Thursday, December 27, 2007

The T Word


Because of course, that is what Christmas is all about (at least it was this year). This was a big Christmas for our family. It was a huge day of firsts. Of course, it was Owen's first Christmas, my nephew Drew's first Christmas, my sister and I's first Christmas as parents and my parents first Christmas as grandparents. The most exciting thing to happen on this special day was Owen's induction into the Guinness book of world records for having the most toys ever owned by a 10 month old! Ok, so that didn't really happen, but I'm pretty sure that if that were an actual record to hold, Owen would have a lock on it. Lord almighty!
We could officially declare ourselves a new Toys R Us location. Dan won't admit it but I think it's slowly driving him mad. With every new toy that he received on Christmas, he would assess how many pieces and parts were involved and how much square footage it would take up.
Owen, on the other hand, loves every single toy he has. I'm not kidding. Owen was so much fun to watch. I was assuming that this whole present thing would go way over his head, but on the contrary, Owen was right there with us. He would open a present, look at the box, smile at the box, stand on the box, chew on the box. That I expected. But he was also very engaged with the presents he received.
It was a fantastic holiday season!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The M Word

As a parent of a child with dwarfism, I can only be talking about one word - midget. I knew that I would have to deal with it sooner or later and about a month ago, I had my first post-Owen encounter with the word.

I am the business manager of a restaurant and I was in the kitchen chatting with the line cooks. A plate of potato skins came out and they were much smaller than we normally serve. A bartender came back to grab her order and said, "Those look like midget potatoes!" My face flushed & my head got cloudy. "Please don't use that word," I said. She looked at me, shocked. "I am offended by that word. Please don't use it." I ran back to the office, shut the door and cried. The comment lurched me into an brief emotional tailspin. Although I knew I would hear it at some point, I was unprepared to deal with "the M word". As the daughter of a RN with a background in psychology, teaching and constantly gathering our family around the kitchen table for family emoting, my natural instinct was to delve in to why I was feeling so shaken about one simple word.
The bartender had no idea that my son was a little person so I'm sure she didn't use the word to purposely offend me or Owen. I can say with near certainty that the potatoes were not offended (although I'm sure they too would have preferred the term "little potatoes"). Theoretically, no harm no foul. So why then, did I have such a visceral reaction to this word?
Since that experience I have been trying to work out my thoughts on the term midget which has involved some research. From what I can gather, the term seems to be commently used out of ingnorance. There are those who use the term in a cruel manner but frankly I don't want to expend any energy on them at this time.

At one point in my life I thought that midget was an acceptable term for a little person. In fact, I thought it was a term distinguishing proportional dwarfism from disproportionate dwarfism (short arms & legs, large head and trunk). Turns out this is actually correct. Midget was a term coined in the mid 1800's to describe porportional dwarfism and therefore the most socially accepted little people. It is debated as to who coined the term but has ties to PT Barnum at the height of his career. At this time it was "dwarf" that had the negative inferences. In the 1950's The Little People of America had it's first meeting as the "Midgets of America". However, the majority of the people who showed up were dwarves and the group was remamed to reflect both its proportonate and disproportionate members.
Eventually the term fell out of favor although it is unclear as to why. Some theories credit a group of young dwarves in the 70's taking cues from the women's and civil right's movement in a push for acceptance. Another theory is that the word's circus origin lends itself to more deviant uses. Whatever the case may be, many people are ignorant to the fact that it is an offensive term.

In my opinion, I'm not so sure that it's the textbook definition or the history of the word that matters. When it comes to the word, or any word for that matter, it the context and feeling that will define it's meaning. When you say "I love you", it doesn't have meaning unless you truly love. We can give words power and we can take that power away. Dan and I will hopefully instill in Owen the common sense to distinguish the uninformed from hateful and deal with them accordingly.
That being said, I will most likely continue to flinch when I hear or see the word as I did today while listening to "Cheech and Chong's Santa Claus and his Old Lady" song or when I watched the "Family Guy" the other day. Maybe someday I will become immune, maybe I won't. For now, when I do encounter the word, I will patiently explain it's offensiveness(without running off and crying hopefully). And when you ask me what you should call my son, I will simply tell you, "Call him Owen."

*I read some really interesting articles while researching this post. I'm including the links below:
This one is a great historically based article on the PBS website by a man whom I've frequently come across on the web. Dan Kennedy's daughter Becky has achondroplaisa and he wrote book called "Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes".
PBS Article
Dan Kennedy's Website
The next one is an article by Leonard Sawisch, psychologist and former president of the Dwarf Athletic Association. There is some offensive material in the beginning question but scroll down to his article to bypass.
"What Offends Us"
Last is an exchange between actor Daniel Woodburn and Rodger Ebert. Warning - There is quite a bit offensive language. It very much highlights that some people just don't realize what they say.
Rodger Ebert

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Update on developement.

As of last week Owen was 26.5 inches, 17 lbs with a head circumference of 20 inches. On the normal charts he is below the 5th for height and weight and in the 95th for head size. On the achonchondroplasia charts Owen is in about the 50th to 75 percentiles for height, weight and head size.
Our physical therepists told us that Owen has hit all the goals he was supposed to reach by 1 year. He is 2 months ahead of schedule!! He is sitting up, standing supported, army crawling, and doing other amazing miscellaneaous baby tricks.
We are so proud of him and as usual he continues to surpass everyone's expectations!
As for other developements, Owen now has 6 teeth! He's actually been a pretty good teether with no major tantrums. He's really taking it like a man.
Owen loves food! He's off the strained food for the most part and eating stews and pastas, biter biscuits, nutrigrain bars, french fries & other assorted finger foods. He has yet to meet a food he doesn't like.
He's heavy into the imitating and can do things with his face that would give Jim Carrey a run for his money. He is so expressive. You can just see his mind working through his face (especially when he has gas).
He's been very verbal lately but still doesn't have any clear and true words.
As for appointments, he has a yearly check up at U of M but that's about it. Once he starts walking we will need to start seeing an orthepedist but other than that, the only thing we need to deal with at U of M are the bills.


...lucky recipients of my mother's Christmas card and annual "I-didn't-really-care-about-what-was-going-on-with-the-Merciez'-but-seeing-as-Jennifer-took-the-time-to-write-it-I-might-as-wel-read-it" family newsletter! (Just kidding ma!) I thank you all for caring enough (or being depressingly bored enough) to navigate yourselves to my own "I-didn't-really-care-what-was-going-on-with-the-Wright-family-but-seeing-as-I-got-Jennifer's-silly-Christmas-newsletter-and-I'm-on-the-computer-anyway-AND-Catherine-took-the-time-to-blog-it-,-I-might-as-well-read-it" extraviganza. Have I lost anyone yet? In all seriousness, Happy Holiday's to everyone! It's really good to hear from people I haven't seen in a while. If you get a minute, please leave a comment and say hi! The past couple of weeks have been chalked full of holiday festivites and developmental milestones (before you get to excited, no - Owen has still not said "mama" yet). On December 8th, Owen saw Santa! My restaurant O'Callaghan's Irish Pub in Brighton - where incidentally you can sample the best of traditional Irish food, visit for locations and menu - was hosting a Breakfast with Santa event so we took Owen for his very first visit. I'll go ahead and just show you his reaction. Isn't that hilarious! Here's a picture we took. Just like his father, we couldn't tear Owen away from the bar. Next up for Owen - his first Pistons game! I am officially insane for taking a baby to a game. Once again it's impossible to go to events like this without reflecting on before baby & after baby differences. Sporting events before baby: Start at the bar, head to the Palace with only licence and credit card, watch the game, grab drinks at halftime, watch the 2nd half, grab drinks afterwards, get husband to drive you home. Sporting events after baby: Arrive at the Palace 2 hours before hand, get stroller, diaper bag, purse and baby out of car and checked through security. Stop in bathroom for diaper change, head up to Ameriprise Finacial Club to see Dad, order a drink and make the bartender put it in a soda glass so no one calls social services, feed baby so he will hopefully sit through game. Head down to seats midway through 1st half having only taken 2 sips of drink. Spend halftime in bathroom for another diaper change. Drag the baby, diaperbag, purse and stroller back down to seats for the 2 minutes left in the game, head back to Ameriprise with a now cranky and tired baby, diaperbag, purse and stroller to wait while traffic clears. Go home and vow not to take Owen to another game until he can carry his own diaperbag, stroller and maybe even mom's purse. My saving grace was my friend Betsy who helped me cart around my entourage of baby gear and provided moral support. Owen happens to love Betsy too so she was able to keep him happy and content. It also helped that I worked there for 8 years and my husband still works there. We got some nice hookups that made the evening very pleasant. Oh yeah! Owen was on TV! And not the big screen but actual TV. He's pretty psyched about it. Look at these seats! Betsy and Owen Betsy is fun! As for milestones, I will post seperately so they don't get lost in this monstrosity of a blog posting

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Meet the Hedgers

Throught the wonderful world of the world wide web (say that 3 times fast), I had the opportunity to meet Lisa and her daughter Liz a 3 year old with achondroplasia. As you will see for yourself, Liz is absolutely adorable. They live in Northwest Indiana a couple of hours from Chigaco. Thank you Lisa for letting me add your page! The Hedger Adventures

Monday, December 3, 2007


To those who were confused by my Holland reference in the last post... "Welcome to Holland" is an essay written by Emily Perl Kingsley in reference to raising her child with Down Syndrome. I first read this in the LPA welcome packet as it has become someone of an inspirational reading for all parents of "differently-abled" children. "Welcome to Holland"