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Tuesday, March 13, 2007
In case you didn't get your copy of the book Gifts, I wanted to share with you my portion which falls under, "The Gift of Perspective." This is the way the story was written before the final edit. To read the final edit, you can purchase your copy of Gifts from Woodbine House.

She had been plotting this big move for weeks. Positioning her foot this way, grabbing the cushion that way, grunting loudly, using every muscle in her body, all to no avail. But today is different, and she knows it. This time, her arm is just long enough, her tiptoes just high enough, her shoulders just strong enough for success. Reaching, grasping, pulling, sliding…and she's done it! Megan beams at me from her new throne. She has claimed her rightful position on the couch, and is now the reigning Queen of the Remote!

Her denim-colored eyes shine with accomplishment as she hits the slow motion button and watches Elmo and the other characters inching along the screen. This is power! Not only has she conquered gravity, but she also has control of the TV just like mom, dad and big brother Joey. She has just shown her little sister that she is THE BOSS, being first to master this task. It is a day to celebrate in the Bissol Household. I go to the baby book and jot down a little note, "September 17, 2005. Megan was able to get herself up on the couch today, 1 year, 10 months and 9 days old."

We seem to celebrate occasions like these more often now. Just three days prior she stood by herself for 4 seconds, which was another first. I left her playing in the living room while I moved along the laundry. When I returned, I picked up my cup of coffee and sipped on it while I watched Megan from around the corner. She was admiring her sister's pacifier and decided to nab it from her mouth. Without noticing her own accomplishment, she stood there hands free. I slowly counted…1…2…3…4 as she plopped her bottom to the ground and continued to pretend she was the baby sucking on the pacifier. She hadn't even noticed that she reached another milestone.

Megan continued down this road of independence and also started to get from a stand from the floor. This came shortly before her second birthday. She would slowly rise from the floor with a little wobble. She held her arms out to steady herself much like an Olympic Diver getting ready for their gold medal attempt. She completed her gold medal achievement on October 3, 2005, "1 year 10 months, 25 days old."

I seem to know every little detail of these events and others because Megan has to work a bit harder and try a bit longer than most children to accomplish them. Special dates and milestones seem to come to me easily when asked by a doctor or a friend, because Megan's progress is full of extra meaning. Her sheer determination to master new skills gives me continual cause to celebrate. And to think, on November 8, 2003 our family was at an emotional standstill. Sitting in the recovery room of the hospital listing in our minds all the things she wasn't going to accomplish. We never spoke the words out loud but the looks, the tears and the silence spoke volumes of what our minds were thinking. Doctors and nurses were coming and going apologizing to us and consoling us. Social workers were coming in and out giving us pamphlets on Down Syndrome and our local "Mental Retardation Department." We kept hearing that "these kids" are delayed, they won't talk till much older and walking may not happen till age 3 to 5. Your child will inevitably be slow. That is a hard word to swallow these days.

My favorite thing to do when I was little was participating in field day at school. I loved racing the other kids, playing kick ball and tug of war. These activities were something I was good at. I played basketball and softball all my life. Running up and down the courts and hitting balls being pitched at me at 70 mph. All the kids who weren't fast enough or who couldn't hit the pitches didn't make the teams. I never wanted my own children not to be "fast" enough to make a team.

In a way, my fears came true: Megan's development in some areas has been slower than average. But I was wrong to have thought that this was something to be sad about. She has made us, her family, view the world in slow motion rather than the fast forward that many other people seem to be on—and this is a wonderful thing.

Megan has taught me to notice and appreciate things I never paid attention to before. I took the little things for granted. The subtlety and ease other children were able to use in picking up a Cheerio. Did you know there was a name for this? Pincering is now a commonly used word in my vocabulary. Megan practiced first on casino chips and putting them into a piggy bank. After months of this, she was able to reward herself with feeding herself a Cheerio. I was very proud of her. Other seemingly simple things that have come easily for my other children were playing on their knees. Seems simple enough but a task Megan was unwilling to take. She fought this tooth and nail. Tricking her was never an option. She always seemed to know when we wanted her to do some physical work. We would set up all her toys and try placing her on her knees but she would scream and show her disapproval. But the persistence of her therapists reigned supreme and she conquered this as well. Playing on her knees without being forced…check!

Seeing these subtle accomplishments that added up to a major event helps me to appreciate the little things in others now. When someone goes out of their way to hold open a door or someone helps an elder carry a heavy bag to their car. I see these things. I seem to notice it all the time. I even noticed that I wake up every morning not just because it is time to rise but because my children are seconds from awaking themselves. I notice the colors in my flowering Dog Wood that is in my front yard. It was the reason I bought my home. I used to complain that the flowers weren't in bloom long enough during the Spring, now I relish in those few weeks of gorgeous flowers, taking pictures and showing my children the beauty of nature. Life is not so much a conveyor belt anymore with me just going through the motions. I do have the innate ability to enjoy the little things, the way my bed sheets feel after a long day, the smell of a fresh load of clean laundry , the taste of the perfect cup of coffee, the sight of my kids giggling with each other and the touch of my husband when he comes in from a long day at the office.

Slow motion is an amazing feature. It enables us to take in details that otherwise fly past our eyes. It helps us to examine each and every tiny step which adds up to an amazing accomplishment. It shows us the beauty and grace hiding in everyday happenings. Cable and satellite companies are trying to offer this at a price so that TV audiences can savor every moment of their favorite programs. Thanks to Megan, we get it for free.

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