entire six seasons of Lost while living in this house; another end of an era.

I'm excited about New York. It will be a year unlike any other. And I can't wait to figure out where we go after that. But it is sad saying farewell to the city that we've lived in since we got married, where Lilly was born and grew up, except for our year abroad. We'll say goodbye to our normalcy and get ready for a new adventure, but we will miss you, Charlottesville!

Lilly - 2 months old.
Lilly's first birthday
Lilly - age 3, right after we got back from NZ.

Friday, May 28, 2010


We are so proud of Lilly. Every day she is doing new things - saying funny new phrases, mastering new skills, and finding new ways for us to be proud of her.

On Sesame Street, there are two girl characters called Zoe and Abby. And two of Lilly's closer friends at school are named Abby and Emily. Recently I noticed that Lilly was called Zoe "Abby" and Emily "Abby" as well. I think it's because the name "Abby" is easier to say for Lilly. So one day, when Lilly was saying something about Zoe on Sesame Street (calling her Abby), I said to Lilly: "Lilly, look at mommy. Say Zoe-ey." And Lilly looked at me and said "Zoe-ey" and she was just so happy that she could say it! And then we practiced "Emily" which is harder to say, so I taught her the sign for "E" as well so that she could use that. The pride in Lilly's face when she says "Zoe" and signs "E" for Emily is so amazing for me to witness; Lilly knows that she couldn't differentiate between Zoe and Emily and Abby before, and now she can say the words clearly.

Lilly can also now say all her cousins' names, and signs the first letter of all their names - I am so proud that she knows that "J" is for "Julianne," "M" is for "Matthew," "L" is for "Lyndsey," and "T" is for "Tristan." (And sorry cousin Hannah, when I ask Lilly to say "Hannah," she exclaims "Hannah Montana!")

Lilly learns so easily, when she's ready to learn. And she has so much pride in what she can accomplish. And her mommy and daddy are so proud of her.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pretty Ballerina

What a beautiful ballerina, what a precious recital. All the little girls were adorable, of course - a dozen sweet little ballerinas attempting to perform routines together. I think it was the combination of Lilly being a little ham and all the people watching, but a few times Lilly decided it was her solo performance - she totally stole the show.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Run

I've always been good at shopping. And math. I love to read, especially about history. I enjoy cooking, when I have time, and love to travel, when I can afford it.

But, as I said a few days ago, I am not a natural runner. It is not easy to me, it was not something I was immediately passionate about. A month ago, I was huffing and puffing running a minute at a time; today I ran seven minutes 3 times, with a minute of walking in between each run. I was not out of breath, I did not give up, I even enjoyed the run. And I loved the feeling of accomplishment when it was over.

When I used to try to run, I would think: "I would like to run a mile." And then I'd run a minute, think about how much further a mile was, and stop and walk back home. I always focused on the distance, and what I could, or couldn't, accomplish, and I always failed.

But running for the minutes, instead of for the end result, lets me enjoy my run. I no longer am trying to take a short cut, because I'm running the entire seven minutes regardless of where it is. I no longer fear hills, because if I shorten my stride, I don't even feel them. I get lost in the moment, lost in my thoughts, lost in the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I think of how proud I am that I'm sticking with this, even though it was tough at the beginning, and I think of how much further I can push my body to run in the future.

But the biggest motivation is my Lilly. You see, so much comes easily for me. I was your typical child, willing and motivated to learn. But it's easy to learn, when learning is easy. For Lilly, it's harder. She reaches many milestones months later than the typically developing child. She is learning to jump, for example. She practices every week in physical therapy, and she is so motivated to learn, even though her low muscle tone makes it harder. But yesterday she jumped twice for the first time, and her therapist was so proud. A few months ago, she learned to navigate every piece of playground equipment at school - from the climber to the ladders. And what I notice is not that other kids could do these things sooner, but that, it took so much physical and mental strength from Lilly to do these things at the time she learned to do them. They were hard for her, and she put all her efforts into them because she was determined. She never sees a challenge as being challenging; she looks for ways to accomplish them so that she can do what everyone else is doing. I don't think she realizes that for many other kids, climbing up the ladder and jumping comes so naturally and easily; and that when she does it, it really does mean that she's accomplished something big.

Running was the thing that I couldn't do. And before, I would have just said "I'm not a runner." When something is hard for me, I just give up on it because there are so many other things that are easy. But watching Lilly overcome so many obstacles is so motivating to me. I want her to know that there is nothing that she can't accomplish, if she puts her mind and heart into it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

10 Boxes

2 years ago, we were preparing to move to New Zealand. We knew we couldn't bring furniture, personal belongings, etc; we had to pare down to what we really needed for a year abroad. Shipping anything to New Zealand is extremely expensive, so we narrowed our belongings down to 10 boxes. 2 boxes per person for clothes; two boxes for toys, a box of books, and my work computer.

It really wasn't a lot, when you think of how much "stuff" we all have. We arrived in New Zealand on a Tuesday morning, went directly to our new house to drop off our stuff, and went to the store. First on the list: a crib for Lilly (a "cot" in NZ speak). It still boggles my mind: we got off the plane and had no where for Lilly to sleep. In our first week there, we acquired a new (used) car, towels, a vacuum, a few toys for Lilly (it was her birthday right after we arrived), a coffee maker, etc. We bought all the furniture from the previous occupants of the house, so at least that was easy (albeit somewhat expensive). It was a bizarre time; it wasn't like we were college students starting fresh; we were a family trying to figure out our new way of life and attempting to live somewhat comfortably. I think the average person probably takes it for granted how much "stuff" they have in their house, and the absence of that for us was somewhat unsettling.

And a year later, we sold everything we had bought those first few weeks, and packed up our 10 boxes and moved back to the US. The organizing, the selling of our stuff on, the sorting and packing, it seems all surreal now. And it was so nice to move back to our already-furnished house in Charlottesville, with all our old things that we loved so much. I remember the first time I used a plate and fork upon arriving back at our house; those Mikasa French Countryside pieces were so nice and heavy compared to our temporary belongings in NZ. And we were so thankful that, while it was ok for a year, we'd never have to live so simply again.

Fast forward a year later to today. We just got the quotes to move most of our stuff to New York City 6 weeks from today, and it is ridiculously expensive. So Jon and I talked it over, and started to think: what do we really actually need to survive in NYC for a year? If we go through our entire house of belongings, what could we feel fine selling & putting into storage; and what would we actually need to move to NY?

As soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer: 10 boxes.

So, the plan at the moment is to move to New York City, with our little family of three, with whatever we can fit into 10 boxes and ship FedEx. Wish us luck...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

At 4:30 am this morning, I couldn't sleep. I'd like to blame it on my husband's snoring, but the reality is that I'm so overwhelmed by all that we have to do in the near future. And I was sitting there trying to fall back asleep and thinking about how much of a mess our house is: clothes everywhere, dirty dishes in the sink, mail that we need to sort; I wouldn't say that I'm super organized but at the same time I thrive on feeling like everything is in it's place. So at 4:30 I jumped up and decided to tackle all this. After all, it's hard to get anything done during the day on the weekend when Lilly is in the house.

I accomplished a lot, and Jon woke up at 6 to go to work. He surprised me with a beautiful pearl necklace and earrings, which is great because I lost my prior pearl necklace and one of the earrings. Lilly let me continue on my cleaning streak until 8 am, and then she and I spent Mother's Day morning together. Jon came back home around 9, and we spent the next hour together. He and Lilly ran out to the grocery store, and then he got called into work by 11 for an all day case.

By this time, I was dragging, but luckily Miss Lilly helped me fold the five loads of laundry. (She's great at folding washclothes!) We ate lunch, watched Hannah Montana (I'll admit for the record that I'm just as big a fan as Lilly), and then she and I took a nap together. By 3:45 we were on the go again, playing, watching and Elmo. At 4:30 we went to Target and bought Lilly the new Best of Elmo 2 DVD. An hour later we were in Whole Foods buying a chocolate cake.

The story behind the cake is that, during the morning I told Lilly it was Mother's Day. She immediately sang "Happy Birthday" to me (of course, when you're 3, Mother's Day would mean mommy's birthday, right?). So when Jon got called into work all day, and I didn't feel like cooking dinner, I told her we'd go get a cake since it was "Mommy's Birthday." She was thrilled and I picked our our favorite chocolate buttercream raspberry cake.

We picked up a chicken nugget Happy Meal from McDonalds on the way home, and a few minutes ago we sang Happy Birthday to Lilly and Mommy and each had a big piece of cake and glass of milk.

Our plans for the rest of the evening include a bath, a Hannah Montana episode, and the Amazing Race (Lilly watches with me every Sunday!), with bedtime around 9. And that, my friends, is the perfect mother's day. Of course I am a little exhausted...

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, mother in law, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends! And thank you to my daughter for making my mother's day so special.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Six Weeks

Busy. It doesn't begin to describe our lives, and our next six weeks. In our normal routine we have 2 super busy jobs, full time daycare, weekly ballet class and horsebackriding, and a few therapies. Plus, our new running routine, and I'm vowing to cook every night so that we spend less money eating out. Add to that: a ballet recital, a 6 year anniversary trip to Disney World, Lilly's grandparents coming up to hang out with her while Jon and I are away, a best friend's wedding weekend in Atlanta in which I'm the matron of honor and Lilly is a flower girl, a residency graduation, a 4 year old's birthday, and a super sweet 4th birthday trip to Disney World. And every weekend that we're in town, Jon is on call. And meanwhile during all this, we have to pack everything in our house, organizing it into what goes into storage for the next year, and what we'll bring to NYC. And we're selling some furniture and odds and ends that don't fit into either category, all while keeping a mischevious 3 year old out of trouble. Should be easy, right?

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Journey

I don't have to tell you how amazing Lilly is; if you've paid attention over the past couple years you know that I am such a proud mom, bordering on obsessing on Lilly's attributes. She is the perfect daughter in every way.

And she has had a great life, although we don't make it easy on her with moving so often for Jon's career. But all the worries that I had at the beginning were fruitless; she is accepted by society, she is loved by our friends and family, she is appreciated in her preschool class, she is discovering her talents as a ballerina and equestrian, she is motivated to learn new skills, and she is beautiful and bright and sweet and funny. But you know this, we all know this.

Last week, two things happened. The first was, someone close to me mentioned a school with a special education program, inferring that it's the kind of thing Lilly would be in if she were school aged. I did a double take - but Lilly is in regular daycare preschool right now; of course if her needs were met better by special ed we would go that route, but wouldn't we mainstream her until or unless we found that she didn't do well? What makes you think she couldn't handle regular kindergarten and regular school?

A few minutes later, ironically, another comment- and this one hit me like a punch in the stomach. We were introduced to a group of kids, and a 9 year old glanced over at Lilly and said "Is she in special ed?"

My heart dropped for my little girl. Of course I am saying there is nothing wrong with special education, it may be a part of Lilly's life as she grows up, and I know it meets many needs. But what made me so sad for Lilly is that this kid looked at my daughter, knew nothing about her, besides her face, and categorized her and dismissed her. She was no longer an adorable precocious three year old; she was someone who should be separated from the group.

I don't often think of these kinds of judgments that people might make of Lilly. We have been so fortunate in facing positivity when it comes to our daughter. In school, both here and in New Zealand, she attended regular daycare, where they held the bar high for her and Lilly rose to the occasion. We've done ballet, gymnastics, and music classes, for typically developing kids. She's had all kinds of friends, both with DS and without. For the record, I don't think there is anything wrong with DS or special needs generally; but my point is more that people with special needs have a place in mainstream society if they choose to be there. And in Lilly's situation, it is in her best interest to be part of the group.

I've recently been keeping up with a blog written by a mother and daughter. The daughter is an amazing 20 year old writer - and did I mention she has Down syndrome? And the mom is such a caring mother and advocate, and I see myself in her shoes as Lilly grows into an adult. Yesterday the mom wrote this . I so appreciate her candor and drive when it comes to fighting for what her daughter deserves - in her education, in her career, in her life.

It is not that I want my child to blend in and not have the chromosomes that she was born with; it is moreso that I want her to be fully included and appreciated exactly how she is. Which also means not prejudging her skills or her options before she can prove exactly what she is capable of. But more than anything, I am thankful for the journey that we are on; I look forward to being Lilly's advocate, because there is no one that deserves life's amazing opportunities more that Lilly.