Whew!

This is the 31st post in 31 days! I’ve written more than I ever have before: I’ve posted recipes and poems; done a lot of memes and received tags and tagged others; posted lists and links and shared my favorite sites, too; and every now and then I managed to make something I was proud of.

I didn’t know if I could do it! And now, it’s done. Thank you for the inspiration, Tricia, and thank you all for reading along.

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A confession

Four years into being Avery’s mom, and I find myself saying the very same words I did when our doctor first told us that Avery had Down syndrome: But, what does it mean?

I know about trisomies and increased risks of medical complications; I know about early intervention and developmental delays. I know about physcial characteristics and common traits; I know about inclusion and IDEA and my rights as a parent. I know all these things, and yet, I still don’t know what Down syndrome means.

I’ve learned that no two families are alike, and that no two children are alike, either. I’ve learned the diagnosis means different things to different people, and that even within myself, it has had different meanings at different times.

And I’ve learned this: it means whatever you want it to mean. For me, it means Avery, a little person I love very much.

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21 Things

Here’s a list of the 21 best things people have told me about Avery:

1. He’s a joy
2. He’s a love
3. He’s so cute!
4. Avery has a beautiful way about him
5. I’m proud you’re my sister
6. I love you
7. Avery is the sweetest brother, he’s even better than chocolate
8. What’s Down syndrome?
9. The things we are most afraid of are the things we most need to learn to understand
10. Life is long
11. You have a beautiful family
12. Is this your little boy? He’s a wonderful little boy (spoken by the grocery store bagger, a man with developmental delays)
13. You’ve been in my heart-space
14. Avery makes me happy when I’m feeling sad (from Carter).
15. Where’s my A.E.? (from Bennett)
16. He’s a little boy, not a syndrome
17. Twins!
18. Double blessings!
19. Take it one day at a time
20. Make a place for disability in your life, then
21. put disability in its place.

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Lentil Soup

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2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound lentils, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon cumin
lemon juice
chopped fresh parsley

Place the olive oil in a pan and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes.

Transfer to a crock pot; add the lentils, tomatoes (with juice), paste, broth, cumin and stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low until the lentils are tender, approximately 4 hours. Ladel into bowls and add a splash of lemon juice and some chopped parsley to each serving. This makes a lot of soup, but it freezes well and is wonderful on a cold fall day!

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A new blog

Katrina Stonoff of Logorrhetoric has created a new blog called Stone SouP. There, she writes about books, agents, the writing life, and being the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome, just to list a few topics.

If you’re interested in any of these things, be sure to check out her new site!

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One sweet gift!

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Michelle from Big Blueberry Eyes gave me this gift, a badge of recognition for being “One Sweet Treat to Read!” It’s especially terrific because her blog, and in particular, her beautiful daughter Kayla couldn’t be sweeter. Thank you!

And Killashandra from Fulltime in NM, too: her blog is sweet to me because it reminds me of the happy times we spent on the ranch. Thank you!

I’m passing it on to some of the sweetest moms I know: Beth at Maternal Instincts…Flying by the Seat of my Pants, Christina at Kwisteena’s Kwaziness, and Jessica of Raising Joey. Thank you all for brightening my days!

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Secret Blogger

Tricia from Unringing the Bell has created a way for bloggers participating in “Get it Down: 31 for 21” to recognize and support each other. She’s calling it “Secret Blogger” and she writes:

The Rules (sorry, this is only for people who have participated in, or attempted to participate in 31 for 21):
1. Contact me and tell me you want in on the swap by October 31st (I will not be taking sign-ups after the 31st, so make sure you get your name in. Ok, I MIGHT take a sign up after the 31st, but ONLY IN EXTREME CASES OF AMNESIA).
2. Email me, ttr (dot) freelance (at) gmail (dot) com, your snail mail address so I can get it to the secret blogger who will be sending you your prize (this is an attempt to keep it anonymous UNTIL you get your prize).
3. Spread the word to other 31 for 21-ers. (Please link to this post so people know the rules.)
3. Wait until I give you the name, blog address, and mailing address of your secret blogger (I will draw them randomly so whomever you have may have someone else).
4. When I give you your secret blogger go check out their blog (if you haven’t already) so you can get a sense of what they are like (and what they MIGHT like).
5. Go out and buy (or make!!!) a cool prize (for around $10).
6. Mail it off and REVEAL WHO YOU ARE by NOVEMBER 15th!
7. Take a picture of your prize when you get it in the mail and post it on your blog with the name/blog link of the secret blogger who sent you your prize so we can all see what cool stuff people got!!!!!

Thank you for keeping us inspired, Tricia! We’re already past the halfway point of the 31 posts in 31 days in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness month (October)!

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Get Caught Reading!

Kelly from Where There’s A Will has created a wonderful blog challenge and giveaway called “Get Caught Reading!” She writes:

I am having a blog-giveaway! In an effort to familiarize you with your local independent bookstore and show people that an extra chromosome is not a barrier to reading, I am asking for pictures of your favorite person ~with a little extra~, reading. The prize is a $25. gift card that is redeemable at any participating independent bookstore across the US. Here is the link to the BookSense website, it can tell you where your local independent bookstore is, if you haven’t already discovered it.

So, email me your photo submissions of a reader (or readers) with Down syndrome, and I will post them here. The drawing is going to be on my birthday, Nov. 19th -isn’t it nicer to give than to receive? ;)-so you have lots of time to capture a book lover with T21 (or a picture of your T21 pre-reader enjoying a book with someone else!) and send it in. Remember to include some favorite book titles too!

I’ve written before about our time in the NICU and the nurse who, not meaning to be unkind, said it was such a shame that Avery had Down syndrome, since Tom and I were writers and Avery would never be able to read our books.

I know now that she was wrong to assume that Avery would never learn to read. I know this firsthand, because of a mom named Caroline and her son, Robby, who has Down syndrome. When Avery was still just a baby, Caroline invited me to her house to meet Robby, and in the overstuffed chair in their family room, Robby, who was then 6, read a picture book to me.

As part of this blogging challenge, Melissa from Banana Migraine tagged me with this reading meme: “The rules are simple: List your (and your kids’) current seven favorite children’s books, along with their authors. Then, if you’re so inclined, tag seven fellow bloggers to do the same.”

Here are our 7 favorites:

1) Sweet Dream Pie, Audrey Wood (because of all the pies we’ve been baking! This is a fantastic story about a wild night of pie-eating.)

2) If You Find a Rock, by Peggy Christian (everyone in our family loves rocks, and this story is so fun to think about when you’re rock-collecting.)

3) Russ and the Firehouse, Jane Elizabeth Rickert (a boy with DS spends a day at the firehall; this is Bennett’s favorite book right now.)

4) Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go (both little boys love the detailed drawings and can spend long moments concentrating on them.)

5) Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi (it’s true!)

6) Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak (this is Avery’s favorite, because he’s our little lion-boy).

7) And my favorite-favorite, because I love this book and because it’s written and illustrated by Kyra’s husband Dave and so every time we read it, I feel as if we’re going over to Fluffy’s house: Another Day in the Milky Way, by David Milgrim.

And 7 tags: Kyra at thismom.com, Vicki at Speak Softly…, Dawn at This Woman’s Work, Sue at Apostrophe Suz, Melissa at Making Things Up, Kate at Mother Words, and Suzanne at Gaijin Mama.

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Workshop

I was in Billings, Montana, for the High Plains Book Fest and several of you asked, “How did it go?”

As with most questions, there’s a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is, “It was great!” and the long answer involves me talking about gratitude, and the gifts we give each other even when we don’t realize we’re giving them, and still more, about the value in not being a leader or a follower, but a little bit of both.

I imagine the long answer is fairly incoherent (it is even to me, and I was there! It will take me a while to make better sense of it), so perhaps the best way I can reply is with a poem that was in my heart all weekend:

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

(from Dream Work by Mary Oliver, published by Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994)

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Sundays

fresh pumpkin pie for breakfast
books in piles around the couch
Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”
an extra pot of coffee
sunlight streaming through the big picture window
the little boys playing “chase” around the house
laundry tumbling in the dryer
a roast chicken in the oven
saying “IloveyouIloveyouIlove you” as fast as you can,
as many times as you can.

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Fresh Pumpkin Pie

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Pie dough
2 c. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. grated orange peel (zest)
2 eggs, beaten

Clean and slice pumpkin meat from the rind, then cut into squares and bake in a covered dish at 400 degrees, for about 30 minutes or until pumpkin is very tender (save seeds for another recipe).

Remove and put into a blender and puree.

For Pie: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix 2 cups pumpkin puree with remaining ingredients, pour into pie shell.

Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake another 45 minutes or so, until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Today

I’m in Billings at the High Plains Book Fest. In the morning, I’m part of a panel discussion called “Selected Shorts,” and in the afternoon, I’m leading a workshop on writing about children.

As part of the class, I’ve collected some of my favorite writerly quotes, to be used as the beginnings of a discussion. Here are some of them:

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me he glint of light on the broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

“Make it new.” Ezra Pound

and my favorite:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

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