Enjoying: Family Friday

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One of my favorite things about January through April is that it’s very cold up north. That means our northern friends and family are looking for a break from the cold. And when you’re looking for a break from the cold, your family in–say, Southwest Florida–is lookin’ pretty good. So our house expands this quarter, and we love it. We’ve had my cousin from Virginia, my nieces last week, my grandma this week and my mom next month.

Dash is strangely very interested in eye color right now, and before anyone arrives he has one and only one question: “What color are her eyes?”

“I think they’re brown.”

“Like mine?”

“Yes, like yours.”

“But what color are Sydney’s eyes?”

“They’re brown too,”

“Like mine?”

“Yes, like yours.”

This goes on for every eye color of everyone we’ve ever known until one of us is crying–me because I can’t take it anymore or him because I didn’t answer like he wanted me to.

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When family is visiting, we like to show them the best our little corner of the world has to offer which means we reignite our love for our sands, our palms and the thrill of the hunt for the perfect conch shell.

With that said, we’ve been enjoying:

Rooms with a view.

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Turf games.

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Bare feet on a dock.

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Little Cousins admiration for Big Cousins.

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Finally settling down after the removal of The Sliver of 2017. #neverforget

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Open Air Handstand Studio.

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When she tries to suppress a smile but can’t.

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Watching these two take over an island.

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(caught holding hands…moms notice things like this and take stealthy pictures while acting cool so as not to draw attention to it…carry on)

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Riding a trolley and listening to my dad dramatically perform, “Clang, Clang, Clang went the trolley…” for all to hear. Because Judy Garland.

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Braving the waterfall.

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Street art.
In a neatly groomed, tightly-permitted town of new buildings that rarely veer from the typical Naples color palette and architecture, any burst of unexpected funky art or color-outside-the-lines expression is worthy of applause. Mind you, this art is temporary and probably had to go through six rounds of permits and board approval, but I’ll take it. In other words, Banksy? Are you out there? Can you hear me? We need you.

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I love that some of our local artists got to let loose though, and we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

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Oh nothing, just bikini shopping.

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“These people are boring.”

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“Sooooo boring.”

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That kid on the right, there? I had a car seat for her in my old Escort wagon because she was practically half mine when I was in college.

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Happy Thursday, friends.

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Have some fun this weekend.

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Nella Turns 7: A Sunshine State Party


Seven years ago, right now, I was lying in my hospital bed, holding tiny Nella, waiting for the sun to come up. I needed light and the promise of normalcy that the hustle of day time brought, and my hope laid in sun. It soon came, brightening the hospital room and warming the tone, and not long after, I found it in the night as well–light, not dependent on the time of day or the carefully crafted plans I dreamed up for what my family would look like.

This girl’s been nothing but sunshine, and we celebrated these 7 joyful years and everything she is with a Florida-themed birthday party this past weekend, full of foliage, flamingos and friends.

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Some new friends from her kindergarten class joined us this year as well as friends we’ve known since she was tiny, and watching her take her place in her little village made me so happy. This year, she’s bloomed socially in a remarkable way, and where she used to quietly hide behind us or shy away from interacting with larger groups, she’s now owning her space, comfortable and confident to shine her little light on her own. It’s my greatest wish for her–always own your space, girl; shine your light. You got this.

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Celebrating sunshine and the hope of a bright tomorrow…I bring you, a little Florida party.

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We didn’t have to do much for decorations–some cut paper palm fronds, a bowl of oranges, a few yard flamingos and a gathering of houseplants.

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Afternoon birthday parties are great for offering a few snacks rather than a full lunch.

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These cute dolphin fruit cups were a hit, but Dash pulled all the Swedish Fish out of their mouths and ate them before they were served.

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I made flamingo fascinators for all the girls with this 12-pack of pink satin headbands. I hot glued these large pink feathers along with some smaller ones (multi-color pink pack at Michael’s) to a stiff white felt circle I cut out, and then hot glued to the headbands.

Nella’s dress is from a shop called That Mia Life on Etsy, but for some odd reason, the shop link isn’t working.

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(These plush flamingos are from Amazon, but after I bought a bunch at $4 each, I went back to get one more, and the price went up to $10. Grrrr.)

We had two Make Stations–Hand print Flamingo Canvases (thank you, Pinterest) and Ocean Bottles, and one Game Station–The Jellyfish Toss.

I pre-painted flamingo heads and legs on flat 8 x 10 canvases, and the kids created their bodies with a pink paint hand print, and then added their names with scrapbook letter stickers. They turned out so cute.

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We made little oceans in a bottle with clear plastic juice bottles filled with 2/3 mineral or baby oil and 1/3 water dyed with a few drops of blue food coloring. The kids chose some tiny shells and plastic ocean animals to add to their bottles as well as a little blue glitter for the sparkle lovers.

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When you tip the bottle, you get that lava lamp bubble/ocean wave effect.

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We added some Florida flair to a good old carnival ball toss by adding aquarium rocks and these fun rubber jellyfish to fish bowls.

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The jellyfish were a hit and prompted a follow-up game of fling-a-wet-jellyfish-at-your-neighbor that was definitely a party favorite–screaming, giggling kids running from flying jellyfish everywhere.

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(Moment of silence please for the tail end of her fits-on-hip era. Thank you. Carry on.)

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And the moment her friends all sang “Happy Birthday”? Heaven. She loved it. All smiles.

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Her smile got so big at one point, she just put her hands over her mouth to contain it.

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Our Barbie population grew so huge this weekend, they put on their own Women’s March down our hallway and throughout our living room.

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And Sister was happy. Surrounded by love. Offering her voice, her hands, her spirit to this little community of friends. It’s a gray morning here today, but the sun shines bright in our home.

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We played this little birthday video at a family brunch yesterday morning, and what a joy it was to watch Nella take it in. We surprised her with some birthday messages from family and friends far away and a special treat from the stars of one of her favorite shows, The Fresh Beat Band. I think she’s watched this over 30 times now. I can’t wait to make one for Lainey and Dash for their birthdays this year as well. As always, we are so grateful for the light each of our children brings and love the opportunity of birthday celebrations to reflect on that love.

(video songs: “8 (Circle)” by Bon Iver and “Turn to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson)

Thank you for all the kind words and birthday messages so many of you sent yesterday. While birthdays are for celebrating life, this one also brings our celebration of how Down syndrome has affected our lives in so many beautiful ways including the opportunity to share this journey. Thank you for learning with us these past seven years. Much love.

Enjoying: Daily Rituals

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I recently switched from a regular coffee maker to a pour over (got this one) after my neighbor convinced me it was so much better. And yes, I did taste several cups she had made me and admit it’s richer–purer, maybe, without all the buildup that gets trapped in your coffee maker–although I’m sure a true coffee connoisseur would describe this in better terms. But I’ll also admit it was more about upping my ritual game. Making the coffee was already one of my favorite morning rituals, but when I watched my neighbor make hers, I felt the burn of ritual envy. My morning started with a scoop, scoop, shove, wait, trickle, pour, but hers with the pour over? Well, it didn’t help that she was sweeping around her kitchen in some ethereal nightgown. But seriously, it was beautiful. It was more a clink, clink, whir, scoop, whir, whistle, pour, trickle, steam, purr, mmmmmmmm.

I see your morning ritual, and I raise you an Amazon Prime 2-day delivery of my new coffee maker, thank you.

This isn’t the first time I’ve succumbed to ritual envy. In second grade, it took just one evening at my friend Kelly’s house during Hannukkah when I watched them light the menorah and say Hebrew prayers to send me running home to ask, “Hey Dad, can we be Jewish?” It was the candles, man. Candles are my weakness and the singular pivotal element that turns an ordinary event into a meaningful ritual. Which is why I’m like, “Hey kids, it’s National Barber Shop Quartet Day. Gather round the candelabra, we’re going to hold hands and say prayers in its glow.” I FEEL that barber shop love, man. I FEEL it.

I dive into these elements of ritual when the world feels scary or when I’m anxious, discontent or feeling less alive than usual. There’s something both calming and invigorating in ritual–the daily ceremonies that ground us and offer rich sensory opportunities in the bones of everyday life. The candle I light every morning to start my day, the sound of the trickle of hot water through the coffee grounds, the rhythm of my feet against pavement on an afternoon run, the leap I make to touch the blossoms on the Cassia tree every time I pass it. Filling the pretty tin watering can–the one I splurged on just to make the ordinary task of watering plants a little more enjoyable; chopping carrots and peppers on the beat up cutting board with the red wine stain; shaking freshly washed sheets to smooth them before I fold them into a rectangle, then a square, then another square; brushing tangled hair and braiding it before school; hoisting kids out of the tub with a towel and swooping them around the bathroom in an airplane ride–just like my dad used to do to us when we were little.

This week it’s coffee. A new pretty glass pot. The whistle of my tea kettle. A few more ceremonious steps that yield a damn good cup of coffee. Oh, and I froth my cream now with a tool that looks like it came from a dentist office. It makes the prettiest foam, and I feel spoiled–in the reassuring “I’m paying good attention to myself” way–when I take the first sip. And maybe that’s what ritual really is all about…paying good attention. To the sun and the sky and our families and our food and the abundant comforts our world gives us. And candles. Can’t forget those candles.

This week, I’m paying attention to…

The dance of waves and wind and hair…

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Sand sugared thighs…

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Unexpected rainbows…

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Hidden treasures in the woods…

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The Golden Hour…

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The hilarity of asking an 8-ball “Are you a butt?” and it answering “Yes.”…

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The sights at the weekend farmer’s market…

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“The Happy Pickle” stand…

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Questions about unrecognizable fruit…

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The way he says “Ahda-cado”…

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Giant carrotts and Brett’s skepticism regarding how they got that big…

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Impromptu lunches out and a Saturday nooner beer…

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Yellow shoes…

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…and a happy high kick.

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Happy Humpday, friends.