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Showing posts from 2013

Merry Christmas!

A little holiday song (plus a little silly from Quinn).

My Son with Special Needs Taught me More about Education than Seven Years in the Classroom

I am the product of a classical education. My mother, an English teacher, and my father, an attorney, instilled in me a respect for education that I embraced in my youth, fought like hell against in my adolescence and rediscovered in adulthood. I realized my calling as a teacher while on a backpacking trip through Europe shortly after graduating college. At the time, I had $20,000 in student loan debt, a degree in English, and virtually zero career prospects upon my return from abroad (see reference to English degree). As we wandered the streets of Prague, Florence, and Paris, I found myself unable to avoid the pull of Kakfa, Dante, and Hemingway; these men had defined my understanding of these cities, and I talked Brian’s ear off about their influence on modern culture. In those moments, my desire to teach was born. Of course, upon my return I had begun to sing a different tune and thought that I could “do better” than teach. But despite a top-notch education from The Univers

Buddy Walk 2013

I’ve heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. In our case, it takes a village to raise a family. And this family has one hell of a village behind us. Last weekend was Quinn’s first Buddy Walk, an awareness and fundraising event held in Houston each November. I spent much of this fall organizing Quinn’s team and sending out slightly obnoxious Facebook posts in an attempt to raise money on his behalf. The result was successful. We raised over $7600 in Quinn’s name and were the 6 th highest fundraising team in the city, which is no small feat! We couldn’t have done this without the help of our generous friends and family, with a special thanks to our incredible parents, Larry and Patti Mennes, who personally matched every donation from Larry’s employees. We wouldn’t have raised nearly as much as we did without their help. When it came time for the walk itself, we had over 60 people on our team in support of Quinn. His teachers at the daycare made posters and came out i

Spread Thin

October has always been my favorite month of the year. Temperatures are finally bearable in Texas, football season is in full swing, and pumpkin-flavored everything is in high supply. But this October, much like last year’s, kicked my ass. My kids were sick virtually the entire month, which meant that Brian and I took turns waking up in the middle of the night caring for unhappy children and, in turn, passing illnesses back and forth between each other. I’ve managed to deplete my already small stock of sick days and didn’t sleep more than 4 hours at a time for weeks. I’ve approached this time as a slump; I assumed that we’re just going through a rough patch in terms of illnesses and doctor’s visits, but the more I think about the past month, the more I realize just how routine these circumstances have become. This is not a slump. This is our new reality. Gamma and PopPop are life-savers. An average week in our house consists of at least one illness, a few meltdowns, p

Down Syndrome Awareness Month: Meet Eli

Here's another guest post, this time from my friend, Ashley. When I received Quinn's diagnosis, I immediately turned to the internet to read stories from parents who were going through similar situations. In the process, I came across Ashley's blog and quickly realized that she lived just a few miles north of Houston. I sent her an email and she responded immediately, both of us excited to have found one another. I continued to talk with Ashley throughout my pregnancy while also keeping myself updated on her adorable son, Eli, who was born in April of 2012. Since we met last fall, Ashley and her husband Barry adopted beautiful baby Ruby and are (surprise!) expecting another son this spring! Here is their story: I remember the day we confirmed our pregnancy with Eli. I was standing in the middle of my kindergarten classroom when the phone rang. I had been waiting all day to hear that sweet sound. Our reproductive endocrinologist was on the other end and I could hear th

Down Syndrome Awareness Month: Meet Mara B

In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I've decided to share with you a series of guest entries by some of the amazing people we've met along our journey with Quinn. These posts are intended to help share the positivity that our kids bring us each and every day, while also eliminating some of the stereotypes attached to the chromosomally-enhanced. Each of our stories is as different as our individual children, yet the incredible joy they bring to our families is the same. The first post is by my friend, Catie. Soon after receiving Quinn's diagnosis, we were given Catie's contact information. She was teaching music at Atticus's preschool and her daughter, Mara, was born with Down syndrome the previous year. It wasn't long before I learned that her job was a new one; just the year before she was an English teacher at Stratford High School, which is coincidentally MY job. When her husband passed the bar exam, she was able to take on part-time work and devote

For the Parent who Just Received a Down Syndrome Diagnosis, on the Anniversary of our Own

Dear Fellow Warrior, I don't know you, yet I feel that we are connected. I remember walking in your shoes and fearing for the future. I remember feeling so alone, then finding others who were experiencing the same emotions, and it helped me cope with the news that you are dealing with today. And so I write this letter in the hope that you find it. I write in the hope that you know you are not alone.   One year ago today, we received Quinn's Down syndrome diagnosis. I sat down in front of the computer and told the world our story in a post that makes me cringe when I read it now . In the year that's passed, I've had a chance to look back on those raw emotions and remind myself that I didn't know then what I know now. And most importantly, I hadn't met Quinn yet, whose very existence is my greatest accomplishment. He represents my courage in a time of doubt, patience in a time of chaos, and the unyielding strength of a tiny human that I took for granted. Q

Conversations with Atticus

Who knew that a seemingly-mundane trip to Target could yield such entertaining results? Atticus has been making really great choices lately, from becoming fully potty-trained to displaying stellar behavior when returning to school this week, so I decided to reward him with a new toy. The trip to the store provided so much insight into my little man's personality, that I just had to share this series of events with you. It all began on the short drive over. I tuned into one Pandora station or another without really thinking and pulled out of the driveway. Now, I should note that Atticus loves music. If I forget to turn the radio on, even for a short trip, he will demand to hear "songs." His latest favorite is "Lakehouse" by Of Monsters and Men, because it's simple enough for him to recognize and the refrain, "where we are, where we are" is easy for him to sing along to. Well, an Of Monsters and Men song came on Pandora and Atticus said, &quo

Learning to Worry

We've known for a while that Quinn was likely going to have surgery to remove his enlarged adenoids, but today we got the official green light to go ahead with the procedure next Friday. Anyone who's met Quinn knows that he's a NOISY little man. Because his adenoids are so large, it's blocking his airway and the breaths he takes are rattly, strained, and snotty. The surgery itself is remarkably routine. Even though our dude is only 8 months old, it's an outpatient procedure with a quick 2-4 day recovery (if his tonsils were also being removed, it would be longer). Nevertheless, I find myself slightly terrified simply because I think that's what parents are supposed to feel when their babies go under the knife. But this worry is a relatively new experience for me, a learned behavior. When Atticus was born, I didn't experience the fear that most first-time parents feel. Perhaps it was my years as a nanny and preschool teacher, but caring for a newborn didn&


It's been a busy summer in the Mennes family and it's only mid-July. Between a trip to the cabin on Lake Michigan to see family, to a second honeymoon on Isla Mujeres in Mexico, to a spontaneous daytrip to Galveston last weekend and every fun celebration in between, there hasn't been a dull moment yet. And I love that we're instilling a genuine curiosity and sense of adventure in our children from their earliest days. May they quickly learn that a monotonous life is a wasted one... It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves - in finding themselves. -Andre Gide Holland, Michigan (aka, The Lake):   Isla Mujeres, Mexico: Houston and Galveston, Texas

The Future of Down Syndrome

I’ve sat in front of my computer screen debating just how to start this topic, or whether I even should because I’m about to ruffle some feathers. But this blog isn’t here to magically align with everyone’s beliefs, and I refuse to shy away from controversy just to avoid offense, so I’ve decided to power through and get my thoughts down here. It’s not to make myself feel better, but to educate the public about what I see as an emerging civil rights issue, and one that affects my family deeply. You see, I am and always have been pro-choice, but everything I thought I knew and believed in regarding a woman’s right to choose has been turned on its head since entering the Down syndrome community. I know to most outsiders this may seem like a strange connection, but abortion and Ds are closely intertwined and becoming even more so with the advent of noninvasive prenatal testing. When I was pregnant with both my boys, I remember being offered first trimester screening, which inclu

I Might be Mediocre, But at Least I'm Honest.

Being a parent makes me mediocre at everything, even parenting. It’s something I’ve known for a while, but this is the first time I’m making the confession public. And I would argue most parents aren’t very good at much else either, because being a parent is tough, especially a working parent, and once the day is over and the kids are tucked in bed, all I really want to do is drink a glass of wine in my pajamas and watch mindless TV. Being a parent also makes me a vidiot. And a late-night drinker (although “late-night” for me is 9pm). I guess my attempt to be my best self takes a backseat to making sure my kids’ needs are met; it doesn’t really bother me much because I am happy and my children are in good, albeit sometimes frazzled hands. So why is it that we parents feel the need to hide our realities from the world, especially social media? Check any mom’s Instagram or Facebook feed, including my own, and it looks like we are running a regular Montessori. The kids are smilin

For Brian, on our 5th Anniversary

Five years ago today, I married the greatest man on Earth. Despite the cliché, Brian has genuinely earned this title again and again in the past ten years that I have known him. I am one of the lucky women who married her best friend. And while we have our moments of stress, disagreements, or the feeling that all romance has disappeared with the advent of parenting, we are still madly in love with one another. Those days of hours-long phone conversations, flowers, and fireworks have been replaced by a steady comfort that I think we both prefer. It can be exhausting to feel so passionate all the time. Our rock-solid relationship has become second nature. We know each other so well that I can finish his sentences and he can read my feelings with a quick glance. And our dreams for the future together are founded upon dedication, compromise, and a good sense of humor. Brian is good at making me laugh, especially when I'm taking life far too seriously. And this year has been the

Reasons Atticus is Crying (this week)

Oh boy. Our oldest son has been quite a challenge lately. To call Atticus strong-willed is akin to calling a grizzly bear soft and cuddly. It's been one melt-down after another lately and we're at our wits' end. In one of my most recent attempts to escape the screaming by perusing the internet, I came across the latest viral sensation, Reasons my Son is Crying . This tumblr features photos with a caption explaining all the silly, inane reasons one woman's son can't control his tiny emotions and, for me, it reads like a diary entry. So I was inspired to create my own "Reasons my Son is Crying" with Atticus. And before you call CPS for gross negligence of my child's emotional needs, I do understand why young children have trouble keeping their very powerful feelings in check and we work with him to find appropriate outlets for his anger and/or sadness. But if I don't make light of it, I'm liable to lose my mind before he grows out of this pha

The Bulldog Shirt

To understand the story of the Bulldog Shirt, you first need to know a little bit about the person who gave it to us. Justin is one of our favorite people in the entire world. We met back in college and we became fast friends. We share a love of music and food (in fact, we joke that we're culinary soulmates because our tastes are nearly identical), and he's always quick to offer help when help is needed. When Brian and I got married five years ago, a huge storm blew through during the reception. Justin had the genius idea to ask our DJ, Car Stereo Wars, to play "Footloose" and turn the speakers into the courtyard so we could all dance barefoot in the rain. Now, whenever anyone asks about our wedding, we show them the pictures of the entire party getting down in a downpour while wearing their Sunday best. It was a magical moment, all thanks to Justin. Over the years he's surprised us with concert tickets and fine dining dinner dates, allowing Brian and I to enjoy

Spread the Word to End the Word

Today is the annual day of awareness about the hurtful effects of the word "retard(ed)." Quinn wants to remind you how much this word sucks, just in case you forgot... Take the pledge to stop using the word "retard" as an insult. It's hurtful, insensitive, and makes you look like an asshole. Just sayin'.

A Letter to my Son

Dear Atticus, You've been a good sport the last few months, kid. I've got to hand it to you: you've shared your time well with your new baby brother and haven't tried to smother him with a pillow once. You've even gone so far as to comfort him when he cries. This shows an empathy and kindness that I would guess many 2-year-olds are lacking. Keep this up. These qualities will get you much farther in life than most are willing to admit, and it makes the world a better place. My admiration of these qualities has encouraged me to write you a letter that you will hopefully read in the future (you can't read yet, sorry. While you are a genius child, you are only two. Give it another year). I want to tell your future self who you were and how this translated into the dreams we have for you. You likely won't remember much from this age, so I'm offering to document it for you. I know. I'm an awesome mom. Please remember this as your angst-ridden 17-year-o

Mom of the Year and Other Happenings

Yesterday was a big day. Quinn had a follow-up appointment at his ENT, we had our evaluation for Early Intervention (EI) services, and I locked him in the car and had to call the Fire Department to come and rescue him. Yep. That happened. Let's start with the ENT. Quinn passed the initial hearing screening that all newborns get in the hospital before being discharged, but because he received antibiotics in the NICU, which can sometimes cause hearing loss, I needed to schedule a follow-up test to verify that all was still well. Last week, I bundled him up and drove 45 minutes to Sugarland, where he was given the quick screen once more and told that he failed, which would make the longer test we were planning to take that day a big waste of time, as he would invariably fail that one too. They suspected fluid build-up and referred me to a different ENT closer to home (though not after charging me a $50 copay for my 2-minute visit). So yesterday we went for our follow-up and waited 4

6 Weeks

It's hard to believe Quinn has been with us for 6 weeks already. Despite the ease suggested in my last post, it really has been a blur of sleep-deprivation and a reorganization of priorities. Having two kids is much more challenging than one, and I would be lying if I didn't admit my concerns for the future. We know that Quinn will face delays as the months continue, and this honeymoon period of he's-just-like-every-other-baby will end. It scares me, especially as Atticus continues to grow and mature with each passing day. How do I balance excitement for one with concern for the other and vice versa? How do I manage shifting expectations? How do I find the time to maintain my own sanity? And how do I do all of that while simultaneously working a full-time job and caring for the basic needs of my family? Maybe it's the isolation of maternity leave and the fact that I'm spending lots of time caring for Quinn while the rest of my family and friends live their lives as

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

I know I owe you guys a post and I've spent the last few weeks trying to come up with something meaningful to share. I want to prevent this blog from becoming a series of journal entries because, let's be honest, that would bore the pants off most people, especially me. And so I haven't said much because I really don't have anything to say. Quinn is about as typical as a baby can be: he eats, he sleeps, he poops, he's learning to smile (that last one is worth celebrating, but I've yet to catch it on camera or even determine if it's a real smile or just gas-related. I'm going with the former). That said, he rarely cries and gives me little trouble. Atticus was the same way, so all my fellow moms can go ahead and curse my good fortune now. I will admit that I'm not familiar with the stressful, sleepless existence that most parents of newborns experience. Not that we don't have 3am feedings and diaper changes; it's just a little easier to handl

Photo Shoot!

I grabbed my camera the other day to shoot some pictures of the kiddos and got some pretty great shots. Granted, I had to bribe Atticus with the promise of cookies, but I've learned that parenting two kids requires me to completely abandon my ideal behaviorist tactics and take the easy route sometimes. Good thing I did, because Atticus is way cuter when he's smiling.