A Learning Win for Jameson

Jameson is in his second year in a fully inclusive Montessori preschool. To say he is thriving is an understatement.

Last year our daily mantra was, “no hitting, no kicking, no spitting” and eventually it stuck. This year, we haven’t had to use that phrase much. Growth! Progress! He still has moments, like for some reason he thinks circle time or group time is the best time to make random, obnoxious noises. But, overall, he’s participating fully in his school day, engaging with other kids, trying activities and new snack foods, and working both independently and with help when needed from his teachers.

I am writing this post today to share an amazing moment, and to solidify it as a big win for this school year. Without a prompt from me or even a “what was something fun you did at school today?” Jameson shared something he learned in his own way.

After taking his bath and going through the process of ‘jammies, comb hair and brush teeth’ (we are a household of routine) he starting singing a song and doing hand motions. At first I didn’t think anything of it. But then I started really listening to what he was singing and he was consistent in his sounds, pronunciation, inflections and motions.

“What is that you’re singing, Jay?”

“Stirring, stirring …” said Jay with a big smile on his phase.

“Where did you learn that?”

“Miss Elizabeth. School,” was Jay’s answer.

Now, Jay is verbal. But he doesn’t always link concepts and ideas together on his own. His response floored me, in a good way.

“Can you sing it again for mommy? I want to learn it!” We proceeded to sing and do the hand motions together until I had a better understanding of the song. Jay was so proud of himself and I could tell he was excited to share the song from school with me.

I later emailed his teacher to ask about the song and hand motions. She sent a quick response that, yes, Jay did learn the song in school, and she shared the full lyrics and hand motion directions. To top off the amazing moment, he was pretty spot on word for word and motion for motion with what his teacher emailed me!

This is the first time that Jay initiated sharing something he experienced or learned. He obviously enjoyed the song activity at school. He liked it enough to repeat it. He remembered the lyrics and hand motions. He retained that information from the classroom to our house. And he shared his learning with me without my asking him to. Wow! Just wow!

It’s not everyday that we get to hear from Jay about how school went. And obviously in this situation, he didn’t say, “School was good mom, we did an activity and sang a song and it went like this….” But, he told us in his own way, and that is the biggest gift of all. It’s a learning milestone and a major school-year win.

Jay is growing up so fast and becoming more independent. He’s a rockstar big brother and always doing what he can to make Maxwell smile. Which, really isn’t much, Max looks at Jay with so much love. Jay is definitely Max’s favorite person. The two already have one heck of a bond.

When in doubt about what kids are learning or not learning, this experience reminded me that Jay will tell me in his own way and on his own time, whenever and wherever that is meant to be. <3

A Mother’s Day Reflection

Welcome, Maxwell! Jay is officially a big brother and absolutely stellar at it. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure a second baby was for us. It’s hard to think about how to share your love. Jay has been our focus for so long and although he’s growing like crazy, I still feel the need to be his protector and advocate. I think that will always be part of our mother-son relationship.

Throughout my pregnancy with Maxwell, Ben and I made it a point to include Jay as much as possible. He was part of conversations about baby; learning about the baby growing in “Katie Momma’s” (that’s what Jay often calls me!) belly and active in our preparation and nesting phases. Jay started school last fall and his independence and self confidence are soaring. I need to share a bit about all of that and I will make time soon, I promise!

A Quick Birth Story

I was scheduled to be induced but nature had a different plan. My water broke around 4pm on April 14 and after what felt like no time at all, Maxwell “Max” joined us at 12:55am on April 15. Again, I was one of the lucky ones. I chose to get an epidural (power to you women you go without!) and after a short nap, the doctor came into our room to check progress and said it was time to start pushing. About 10 minutes later, little Max was resting on my chest and Ben was cutting the umbilical cord. This might be too much information, but my body was ready and baby Max eased out without a fuss or extensive pain for me. I am so grateful for that. Those daily walks really do help!

We spent a total of three nights at the hospital. Jay joined us for his first visit on Friday after school. He brought a little bunny for Max and some flowers and balloons for me. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, we could only have two people in the room at a time. So my mom brought Jay from school, and Ben met that at the hospital entry to bring him up to our hospital room.

Jay walked in calm, collected, and excited. He said, “where’s baby?” And I pointed to Max in the bassinet. Jay proceeded to say “hi baby, see, look” as he tried to hand over the stuffed bunny gift. He then turned and gave me a big hug. The best hug in the world!

We let Jay climb onto my bed and brought Max to him. We set Max in Jay’s lap and he was so calm and gentle. He softly rubbed Max’s head while saying “hi, baby, hi baby, you ok baby.” Living that moment was amazing; and the video I captured is one I’ll cherish forever.

Jay joined us the next day for a hour or so in the afternoon. He snuggled Max, sat in my hospital bed and made the head move up and down with the remote, watched a movie, and danced to music. Our family unit felt just right.

We’ve all been home now for nearly three weeks and we are settling into a routine of sorts. Max is beginning to get the hang of sleeping at night and being awake during the day … but I am still up with him for feedings every 2-3 hours. I am nursing exclusively, as I did with Jay. Again, we are lucky in that my supply is ample and Max can latch like a pro.

Jay is just as caring, loving, interested, curious, and helpful as ever. He loves to hold Max and help with diaper changes. When Max is crying, Jay is often nearby saying, “it’s ok, baby.”

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

  1. The unknown is always the hardest part of anything in life
  2. My pregnancy with Jay was full of unknowns and fear – what does a life with Down syndrome look like? In time we learned that it’s like any other life. Our days are full of love, patience, (somedays more than others!), and care.
  3. My pregnancy with Max was also full of unknowns – how will we make this work with two kids? In just a few days, our family puzzle fell into place and the pieces fit.
  4. Kids will surprise you in the most wonderful ways – Jay is the best big brother and I am so happy he and Max have one another to love.
  5. I’m a biological boy mom – here’s to the coming years of growth and learning! We’re excited to be with them as they grow into whoever they are.

2022 Reading List

This year is the year! 50 books is the goal. Here’s what I read in 2020 and 2021.

  1. Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman – a book of poems. So many dog-eared pages! “What can we call a country that destroys Itself just because it can? A nation that would char Rather than change? Our only word for this is Home.” And I loved the short poem Life: “Life is not what is promised, But what is sought. These bones, not what is found, But what we’ve fought. Our truth, not what we said, But what we thought. Our lesson, all we have taken & all we have brought.”
  2. Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera – a view of a world I am unfamiliar with and yet also felt familiar with somehow. “I see the man for what he is. No worse, no better than his son. He is the root of the tree he grew.”
  3. Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune. Honestly, I love his writing style and his work. This is my second TJ Klune novel, and I look forward to many more. “I can’t grieve for myself.’ Hugo shook his head slowly. ‘Of course you can. We do it all the time, regardless of it we’re alive or not, over the small things and the big things. Everyone is a little bit sad all the time.'”
  4. The Girl from Berlin by Kate Hewitt. There is something about well done historical fiction that I just find myself falling into and unable to put down until I’ve finished. “…at the end of the day, a government has to do what is best for the most people who benefit from its leadership.”
  5. Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah. Nice, easy read with an emotional pull for parents. “Girl’s fear pushes her forward. She follows, grabs Sun Hair’s hand, and holds so tightly it hurts.”
  6. A View Across the Rooftops by Suzanne Kelman. Historical fiction featuring heartbreaking loss and a hero who overcomes so much. “Why had he not felt the true weight of what was happening around him? As he stumbled along the rest of his journey home, he was obsessed with just one thought. When had all of this become normal?”
  7. The Bones Beneath My Skin by TJ Klune. I’m a fan of his writing style. The stories pull you in. This is my second read in just a few months by this author. “You think yourself alone. You think yourself lost. … We came to be your friend. To make you understand that, in the end, you are never alone.”
  8. Every Last Secret by A. R. Torre. A juicy read that makes you think about the true intentions of those around you. “That was the secret to success in this town. Presenting a picture of effortless perfection with behind-the-scenes ruthless hard work.”
  9. Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover. Quick read, emotional, but a great story of love, loss, and more love. “She wasn’t saying I would move past what I was feeling, or that things would get easier. She was telling me this was it–the misery I felt was my new normal. I could either learn to live with it or I could let it consume me.”
  10. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. I enjoyed the writing style and surprises in this book. “He never understood that I wasn’t scared of someone leaving me. I was scared that the wrong person would stay.”
  11. We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai. Sometimes difficult to read but in a way that forced me to recognize and consider my privilege–where I was born and who I was born to. “I immediately understood the extent of my privilege: Where I saw so many problems, they saw opportunities. …Either you lose hope completely and you shatter and break into pieces, or you become so resilient that no one can break you anymore.”
  12. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein. A story of friendship and hard choices during an even harder world experience. “I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can’t believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old.”
  13. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. First of all, thank you to my new workplace for hosting a monthly book club and recommending this read for March! Second, to the author Ruth, thank you for including a character with “dancing drome” and portraying her with grace, love, kindness and realistic experiences. This was a wonderful read. “Talk to her. She has Down syndrome, she’s not daft. Tell her how you feel. Work something out. And while you’re at it, tell her what really happened on your date.” and “Marvin loved the rain. It washed the world clean and made everything shine; made the grass smell like heaven.”
  14. The Humans by Matt Haig. This one makes you think about the world and how we see it. “In every human life there is a moment. A crisis. One that says, what I believe is wrong. It happens to everyone, the only difference is how that knowledge changes them.”
  15. Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa. An Amazon Kindle suggested read. I enjoyed the glimpse into a different culture from my own, the connection between food and life, and a look at how history has a hard time of shedding the negativity that gets so engrained in our understanding of the world. “That’s what public opinion is. That’s why I can’t let you leave that canary here. Everyone’s afraid of bird flu these days. Ten years ago, maybe, but now people’d have a fit at the sight of a bird in a food and drink establishment.”
  16. The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn. Lovely read and an interesting view of the intricacy of family history and nature. “Oh, hear Elizabeth, the heart chooses its own path and rides roughshod over everything else. Love does not respect intentions, nor boundaries, nor continents, nor wishes. …For it must be the most glorious thing to love and be loved in return.”
  17. People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry. Fun and witty read. Bonus, the author went to Hope College! That’s just around the corner. …maybe I need to look into the creative writing program. “Everything I’d done since high school had been to escape that feeling, that person. …You can’t outrun yourself. Not your history, not your fears, not the parts of yourself you’re worried are wrong.”
  18. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Loved it! That is all. “Intimacy is impossible without trust. And we would have been idiots to trust one another. …Heartbreak is loss. Divorce is a piece of paper.”
  19. The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. I felt like I knew Eleanor. A few unexpected twists and a good amount of life-lessons to ponder. “‘Perfect. Cold.’ The best lesson my mother ever taught me: there are two things in life you never regret–a baby and a swim. …Does letting go mean losing everything you have, or does it mean gaining everything you never had?”
  20. Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. A read to learn how to become a better writer and story teller. Loved this and will reference the book regularly throughout the rest of my writing days. “If the thought was worth having, you’ll rediscover it or find a better one. The fear of forgetting and the rush to be done are closely related.”
  21. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Lovely read. Free little book library grab from down the road. Whoever stocks the books enjoys a similar writing style and genre that I gravitate toward. “He came up to the lectern and he said, ‘Gentlemen, close your books and listen. We have nothing less than the world to consider.'”
  22. Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler. Southern flair with a generous helping of characters. There’s a lot going on in just 274 pages! “The torn feeling seemed to have grown more pronounced, spreading its ragged edges deep inside her. She sat upright against her pillows and fixed her gaze on the phone. But no one else called.”
  23. Paper Towns by John Green. I give it a 2/5 stars. The writing is solid and the story is there, but I didn’t love it. “But isn’t it also that on some fundamental level we find it difficult to understand that people are human beings in the same way that we are? We idealize them as gods or dismiss them as animals.”
  24. Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez. Lovely story and a new author to follow! ‘”I felt a hand on my arm. “Don’t let them decide the life you’re going to live. You only get one.”‘
  25. Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy. I found this book in a Little Free Library around the corner. It started out slow for me but I quickly finished in just two days! Amazing writing and strong story. ‘”Of course, love, I would be honored to have you. It’s so much easier than most folks know,” Mrs. Doyle adds. “But now, change is frightening to some,” she concedes after a while. “And when you open your heart to rewilding a landscape, the truth is, you’re opening your heart to rewilding yourself.”‘
  26. Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. A glimpse into the hardships we face and what we do to keep our families safe. “It told him to leave well enough alone, that there was no good reason to press on. Hadn’t he disrupted enough lives already?”
  27. Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan. A fun little read (ha!) for young readers. I found this in my neighborhood little free library. “I guess I’m now keeping secrets, which I decide might be a sign that I’m growing up. Adults go two ways: Either they share way too much, or they keep all kinds of stuff to themselves. I’ve always had things I don’t explain to anyone else.” And, later in the book, “I have to remember how powerful it can be to say thank you. Especially to the people you live with.”
  28. Book Lovers by Emily Henry. Quick read. I loved her writing style. “That’s life. You’re always making decisions, taking paths that lead you away from the rest before you can see where they end.” “The only two ways I’ve ever managed to get out of my head are through reading and rigorous exercise. With either, I can slip out of my mind and drift in this bodiless dark.”
  29. The Hive by Gregg Olsen. Lots of twists and turns in this one. I didn’t want to put it down. “Heather pulled herself together and hoped it all would blow over before it destroyed what she knew was rightfully hers. Hope was, she knew, for voters and the foolish.”
  30. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. A work book club reading selection. I won’t be joining the group discussion, as it falls on a scheduled PTO day, but I decided to read the book anyway. I’m glad I did and can see myself reading it again in the future. “When I find myself focusing overmuch on the anticipated future happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself to “Enjoy now”.” “And think about all the other things it could have been. … it could have been a lot worse–but it also could have been nothing it all.”
  31. The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan. Again, a historical fiction story set in World War II pulled me in. This story is so well written, heart breaking and inspiring all in one. “What you seek is what you will find, but only if you hunt it with all your heart and mind.” “She told me once that she believed that life does not happen to you; it happens for you, and that your whole life is a blessed journey of discovery. But you can only see life clearly and relish it when the journey is almost at an end.”
  32. Things We Never Get Over by Lucy Score. First read by Score. Definitely a rom-com story. Easy read. A little uneasy with the overly forceful masculine character. “You’re the one who has to live your life. Don’t apologize to other people for the decisions you make for yourself.”
  33. A Harvest of Secrets by Roland Merullo. A lovely read but also tragic in that World War II era I find myself reading time and time again. “…that perhaps all the trouble in the world has, at its root, our insistence on denying others their full humanity.” And about a character described much like our Jameson: “Had he been sent to them like a kind of sun, pouring light into the world without asking for anything in return?”
  34. The Night of Many Endings by Melissa Payne. I liked how much of the story was set in a library over the span of just one cold winter night. So much can happen in a short time! “… regret was a nail poking into his skin no matter which way he turned.”
  35. The Singing Trees by Boo Walker. Life is full of twists and turns, and really, you never know what tomorrow will bring, let alone today. “…but living as much as possible was the secret to making true art.” “…one must be just as good at receiving gifts as they were at giving them.”
  36. These Tangled Vines by Julianne McLean. Lovely story about love and loss, guilt and commitment, longing and realistic expectations. “I also think it’s important to reflect on past mistakes and learn from them. It helps you move forward in the right direction.”
  37. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte. A pretty intense read with a lot of literature references. At times it was hard to follow and it took me a while to get through. Once I got past the initial chapters, I got pulled into the twisting story. “It’s all well and good. But it all comes to the same. You can make a text mean anything, especially if it’s old and full of ambiguities.” and “A person who’s interested only in books doesn’t need other people, and that frightens me.” and “A reader is the total of all he’s read, in addition to all the films and television he’s seen.”
  38. A Fire Sparkling by Julianne Maclean. Back to World War II historical fiction with this one. There’s a pretty good twist at the end. “Remember, darling, there’s no such thing as fairy tales. It’s never what you dream it will be. So learn how to be prudent.”
  39. The Fixer Upper by Lauren Forsythe. A fun, quick read. “‘That’s fear and shame talking, Alyssa. Never be too proud to apologize. To make things right.'” “Maybe they lived small lives, but they were so aware of what they had, of how much joy there was in small moments.”
  40. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. This was my second workplace book club read. The previous book, The Keeper of Lost Things, had a character with Down syndrome. In this book, the main character Charlie is considered to be far behind mentally for his age. This story got to me in several ways and at different moments. It is heartbreaking and eye opening. “Normal kids grow up too soon, stop needing you…go off on their own…forget who loves them and took care of them.” and “There are a lot of people who will give money or materials, but very few who will give time and affection.”
  41. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. I found this book in a used book bin and was pleasantly surprised by how much I fell in love with the writing style and story telling. “Bibi replied that dreaming wasn’t naive but essential for survival, dreaming was the equivalent of hoping on a large scale, utopias were an unachievable ideal by definition, and yeh, she really couldn’t see billions of people accepting the abolition of the idea of gender completely in her lifetime … Bibi said it was a first step towards changing people’s minds, although yes, like all radical movements, there’d be much resistance and Megan would have to be resilient”

I Am Me/Yo soy yo Recordable E-Book!

I have some exciting news – you can easily connect your family through the power of storytelling! I Am Me is now available for purchase as a recordable, downloadable e-book through MakeMomentos.com! Yo soy yo will be available in mid-2022.

What is Make Momentos?
Whether you live thousands of miles apart or just down the street, children can listen as their
grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle or favorite family friend brings the story to life with the sound of their voice. It’s an easy-to-use platform designed for busy families looking to bridge distance and active lives with a special time of connection. Children can enjoy the customized stories anytime and anyplace. The best part is, the personalized recordings become keepsake e-books that can be passed on to future generations!

How It Works
Create your keepsake e-book in 4 easy steps:
● Record your personal introductory video message
● Narrate your e-book
● Preview your keepsake e-book
● Send it to the child in your life

2021 Reading List: Part II

It’s July 2021! What a year so far in life, work, and reading. Last year I read 46 books, just shy of my personal goal of 50. From historical fiction to self-help to fantasy, reading helps me unwind and explore new-to-me worlds and experiences. The below list includes all of the books I read between July 1 – December 31, 2021 (not including 4-10 children’s books that I enjoy reading with Jameson daily!) Here’s 2021’s Part I if you’re interested.

43. Little Bee by Chris Cleave. A second-hand bookshop find. This book reminds you that the world is a very different place for many — good and bad. “If I was telling this story to the girls from back home, I would have to explain to them how it was possible to be drowning in a river of people and also to feel so very, very alone. But truly, I do not think I would have the words.”

42. A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin. With scenes set in parts of Northern Michigan, this book was one of deep pain, high knowledge, and the thrill of the human mind and condition. It’s about striving for something and still being unable to fully grasp it. When failure outwits success every time, what do you do with your life? I enjoyed this read thoroughly. “Transire suum pecuts mundoque potiri – Rise Above Yourself and Grasp the World.”

41. Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black. So many twists and turns, some heartbreak, and a lot of she-power! “Either he’d recognize the sewer worker’s code or she’d have to move fast. In either case, he couldn’t be alone. If there was a naked man in a bed in the middle of the afternoon, there had to be a lover around.”

40. The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman. Feeling good about reading again thanks to read 39 and this one! I zoomed through this war-based, identity-based novel and jumped into the next read with ease. ‘”That is why a mother triumphs,” Bobeshi said. “All you have to do is survive and your mother lives through you.”‘

39. Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Crosby. Great read! After trying and failing for long to get through book 38, this was a much needed reading win. The story also brought me out of myself and forced me to view the world from a different perspective — always a good sign in a book. “Listen, when you’re a black man in America you live with the weight of people’s low expectations on your back every day.”

38. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout. I just couldn’t get into this book, no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t finish but got nearly there (page 167 of 289) before I moved on to a different read. “But it’s never starting over, Cindy. It’s just continuing on.”

37. The Goodbye Cafe by Mariah Stewart. A cute novel loaned to me by a neighbor. I may have to read another work by Maraih, she’s published over 40 books! To write for a living…the dream. “I guess we’re all different things to different people. … Oh well. Different environment, difference influences.”

36. The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz. A short novel with a deep look at family, trauma, and the way some things just unravel. “As his research was teaching him, photographs were framed to create impressions; often designed to obfuscate and lie.”

35. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. A powerful glimpse at upbringing, science, god, addiction, and the people who live through it all–or don’t. “We know right from wrong because we learn it, one way or another, we learn it.”

34. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. My first read by Hamid and definitely not my last. “… and so by making the promise he demanded she make she was in a sense killing him, but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” And I also really liked this bit: “… which is to say that while the changes were jarring they were not the end, and life went on, and people found things to do and ways to be and people to be with, and plausible desirable futures began to emerge, unimaginable previously, but not unimaginable now, and the result was something not unlike relief.”

33. The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser. A lovely read about a woman going through a wake up call in life, and how fate seems to step in at some of our lowest moments. “And I’m sorry I said all those awful things. It’s frightening to have these feelings. And I know you don’t feel the same way, so probably I should have kept all this to myself. But I didn’t . . . I didn’t want you to think that we weren’t friends because I don’t like you. I do, I really like you.”

32. The Diamond Caper by Peter Mayle. A Little Free Library neighborhood find. Fun read, a bit predictable. “I haven’t met many celebrities, but the ones I have met were so pleased with themselves it kind of put me off the whole idea.”

31. If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous. A Bluestocking Bookshop buy and solid read. It was emotional, culturally new to me, and full of love, loss, and longing. “When I wake up, the whole world has been transformed.”

A gift upon the world

Jay’s Spark  

Today you are one day older than you were yesterday. 

And tomorrow you will be one day older than you are today. 

When you were born, you were small and needed special care. 

From warm snuggles, to diaper changes, to help sewing your torn teddy bear.  

You always had this something—your you-ness, a spark. 

I think of it like a glowing light—a firefly pulsing in the dark. 

Everyone who met you then could see your special glow. 

And even now your warmth and love are always on overflow. 

First, you learned to coo, and then you began to giggle.

You rocked your body back and forth and started to wag and wiggle. 

One day you held your head up high—all on your own. 

And another day you pulled yourself up, like a King posing by his throne. 

Eventually you began to scoot along the floor.

 “He could be a mop!” I said as you dusted door to door. 

As soon as you could hear and feel music playing loud or hushed, 

You bobbed and weaved to the rhythm, working hard until you blushed. 

In time, you were able to stand with your arms spread open wide.

Balancing your whole body without anyone by your side. 

You took one step, and then two, and then many more. 

And each step took you further than you’d ever gone before. 

Puzzles, toys, and movies became your favorite things to do. 

And while watching you’d pretend that you were in the show, too! 

I look at you today and you are glowing, brave, confident, and strong.

I am honored to be your mom and so happy you groove to your own song.

 —

When the sun goes down and bright stars glitter in the sky,  

Another day is in the past, and tomorrow rises high. 

You’ll keep growing and learning as each fresh morning makes its mark. 

Because your biggest gift upon the world, my child, is your ever-glowing spark.

Down syndrome Association MN – Classroom Kits

In 2020, I partnered with DSAMN on their classroom kit program. In 2021, I am doing the same and they are poised to reach over 20,000 kids in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day!

What is World Down Syndrome Day? It is a global awareness day when self-advocates and their families, friends, coworkers, and supporters organize and participate in activities to raise awareness, advocate for rights, and promote inclusion and well being of all people with Down syndrome.

World Down Syndrome Day occurs on the 21st day of the third month (3.21) each year, selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome. It has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. And bonus this year, it is 3.21 (March 2021) all month long!

DSAMN’s World Down Syndrome Day Classroom Kit initiative started in 2019. Each kit contains two books donated in a student’s name to permanently keep in the classroom, as well as a packet of grade specific activities, lessons, stickers, and swag for students and teachers.

In the program’s inaugural year, they reached 3,600 students across Minnesota. In 2020, they reached more than 11,000 students in over 450 classrooms across Minnesota, as well as in neighboring communities in Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas.

The classroom kits teach students about Down syndrome, but more importantly, they include lessons on diversity, inclusion, kindness, and acceptance. Kits are FREE to teachers in Minnesota and surrounding communities. The kits are designed for students Pre-k through 5th grade. Learn more about the DSAMN Classroom Kit program. If you would like to contribute so that this program can continue for years to come, considering making a donation to DSAMN. Additionally, you can learn more about DSAMN’s advocacy work related to COVID-19.

“I am me, and that is all I need to be. Yo soy yo, y eso es todo lo que necesito ser.”

Love Is

Love is a book we read together.

Love is a jacket in snowy weather. 

Love is a sun to brighten our day.

Love is a boat to float us away. 

Love is a song we sing aloud.

Love is a wish we make to a cloud. 

Love is a poem we dream alive. 

Love is a verse we fight to revive. 

Love is a bag of all that is right.  

Love is a hand to hold at night. 

Love is a shadow when we feel alone. 

Love is a line held fast to a stone. 

Love is a whisper of care on the breeze. 

Love is a nest built high in the trees. 

Love is a feeling of comfort and hope.

Love is a word we use to cope. 

Love is a life in need of support. 

Love is a ship awaiting transport. 

Love is a source that credits the past. 

Love is the future that’s coming too fast. 

Love is the now and love is the then. 

Love is the tomorrows we won’t give in. 

Love is a secret held close to the heart. 

Love is a glass—fragile from the start. 

2021 Reading List: Part I

In 2020, I read 46 books, just shy of my personal goal of 50. From historical fiction to self-help to fantasy, reading helped me unwind and explore new-to-me worlds and experiences in 2020–a year of hardship, COVID-19, and the shifting to a different kind of normal. In this new year I plan to continue to read, pushing myself to seek works that challenge my worldview, experience, and understanding. The below list includes all of the books I read in 2021 (not including 4-10 children’s books that I enjoy reading with Jameson daily!)

Last year I simply catalogued my reading list, this year I am adding a quote from each work that most inspired me to pause and think, laugh-out-loud, or intentionally shift my way of seeing the world. Here’s my January 1 – June 30, 2021 completed reads list. For July 1 – December 31, 2021, follow Part II.

  1. Siracusa by Delia Ephron. A neighborhood free-little-library find. “This one was unbelievable and yet no one doubts it because, I suppose, his becoming a playwright encapsulates what we want to believe about life: that good comes of bad and all the absurdities play out in your favor.”
  2. A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan. A indie bookstore find and fun read. I did notice some parallels to my own life … like what it is like to be a working mom versus to be a focused-mom, and how we do both well, or not so well. “The same people who were so insistent that I should do something nice for myself when my dad was sick were now adamant that I should take all the time I needed before returning to reality.”
  3. Writers & Lovers by Lily King. My mother-in-law passed away and while at a local book store, the book jacket description of this book called to me: … a mother’s sudden death and the story of a 31-year-old wannabe writer. “Fitzgerald said that the sign of genius is being able to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. But what if you hold two contradictory fears? Are you still some kind of a genius?”
  4. Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Love, loss, and love. The path we choose and the way the world helps us find our way back when the time is right. “There are so many things I’d like to tell her, top among them is that I’ve always been ready.”
  5. The Little Paris Book Shop by Nina George. A lovely read loaned to me by a neighbor. “Reading–an endless journey; a long, indeed never-ending journey that made one more temperate as well as more loving and kind.”
  6. The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. A buy from The Bluestocking Bookshop used book store in town. “Falling in love, like having a baby, rubs against the main current of our lives: separation, loss, and death. That is the joy of them.”
  7. The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski. An Amazon historical fiction selection. “It was. Before all this,’ Anna opened her palms and raised her arms, ‘it was sort of perfect, even when it wasn’t, even when bad things happened. It was still magical — but then, that is memory. To look back and make things brighter, bigger and better than they really were.”
  8. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. A book to read, not one I would read again. The use of the “R” word a few times caught me off guard. “…but at the ease with which whole afternoons were forgotten. The way thousands of wounds and triumphs were whittled down to only the sharpest moments, and even those failed to remain present.”
  9. the book that matters most by Ann Hood. A lovely read from a second bag of books loaned to my by a friend. “If they complained about being bored, their mother–a melancholy Parisian who used laudanum to assuage the pains of homesickness and her husband’s infidelities–would hand them a book. ‘No on who reads can ever be board,’ she’d tell them, propped up in her bed in her pink silk dressing gown.”
  10. The Skylark’s Secret by Fiona Valpy. A Kindle find and quick historical fiction read. “They mourned those sons of other mothers and fathers as though they were their own, as they would wish their men to be mourned should they fall in far-off lands: because humanity has no border.”
  11. LEFT neglected by Lisa Genova. Another read from the bag of books loaned to me by our neighbor. “Like with all the changes that have been thrust upon me in the last month, I’m getting use to it, redefining normal.”
  12. The Party by Robyn Harding. Another read from the bag of books loaned to me by our neighbor. I’m glad high school is over. “My friends?” Ronnie said, and her eyes filled. (Lisa had quickly learned that a glass eye still allowed tear flow.) “I don’t have any friends anymore”
  13. Digging to America by Anne Tyler. I happened upon a new indie bookstore and shopped the used books section. I enjoyed this read. “Like these men following the women’s gossip–depending on their gossip, relying on it for connection–Sami floated on the gentle current of the relatives’ Farsi, comprehending some ninety percent and letting the other ten percent wash past him.”
  14. Love by Toni Morrison. Another read from the bag of books loaned to me by our neighbor. “Oh, Christ, he thought, that was fifty years ago. What was the point in remembering the good old days as though the past was pure? He knew for a fact it was simply stifled.”
  15. Once Upon A Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg. Another read from the bag of books loaned to me by our neighbor. “She wishes, suddenly, that she were sitting on a bench outside alone, nothing on her mind but a jostling mass of birds at her feet, going after the crumbs she throws. Because Sadie’s question is too big; it’s too difficult to answer.”
  16. This One Is Mine by Maria Semple. Another read from the bag of books loaned to me by our neighbor. “So today, she came armed with her old standby, the single business card in her jacket pocket.”
  17. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. Another read from the bag of books loaned to me by our neighbor. Solid weekend read in and around weekend activities. “And I decided it really was true after all. You only really need two people to believe in the same thing, to feel as though you might belong.”
  18. The Good House by Ann Leary. A read I picked up from a Little Free Library around the corner while on a walk with my family. “Scott as always fascinated by this theory, about this double line of madness in my family.”
  19. Airframe by Michael Crichton. A book I snagged from my Grandfather’s bookshelf on a weekend visit with my mom and son. Quick read.
  20. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. The Kindle description grabbed my attention and I am so glad I dowloaded this book. “So, I nod my head yes, because it is true, the future is always working, always busy unfolding better things, and even if it doesn’t seem so sometimes, we have to hope of it.”
  21. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Another read from the bag of books loaned to me by our neighbor. Love and memories. “But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best–well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
  22. The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. A friend posted about this book on Instagram a few weeks back and I downloaded it instantly. Wow. Being a mom to a child with differing abilities, this one hit home in a creative, meaningful, and profound way. “These children are faced with nothing but preconceived notions about who they are. And they grow up to be adults who know only the same. You said it yourself: Lucy wasn’t who you expected him to be, which means you already had decided in your head what he was. How can we fight prejudice if we do nothing to change it? If we allow it to fester, what’s the point?”
  23. The Widow by Fiona Barton – Another read from a bag of loaned books. Managed to finish in a day with a few chapters here and there, in between puzzles, meals, children’s books, art projects, Wii games, bath time, and a few kids’ clips from the PBS Kids app. “It was more difficult when I met people I knew.”
  24. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – My first time reading this classic, definitely not the last. “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”
  25. The Girl Without a Name by Sandra Block – The first read from a bag of books loaned to me from a friend and neighbor. “But you know Zoe, sometimes doing nothing ends up being the same thing as doing something.”
  26. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by Victoria “V. E.” Schwab – A Kindle recommendation. The story creatively uncovers what comes of–or what could come of–answered dreams. “Even rocks wear away to nothing.” “A story is an idea, wild as a weed, springing up wherever it is planted.”
  27. Foreign to Familiar by Sarah A. Lanier – A Holland Museum parent and child book club selection. “The Maoris of New Zealand have a saying, ‘I belong; therefore I am.'”
  28. Less (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize) by Andrew Sean Greer – A Kindle recommendation and solid read. “And I say I’m ready. And he says for what? And I say to think about more important things. And he asked, ‘More important than what?’ ‘More important than love.’ And he looks at me like I’m crazy and says, ‘What could be more important than love?'”
  29. Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat – A purposeful purchase from the local bookstore with a selection of short stories. My favorite was The Gift. “Pou sa na pa we yo. For those we don’t see. For those who are not here.”
  30. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer – This book was a gift from a friend and former boss. One of my many underlined passages “Hydrodictyon is a safe place, a nursery for fish and insects, a shelter from predators, a safety net for the small beings of the pond. Hydrodictyon–Latin for ‘the water net.’ What a curious thing. A fishnet catches fish, a bug net catches bugs. But a water net catches nothing, save what cannot be held. Mothering is like that, a net of living threads to lovingly encircle what it cannot possibly hold, what will eventually move through it.” (Page 90)

Something big in 2021

In 2018, I took the advice and support of colleagues, friends, and family and started a GoFundMe. In 2019, I self-published I Am Me. In 2020, I focused–I called, emailed, used Social Media, and even gave books away for free to share I Am Me with the Down syndrome community and beyond. I am happy to announce that I Am Me will be available as an English/Spanish book in 2021!

After hearing from so many of you about how the book inspires and empowers, and after dozens of requests for a Spanish translation, I am over the moon to be able to share the big news. With support from Niurka Aileen Diaz and Hayley Chase, I Am Me will be available in English with Spanish translations on every page.

Diaz and Chase worked with me to translate and enhance the musicality, cadence, and meaning behind I Am Me.

Yo soy yo, y eso es todo lo que necesito ser. I am me, and that is all I need to be.

Check back in 2021 for the re-launch of I Am Me, available in English and Spanish. Until then, take a look at this Literature Review guide by Learning to Give: I Am Me.