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.

FREE books to celebrate down syndrome awareness month!

A few months ago I asked myself: What is something new I can do to help promote Down syndrome Awareness, inclusion, and community engagement?

Last year I self-published the children’s book I Am Me. About the book: A heartfelt and honest work that acts as a mantra of sorts for anyone and everyone, but especially for individuals who are “different” in society’s eyes. Children, parents, friends, and family of individuals with Down syndrome (or any human being) need not be afraid of the unknown or the different because we are all amazing, super, and created as who we are meant to be. It’s all about appreciating diversity AND celebrating it!

I Am Me is available for purchase on my website, Amazon, in other book retailers upon request, as well as Poppin Huis, in Holland, MI. In addition to retail sales, I put in the effort to connect with organizations like Jack’s Basket and Down syndrome Associations around the country to provide discounted books for use in celebration baskets, donor thank you gifts, and fundraising efforts.

As Super Jay Brand promises, for every book sold a donation is made to an organization that supports the Down syndrome community. In my local area, I make donations to the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan (DSAWM). Donations have also been made to Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network (DSDN) and the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS). In 2019, books sales and other Super Jay products allowed us to donate $1,502.28. So far in 2020, donations are topping $3,000!

How many books have I sold? As of October 16, 2020, 1,494 I Am Me books have been purchased, with just under 1,200 of those books sold in bulk at discounted pricing. I am so grateful and thankful for the love I Am Me has received. Self-publishing is a hard process, but with hard work and perseverance, and a willingness to reach out to people I don’t know to make new connections and share the message of I Am Me, I have accomplished more than I ever imagined, and there’s more to come!

How do I get I Am Me in more hands? This year I wanted to give back on a bigger level. With a few of those outreach connections I made in an effort to share I Am Me over the last year, I was introduced to a new friend with personal ties to the Red Glasses Movement. In conversations with this fellow parent in the Down syndrome community, I mentioned that I really wanted to be able to offer books for free in celebration of World Down syndrome Awareness Month. A few weeks later I was asked to submit a grant proposal!

With support from the Jandernoa Foundation, I gave away 224 I Am Me books for FREE to teachers, classrooms, and parents around the USA in October 2020!

Free book promotion October 2020

These free books were accompanied by a reading guide (download below) and an informational postcard. Recipients were asked to provide a picture or share a note about their experience reading and sharing I Am Me.

Thank you to the Jandernoa’s for their support, encouragement, and belief in the power of a book to advocate for inclusion, community, and self-efficacy.

“You are you and I am me, just exactly how life is meant to be.”

What’s next? Maybe a new book … I’ll keep you posted!

“Thank you so much for the wonderful books you donated to our first grade students! They absolutely loved them and it was cute to watch them read along. Perfect level for a first grade shared reading. I really enjoyed your guided questions and suggested follow up activities too!” – Ms. Noel, Coopersville Area Public Schools 


Edited and final:


I saw a little  honeybee, flying near a tree.

He zoomed around in circles and landed on my knee.

You might scream or run away, or maybe you would freeze,

but I sat calmly as I watched and felt the evening breeze.

“Hello, young bee,” I said to him.  “You’ve had a busy day.

It’s good that you can stop and rest. You’ve come a long, long way.

You’ve soared for miles through the air, for many days and hours,

collecting sticky pollen, while dancing with the flowers.”

His big eyes gazed into my own, and then he flew away.

I wondered if he’d fly around and come again someday?

I wondered if he flew through rain or felt the summer’s heat. 

I wondered if he wove through cars while traveling down the street?

Does he stop to watch the children and pause his beating wings?

Does he listen to the music as a feathered sparrow sings?   

The honeybee was out of sight, no longer could I see

my little friend who paused awhile to rest upon my knee.

But when I reached into my sack to grab a bite to eat,

between my sandwich was a spread of honey, smooth and sweet.  

I realized a simple truth I hadn’t know before—

I gave the bee a chance to rest, but he gave me much more.

He gave me honey for my bread, I gave him space to be.

That was just enough for him, and it’s enough for me.

In production —

I saw a little bumblebee, flying high, up near a tree.

Soon he zoomed down toward me and landed here upon my knee.

You might scream, or run, or freeze, but I felt as calm as the evening breeze.

“Hello young bee,” I said quietly as he buzzed upon my knee.

He was resting, I could see, tired from his long journey.

Soaring miles through the sky, dancing along flowers as he flew by.

Collecting all that wondrous stuff, sticky pollen smooth and tough.

Bumblebee, buzzing bee, sitting here upon my knee. Soon he was looking up at me.

His big eyes gazed deep into my own, and then he was off and flying home.

I am left to wonder, where? How far he flew, from here to there?

A journey through wind and natural struggles, and cars and bikes, and playful bubbles. 

Over hills and through lush green forests, a morning flight and an all-day chorus—of wings fluttering with such speed and need, in search for gold without greed.

I watched his journey through the sky, with a curious and patient eye.

For inside the bag there with me was a sandwich made with fresh honey.

I smiled to myself and nodded to the night—my bee no longer visible, out of sight.

But now I see something more, something I did not realize before.

That buzzing bumblebee that rested here upon my knee, gave me the honey nestled between this bread, spread so generously.  

And all I did was allow him to rest a moment upon my knee.

I did not scream, or run, or freeze, for he just needed a perch at ease.

That little buzzing bumblebee that landed here and sat with me.

He gave me this honey, and I gave him space to be.

That was enough for him and it was enough for me.

I Am Me – Team Super Jay

Each year, Down syndrome Associations across the country gather together members and the local community to celebrate and raise awareness. Super Jay Brand is committed to giving back annually.

Although we are not sure if this annual fundraising event will take place in person or virtually, we want to make sure we’re participating as best we can. We will use our voice and our actions to be agents of change and take action for the common good. You are meant to be. I am meant to be. We are meant to be!

This shirt design promotes love, inclusion, community, and self-efficacy. All proceeds will be donated to DSAWM’s (Down syndrome Association of West Michigan) 2020 Step Up for Down syndrome fundraising event.

Buy your shirt today! Shop Here

Youth sizes $19.99 (Green or Grey) | Adult sizes $22.99 (Teal or Grey)

One in a Million Award(s)

Super Jay Brand is part of the One in a Million movement by Multiplying Good x2! Check out the award for the book I Am Me and the award for Masks with a Mission.

About the awards: For nearly fifty years, Multiplying Good has lived the power of creating positive change through helping others and recognizing the extraordinary. It is time to celebrate every good act – from the medical personnel, first responders and essential workers to the teachers and caregivers to the millions helping in any way they can. Now more than ever, innumerable acts of bravery, generosity and good are giving us hope and bringing us together.

“You are you and I am me, just exactly how life is meant to be.” #IAmMeMeantToBe #SuperJayBrand

2020 Reading List

With all that is happening in the world at this moment in time, I find myself looking to the comfort of a book to imagine, explore, and pull myself out of my day-to-day more and more. Maybe you feel the same, maybe you don’t. Regardless, I want to share a running list of the books I read in 2020 starting from the most recent:

  1. The Overstory by Richard Powers
  2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  3. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
  4. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  5. the curious incident of the dog in the night-time: a novel by Mark Haddon
  6. Defending Jacob by William Landay
  7. I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
  8. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
  9. The Sisters Cafe by Carolyn Brown
  10. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
  11. The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett
  12. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  13. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
  14. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  15. My Time Among the Whites by Jennine Capo Crucet
  16. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
  17. The Girls by Emma Cline
  18. The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
  19. The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker
  20. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  21. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
  22. Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
  23. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
  24. Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani
  25. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
  26. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  27. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
  28. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  29. Digging In by Loretta Nyhan
  30. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
  31. The Dancing Girls by M. M. Chouinard
  32. Too Late by Colleen Hoover
  33. The Lullaby Sky by Carolyn Brown
  34. Verity by Colleen Hoover
  35. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  36. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  37. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  38. You Matter by Matthew Emerzian
  39. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Illustrated
  40. One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker
  41. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Illustrated
  42. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Illustrated
  43. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Illustrated
  44. The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy
  45. When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neil
  46. If You Tell by Gregg Olsen

Keep reading! If your kids are in need of a book, please consider adding I Am Me to their reading list. Click above and select Buy Now for USA shipping. International orders look to Amazon.

Locked Out

In the moment, something unexpected feels heavy, scary, and stressful. We undergo a rainbow of emotions, a plethora of thoughts, and seconds or minutes of total blankness. But when the episode is over and the fog thins, there’s little left to do but breathe, laugh, and love.

Like any other day, the day of the lock out was a busy morning in my house. Jay and I had the day off (I wanted to use up some PTO time) and we were planning on a lot of book reading, hide-and-go-seek playing, and movie soundtrack dancing.

“Momma,” Jay said from his room. “Momma, Hi!” His morning greeting is consistent. After getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair, and letting our dog Nola outside to do her thing, Jay and I made our way to the kitchen to get a pot of coffee going for me, and a warm milk going for him.

Reaching into the fridge for whole milk for Jay, I noticed my bowl of blueberries looking a little sad. After fixing Jay his breakfast, I decided to whip up a small batch of blueberry sauce for later use on pancakes and such. I’d rather not waste fresh fruit if I can help it!

Somehow I managed to burn my blueberry sauce. Instead of throwing it away or pouring it down the garbage disposal, I decided to step outside and dump it in the woods behind our house. It is winter in Michigan, but on this day the deck was snow free, even if the lawn wasn’t. I opened the sliding glass door and stepped out into the chilly winter morning with the burned blueberry sauce pan in hand. As it was just going to be a quick 5 steps to the railing, dump and scoop out the rest with a wooden spoon, and 5 steps back to the door, I didn’t put on shoes or a coat or a hat.

In the seconds it took me to dump the sauce and get back to the sliding glass door, Mr. Jay somehow slid the door closed and pushed the lever down to lock. At first I thought I simply wasn’t pulling hard enough. And then I saw it, the lever was in down position. It hit me. I got locked out by my toddler!

Jay, waving and smiling at me through the glass, had no idea why mom was still standing outside. I thought, I must get Jay to push that lever back up to unlock the door. I did a lot of pointing, pulling, pushing trying to show him what I needed him to do. Jay mimicked me a few times, but never on the actual lever. I tried this tactic for a while and it felt like hours, although it was really only minutes.

What now? All other doors and windows to the house were locked per usual. I watched a few cars go by and then I decided to try to get someone to stop so I could use their phone.

First I ran to the neighbors house because I saw a car in their driveway. Bzz-ring, Bzz-ring. Woof! Woof! Wait. No answer at the door. As I am turning away to run back home, I see a truck. I run towards it with my arms waving frantically, yelling “Stop! Stop!”

The driver, a man, slows, rolls down the window and looks at me. “Can I use your phone? I got locked out of my house and my toddler is in there!” He smiled, “Sure, that happened to my wife once.” Mind you, I’m standing in the middle of the street, no coat, no shoes, in wet muddy socks from running through the still snow-covered yard. He dials 911 and hands me his phone.

A quick conversation with the operator and an officer was being dispatched to the house. “Thank you,” I said to the operator. “May I try my husband quick?” I dialed Ben’s number, no answer. I get it, it isn’t a number he recognizes, and with so many robo-spam calls happening lately, it didn’t surprise me that he didn’t answer. I did leave a somewhat frantic voicemail though.

I thanked the man driving the truck who stopped to help me and I ran back to the house to the sliding door to check on Jay. He was standing right where I left him, waving and smiling at me when I came back into view.

What now? I still couldn’t stand not being able to get inside to Jay, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the officer to arrive. So, I tried using the frying pan sans blueberry sauce to break the glass of the garage service door window. Ben and I had the door installed when we moved in just 3 years ago; double-pane, tempered glass.

I dented the frying pan. Some 10 swings later, I somehow managed to jam my thumb but got the first layer of glass to crack. At this point, the officer was on scene. Fun fact, police officers do not have lock kits, at least ours don’t. In the future, contacting a locksmith might be the best option. 

The officer tried shattering out the glass with his flashlight. “Wow, these are some windows,” he said when he couldn’t break through either. Just then, a second officer walked up the driveway. I went round back again to check on Jay and he was still just standing and looking out the sliding door.

The first officer did a walk around the house to check for other possible points of entry. We live in a fortress! Which, in hindsight is comforting, but so very frustrating in the moment. The officer did notice the keypad basement door and I had forgotten about that. Bonus, the storm door was unlocked, so if I remembered the keypad code, we’d be in!

I remembered the code. Nola started frantically barking and I ran back around the house to the sliding door to try to get her to stop or at least let her know the intruders were there for a reason.

I could see Jay and his lip was starting to tremble. “Momma,” he said as he looked at me through the glass. “It’s OK Jay, I’m here. It’s OK. Do you want to see a song? Let’s sing a song.” For how locked down our house is, it certainly isn’t sound proof!

Singing with him through the glass, I was so close to Jay and yet, I still couldn’t get to him. Helplessness is a horrible, gut-wrenching feeling. He was totally fine though and not in any danger; he was just inside the house alone and I was stuck outside looking in.

With both officers in the basement, we had a good chance of getting to Jay. But Ben and I always keep the door to the basement locked from our main living area. An extra precaution. You can never be too safe! But the officers were thwarted yet again, they made it into the house, but we still couldn’t get to Jay.

“Have you been able to get a hold of your husband? Where does he work?” one of the officers came out to ask me. I said I tried using the man’s phone but he didn’t answer before. I also said he works about 40 minutes away. “Oh,” they said. “Here, try him again.” Ring. Ring. Voicemail. Another slightly more restrained, but still frantic message.

Because I’d already cracked the garage service door pretty good, the officers ended up breaking that window after multiple tries. To get through, they ended up using a shovel they normally use to help stranded cars during snow storms. I saw the officers walk into the house while standing at the sliding door. I saw Jameson wave at them. One of the officers opened the sliding door and I rushed in.

“Hi,” Jameson said, totally unaware of the epic 45 minutes that had just occurred. I instantly hugged the closest officer and let out a heavy sob as tears began to fall. “You’re alright, it’s alright, it happens more than you’d think,” they said. “We’ll need to see your ID,” said the other officer.

“Now what do you need to do this afternoon?” said the officer whom I hugged so intensely. “Clean up all that glass,” I said. They nodded, “Yes, but I meant get a key somewhere or to someone who can help you if this ever happens again.” Valid point officer. “Yes, right, of course!”

“Jay can you tell them thank you?” I asked as the officers prepared to leave. Jay signed thank you and gave them a big smile and wave. As soon as they were gone, I picked Jay up and snuggled into him on the couch. Tears started up again. He saw them, gently touched my cheeks and then leaned into me, letting me hold him until I was ready to let go.

That afternoon while Jay napped, I tackled the job of tempered glass cleanup and removal. I rigged a cardboard box with zipties and tape to cover the now open window. I swept, shoveled, and scooped.

It was a stressful and cold 45 minutes watching Jay smile, wave, knock, point, sing, and tear-up at me through the sliding glass door. I’ll remember it forever. I’m sure Jay’s already forgotten.

To top it off, it was gymnastics morning. Shortly after the whole ordeal, Jay and I jumped in the car and made our way to the gym. The weeks following our first week back have been smooth, thankfully. I needed to get out of the house and do something that felt normal. Jay had a great class and rocked on his side shuffles on the balance beam.

In short, the unexpected often begins with fear and anxiety, but by the time it’s all said and done, it’s a memory to look back on, learn from, and laugh over. We could all use a little of that.

Mommy and Me Gymnastics

Jameson is in a Mommy and Me gymnastics class that meets once a week for about 50 minutes. This is our second round in the class after taking the month of January off due to illness (Ben and I were down for the count but somehow Jameson stayed healthy!)

The first month in gymnastics went fairly well. Jameson tackled each new skill to the best of his ability, and more often than not, he surpassed my expectations. From walking on the balance beam to hanging from the uneven bar and holding a pike position, I figured we’ll give it a go but I didn’t think he’d be able to do many of the skills on his own. Golly, was I wrong! With a little support from the teacher and I, he managed most of the skills, if not all.

This particular Mommy and Me class incorporates stations with hand-eye coordination activities, sensory objects, and color matching, along with skills like a tuck jump on a trampoline, a backwards somersault over a foam cylinder, or a donkey kick station to try out a handstand ending in a stand up and “Ta-da” moment.

All of these activities from the floor, to the beam, to the sensory stations allow Jameson to challenge both his body and his mind. I can see his wheels turning when he’s asked to try something new. No one in the class assumes Jameson can’t, they all assume he can and give him the space to do.

If anyone thinks, I’m not so sure he can handle that, it’s me. And when that thought comes to mind, guilt quickly follows. Giving Jameson the freedom to try makes all the difference in the world, for him and for me.

The Mommy and Me class setup is both good and bad. I love being there to support Jay and guide him as needed, and corral him when he’s running to a different area of the gym, but sometimes I think he’d do even better if I weren’t there. You know the feeling … sometimes our kids act out for us more than they ever would for someone else.

It can be frustrating and exhausting, mentally draining, and sometimes embarrassing. At the class I am focused on Jameson more so than other times of the day. I am hypersensitive to his behavior, his mood, his willingness (or total disregard) to listen and follow directions, and how he interacts with the other kids, parents, and the teacher. I worry that he’s being disruptive and we’re distracting other kids when he’s rolling like a pinball away from me. I stress about how the other parents see me as a parent when I’m trying to calmly explain that we need to wait our turn but so frustrated I feel like I could burst. I wonder if the other kids in the class get upset when they have to wait a little longer to allow for Jay to tackle a skill. There’s a lot of comparing that takes place and it is so hard not to get bogged down in the “that little boy is the same age and he’s not making a break for it…”  

Fast forward to our first Thursday back to class after a month off. How did it go you ask? We left early and didn’t stay for free play! Jay was all over the place and my patience went from he’s a toddler to nonexistent.

The class started off fairly smooth, as most outings generally do. Jay joined in the opening stretch sequence and danced around to an upbeat animal song with the three other kids, their parents, myself, and the teacher. Then it was time for the floor portion of the class. A series of stations were set up and each kid/parent duo tasked with flowing through in order. This is how round one went … there are three rounds.

  • Skill one: Lie down on your back on the mat and roll into a ball, tuck in your chin and count to 5. Check! Jameson did that no problem.
  • Skill two: Push a small plastic rectangle across the floor with your hands and keep your knees off the ground. Sort of check … knees down, but the pushing motion was achieved! 
  • Skill three: Put your feet on the stars against the wall and lift your butt up off the ground. “Come on Jameson, look, here, watch mom, see, you can do it. …argh, Jay, Jameson!” We skipped this skill as he crawled with amazing speed toward the trampoline. 
  • Skill four: Tuck jumps on the trampoline and “freeze” with hands on knees. Check with a good bit of rolling around on the trampoline included. “Ok, it’s someone else’s turn. Jay, we have to move on. Jameson, come on honey! Jay!” as I took his hand and pulled him over to the next station. 
  • Skill five: Balance on one leg. Check while holding both of mom’s hands for balance support. 
  • Skill six: Follow the pattern on the floor. Jump and step legs out, jump feet together, jump feet out, jump feet together. Jameson’s version was more of a kick, pick up and throw the pattern, plop down and roll back to belly across the floor. I stood, took a deep breath, put the pattern back in place for the next kid, and went for his hand to pull him back to standing. He wriggled, fighting with me for what felt like minutes but what was likely only a few seconds. And of course, to me it felt like all eyes in the room were on us, over there in the middle of the floor making a scene. 
  • Skill seven: Cartwheel over a small rectangle box. I was able to get him to touch the box, but he wanted nothing else to do with it. 
  • Skill eight: Handstand against the wall with your hands resting on stars on the floor. Like a rocket, Jay made a b-line for the play area and tunnel. He’s so fast when he wants to be! I snatched his foot just before he disappeared inside. We didn’t even attempt a handstand. 

Round two … we tuck and rolled and managed the trampoline. Round three … a good amount of chasing ensued.

After the floor, the group moved to the balance beam area. Jameson rocked the big beam holding my hand and the teacher’s hand and walked one foot in front of the other from front to back. Balance is a tough skill. Walking one foot in front of the other is a tough skill. He made it through two rounds of beam pretty well but on the third round, he had had enough.

“The itsy bitsy spider …” I tried to sing to get his attention and refocus his energy. He sat and sang the song with me, doing the motions, and enjoying the focused attention. One of the other mom’s said, “He really likes music, huh?” I just smiled and tried to keep his attention. But it was short lived. As soon as the song ended, I tried to go into a verse of “head shoulders knees and toes” and he bolted, running to the other side of the room with me chasing after him yet again.

“Jay, honey,” I said as calmly as I could while pulling him into a hug. “Everyone is over there. Don’t you want to go on the beam again?” He signed all done and we wrestled as he fought to break free from me.

He rolled away and bumped his head on the play area wall. “Ouch” he said as he patted his head with his hand and I thought to myself, well I hope that hurt, settle down and pay attention! Do I feel bad for thinking that, hell yes. At the time, I just wanted him to settle down and sit still for a bit, and if a bonk on the head by his own doing did the trick, well so be it. Of course, it didn’t. No fear for Mr. Jameson!

By the time we got to the uneven bars, Jay and I had spent quite a bit of time fighting against one another – Jay for freedom to do as he wished and me trying to get him to participate in the class. Jay only sat still in the uneven bar area for a few seconds. When one of the other little ones jutted their arm out to try to stop Jay from crawling away, it set me over the edge.

I snatched him up, put on his coat and boots and booked it out of there without even saying goodbye to the other parents or the teacher. Then, I cried in the car. It was a moment where I felt overwhelmed and less-than in so many ways.

It was not my best. And, it certainly wasn’t Jay’s best moment either. But he had some wins in the class that I reflected on right then and there: the mat ball tuck your chin and count exercise, the balance beam walking front to back, the opening song participation, and the pure joy emitted from his every cell while in the space of the gym.

There’s a lot going on in there. Stations set up, mats, beams, bars, rings, hula hoops, rubber bands, a foam pit, a jungle gym, and play tunnels. And, Jay is a toddler! They run, crawl, wiggle, push limits, test, can be stubborn, etc.

Here’s something Mommy and Me gymnastics has taught me: Jameson is so much stronger than I ever realized. Physically and mentally. I cried when we left early because I felt so overwhelmed. Did Jay cry? Nope. Instead, in the car strapped into his car seat, he sat quietly and then I heard the softest, “Momma?” and when I looked back at him he gave me the biggest smile and stretched his arms out toward me as if to give me a hug.

He’s so in-tune with people. He observes and he loves fully. In that moment, he knew what I needed. I only hope he gets the same from me in his moments of need. <3

We’ll go to gymnastics again and I plan to stay for the whole thing regardless of how the experience makes me feel. The class is really meant for Jay: to learn, to interact with other kids, to take directions and listen or at least attempt to do so, to share, to get to know his own body and strength, to play and explore.

Is taking Jameson to a gymnastics class while not knowing how it will go an easy thing to do? No. But it is worth it. He’s learning and I’m learning. Together we’re trying new things, building our strength, and challenging one another to be better for ourselves and each other. Jameson is meant to be, and so am I. <3