Liebster Award: Movies.

Bright Blue Line asked a couple of questions about movies.  Let me start by saying I LOVE MOVIES!  Well, really I love comedies and action films.  My time is valuable, and if I invest ninety minutes in something, it had better make me pee my pants laughing or jump our of my seat with excitement – if the credits roll and I am depressed, I’m throwing my Diet Coke at the screen.

What is your all-time favorite movie and why?

Having said all that, it is really hard to pick just one movie as my “favorite.”  I can’t make up my mind.  So I am cheating a little and sharing three of my favorite funny films:

Just Friends. As far as I’m concerned, Ryan Reynold’s should only make funny movies.  I never get sick of this.  So many 90’s references and every single person in this movie is hilarious – expecially Anna Faris.  Available on Amazon Instant Video.  Also, you can watch the entire move in youtube.  Shhhh!

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.  Normally I dislike spoof movies.  I think they rely too much on fart jokes and boobs.  However, this movie breaks that stereotype.  It is a well-written, well-acted, funny horror spoof.   It’s available streaming on Amazon and Netflix.

Big Trouble.  Smart and funny.  Available on Amazon.

What’s your least favorite movie & how would you change it to make it great?

There are a lot of terrible movies out there.  Some are funny because they are so terrible, and some are not.  I think that my least favorite movies are probably the Twilight series.  I’ve seen the first two all the way through (painful).  They are bad for two basic reasons:

The first is terrible writing.  I really dislike that the movies (and I can only assume the books)  are entirely about making a difficult relationship work.  When I was sixteen, I would have totally loved that crap, but adult me knows it’s bull.  All of you who are about to post nasty comments, pay attention, because you probably need to hear this the most:

Love shouldn’t be difficult.  I’ve tried it both ways, and if you are really a good match, you shouldn’t have to “fight” for your love.  If you are struggling to keep your vampire or werewolf boyfriend, give it up.  I think anger and angst are often misconstrued as passion.  Find someone who you have more in common with.  You will be a lot happier.

I could look past that though, if the acting weren’t so terrible.  It is so hollow and wooden.  I was especially disappointed in Kristen Stewart.  Actually, she’s the only reason I even watched these movies.  She was brilliant in Speak, a movie adaptation of one of my favorite books, and I just can’t understand what happened between then and now.  Maybe Bella is supposed to be a robotic, unrelatable young woman, in which case: Way to go, Kristen Stewart – you acted the pants off of that one!

As for improving them…I don’t think it’s possible.  The very premise bothers me.  It reinforces the idea that we should settle for less than happy relationships.

Normally, I would never choose to write about movies. I love watching movies, but I am not good at explaining what I like or dislike about films, books, etc. I like that this question was posed, because I had to work at the answer.  

Liebster Award: When You Wish Upon A Mass Of Incandescent Gas…

I’m attempting to make one Liebster related post a day.  I must apologize; I really feel like the quality of my work is suffering because I can’t take the time to review and edit as much as I’d like.    I”m just really excited to get to my nominations!  

Bright Blue Line asked : “You are granted 1 wish (make it great, but it cannot be to have 9 more wishes), what is that special wish?”

Really, I’m not a big fan of wishing.  I don’t believe that if I see a shooting star or throw a penny in a fountain that whatever I wish will magically come to fruition.  I also don’t think it’s a good use of my time to sit around fantasizing.  No, I  prefer acting.  If I want something, the most probable way to make it so is to take active steps towards achieving my goals. Some people like to believe in magic, and that’s fine with me – I’m just not one of those people.  Since this is a hypothetical question…

20130425-222829.jpgOnce, I was watching a documentary and I heard a parent of a gay child say that she wished her child weren’t gay – not because she thought it was wrong, but because being gay would make her child’s life harder. I had similar thoughts when I received Evelyn’s diagnosis. Truthfully, I did feel something was “wrong” with her, and I believe that mother thought something was “wrong” with her son. Both of us were mistaken and were making short sighted wishes. Her child’s sexuality was part of who he was, just as Evelyn’s Down syndrome is part of who she is.  I love Evelyn as she is, Down syndrome and all.   

Therefore, I wish for acceptance and appreciation for all of the intricacies and nuances of each human being. Seems pretty big unless you think about taking one step at a time – opening one mind at a time. Besides, with your help, my wish will come true much faster.

Liebster Award: This Is Why I Am Awesome.

When nominating Looking Up With Down Syndrome for a Liebster Award, Bright Blue Line asked: “Are you more awesome now, or 10 years ago? Why?”

I was born incredibly awesome, which makes it hard to believe that I am constantly gaining awesomeness! I am much better now than ten years ago for about a million reasons. I don’t have time to list all the amazing things about the new and improved me, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

I have an awesome husband. I don’t write about Dan much, because I know he probably doesn’t want his personal business broadcasts all over the internet on a soon to be world famous blog, but he does contribute to my awesomeness. He encourages and supports me in all aspects of my life. He is a thoughtful, intelligent, kind person – a fantastic friend and great father. He reminds me that I am awesome all the time. Having a real partner – someone I can rely on – allows me to explore my awesomeness fully.

I made three awesome people. Ten years ago, Brady was just starting to make me outgrow my pants. Today he is creative, thoughtful, and funny. His intelligence is unbelievable! He is so smart, sometimes I have to remind myself he is just a kid. Evelyn is expressive and affectionate. When she dances it makes my heart soar. Her emotional intelligence is off the charts, and she has a talent for copying other people and exaggeratedly acting out emotions. She may have a career in the dramatic arts. Adelle is at that age where she is just beginning to show her personality. She is determined and observant. She loves to dance like her sister. Not only did I make these awesome people, but becoming a mother is what motivated me to grow as a person and change my life. I wanted my kids to have an awesome role model, so they would have awesome expectations for life.

I have awesome friends. I have so many cool people in my life: friends from childhood, friends from high school, family friends, friends made through other friends, friends through marriage, friends I made through my Down syndrome association. All of these people from different walks of life provide different perspectives. In the last ten years, I’ve learned their camaraderie helps expand my world and shape my awesomeness. Plus, I look pretty awesome, just by association.

And the most awesome thing about awesome me that lead to all this other awesomeness?

I love myself. I really do. Ten years ago, I loathed myself. I was insecure. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know where I belonged. I was constantly searching for approval from others. I love myself today because I worked HARD to change the way I thought about myself, the way I treated myself, and the way I expected others to treat me. It was a long, painful journey, but it was completely worth it. It is why I have so many awesome people in my life. It’s why I take chances. It’s why I believe in myself. It’s the most awesome thing about me.

Photo Credit:

Liebster Award: How to Spend 24 Fabulous Hours in the Greatest Place on Earth

The second Liebster-earning question from Bright Blue Line: “If someone was coming to spend 24 hours in your home town, how do you recommend they spend their time?”

This question is brutal.  I could write a book about all the awesomeness Grand Rapids has to offer!  It is difficult to pick just a few.  I’ll do my best.

Eat!  There are dozens of delectable restaurants in Grand Rapids.  I’m not going to try to name them all.  Be sure to visit Amore Trattatore Italiana, San Chez, and, my personal favorite, Hopcat -voted “Best Brewpub in the U.S.”  For a more complete listing of diverse dining experiences, visit “Cool City! Hot Eats!”

Drink!  Grand Rapids, and the greater West Michigan area, is home to so many fantastic breweries, it was voted Beer City, USA.  Here’s a fantastic brewery tour guide so you can sample them all.  Many serve food and feature live music.

Visit!  You absolutely must visit the Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.  It’s indescribably beautiful.  Like most Grand Rapids attractions, it’s a testament to the immense spirit of philanthropy in my hometown.  We are also home of the only LEED certified art museum (we happen to have the highest number of LEED certified buildings, per capita), an interactive public museum, a stately presidential museum, a funtastic children’s museum, multiple live theater venues, and several art galleries including the Urban Institue for Contemporary Arts. Whew!

Look!  If you can, time your visit during the world’s largest, publicly judged art competition.  During Artprize, the entire city becomes an exhibition for all kinds of self expression.  Even if you miss Artprize, dozens of past winners and entries have been permanently installed around the city.

Listen!  There is a vibrant local music scene in West Michigan.  Check out a wide variety of tunes at a myriad of local venues.  Looking for something bigger?  See a headliner at Van Andel Arena or watch a performance of the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Shop!  For a house, that is.  After 24 hours, you aren’t going to want to leave The Best City to Raise a Family.  Don’t worry, I’ll help you unpack.

There are truely so many fabulous things to see and do in my hometown – this is just a drop in the bucket.  I encourage you to check out Experience Grand Rapids and fall in love.  It really is The Greatest Place on Earth.

photo credits:,,

Liebster Award: Using My Powers For Good Instead of Evil

The first Liebster-qualifying question posed by Bright Blue Line, “What Inspired You To Start Blogging?” is addressed briefly on my “Get Down With Me” page. I’ll try to expand without boring you.

I’d like to preface this by saying that I am pro-choice. Whatever your position, I respect your right to your opinion and I expect the same from you. This post is NOT an invitation to debate that issue. I just don’t want what I say next to be misinterpreted as an argument for outlawing abortion. It is simply an argument for access to information.

Currently, 97% of pregnancies testing positive for Down syndrome are terminated. Ninety-seven percent. There are hundreds of thousands of people with Down syndrome living in the U.S., but most of those people are not part of that other three percent. Most people with Down syndrome were diagnosed after birth. All that is changing. There are now several tests on the market that can screen for Down syndrome earlier, more accurately, and less invasively than ever before. Easier, more efficient screening means more prenatal diagnoses – and more terminations.  This information was what pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the blogsphere.

I don’t have a problem with prenatal testing; I had prenatal testing. However, have you ever heard the phrase “knowing just enough to be dangerous?” It means a person has knowledge, but just enough knowledge to provide a false confidence, and not nearly enough to know all the possible consequences of their actions.  When medical professionals provide expectant parents with a diagnosis but no additional information about Down syndrome, they are really giving them just one piece of the information they need to make an educated decision. Prior to testing, my husband and I had discussed the possible outcomes and decided that we would not terminate the pregnancy if the baby had Down syndrome.  Yet, when I heard the diagnosis, my first instinct was to terminate because I didn’t know anything about Down syndrome. Like most people, I was afraid of the unknown.

I took to the internet, intent on informing myself before making such an important decision. I found a lot of statistics.  I found reports of all the medical problems that could affect a person with Down syndrome. I found a lot of outdated information. I found a lot of postings from other mothers and fathers looking for answers, just like me.  I did not find what I was looking for – What is it like to live with Down syndrome?  What does it take to raise a child with Down syndrome? Ultimately, thousands of families in the U.S. alone will be put in that same position each year.  I hope when they Google “Down syndrome diagnosis” my blog will pop up, along with the others that have started showing up on the web in the last few years. I hope that I am helping these families make an informed choice. I believe that some of them will choose to continue their pregnancies.  I am glad I did, and I think other families will feel the same.

Basically, I decided to use my powers for good instead of evil.

For now.

Photo credits:,

Liebster Award: Eleven Exciting Facts!

Big news! I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award! If you aren’t familiar, the Liebster Award is bestowed upon blogs with small followings that a fellow blogger feels deserve recognition. This is a great honor for me because I was nominated by one of my favorite blogs, Bright Blue Line. It’s amazing to find a blog that addresses two things I am passionate about: Down syndrome and law enforcement. Most of my friends share one of these passions, so check it out.

liebster-blog-awardThere are a few rules for the Liebster Award:

1.Thank the Liebster-winning blogger who nominated you. Link back to their blog.

2. Post 11 random facts about yourself.

3. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked.

4. Create 11 questions for your nominees.

5. Nominate 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed. Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.

6. Display the Liebster Award logo.

I am going do this in multiple posts because I am so wordy. I’ll nominate blogs once I complete all the requirements and figure out how to tell how many followers a blog has 😀

Without further ado…

11 Facts About Me

One. One of my favorite childhood books was Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran. In the fifth grade, the author, Ken Thomasma, visited our school for a writing workshop. There was an essay contest and I won an original ink drawing from the book’s illustrator, Eunice Hundley. I think a few people reading this may have won a drawing, too. Mine hangs on my living room wall and is one of my most treasured possessions. That was a great day.

Two. I love carbs. Especially if they come in the form of beer or chocolate. Or chocolate beer.

family photo 2Three. I worked for two years as a 911 operator and police dispatcher. This was my favorite job. I worked with fantastic people and was sad that I couldn’t stay, but the crazy hours weren’t good for my family. Police officers really do risk their lives everyday for about $40,ooo a year. Not long before I left, our department lost an officer in the line of duty. I didn’t know him well, but I think of him and his family often.

<- Four. I have two intelligent, hilarious, caring, beautiful, outspoken sisters. That’s us when we were little.

Five. I swear like a sailor. Actually, I might make a sailor blush. (This is probably an offensive stereotype to sailors. *Sigh* Sorry.)

Six. People are constantly saying I am the smartest, funniest, fastest, prettiest bad-ass they know. You know it’s true because you read it on the internet. Feel free to cite this post in my unauthorized biography.

Seven. I support marriage equality. I don’t believe in different rights for different people.

Eight. I love to run. I used to hate it. I had to stop putting value on how well I ran, and instead value the process of running. I love putting one foot in front of the other and logging miles. I live for that moment when my entire body is in sync. When the rhythm of my footsteps lines up with my breathing and my heart, pumping blood through my veins to my muscles. In that instant, I can do anything.

Nine. I can’t swim. I can not drown though, so that’s good. (This was going to say, “I can’t multi-task,” but I might need to get a job at some point, and you have to be really careful about what you put on the internet these days.)

Ten. I am a big chicken. If you were wondering why I haven’t posted about Ethan Saylor, it’s because I can’t bring myself to even read about what happened yet. I’m afraid it will put me in a place I won’t be able to come back from. Thank you to everyone else who is fighting that fight.

Eleven. I am seriously afraid there will be a zombie apocalypse. When I hear a noise in the night, I don’t think it’s a burglar, I think it’s a zombie. You better not trick-or-treat in my neighborhood dressed as one. I will bash your brains in with a hammer without thinking twice. I am just hopeful that when the zombies come, they are the slow, mindless kind featured in The Walking Dead, not the fast, crazy kind in 28 Days Later.

Well, there it is. I know that you are probably so worked up about these eleven exciting facts you probably won’t be able to sleep tonight. For that, I apologize.

My Good Fortune

We have, thankfully and miraculously, survived Evelyn’s two week spring break.  It has been a long two weeks, plagued by cold, rainy weather, snotty noses, vomiting and teething.  After a few days away from the structure and stimulation of school, Evelyn started to seriously regress and fall back on a lot of old, negative behaviors.   I am proud to say I have not dropped my toddler off at a fire station, nor have I been committed to a psych ward.  However, I just might kiss the bus on Monday when it pulls up to the driveway.

At the end of this eternal spring “vacation”, I watch Adelle carefully hand Evelyn a pink plastic tea cup. Evelyn tosses it towards the ceiling, gleefully shouting, “Up high!”  When the cup clanks back down to the floor, booth girls laugh hysterically.  The baby delicately retrieves a yellow plastic banana with two fingers and gives it to Evelyn, who gives it the same treatment as the tea cup.  I love hearing them laugh; it makes my heart soar. As a parent, there is no better sound than that of your child laughing joyfully – with one exception…

I still remember the first time with Brady, back when it was just me and my boy trying to fill this house with not much furniture, but a lot of love – making a home. I had just worked my fifth 12 hour shift of the week and I was mentally and physically drained.  I made it home just in time to read him a story and tuck him into bed.  I was already thinking about the ice cold beer waiting in my fridge as I kissed him goodnight and told him, “I love you.”  As I stood to leave, he rolled over, snuggled down in the covers and simply said, “I love you, too, Mommy.”  I was surprised by the tidal wave of emotion that struck me.  When I became a parent and held Brady for the very first time, I felt love so powerful, so strong, that I thought it might break me.  I spent the first weeks of his life consumed by the overwhelming love I had for him.  When he verbalized his affection for me in the soft glow of his nightlight, the experience was equally moving.  I was so affected by it that, even years later, I can recall every minute detail of that moment.

It occurs to me that Evelyn has never said, “I love you.”  Evelyn probably can’t say, “I love you.”  She started speaking last summer and, while she can say a lot of different words, she is just beginning to string together two word phrases.  I am somewhat disheartened to think I may have to wait a long time to hear those words so dear to a parent’s heart.

I do know Evelyn loves me.  Every time she wraps her little arms tight around my neck and buries her face in my shoulder or climbs in my lap with a book, she is declaring her devotion.  Slobbery kisses and tiny hands patting me on the back are comforts given with true affection.  With each treasured Goldfish cracker shoved towards my mouth, scribbled drawing thrust under my nose, and funny face made for my eyes only, she is clearly stating, “I love you!”

Possibly, if she already said those three little words, I would neglect to notice all the ways she shows me she loves me every day. I know when she does say it, I will appreciate it because she worked hard to form those words with her little mouth, but I don’t really need her to speak it for me to know it. I will probably remember every detail of the moment Evelyn vocalizes, “I love you,”  but I will also remember these moments.  As I reflect on them, I feel the same swell of emotion I felt years ago, tucking a small, messy-haired boy into bed.

I am pulled away from this thought by Evelyn.  She has noticed she no longer holds my attention, and she thrusts one palm into the air.  “Five!” she demands.  I smack her raised hand with mine.  A small smile creeps across her face as she lowers her hand and her voice and says, “Down loooow!”  When I slap her palm again, she laughs loudly and reaches for a small purple plate in Adelle’s outstretched hand.  Confident I am watching, she tosses it in the air and screams, “Up high!”  Just like that, I stop feeling sorry for myself.  Instead, I feel fortunate.

Be An Ambassador For Social Evolution: All The Cool Kids Are Doing It

Every parent has that fiercely protective instinct. Mine makes me wrathfully stink-eye a small child at the mall play area because they pushed my pride and joy off the slide. It made me seriously consider locking my offspring in the house to guarantee safety from serial killers, pedophiles and bullies.  Even before Evelyn was born, this instinct kicked into overdrive. I was angry! I was angry at the children who would exclude my little peanut on the playground! I was furious with the elderly people who would assume she should be institutionalized! I was peeved with the everyday people who would experience discomfort at her proximity, or openly stare like she was some sort of circus side show attraction!  I had all sorts of preconceived notions and I was violently vindictive towards these hypothetical attackers who would dare hurt my child. I spent countless hours building an arsenal of angry rhetoric and biting replies to barrage these attackers before they even entered our lives.

After her arrival into this world, though, I experienced much less of this than I expected. The attacks I predicted, for the most part,  never came.  It took a while, but I began to relax. When I did, I realized what a toll all of that anger was taking on me. Constantly caught in a state of agitated readiness, waiting for attack – It was exhausting. I let my guard down and I began to enjoy my life again.

This isn’t to say that those things haven’t or won’t happen. They do, on occasion, and I’ve really had to look within myself for guidance in these situations. I have to remember before I had the pleasure of knowing Evelyn.

I always considered myself to be open minded. In hindsight, I see that was not the case. I couldn’t fully understand and accept what I had never experienced. Evelyn is capable, perceptive and loving – she is like any other child, in most ways. I now get that people with disabilities are just people. I don’t need to put them up on a pedestal and I certainly don’t need to pity them.  It’s hard for me to admit when I am wrong, but I was wrong.  I am ashamed of my previous thinking, and grateful that I have been shown the truth.

Unfortunately, I only gained this understanding from knowing someone with a disability. Our society doesn’t emphasize this side of disability – that people with disabilities are only people – no more, no less, and not much different from people without disabilities. I now realize that my anger was futile, but what else can I do?  As a society, we fall short.  How can one person change a whole society?

Honestly, most people mean well. I’m not talking about the Ann Coulters or the Rush Limaughs of the world (Relax – I don’t mean conservatives, I mean people who refuse to admit it’s wrong to use the slur “retard”), or the abusive educators or Eugenicists. I don’t refer to those who unapologetically choose hate. I am referring to the ignorant.

You see, in our society, ignorance has incorrectly taken on a negative connotation. To be ignorant is to simply not know. There is nothing wrong with not knowing, unless one is given the opportunity to learn and refuses. I don’t believe deliberate ignorance is the norm. On the contrary, most people are unintentionally ignorant – like me. There is so much I, myself, still have to learn; I certainly don’t want that held against me. I prefer for people to share their knowledge with me. I have an unquenchable thirst for understanding and I desire to grow as a person. I believe most people feel the same.

Then, how do I intend to alleviate ignorance? Simply by being not only an advocate for my daughter – but an ambassador, as well. To be both requires patience, thoughtfulness, and practice. I must calm that primordial, protective response and think before I speak. I am not, by nature, a “people person.” I am an introvert, but every day Evelyn and our family get out there, we provide an opportunity for society to see what life with Down syndrome is REALLY like. Every friend we make, every coworker, every person we come across is an opportunity to enact change.  Each Cub Scout meeting, trip to the grocery store, and playdate is a chance for people to get to know us and our family – to put a human face on disability. I don’t approach the afore mentioned situations as conflicts; I address them as opportunities. This change in prospective provides the  possibility to change the perception of my daughter which, in turn, improves her life. In order to accomplish that primeval goal of protecting her, I must quiet the instinctual response it inspires in me. If I am angry, aggressive, or admonishing, it will only serve to further alienate my audience by enforcing the perception that we are unalike. If I attack, they will defend.  Instead of encouraging an adversary, I prefer to establish an ally. If I am patient, gracious, and friendly, common ground can be found.

Undoubtedly, there are some people who take comfort in their ignorance. It provides a false sense of superiority and security. These people won’t be swayed by a smile and a few carefully chosen words, but an angry barrage of how-dare-you’s is equally ineffective.  I believe these people are the minority and  most people will respond in kind if they are approached with an open heart and mind.

Therefore, I have decided to let go of my anger and treat people how I would like to be treated – with respect, kindness, and empathy. It’s harder than stomping around in jackboots, threatening wrathful vengeance (and maybe a little less fun), but it just might be more effective. Perhaps the way to encourage respect, kindness and inclusion for my child is to kindly and respectfully include others in my life. Instead of waging a war for social revolution, I’m engaging others in the conversation that is social evolution.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

You can check out John Franklin Stephens, an amazing ambassador for social evolution, here. His ability to take the high road and speak thoughtfully and respectfully to someone who didn’t earn it is inspiring.