Maren's First Sleepover

>> Friday, December 26, 2008

Maren and Layne -- the morning after :-).

Well, it's been forever since I've updated this blog ... as always, I'm running in 20 different directions, and the holidays made it 50!

But, a huge event has happened: the first sleepover! Things were happening as usual here on a Friday night -- kids running around the house, fighting over the PlayStation, leaving doors wide-open and peanut butter jars on the counter. But, then, the phone rang.

"Carol, hey this is Michelle. Is Maren allowed to do sleepovers?" Allowed? I thought-- really? I guess I just wasn't sure when she'd be asked. She's in first grade now, and I guess that's when they start for a lot of kids, right? "Sure, she's allowed. She just hasn't had one yet."

"Well, Peyton (older sister) is having Hollie over and Layne is upset and bored. She wants Maren to come over."

So, I threw her pj's, toothbrush, brush, Madeline, and a change of clothes in a bag and 30 minutes later, a Suburban pulled up and Maren was gone....

I waited anxiously by the phone -- wondering if they'd call because she missed us and couldn't sleep; wondering if she'd be a nuisance to the biggger girls, or follow Pierce (the adorable older brother!) around the house. 11 p.m., 12 a.m., 1 a.m. 1:15 a.m. 2:00 a.m. and somewhere thereabouts I feel asleep. The phone call never came.

Maren had a blast and when I went to pick her up to take her and Layne to a Christmas party, she used her best manners and hugged Michelle and Chase and thanked them for letting her sleepover.

Another milestone in the life of a girl...the first sleepover...CHECK!


I don't like your stupid club!

>> Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So yesterday I realized how wonderfully prepared my daughter is for taking on the social world. She jumped in the car and said "Brooke is a mean girl." Yes, Maren is in first grade and Brooke has been a good friend since preschool. But, as children grow, friends change on a dime.

I inquired, "How is Brooke mean?"

Maren responded, "She won't let me be in her club."

As a mom, my heart felt heavy. I hate it when children exclude one another. It breaks my heart for any child, Jonah, Archie, or the little girl sitting alone on the swings. To be honest, though, when Maren said it, I hurt a bit more -- terrified that it signaled things to come.

Before I could respond, Maren said, "I told her she's a mean girl and I don't want to be in her stupid club."

Immediately, my fears dissolved. Miss Magic can take care of herself! In fact, when I was in first grade, heck even now, I don't deal with exclusion as well as she did.

But, here is the kicker... Today Maren brought home a card from Brooke, complete with flowers and trees, rainbows, and pictures of Sponge Bob -- and Maren and Brooke holding hands.

The card said, "To my best friend. Maren is my best friend. Love Brooke."

I don't know if Maren's words struck a chord with Brooke, or if it was just a natural cycle in little girls' friendships, but I do know that Maren is blessed by wonderful friends and great social intuition!


Please Palin, don't stand up for me; you are making us take 20 steps back!

>> Wednesday, September 03, 2008

If you want to understand what disability is like, maybe Palin ought to read Michelle Obama's speech. It's not about being "special;" it's about being part of society.

... My dad was our rock. Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero. As he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing - even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.

... And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.

... He talked about "The world as it is" and "The world as it should be." And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is - even when it doesn't reflect our values and aspirations. But he reminded us that we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves - to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn't that the great American story?

... All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do - that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be. That is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

... Because I believe that each of us - no matter what our age or background or walk of life - each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation.

... And one day, they - and your sons and daughters - will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They'll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming.


Help! Legomania has invaded my house....

>> Thursday, July 10, 2008

I don't what we were thinking when we took the boys to the Lego Store in Downtown Disney (thumps forehead!). UGH... It started with two small boxes, and $200.00 later and with no end in site, Jonah and Archie have become full-fledged Lego Addicts.

So, I'm off to scour ebay and thrift stores, and bum random pieces from friends who kids no longer use them. It is certainly better than a video game house, I suppose, and these pics make me think that there is really something cool about legos.

Check out this guys' site...incredible!


It's not Disney, but we had a blast anyway!

>> Tuesday, July 08, 2008

We needed a vacation. Okay, we wanted a vacation. You see, I have a wandering soul and can't seem to go for more than a few months without a get away. In the past two years, our kids have been to the Grand Canyon and boating on Lake Powell, Skiing in Utah with my sister and her kids, Disney two times, Gatlinburg, Washington, DC, Florida Gulf Coast Beaches a few times, Jonah and Jon hit the World Series in Denver (Go BoSox!), Chicago, St. Louis, and Memphis, not to mention several weekend trips to Atlanta.

And, the wandering bug hit -- but my checkbook was sad. Lo and behold, Universal had a deal for us! Not being one to pass up on a deal or an excuse to escape, we tried the parks just a few miles from my beloved Castle.

Maren was annoyed there were no Princesses, and we had to take her to Downtown Disney just to appease her. And, quite frankly, there just isn't "magic" at Universal the way there is at Disney. But, they had some awesome ride. Maren braved them all -- including Spiderman and Jurassic Park. Archie peed his pants on the Simpson's, LOL, and we have a great story to torment him with for years to come ;-). It was scary, though -- especially the upside down roll and death drop!

My favorite part -- just being away...


The Gender Chromosome is stronger than the Extra 21st!

>> Sunday, June 29, 2008

On a board I belong to, some mothers were inquiring about a reading program online. Maren has recently begun to use Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways with great success for blending sounds and reading fluency. Initially, we used Hooked on Phonics, which Maren like a great deal, but finally bored of...Luckily, the Pathways series has picked up were HOP left off.

So, when this new program surfaced, I was afraid of overloading Maren and boring her with too much redundancy, but the reviews on Headsprout from the moms who use it in my group and on other sites online are awesome!

I sign up for the free trial. 2 minutes in Maren says "This is for boys." That thought hadn't occurred to me, but it is a space ship theme in the first lesson (I don't know about the rest). I tried to get her to perserve, and her response was "it's boring."

Oh well, so much for Down syndrome...the girl in Maren is far more powerful than any extra chromosome! Spaceships are for boys. so, Headsprout, if you ever do a pink and lavendar fairy, princess, or ballet theme, email me and we'll give it another shot :-). Until then, Little Miss Magic will have to stick with the other reading programs.


Who needs anything else?

>> Thursday, June 26, 2008


A general update on the Mills kidlets

>> Friday, June 20, 2008

An old student of mine dropped by today as I was busy working on an article that I need to get done. She looked at the pictures of my kids that I proudly display on the walls on my office. Then, she asked me about the kids and I took a much needed break to summarize life for her. Then, I realized, I need to summarize for myself I can watch their growth. So, my summary for your reading annoyance ;-).

Jonah is enjoying baseball camp and is growing into a delightful young man. He is still addicted to the Red Sox and will read any book about baseball set in his path. He has encyclopedic knowledge of baseball that amazed one of my uber-sport-fanatic master's student, Curt, and a doctoral student at our NCA Doc Honors Seminar had to email and tell me how much he loved chatting with Jonah about sports. He couldn't get over how serious Jonah is about his Fantasy Baseball team -- and yes, he's not quite 10 yet. So, ask me how Jonah is and I can answer easily: Don't ask me how, ask me WHAT and the answer is....Baseball! And, it's been a great back door to history studies, too. Just ask my Jonut about Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, or Ted Williams -- and wow, my introvert turns into a chatterbox.

Archie -- oh my Archie. My little Indiana Jones who professes to be a stunt man in training is still without a broken bone. How, I don't know! USA has been running the Indiana Jones movies and Archie is glued to the set. He made the most awesome costume from a barn jacket, his dad's suede hat from Canada, and a gameboy pouch. He recites a lot of the lines, and wants to go in search of treasure! Of course, I try to tell him that he is my awesome and super fun baby boy. Who, by the way, still loves being my baby. In fact, he still swears that if I tried to have another baby he'd cook it and eat it! Archie's identity is in being the family baby and we certainly don't want to find out if he'd follow through on his threat or not, so I think he will stay the Mills Baby forever.

And Maren, well, she's done with Vacation Bible School and busy playing with friends, taking swimming lessons, and playing with her new doggie, Cubby Bear (Archie's favorite team and Jon's favorite bar, LOL). She will probably go to dance camp, if we can find the time, and will be getting her palate expander as soon as her 6 year molars come in (and yes, the divine Miss M is 7). Actually, after her ortho appt. Maren has decided she wants to be a doctor so she can get all the latex gloves and cool mouth mirrors she can. Hey, her reasoning may be flawed, but this goal is certainly better than wanting to "drive the Barbie Car." Darn that Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! Maren is in tutoring 3 days a week and we are watching her thrive using Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways. She really loves school and learning, much like her mother always has...hence the Ph.D. (my way of staying in school forever and ever!)

And, my furbabies...Tiki the gorgeous chow from Rio Chows who defies every single stereotype about chow chows. Like most well-bred and well-socialized chows, Tiki is a lover boy. He is gentle and sweet, low key, and very handsome. However, unlike breed standard, Tiki is not aloof and stand-offish. In fact, he loves playing in the backyard and can play a mean game of fetch and even performs tricks like rollover. So, we decided it was time for Tiki to get a best furfriend. After days of searching shelters and rescues, a mutt of unknown decent, "Baby Bear," caught my eye. Baby Bear had a great smile in his pic, and he was being held in a foster home, where he had been housebroken .... score! We went to meet him and he and Tiki hit it off, and Jonah fell in love.

Well, naming Baby Bear (approximately 9 months old already) was hard! Jonah wanted to call him Pesky (Fenway fans will get it!). Jon wanted Manny (as in Ramirez) or Papi (as in Big). Maren liked Baby Bear, and I thought Mango or Bongo would go well with Tiki to keep the Island theme going. Well, somehow, Wrigley made it into the mix and then Cubby, and soon it was clear -- a "baby bear" is a "cub" and that is how Baby Bear became Cubby Bear.

Okay, so too much information for a casual reader, but wow, it felt good to document it all. Catharsis and self-indulgence all rolled into one: blogging.


Can you tell who has T21 here?

>> Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wouldn't it be great if we could just see people's aura rather than their labels?


God's Big Backyard!

>> Monday, June 16, 2008

Last week was Vacation Bible School at Holy Spirit (Maren's home school). So, without reservation I signed her, and her brother Archie, up for the week. Jonah, who is 9, was way too cool for VBS this year. Baseball camp is more Jonah's speed :-).

To be honest, I dropped the kids off and didn't think much about anything since it is in a place we know well -- the kids' classrooms and lunch room. The first day, a teenager who attends Holy Spirit came up to me and told me how much fun she had with Maren. She joked "she sure loves the dance," and knowing Maren, I believed her and didn't push for details. Maren is generally happy to put on a show.

The next day, I hung back and watched as the day began with the dance for the week. Well -- as they were doing the appropriate moves, Maren nudged her friend and started smacking her rear, hip hop style. Of course, all of her friends cracked up and I gave her "the look" when her eyes hit mine. She gave me me the "Oh mom" look right back and straightened up. that what the teen was talking about? I was too embarrassed to ask. That's Maren, and luckily God's Big Backyard has some room for booty smackin' Maren style. And, had Archie not been in another classroom, I'm sure they would have broken out into a full MTV routine. Ahh, sometimes, sibling separation is good, at least for the parent!


The Lazy? Days of Summer

>> Friday, May 30, 2008

I finished teaching my May Term class today and of course, ended up with a cold. Oh well. So, I tried to sleep a bit of it off, then got up and prepared for a nice, lazy day enjoying my kids. But, of course, before I could enjoy the day, the was laundry to do, and floors to sweep, lunch to make, and pictures to dust. And, now it is dinner time, and Jonah has a baseball game.

What happened to the lazy days of summer? They will start tomorrow. I will ignore my slightly messy home, and the pile of papers that need to be filed. I will ignore the dust bunnies under my couch, and the spider webs in the garage. I will ignore the bathtubs that need to be scrubbed, and the grout that needs to be bleached.

But, I won't ignore the kids! We will go biking, or take a trip to the Vulcan Statue. We will make snowcones or play on the slip-n-slide. We will take a picnic to the park, or make paper airplanes. But, tomorrow, my house and work can take a break.

I will have fun. They will have fun. The housework can wait!


Madeline and the Petting Farm

>> Saturday, May 24, 2008

So, after months of talking about her birthday, Maren's party finally arrived. We were so busy having fun, I forgot to take a lot of pictures. Oh well...the fun was more than worth it!

The highlight of the day was when the woman who runs the farm mispronounced Maren's name, and Layne immediate piped in it M-A-R-E-N, Maren! I cracked up! And, now, we have even more playdates dates for this summer. I'm going to have to make some of them here or I will never see my daughter!


Worse than shots....

>> Friday, May 23, 2008

Ever since Jonah was born 9 1/2 years ago, my husband Jon and I have had a deal. Deal is -- I don't do immunizations or blood draws with the kids. Seriously. If it involves blood, Jon takes the kids to the appointments, and so it has been for each child.

Well, what Jon doesn't know, is he saved me from a pain worse than shots today. I woke-up with a migraine that had me very, very ill (thank goodness for meds!). But, this afternoon, I'm feeling better. Regardless, I just couldn't go to Holy Spirit today. Why?

Well, today is Maren's last day in Kindergarten and I'm just heartbroken. I thought the first day of Kindy was sad, but my heart is aching. Maren is leaving Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Mitchell and moving up to first grade. Ouch...that hurt just to write. It's worse than the kids getting shots--it's the pain that no what I do, my babies will continue to grow despite me, LOL.

So, like with the shots, I'm not going, and somehow, in not being there, it hurts just a little bit less. Of course, tonight or tomorrow or the next day, I'll have to rip that darned band-aid off.


Dance recital fun!~

>> Sunday, May 18, 2008

And, the pic is of Maren and her friend Audrey.


7 years ago today

>> Friday, May 16, 2008

On May 16, 2001, the doctors tentatively put Maren in my arms. They weren't sure how we would react to their news, that Maren appeared to have indications of Trisomy 21. For those of you who know our story, it wasn't a big deal. And, today, seven years later, we realize how "not a big deal" it really is for our family and in Maren's life.

Maren is finishing up Kindy as decidedly one of the most popular girls in her class. She isn't loved because of her extra chromosome. She isn't blessed with wonderful friends in spite of her extra chromosome. Brady doesn't want to hang out with Maren to make himself feel better about doing charity work. And, Drew certainly doesn't think about Maren's extra genetic material when they sit next to each other at lunch and giggle. Layne wasn't concerned about Maren's cells as they laughed non-stop through Horton Hears a Who last weekend at the theater, and Gracie could care less about Down syndrome when she begs her mom to spend the night at our house. Tatum wasn't wondering about T21 as she whispered in a rather concerned voice that she hadn't picked out a great present for Maren yet.

As I walked Maren into school today, the kids started spontaneously RSVPing to Maren's birthday party next weekend, and they were so excited. You see, Maren just radiates Maren-ness. Extra chromosome or not, Maren just has that special something, the X-factor, charisma, whatever you want to call it. She didn't get it from Jon, and she certainly didn't get it from me! Maren just has this quality --- it is amazing.

And, rewind seven years, I wish I could have told those doctors this: " I am not fearful of Down syndrome. In 7 years, Maren will graduate from Kindergarten as a full-participant in her class. She will be having her 4th dance recital. She will have good friends who truly love her. And, most importantly, she will love herself and her life."

Maybe then, I could have made them feel better about what they were trying to "warn" me about.

Maren (not a great photo of her, LOL), with her friends Layne and Tatum


I flicked her back...

>> Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Maren has a wonderful group of friends at school and dance, and, like all girls, some she doesn't quite click with some days.

One of the first families we met when we moved to Tuscaloosa has four children. The oldest has T21 like Maren and is on the cheerleading squad at Holy Spirit Middle School. You can see Hayley's story in our local paper The third child, Max, and my oldest Jonah, were fast friends in Kindy. Max has a heart of gold and is one of the best kids you will ever meet, smart, funny, caring, and the list goes on.

The youngest Bassett child is Brooke. She's a hoot and a half: athletic, smart and stunningly beautiful. She and Maren were friends at Rise in the 2, 3, and 4 year old rooms, and Brooke left for the Holy Spirit Preschool a year early. But, this year they were reunited in Kindy.

So, of course, I assumed that Maren and Brooke would continue to be good friends. And, they are. Better than I realized, I think. Today, Maren came home and told me Brooke "flicked" her "like this" and Maren flicked her own head to show me what Brooke had done. I instantly asked, "Maren, what did you do?"

"I flicked her back and told her she was a mean girl." Bwahhhhh, my princess doesn't take it from Archie, and she certainly won't take it from Brooke. But, more importantly, Brooke clearly doesn't treat Maren as "special" or "different" anymore than she treats Hayley as different. Brooke treats Maren like a sister, and Maren responds in kind.

Life is a weird way, eh?


Gatlintucky -- just not my thing!

>> Wednesday, March 26, 2008

So, for Spring Break, we decided to do a cheap and quick getaway. Being relatively new to the South, Gatlinburg seemed like a great idea.

Great if you like feeling like you are living in a Cracker Barrel populated by NASCAR fans. I know that many people LOVE the area, but the Yank in me was simply not impressed: airbrush t-shirts and license plates on every corner, stores stocked with nothing but wood carved bears and rocking chairs -- oh, and the Ripley branding. Yikes.

There were two good things: 1) The Aquarium. The kids had an amazing time!

2) Being away -- anywhere but home :-)

Sometimes, just a short escape makes the rest of life much more palatable. I loved spending time with Jon and the kids and knowing that our family made time just to be together! We stayed at a timeshare that had an indoor waterpark, and the kids had an amazing, amazing time. Maren was scared for about the first 1/1000 of a second, and off she went. Then, of course, she whined in unison with the boys when it was time to leave.

And, now we are home and the kids are back to school and work has lured me back. But, alas, I have a much better attitude and an very "interesting" experience under my belt. Now, I know Gatlinburg is a place that just isn't "me" and I won't crave Cracker Barrel for many, many years to come ;-)


Crimson is Hope -- on the UA homepage

>> Tuesday, March 04, 2008


My first experience

>> Wednesday, February 20, 2008

with someone with T21.

You know, I wish that I could write about a profound experience with someone with T21 that I met when I was young. But, the truth is, I never saw children with intellectual disabilities at my school or in my neighborhood. My first real exposure to Down syndrome was Corky on Life Goes On, and I watched that show with great adoration of him. I never really considered him different from the rest of his family. In fact, in some ways, he seemed to be the most functional!

After I had Maren, my online friends Jan, Jeff, and Nash and Nicole, Joe, Darrah, and Tarenne, met my family at the Indianapolis Buddy Walk. I was so excited to meet their families in person. And, Buddy Walk was an amazing and positive experience for me. Maren was just a few months old.

Near the end, Chris Burke was signing autographs. I stood in line with Maren and as our turn neared, I started to sob. I guess he was used to that reaction, because he smiled and just said a few things that made me feel better, that I no longer remember. I felt awe-struck, and remember thinking "he really has Down syndrome. He really does have Down syndrome." Somehow, despite all logic, I expected to meet an actor without an extra chromosome. Ridiculous, I know. But there he was, extra 21st and all...signing autographs and opening up a world of possibilities for actors just like himself.

So, though he isn't the first person with T21 that I actually met (that is another amazing tale to share that happened when I was preggo with Maren), he was the first person that I actually "knew of" and he prepared my heart and life in amazing ways.


>> Thursday, January 17, 2008


Skiing, Snowboarding, Snow ... Christmas had it all!


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