These Are The Shoes


These are the shoes that I first picked out for my baby girl, Emmy. I was so excited to have another baby and couldn’t wait to put her sweet little toes into these cute shoes. I pictured her walking around the playground, climbing up the steps to the slide, with these precious flowered shoes on her feet. I bought these shoes and put them in her drawer, waiting to embrace the day she took her first steps.

Well, she never wore them. They are still brand new.


THESE were her first shoes. I’m not joking. A far cry from cute, eh?

Our first Physical Therapist (who was wonderful) determined that Emmy has low muscle tone and needed a more supportive shoe. She asked me to find some shoes at a thrift store which she was going to cut up (gulp). I scoured a thrift shop, using her specific instructions, and presented her with the cutest pink shoes I could find that still met her criteria. I was hanging onto the notion that Emmy’s first shoes would be sweet and girly. That’s when our Physical Therapist grabbed a scissor and started hacking away. She cut off the fronts of the shoes and then sewed on black straps, which were intended to hold Emmy’s foot tightly in place. She then glued padding to the inside.

Emmy wore those shoes for about a month, and I grimaced every time I saw them. I longed for the first pair that I picked out that were still sitting in her drawer, brand new.


These are the shoes that Emmy wore after the frightful pair. She needed more support on the side of her foot, so we graduated to these white shoes. They say “My Baptism” on the side. I think most children wear their baptism shoes only once, but Emmy wore hers for months, which made people chuckle.

I had a woman stop me in a store, point to Emmy’s shoes, and say, “Oh, I remember when we all had to wear those ugly first walkers!”

What she probably didn’t realize is that nobody wears ugly first walkers anymore. Most baby shoes are blinged out. She didn’t realize that I didn’t have a choice in the matter, and there were very cute shoes sitting at home in a drawer, brand new.

The next step was to move Emmy into orthotics, which are braces that go inside shoes to help stabilize the foot. When this idea was first brought up to me, I thought, “NO WAY.” I pictured unsightly braces up to her knee. In fact, one of our therapists has a brother who wore clunky metal orthotics when he was younger.

But it isn’t about me. It’s about what’s best for Emmy. So we got her fitted for orthotics, which are much prettier and smaller than I imagined. You can barely tell that she’s wearing them, and she’s very comfortable in them.


These are the first shoes Emmy wore with her orthotics. She loved to pull open the velcro strap on the top.

And, in the end, she didn’t care what her shoes looked like. She just liked walking around; getting into everything. Through all of the shoe changes, she didn’t blink once. She just wanted to get up and go.

She has no idea that I still look at those first pair of shoes and feel a pang of regret, a pang that she didn’t get to experience her first years as typical children do. Or maybe it’s my own experience I’m thinking about–the regret that I didn’t get to put those cute shoes on my baby when I really, really, wanted to.

Sometimes things turn out differently than we planned. I’m a VERY (read: obsessively) good planner, so that’s been a challenge. But what hasn’t been a challenge is looking over at Emmy’s bright, smiling face and knowing that we’re doing what’s best for her. Right now, she doesn’t need cute shoes. She needs support.

The Word “Retarded” Hurts People


I’ve been hearing the word “retarded” a lot lately.

“This is so retarded.”

“That person is retarded.”

Or (what people sometimes think is a more clinical, respectful term) “That person is mentally retarded.”

Why shouldn’t we use the word “retarded”?

I’m going to give the most basic explanation: It hurts people.

End of story.

The arguments:

1. What am I supposed to call people who look/act retarded?:

Nothing. Chances are that you’re referring to people as “retarded” not to offer a compliment, but to point out a deficiency. Think about why you’re telling someone about that person. What’s the point of the story? If it’s not a positive story, then why share it? If you do have a positive story to share, think of another description: “The woman over there with the curly brown hair was so helpful!”

2. Isn’t “mentally retarded” a well-known term in the medical community?

I’m not a doctor, but I will tell you that I’ve never met a doctor (and I’ve met many!!) who has used that term with me. It’s an out-dated term.

3. But it’s harmless to say “That’s retarded.” I’m not talking about a person. I’m talking about a thing/event/activity.

The word itself is hurtful. And if you use it, your kids will learn that it’s ok to use it too. And if our kids use it, the word will live on and on and on… Also, you never know who you’re talking to. You never know a stranger’s set of circumstances. If you use the word around a stranger without knowing his/her background (“This baseball game is retarded.”), you have no idea how that word will impact the person you’re talking to. What if the stranger’s brother was once called “retarded”? What if his niece was once called “retarded”? I guarantee that, most of the time, your words won’t come across as fun but as hurtful.

4. Hey, lady, haven’t you heard of Free Speech? No one tells me what to do.

I’m a BIG proponent of people not telling me what to do. I’m kind of rebellious in that way. If someone tells me to make a left, I’ll go right. If someone tells me to have a cheese sandwich, I’ll have PB&J. I really, really, really don’t like when people tell me what to do. BUT if I know that my action has the potential to hurt someone else, I won’t do it. I do believe in Free Speech, but I don’t believe in causing pain to others–even perfect strangers.

5. People are so sensitive. There are so many words that we’re not supposed to use anymore!

I can count on 1 hand the number of words that are not appropriate to use. It’s really not that many. If you stay away from about 5 words when talking to others, you’re golden. 🙂

Self Care

Self Care

I think most moms look at the words “self care” and cringe.

“I’m sorry–what? Care for myself? I don’t have time for that.”

We went to the beach on Saturday, and I put sunscreen on the kids at least 3 times each. I’m so worried about their precious, toddler skin burning. If they get even the slightest bit red, I’m right behind them–slathering on more white goo. I don’t want them to feel the hurt of a burn or, worse, be susceptible to skin cancer.

I was so exhausted from putting on their sunscreen, not just on Saturday but from the Sunscreen Dance that we do every morning of the week, that I skipped putting it on myself.

My skin? Not important. Their skin? SUPER IMPORTANT!

If I get a little burn, I’ll just use some aloe or something…

Well, I look like a lobster. Worse, I feel like a lobster in a pot. My body has been on fire since Saturday. It’s painful for me to carry a purse on my shoulder. Yesterday, Emmy gently brushed up against my back with a pretzel, and I thought I was going to lose my mind from the pain.

Really? Is this the lesson that will finally encourage me to jump on the self care bandwagon? I hope so because, right now, the feeling of my shirt resting against my shoulder is enough to make me scream.

I think of self care as being selfish. How can I possibly worry about myself when I’ve got kids to care for? How can I close the door to take a quiet bath when they might need me at any second? How can I curl up on the couch to read my book when I should be sitting on the floor playing with them instead?

Two things:

1. If I show my kids that I value myself then they, too, will value themselves.

2. If I take some time to address my needs, I am a much calmer, happier, and more relaxed parent.

Charlotte kept looking at my awful burn and saying, “Mom, you really need to use sunscreen next time.” By turning into a lobster, I showed her how little I care about my own needs. It’s actually embarrassing…to show my 4 year old how little I value myself. That needs to change if I want her to value herself. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right?

Ok so, I finally took a step in the right direction. I put on my headphones and went for a walk. But not just any boring old walk! I played music that I can’t play when the kids are around. Charlotte has a great memory and repeats everything, so there are some songs that I don’t play because I don’t want to answer any questions about the lyrics.

Realization: It’s amazing what listening to my own music for 20 minutes does to my psyche. I felt myself instantly unwind. Self care isn’t as hard as I make it out to be! And it only took 20 minutes. Next time, I’ll try 30…

Thank you for the birthday wishes for Emmy! She had such a good time and blew out her number 2 candle beautifully–with a tiny bit of help from mom.

As Long As It’s Healthy


I was at the salon the other day, making casual conversation with the hair stylist. She was asking how many kids I have and if I want another. I don’t normally venture into the Emmy story unless I know someone pretty well so I said, in a general way, “I have two kids, and I’d love to have another.”

She responded, “Do you want a boy or a girl? Though, I guess it doesn’t matter, right? As long as it’s healthy.”

That phrase stopped me in my tracks. She kept asking more questions, but I was still on the “as long as it’s healthy” statement, turning it over and over in my mind.

I used to think the same thing. When I was pregnant with both of my girls, I prayed every single night for a healthy baby. That was, in fact, my only wish. I was terrified of having a baby that wasn’t healthy.

And then, five weeks after giving birth to Emmy, we found out that she has Williams syndrome. (They don’t test for Williams syndrome during general pregnancy screenings because it is so rare.) In my mind, my worst nightmare had come true. I wondered what I had done in life to deserve such a thing. I had been a good person, right? It felt like a punishment. I racked my brain trying to figure out what I had done in my past to bring this diagnosis upon my entire family.

Those feelings were so real back then–so painful. And today, I can’t even put myself into that same mindset if I tried. I love this kid so much, and she has brought such incredible joy to my life. The way she crinkles her nose, and gulps down her milk (“glug glug glug”), and reaches for her favorite book, and gets her red shoes when she wants to go outside, and drops her toys into an empty bathtub for us to find later, and giddily throws balls to our dog, and says “Charlotte.” Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the baby that I prayed for.

Really, I can’t imagine that any pregnant woman wishes for an unhealthy baby. So it seems like a natural prayer. Who wouldn’t want a healthy baby?

But let’s look at the other side of that coin. What happens if the baby is unhealthy? Then what? Do we send it back? Do we ask for another? The “as long as it’s healthy” statement doesn’t allow for the other side of that coin.

Because what if it isn’t healthy?

Perhaps, instead of praying for a healthy baby, I should’ve asked “Please give me an open heart to love my child fully, no matter who he/she is” or “Please give me the ability to see how my child fits in perfectly with our family.”

Yes, I’d like to have another baby. At this point, I’m actually much more worried about carrying the baby than I am about who the baby will be.

I, too, was born with a birth defect but, surprisingly, I didn’t find out until I was thirty years old and pregnant for the first time. An ultrasound revealed that I have a bicornuate uterus, which means it’s heart shaped. It sounds lovely, but it can be very problematic. I also have a secondary issue with my uterus which resulted from my first c-section.

So my mind hasn’t even gone down the “I hope it’s healthy” road yet. I’m still wondering if my own body will be able to hold strong.

But if I were to get pregnant again, I hope I won’t obsess about the health of my baby for nine months, as I’ve done twice before.

I’ve learned that health isn’t everything. It’s the whole picture that matters more.

Our Emmy turns two years old tomorrow! I can’t wait to see her opening the mountain of Elmo presents.

I spoiled her this year. She deserves it.