Cinnamon rolls

So the other day I just happened to mention that I’ve been eating all these fantastic cinnamon rolls, did you think I wouldn’t share?  This recipe is by far my most favorite:  it makes a lot of rolls (a good thing, in my book) and they freeze well.  Too, the dough is very forgiving (I think the secret is in the cake mix) and it’s a great recipe to use when you have kids helping in the kitchen. 

Cinnamon Rolls

1 package white cake mix
5 cups white flour
2 packages dry yeast (1/4 oz each)
2 1/2 cups warm water (not lukewarm, but warm to the touch.  But not too hot, or you’ll kill the yeast)
Softened butter
Brown sugar
1 cup powdered sugar, for glaze, plus 2T water

Grease two 13x9x2 inch pans.  Combine yeast and water and a bit of sugar in a bowl, set aside until the yeast is bubbling.  In a larger bowl, add the cake mix and the flour.  Stir until well-blended.  Make a little hole in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the water/yeast.  Work the flour into the water, turning the bowl as you go, with a big wooden spoon.  When you have everything roughly combined, dump it out on the counter and continue to knead the dough until it’s shiny and springs to the touch.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled (about 1 hour). 

Punch down the dough and divide it in half.  With a rolling pin, flatten each half into a large rectangle and cover with softened butter and sugar and cinnamon, to taste (I like a lot).  Beginning at a long end, roll up each rectangle (like a carpet) then cut into 12 slices.  Place the slices in pans so that the swirls of cinnamon and butter and sugar face up, cover, and let rise again (about 30-40 minutes for the second rise).

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until golden.  Remove.  Combine the powdered sugar and water to make a glaze, drizzle over baked rolls, and enjoy!


“Road Map to Holland”

Kari from Chanelle and Tristan writes about being a single mom, and how, if her plans to stay at home until kindergarten begins are to work, she has to be careful with her money.  So, books are a treat, but this week, she spurged.  One of the books she bought was mine.  She writes, “The 2 years following those five teeny tiny little words that changed my life forever, ‘Your Son has Down Syndrome.’ The first two years that I would learn how to stand up to Health Care Professionals that have forgotten that the patients even the ones with Down Syndrome are humans first. Having to say Farewell to treasured friendships because they ‘can’t handle us.’ Right Down to tearing up photos because they revealed a side of Tristan that I didn’t want others to see in case they may judge him by his differences. I Loved this book, it brought back some of the bitter sweet and sometimes painful memories and I really loved knowing that I am not alone on this Journey in Holland.”

“Road Map to Holland”

Christina of Kwisteena’s Kwaziness has been mom to Kallie for 9 years, but reading my book is reminding her of many of the feelings she had, in the beginning.  She writes, “I remember how I felt when people first started finding out about it. I was embarrassed and wondered if people thought of me as ‘damaged’. I remember when we were out in public and I wondered, just like Jennifer, if people noticed, I questioned their responses and wondered what they were thinking. I remember how badly I wanted Kallie to keep her tongue in her mouth that I would tap her tongue all the time to make her pull it in! I like when she talked about the visit with her mom and the pictures her mother took and how she ripped up one of them that was not flattering. I wanted all Kallie’s pictures to be perfect and for people to think she was beautiful and that Down Syndrome wasn’t that bad. I wanted people to accept her. And lastly, like Jennifer, I get offended about all the talk of prenatal testing and the goal of people not having ‘a child like mine’. “

Goings-on at home

So for the past few weeks, most of the posts here at Pinwheels have been about my book.  As you can imagine, it’s a very big deal for me, having this project that I’ve been working on for nearly 3 years come to its conclusion.  But!  I can imagine it might not be as exciting to everyone else, as it is to me.

With that in mind, here’s a post NOT about the book.  Instead, I offer you this: news from the home front.  As some of you know, we got a puppy.  The puppy is named Bailey, but is also affectionately called Baby.  Baby is a mutt, or as I like to say, an original.  But he seems to have the worst combination of his 3 breeds:  he has the curly hair of the Australian Shepherd, but only along his back.  He has the long, white hairs of the Border Collie, but those jut out at odd angles around his ears, or his chin. 

His coat is blue-gray and covered with black spots, like a Blue Heeler, but his spots are not arranged in any pattern, or with any pleasing balance.  He has, simply, a lot of spots.  Even his spots seem to have spots, and they cluster together around his eyes, giving him the look of a raccoon.  His paws are too big for himself, and he trips over them constantly.  He might be the only 3 generation cow dog who is a clutz.

He has a puppy pot belly and dog-breath.  When he barks, he sounds like a rooster.  He eats deer poop when he can find it; he chews on sticks and he bites rocks.  And if you think we love him less for any of these faults, you’d be wrong.  Everyone is smitten.  Puppy love is alive and well at our house.

On the home renovation projects, we have completed one wall.  I’ll say it again:  one solitary wall.  It’s the only place in the house in need of nothing:  no paper to peel, no priming, no structolite, no 2 topcoats of egg-white semigloss.   It’s just one wall, but it’s a beginning, and it’s beautiful.

Outside, the single remaining lilac (one was chain-sawed by a former tenant) has begun to grow fat, green buds.  Is it a white lilac?  Or pale purple?  Or will it bloom deep, bluish flowers?  Time will tell.  And there are more mysteries, some solved:  the giant, gnarled bulb behind the fuel oil tank has sprouted leaves.  It’s rhubarb!  And the tangle of thorny, bright green shoots is, I think, a sea of naturalized poppies. 

The kitchen no longer smells of grease but instead, more often, of baked goods.  I’ve discovered that the old Chambers gas stove makes the most delicious, flaky pie crust, and that the moist, hot heat makes cinnamon rolls rise and brown perfectly. 

I’ve learned more, too, from the neighbors about the house, and its former inhabitants.  But the lady of the hats is still elusive:  no one knows who she might have been, or why the hats are still here.   I like imagining her; some days I think she’s one woman, other days she’s another.  When I eventually do find the answers, a part of me will feel a little sad.  It’ll be like reaching the end of a good book; I’ll miss wondering about her.

“I Got it!!!”

Amy of The Flege Farm is reading Road Map to Holland.  She says it’s fascinating to her, because her feelings about her daughter’s diagnosis were much different.  She also has a story to share.  She writes, “Mayson was crawling around in bed with us while I opened the book for the first time. She kept looking at the book’s cover photo of Jennifer and Avery and talking to them as if they were alive! It was like there was a connection there.”

“Road Map to Holland–Buy it!”

Stephanie of Megan’s Got 47 writes about living my life in her own life, like finding herself shopping for a roasted chicken (to make the recipe in the book), but avoiding the bakery section, just in case.  She’s enjoying the sensory experiences of reading, too, like the new-book smell, and holding a book in your hands, one that you feel connected to.  She says, “It is almost like having a diary for myself. It reminds me of my journey with Megan and it is refreshing to actually read the words that I only ever thought in my head.”

Calling all Divas…

Do you love the music of Abba?  Do you know about the smash hit musical, Mamma Mia?  If your answer to either question is yes, then head over to for the “40+ and Fabulous: The Search for Dynamos” contest.  The prize:  “You and 2 friends could star in London at the film premier of Mamma Mia!”

I’m happy to share this news with you for many reasons:  I love big dreams that inspire me to think beyond my normal, routine, day-to-day life, and I love anything that gives girlfriends an excuse to get together for friendship and laughter.

And an added bonus:  I’m a Pond’s gal, because for my skin type, it works.  Since moving to the ranch, I’ve switched to the cold cream and my face drinks in the moisture.  But when we were living by the lake, and the babies were little and I was lucky if I remembered what day it was, I used the disposable facial cloths. 

Tom and I were both working on very little sleep most days, and I remember thinking, Gee, these baby wipes are really tiny.  When did they get so small?  And again, later, I thought:  Hmmm.  These really don’t absorb much.  And finally much later (raise your hand if you know where I’m going with this) I realized that my facial cloths were now in the plastic baby wipe box, courtesy of Tom, who had refilled the container.  To him, wipes are wipes, right?

“Too Much Loveliness”

Francine of 2 Pirates and a Princess writes about her prenatal diagnosis, and her early acceptance of her child’s Down syndrome.  She didn’t have the fear or doubt I had, but instead was able to see right to the beauty in what lay ahead.  She writes, “David and I discussed it the other night (he was actually home).  Although he was certainly plunged into ‘worry’, he also did not have the sadness that seems to accompany so many other families.  And I feel a little guilty about how excited I was – I’ve felt since high school that I was supposed to have a child with Down syndrome (because of a beautiful experience in Israel at Ma’on Latinok, that home for children with DS).  Also, since my mom and I had an awful fight when I found out the gender of the baby and wouldn’t tell her until I’d told David (who was in Switzerland at the time), I was relieved to know that at least THIS mother-daughter relationship would be “different” (whatever that would mean…).”

“Letting Go”

Jordan of The Wonder Wheel has written about her experience with my book from the perspective of a pediatric therapist, and a mother.  My words brought back memories of her own pregnancies, especially prenatal testing for her son Baxter.  She says, “I remember feeling completely sick about it.  Not about the possibility that my child might have DS but about the realization that this was why I wasn’t seeing kids with this diagnosis anymore – people were finding out prenatally.  That was the first inkling I had that our decision to let nature take its course was unusual.” 

More to say

Blog book reviews of Road Map to Holland are still trickling in, and if you want to write about your experience with my book, I’ll include it here and add your post to the list of permalinks at MotherTalk, too. 

Karen of and some other stuff didn’t expect to be able to relate to so much of my story, because her son’s diagnosis (SPD) is not Down syndrome.  She says she is accustomed to feeling isolated from other mothers, but that in reading my book, she was surprised by our connection.  She writes, “I didn’t expect [Jennifer’s] honesty to resonate so loud in my heart – the anger & frustration I’m feeling now all rose up as she recounted her own journey into mothering Avery. The shifting of expectations – not wanting to expect too much, nor too little – having no guarantees of future success – living with all the uncertainty and yet doing everything you can for your kid, because that’s what mothering is – all this left me feeling breathless.”

And my book is out and about in the world… Jordan of The Wonder Wheel took Road Map to Holland along with her on her fabulous vacation to NYC, and Michelle of The Zoromski Chronicles is reading while she awaits test results for her oldest daughter Karly to begin her 6th and final round of chemo.  Michelle is also mama to Braden and identical twins Ruby and Lydia (Lydia died shortly after birth of unknown causes.) 

MotherTalk Friday

It’s the last day of the official MotherTalk book blog tour. 

When it began two weeks ago, I likened it to a virtual party, which turned out to be a good way to think of it:  I reconnected with old friends, and made new ones.  A few people I’d hoped would come couldn’t make it, for one reason or another.  Like any party, there were the guests who arrived, criticised the food, and left early.  And despite all the planning, there were the inevitable mishaps along the way (I still don’t have my books!) and slight miscalculations (we ran out of dip, but we still have all these carrot sticks…)

As it comes to a close, I’m feeling that familiar happy/sad feeling that I get at the end of every big event in my life.  I’m tired and wound-up at the same time.  I’m grateful for the quiet, but even before the last guest leaves, I miss everyone.

Someone has done the dishes and put the garbage in bags.  Someone else has pinched out the candles and gathered them in the center of the table.  Another someone has straightened the couch cushions and stacked the leftover plastic cups and paper plates in the kitchen, to save for another time.

All this help; I couldn’t have done it without help. 

I’m thinking of the woman who taught herself to post an image on her blog, so that she could put up one of my book.  Or the women with new babies at home, who made time to read and write about my story.  Or the ones who read quickly, so they could pass my book to others.  The women who sent invitations and gave out books.  The ones who were shy, who read quietly and followed along; and the ones who carried the conversation, jumping in to add their thoughts and feelings and experiences. 

Thank you

And I’ll say what I whisper to each friend leaving my house:  Safe travels.  Be well.  Keep in touch.

Today’s Reviews

Cathy of Ethan and Lauren remembers a time from her own life, when she reached out to another mother of a child with Down syndrome, and how the experience was healing for her.  She feels Road Map to Holland is the same: one mother reaching out to another.  She writes, “This was one of those life-changing books for me, of which I can only count a few. I encourage everyone to read it, whether you have had a child with special needs or not. It is a beautiful story in its entirety, a testament that sorrow indeed carves out a greater space for happiness.”

Christine at Mothering by the Seat of My Pants is reading slowly, taking time to digest the details of my story, so that she can gain insight into her own.  She says, “It has been comforting, and at times cathartic to share in her journey, a journey that she shares with such refreshing honesty.”

So a Blonde Walks Into a Review shares how prenatal diagnosis touched her own family; while reading my book, her sister-in-law received the results of her prenatal screening.  She writes, “I wish every single woman who is faced with this possible diagnosis be given this book to read. It is honest, gripping, and raw, and a testimony to the boundless love a mother can have for her child.”  She related to me feeling as if I needed a mother’s support van, and notes that in a sense, my book is just such a thing. 

Reading my book brought Jessica of Loving Sophia back to her daughter’s baby days, and this time, she is able to savor the good memories.  She says, “That’s the great thing about memories, all of the negativity and unease kind of settles to the bottom like sediment and all the best parts rise to the surface.”  She related to the cover photo, and she too has felt similar emotions all at once.  She writes, “If you are a mom expecting a baby with Down syndrome, throw away all those black and white statistics the doctor gave you and instead read a true account of the realities of being touched by Down syndrome.”

MotherTalk Thursday

Today’s News

I just learned that Monday, Melissa Riggio passed away after a brave battle with AML.  I never knew Melissa, but like so many, felt that she had a place in my family.  She was a daughter, a sister, a poet, a singer, a writer, and a friend.  Her music and her work as a self-advocate touched the hearts of thousands, and I will remember her for her full, beautiful life. 

It’s also a MotherTalk day, as we near the end of the blog book tour for Road Map to Holland.  If you’d like to be a part of it, write a blog post of your own and send me the link, which I’ll feature here at Pinwheels, and on the list of participating blogs (to the right) that has a permanent link to MotherTalk.

And it’s a ParentDish day, too.  This week, I write about jelly beans, holding hands, and being brave

Today’s Reviews

Compost Happens looks at my book in terms of its metaphors, and how, when they no longer fit, we re-interpret them, or invent new ones.  She writes, “I’ve never been a big fan of the Holland essay and metaphor, although I knew at least one mom who posted it on her refrigerator as inspiration. Rather, I likened the challenge to expecting a car with automatic everything and then getting a manual transmission instead. The driver has to learn to shift gears quickly and smoothly, both literally and figuratively.” She also has a book to give away; to win, go to her site and leave a comment.

Melissa of Banana Migraine says it’s hard to find time to read, but she’s making the time for Road Map to Holland.  She writes, “[Jennifer’s] words paint the most amazing pictures of her life experiences.”

MotherTalk Wednesday


Gretchen Josephson is a writer and a poet who also happens to have Down syndrome.  Her new book, Bus Girl, is a collection of poems that document her life as she grows in independence, works at the Denver Dry Goods store, loses her job, and tries to find her balance after the store closes.  (My thanks to Rebecca, for telling me about it.)

It’s another MotherTalk day!  The blog book tour for Road Map to Holland continues through this week.  If you’d like to be a part of it, create a blog post of your own and send me the link.  I’ll feature it here at Pinwheels, and on the blog-count page (to the right) that has a permanent link to MotherTalk.

Today’s Reviews

Michelle of DownBlogger writes about the circle of friendship, and about how in reaching out to others, we help ourselves too.  She responded in particular to the parts of my story where I experience forgiveness, and feels forgiveness is the gift we need to give each other, and ourselves.  She writes, “For any parent that has grown up spiritually and emotionally as a result of raising their children, and especially for any parent handed a baby in one hand and a genetic diagnosis in the other, [Road Map to Holland] is a Godsend. The Road Map leads to buried treasure. You find it when you least expect it, and it changes your life forever. “